Paul the Octopus

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Paul the Octopus

Postby SamuelJSB » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:22 pm UTC

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Last edited by SamuelJSB on Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:51 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:28 pm UTC

Colour preference is probably a sensible explanation. Another would be that if you have enough octopodes and get them all to choose one or the other at random, one of them is going to get them all right. However, this one made 4 correct predictions out of 4 attempts after people started paying attention to it. So yeah, colour preference is a likely candidate and it just being coincidence that teams with orangey-reddish-brownish flags happened to do well in the tournament. The chances of it happening that way are 1/16 so it's not exactly up against astronomical odds.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby pietertje » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:01 pm UTC

The species of octopus to which Paul belongs is colorblind. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_o ... 391360ffda

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Charlie! » Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:38 pm UTC

Paul is a cuttlefish? (checks) Nope, he's a common octopus. Still, even assuming he is, that paper says that the pigment is centered in the green - maybe it's a brightness thing.

Or, hey, 1/16 isn't impossible either. If only there had been a few more world cup matches!
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Minerva » Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:38 pm UTC

This sounds like it's Clever Hans the horse all over again.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Omegaton » Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:29 pm UTC

pietertje wrote:The species of octopus to which Paul belongs is colorblind. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_o ... 391360ffda

To clarify, though the paper is about cuttlefish, it does mention Octopus vulgaris as being colorblind, which is the species Paul is.

Can we apply statistics to this? I'm thinking an exact binomial test. I got that it wasn't statistically significant, but someone can correct me if that's wrong.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby sikyon » Tue Jul 13, 2010 6:58 pm UTC

Minerva wrote:This sounds like it's Clever Hans the horse all over again.


Except for the fact that the experiment is double blind because the people feeding Paul do not know what the outcome of the game will be.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Xanthir » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:00 pm UTC

It's not quite double-blind - the experimenters still know which country is which from the flag, and can provide biases based on their own feelings or predictions about the upcoming games.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby fooliam » Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:26 pm UTC

Of course, he could just be a time-traveling sentient octopus from the future who came back and picked world cup teams just to screw with humanity combined with a little revenge for all the calimari the world has eaten. Just sayin...its possible.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby qetzal » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:18 am UTC

There's also a huge selection bias. That is, we heard about PtO only because he seemed to be making correct predictions. We didn't hear about the hundreds of other people/things that made incorrect predictions.

If we had identified, say, 160 different people/things in advance (Fred the Hedgehog, Aunt Millie's bunion, little Billy's lucky penny, etc.), and had them all attempt to predict the same four games, we'd expect about 10 of them get all 4 right. In context, PtO wouldn't look so special.

In other words, it's basically #628.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby mmmcannibalism » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:18 am UTC

I think there is a small anthropic principle here; we are only talking about explaining Paul the Octopus because he managed to stay on streak. If he had sort of made the news after the first four then been wrong he never would have been mentioned again.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Iceman » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:26 am UTC

From the couple clips I saw, Paul picked the closest box, and they had food in them, right?

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Adacore » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:18 am UTC

qetzal wrote:There's also a huge selection bias. That is, we heard about PtO only because he seemed to be making correct predictions. We didn't hear about the hundreds of other people/things that made incorrect predictions.

Yes, but that's already been covered. After he became a big media thing he still correctly predicted four games in a row. The probability of that is 1/16, which isn't exactly infinitesimal, so it's almost certainly random chance either way, although I'm sad that the 'likes red' theory is looking less likely - that sounded plausible and was a nice way to shoot down the people who genuinely believed something 'mystical' might be going on.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby tesseraktik » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:06 pm UTC

I don't really understand this "He prefers red flags!"-argument. I mean, granted, it's a different explanation than "He's a psychic octopus; d'uh!", but how could such a preference have increased Paul's success rate? Surely, if having a red flag increased your national soccer/football team's rate of success, there'd be a powerful movement in Great Britain to change their national flag to a piece of red cloth by now?
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EDIT: I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently it's some ancient Babylonian unit for angles :/

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Shotglass » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:24 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:Yes, but that's already been covered. After he became a big media thing he still correctly predicted four games in a row. The probability of that is 1/16, which isn't exactly infinitesimal, so it's almost certainly random chance either way, although I'm sad that the 'likes red' theory is looking less likely - that sounded plausible and was a nice way to shoot down the people who genuinely believed something 'mystical' might be going on.


hes already been fairly present in german news back in 08 and came back in full force after the serbia game
so while there certainly is a large selection bias its still a little eerie how accruate hess been even after the media became interested

maybe if we team him up with a cat well get the ultimate footbal prediction machine
http://g.sports.yahoo.com/soccer/world- ... sow,253133
unless of course he ends up being eaten by the cat
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Charlie! » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:59 pm UTC

tesseraktik wrote:I don't really understand this "He prefers red flags!"-argument. I mean, granted, it's a different explanation than "He's a psychic octopus; d'uh!", but how could such a preference have increased Paul's success rate? Surely, if having a red flag increased your national soccer/football team's rate of success, there'd be a powerful movement in Great Britain to change their national flag to a piece of red cloth by now?

