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Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success 366

mahiskali writes "A parasite commonly found in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, has an unnerving relation to World Cup victories by country. (This parasite was discussed here twice in 2006.) Toxo can be found in almost every type of mammal, from rats to humans. The overall goal of the parasite is to end up in a feline stomach, which is the only place it can reproduce. In other mammals, humans for example, the parasite heads for the brain. It is estimated that nearly 1/3 of the human population has a latent Toxo infection, with individual countries having infection rates varying from 6% (Korea) to 92% (Ghana). Countries with greater incidence of this parasitic infection in their populations tend to win more World Cups than those without. The article, written by a Stanford University neuroscientist, goes on to try out various rationales for such a correlation, ranging from increased testosterone to increased dissent of authority — all symptoms of a Toxo infection. Now we just need to find a parasite that causes an inability to referee properly, and we'll have this whole World Cup business all sorted out."
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Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success

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  • by hkz ( 1266066 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:00PM (#32818174)
    Sorry for shooting for the obvious, but the old trope about correlation and causation seems exactly in order here.
  • Poor Tommy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark72005 ( 1233572 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:06PM (#32818234)
    We've just come back from Tommy's funeral and you are talking about a skag deal?
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:20PM (#32818386) Journal
    It's more than that, the article is an effective demonstration of how you can prove anything with statistics, and if you want to make sure you are right, you have to make sure the statistics actually establish the case.

    For this story we can look at it another way, and see that toxoplasmosis mortality [] shows the final four in this year's world cup should be Brazil, USA, Mexico and South Africa. Obviously that didn't happen, so this story is wrong.

    Obviously my evidence there is weak too, but it shows you can prove anything if you look at it correctly. In the case of this story, he cherry picked statistics that supported his thesis (which is also what I did). Of course the author knows this, and pointed out some contradicting data himself:

    The relationship is neither linear nor foolproof. Italy managed to win the World Cup in 2006, despite its relatively average infection rate of 33 percent. Certain African countries plagued with public health problems have astronomical Toxo rates. Yet the heavily infected players of Ghana, Gabon (71 percent), and the Ivory Coast (60 percent) have not yet managed to win a single cup. On the other end, England (6 percent), the U.S. (12 percent), and Japan (6 percent) are pretty OK at soccer yet have some of the lowest rates in the world.

    Basically it is a case of someone noticing an interesting coincidence and wanting to point it out to everyone, but it seems there's about as much evidence for it as there is for an octopus choosing world cup winners.

    Bottom line: if you want to know for sure, you have to make sure the statistics are sound.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:27PM (#32818466)

    If anything the UEFA cup should be called the World Cup because players from all over the world are in the European Leagues.

    I know they call it the World Series because the best players in the world come to the MLB and all that, it's a dumb name for a series.

    How many countries have a serious interest in Baseball? US, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, RoK and Japan, that's pretty much it.

    The MLB series should be called the Commissioner's Series.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:37PM (#32818552)

    Explain extremely low p-values in randomized clinical trials then. :)

    All type-1 error by your theory, right?

  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:12PM (#32818958) Homepage

    Lots of diseases and parasites that flourish in the less-developed countries have been wiped out (or nearly so) in more-developed countries. There are more less-developed countries in FIFA than there are developed countries. So the correlation should probably hold true for malaria and other parasites, as well as for things like education and poverty.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:23PM (#32819110)

    The Netherlands is less developed? Germany is less developed?

    Tale a look at the Semis group, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Uruguay.

    This parasite is quite abundant in the more developed nations.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moranar ( 632206 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:22PM (#32819868) Homepage Journal

    ... And you'd be skewing the results another way. Part of the thing is watching good teams play. When thinking about an exciting world cup match, "North Korea vs Uzbekistan" does not come to mind. Good teams mostly come from Europe, or South America. Granted, the level of play in the last few world cups has been really shoddy, but still, using the 'let's assign slots using only population metrics' is completely absurd.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:29PM (#32819962) Journal

    I thought the divisions were based on nations, not populations. Or are you suggesting China should get three teams?

