On Frogs and Boiling Water

by F.

How many business books have you read, or speeches listened to, in which the hoary anecdote about the frog and boiling water is repeated? “But a frog in boiling water doesn’t realize his predicament until it’s too late!” Even Al Gore used this in An Inconvenient Truth.

But it’s a myth. There have been studies of amphibians and their responses to thermal conditions. Victor Hutchison at the University of Oklahoma says:

The legend is entirely incorrect! The “critical thermal maxima” of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.

Go froggy! I knew you weren’t that dumb. For more on this fascinating controversy, click here.

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