The Indefatigable Frog

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Fantastic Story Magazine July 1953

Professor Hardy, a physics professor, and Professor Grote, a teacher of logic, have a fundamental disagreement about Zeno’s Paradox. Hardy believes Zeno was illustrating a fact of science (if a frog attempts to leap from a well it will never reach the top, since it has to travel half the distance, then half the remaining distance, then half that remaining distance, ad infinitum…), whereas Grote understands it is only a thought experiment.

The school Dean catches them arguing and forces them to settle the dispute once and for all with a demonstration. They construct a tube, put a frog in one end and send him hopping. Except that Hardy has rigged the tube so that the frog shrinks in size as it moves through a force field. Feels like cheating to me. Nonetheless, the frog is ushered through the tube and shrinks to invisibility. Grote enters the tube in search of the frog and Hardy shuts him in, forcing him through the tube as well. Grote eventually shrinks to a sub-atomic size and falls through the molecules of the tube, just as it turns out the frog did. Luckily, both return to their original size when they escape the tube’s force field, but unfortunately this means the experiment is inconclusive.

Cast of characters

  • Professor Hardy – a physics professor
  • Professor Grote – a philosophy professor
  • Pitner – the student who starts the dispute by questioning Professor Hardy