An "overzealous" powering up of a tiny motor caused a cotton string to twist in an unusual pattern, creating the above image.
Andrew Davidhazy of New York's Rochester Institute of Technology won an honorable mention in the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge's photography category for his fortuitous mistake.
"I happened to overspin the string, and all of a sudden the picture was more exciting," Davidhazy said in a statement.
The string whirled some 10 to 20 times during the two seconds of exposure used for the image.
Image courtesy Andrew Davidhazy, Rochester Institute of Technology/Science