Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Bowl a Disaster for Psychic Animals

This year's Super Bowl wasn't just a disaster for Denver's top-rated offense, which was shut down by Seattle's top-rated defense. Most analysts had predicted a close game, but in fact Seattle won one of the most lopsided Super Bowl victories in a long time with a final score of 43-8. The game was also a disaster for psychic animals, most of whom picked Denver to win. Ever since Paul the psychic octopus successfully predicted the outcome of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, there's been something of a psychic animal craze going on. The usual method is to offer psychic animals two pieces of food, with one representing each team. The piece eaten first then represents the winner - except that most of the psychic animals out there picked Denver to come out on top.
  • Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl players decided a Denver cake looked more delicious than a treat representing Seattle, choosing incorrectly for the second year in a row.
  • More puppies, this time on Jimmy Fallon, also foresaw a Broncos win.
  • Tyke the raccoon was all over a Denver Bronco’s box.
  • After 45 minutes of intense pondering, Pepper the Octopus decided on Denver.
  • Thanks to Kiano, a 3-year-old rhino who favored the Broncos, the Blank Point Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, ended its four-year streak of correct predictions.
  • ZooMontana’s Ozzy the grizzly bear almost went for a banana cake with a Seahawks logo made of Nutella, but ended up devouring the Broncos cake instead.
  • Two komodo dragons, new to Moody Gardens in Texas, agreed that the Broncos had the game in the bag.
  • Orange, a harbor seal at the Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut, was given a chance for a “best of three” prediction — and went for the Broncos twice in a row.
  • Le Le, a panda at the Memphis Zoo, was so excited about the Broncos’ chances that he rolled around in the team’s banner for a while after making his pick.
  • After six years of correct predictions, Buffett the manatee failed big-time with a Broncos prediction. (His half-brother Hugh, despite his less accurate record, managed to get it right this time.)

To me what's remarkable here is that, rather than what you would expect from random guessing, Denver wound up so heavily favored in the predictions. The usual skeptical explanation is that if you present animals with a series of either/or choices some of them will just be right by chance and those are the ones that go on to be celebrated in the media. Just like in a lottery somebody has to win, it just isn't likely to be you - or any other individual person playing. A few animals did get the outcome of the Super Bowl right, but they were the exceptions.
  • Eli, an ape living at a Salt Lake City zoo, continued his six-year winning streak by tackling a papier-maché Seahawks helmet.
  • Fred the Psychic Bunny lived up to his name by backing Seattle.
  • Teddy bear, a porcupine, made his third consecutive correct prediction this year.
  • Pancakes, a pig at the Fort Worth Zoo, is now five for six.
The whole thing is probably just a statistical anomaly at this point, now that everybody's heard of the concept and wants their animal to be famous, and I imagine that the craze will likely die down as it becomes clear how unreliable these creatures really are. On the other hand, if there really is something paranormal to the phenomenon, perhaps Denver was in fact slated to win and someone in the Seattle organization used dark magick to change their team's fate.

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