05/15/2013 08:49 am ET | Updated May 15, 2013

Illegal Numbers: Can A Number Be Against The Law? (VIDEO)

Can a number be illegal?

That's the question the YouTube channel Numberphile tried to answer in a recent video. The reasoning goes something like this: every digital object is, at its heart, a number. Everything you see on your computer screen was at one point written as a string of zeroes and ones, in a language called binary, which is the only language computers "speak." Through various programs, these ones and zeroes are converted into the media we see on our computer screens -- anything from .jpg images to .mp3 files to simple .txt documents.

When it's laid out like that, it's easy to see why some numbers might be illegal.

Some numbers, when turned into text, might reveal U.S. military secrets. Some numbers, when turned into a photograph, might display child porn. Of course, says Numberphile's narrator James Grime, making a number itself illegal is absurd -- but what if someone distributes a number intending that other people turn it into some other kind of information? Is the number illegal then?

Watch the video to find out:

[h/t Gizmodo]


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