Mathematicians are hackers, too. And by “hackers”, I don’t mean like the young Angelina Jolie movie. I mean much more like the Steven Levy book (which by the way is one of my favorites of all time–you really must read it). Or even as in the definition from The Hacker’s Dictionary: “One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.”
One of the best math hacks of all time was when Cambridge mathematicians Thomas Fink and Yong Mao teamed up to exhaustively consider 85 possible necktie knots. In their journal paper, they mathematically explore each knot’s size, shape, symmetry, balance, and ease of untying. By doing this work, they discovered 6 new necktie knots that have excellent aesthetic properties but were not previously in common use.
A second math hack which for some inexplicable reason I can still remember is someone doing the math to design a crochet project for the Lorenz manifold. I don’t really know what the Lorenz manifold is, or why you’d want to crochet it, but that is indisputably a mathematical hack.