The Old Tale of a Boiling Frog

By Anupum Pant


The Frog in a pot is a very popular anecdote and you probably know about it. Still, if you don’t, it is about a frog that rests easy in a pot of water that is warmed slowly. Frogs normally won’t go into boiling water. They’ll jump out and keep themselves away from very hot water. But, if placed in a tub of water at normal temperature that is being heated slowly, according to the anecdote, they don’t react and end up getting cooked in the boiling water.

The story is used as a metaphor to tell a cautionary point about life. The moral of the frog story goes something like this – Letting small and seemingly harmless wrongs slip, could kill (or be bad for you).  It basically tells you to not be complacent about minor changes that usually seem harmless, but add up to something big/bad.

The video proof?

Scientifically, a bizarre video (not for the faint hearted) on Youtube claims to proves the frog tale. The guy in the video initially tries to put a frog in a pot full of boiling water. Of course it resists, and doesn’t go in. Later, when the frog is put into a pot full of water at normal temperature and is warmed gradually, the frog never tries to leave. It gets cooked in the boiling water. Just like the tale suggests.

Everything looks very convincing about the video experiment. Little details like placing the frog on a piece of insulator so that it doesn’t feel direct heat through the metal base, are also taken care of in the video. Also, the narrator sounds so convincing with all the science facts referring to how cold blooded animals react to temperature. They indeed do! I totally fell for it. Watch it below…

The video cuts in between and the water which was put on flame before starts boiling suddenly after the cut. Or brains tend to skip video cuts. In the boiling water is something that looks like a dead/cooked frog. If you watched it till the end, the video shows you that the dead frog wasn’t a real one. No frogs were harmed in the making of the video. Good.

But, that completely nullifies the point this experiment tries to make. A fake rubber frog being cooked in boiling water doesn’t scientifically prove the tale.

The Science

Unlike us, who maintain a constant body temperature, the frog being a cold blooded animal, its body will react to its surrounding temperature and will try to match it. But real scientific experiments have never been able to prove it. According to a very old experiment that was done in the 1800s, where water was heated at 0.002°C per second, the frog was found dead at the end of 2½ hours. Why do you think would the frog sit still for 2½ hours?

Modern scientists reject the old experiment which seems to prove it. You could place your trust in the words of a Harvard professor, Professor Douglas Melton. He says:

If you put a frog in boiling water, it won’t jump out. It will die. If you put it in cold water, it will jump before it gets hot—they don’t sit still for you.

Victor H. Hutchison, Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma also said, “The legend is entirely incorrect!”

Moral: don’t believe everything you see on the internet.

Hit like if you learnt something today.

Wood Frog Dies and Comes Back to Life

By Anupum Pant

Ice Kills

Everybody knows what extremely low temperatures can do to our body. If you aren’t well protected from the cold, unable to retain the heat, the core temperature of your body may drop below 35 degree C and can cause some serious problems, even death.

At even lower temperatures, ice crystals can form in the tissues and puncture blood vessels. Ice crystals may even squeeze, deform and break cells. Otherwise it can leave behind shrunken and destroyed cells by sucking out water from them to form ice. Probably leaving you with a permanently damaged body part.

Due to ice formation inside the cells, this disastrous structural damage that is caused in human bodies, or most other organisms is unavoidable. We were not built to endure horrendous cold. But there are a few organisms who are built to live, or if I may say, die and then live again in extremely cold temperatures.

Meet the Wood Frog

Wood frog, a small variety of frog found in north america is one such creature. You ask what’s so interesting about them?

It is probably one of the most freeze tolerant beings. In other words, extracellular freeze tolerance and intracellular freeze avoidance enables the frog to do what it does.

Well, when it is really cold out there in the Arctic circle or the upper parts of America, they can freeze themselves for weeks, even for months. It does this by first finding out if it is really cold out there. When it touches the first bits of winter snow, a signal sets off in its body and the signal starts the blood freeing process.

All the water is pulled away from the core of its organs and the water gets frozen. Putting all the organs in a shell of solid ice. The whole frog becomes hard as a rock and sits there like that for weeks. Till it sees the spring time.

The most amazing part is that, during this time, the frog doesn’t breathe, its heart stops beating and even kidneys stop functioning. In medical terms it could be called dead. In reality, it is only temporarily dead.

Just like a dead man – without a hear beat – walking.

And then spring comes. It thaws itself out without any cellular injury and starts jumping again. It dies in winter and comes back to life in the next season.

This is probably how carbonite from Star Wars works.

Hit the like button if you learnt something today.