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BluBrick ( 1924 ) <blubrick AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:43PM (#32821016) Homepage

    Still less boring than baseball.

    Cricket. Now that's a dull sport! In the words of Robin Williams, "It's like baseball on Mandrax." At least baseball doesn't go for FIVE WHOLE DAYS with no result. []

  • by kasimbaba ( 1813770 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @10:54PM (#32821088) Journal
    The thing is, in American football (and rugby), the ball is mainly held by the hands rather than kicked. So why do these people insist on calling the game 'football'?
  • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:00PM (#32821122)

    Not saying we need to get into a pissing match or anything, but I think it's always best to take "World" or "Universe" or whatever with more than a grain of salt whenever it's used.

    FIFA has more national members than the UN. More than 200 teams from all around the world competed for this years world cup. Apart from the Olympics, it is difficult to imagine any sporting event more appropriately tagged as "World" than this. There is certainly no single sport which attracts anywhere near the level of support football does, even if you count out the dark areas of Earth (USA/Can, India/Pakistan, Australia/NZ).

    Why do you hate reality?

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:07PM (#32821164)
    "It's not really a World Cup, it's a European-South American Cup with a couple countries from other continents invited."

    What makes you say that? Because the bulk of the entries come from Europe and South America? Or because that is where the winners come from, because they play the best football? The World Cup is open to all nations who ware willing to play by FIFA rules, meaning FIFA rules of the game and no (major) political interference with the tournament. In fact, I think FIFA would love it if more Asian countries put forth serious entries and improved their level of play. The increasingly strong representation of Africa in recent years has been welcomed by all, and fans around the world enjoyed seeing Ghana defeat the USA and battle Uruguay to a shoot-out, in a game they should have won. That is not to mention that both Japan and South Korea advanced past group play, Australia missed only missed out on goal differential, New Zealand were not beaten, and two CONCACAF representatives, USA and Mexico (not Honduras), faired okay.

    It is a World Cup, and open to all countries with a team good enough to earn a spot by winning some qualifying matches and showing a dedication to and respect for the beautiful game. Bangladesh or Cambodia should not be handed a ticket to Brazil in 2014 just so Asia will have more teams, they have to earn it by competing and succeeding. More competitive play could garner more regional teams in the final tournament. Until then, sorry.
  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Literaryhero ( 1379743 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:07PM (#32821168)

    This could be balanced if we did one of two things: Treat the European Union as 1 slot the same way we treat the American Union as 1 slot. -or- 25 slots for the EU states and 50 slots for the US states.

    Except for the fact that the 'American Union' is actually one country, and the European Union is not. Should we start splitting up the EU member nations by state/province too? Or perhaps you just made this comment because the US is a large nation. Hey, even though Canada doesn't qualify, we need to split them up, too. Russia, too big, let's start treating them as separate smaller states. China and India too. Hey, this is fun!

  • by alantus ( 882150 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:37AM (#32821728)

    that's right America football not soccer

    Only the United States of America calls football "soccer". Every other country in America calls it football.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:28AM (#32822060) Homepage Journal
    Heh. The rules of curling are actually pretty simple. It's mostly like bocce/petanque on ice, with bigger rocks that nobody in their right mind tries to throw. The strategies and techniques for curling however, are more complex.
  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lordholm ( 649770 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:47AM (#32822166) Homepage

    Outside of the EU they do not longer think of the individual states that much. The problem is that Europeans, in general, fail to see their importance in the world as _Europeans_.

    Now, I wouldn't mind seeing a European team, but practicalities prevent this from happening except for maybe some exhibition game. Some states are so devolved that they field several teams, like for instance the UK (which most people outside of UK think as one country, but is actually 4 countries under one flag), where each of 4 countries in the UK have their own team.

  • Re:Good News is... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WaroDaBeast ( 1211048 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @03:43AM (#32822808)
    Is Great Britain a country?
  • by instagib ( 879544 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @09:51AM (#32825426)

    In fact, the general consensus is that the correct word would be 'handegg'.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"