One of the key ways to ensure a secure connection between your Internet browser and the website you’re visiting is to encrypt it, a process done by generating completely random strings of numbers that are difficult to hack. There are computer programs that can create these numbers, but external sources of randomness are also up for grabs. The San Francisco-based headquarters of the Web security company Cloudflare has taken a groovy approach to randomness: A wall of 100 lava lamps is recorded and sent in a live feed to a server, which then takes all the tiny lava movements and extracts random, unpredictable chains of encryption from them. It then sends those around the world to help generate encrypted keys for secure Web connections. Since Cloudflare encrypts about 10 percent of all Internet traffic, there’s a good chance your own security online relies on that wall of psychedelic light.
Standing 264.5 meters, or about 868 feet, from ground to tip, construction of the world’s tallest wind turbine began in a small town near Stuttgart, Germany, in October. Not only does it set a new height record, but it also introduces a new form of energy storage: the water battery. Part of a four-turbine pilot project, the towering giant will have at its base a water reservoir for a nearby pumped-storage hydropower station. This boosts the turbine’s height, allowing it to more efficiently capture wind, and also acts as short-term energy storage to help ensure grid stability. The company constructing the turbine, Max Bögl Wind, anticipates it will start supplying energy to the German power grid in 2018.
Before Amazon’s Echo and Dot devices were released in Japan in mid-October, Alexa had to go back to school, so to speak. The digital assistant built into Amazon’s devices was “rebuilt from the ground up for Japanese customers, including a new Japanese voice, local knowledge and over 250 skills from Japanese developers,” said Alexa Senior Vice President Tom Taylor. So that third-party developers can continue to tailor the devices to Japanese culture, Amazon is giving them access to Alexa’s Skills Kit.