All that was needed is for it to work this time. Don't confuse correlation with causation.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Hit3k » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:59 pm UTC

My friend pointed out to me last night when we were discussing it that Paul's predictions were, according to the camera, always on the right hand side. So maybe he preferred the right hand(His best side?). I'd also be interested to see what food was in what container when he made his decision.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Patashu » Wed Jul 14, 2010 11:04 pm UTC

tesseraktik wrote:I don't really understand this "He prefers red flags!"-argument. I mean, granted, it's a different explanation than "He's a psychic octopus; d'uh!", but how could such a preference have increased Paul's success rate? Surely, if having a red flag increased your national soccer/football team's rate of success, there'd be a powerful movement in Great Britain to change their national flag to a piece of red cloth by now?

I think that the argument is something like:
1. It's more likely for the same team to keep winning than for it to be random.
2. Therefore if you have a bias towards certain teams you're more likely to get them all right than naive chance indicates.

In addition to that, teams/players in sports dressed in red typically DO perform better.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:38 am UTC

In addition to that, teams/players in sports dressed in red typically DO perform better.


Not if they are Lance Armstrong(fuck yeah I referenced the tour de france...for you people that don't care he is doing badly this year and the team he is on wears red uniforms)
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:43 am UTC

tesseraktik wrote:I don't really understand this "He prefers red flags!"-argument. I mean, granted, it's a different explanation than "He's a psychic octopus; d'uh!", but how could such a preference have increased Paul's success rate? Surely, if having a red flag increased your national soccer/football team's rate of success, there'd be a powerful movement in Great Britain to change their national flag to a piece of red cloth by now?


It might lead to a movement to have a separate English team, so that they could wave their red&white flag instead of the Union Jack. As an added benefit, it would leave the Scots to play without any red, and therefore without hope of winning.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby tesseraktik » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:43 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:
tesseraktik wrote:I don't really understand this "He prefers red flags!"-argument. I mean, granted, it's a different explanation than "He's a psychic octopus; d'uh!", but how could such a preference have increased Paul's success rate? Surely, if having a red flag increased your national soccer/football team's rate of success, there'd be a powerful movement in Great Britain to change their national flag to a piece of red cloth by now?

All that was needed is for it to work this time. Don't confuse correlation with causation.
I'm not confusing correlation with causation; I just wonder why people have an easier time accepting a correlation between flag colors and soccer match outcomes than a correlation between pseudo-random octopodal decisions and soccer match outcomes.

Patashu wrote:I think that the argument is something like:
1. It's more likely for the same team to keep winning than for it to be random.
2. Therefore if you have a bias towards certain teams you're more likely to get them all right than naive chance indicates.
Ah, well then, that makes sense. That would explain both the color bias theory and the German flag familiarization theory.
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++$_ wrote:What's a "degree"?

EDIT: I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently it's some ancient Babylonian unit for angles :/

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Charlie! » Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Also, on this forum we use induction a lot. It's kind of a hobby, and also kind of essential to science. Then, ideally, the hypotheses generated by induction would be tested, but I don't think they'd let us have their octopus.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Waylah » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:30 pm UTC

I wonder why people find it 'eerie'.

If someone correctly predicted four coin-tosses, got in the news, predicted four more, and then 'retired', the only thing that would be amazing would be that it got any media attention at all.

I think the world cup and cute little octopuses are just more interesting than coin tossing.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby mercutio_stencil » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:05 am UTC

As I recall Paul the Octopus also did rather well during the European Cup two years ago; If my memory serves, the only match he predicted wrong was the final, in which Spain played Germany. Actually, my memory is wrong, and Wikipedia has a list of his success, he's 12 for 14.

Point being, 12 out of 14 is a bit more impressive than 4/4. And a lot less likely.

I still blame him for Germany's defeat, he didn't predict the outcome of the match, he managed to directly influence it with his wily octopus ways (I'm allowed to be superstitious when it comes to soccer).

