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Annika Mengisen

FREAK Shots: Nudging the Calorie Counters

We blogged about musical stairs in Stockholm that try to encourage stair-climbing rather than escalator-riding. One of the issues with this “nudge,” as Dubner wrote, is that it’s probably more fun for people to descend them than to ascend.
These stairs in Lisbon, however, address that problem by appealing to the calorie conscious.


Resetting America: A Q&A With Author Kurt Andersen

Kurt Andersen sees the economic recession as a one-time opportunity for America to “get back on track.” In his new book, Reset, he explains how he thinks Americans can use the crisis to “reset” and reinvent old systems and ideas and “focus more on the things that make us authentically happy.”


It Won't Be So Bad: A Q&A With the Author of $20 Per Gallon

It’s notoriously hard to predict gas prices. Who would have thought in 2006 that we’d be paying $4 a gallon in 2008? Or, as prices peaked last year, that we’d be filling up for $2.50 a gallon this summer?
That said, civil engineer and Forbes reporter Chris Steiner argues that prices will rise precipitously over the next few decades. (It would probably make as much sense to argue that electric cars will take over and gas prices will fall, but that’s another argument for another day.)


By a Bunch of Nobodies: A Q&A With the Author of The Wikipedia Revolution

These debates notwithstanding, Wikipedia’s popularity continues to make standard encyclopedias look as hip as buggy whips.
Wikipedia editor/administrator Andrew Lih, author of the book Wikipedia Revolution, has agreed to answer our questions about Wikipedia and what it means to society.


FREAK Shots: Death and Foreclosure

A blog reader named Lee emailed us a photo he took on Highway 86 in Imperial, California. “It made me wonder if [the economy] is really that bad that even dead people will lose their resting places,” he writes. “What will they do? Evict the dead?” Photo: Lee We called Victor Carrillo, the supervisor for Imperial County listed on the . . .


Straight From the Foreclosure Expert's Mouth

Millions of homeowners across the country have gone through the foreclosure process (Michael Jackson just narrowly escaped), and more will likely continue to do so for a while.


Serious Fun: A Q&A With the Author of Play

Stuart Brown Whether he’s playing tennis with “a convivial group of codgers” or hanging out with his grandkids, Stuart Brown, the author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, plays as often as he can. With a background in neuroscience and behavioral medicine, Brown has studied play globally, both in civilization and in . . .


FREAK Shots: Is Google the Gift That Keeps Taking?

To get Google to open a major routing center in Lenoir, N.C., and bring with it 200 jobs and about $172 million in local investments, the state and local governments offered the company $200 million worth of incentives, reports The Lenoir News-Topic, including sales-tax-free electrical power and computer purchases. When the deal was signed in 2007, some members of the . . .


FREAK Shots: How's Your Riot Insurance?

Chris Markl Chris Markl Reader Chris Markl emailed us these photos of signs from Nairobi offering insurance against political violence, terrorism, and riots. If Sudhir Venkatesh is right, we probably won’t be seeing similar insurance pitches in the U.S., though maybe London could use them. Markl wonders why another type of insurance isn’t offered in the U.S. by now: the . . .


Better Off Dead: A Q&A With the Author of The Tyranny of Dead Ideas

Matt Miller It isn’t hard to think of ideas that were once considered conventional wisdom — “Women shouldn’t vote,” “People should be segregated by race” — but were eventually laid to rest. In his book The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash A New Prosperity, Matt Miller writes that the country’s biggest . . .


What Do Truckers Have to Do With Country Music, Food Prices, and Politics?

Since the first trucks began carrying freight in the early 1900’s, the U.S. trucking industry has had an influence on politics, food prices, and even music.


FREAK Shots: Who Wins for Best Recession Cover?

Since the recession was made official, and even before, magazine covers brought out a host of recession-related imagery: downward-slanting arrows, roller coasters, and even (groan) the passé bear or bull. Back in October, Vanessa Voltolina, writing for Folio magazine’s blog, asked BusinessWeek‘s art director Andrew Horton what makes a good or bad recession cover. “There are a slew of recession . . .


Who Survives a Plane Crash?

When a jetliner made a water landing on the Hudson River last week and all 155 passengers survived, Levitt wrote that maybe airplane safety briefings aren’t entirely useless after all.


What's the Point of an Apology?

In the last few years, institutions have been issuing more apologies, according to an Economist article. And lately there have been calls for quite a few more (from institutions and individuals), including Wall Street to American citizens and Bernard Madoff to the people he allegedly swindled (rather than just his co-op neighbors). But aside from emotional reparations, what’s the point . . .


The Tennessee Coal-Ash Spill, in Pictures

I was stirring the syrup for a pecan pie when the phone rang. My friend Brenda Boozer called to tell me there had been a massive environmental disaster close to home, and could I possibly get away to take photographs?


FREAK Shots: The Upside of Cooking Dangerously

Turkey fryers are fixtures at southern holiday parties. As I watched my friend’s husband gleefully fry his turkey in a big vat of boiling oil this Christmas, I became a bit concerned for his and my safety … and rightly so. Underwriters Laboratories has refused to put its label of approval on turkey fryers out of concern that “backyard chefs . . .


