Win Two Tickets to a SuperFreakonomics Lecture in New York

SuperFreakonomics is being published on Tuesday, October 20, and Levitt and Dubner will be popping up here and there to talk about it. (Here’s a fairly complete schedule.) Their first public lecture takes place at the exquisite Symphony Space in New York City on Wednesday, October 21, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought here, but you also have a chance to win a free pair. Just be the first person to correctly answer the following question:

What do Ignaz Semmelweis and Robert S. McNamara have in common? Your answer should include a cost component.

The answer, and the winner, will be revealed early next week. Good luck.

Addendum: We announce the winner here.


They both were fighting to stop the spread of a disease that some others didn't think existed

Robot Mistake

both thier names have the same scrabble value. thank you.

P Mardel

Both introduced low cost interventions that had dramatic results. Both were also ostracized buy the then conventional wisdom. Ignatz Semmelweis promoted hand washing in maternity wards, Robert S. McNamara introduced seatbelts in Ford cars.

Jason S

I would say that what Ignatz and McNamara have in common is that they both advocated marginal increases of costs to cover what they felt was a much larger cost that the general public did not see at the time. Ignatz saw that failure to do something as simple as doctors failing to wash their hands was contributing to huge amounts of infection in newborns. It wasn't for another 25 years that they proved he was right and till then the medical community ridiculed him for the increased "cost" he wanted to impose. McNamara on the other hand was associated with this type of cost at Ford. In being on of the major proponents of the Lifegaurd system he was pushing a system the public didn't want. Ford said "McNamara is selling safety, but Chevrolet is selling cars." Just try to buy a car without seatbelts now. Sometimes you increase a cost because the cost of not doing so is much greater.

Gregg Basbagill

Both Semmelweiss and McNamara made claims that ran counter to the opinions of entrenched powers.
In Semmelweiss' case, his claim that washing hands by doctors would substantially diminish infant mortality was rejected by doctors. Many physicians were offended by the notion that they were "dirty," and refused to acknowledge what would become one of the first steps in developing germy theory.
In McNamara's case, his belief tha the war in Vietnam should be scaled back, or at the very least, not escalated ran counter to the positions of entrenched people in the White House. He, like Semmelweiss was rejected by the important people with the power to make a shift in policy. LIke Semmelweiss, his criticism was the harbinger of a more widespread acceptance of his basic notions.

Generally, it illustrates the cost of dismissing challenging opinions. While sometimes the voices of dissent may frustrate the status quo, the act of rejecting dissent is that you may be giving up evolution toward better policies and understandings.



Both instituted practices that cost little (or even less than the existing) that saved lives. Ignatz hand washing prior to delivery has a cost of practically nothing but saved many lives that otherwise could have contracted puerperal fever. As President of Ford, McNamara introduced seatbelts and a safer steering column while advocating less expensive, smaller cars. These innovations, although unpopular at the time to the larger cars ended up costing less and saving lives.

Saumya Dave

Both were pioneers, unappreciated during their time, in refuted public safety measures that are laws today. We see the signs everywhere: medical professionals, and other employees, MUST wash hands before returning to work and seatbelts MUST be worn.
McNamara sought to reduce costs by utilizing one aircraft model for distinct purposes; Semmelweich sought to incorporate chlorine solution as a means for preventing numerous diseases.
By courageously disagreeing with the way things were run in their times, both men wove threads that are now in the fabric of our everyday lives.

Geoff in DFW

I think my brain just exploded.


Both McNamera and Ignatz fought, against the popular opinion, for what they believed in and both paid the cost, in the form of social ostracization.


Why do you charge money for these lectures? ain't the purpose of this tour to promote the book? I liked freakonomics and look forward for the super freakonomics book. One of the lectures is in my home town and i would definitely go if it would have been free - but no way i'm buying a ticket

J. Daniel Wright

@ Oz:
Price is the way to ration who gains admission, because there are so many people who would want to go for free.


They are both dead.


Both are characters in the Freakonomics book which can be bought at Amazon stores for 14,95 Euro hopefully before XMas in Germany... *wink wink* ... Do i apply for a ticket? ;-)

Trevor L

They both used statistics to make decisions but were seen as having other motives.


Before people rush out to buy your book, it would be great if you could respond to Joe Romm (among others)'s critique of its section on global warming:

Or see William Connelly:


They both admitted they and their professional peers were doing something wrong, and then tried to speak out against it.

Oliver Stonee

Both were conspirators in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Ben Lieberman

Neither posed as an expert on global warming in the absence of any sound understanding of the actual science and then tried to gain advantage from their ignorance of the topic.

science minded

They both have middle names that begin with S.
cost component=0


I just read on Krugman's blog about your book's content: it is false, distorted and misleading.

I pity whoever wins this contest.