It’s been a while since there have been any mollusk mathematics around these parts, and the New York Times treated us to some the other day. There’s also some fun word play in there too, including that I forgot that in some cases you can also plurlalize -us words with -era, like genera and opera!
The new thing I learned from reading this article, apart from the fact that probability is not my mathematical forte, is that all octopuses (and cuttlefish) are poisonous. I just spoiled you on the answer to one of the questions, but how cool, and that result is fairly recent news. It’s still true that only the blue ringed octopus is a danger to humans– from poison anyway–wrestle an octopus at your own risk!
(This is a print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from c. 1839. See many more at The Kuniyoshi Project!)
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Paul the octopus is retiring after his last correct prediction, that Spain would win the world cup. It’s exceeding unlikely he’ll be alive at the next World Cup anyway, so it’s probably a wise decision on Paul’s part.
The odds of him correctly picking the outcomes of 8 world cup matches are obviously quite low (1/256), but what I love about the internet is that plenty of people on his wiki page have their thoughts on potential biases. 1/256 is about 0.4%, which actually isn’t that small. It’s between 2 and 3 standard deviations away from the peak of a Gaussian.
Word on the street is physicists like their data to be in the five standard deviation range portion of that graph before they’ll call it a finding, so I’m obviously speaking tongue-in-cheek when I talk about our new cephalopod overlords.
I’m also wondering how many other less successful prognosticating animals were out there. I’d bet Paul made the news because ~255 other animals didn’t. I’m glad it was a mollusk of course, but I also would have loved it if the world had fallen for Darlene the Tapir or some other equally awesome animal. And yes, this may be just an excuse to add a photo of a baby tapir, because I love them so.
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