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The idea of hacking may conjure stylized images of electronic vandalism, espionage, dyed hair, and body piercings. Most people associate hacking with breaking the law and assume that everyone who engages in hacking activities is a criminal. Granted, there are people out there who use hacking techniques to break the law, but hacking isn't really about that. In fact, hacking is more about following the law than breaking it. The essence of hacking is finding unintended or overlooked uses for the laws and properties of a given situation and then applying them in new and inventive ways to solve a problem—whatever it may be.

The following math problem illustrates the essence of hacking:

Use each of the numbers 1, 3, 4, and 6 exactly once with any of the four basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to total 24. Each number must be used once and only once, and you may define the order of operations; for example, 3 * (4 + 6) + 1 = 31 is valid, however incorrect, since it doesn't total 24.