Boiled Frogs

In a horrible experiment, frogs are stepwise heated up from comfortable temperatures to lethal degrees.

As their temperature sensor system is based on detecting incremental changes, the frogs are killed by their inability to sense absolute temperatures. If you drop a frog into hot water, it will immediately jump out, but if put in warm water that is gradually heated, it otherwise ignores gradual heating such that it gets boiled to death before it notices.

This is a favourite of American libertarians/militia, who use it frequently as an analogy for TheGovernment gradually eroding CivilRights?, but can also be suggested as an explanation of an encroaching plutocracy.

This may be horrible eschatologically, but the point is the frog just sits in the pan, unrestrained and perfectly free to hop out, until the end.

These frogs would have benefited from a ZenSlap.

This story is another urban legend. For example, see (I have seen a better discussion, but I couldn't find the URL).

Yes, one of the best things about this story is that it isn't true. In this way it is a good demonstration of how many people are less interested in the truth of a point than they are in making it...

It's a UsefulLie, as long as the biology of frogs is not the key issue.
The "boiled frog" analogy (which FastCompany? claims to have debunked as an experiment), attempts to illustrate how homeostatic mechanisms can be defeated by slow change. The frog has a homeostatic mechanism that reacts to abrupt changes in temperature by causing the frog to jump. But if the water is heated slowly, that mechanism doesn't trigger, and the frog boils to death.

This analogy got used quite a bit a few years ago in business consulting circles to illustrate how corporations could be defeated by failing to recognize or react to slow, incremental changes in the competitive environment. --DaveSmith
I enjoyed FastCompany?'s article:


They heated cold water around a frog, and it jumped out in "4.20 seconds". The standard myth is that the frog heats up "slowly", which could mean over several minutes. I think FastCompany? was too squeamish to kill a frog in the name of science. Or of debunking consultants. --PCP

The point of the FastCompany? experiment is that frogs will jump all the damn time, no matter what sort of water you put them in. The heat was slow, but the frog was quick. --JTP
The whole story sounds apochryphal to me, however, for a cold-blooded amphibian, the water wouldn't need to get anywhere near boiling to kill the frog. Probably 100F 38C would do just fine. "Boiling the frog" smells like needless dramatics. --AndyPierce

Frog soup... yummm.

I once had a frog who was found dead on a hot glass surface, next to some cold water he had been happily sitting in an hour before. So there might be some truth to the story.

Nope. The term 'cold-blooded' is misleading; it does not mean to such animals are always cold or prefer cold, but that they do not thermoregulate by generating a constant heat level metabolically. Indeed, many endotherms bask in the sun in order to keep their metabolic activity high during the day without having to be constantly active. Feel free to quote Thomas Huxley regarding the murder of beautiful theories if you wish. - JayOsako, reformed biogeek

I know cold-blooded animals often warm up to keep their activity high, but basking in the sun to the point of death seems counter-productive.
...then there is the metaphor of the two frogs who fell in the butter churn. One despaired, sank to the bottom and drowned. The other kicked and swam with all his might until his flagallation turned the cream to butter and he simply used the butter as a platform to jump out.

I don't know of any research on this.

As butter is churned, the stirring device will get stuck in the mix due to hardening. So, the meaning behind the story is sound ( as it is in the original topic), but an actual experiment will prove that it wouldn't actually happen that way.

On the other hand, I could concoct a similar story about two frogs that fell into quicksand. One kicked and swam with all his might until his gyrations sent him straight to the bottom of the pit, and he suffocated. The other calmy stretched out, worked up to a base, and slowly eased himself to the edge of the pit. People who blindly use a fable to support a plan of action are at best fooling themselves, and, at worst, intentionally fooling their audience.

This story is the basis of a Danish childrens' poem (mice instead of frogs). Of course, the moral is, "Don't give up."

Frog-flavored butter... yummm

on that note, a more realistic verison...

