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2018-01-18T08:01:52.538Z
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Season 7, Episode 12 

You have perhaps come across the phrase homo economicus, which describes a model for human behavior as seen through the lens of economics. In this hour, you’ll hear Freakonomics Radio producer Greg Rosalsky embark on a long and tortuous process to live his life like this strange creature. Is this even possible? If so, is it desirable? Even if it is better for an individual, is it good for society?

In his quest, Rosalsky is guided by Richard Thaler, the Nobel laureate economist who has dragged the homo economicus model into the modern era, helping to pioneer the field of behavioral economics.

Thaler counsels Rosalsky on how to get a seat on the subway, how to play the dating market, and whether to pay for public goods like free music in the subway. Rosalsky also ponders whether voting is a rational act, with some advice from Bryan Caplan, author of The Myth of the Rational Voter. Rosalsky also draws on the economic wisdom of Katherine Milkman, Mancur Olson, and Gordon Tullock.

To find out more, check out the podcast from which this hour was drawn: “Should We Really Behave Like...

Could a lottery be the answer to America’s poor savings rate?(Photo: Jason Kessenich)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Is America Ready for a “No-Lose Lottery”? (UPDATE)” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Most people don’t enjoy the simple, boring act of putting money in a savings account. But we do love to play the lottery. So what if you combine the two, creating a new kind of savings account with a lottery payout?

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

* * *

One of our favorite things to do on this show is present a new idea, or maybe a new way to think about an old problem. Way back in 2010, the first year we made Freakonomics Radio, we did such an episode. Unbeknownst to us, one of the people who heard it was so inspired by the idea that he would spend much of the next seven years turning it into something real.

Michael GAUDINI: Knowing that this had been a podcast that turned into an idea that ended up becoming a constitutional amendment and that I had...

Astronaut Mike Massimino’s spacewalks helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope. (Photo: NASA)

In Spain, nobody ever sings the national anthem. Do you know why?

It has no lyrics! The anthem started as a royal march, and the royal family has kept it wordless to distance the song from political influences. But that hasn’t kept cheeky kids from coming up with their own words. One example mocks the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco:

Jordi GETMAN-ERASO: Franco, Franco, who has a white butt, he goes to Paris, it turns grey.

John McWhorter is co-host; Bari Weiss is live fact-checker. Why New York has skinny skyscrapers, how to weaponize water, and what astronauts talk about in space.

The post An Astronaut, a Catalan, and Two Linguists Walk Into a Bar…: TMSIDK Episode 36 appeared first on Freakonomics.

(Photo: KOMUnews)

Season 7, Episode 11

This week on Freakonomics Radio: what if there were a small step you could take that would prevent you from getting sick, stop you from missing work, and help ensure you won’t play a part in killing babies, the sick, and the elderly?

That actually exists: it’s called the flu shot. But a lot of people don’t get it. Why?

Plus: if you could take a test that would foretell your future – at least your medical future – would you? And if you did, how would that affect the way you live your life?

To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Flu Vaccine?” and “Do You Really Want to Know Your Future?

You can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, or get the RSS feed.

The post Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Flu Vaccine? appeared first on Freakonomics.

More nurse practitioners are graduating each year than MDs, but will they be prevented from treating patients? (Photo: COD Newsroom/flicker)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Nurses to the Rescue!” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

They are the most-trusted profession in America (and with good reason). They are critical to patient outcomes (especially in primary care). Could the growing army of nurse practitioners be an answer to the doctor shortage? The data say yes but — big surprise — doctors’ associations say no.

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

* * *

Hey there, it’s Stephen Dubner. Before we start today’s episode, let me ask you a quick question. Why do you listen to Freakonomics Radio? I’m guessing it’s for the same reasons that we make it. Because it seems like a good idea to challenge the conventional wisdom once in a while; to dig in and take stuff apart and see how the world really works; also: to explore counterintuitive ideas. Here’s one counterintuitive idea: there’s no way you can give away content like Freakonomics Radio and...

Gold Cobblestone Lichen grows in an Arizona desert. Similar lichens could have been the Biblical “manna from heaven.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The actual “manna from heaven” that Israelites ate in the desert was nothing more than fancy fungus. Probably.

As James Lendemer from the New York Botanical Gardens argues, there are two species of edible lichens — fungi with beneficial algae living inside them — that grow in the region through which the Israelites travelled. The lichens puff up like cauliflower in the morning due and then bake brown in the desert sun.

This week, we work on our survival skills: in the desert, on the tundra, and growing food in abandoned warehouses. Actress Sas Goldberg is co-host; AJ Jacobs (author of It’s All Relative) is live fact-checker.

The post Farming Without Sun or Soil and Eating Manna From Heaven: TMSIDK Episode 35 appeared first on Freakonomics.

(Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr)

Season 7, Episode 10

This week on Freakonomics Radio: What would be the best universal language? Stephen J. Dubner explores votes for English, Indonesian, and … Esperanto! The search for a common language goes back millennia, but so much still gets lost in translation. Will technology finally solve that?

