Bring Your Questions for Edward Humes, author of Garbology

We are quite fond of talking trash, literally: see our "Economics of Trash" podcast, and our "Weird Recycling" episode, and even the "Power of Poop."

The journalist Edward Humes is also fascinated with trash. His new book Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash is about the 102 tons of garbage the average American produces in a lifetime. Humes writes about what's in our trash, how different communities deal with it, and how we might could think about trash differently: "Waste is the one environmental and economic harm that ordinary working Americans have the power to change — and prosper in the process." 

Humes has agreed to field your trash questions, so ask away in the comments section and, as always, we’ll post his answers in short order.

Jonathan Haidt Answers Your Questions About Morality, Politics, and Religion

We recently solicited your questions for social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Below are his responses about confirmation bias in religion, the "score" of our morals, the power of branding, how his research has made him a centrist, and how the search for truth is hampered by our own biases. Big thanks to him and all our readers for another great Q&A.  

Why Can't We All Just Get Along? Bring Your Questions for Righteous Mind Author Jonathan Haidt

"Morality, by its very nature, makes it hard to study morality," writes the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. "It binds people together into teams that seek victory, not truth. It closes hearts and minds to opponents even as it makes cooperation and decency possible within groups."

His new book is called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and it is absorbing on so many levels. (It addresses some of the same ideas in a Freakonomics Radio episode called "The Truth Is Out There ... Isn't It?") Here's a Times review; here's one from the Guardian.

I'm pleased to say that Haidt has agreed to take questions on his topic from Freakonomics readers, so ask away in the comments section and as always, we'll post his answers in short order.

Acemoglu and Robinson Answer Your Questions

Last week, we solicited your questions for economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientist Jim Robinson, who just published a new book called Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty and are now blogging on a variety of interesting development topics.

Their thoughtful responses below cover everything from robber barons to the artificial construction of African nations to whether the race of a country's leaders determines its success.  A big thanks to Daron, Jim, and all our readers for another great Q&A.  

First, a note from Daron and Jim: "We thank everybody for these excellent questions and comments. We had to pick a few to be able to provide detailed answers.

Wondering Why Nations Fail? Bring Your Questions for Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

When it comes to economic ideas, Daron Acemoglu never thinks small. Widely acknowledged as one of the most insightful economists alive, Daron seems to have brilliant things to say about any and all things economic.

When you have that sort of gift, you might as well go after the biggest problems imaginable.  Thus his latest book, Why Nations Fail, written with Harvard political scientist James Robinson.

It is an awesome piece of work.  So full of ideas and wisdom, but still so easy to read.  I just love it.  Daron and Jim have agreed to take your questions about their new book, so please leave them in the comments section below.  To get you started, here's the table of contents:

Abundance Authors Diamandis and Kotler Answer Your Questions

We recently solicited your questions for Peter Diamandis, founder and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, and journalist Steven Kotler. They are co-authors of the new book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. Below are their answers about the need for jobs (it's not what you may suspect), the distribution of wealth, and the technological breakthrough that led the price of aluminum to plummet. Thanks to everyone for participating. 

Q. How did you come up with the book’s cover art? It’s very eye-catching — but not obviously related to the subject matter. -nobody.really

A. The cover is actually directly related to the book’s message. The book is “wrapped” in aluminum foil and the story of aluminum is what opens Abundance. In short, during the early 1800s aluminum was considered the most valuable metal in the world. This is why the capstone to the Washington Monument is made from aluminum, and also why Napoléon III himself threw a banquet for the king of Siam where the honored guests were given aluminum utensils, while the others had to make do with gold.

Is the Future Really "Better Than You Think"? Ask the Authors of Abundance

On an early episode of Freakonomics Radio, we interviewed Peter Diamandis, founder and CEO of the X Prize Foundation. He was a great (and inspirational) guest. Now he has written a book with journalist Steven Kotler called Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. From the flap copy:

Since the dawn of humanity, a privileged few have lived in stark contrast to the hardscrabble majority. Conventional wisdom says this gap cannot be closed. But it is closing — fast. The authors document how four forces — exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the Technophilanthropist, and the Rising Billion — are conspiring to solve our biggest problems.

End of Illness Author David Agus Answers Your Questions

We recently solicited your questions for David Agus, the oncologist author of The End of Illness. Now he's back with answers, including: the numbers on taking aspirin, how to get the most from a doctor visit, and the top 10 actions to reduce your cancer risk. I can guarantee you that his answers will enlighten and thrill some people and enrage and confound others. Thanks to everyone for their participation, and especially to Agus for the thorough answers. 

Q. I’m a 4th year medical student, and I watched your interview on The Daily Show when it first aired and really took issue with the way you presented many of these things. It seemed that you simplified your “solutions” to the point that it may actually be dangerous for people to listen to what you suggested. For example, you implied that everyone should be taking aspirin.

White House Economist Alan Krueger Answers Your Questions

We recently solicited your questions for Alan Krueger, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Below are Krueger's answers, in which he talks about the Bush tax cuts, the American Jobs Act, and why NFL coaches should go for it on fourth down. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Q. The recovery from the recent recession has been great for corporate profits, but not so great for employment. I think that this is a natural result of the fact that when demand is insufficient, corporations focus on improving productivity rather than on producing more goods and services.

What can be done to increase employment? -Adam

Bring Your Questions for End of Illness Author David Agus

Here's an obvious but sobering thought: every one of us will someday get sick and die. And here's a happier thought: with ever-advancing medical technology and research, we can now avoid many kinds of illnesses and add more years to our lifespan.

The oncologist David Agus lives halfway between those two thoughts. He is a professor at USC, the founder of Oncology.com, a co-founder of Navigenics, and now the author of The End of Illness. Most impressively, perhaps, he was recently a guest on The Daily Show

The End of Illness is Agus's take on how the body works and why it fails. Along the way, he challenges a lot of conventional wisdom about health with academic studies and his own medical experience. Arguments in the book include: that taking vitamins may increase the risk of cancer; that sitting at a desk all day may be as damaging as smoking; and that you can tell something about a patient's health based on whether she wears high-heel shoes. One review of the book reads: "A ‘rock star’ doctor says throw away the vitamins, load up on baby aspirin, and keep moving."