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Octopus Paul, the World Cup oracle

In World Cup times, football is all around and everywhere you go. A brand new energy invades us and changes everything as it passes by. It even modifies those of us who are not football fans and invites us to join in. On the streets, in bars, in restaurants, at work, families, friends, everyone talks about football. In the city I live, fixtures are handed out, and there are big screens in parks where all the matches are broadcast, and all kinds of football merchandise are promoted. And when the football team in my country plays a match (Argentina), time stands still, and life is frozen. The streets are deserted.

Something similar happens in the virtual world: social networks, the Google doodles with World Cup animations. The news on newspapers, the TV, the radio. The endless stream of advertising on products and services related to the World Cup. And in this so unusual tournament in Brazil, with heavyweight teams like Spain, England and Italy eliminated at first round, I cannot help but wonder what would have octopus Paul predicted and whether he would have gotten the Argentina – Germany final right.

Octopus Paul

Octopus Paul
Image courtesy of  “Tilla”

Octopus Paul (January 2008-October 2010) was the German football team’s official mascot during South Africa 2010 World Cup and, prior to that, during the Euro Championship 2008. He had the ability to anticipate results with such accuracy that he soon became a world-class mascot who was soon referred to as “oracle octopus” and “psychic octopus”.

Paul the octopus in an Asian newspaper

Image / Cheon Fong Liew

This was the prediction method: before the German football team played, two urns with food inside were put before Paul. One of the urns had the German flag, and the other, that of the runner-up. Paul would go to eat at the urn of the winning team.

Paul choosing the winner

Paul choosing the winner between Germany – Spain

Image / Voa News

In South Africa’s World Cup, Paul correctly anticipated the results of the six first matches Germany played. In addition, he guessed that Spain would win that championship, something for which Spaniards were very thankful, as we can see in this Spanish restaurant in 2010:

Spanish restaurant with images of Paul in its facadeImage / Katie Bordner

He was not infallible, as he got it wrong sometimes, but he was assertive enough to become famous worldwide. Such was his fame that a film about him was made. The movie is called Kill Octopus Paul, and was shot in China by Chinese director Xiao Jiang. In Colombia, a restaurant was named after Paul, and in such restaurant, there is a big tank with an octopus inside who predicts the results of this World Cup. Google created a doodle in memoriam of octopus Paul, and Germans built a statue in his honor:

Paul´s statue in Germany

Image / “Cristophe95″

Are octopuses intelligent and perceptive animals? Or was it all about this specimen in particular? Or was it just chance? There are those who support this last hypothesis and count with arguments to prove it. But let’s take the opportunity to learn a little bit about octopuses, instead.

Octopuses are known to be the most intelligent invertebrates, as their nervous system is highly developed. They are capable of resolving problems and taking patterns in. Their vision is evolved enough, although it is not stereoscopic, or 3D. They have very good mobility. They move their eight tentacles with high precision and their sense of touch is very refined as well. Combined with their acute vision, they make good decisions. Furthermore, they have three hearts: two of them carry blood to their gills and the third one carries oxygen to their bodies. Do they have more “hunches” and are more intuitive as a result?

Octopuses’ sizes range from 15 centimeters (5 inches) to 3 meters (9 feet). They are carnivores and eat fish and small mollusks. With the exception of blue-ringed octopuses, which ooze a lethal poison, they are harmless to people. They hide and camouflage during the day and hunt during the night. Many scientists assert that octopuses are as intelligent as apes, so they can be considered one of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom.

Their intelligence allows them to live and survive in their environment. But how can they apply it to predict the outcome of a football match? How did Paul do it? We will probably never know that, or perhaps we will in some time. Anyway, I would have liked to know what Paul’s forecast would have been for Brazil 2014. Who will be the new world champion, Germany or Argentina? Tomorrow, the mystery will be unveiled. Lets just wait… and may the best team win the game!!