A frog was hopping around a farmyard, when it decided to investigate the barn. Being somewhat careless, and maybe a little too curious, he ended up falling into a pail half-filled with fresh milk. As he swam about attempting to reach the top of the pail, he found that the sides of the pail were too high and steep to reach. He tried to stretch his back legs to push off the bottom of the pail but found it too deep. But this frog was determined not to give up, and he continued to struggle. He kicked and squirmed and kicked and squirmed, until at last, all his churning about in the milk had turned the milk into a big hunk of butter. The butter was now solid enough for him to climb onto and get out of the pail!

The moral of the story is: If your approach is completely futile and pointless, do not consider changing tactics. Perhaps some weird miracle will occur and make your stupid approach work out by accident, instead of slowly killing you, as you can expect it to do almost 100% of the time.

courtesy of LambdaMOO
Frog soup... yummm.

Frog soup is good; my wife makes it all the time. It's quite popular in China (where she's from).

Of course, the frogs she uses are already dead and butchered, so we're unable to repeat the experiment for our own edification. At any rate, what's the difference between frog soup and chicken soup?
I like frogs. They're cool.
This is actually all completely my fault, of course, since it's my company and I am responsible for the business side of things. In any case, my partner and I have allowed ourselves to become slowly boiled frogs on this latest project.

We took on a video monitor control project for a luxury marine equipment vendor who deals with the specialty yacht market. This client's customers are the folks who equip yachts that make "boat" a term of endearment. In this market a cheap yacht is four million dollars; a "good" yacht is ten or more. My partner and I had visions of whales swimming in our heads.

So, we took on a fixed bid project to create a monitor controller that could also control video content switching matrixes. The hardware was supposed to be a derivative of off-the-shelf ARM11 stuff from Freescale with common stuff like LVDS and touch screen controller, Linaro Linux distro, etc. The only really custom hardware was the RS-232 comms outputs for the legacy monitor control and matrix switch interfaces. No biggie. We set up a schedule with three large delivery milestones and a payment schedule to match.

Well, guess what, bunkie? Along comes a trade show in Miami that requires the presence of a prototype hardware package, and -- wait for it -- the hardware isn't available. No carrier board, no comms interface board, no LVDS/touchscreen package, no working Linux distro, nuthin'. Zip. Goose egg. Squat.

Now, we knew that failing to get something together for this boat show would probby spell death for the project, so what did we do? We abandoned our deliverable milestones (the only way we're going to get paid, by the way) and slammed our own development hardware into a box that got sent down to Florida with my own personal Galaxy tablet as the browser GUI unit. This box also held a wireless router and some other hardware that we crushed together in a hurry to get the durn thing to work. We had to figure out a whole raft of technical problems to get everything to play, but it had to be done, right? All off-schedule work.

After that we got caught up in a loooong exchange about the next generation monitor control protocols and commands that the things would support. Oh, but guess what? There isn't really a "new" generation available for the first system delivery in a few weeks, it's a hybrid set of monitors that are kinda new, kinda old. And nobody can tell us how they operate -- not the client, not the monitor OEM, not the hardware design guy/project manager -- nobody. So, we have to run all kindsa tests on the one and only monitor we have in our possession to determine how it acts, then (I am not kidding) come up with a new set of commands for the OEM (!) to implement on their monitors so that the client's requirements can be met by the new generation of monitors. All off the schedule, of course.

There's a lot more of this whining I could do, but you get the drift. Anyway, the problem here is that we started doing work that was not on the schedule for a fixed bid project instead of sticking to the letter of our agreement with the client. Had we been adamant about keeping to our end of the work we'd be getting paid now instead of trying to figure out how to retroactively set a new group of delivery milestones and payments to match. Oy.

How do you boil a frog? Change a fixed bid contract on the fly while dangling a juicy long-term client relationship in front of him. Works every time.

-- MartySchrader
See: FolgersCrystals


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