Frogs don’t let themselves get boiled


in Science, Writing

Apparently, the oft-repeated ‘fact’ that a frog placed in a pot of slowly-warming water will eventually let itself be cooked is entirely false. A frog dropped straight into boiling water will probably be horribly injured before it can get out (if it ever manages to); one put into a slowly warming pot will leave when the water gets uncomfortable. So says Professor Doug Melton, of the Harvard University Biology Department, among others.

It is easy to understand why this ‘fact’ has become so commonly cited: it seems like a pat little bit of wisdom from the animal world. Its falsehood provides a more important lesson about verifying whether convenient seeming stories are actually correct, even when they seem useful for livening up your argument.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah April 19, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Hmmmn. I see this being frequently cited by climate change policy optimists in the coming months.

Ben April 20, 2008 at 4:47 am

Has someone been repeatedly boiling frogs in the name of scientific research?

Milan April 22, 2008 at 9:31 am

At least a few people, yes.

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