The above image shows the recent standings of a contest promoting the Victoria’s Secret “Pink Collegiate Collection”. The idea is that VS will create “products” featuring the mascots of the top schools from this competition. You are only allowed to vote once a day for a particular school, and there are protections in place to prevent automated voting bots. In essence, this is a popularity contest, and natural selection dictates that schools that have the greatest number of students, alumni, and fans who care will naturally rise to the top of the standings.
But if you take a closer look at the standings, you may soon realize that something exceeding the natural course of things may be occurring. The most immediate discrepancy is the fact that Harvey Mudd College is not only at the top of the list, but it has over 500,000 votes more than the next school on the list. Now, HMC has a current student population of less than 700, and even if you add all the alumni, faculty and everyone in existence who has even heard of the school, you would still have a number far less than the current student population of some of the other schools on the list. Just this might be enough to clue you in that something unnatural is going on.
But there’s more. #4 on the list is Bob Jones University, and if you know anything about Bob Jones University, you know that it has no reason being voted near the top of any list associated with Victoria’s Secret. #5 on the list is Scripps College, which is a woman’s college neighboring HMC with a student population even smaller than Mudd. Now, Scripps students are certainly more likely to purchase Victoria's Secret merchandise than the majority of Mudd students, but it defies the imagination that they can rally together over half a million votes.
In addition, if you are more familiar with Harvey Mudd College, you may also recognize that the first letter of the names of schools #2-7 form the acronym WIBSTR, which carries special meaning to any Mudd student. See this link for an explanation of WIBSTR (I’m trying to keep this a ‘G’ rated blog).
Finally, if you’ve ever seen Wally Mudd (aka the Mudd Wart), the HMC mascot, you’ll understand why it’s not likely to be a popular choice to be emblazoned on a new line of Victoria’s Secret intimates.
Because we can see that the results of the competition cannot be accounted for within the limitations of the natural voting process, together with the significance of the complex and specified “WIBSTR” sequence, it would be very reasonable for a person to infer that this was an intelligently designed prank. With some additional revelation we can perhaps know who actually pulled this prank, but that is not needed to know that a prank has indeed been pulled.
But perhaps there will still be those who insist that the specific sequence of “WIBSTR” is just a happy coincidence, and no matter how improbable the standings, these results must be due solely to the natural selection process, because the CAPTCHA program used by VS in the voting process absolutely restricts voting to once per person per day, and nothing can go beyond these boundaries as defined by the VS programmers.
That being said, I for one wouldn’t mind buying something from Victoria’s Secret with a Mudd Wart on it.
For more information, read this article from the CMC Forum: “Harvey Mudd 1, Victoria’s Secret 0”