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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Boiled Frog "Experiment"

I have long appreciated a series of posts by James Fallows where he refutes a common saying about frogs and boiling pots of water. As he explains, a frog in cool water will indeed try to jump out if the water's temperature is slowly raised to the boiling point. Last year, I added to the topic and shared my observations of Chinese Forest Frogs at a market in Dunhua, Jilin province which suggested that these frogs a) might not want to hang out for long even in a non-boiling pot of water and b) could not jump high enough to escape some pots regardless.

However, I have recently seen evidence that I found shocking and caused me to (momentarily) question my beliefs about frogs and boiling water. Watch for yourself a video of a meticulously executed "experiment":


You can come to your own conclusion whether Fallows needs to adjust his claim. Personally, I think once he reaches the end of the video any shock he may have felt like me will have subsided, and it is a mistake for the video to exist in YouTube's "Education" category.

On the side, I appreciate the desire to spare frogs. And I also appreciate the jolt the video gave me. But is there any better example of an experiment missing the most crucial part of its design? Unless it is subtle satire, the video may be providing material for an unintended metaphor. After all, Fallows has noted that "boiled-frogism is impervious to such forces as 'factual disproof.'"

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