Sunday, June 27, 2010

Basic Instinct

A 2-year-old octopus oracle — born in England, but raised in Germany — has predicted a German win over England in Sunday's World Cup game.

The mollusk named Paul chose a mussel out of a water glass marked with the German flag over a mussel in a glass with the English St. George's Cross, said Tanja Munzig, a spokeswoman for the Sea Life Aquarium in the western city of Oberhausen, on Friday.

Paul has proven to be a reliable oracle in the past — he predicted Germany's win over Australia and Ghana and its loss to Serbia. During the 2008 European Championship, he predicted 80 percent of all German games right, Munzig said.

Associated Press, June 26, 2010

Being of a medical mind, this animal prognosticator made me think of Oscar the Cat. As you may know, Oscar has been written about in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Since he was adopted by staff members as a kitten, Oscar the Cat has had an uncanny ability to predict when residents are about to die. Thus far, he has presided over the deaths of more than 25 residents on the third floor of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families.

David Dosa, MD MPH, NEJM, July 26, 2007

Oscar is even the subject of a book which not only tells his story, but also offers lessons in caring, compassion, and end-of life care. That being said, I think the best end-of-life lesson I can learn from a cat is not to smell like tuna, and I will shortly be adding to my medical power-of-attorney form a codicil specifying that should I be placed in a nursing home, an attendant will be paid to place an open can of Little Friskies at the other end of the hallway three times each day (once per shift).

Oh, wait, back to the AP article:

Other animal oracles in German zoos cannot claim such a strong track record.

Nineteen-year-old hippo Petty falsely predicted a German win over Serbia last week. She had to choose between two piles of hay with red apples on top at the Chemnitz zoo in eastern Germany and nibbled from the wrong pile.

Tamarin Anton, a monkey at the same zoo, chose the wrong raisin a few days ago, incorrectly claiming that Ghana would beat Germany, kicking it out of the World Cup.

Not to mention the schnauzers that predicted the outcomes of the last two World Wars. As memory serves, Germany didn’t fare too well in those matches, either.

Rule Britannia!

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