Archives for Extras



The Perils of Drunk Walking, South African Edition

A while back, a reader sent us this photo, with a warning you rarely see in the U.S.

In light of our recent podcast “The Perils of Drunk Walking,” we got in touch with Kon Scholtz, head of marketing and sales at United National Breweries, the South African company that makes the beer in question, Chibuku Shake Shake. Scholtz told us that Shake Shake is a nickname for traditional African beer made from maize and malt; it has a short shelf life (about five days), a relatively low alcohol content (3.5%) and, is meant to be shaken before consumption. It is also, according to Scholtz, very nutritional.

As for the warning on the carton, Scholtz explained. Read More »



Prohibition and the Transformation of American Food

In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “How American Food Got Bad,” Tyler Cowen gives some specific, surprising reasons why food got so bad. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.)

One big historical factor: Prohibition. Restaurants that relied on alcohol sales closed their doors, often replaced by diners, soda fountains, and candy shops. This new breed of restaurant served hot dogs, hamburgers, chop suey, and what we now know as classic American fast food. We traded quality for speed and convenience. Here are some photos of that transformation, when cheap food outlets popped up to meet the demands of our growing consumer society. Read More »



Skeptic Michael Shermer Answers Your Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Michael Shermer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, and executive director of the Skeptics Society. He was featured in our recent podcast “The Truth Is Out There…Isn’t It?”. He now returns with answers to some of your questions. As always, thanks to everyone for participating.

Q. How would you suggest one prioritize beliefs to examine? -Cor Aquilonis

A. All of our beliefs are influenced by our own priorities, but obviously some are more important than others. My rule of thumb is figuring out to what extent something affects your life. It doesn’t really matter if you read your astrology column in the newspaper for amusement. The important thing is: does it affect your job; your marriage; your close relationships, your family? That’s the criteria we use for our personal lives, as well as for society. Read More »



The Economics of Chicken Feet… and Other Parts

Our latest podcast, “Weird Recycling,” featured Carlos Ayala, the Vice President of International at Perdue Farms. Stephen Dubner‘s interview with him centered on chicken feet — or chicken paws, as they’re called in the industry. Until about 20 years ago, paws were close to value-less for a U.S. chicken company. But thanks to huge demand in China, paws have become big profit centers. The U.S. now exports about 300,000 metric tons of chicken paws every year. Perdue alone produces more than a billion chicken feet a year, which according to Ayala brings in more than $40 million of revenue. In fact, Ayala says that without the paw, chicken companies would be hard-pressed to stay in business: Read More »



Here’s What a Lunch of Chicken Feet Looks Like

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Weird Recycling,” included a field trip to Golden Unicorn in New York’s Chinatown to eat some chicken feet. Our guest was Carlos Ayala of Perdue Farms. Ayala told us that the export of chicken feet, primarily to China and Hong Kong, is such a big part of Perdue’s business that the firm might be in trouble if that export market didn’t exist. Here are some snaps from Ayala and Stephen Dubner‘s chicken-feet lunch at Golden Unicorn. Read More »



More People Are Quitting Their Jobs. How Good of a Sign Is That?

Fact: in September, we put out an hour-long Freakonomics Radio podcast called “The Upside of Quitting.”

Fact: in September, more Americans quit their jobs than in any month since Nov., 2008.

Coincidence?

Actually, it’s not even a coincidence. The podcast was out on Sept. 30; the resignations (2 million of them) covered the month of September.

That said, more resignations would seem to indicate an improving economy. From Time:

According to a recent survey by job-search site Snagajob, 44% of respondents who quit in the past year did so believing they would find a better opportunity elsewhere, up from 31% the year before.

Why, you might wonder, is Time citing Snagajob rather than a government source? And should we believe those numbers? Read More »



Bring Your Questions for Skeptic-in-Chief Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is perhaps the world’s only professional skeptic. As the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and executive director of the Skeptics Society, Shermer has turned his innate skepticism into a full-time job. In our recent podcast “The Truth Is Out There…Isn’t It?” Stephen Dubner talks to Shermer about the evolutionary basis for our tendency toward “magical thinking” and why humans are conditioned to see threats often where none exist. Here’s an excerpt: Read More »



Risk = Hazard + Outrage: A Conversation with Risk Consultant Peter Sandman

In our recent podcast “The Truth is Out There… Isn’t It?,” we hear from professional skeptics, former UFO investigators, and “social incompetence” experts. One fascinating interview that didn’t make the final cut was with Peter Sandman, a “risk-communication consultant” whose work was also cited in Freakonomics. (Here is how he came to be what he is.)

Sandman breaks his work into three areas: scaring people who are ignoring something that is legitimately dangerous and risky; calming down people who are freaking out over something that’s not risky; and guiding people who are freaking out over something that is legitimately risky. To accomplish all this, Sandman came up with a useful equation: Risk = Hazard + Outrage. Here are some excerpts from Stephen Dubner’s interview with Sandman, which ranges from the perceived risk of WMD’s in Iraq to the debate over climate change. Read More »