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Psychic Paul

A International Celebrity 2010

Tina S
Tina S
Jul 13, 2010
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Sports and Travel


 

Paul is now a popular character with a history of correctly predicting the results of major German international football matches, especially in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He is become a star now. This total rate of 11 out of 12 games constitutes a significant deviation from what a flipping coin would suggest, using a Binomial test. 

 

Birth:

Paul was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, then moved to a tank at one of the chain's centres in Oberhausen, Germany. His name derives from the title of a poem by the German children's writer Boy Lornsen: Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus.

American cable television network ESPN later reported claims made in the Italian press that Paul the Octopus had been caught in April 2010, by Verena Bartsch, off the island of Elba.

The animal rights organization PETA argued that it would be cruel to keep Paul in permanent confinement. Sea Life Centres responded that it would be dangerous to release him, because he was born in captivity, and is not accustomed to finding food for himself.

 Psychic: 

Paul's career as an oracle began during the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament. In the lead-up to Germany's international football matches, Paul was presented with two clear plastic boxes, each containing food: a mussel or an oyster. Each container was marked with the flag of a team, one the flag of Germany, and the other the flag of Germany's opponent. The box which Paul opened first (and ate the contents of) was judged to be the predicted winner of the game.

Paul's apparent success was comparable to a run of luck when tossing a coin. This connection has been made by Professor Chris Budd of the University of Bath, Professor David Spiegelharter of Cambridge University, and Etienne Roquain of Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris 

Under the hypothesis that Paul was equally likely to choose the winner or the loser of a match, and neglecting the possibility of a draw, he had a 1/2 chance of predicting a single result and a 1/256 chance of predicting eight in a row. Spiegelharter and Roquain point out that there are "other animals that have attempted but failed to predict the outcome of football matches"; it is not remarkable that one animal is more successful than the others (including humans), and only the successful animals gain public attention after the fact. However, if Paul or other octopuses felt attracted for whatever reasons to the flagged boxes of Germany or Spain, their predictions would be much more exact than tossing a coin.

 Potential Biases:

Roquain went on to admit that chance was not necessarily the only explanation for Paul's choices. He could have been choosing boxes systematically—if not on the basis of football expertise, then perhaps on his evaluation of the countries' flags or the food offered. 

The species Octopus vulgaris is almost certainly color blind; neither behavioral studies nor electroretinogramexperiments show any discrimination of a color's hue. Nonetheless, individuals can distinguish brightness as well as an object's size, shape, and orientation. Shelagh Malham of Bangor University states that they are drawn to horizontal shapes, and indeed, there are horizontal stripes on the flags he has chosen. The flag of Germany, a bold tricolor consisting of three equal horizontal bands of black, red and gold, was Paul's usual favorite. But the flag of Spain, with its broad yellow stripe, and the flag of Serbia, with its contrast of blue and white, are more vivid still, possibly explaining why Paul picked those countries over Germany. Fey suggested that Paul was confused by the similarities between the German and Spanish flags; this was on July 6, when Fey expressed hope that Paul's latest pick would be wrong.

Octopus vulgaris is also equipped with sensitive chemoreceptors on its tentacles, which are used to taste food and "smell" the water. Biologist Volker Miske, of the University of Greifswald, suggests that minor chemical differences on the surface of each box might account for Paul's decisions.Bisikov states that Paul could be "easily trained" to choose the right box by smell.  According to Paul's keepers, there are holes in the jars to help him choose. 

Another potential bias may be spatial preference or related factors such as light intensity. On six out of seven predictions for the World Cup (no information about Germany-Australia) the octopus chose the right-hand box (from the camera point of view), skipping only the box with the English flag. On four out of six predictions, the German flag was also on the right-hand box, the exceptions being matches with England and Spain. Thus choosing which flag will go to the right-hand box may have influenced the predictions.

Theories of his behavior could be systematically tested if Paul were to repeat his selection many times, but he only selected one box per game. A scientific experiment would be more vigilant towards sources of bias, including the flag visuals and potential differences in the preparation of the food.

 

 

Outcomes:

UEFA Euro 2008, Paul correctly predicted the outcome of 4 out of 6 of Germany's matches. He failed to predict their defeats by Croatia in the group stage, and by Spain in the championship's final.  Some later sources wrongly reported his success rate at 80%.

 

Opponent

Stage

Date

Prediction

Result

Outcome

 Poland

group stage

8 June

 Germany

2–0

Correct

 Croatia

group stage

12 June

 Germany

1–2

Incorrect

 Austria

group stage

16 June

 Germany

1–0

Correct

 Portugal

quarter-finals

19 June

 Germany

3–2

Correct

 Turkey

semi-finals

25 June

 Germany

3–2

Correct

 Spain

final

29 June

 Germany

0–1

Incorrect

 

 

Opponent

Stage

Date

Prediction

Result

Outcome

 Australia

group stage

13 June

 Germany

4–0

Correct

 Serbia

group stage

18 June

 Serbia

0–1

Correct

 Ghana

group stage

23 June

 Germany

1–0

Correct

 England

round of 16

27 June

 Germany

4–1

Correct

 Argentina

quarter-finals

3 July

 Germany

4–0

Correct

 Spain

semi-finals

7 July

 Spain

0–1

Correct

 Uruguay

3rd place play-off

10 July

 Germany

3–2

Correct

 

On July 12, 2010, Paul retired from making predictions.Paul's owners stated "He won't give any more oracle predictions - either in football, or in politics, lifestyle or economy. Paul will get back to his former job, namely making children laugh."

As a reward for his accurate predictions, aquarium staff presented him with his very own replica World Cup trophy garnished with his favourite food - mussels.

This World Cup, whatever forecasts were predicted by ‘Paul Octopus’, has proved right. Spain who are the favorites, displayed thier best performance 60 years back in 1950, when they reached the quarter-finals.

Now, Paul the Octopus is going to hog the limelight till Sunday’s epic World cup final clash. Till now he has only predicted in games involving Germany, so it is not clear whether his psychic powers are limited to games involving Germany or they also go beyond that.

 

 

Author's note: Ref: Wikipedia, youtube.
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