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In which I make an excuse, but put out a suggestion

July 12, 2010 - Posted in Science Posted by:

Greetings, readers all

fail-whale

I have become too busy, and my blogging's fallen over (but very temporarily)

Yes, I am alive.  No, I have not forgotten my duty to you all to produce entertaining and informative content.  However, I am at this point stupidly busy, and thus have fallen a little behind.

Amusingly, the gravity well around my to-write-about list has now acquired the ability to levitate small objects around it. Objects thus far include a pot of geraniums*, a surprised-looking goldfish and, for some reason, my coffeepot.  Which it won’t give up, no matter how emphatic my attempts to wrest it therefrom.  Possibly the accelerations I’m using aren’t high enough.  Maybe it just likes the ghosts of caffeine past.

However, be assured that science continues, and fascinatingly so.  And I shall be writing about it again the near future.

In the meantime, and as an idea, does anyone have something that they’d like explained to them in more detail?  Sort of an ‘I’ve always wondered about…’ kinda thing?

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* Anyone get the reference?



  • http://sciblogs.co.nz/the-atavism David Winter

    * If it was petunias I would have got it…

  • http://sciblogs.co.nz/the-atavism David Winter

    Oh, and as far as your request.

    How did Paul the octopus pick all those games. I mean, I know he’s not really psychic, but the probability of getting that many results correct by chance is like 0.002 . And apparently Octopus vulgaris are colour blind, so it not that he just like the look of the German flag.

    It’s almost enough to make a sketpical chap start to wonder…

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  • Peter Griffin

    yes I was wondering this myself, its more than a serious fluke, what’s the deal with Paul?

  • Aimee Whitcroft

    Heh. The best thing about references? Perverting them just enough to confuse the hell out of everyone :)

    As to the Paul thing – anyone got any ideas? Alison’s posted on it, and doesn’t appear to be skeptical at all. Anyway, don’t forget, stats is funny like that – EACH TIME he had 50% of getting them right, so a strong of lucky guesses is possible. Just like in gambling…

  • thekiwifish

    Do we know that he actually picked all of the games beforehand?

    Could he have picked the first 5/8 games after the games were played – thus being a sure thing and giving him a track record. And only picking the last three games before they were played? (giving him a 12.5% chance of getting it right assuming a 50% chance of either team winning)

  • Peter Griffin

    Good BBC article on Paul to octopus. While, he is indeed making a 50-50 choice each time, the chances of his getting 7 correct picks in a row is 1/128… possible, but statistically highly unlikely
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/10567712.stm

    “As Paul was predicting two possible outcomes (win or lose, and not a draw), he had a 1/64 chance of predicting six correct outcomes – a 1/2 chance of predicting the first game correctly, then a 1/4 chance of predicting the first two games, a 1/8 chance of predicting all the first three games, and so on.

    “The chances of him correctly predicting seven games, up to the final, is 1/128.”

  • drmike

    is there any evidence that the “correct” predictions have been made before the games, or is someone interpreting the octopuses actions AFTER the results of the game have been known. All of the reports I have seen about how good Paul is seem to have come after the fact.

  • brent

    How many other animals were being used around the world to predict outcomes ? If there were 100, then there is a 55% chance that at least one of them would get 7 correct picks in a row.

  • Alison Campbell

    There’s also the ‘clever Hans’ effect & the more I think about it, the more likely I think this is. Octopuses – actually I think I shall say octopodes! – are not thick. And you can bet your bottom dollar that there are all sorts of cues coming from the aquarium staff that he’d be able to pick up on, that would strongly influence his choice of box.

    And a run of 6 heads, or 10, isn’t that unusual if you toss coins for long enough. It just looks special if the run comes up when you begin – & more special if you stop while you’re ahead :-)

  • http://sciblogs.co.nz/crikey-creek Daniel Collins

    Paul is selection bias all the way. Would we be told about less successful octopodes? No. Not newsworthy. And he just retired anyhow. But bias or no bias, his is a handy story to make smoko more fun.

  • allyn
  • kevin

    If your invite for questions is still open.

    Is there any information to suggest the frequent large earthquakes being reported internationally could be linked to changes in pressure on the earth’s crust from melting polar ice caps?

    I recognise there is not enough evidence to conlude that major earthquakes are in fact happening more frequently, but what info is out there?

    • Aimee Whitcroft

      Hi Kevin

      Yup, it’s still open! And wow – I’ll start having a look round to see what I can find. In the meantime – anyone else want to weigh in?

      First thoughts, though – sounds unlikely…