What’s Wrong With Shortcuts? (Ep. 483)

You know the saying: “There are no shortcuts in life.” What if that saying is just wrong? In his new book Thinking Better: The Art of the Shortcut in Math and Life, the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy argues that shortcuts can be applied to practically anything: music, psychotherapy, even politics. Our latest installment of the Freakonomics Radio Book Club.

Does Reverse Psychology Really Work? (NSQ Ep. 74)

Also: does knowing your family history affect your identity?

Max Tegmark on Why Treating Humanity Like a Child Will Save Us All (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 51)

How likely is it that this conversation is happening in more than one universe? Should we worry more about Covid or about nuclear war? Is economics a form of “intellectual prostitution?” Steve discusses these questions, and more, with Max, an M.I.T cosmologist, physicist, and machine-learning expert — who was once almost an economist. He also tells Steve why we should be optimistic about the future of humanity (assuming we move Earth to a larger orbit before the sun evaporates our oceans).

Why Do So Many Donated Kidneys End Up in the Trash? (Freakonomics, M.D. Ep. 11)

Every year, thousands of people in the U.S. die while they’re waiting for a new kidney, yet thousands of available organs get thrown away. Bapu talks to a kidney doctor and an economics Nobel laureate about why this happens and how the system could improve.

Is Venture Capital the Secret Sauce of the American Economy? (Ep. 482)

The U.S. is home to seven of the world’s 10 biggest companies. How did that happen? The answer may come down to two little letters: V.C. Is venture capital good for society, or does it just help the rich get richer? Stephen Dubner invests the time to find out.

Is It Okay to Engage in “Social Loafing”? (NSQ Ep. 73)

Also: why is it so great to be part of a team, even when you lose?

Edward Miguel on Collecting Economic Data by Canoe and Correlating Conflict with Rainfall (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 50)

He’s a pioneer of using randomized control experiments in economics — studying the long-term benefits of a $1 health intervention in Africa. Steve asks Edward, a Berkeley professor, about Africa’s long-term economic prospects, and how a parking-ticket-scandal in New York City led to a major finding on corruption around the world.

Is the U.S. Really Less Corrupt Than China? (Ep. 481)

A new book by an unorthodox political scientist argues that the two rivals have more in common than we’d like to admit. It’s just that most American corruption is essentially legal.

If Everyone Hates Meetings, Why Do We Have So Many of Them? (NSQ Ep. 72)

Also: why do so many people feel lost in their 20s?

Mathematician Sarah Hart on Why Numbers are Music to Our Ears (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 49)

Playing notes on her piano, she demonstrates for Steve why whole numbers sound pleasing, why octaves are mathematically imperfect, and how math underlies musical composition. Sarah, a professor at the University of London and Gresham College, also talks with Steve about the gender gap in mathematics and why being interested in everything can be a problem.

The Mystery of the Man with Confusion and Back Pain (Freakonomics, M.D. Ep. 10)

Hear diagnostician Gurpreet Dhaliwal try to solve the case of a patient who came to the emergency room with an unusual combination of symptoms. Plus, we discuss how difficult it is to separate the signal from the noise when treating patients, and how cognitive biases factor into doctors’ decision-making.