Archives for mistakes

How Did “Freakonomics” Get Its Name? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s podcast is another installment of “FREAK-quently Asked Questions,” in which Levitt and Dubner field queries from readers and listeners. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript below; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

They talk about their most embarrassing mistakes, whether ladies’-night discounts constitute unfair price discrimination, and how to drive like an economist.

Plus, Levitt remembers his late sister, Linda, who came up with the title for Freakonomics. In a conversation a few years ago, she explained: Read More »

When a Typo Improves an E-Mail

We received a pretty standard e-mail recently that included the following sentence:

“We will be using experimental economic sand psychology to explore the motivations behind …”

Wow, I thought — that sounds interesting: experimental economic sand psychology. I wonder how that works. Is each subject given a pile of sand and asked to create a sand castle that represents their view of capitalism? Or maybe do different subjects bid on different lots of sand in an auction/game theory setting?

And then I read it again. Oh. It was supposed to read “experimental economics and psychology,” not “economic sand psychology.”

Never mind. Into the trash bin.

A Good Reason to Take a Glance at the Comments Section if You Run a Blog, or Even a News Site; or: Hey CNBC, Let Your Commenters Help Fix Your Typos

I saw this late yesterday afternoon when looking over the financial news.

Wait a minute, you think — I knew Groupon is a big deal (or used to be, at least), but $568 billion in revenues in the second quarter? Billion with a “b”? That would rank Groupon in the top 70 countries for GDP.

Okay, of course not. It should have read $568 million, with an “m.” Hey: people make mistakes, no biggie.

But here we are many hours later and, as I type this, the CNBC article remains uncorrected even though many commenters have pointed out the mistake (some quite kindly, others less so). Read More »

Faster Than Light: A Guest Post

I recently had occasion to e-chat with Rocky Kolb, a well-regarded astronomer and astrophysicist at the University of Chicago. Talk turned, of course, to the recent likely discovery of the Higgs boson — but, as Kolb talk about that, he raised an even broader and more interesting point about scientific discovery.

He was good enough to write up his thoughts in a guest blog post that I am pleased to present below:


Faster Than Light
By Rocky Kolb

After the news coverage of the past week, everyone now understands what a Higgs particle is, and why physicists were so excited about the July 4th announcement of its probable discovery at CERN, a huge European physics accelerator laboratory.  (The disclaimer “probable” is because it could turn out that the new particle seen at CERN is not the Higgs after all, but an imposter particle with properties like the Higgs.)

For a few days it was common to see, hear, or read my colleagues struggling to explain why the discovery of a Higgs particle is a triumph for science.  But after a week of physics in the news, the media has moved on to cover the Tom CruiseKatie Holmes divorce and shark sightings near beaches.  Perhaps all the public will be left with is a memory that there was a triumph for science.  Science works: theories are tested and confirmed by experiment.

I think that the CERN Higgs discovery was, indeed, a triumph for science.  However, the Higgs was not the only dramatic announcement at CERN in the past year.  But the other dramatic result is something many physicists would rather forget. Read More »

Sorry About That

Gizmodo lists eight “Regrettable Tech Inventions” and their inventors’ apologies for them, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s apology for the double-slash in web addresses — “Really, if you think about it, it doesn’t need the //. I could have designed it not to have the //” Read More »

Identical Twins?

I visited Bogota, Colombia last week. When I was introduced to my translator, he told me how good it was to see me again.

I complimented him on having a great memory (my last visit to Colombia was almost a decade ago) and made the usual sorts of excuses I make when I can’t remember someone I should clearly remember. (By now I have a great deal of practice with this particular line of conversation.) Read More »

The 50 Worst Cars of All Time

A few years back Time magazine teamed with automotive critic Dan Neil to compile a list of the 50 worst cars of all time. It is pretty amusing to read. My own opinion is that they are way too tough on SUV’s — among the handful included on the list is the Ford Explorer (one of the best-selling vehicles in this country for over a decade), for example, because its success helped trigger the super-sizing of American vehicles. Read More »

Honest to a Fault

The American Economic Association meetings are taking place. There is a young economist whom I have never met, but who is doing some really interesting research. So I wrote him and asked if he wanted to get together over a beer to talk about his work. The first sentence of his response was: I would […] Read More »