Wednesday, 13 June 2012

We need Paul

Those who haven’t realised that Spain is going to win Euro 2012 are resorting to all kinds of farm and semi-wild animals to help them predict the outcome of the matches.

Citta, a sagacious Indian elephant in Krakow, Khryak, a beer-loving prognosticating pig in Kiev, and even Fred, the ferret (who is actually an otter) have been hauled into telephathic service by the bookies to forecast winners in this year’s tournament.

And Yvonne, the runaway cow, has already got it spectacularly wrong.

Yvonne the runaway cow predicted German defeat in Euro 2012 opener. Source

Perhaps a fish will get it right?

However, none, not even the most purportedly perspicacious of these hairy or hairless critters actually has even the slightest knowledge of soccer; not one of them is a trustworthy expert of the beautiful game. None of them is Paul, the only  non-prokaryote on this planet who actually knew his stuff.  

And the stats prove it...

Prescient cephalopod

Witness, 21 Jul 2010 

REPUTABLE scientists would likely have distanced themselves from all the recent flippant falderal concerning the apparent psychic powers of Paul the octopus. After all, how could a creature with a brain smaller than that of Paris Hilton (see J. Gardener, The Witness, July 16) foretell the outcome of an inherently unpredictable game?

Scientists are a sceptical bunch and demand strong evidence that the effect they have observed (say, the outcome of an experiment) was not just a statistical fluke, unlikely to reoccur.
By convention, a result is generally accepted only if there is less than one chance in 20 (50 in 1 000) of it not being just a chance outcome.

So how did Paul do? The chance of successfully predicting the outcome of eight football matches in a row (as he did) by simply sucking his tentacles — that is, by a run of pure luck — turns out to be less than four in 1 000 (p = 0,00391, in scientific parlance). The cephalopod does, therefore, seem to be significantly prescient or the Word Cup was rigged and he was in on it.


Pelham, Pietermaritzburg


A monument to the magnificent Paul, at Sea Life Aquarium, Germany

RIP Paul

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