The Self-Help Psychologist Is In

Many of us who try to live an examined life find something lacking, though usually nothing so serious that it requires professional help. This has given rise to an entire genre of books aimed at indulging our urge to open up our own psyches and tinker with the wiring. But the genre's lack of scientific rigor drives University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman to distraction.

The Spiked-Drink Myth

Drinking alcohol puts people at high risk for all kinds of misfortunes. Exposure to date-rape drugs, however, doesn't seem to be one of them.

In a study published in the British Journal of Criminology, more than half of the 200 university students surveyed said they knew someone whose drink had been spiked. But judging from evidence in police and medical records, these numbers are probably highly inflated.

A Few Questions for Belle de Jour, Call Girl and Scientist

In 2003, a young American woman in London studying for her PhD. ran into money trouble. To support herself while writing her thesis, she joined an escort service. Under the assumed name Belle de Jour, she started to blog her experiences. That blog led to a series of successful, jaunty memoirs beginning with 2005's The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. The books were adapted for television in the U.K. (where she is portrayed by Billie Piper) and later in the U.S.

Introducing: The Book of Odds

What's more dangerous: a playground jungle gym or your office chair? As it happens, one in every 3,759 fatal accidental falls starts from a piece of playground equipment. You're 85 times more likely, meanwhile, to fall to your death from a chair. That's one of the many odd pairings waiting to be discovered in The Book of Odds, an online statistical encyclopedia launching tomorrow.

Some other probabilistic tidbits I found digging through the site:

What Can the Credit Crisis Teach Us About Flu Pandemics?

Long before swine flu hit, Timothy Geithner testified to Congress about the danger of a strange new epidemic. “Contagion spreads,” he warned in 2008, “transmitting waves of distress to other markets.” The contagion was loan defaults, and Bear Stearns was patient zero. The Fed’s bailout of Bear, he hoped, would slow or stop the spread […]

What Can Adorable Robots Teach Us About Altruism?

Kacie Kinzer's robots have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Pirate Economics 101: A Q&A With Invisible Hook Author Peter Leeson

The crew of the Maersk Alabama, having survived an attack by pirates in Somalia last week, has returned home for a much-deserved rest. But with tensions ratcheting up between the U.S. and the rag-tag confederation of Somali pirates, it's worth looking to the past for clues on how to tame the outlaw seas.

High-Seas Piracy and the Great Recession

Ryan Hagen, a prized Freakonomics research assistant, has previously worked as a research associate for N.Y.U.’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness & Response. He has an interest in pirates that might reasonably be deemed obsessive. Photo: Cliff Somali pirates hijacked an American cargo ship on Wednesday, with the intention of holding the ship and its 20-man […]

What’s Behind the Gender Gap in Education?

Girls have a built-in neurological advantage over boys when it comes to language skills, according to new research from Northwestern University and the University of Haifa. The researchers found that while girls can easily process language in the abstract, boys depend more on their senses. The upshot is that boys may need to be taught […]

Is it Smarter to Sell Your Vote or to Cast it?

Half of N.Y.U. students say they would sell their right to vote for $1 million, according to a poll published yesterday by the Washington Square News. Sixty-six percent said they would trade their voting rights for a free four-year ride at N.Y.U. (roughly $160,000, including room and board). Twenty percent would give up the vote […]