Illegal numbers?


Great video from the guys at Numberphile talking about illegal numbers. It always amazes to think that your money in the bank isn’t protected by steel doors or guards with guns anymore–it’s protected by numbers. (more specifically it’s protected by one VERY VERY large number).

The encryption key that is responsible for keeping your sensitive bank details secret, is nothing more than a very very long number, and that number protects your money more than any steel door or armed guard ever could.

But it’s still a number.

Similarly the encryption that protects the entire movie industry by making it hard to rip DVDs, or the encryption that makes it impossible for people to produce Sony Playstation games is the just a number.

So what happens when people try to protect these number by making it a secret–someone finds out, and usually that someone wants to tell the world by posting it on forums or websites, the problem is that unlike any other trade protection mechanism like a patented or copyrighted material–an encryption key is a number, and surely no one can claim ownership of a number to the extent of making it’s publication illegal?

Well at least we know someone did try to copyright the number PI–and fortunately, the courts rejected that claim...on Pi Day.

*Btw, Pi day is the 14 of March in the US, since it’s denoted as 3/14 which is the first 3-digits of Pi. In Malaysia, I propose we celebrate Pi day on the 31st of April–unfortunately April only has 30 days. dang!! 

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