Archive for July, 2010

Paul the Psychic Octopus Hits the Big Time

Posted in Anthropromorphism, Bizzare Behavior, Psychic Pets, Randomalia, Roadside attractions, Travesties of nature on July 23, 2010 by Eric S.

If, like me, you could give a rat’s ass about soccer (football to those of you familiar with the metric system), there’s a chance you missed out on Paul the Octopus’s 15 minutes of fame. But this mid-phenomenon report by RussiaToday should be all you need to come up to speed:

Basically, what we have here is an octopus raised in captivity in a tourist aquarium in Germany with a considerably better than random ability to pick winners in Germany vs Whoever soccer matches. Paul lodged his predictions by choosing which side of a two-binned feeding dish to take his dinner from: one marked with a German Flag, the other marked with the flag of their opponent. According to stats on Wikipedia, his 2010 predictions were 100% accurate, making him 61% more accurate than Punxsutawney Phil and (if I’m doing the math right) 99.6% more accurate than dumb luck. NOTE: Yes, I did that math in my head before realizing it was right there on the Wikipedia page.

So, honestly, this followup story shouldn’t be that surprising:

Paul, welcome to the Big Leagues. But it’s not all bad, at least for Paul’s owners (I can’t claim to know the pros and cons of octopoidial life). A Russian bookmaker offered his owners €100,000, and I could swear I heard a story about someone stateside offering more than a million dollars for him. According to The Wall Street Journal, he has a job offer from Infosys. And according to this report, a black comedy Paul the Octopus murder mystery filmed in South Africa is in post production in Beijing.

All of which is trumped by the fact his immortalization in this little ditty by Perry Gripp, of Cat Flushing a Toilet fame:

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MSNBC reports: Even the Maya are Getting Sick of 2012 Hype

Posted in Nature gone amok, Objects in Space, The Unexplained on July 2, 2010 by Eric S.

A Google search for 2012 yields 367 million results. For frame of reference, Jesus turns up 202 million, while The Beatles wrack up scant more than 35 million (intoallthat, interestingly enough, pulls up an impressive 914 results). Apparently, nobody learned their lesson last time we had a calendar-related fear fest in the final six months of 1999. Good times, good times. But much like summer blockbuster season or commercials for cellphone service providers, the hype may be more than the masses are willing to put up with.

Apolinario Chile Pixtun, courtesy of MSNBC

MSNBC tracked down Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun, who they report to be “tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly ‘running out’ on Dec. 21, 2012.” Says the article:

But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya Indians say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials — such as one on the History Channel that mixes predictions from Nostradamus and the Maya and asks: “Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?”

I have to confess that I’m a little behind on 2012 paranoia, but I’m trying to catch up as I type. On the one hand, there seems to be a general fear of the end of the Mayan long cycle calendar. I’m having trouble chalking the End of Times up to the Mayans planning a calendar without a next page to flip forward to, so let’s just agree that this hold about as much water as fears that the Y2K bug was going to cause elevators to start dropping people to their deaths at midnight on 12/31/99. Next, there’s some sort of hooha with the transverse of Venus and a solar eclipse happening at even ‘Mayan month’ intervals leading up to 12/21/12. Admittedly, that’s pretty nifty. But where does the End of Times aspect come into play? Seems it could just as easily indicate a good day for a White Sale at JC Penney. And lastly, it seems that on that exact day the solstice sun will align with the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, thusly reversing the planet’s magnetic field. Which would also be really nifty, if it weren’t for the fact that the alignment with the galactic center tactually took place back in 1998 when everyone was too worried about Y2K to give this Mayan calendar business a second glance.

Still, if we’ve learned one thing from the TSA, it’s that we’re better off scared than sorry. Just because there’s nothing logical to be afraid of, it never hurts to be a little scared just as an insurance policy, right? Says the MSNBC article:

At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the “Ask an Astronomer” Web site, says people are scared.

“It’s too bad that we’re getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they’re too young to die,” Martin said. “We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn’t live to see them grow up.”

It’s a big scary world out there, so it’s probably a good thing these fourth graders are learning that lesson early. But long can you possibly be scared? Seems like it would wear off after a while. You know, like our collective fear of skin cancer, coronary artery disease and/or global warming.