How a Wall of Lava Lamps Makes the Web a Safer Place

Faruk Ateş, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Faruk Ateş, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

A secure internet network relies on bits of data that hackers can’t predict: in other words, random numbers. Randomization is an essential part of every encryption service, but spitting out a meaningless stream of digits isn't as easy as it sounds. Computerized random number generators depend on code, which means it's possible for outside forces to anticipate their output. So instead of turning to high-tech algorithms, one digital security service takes a retro approach to the problem.

As YouTube personality Tom Scott reports in a recent video, the San Francisco headquarters of Cloudflare is home to a wall of lava lamps. Those groovy accessories play a crucial role when it comes to protecting web activity. The floating, liquid wax inside each of them dictates the numbers that make up encryption codes. Cloudflare collects this data by filming the lamps from a wall-mounted camera.

Unlike computer programs, lava lamps act in a way that's impossible to predict. They're not the only secure way to generate randomness (tools used by other Cloudflare offices include a "chaotic pendulum" and a radioactive source), but they may be the prettiest to look at.

[h/t Tom Scott]

Trulia Now Makes Browsing Neighborhoods as Easy as Browsing Homes

iStock
iStock

An online real estate listing can tell you the number of bedrooms, the square footage, and the price of a property, but until you arrive in person, it's hard to know if the location will be a good fit for you. Trulia is looking to tackle that problem with a new Neighborhoods feature, as Fast Company reports, letting you virtually explore your potential home's surroundings before you show up for the tour.

Trulia, a listings site owned by Zillow, already offers all the standard information you would get from any other real estate service. Now, the new Trulia Neighborhoods feature also makes it possible to research various neighborhoods within the app the same way you would research individual houses and apartments.

The Neighborhoods feature includes a slideshow of annotated images of each neighborhood captured by Trulia's team of photographers and videographers. It also has some objective data about the area, like maps of local businesses, as well as first-hand reports from residents. In the "What the Locals Say" section, for instance, you might find that 90 percent of people reported that a neighborhood is quiet, while just 50 percent said it's easy to find parking there. This part also includes personal testimonies from individual users that you can browse by topic, such as "community" or "dog owners." Neighborhoods also allows you to easily access data on schools, safety, and commute times.

Trulia Neighborhoods isn't available for every market yet. For now, you can only take advantage of it if you're house-hunting in one of 300 neighborhoods across five U.S. cities—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Austin, and Chicago. Trulia plans to expand the feature to more than 1100 neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

[h/t Fast Company]

Watch the Museum of London's Fatberg Sweat and Grow Mold in Real Time

Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images
Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images

Unlike most other museums exhibits, the fatberg sample at the Museum of London is constantly changing. The chunk of congealed grease and garbage changes color, sweats, and even produces broods of freshly hatched flies. Now, The Guardian reports that you can stay up-to-date on the fatberg's ever-shifting status by livestreaming it into your home.

On August 14, the Museum of London debuted its live FatCam on its website. The dried-out fat glob in the video is one of the last remaining samples of the Whitechapel fatberg, a 143-ton mass consisting of oil poured down sink drains and city litter that was discovered in London's sewer system in September 2017.

From February 9 to July 1, 2018, the museum displayed the unique artifact under three layers of cases for visitors to see. The object proved difficult to preserve, and curators weren't entirely sure it would make it to the end of its exhibition, let alone survive to see another showing.

The fatberg has since been quarantined in the museum's archives. Rather than alter the fatberg to keep it around as long as possible, the museum has decided to broadcast its gradual demise to the world.

In the month since the sample has been taken off display and placed in a special case, drastic changes have been documented. Yellow pustules have surfaced on the fatberg's exterior—a sign of what conservators have determined is the toxic mold aspergillus. The object likely grew the spores when it was on display and only now have they become visible.

Dangerous mold and other organisms living within the crevices of the fat mounds are some of the reasons why the sample is no longer available to view in person. For a safer and slightly less disgusting view of the fatberg, check out the live stream below.

[h/t The Guardian]

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