Where Life Revolves Around Your Cellphone, the Factory Floor, and Forged Diplomas: A Q&A With the Author of Factory Girls

Chinese cities today have more than 130 million migrant workers, most of whom have relocated from more rural parts of China, writes Leslie Chang in her recent book Factory Girls: “Together they represent the largest migration in human history — three times the number of people who emigrated to America from Europe over a century.”


FREAK Shots: I’m Just Here for the Horses and Gin

I spent my Thanksgiving at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Racetrack in a gaudy hat, betting on horses. A U.S.A. Today photographer snapped this photo of me: Photo: Sean Gardner/U.S.A. Today By the time I left the track, I had spent $20 on bets, made back $33 in winnings, bought lunch for $5, and had a gin and tonic for . . .


Waste Happens: A Q&A With the Author of The Big Necessity

Photo: Felicity Paxton I’ve never thought much about my toilet. (Though we’ve discussed toilets on this blog here, here, and here.) It usually does its job; sometimes it needs a little help from the plunger. Rose George‘s new book The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters not only got me wildly interested in my . . .


Our Daily Bleg: What Should I Know About New Orleans?

I’m moving to New Orleans in a month (and continuing as editor of this blog from there). I’ve gotten mixed opinions about quality of life from people who live there, but they all agree on two things: the food is spectacular; the weather is sweltering — and obviously, at times, extremely threatening. So for readers who live in the Crescent . . .


Getting What You Want: A Q&A With the Authors of Yes!

Noah Goldstein Robert Cialdini The Rolling Stones made an excellent point: You can’t always get what you want. Even one of the top experts in getting things from people, Robert Cialdini (author of the landmark book Influence: Science and Practice), and his co-authors, Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin, agree. But in their new book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to . . .


What Happened To Boxing’s Golden Age? A Freakonomics Quorum

Bruce Silverglade at Gleason’s Gym, Brooklyn, NY Sports fan or not, chances are you’ve heard of Sugar Ray Robinson, George Foreman, and Rocky Marciano. But unless you follow boxing, you probably haven’t heard of Antonio Margarito, who recently beat Miguel Cotto to become a three-time welterweight champion. This disparity may explain why boxing isn’t as popular as other U.S. sports . . .


Ask a Construction Worker: A Freakonomics Quorum

Safety is an all-too-familiar issue in the construction industry — workers in Las Vegas are striking over it; in April, New York’s building commissioner resigned in light of more than 26 construction worker deaths in the city this year. As for the two recent crane collapses in New York, Patrick Crean, a construction worker at the Freedom Tower site, suspects . . .


How’s My Driving? A Q&A With the Author of Traffic

Traffic and congestion have come up a lot on this blog lately. We even blegged for parking solutions and analyzed the effectiveness of traffic signs — according to Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic (due out July 29), they’re virtually ineffective and may even “allow us to basically stop thinking.” But dozing cows, he says, can work better than . . .


What Does $33.6 Million Mean in the Art World?

Lucian Freud‘s painting Benefits Supervisor Sleeping recently set a sale record for a living artist at $33.6 million. Does this symbolize a thriving art market, is it a happy exception, or is it even worth the price? According to one estimate, the money paid for the painting could have paid for 20 minutes of America’s gasoline consumption. Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, . . .


Show Us Your Food: A Q&A With the Authors of What The World Eats

Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio sat down to a meal with 30 families in 24 countries, photographing their one-week food intake and talking to them about food, dieting, and shopping habits for their 2005 book Hungry Planet. One U.S. family, after seeing a photograph of a week’s worth of their groceries, decided to make some . . .


Besmirching Ourselves Online: A Q&A With the Author of The Future of Reputation

Daniel Solove is amazed by what people will divulge about themselves (and others) online — usually unaware of consequences which can range from stardom to job loss. But in his recent book The Future of Reputation, Solove, an associate professor of law at George Washington University, explains why even someone with virtually no online footprint can suffer a similar fate . . .


Show Us Your Photos

As Dubner has shown in the past, a quick snapshot — of a congestion-pricing poster in this case — can spark a lot of discussion. So send us your photo or snapshot (here) — and be sure to tell us where it was taken, who took it, and what makes it Freak-worthy. We’ll publish our favorites on the blog. They . . .


From Push to Nudge: A Q&A With the Authors of the Latter

“‘Libertarian paternalism’ is just the sort of phrase that makes me stop paying attention,” Levitt recently blogged. But he (and I) couldn’t stop reading about it in Richard Thaler’s and Cass Sunstein’s book, Nudge, which uses urinals, ABBA, and Homer Simpson (and cutting-edge research) to argue that by simply giving more thought to the way they present choices to people . . .


What Didn’t We Know About Congestion Pricing?

Advertisements like this one, meant to win people over to congestion pricing, just sound bitter after the death of New York’s proposed plan last week. And New Yorkers will likely continue to see Varick Street as I did at 7:00 last Thursday evening: Varick Street, 7 p.m. But even while the debate was still raging, many of the plan’s particulars . . .


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