The Physics of Putting

I always love it when I’ve been doing something one way my whole life, and then someone explains to me there is a better way to do that same thing, and the new way is so simple I can immediately switch and see benefits.

Usually it is a new technology that unlocks the magic. For instance, XM Radio, iTunes and Pandora all fundamentally changed the way I listen to music. My Sonicare toothbrush is a hundred times better than a regular toothbrush. After the creation of seedless watermelons, I would never again intentionally buy one that had seeds. Microwave popcorn is another example.

What is even neater, I think, than a new technology changing things, is when someone just comes up with a better way of thinking about a problem. I’ve done a little bit of reading on the origins of randomized experimentation, and it is fascinating to see how that new and powerful idea emerged.

On a much smaller scale, I’ve recently had that sort of change in my thinking about another issue: how to read putts on the green when playing golf.

The Miraculous Decline in Deaths by Fire

New York City is on track this year to break its record for the fewest number of deaths by fire. To me, the decline of death by fire is one of the most underappreciated success stories of the past 100 years.

"Tweakers" and "Pioneers" in the World of Innovation

Kal Raustiala, a professor at UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute, and Chris Sprigman, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, are experts in counterfeiting and intellectual property. They have been guest-blogging for us about copyright issues. Today, they write about the roles of "tweakers" and "pioneers" in the innovation world.

Innovation Nation

If you want to live somewhere particularly innovative, consider Boston, Paris or Amsterdam.

Steven Johnson Answers Your Innovation Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for Steven Johnson, the author of Where Do Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. Your questions were very good, as are his answers, which you'll find below. (My favorite excerpt: "Governments are teeming with information that's useful to our lives: information about services they offer, and information that they collect about society at large. But these public institutions are generally terrible at coming up with innovative ways of sharing that information and making it more relevant to people.")

Where Do Good Ideas Come From: A Q&A With Steven Johnson

What kinds of environments and societies give rise to good ideas? Author Steven Johnson takes your questions.

Fit to Be Tied

Technological innovation in shoelaces.

Change Happens

We tend to think of recent technological change as a complex process involving huge amounts of capital and labor (large numbers of researchers and developers). Yet the Winter Olympics should remind us that it is still possible to improve output with a little thought, luck and experimentation.

Another Way to Keep Brain-Surgery Patients Alive

One of the people you'll meet in SuperFreakonomics is a remarkable physician at Washington Hospital Center (WHC) named Craig Feied. He has had a hand in many technological innovations that are pushing medicine, hard, into the future (or at least the present).

How Can We Measure Innovation? A Freakonomics Quorum

There’s one theme that we’ve touched on repeatedly in our Times columns and on this blog, and which we’ll devote considerable space to in SuperFreakonomics: how technological innovation and robust markets tend to fix a lot of problems that seem unsolvable. In the business community, “innovation” is a buzzword of the highest order (so high, […]