Saturday, August 28, 2010

Paul The Octopus

Remember Paul The Octopus? well, if you haven't heard of him already, you certainly haven't missed much. Wise old Paul was a headline news for much of the the final rounds of the Fifa world cup, South Africa. Widely acclaimed for predicting the outcome of Germany's matches correctly. His psychic powers drew a global praise and fascination. And while there was a tinge of humor and lightheartedness throughout the entire affair, people were left to their own devices to determine whether Paul was the second coming of Christ or just a sad, exploited and confined cephalopod.

His fame was destined to die out, though. Not because his supernatural powers were proven null and void, but because his owners decided he needed to retire. And did so on the 12th of July this year, right after the conclusion of the world cup (according to his wikipedia page). One would have to wonder why. It makes sense that an invertebrate animal with such capabilities could be of much use to the well being of humanity. Sure, his magical purview couldn't be limited to footballs matches, could it? I mean, if it's really genuine, then there's no reason why we can't make use of him to predict things that are more significant. Anything that could be ascribed a binary outcome, a Yes or No, could be worked out by good old Paul. Just imagine the possibilities: the German government could decide whether to raise interest rates or not (by printing huge cards with symbolic impressions of both propsals instead of flags), or whether cutting taxes would be better to navigate the EU through recession, or not. Or whether to cut down social security benefits, or not. Or whether to amend immigration laws...etc.. All these pressing issues that are open to possibilities and error margins could comfortably be determined by the octopus.

However, these fantastic prospects were nipped in the buds by his owners when they went ahead and made him retire. How awful, unproductive and myopic of them.

But of course, we know better than that. We know the real reason behind the abrupt end of the guy's career, at the peak of his performance and popularity, was because he's an ineffective fraud (or his owners are, to be more accurate). Especially given how, at least, his owners could have benefited hugely from him had he been for real.

There is a foundation known as the James Randi Educational Foundation. They have a $ 1 million paranormal challenge that nobody had won yet. (it's been out there for decades, although the bounty had been less than a million at times). The owners of the octopus could have won the million easily. All the Randi foundation requires is a test with a scientific methodology in a controlled environment, to weed out interfering factors and chances of human interference. For a demonstration, watch this video. Although it's a bit long (18 minutes), it's most revealing as far as purported 'psychic powers' are concerned. And it'd also give you a glimpse of how Randi himself conducts his neutral and unbiased scientific testing.

Octopi have an average life span of 3 years (though it varies according to species and habitat). Paul was reportedly hatched back in Jan 2008. So, if things went by the average for him, as things are wont to do in life, he's going to die next year.

Or maybe he'd beat the odds?


Ali said...

No one can beat The Amazing Randi, even Octopus Paul. :)

Facts always supersede fiction.

KJ said...

Maybe it is still morning but I read this post twice w ma fhement :S LOL