Our podcast called “Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?” got a listener named Jenny O’Brien thinking. Here’s what she wrote us:
Here’s the back story: I live in a rural area in Northeast Kansas, where there is no bus, so I am forced to drive all the time. After I heard your podcast, I started thinking about how to make hitchhiking safe, easy and reliable so I and other rural residents can use it as a public transportation option. I figured that all the hitchhiker really needed was a credential, way to signal her destination, and a system to record who she is riding with for safety.
Genetically modified food (or G.M.O.’s) continue to provoke heated debates about safety and labeling, even though scientific evidence indicates they’re safe. Why? A new article in Cosmos by David Ropeik explores the psychology behind people’s G.M.O. fears. Here is Ropeik on why man-made risks “feel” scarier than natural risks.
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Beyond those heuristics, several specific emotional characteristics also make G.M.O.’s feel scary. These “fear factors” have been identified in pioneering research in risk perception by Paul Slovic at the University of Oregon, Baruch Fischhoff at Carnegie Mellon University, and others. You can hear them pop up as the young man explains his fears. “It’s just not natural to take the gene from one species and put it in another. It’s just not natural!”
This is a transcript of the Freakonomics Radio podcast “Why Marry?, Part 1.“ [MUSIC: Arturo Sacchetti, “Canon & Gigue in D” (from Organ Festival)] Stephen DUBNER: Marriage — or, as it’s sometimes called, “mawwwiage” – is what brings us together today. It is an institution unlike any other in human history. One could imagine […] Read More »
Steven Perlberg of Business Insider quotes a private research note by ConvergEx’s Nick Colas on the correlation between Olympic success and economic strength. “The Winter Olympics are a useful backdrop for case studies on the relationship between athletic performance and economic progress in emerging markets around the world,” writes Colas. “We’ve analyzed the medal count by country since the inaugural Winter Games in 1924, and indeed the results show that athletes rarely make it to the podium until their respective countries experience economic progress and stability.” A few case studies from Colas’s note:
Japan’s Winter Olympic performance history tells a post-WWII recovery story. The country competed in three Winter Games (1928, 1932 and 1936) before it won its first medal – silver – in 1956. Japanese athletes didn’t earn any additional medals until the 1972 games, which the country hosted, and have been consistently making an appearance on the podium since 1980. Japan won its first medal when it was taking off as an emerging economy and getting its economic act together following WWII. Industrialism in the country picked up rapidly following the war, and the Olympic medal consistency coincided with the consumption boom in the 1980s.
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Our recent podcast “Reasons to Not Be Ugly” examined the beauty premium, as well as the “downside of ugly.” A new paper by evolutionary biologist Erik Postma in Biology Letters highlights one more advantage of beauty: better endurance performance (in the form of faster cycling). Bill Andrews of Discover‘s D-brief blog summarizes the study’s setup:
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As the paper’s abstract explains, “Females often prefer to mate with high quality males, and one aspect of quality is physical performance.” So the more physically fit a human male is, the more human females might want to bang him. But how to test for this — and, specifically, how to test for this with the measure of physical performance being endurance, a trait not easily quantified?
“Flappy Bird,” a popular mobile game, was taken down by its creator over the weekend. From CNN.com:
“Flappy Bird” has flown the coop.
The addictive game that soared to the top of iPhone and Android app downloads disappeared from app stores on Sunday, though players who already have it apparently can keep on flying.
…Although new players can no longer download “Flappy Bird,” the game remains playable for those who had already added it to their devices.
Reader Steve Cebalt from Fort Wayne, Ind., sent in this picture, taken at a mega-supermarket near his home. Here’s what he had to say about it:
I was struck by the unapologetic, commanding, imperative, unexplanatory tone of that message. I liked it and thought it was very effective communication. Understand that this is a mega-supermarket, and that closing this exit imposes a major inconvenience on all shoppers and a hazard on elderly people who have to traverse to the opposite exit and then back to their car in blizzard conditions, so the closure of this exit door is a major issue for the store. Somehow I find the store’s imperative tone more satisfying than anything else they possibly could have said. But why does it intrigue me, and why do I find it more satisfying than the overwrought “customer-centric” tone of most similar communications I see? I have my theories, but I’d be interested in whether your readers have reactions. By the way, I discussed this with the store manager, who thought I was nuts. Not really. Actually, he said they gave that sign a lot of thought. He said the wording was very deliberate because they knew that closing that door was a major decision that affected customers significantly during the worst weather of the year…Safety? Mechanical failure? OSHA regulations? It could be a lot of things, right?
Well, Freakonomics readers, what do you think of the language? And what’s your guess as to why the store opted to block off the door?