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> That said, is there anything that would actually stop anyone  
> replacing the numeric type with arbitrary precision numbers, assuming  
> they're masochistic enough to bolt it in?

Nothing will stop the determined hacker... Lua 5.1 even gives a hand:
see the luai_num* macros in luaconf.h. It should be really easy to
change Lua 5.1 to use arbitrary precision numbers as implemented by MAPM,
for instance. (Come to think of it, it may not handle GC though...)