Join the Think Like a Freak Book Club — and Win an Autographed Copy!

Our new book, Think Like a Freak, has just been published and we’d like to talk about it with you. So we are forming the Think Like a Freak Book Club.

How does it work? You write in your questions/comments/complaints in the comments section below and we’ll respond to some of them in our podcast. For now, we’re planning to do three episodes of the Book Club. (But if you know us even a little bit, you know we won’t be afraid to quit after one if it doesn’t work out!) Since there are nine chapters in the book, let’s start with  questions that pertain to Chapter 1, 2, and 3 of Think. Those are: “What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?,” “The Three Hardest Words in the English Language,” and “What’s Your Problem?”

If we choose your question for the podcast, we’ll send you a signed copy of Think Like a Freak or a limited edition Think Like a Freak t-shirt. Thanks!

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You can also pick an item from our swag page, or opt for a Freakonomics Radio t-shirt.


Here’s the TOC for Chapters 1, 2, and 3:

1. What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak?

An endless supply of fascinating questions . . . The pros and cons of breast-feeding, fracking, and virtual currencies . . . There is no magic Freakonomics tool . . . Easy problems evaporate; it is
the hard ones that linger . . . How to win the World Cup . . . Private benefits vs. the greater
good . . . Thinking with a different set of muscles . . . Are married people happy or do happy people marry? . . . Get famous by thinking just once or twice a week . . . Our disastrous meeting with the future prime minister.

2. The Three Hardest Words in the English Language

Why is “I don’t know” so hard to say? . . . Sure, kids make up answers but why do we? . . . Who believes in the devil? . . . And who believes 9/11 was an inside job? . . . “Entrepreneurs of error” . . . Why measuring cause-and-effect is so hard . . . The folly of prediction . . . Are your predictions better than a dart-throwing chimp? . . . The Internet’s economic impact will be “no greater than the fax machine’s” . . . “Ultracrepidarianism” . . . The cost of pretending to know more than you
do . . . How should bad predictions be punished? . . . The Romanian witch hunt . . . The first step in solving problems: put away your moral compass . . . Why suicide rises with quality of life— and how little we know about suicide . . . Feedback is the key to all learning . . . How bad were the first loaves of bread? . . . Don’t leave experimentation to the scientists . . . Does more expensive wine taste better?

3. What’s Your Problem?

If you ask the wrong question, you’ll surely get the wrong answer . . . What does “school reform” really mean? . . . Why do American kids know less than kids from Estonia? . . . Maybe it’s the parents’ fault! . . . The amazing true story of Takeru Kobayashi, hot-dog-eating champion . . . Fifty hot dogs in twelve minutes! . . . So how did he do it? . . . And why was he so much better than everyone else? . . . “To eat quickly is not very good manners” . . . “The Solomon Method” . . . Endless experimentation in pursuit of excellence . . . Arrested! . . . How to redefine the problem you are trying to solve . . . The brain is the critical organ . . . How to ignore artificial barriers . . . Can you do 20 push-ups?

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  1. Misty Boring says:

    I am a female and my bias is that females are constantly waiting to use restrooms in public places. I feel that our wait time is significantly higher then men wait. Is there any info or studies to this?

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    • Enter your name... says:

      Yes, there are studies, and they say that if the crowd is 50-50 and the restrooms are 50-50, then the line is always longer for women. This is because women are take longer:

      * more clothes to take off—can’t just unzip a fly
      * more to clean—can’t just “give it a shake”
      * more to do—men don’t need to deal with menstrual hygiene

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      • CLCraig says:

        #4 Woman generally always take the younger children with them to use the facilities.
        The ratio should be 2/3 Woman, 1/3 Men or a lot more non-gender specific or family bathrooms.

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  2. Mehdi G says:

    Chpt. 2 – “Why is ‘I don’t know?’ so hard to say?”:

    Beyond anything, I believe, avoiding the words “I don’t know?” is similar to our distaste for using “uh” and “umm” when our mind isn’t coherently processing. In our work-place, and ultimately our social roles, do we ever want to look like we’ve dropped the ball? No, of course not. So we think not knowing something is, in fact, detrimental to us. When at the same time, we may say “I don’t know” we may be saying it as a first-to-the-tongue phrase, like “uh” or “umm”, because we haven’t given the thought in question enough time to process through our minds.

    So what is it truly about ‘I don’t know?’ is so hard to say? Sheesh, I don’t know.

    Although, like everyone… I can speculate.

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  3. Derek says:

    You’ve written a book about how to “think like a freak”, so presumably you have a good idea of how it is done. However, knowing how to do it is not the same as actually doing it. What sorts of freak-like thinking do you find especially challenging to apply?

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  4. Bill K says:

    I read with fascination the “Traponomics” of the brown M&M’s. I have been pondering how to apply this principle to the notoriously information assymetric transaction of purchasing a used car and other transactions that involve the seller to disclose to his/her detriment.

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  5. Sandra Henderson says:

    Why aren’t your books required reading at high schools? I happy teach the virtues of the volta and cacophony within my classes, but isn’t your brand of economics more relevant?

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    • Sandra Henderson says:

      Argh! just saw my typo. Please forgive me!


      Why aren’t your books required reading at all high schools? I happily teach the virtues of the volta and cacophony within my classes, but isn’t your brand of economics more relevant?

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      • Emily says:

        I was trained in Freakonomics during my senior year social studies class in my high school back in 2009. Each school district in the United States has power to determine its curricula, and the national culmination of each state’s curriculum standards (the “Common Core”) has only suggested materials. It is not a question of relevance, nor of authority top-down existing; it is a question of how strongly that top authority can mandate specifically — and it cannot.

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  6. Michael Chang says:

    With various case studies and examples outlined to examine what it means to think like a freak… How can one apply the idea of thinking out of the box in real life? To think like a freak (as David Lee Roth and King Solomon did) in real life scenarios relevant to every day life?

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  7. Amy says:

    With all the advanced “Super Doppler” equipment we hear about, how is it that the weatherman/meteorologist can’t predict our weather any better than a dart – throwing chimp??

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  8. Kay G says:

    I’m based in England, and so I read the excerpt “How to win the World Cup” with keen interest!

    I completely agree with the rationale that a striker should aim straight for the middle of the goal, however I think the psyche of the goalkeeper has been somewhat overlooked.

    The average goalkeeper in the British Premier League is 6’2 and the average goal is 8ft high and just over 24ft wide.
    By leaping in one direction or the other the goalkeeper can block a much greater proportion of the goal width than by standing in the center (I assume width is more important than height here as few penalties are scored below the height of the keeper’s knee.)
    This suggests that, even if penalty-takers make more of a habit of shooting dead center, the goalkeeper would be foolish to stand still and defend only such a narrow vertical strip.

    Additionally, the average member of the public might sympathize with a goalie who dives the wrong way– not because we’re all risk takers, but because any idiot can stand still!

    This suggests that, even if all strikers start aiming for the center, goalkeepers are unlikely to take the bait.
    Additionally, by increasing a keeper’s choices by 50% many might be overloaded into making the wrong decision.

    So aim center boys! The country might hate you for it but real freaks will understand.

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