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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trouble of sorts for England - Octopus Paul is dead

Dear (s) 
Extremely strange are the ways of Man.  Sometimes animals are worshipped involving religious rituals, sometimes they are sacrificed, many are eaten and many more are harassed and driven to extinction  for no fault of theirs. You might have stopped to listen to the astrology narrated going by the card picked by a parrot.  Have you ever seen this timid small creature also used for the same purpose.
This is slender loris (Thevangu in tamil) – a small, nocturnal primate found in the tropical rain forests of Southern India and Srilanka.   They will appear so afraid of the sound and surroundings, yet caught, tamed and probably trained to pick up cards for small morsel of food.  When one is driven to despair, they need soothing words irrespective of whether they are the ones on the calender or something from the mouth of a sooth sayer aided by a bull, parrot, slender loris or anything else.  Traditional Indian belief, one would summarily reject them – no sentiments and beliefs are not specific to any country, region, religion or group.  It is truly international as displayed recently during the soccer World cup when newspapers devoted headlines and main stories to the predictions of the Paul, the Octopus. 
From ancient times, animals have been frequently used for the purposes of divination.  Birds are common for this role and are seen as messengers of celestial spheres – the voice from stratosphere.   In China, tortoise is an oracular animal.    The molluscan class was also not left behind as cephalopod intelligence relies on a nervous system fundamentally different from that of vertebrates.  Squids and octopuses are considered very intelligent – the recent one being the predictions of Paul.  Scientifically, the probability of atleast 12 successful predictions from 14 attempts of coin flips is 0.65%.  Paul was successful in 8 WC predictions, which is 0.39% or probability of 256 to 1.  There are many things which cannot be fitted within the realms of Science.  Paul was presented with two boxes containing food in the form of a mussel, each box marked on the outside with the flag of a national football team.    The first mussel Paul ate in a box indicated his prediction of who would win in four of Germany’s six Euro 2008 matches and in all seven of their matches in 2010 WC.  He also correctly selected Spain against Netherlands in the Finals on 11th July 10 – with 100% success rate in WC and 12/14 over all.  He was retired after WC.  His name derives from the title of a poem by German children’s wirter Boy Lornsen.
Paul Octopus received International recognition after he correctly predicted Germany’s win over England and made four more correct predictions after that.    Paul reportedly was hatched in Jan 2008 In Weymouth,  England  and lived in a tank at  Sea Life Centre  in Oberhausen, Germany.   The city on river Emscher known for the International Short Film festival and mining industry houses the biggest shopping mall in Germany but reference tag is village of Paul.  Paul predicted winner of Germany’s seven matches at 2010 WC as also the final. 
There won’t be any more predictions as Paul died on 26th Oct 2010. (Yesterday) According to news reports,  the local businessmen  of a town in Galicia, Spain collectively raised around  €30,000 as a "transfer fee" to have Paul as the main attraction of the local festival and made assurance that Paul would be presented alive in a tank and not on the menu.
After its prediction of loss of Germany,  some were calling that it be put to menu and Spanish PM once jokingly said that he would send a team of body guards to protect.   His prediction that Argentina would lose prompted one Argentine Chef to post octopus recipe on his facebook.
Given the two options, how a draw which is also a likely result could be predicted is never understood by me.   The enthusiasts went far beyond testing it on a blind experiment as statistical hypothesis testing would not support the suggestion that the predictions were by chance.   Octopuses have a short life span and quite surprisingly, England in their bid for the WC 2018 make Paul as its ambassador.   In Germany, the flags are flying at half-mast at the Sea Life Centre, the keepers are wearing black armbands and a queue has formed to sign the book of condolence.  A monument is to be erected in the Sea Life Centre.  He may even have a street named after him in Oberhausen; presumably a pedestrian precinct.
Whether it was animal having super natural powers of precognition or whether a statistical fluke could remain an unresolved argument for long.   Fact would remain that even the most rational newspapers never raised any condemnation but covered the news items of its predictions. 
On a different note, most often it is told that ‘death is a great leveller’ – but the way the dead are treated have significant difference as evidenced from those dying in aircraft crash and in a bus accident – for the goner, it is death but when it comes to news coverage and compensation, the yardsticks are far different.  Lot was written about the San Jose mine accident in Chile but not much of those miners who lost their lives in a coal mine in China.    The world over it is poor who always suffer and the price of human lives are many a times different ............
Regards – S Sampathkumar.


  1. Wow, this creature looks cute – I will ask my roommate about it – who is from India – and if I am not mistaken, he is actually from Tamil Nadu. He is sound asleep right now, as he works at night usually, providing dissertation writing service England-based. Well, when he wakes up, I will ask him about this creature.

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