Paul’s Perfect Prognostication

Published by patrick honner on

Paul the octopus must be enjoying his 15 minutes of fame for correctly predicting the outcomes of eight World Cup matches in a row.  In fact, a stamp in his honor is currently available at the Shanghai World Expo.  This must be a welcome relief from the death threats that followed his [ultimately accurate] prediction of Spain over Germany.

Assuming that the outcome of every match was equally likely (what if you don’t?), then Paul had a 1/256 chance ( that is, (1/2)^8 ) of nailing all eight predictions.  That’s roughly a .4% chance, on the order of getting dealt a straight in a five-card poker hand, or rolling a six three times in a row on a fair die.  Or, if you prefer, exactly equal to the likelihood of flipping a coin and getting Tails (Arms?) eight times in a row.

Apparently octopi have short lifespans, so it doesn’t look like Paul will be around in 2014 to put his record on the line.  At least he’ll go out on top.

patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


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