Photo Gallery: Paul the Octopus Calls It for Spain
Foto: Paul White/ AP
The Oracle of Oberhausen
'Pulpo Paul' Predicts Spanish Victory in World Cup
Paul the Octopus may not end up battered and fried after all. On Friday, Germany's celebrity cephalopod took a major step toward reconciliation by predicting a German win against Uruguay in the match for third. And he foresees Spain taking the title.
Since his fateful -- and accurate -- prediction on Tuesday that Germany's football team would lose to Spain in this week's World Cup semifinal, Facebook, Twitter and the Internet have been swimming in recipes for octopus. But on Friday, Paul the prophetic cephalopod sought to calm the waters: He's predicted his host nation, Germany, will take third place over Uruguay on Saturday.
Paul is a phenomenon. Since the start of the current World Cup, the English-born octopus has
accurately predicted the outcome of every match played by the German team. As of Friday he's six for six -- an extraordinary record in the dubious field of animal prophecies for human athletics.
Paul's keepers at the SeaLife Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, place two see-through boxes into the cephalopod's tank. The containers bear flags of two contending teams. Each holds a mussel, and the snack Paul scoops first indicates his tip for the match in question.
On Friday he snatched a mussel from the German box, shunning Uruguay. So Germany is tipped by the octopus to win the match for third on Saturday night.
A short time later, the psychic cephalopod made his first prediction of a game without Germany, predicting a Spanish triumph over the Netherlands in Sunday's final.
These estimates put Paul in line with more conventional oddsmakers for this weekend's games.
'Calamari for Everyone!'
When Paul predicted a Spanish upset against Germany in Wednesday's semifinal, Germans were concerned. When the upset came to pass, German Internet users exchanged insults and recipes for
cooking Paul. "The stupid octopus was right," one user wrote. "Calamari for everyone!"
In response, on Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero joked that he would provide state protection for "pulpo Paul." His interior minister, Miguel Sebastian, recommended bringing the octopus to the Iberian peninsula to ensure his safety. And Spanish environment and fisheries minister Elena Espinosa said: "On Monday, I shall be at the European Council of Ministers and I shall be asking for a (fishing) ban on Paul the octopus so the Germans do not eat him."
According to the German tabloid Bild, there have been no direct threats against the octopus, but the SeaLife Aquarium is taking no chances. Stefan Porwoll, who runs the aquarium in the wester German city, told the newspaper: "For his safety, we have assigned an employee to keep a watchful eye on Paul during opening hours."
Meanwhile, animal welfare group PETA has stepped into the debate, demanding that the SeaLife Aquarium release Paul back into nature. "It is extremely thankless imprisoning the intelligent octopus in order to use it as an oracle," said Tanja Beining, a marine biologist for the group.
But in an interview with news agency AFP, SeaLife officials have defended Paul's captivity. "Animals born in captivity are used to being fed and have no experience finding food by themselves," a spokeswoman said. "It is highly likely that he would die."
A Probabiliy of 1 out of 64
According to Bild, mathematicians have been duly impressed by the octopus' ability to predict the future. Pieter Moree of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn said: "During the six games, the probability (of being correct) was 1 in 64. That means that in a poll of 64 people, 63 would have given the wrong result."
Paul's prowess for good predictions has drawn praise from Britain, the country of his birth. Noting the poor footballing skills of the English team this year, the Telegraph has described Paul as the "biggest English success" of the World Cup.
Paul hasn't been without competition, though. At least one other psychic creature has determined a different outcome for the tournament: Mani the psychic parakeet from Singapore has also accurately guessed a winner in this year's World Cup. The bird's owner, M. Muniyappan claims Mani correctly forecast Spain's victory over Germany this week.