He's no sucker: Paul the oracle octopus is right for the seventh time after picking Germany to beat Uruguay to third place

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 10:54 PM on 10th July 2010



He is facing his greatest challenge yet with predicting the outcome of Sunday's World Cup final.

But Paul the 'oracle octopus' has shown he doesn't crack under the pressure after making his seventh correct World Cup prediction.

The mystic mollusc correctly chose Germany would win the third place playoff against Uruguay, and his national team duly obliged after winning 3-2 in Port Elizabeth.

Viva Espana! Paul the octopus chooses Spain over the Netherlands as the 2010 World Cup champions today

Viva Espana! Paul the octopus chooses Spain over the Netherlands as the 2010 World Cup champions today

Counter-prediction: Mani the 'psychic parakeet' picks Holland in the Netherlands today as owner M Muniyappan looked on

Counter-prediction: Mani the 'psychic parakeet' picks Holland in the Netherlands today as owner M Muniyappan looked on

But the knowledgable octopus has been issued with a challenge from an unexpected quarter - Mani, Singapore's psychic parakeet.

Mani - who has, according to his owner, predicted the last five games of the tournament correctly - has thrown the gauntlet down to Paul by predicting that Holland will triumph on Sunday instead.

 

Germans will be torn in two at the news. Half will be still be wanting to roast Paul with garlic after he predicted - correctly - that their team would lose to Spain at the semi-final.

While the other half will be hoping that Paul - who is, after all, a German octopus - will triumph against Mani, giving them some share in the glory of the World Cup final.

Enlarge   Das ist wunderbar: Great news for Germany as Paul backs them to finish third

Das ist wunderbar: Great news for Germany as Paul backs them to finish third

Paul was born in Weymouth in 2006 but now resides in Germany's Oberhausen's Sea Life Aquarium.

He predicts matches by choosing to eat a mussel from boxes emblazoned with the flags of the German team and its rivals.

In the group stages, he correctly predicted German victories over Australia and Ghana and the country's loss to Serbia.

England and Argentina then produced spineless performances in the next two rounds to ensure that Paul's predictions that Germany would win came to pass. Then came Germany's defeat to Spain.

Germany supporters hold up a banner referring to Paul the octopus

Wrong: Germany supporters hold up a banner referring to Paul the octopus at Wednesday's match with Spain. The 0-1 result was successfully predicted by Paul

SECRETS OF THE SOOTHSAYER: HOW DOES PAUL DO IT?

 So how does Paul do it? According to experts, it could all be down to the shape of the competitors' flags.

'Experiments have shown that the Octopus vulgaris can distinguish brightness, size, shape, and horizontal or vertical orientation of objects.

'They are more drawn to horizontal shapes,' said Shelagh Malham, a lecturer in the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University.

But can they see colour? Not according to Janet Voight, associate curator of invertebrates at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

'No, there's no evidence that octopus have colour vision. The colour red disappears ten feet under water anyway.'

So Paul can't see in colour but is drawn to bold horizontal shapes.

These are just the shapes that appear on the flags of Germany, Spain and Serbia.

But how did he pick between these flags? The German flag is quite bold but the Spanish flag has a broader yellow horizontal stripe, explaining Paul's attraction to Spain. Similarly, the Serbian flag is brighter and more vivid than the German flag.

Although octopuses cannot see specific colours, they can determine differences in hue and brightness. These are probably the factors that led to Paul choosing the teams he did.

Paul became an international sensation - with media around the world today publishing his prediction that Spain will win the final.

Then, along came Mani.

Today the 13-year-old parakeet made his own World Cup prediction - grabbing a card in his beak bearing the flag of the Netherlands.

Mani has become a local celebrity after its owner, M Muniyappan, claimed Mani accurately forecast the World Cup's four quarterfinal games and Spain's semi-final victory over Germany.

'He's a special bird,' Muniyappan said.

Muniyappan, an 80-year-old fortune-teller, said Mani has helped him predict the future for five years at a table in front of a restaurant in the Little India neighbourhood.

But this year's World Cup is the first time the parakeet has attempted to forecast the outcome of sports competitions.

'People usually want help picking the lottery numbers, or when to get married,' said Muniyappan, who was born in India and moved to Singapore in 1953.

'Then gamblers started asking about the World Cup.'

Muniyappan said about 30 people a day now pay for his psychic powers, up from about 10 a day before Mani shot to fame.

Paul first started predicting matches during the 2008 European Championships, when four out of his six choices were correct.

Mathematicians have found the probability of guessing the correct result six times consecutively is less than 0.5 per cent, or 216 to 1.

Paul's soothsaying has turned him into a star in Germany. But he may well prove to be the victim of his own success.

A Spain fan (right) holds up a banner reading 'Germans, the Octopus' prediction will come true'

Right sign: A Spain fan (right) holds up a banner reading 'Germans, the Octopus' prediction will come true'

After Argentina lost to Germany in the quarterfinal, the Argentines threatened to capture, kill him and serve him with potatoes.

Even some Germans have turned against their eight-legged oracle, suggesting Oberhausen restaurants should soon offer grilled octopus on their menus.

And he'll need to cash in on his success soon. At the age of four Paul is unusually old for an octopus, which, in the wild, don't usually live much past two years.

This story may not have legs for much longer. . .

See video of Paul picking Spain


See video of Mani picking Holland


 

 

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Paul's track record (including his UEFA forecasts, of which 6 out of 8 were correct) and the World Cup 8 matches (not 6) all correct. So his record in aggregate is 12 matches out of 14.

The statistical significance of this is given by the binomial distribution i.e. 1 - p(12)+p(13)+p(14) = 1 - {14!/2!12! + 14!/1!13! + 14!/0!14!} x 0.5^14 = 99.35%. This is a highly significant statistical result, so there is very strong mathematical evidence in support of Paul's psychic powers. We are more than 99% certain Paul the octupus not doing it by chance.

Also, leave Tony alone - his math is fine - he works in terms of payoff functions (odds) and 63/1 is correct (strictly speaking, he's calculating payoff values based upon risk-neutral probability measure Q in the absence of interest cost). This is mathematically equivalent here to saying the probablility of six matches forecast correctly is 1 in 64. For bookies, payoff functions are obviously much more meaningful than raw probabilities.

Click to rate     Rating   1

Did you know that Aliens have used Glen Campbell's chin dimple as a Stargate to our world for years. The reptilian RL from Velo Beach, Florida claims to know the answers, but he is also on the menu.

Click to rate     Rating   (0)

I'm enjoying my winnings thanks to Paul!

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I would be more impressed if he predicted what the score was and who scored each goal.

Click to rate     Rating   1

I want to be Paul's WAG

Click to rate     Rating   8

Holland 2 Spain 1 (after extra time)

Paul is trying to con you, he works for a bookies

Click to rate     Rating   7

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