One of my favorite stories to come out of the World Cup is the tale of Paul the Octopus, the seemingly psychic German cephalopod.
If you missed the story (say due to all the racket being caused by vuvuzelas), apparently Paul correctly “predicted” the winner in each of Germany’s World Cup matches, going 7-0, including Germany’s loss to Spain, and then predicted Spain’s eventual win over the Netherlands in the final game. His highly scientific “selections” were made when he picked one of two plastic boxes with food and a flag from each team that had been lowered into his tank — whichever box he chose first was expected to be the winning team.
Of course the chances of him randomly getting eight games in a row correct are only 254 to 1 (not especially long odds in terms of pure chance) but that didn’t stop more than a few people from being suckered in hook, line and sinker by his picks — when Paul predicted Germany’s loss to Spain, there were even calls from angry German futbol fans to cook and eat him. (Hey, he didn’t play!)
Despite possibly being worth millions, Paul “retired” from prognostication, according to his keeper at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany. Although fear not, you can still get “answers” from him with a new iPhone app: Ask Paul the Octopus.
For the record, cephalopods are among the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and certainly the most advanced invertebrates.
Here’s a video to give you an idea — the script is in Spanish, but you don’t have to be read it to understand what you’re seeing.
Note to self: Don’t accidentally get trapped in a mason jar inside the octopus tank during feeding time.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if after Paul’s exploits, there were a few studies and experiments done to try and gauge the mental limits of cephalopods, including their ability to prognosticate (although they might see it coming and try to avoid it).
Cephalopods are not the first creatures believed to be “psychic” or to possess extrasensory powers. For years, it’s been believed that animals can sense doom or major disasters, such as earthquakes, before they happen. Others, like Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, are eager to point out how animals like dogs know that their owners are coming home before they arrive, or how other creatures can find their way over long distances, such as homing pigeons. It seems that despite the anecdotal evidence, more research needs to be done before all these claims can be accepted as true.
Of course, there are those out there who believe that animals already have the ability to communicate psychically. A quick Google search turns up at least one pet communicator and psychic right here in Connecticut — Sharon Warner, who according to her site, “can communicate with alive and deceased pets.” One bark for no, two for yes?
If you have questions you’ve been wanting to ask your pet or if want to test Ms. Warner and her abilities, she will be at PHD Psychic Fair in Danbury on July 25 — although she may already know you’re coming!