Archives for Philadelphia



When Demand Elicits Fake Supply

I visited the Mütter Museum (a great collection of medical and related memorabilia and information in Philadelphia), which had the following sign on one exhibit about shrunken heads: “Westerners traveling to the territory in the late 19th century … were fascinated with the heads and offered the tribe money and guns in exchange. … This led to an increase in warfare … both to get more heads to sell and because of the prevalence of guns.  It also led to the creation of counterfeit heads … made from real human heads but not prepared by the tribe, and others [that] were made from monkey, goat, or other animal skin.”  Nice to see how, even for a bizarre object, a large increase in demand elicits a supply response of both genuine and fake products.

I welcome other equally weird examples of induced supply responses with both genuine and fake products.



Who Lived in Your House in 1940?

Here’s a splendid diversion if you’re a data nerd, a history buff, or even just like good detective work: Tell the story of the family that lived in your house in 1940. 

A bit more background.  If you are in the United States, you probably remember participating in the Decennial Census in 2010.  These forms are kept confidential for 72 years—roughly an average American’s life span.  But this same rule means that today (actually, a couple of days ago), the 1940 Census results became public information.  The good folks at the National Archives have scanned all of these census forms, and put them all online. With a bit of work, you should be able to find your house—or if you are in a newer neighborhood, perhaps a neighboring house. Read More »



FREAK-est Links

1. How doctors die — “not like the rest of us, but it should be.”
2. Not a good idea to fake your mother’s death to get bereavement leave.
3. Another argument in favor of a low-carb, high-fat diet
4. SI poll confirms Freak Radio “boo” podcast: Philly fans the toughest.
5. Six double-yolk eggs in a row: what are the odds
6. The legacy — economic and otherwise — of forced sterilization
7. The rise, fall — and rise? — of peer-to-peer lending.



Boo…Who? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

In our latest podcast, “Boo…Who?”, we deconstruct the age-old act of booing. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

The first thing we wanted to know: What is worthy of a boo? An umpire’s bad call? A lousy rendition of the national anthem? Other booers?

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell tells Stephen Dubner that any politician throwing the first pitch at a baseball game is asking for it:

RENDELL: Politics and sports don’t mix. In fact, sports is in some ways the antithesis of politics because winning and losing is decided on the field, not how much money you raise or things like that. And politicians should generally stay away.

Read More »



Wanted: Boston and Philadelphia Travel Tips

The boy is entering fifth-grade, which concentrates on American history (finally!). And so we are road-tripping to Boston and then Philadelphia to see what we can see. As you all have given me fantastic advice re Vegas, D.C., and Beijing, I turn to you once again for tips about things to see, do, eat, avoid, and celebrate in these two wonderful American cities. All advice appreciated; no ideas too absurd (or commonplace). I’ll send some swag to whoever supplies the most valuable tip in each city. Thanks!



Not the Kind of Customer Review You Read Every Day

You never know what you’ll run across while reading Yelp. While sussing out Philadelphia hotels, I came across this review:

First of all, let me just say that, if you can get a room, this is an excellent hotel. Don’t let the fact that a transgendered prostitute was arrested for killing an occupant here and tried setting fire to his room in November 2010. As with any hotel, you should be careful who you let into your room anyway.

The reviewer gave the hotel four stars out of five. It wasn’t the murder (which, though I was skeptical, was for real) that led him to deduct a star, but rather the low water pressure and bad hours at the fitness center.

And you wonder why companies are still nervous about the whole customer-review concept?



The FREAK-est Links

GodTube.com picks up steam (Earlier) “No Nukes” campaigns, updated for the new millennium (Earlier) Would hiring only legal nannies hurt New York’s economy? (Earlier) Philadelphia residents named “least attractive” people in the U.S. Read More »



Planned Parenthood Gets Freaky!

For a long time, the pro-life movement has had a keen sense of how people respond to incentives. Protesters outside of clinics proved to be a very effective strategy for raising the social and moral costs of seeking an abortion. Now a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia has come up with a very clever strategy […] Read More »