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July 12, 2010 / mauricefli

Paul the Octopus’ Perfect Record

I’ve just come in from a stunning World Cup final. Stunned, not by a pretty pedestrian game, but by the plethora of yellow cards and hedged gamesmanship that marks (and mars) professional sport across the globe. But equally as stunned by the clean-sweep predictions of Paul the Octopus as he faultlessly forecast his eighth in a run of victories in the South African games.

So what’s all that got to do with Flexible Learning and blogs? Well quite a bit.  We all loved chatting about Paul the Octopus and blogs like Huffington’s ( allowed us to dabble in the statistical titillation with punters from around the world. Twitters around the world idolised him, YouTube has videos of his draws and the international betting shops wait for his predictions before offering odds. All of these on-line media open our chances to share ideas and facts about Paul with people from everywhere.

Paul’s activities, are of course, so much grist for the mills of our QMET 100 level courses. Figuring out the probabilities of getting where he did. Interestingly, by chance – I know nothing about soccer – I too did well at predicting world cup outcomes. Nope I didn’t win the FOC sweepstake but I was within a point or two of doing so. How did that happen? Just by chance. The difference between me and Paul is one of novelty. Engaging learners in discussion about related topical issues brings courses to life. Blogs are way of doing that.

Have a look at this one from  Greg Mankiw at Harvard University –  Greg is a prof of economics who uses his blog to share ideas and things he has written with his students. He offers links to things he is reading for his research and also to well-known columnists like Paul Krugman.  And he fields questions from readers.

One thing Greg Mankiw’s blog doesn’t do is to provide a way for readers to talk to each other. His blog is not very student centred – not too put too fine a point on it – it’s about Greg in most cases. Not that I have problem with Greg getting mileage out of his work.  However, that’s where blogs and forums in Learn at Lincoln University are of an order better.

There are faculty in FoC here at Lincoln who are trying blogs and forum in their courses and getting some good results. Why not check and see what they are doing? Why not give it a go yourself?

Oh- and are there any statisticians who can give me a reasonable explanation of why an octopus should  be able to make the smoke and mirrors stuff look so fancy?


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