And The Winner Is…


Yes, you read that correctly. Of the 57 entries submitted to the inaugural Universe/TOMS contest, not a single one was completely correct. I feel partially responsible for this! Probably it was too hard!

Before I announce the compromise, let’s reveal what the damn things were. The first object, as many people surmised, was indeed a feather:


The second, however, was trickier, and nobody got it quite right. It was, of course (don’t slap your foreheads too hard), a piece of felt. Cheap, regular craft felt:


So what do we do? The decent thing to do is give the prize to whomever came the closest — after much deliberation, I’ve decided that person is “Perry,” who guessed a) feather, b) acrylic yarn. This is the closest: I’ve actually looked at some acrylic yarn under my microscope and decided that it shares many of the same properties as synthetic felt. This is the only person who proposed both a feather and a synthetic craft material. Another really close guess came from “Tony Herhold,” who proposed feather and scarf. What kind of scarf? It was close!

One particularly interesting thing about your guesses is that many of you simply named household objects which resembled the items as they were. For example, in the case of the felt, there were many votes for “dish scrubber,” as though a dish scrubber still completely resembles a dish scrubber when it has been magnified 20 times. As though dish scrubbers were some kind of domestic fractal! I thought this was lovely and very poetic on your behalves, voters.

In any case, “Perry,” you are the winner! Please contact me ASAP with your mailing address, shoe size, and choice of TOM! Lucky you!


  1. #1 Rebecca
    January 22, 2007

    I guessed it RIGHT last to Steve but I wasn’t allowed to post my answer because 1) I preceded it with “just tell me what it is, I’m not going to post another guess anyway” and 2) he winked when I said “felt?”

  2. #2 rob
    January 22, 2007

    See, the thing is, I (for one) was thinking well, 20X isn’t really all that magnified (in this world of scanning-electron this&that) – I stand corrected. [This would seem to suggest that 200X would have been easier to figure out; I doubt that is the case!]

    Since you mention it, the feather actually has a certain kind of fractal symmetry (ignoring the mechanical-though-organic repetition).

    Congratulations to Perry; and also to Claire and UrbanHonking!

  3. #3 Geoff
    January 22, 2007

    Now i’m totally sad – i was going to say feather for the first one but i figured someone had beat me to it. Damn my pessimism.

  4. #4 JaclynJean
    January 22, 2007

    i’m so glad i didn’t guess “fancy rolling papers” and “red vines”.

    actually i didn’t guess because i anticipated the “perceived fractal” problem and gave up.
    but we’re really all winners anyway, because without this contest many of us may never have heard of TOMS. and man, that youTube video brought a tear to my eye.

    so…yay for claire! and TOMS! and barefoot children everywhere! i will def be buying a pair…when the weather warms up.

  5. #5 ritchey
    January 22, 2007

    I SAID YARN!!!!!!!!!! I AM AT LEAST TWICE AS SMART AS EVERYONE ELSE! But I didn’t say “feather.” So I guess that drops me down another notch. So now I am just back to normal.


  6. #6 Chris
    January 25, 2007

    domestic fractal!

  7. #7 Perry
    January 26, 2007

    thanks for the contest, universe! it was a lot of fun. should i leave my information here or is there a better way to contact you?

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