Levitt on Reddit: "Ask Me Anything" at Noon

I’m not sure how I got talked into it, but I agreed to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit today.

These are the sorts of questions I’m looking forward to:

Q: Would you rather fight one hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?

And here are the kinds of answers I’ll be giving.

A: I would take the one big duck, for sure.  I’ll be an underdog either way (that is true in most fights I’m in).  When you are the underdog, you want luck to play as big a role as possible.  With one big duck, maybe I manage to get in a lucky swing with my 7-iron and end it quickly.  With 100 little horses, even if I get lucky and wipe out a few of them, there are still 97 more to deal with.  Plus, I’ve been bit by a horse, and it is no fun.  I also recently got attacked by fire ants, and that was no fun either.  The thought of horse jaws on those fire ants makes my skin crawl.

To check it out, just go to Reddit IAmA at noon, ET.


my question is how did a 7-iron enter the mix


I'm gonna try to get a question in, but I'm in class at noon. Considering I am the first comment on this blog post, it may be likely that you will read this. You should totally answer this question when you get there.

Could you take us through the process of how Dubner and you wrote Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics, etc? I’ve always been curious about how those books were co-written.

Also, I just broke up with my girlfriend because of a coin flip, so you should totally guarantee me admission to UChicago for the class of 2017.


I got your back: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/18tp7t/i_am_steven_levitt_author_of_freakonomics_ask_me/c8hvgoi


You should probably launch the AMA now, and start answering questions at noon - that way people can get their questions in and you can concentrate on those most up-voted by noon.

Just a thought


As a mod of /r/IAmA, *don't do this*. I don't know how people started to think this is a good idea, but it isn't. The strength of the AMA platform is that users are able to interact with the subject in a way that simply isn't possible on other media. If a thread is started early, it will become oversaturated with comments before Professor Levitt even gets there.


1. Which is more rational, to cheat on your partner with 10 other people or to cheat on your partner with one person 10 times? Provided the utility derived is the same.

2. Is it better to sleep when your roommates are studying and study when they sleep, or vice versa?

3. What would you give more importance, efforts or time, in a romantic relationship function?
Love = f(e, t)

4. Is it better to do many petty thefts or one big heist?

5. Which deathly hallow has maximum utility for the average individual? The reserection stone, invisibility clock, elder wand (source of power)

6. What would make a mother happier, in life time utility, that a) her son married early but divorced quickly or b) her son married late but divorced after considerable time?

7. A boyfriend told his girlfriend - if you give up smoking, so will I.

Each gets utility in smoking and not letting the other smoke. Each gets dis utility in not smoking and letting the other smoke. The magnitudes of utility and dis utility is same.

Should the girl take the deal?


Rick Bonlender

Why are students required to finish a graduate degree in a certain amount of time? About 30% of student do not finish the thesis or last stage required for a degree. Why can't they take a break from school and come back to finish when they are ready? Does the classwork loose value over time? Is this an unfair business practice?

Enter your name...

Related to this: Why don't universities automatically issue Associates' Degrees to anyone that has met the requirements for a two-year degree, but has dropped out before earning the four-year degree? The school could count them as "graduated" and the student would have a degree that didn't "expire" while they were taking that break.

Ronald S Karr

Definitely fight a horse-sized duck. That much mass over two feet would be unable to maintain balance, and it wouldn't have enough muscle mass to move its wings. Also even if it could stand up, webbed feet that big wouldn't be able to chase after you very effectively, or even turn around.


Wrong. We have numerous examples of approximately horse-sized birds - everything from ostriches and emus to the extinct Phorusrhacidae or "terror birds".

On the other hand, one doesn't fight horses, but uses their inherent herd instincts to become herd leader. See any book on "natural horsemanship".


PS: A few bags of baby carrots will probably be more effective than the 7-iron. Works on my horse, anyway.

Alex Johnson

In his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature", Steven Pinker argues against your theory that abortion was a contributing factor to the declining crime rate in the US in the 90's. What do you think of Pinker's critique of your theory? Do you still think that your theory is supported by the evidence?

Eric M. Jones

One hundred duck-sized horses would be much easier to defeat than one horse-sized duck. (Let's forget about the 7-iron.)

Small animals like duck-sized horses can be picked up and booted or tossed. You only need to address the one nearest to you. Their legs would be like match-sticks. Their biting capability negligible.

A duck is a surprisingly difficult creature even with a duck-sized-duck. An enormous duck would be extremely difficult to fight. For a duck to be so large that the square-cube law would work in your favor is difficult to judge, but giant moas indicate that the horse-sized duck still would have plenty of power and be a fearful creature to fight.

The smart bet is to fight the 100 duck-sized horses.

chris o neill

Levitt is a man after my own heart..i super- analyse the world around me and am delighted to have stumbled upon Mr Levitt's work..


Choosing the horse sized duck is ludicrous. There's no way things as small as ducks and as relatively benign as horses could swarm you. You might get some bruises on your ankles from the bites and you might get tired from stomping them to death but that's about it. Maybe if it's a smooth surface you slip and fall from the blood slick.

A 1000+ pound duck, on the other hand, would destroy a person. A large animal with a long beak and powerful wings and legs versus a 200 pound weaponless human? Not even a chance. You think you're going to punch that thing to death?


I think first we need to establish what weapon you will be using to defend yourself against either the 100 duck sized horses or the horse sized duck. If you are given no weapons, then I would say fighting the 100 duck sized horses would be an easier feat. You could punch and kick each individual horse, making survival much easier. If you were given that seven iron, then I do think that fighting the horse sized duck would be easier. You could take out the legs of of the duck or bludgeon the head of the duck. There is no doubt in my mind that the seven iron would take the duck out quickly. It all depends on the weapon you are given and the situation you are in.


Considering the horses have duck-sized legs, I'd imagine they are not very quick. Which means you can take a whack, run, turn around, a take a whack at the leaders of the pack, and run again. Theoretically, luck wouldn't have to play a role. (Assuming you have the 7-iron, a roughly 3-horse per whack rate, and are in decent shape)


What would happen if the top 5% of high school students got a 4 year head start in the labor market and skipped college? Would the salary of America's brightest really lag behind others because they skipped college?