Would you like to hear your voice on a future Freakonomics Radio episode? Hope so! Here are the details:
We recently put out a two-part episode on education reform, the first on teacher skill and the second on a community-based project called Pathways to Education. The response from listeners was huge — and, often, very opinionated. It seems as though everyone had a concrete idea for the one thing that would really improve our education system.
So we’ve decided to make an episode about … what you think is the one thing that would really improve our education system. If all goes well, the episode will be made up primarily of listeners’ voices — that is, your voice.
Once in a while, we get a report from our publishers about how many copies of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics have been sold around the world. Last we heard — it was a while ago — we were at 5 million.
The latest report tells us we’ve just breached the 7 million mark. Here’s a rough breakdown:
• United States: 4.4 million
•United Kingdom: 1.65 million
•Translated editions: 1 million
With the global population at around 7 billion, those 7 million copies represent a nice round number: 1 book sold for every 1,000 people on the planet.
With Think Like a Freak coming out next week, I hope we get to 10 million copies before there are 10 billion people on Earth.
Too smart? Yes and it sucks. I am smarter than everyone I know. I hate it. I had to “come out” as smart recently because for years I dumbed myself down just to be able to communicate with people. I constantly quote books and blogs and podcasts to keep from sounding crazy. Between Freakonomics and the works of Malcolm Gladwell, my relationships have suffered from being smart because thanks to you I see the hidden side of everything. Most people don’t want to see or know the hidden side. The more I quote, the crazier I sound. Is this the downfall that Levitt touched on?
I moved to Chicago from Nashville to study improv and it broke my brain. I came to improv late in life and all those years of study and life experience are available for quick access at all times in my brain. Not only that, when I see things now, I see the hidden side automatically and it has made functioning in the world (of non-academia mind you) very difficult. I worked for big tobacco in promotions for years and we couldn’t promote smoking or cigarettes so I learned the value of the hidden side from the front lines.
It’s been nearly 18 months since we relaunched this website, and we continue to try to improve it. Many of the improvements were spurred on by reader suggestions — so: thanks!
Here are a few changes we’ve recently made:
1) We’ve added a Freakonomics Radio Archive page to make it easier to find or listen to any particular episode. Let us know how this page is working for you, and any further improvements we should consider. Also, on our Radio page, we have grouped our one-house specials by season. We have so far released two seasons (each with five one-hour specials), and a third is on the way this fall.
2) We have reconfigured the blog’s comments section by adding a “view all comments” button and paginating the comments so that you can skip to a particular page of coments.
3) There is now a “print” button on the blog so that you can print out individual posts.
Warning: what follows is a horribly long, inside-baseball post that most people will likely have little interest in reading, and which I had little interest in writing. But it did need to be written. Apologies for the length and the indulgence; we will soon return to our regular programming.
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I. Going on the attack is generally more fun, profitable, and attention-getting than playing defense. Politicians know this; athletes know it; even academics know it. Or perhaps I should say that especially academics know it?
Given the nature of the Freakonomics work that Steve Levitt and I do, we get our fair share of critiques. Some are ideological or political; others are emotional.
We generally look over such critiques to see if they contain worthwhile feedback, or point to an error in need of correction. But for the most part, we tend to not reply to critiques. It seems only fair to let critics have their say (as writers, we’ve already had ours). Furthermore, spending one’s time responding to wayward attacks is the kind of chore you’d rather skip in order to get on with your work.
But occasionally an attack is so spectacularly ridiculous, so riddled with errors and mangled logic, that it’s worth addressing.
The following essay responds to two such attacks. The first one was relatively minor, a recent blog post written by a Yale professor. The second was more substantial, an essay by a pair of statisticians in American Scientist. Feel free to skip ahead to that one (at section III below), or buckle up for the whole bumpy ride.
In the first segment of “Football Freakonomics,” Dubner examines the phenomenon of momentum and whether we can actually prove its existence in football games. Here’s a taste of what he found in the data: since 2007, immediately after a long kickoff or punt return, NFL teams are nearly four times as likely to score a touchdown on the next play than they are on a given play from scrimmage.
Last week, we told you about our new project with the NFL Network called “Football Freakonomics.” We’ll be posting segments here as they air throughout the season. “Football Freakonomics” will explore the hidden side of the NFL with original research and insight from brilliant minds from sport, academia, and beyond. We’ll look at data, stats, performance, salaries, and much more. Here’s the first segment to clue you in on what “Football Freakonomics” is all about.
We recently got an email from Michael Klein, an economics professor at Tufts who’s currently on leave as chief economist at the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Treasury. Klein, it turns out, has done the rarest of things: turned the dismal science (economics) into fodder for a humorous work of fiction. His new novel is called Something for Nothing. Klein wrote to tell Dubner and Levitt that the novel was (at least partly) inspired by Freakonomics. Quoting from his email:
At the center of its plot is a Freakonomics-like result that a young professor publishes which promises to launch his career (it concerns the efficacy of teenage abstinence programs – this is one meaning behind the book’s title).
…The novel’s focus is the challenges facing a young professor who faces tradeoffs in work vs. personal life, and intellectual integrity vs. career advancement.
Thanks for writing Michael, and good luck with the book!
One of the cool features we’ve added to the new blog is the “Surprise Me” button that allows you to randomly sample our archive of blog posts. You’ll find it all way at the bottom of the blog in the footer; second from the bottom in the left column. Give it a click, and you’re immediately transported into any one of our more than 5,000 posts. It’s a great way to find older posts you may not have seen. Remember, the blog started back in 2005, with this inaugural gem, titled, “Unleashing Our Baby.”
Two months ago, we migrated this blog away from nytimes.com, where it had lived for three-plus years. The migration was generally a success, but not totally. There were some early technical difficulties (servers issues, caching issues, and other things you don’t care about), but those were fixed relatively quickly. The bigger problem was that we weren’t crazy about our redesign — and, you, dear readers, were even less crazy about it than we were. It was too grid-dependent, photo-dependent, not readable enough, etc. So we’ve spent the past several weeks re-doing our re-do, and you can see the result as of today.
In June, the first of our Freakonomics Radio programs will hit the public-radio airwaves. In conjunction with the launch, we’ll be doing a few live Freakonomics Radio events — in St. Paul, Minn, Los Angeles, and New York.
Back in 2006, Virginia Commonwealth University launched a program to help acclimate new students, including requiring all incoming freshman to read the same book. Guess which book VCU chose as its inaugural “summer read”?
Probably not, but Malcolm Gladwell might.
My source for this conclusion: the always-interesting OKTrends blog, which provides data analysis for the OKCupid online dating site. Its latest analysis looks at how profile essays differ by race.
Alright, I’ll admit it: when I first sat down with Steve Levitt in the econ department at the University of Chicago back in 2003, and asked him to explain how economists use regression analyses to measure the impact of individual variables within a complex scenario, I was thinking, “Man, this is the kind of material that would really light up the silver screen.”