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby tastelikecoke » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:01 am UTC

Paul the Octopus and the media may have had social effects on fans and the teams, like maybe Germany felt less motivated because of PtO.

The first time I heard PtO, I thought "who is this person predicting football games? Why is he called octopus?" I still couldn't accept the fact that he was an octopus.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Eternal Questionner » Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:13 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:It might lead to a movement to have a separate English team, so that they could wave their red&white flag instead of the Union Jack. As an added benefit, it would leave the Scots to play without any red, and therefore without hope of winning.


I'm afraid to say, Zamfir, that has already happened. It is England, not Britain, that plays in the world cup. (see http://england.worldcupblog.org/ ). And a fat lot of use our red and white flag was.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby ++$_ » Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:59 pm UTC

mercutio_stencil wrote:As I recall Paul the Octopus also did rather well during the European Cup two years ago; If my memory serves, the only match he predicted wrong was the final, in which Spain played Germany. Actually, my memory is wrong, and Wikipedia has a list of his success, he's 12 for 14.

Point being, 12 out of 14 is a bit more impressive than 4/4. And a lot less likely.

I still blame him for Germany's defeat, he didn't predict the outcome of the match, he managed to directly influence it with his wily octopus ways (I'm allowed to be superstitious when it comes to soccer).
12 out of 14 isn't very likely by random chance, but it isn't terrifically rare either. The probability of that or something more accurate is about 1 in 155, if he is making random guesses.

If you claim he is being influenced by his keepers and that they have a 2/3 chance to get each match correct (which is probably an overestimate), then the probability of a result this unlikely is 0.105. If you figure they are only 60% accurate, the probability is 0.0398.

My conjecture is that he's guessing at random or mostly at random, and that we're aware of his relatively unlikely success because of observation bias. I don't think an octopus can read human body language well enough to be Clever Hans, though I could be wrong. Maybe they've been studying us for centuries, passing down their accumulated knowledge to their descendants through cellular memory.

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby tesseraktik » Sat Jul 17, 2010 10:13 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:Maybe they've been studying us for centuries, passing down their accumulated knowledge to their descendants through cellular memory.
In Assassin's Creed 4, we'll learn that the Hashshashin Order was originally created by an octopus who knew that the world, if left to man's devices, would never be fit to accept the Twelfth Imam.*
mercutio_stencil wrote:I still blame him for Germany's defeat, he didn't predict the outcome of the match, he managed to directly influence it with his wily octopus ways (I'm allowed to be superstitious when it comes to soccer).
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++$_ wrote:What's a "degree"?

EDIT: I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently it's some ancient Babylonian unit for angles :/

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby SlyReaper » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:23 pm UTC

I get it! Octopodes experience time backwards like Merlin. He was simply remembering the match result when he chose which mussel to eat. The two earlier failures were simply Paul getting fed up of always having to choose mussels based on football match results.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby Qaanol » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:29 pm UTC

I find the lack of references to his noodly appendages disturbing.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:27 am UTC

It's an octopus. It doesn't have noodly appendages, it merely has appendages.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby mikhail » Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:29 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
tesseraktik wrote:I don't really understand this "He prefers red flags!"-argument. I mean, granted, it's a different explanation than "He's a psychic octopus; d'uh!", but how could such a preference have increased Paul's success rate? Surely, if having a red flag increased your national soccer/football team's rate of success, there'd be a powerful movement in Great Britain to change their national flag to a piece of red cloth by now?


It might lead to a movement to have a separate English team, so that they could wave their red&white flag instead of the Union Jack. As an added benefit, it would leave the Scots to play without any red, and therefore without hope of winning.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_national_football_team

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby fooliam » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:13 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I get it! Octopodes experience time backwards like Merlin. He was simply remembering the match result when he chose which mussel to eat. The two earlier failures were simply Paul getting fed up of always having to choose mussels based on football match results.


I concur.
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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby mercutio_stencil » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:39 am UTC

The plot thickens, apparently there are two psychic octopuses (octopi, or octopodes, depending on your preference). Paul the octopus the first predicted the Euro Cup in 2008, and Paul the octopus predicted the World Cup. Why the switch up, I have no idea. Maybe Paul the first was taken by the government to help with key policy decisions?

http://globoesporte.globo.com/futebol/copa-do-mundo/noticia/2010/07/oceanario-diz-que-polvo-profeta-nao-tem-preco.html

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Re: Paul the Octopus

Postby RabbitWho » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:58 pm UTC

I'm sure the keepers, who know the octopussy intimately, are able to dominate them.


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