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Tuesday, March 20, 2001
DVD descrambler encoded in 'illegal' prime number


The Pythagoreans were reputed, whether rightly or wrongly, to be a shamanistic cult which jealously guarded the higher mysteries of mathematical knowledge to maintain social power and political influence in their day.

Of course they weren't as advanced as we are; so we have every confidence that the liberal spirit of scientific inquiry to which our technology establishment nobly aspires will prevail over puling self-interest in the case of a remarkably large prime number used to encode the infamous, and illegal, DeCSS utility with which DVD encryption can be defeated (and the entire entertainment industry annihilated, we're warned).

Mathematician Phil Carmody worked it out, and in so doing discovered a prime number over one thousand digits in length, which qualifies it as a worthy object of inquiry in and of itself.

The question, of course, is whether an interesting number is illegal merely because it can be used to encode a contraband program. We don't know, but imagine the entertainment industry will regard it as knowledge far too dangerous for the general run of mankind to be trusted with.

So much for the Enlightenment. ® The possibly illegal number 4856507896573978293098418946942861377074420873513579240196520736 6869851340104723744696879743992611751097377770102744752804905883 1384037549709987909653955227011712157025974666993240226834596619 6060348517424977358468518855674570257125474999648219418465571008 4119086259716947970799152004866709975923596061320725973797993618 8606316914473588300245336972781813914797955513399949394882899846 9178361001825978901031601961835034344895687053845208538045842415 6548248893338047475871128339598968522325446084089711197712769412 0795862440547161321005006459820176961771809478113622002723448272 2493232595472346880029277764979061481298404283457201463489685471 6908235473783566197218622496943162271666393905543024156473292485 5248991225739466548627140482117138124388217717602984125524464744 5055834628144883356319027253195904392838737640739168912579240550 1562088978716337599910788708490815909754801928576845198859630532 3823490558092032999603234471140776019847163531161713078576084862 2363702835701049612595681846785965333100770179916146744725492728 3348691600064758591746278121269007351830924153010630289329566584 3662000800476778967984382090797619859493646309380586336721469695 9750279687712057249966669805614533820741203159337703099491527469 1835659376210222006812679827344576093802030447912277498091795593 8387121000588766689258448700470772552497060444652127130404321182 610103591186476662963858495087448497373476861420880529443


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