I have to post about this so that I can get it out of my system. Has anyone else been obsessed with “Paul the psychic octopus”? It’s the only reason I paid any attention to the World Cup hoopla (no offence to the football/soccer fans). I don’t think I watched any actual games during these last few weeks, but I have literally spent hours Googling this octopus.
Paul the Octopus has the uncanny ability to pick winning teams, by selecting a tasty mussel from one of two containers marked with relevant national flags. It all began with the European Championships in 2008 where he picked 4 out of 6 winners correctly. He had a perfect track record during the world cup (8 out of 8 games), correctly predicting Spain to take down the Netherlands in the final.
Apparently he’s been receiving death threats, and his aquarium handlers have announced his retirement from future World Cup predictions. Now he has been immortalized in the form of an iPhone app (which I am downloading as I type).
Statistically speaking, Paul’s impeccable track record causes us to reject the null hypothesis, as noted by Xu Cui:
ll hypothesis (H0): Octopus Paul doesn’t have the ability to predict. Or, the probability that he predicts correctly on each event is 1/2.
Data: In 2010 World Cup, Octopus Paul correctly predicted the outcomes of 8 games out of 8 games.
p-Value: (the probability to obtain the data assuming the null hypothesis is true): 1/2^8 = 0.0039
Statistical significance threshold: alpha = 0.05
Conclusion: as pvalue < alpha, we conclude that the null hypothesis should be rejected. Loosely speaking, octopus Paul does have prediction power.