Archives for Extras



Artificial Insemination: What About the Other Animals?

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “Unnatural Turkeys,” reveals the surprising origins of the 40 million turkeys that Americans are going to eat this Thanksgiving. You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.

So, 100 percent of commercially raised turkeys in the U.S. (save for heritage turkeys) are born from artificial insemination. But what about other animals? We talked to reproductive experts Dale Coleman at Auburn University, Wayne Singleton from Purdue, and Keith Bramwell at University of Arkansas. The graphic below shows what percentage of each animal is born from artificial insemination: Read More »



Bring Your Freakonomics Questions for a Radio FAQ

Once in a while, we do an FAQ podcast (that’s FREAK-quently Asked Questions) whereby you send us questions via the comments section and we answer them in a radio program. We’re gearing up to do another FAQ, likely to be released on Jan. 4, so fire away. Given the release date, you might consider asking about New Year’s resolutions (and the commitment devices we sometimes employ); the dangers of drunk walking; maybe even the reproductive provenance of your holiday meal. Feel free to ask followup questions on radio stuff we’ve done in the past too, like the “Prius Effect” (conspicuous conservation), the decline of hitchhiking, and whether expensive wines actually taste better. Thanks in advance.



Turkey Sex: The Way It’s Done Now

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, “Unnatural Turkeys,” looks at the origins of all those 40 million turkeys that Americans are going to eat this Thanksgiving. We’ve talked about why this happens; now we bring you the details of how it happens. USDA researcher Julie Long walks us through the process of what a day inseminating turkeys looks like. It’s an act that is almost unchanged since turkey insemination became the industry standard in the 1960s.

When you get down to it, artificially inseminating a turkey is a pretty labor-intensive, hands-on process. First, you have to get the “contribution” (semen) from the male. That means that each breeder male, which will weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, gets picked up and placed on the handler’s lap.Then another person helps get him ready to make his contribution to the artificial insemination process. Read More »



Photo Gallery: Amateur Night at the Apollo

In our podcast “Boo…Who?” , the Freakonomics Radio team went to the Apollo Theater, where booing is openly encouraged, in Harlem to check out its Amateur Night. The Apollo is credited with launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and The Jackson 5, and is famous for having a very tough crowd. You can hear all the booing from the Apollo on the podcast (download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here) and check out the photos here. Read More »



Need Your “Weird Recycling” Stories, Please

We’re working on a Freakonomics Radio episode that will probably be called “Weird Recycling” (or, possibly, “What Do Chicken Paws and Tongue Depressors Have in Common?”). It’s about people who find or create value from things that are typically thought to be worthless (or worse!).

I’d love to gather a few more examples and I can think of no population in the world better suited for this task than the Freakonomics readership.

What say you?

Thanks in advance.



The Italian Debacle and the “Church of ‘Scionology’”

The takeaways from our “Church of ‘Scionology’” radio program were as follows:

+ Economists have found that family firms that pass the company down to the next generation perform worse than if they had brought in professional management.

+ Family firms are particularly dominant in less-developed countries, which tend to have weaker markets and rule of law. Here’s Vikas Mehrotra on that point:

In the developed world, you have good contracting environments, a good system of law enforcement, and so on. So, in the developed world, you can hire professional managers and expect a certain, you know, sticking to the contract law, and so on. It’s rather more difficult to have the same kind of adherence to the rule of law in emerging economies. So, in emerging economies, family firms sort of provide a second-best solution to this poorly developed institutional problem.

Read More »



Famous Boos

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Boo…Who?“, tackles the phenomenon of booing. Why do we do it? When and where (if ever) is it appropriate? While we focus mostly on modern examples, audiences have been voicing their displeasure for millennia. Tracing the boo back to its origins takes you to ancient Greece, and the Festival of Dionysia, when playwrights competed to determine whose tragedy was the best. Audience participation was considered a civic duty. At the Colosseum in Rome, booing, or the lack thereof, often determined whether a gladiator lived or died.

Hard to say exactly what a boo sounded like back then. Maybe more of a shout, a jeer, or a whistle, rather than the extended, cow-like booooooo we issue today. According to linguist Ben Zimmer, the first time the word “boo” appeared as an expression of dissatisfaction was in the diary of a British schoolboy in 1833. Zimmer wrote about it here. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some noteworthy boos. It is not remotely encyclopedic, and leans very heavily on very recent events. So feel free to supplement with more examples in the comments section. Read More »



The Academic Origins of China’s One Child Policy

In our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “Misadventures in Baby-Making,” we describe an academic paper by a Dutch mathematics professor that might have been one of the inspirations of the controversial One Child Policy in China.

Here’s the story: in the early 1970s, Geert Jan Olsder co-authored the paper “Population Planning; a Distributed Time Optimal Control Problem.” He saw population as a mathematical constraint problem, where an optimal birth rate could be found:

“Given a certain initial age profile the population must be “steered” as quickly as possible to another, prescribed, final age profile by means of a suitable chosen birth rate.”

The model considered the natural birth rate and mortality rate, an economic constraint, and time. And like any good empirical scientist, Olsder makes this warning in his paper:

“This paper is not concerned with the social and political problems involved in establishing the best mechanism for a program of population management….The optimal birth rate may unbalance the age distribution during the time interval concerned, which could give rise to economic and social problems.”

Read More »