To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “What Would Be the Best Universal Language? (Earth 2.0 Series)” and “Why Learn Esperanto? (Special Feature).”

You can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, or get the RSS feed.

 

The post What Would Be the Best Universal Language? (Earth 2.0 Series) appeared first on Freakonomics.

If you want to help the world as much as possible through an investment of $100, how should you allocate that $100? (Photo: Ervins Strauhmanis/Flickr)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “How Can I Do the Most Social Good With $100? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Dubner and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt answer your questions about crime, traffic, real-estate agents, the Ph.D. glut, and how to not get eaten by a bear.

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

*      *      *

Stephen J. DUBNER: You ready?

Steven LEVITT: Okay. We’re real. We’re live?

DUBNER: You love radio, don’t you, Levitt?

LEVITT: I do, especially when it’s taped.

DUBNER: It’s been awhile since we’ve taken listener questions. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much have you missed it?

LEVITT: About two-and-a-half, three.

That’s my Freakonomics friend and co-author Steve Levitt. He’s an economist at the University of Chicago. I guess he doesn’t love radio quite as much as I thought. But still … we wound up having a great time on today’s episode, answering...

The Byrd Glacier in Antarctica creates a 100-mile-long, rock-floored ice stream. Pressure from glaciers and the ice shelf can force Antarctic water to flow uphill. (Photo: NASA)

This is not a riddle: Why would water run uphill in Antarctica?

According to researcher Robin Bell from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, some Antarctic ice sheets sit two miles above rivers, squishing everything below them and squeezing water up the side of mountains — against gravity — for 60 to 70 miles. When the water gets to the top it freezes, joining the ice sheet on its slide down to the ocean.

How to make people like you, why you should lick rocks, and what an awkward person is really thinking. Angela Duckworth (Grit author) is co-host; Mike Maughan (Qualtrics) is live fact-checker.

Angela Duckworth tastes iron pyrite — fool’s gold. (Photo: Mike Maughan)

The post Mind Games: TMSIDK Episode 34 appeared first on Freakonomics.

(Photo: Paul Stevenson/Flickr)

Season 7, Episode 9

This week on Freakonomics Radio: there are 7,000 languages spoken on Earth. What are the costs — and benefits — of our modern-day Tower of Babel?

Plus: the search for a common language goes back millennia, but so much still gets lost in translation. Stephen J. Dubner asks, “Will technology finally solve that?”

To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Why Don’t We All Speak the Same Language? (Earth 2.0 Series)” and “What Would Be the Best Universal Language? (Earth 2.0 Series).”

You can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, or get the RSS feed.

The post Why Don’t We All Speak the Same Language? (Earth 2.0 Series) appeared first on Freakonomics.

Google spent nearly $5.4 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2017. (Photo: Vladislav Reshetnyak/Pexels)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “Thinking Is Expensive. Who’s Supposed to Pay for It?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Corporations and rich people donate billions to their favorite think tanks and foundations. Should we be grateful for their generosity — or suspicious of their motives?

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

*      *      *

I’m sure you’ve been hearing the ever-more-anguished calls to regulate the huge tech firms collectively known as GAFA: Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.

Barry LYNN: These companies, these super-large platform monopolists, they have developed the capacity to manipulate us, to control us, to control the information that is delivered to us, to control the pricing at which products are delivered to us, to control us as producers.

The GAFA companies are far bigger, richer, and arguably more dominant than tech companies in the past. Google, for instance, has more than 80 percent of global search-engine market share. Facebook has nearly 2 billion monthly active users. Amazon has...

If humans were willing to get intimately close to luggage, we’d be as good at bomb sniffing as dogs are. (Photo: Pixabay)

We use dogs — not humans — to sniff for bombs and to track scent trails, so the canine sense of smell must exceed ours, right? Actually, the human nose can rival that of dogs. It might take some training, and the courage to get close to the thing we’re smelling, but we can become super sniffers. One study found that humans are able to follow the scent of chocolate about as well as dogs follow the scent of a pheasant. A more utilitarian example: nurse Joy Milne can tell if patients have Parkinson’s disease by the smell of their sweat.

Things we learn this week: dogs aren’t so great at sniffing, men aren’t so lazy, and New York doesn’t smell so bad (anymore). Gail Simmons (Top Chef) is co-host; Jon Batiste plays his melodica for us; the live fact-checker is Mike Maughan.

The post Jon Batiste, Gail Simmons, and Strange Smells: TMSIDK Episode 33 appeared first on Freakonomics.

(Photo: Jens Meyer/Associated Press)

Season 7, Episode 8

This week on Freakonomics Radiosmart government policies, good industrial relations, and high-end products have helped German manufacturing beat back the threats of globalization. But how did “the sick man of Europe” turn into the economic stud we see today?

To find out more, check out the podcast from which this hour was drawn: “What Are the Secrets of the German Economy — and Should We Steal Them?

You can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, or get the RSS feed.

The post What Are the Secrets of the German Economy — and Should We Steal Them? appeared first on Freakonomics.

How can a dream team of social scientists get people to exercise more? (Photo: Pixabay)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “How to Launch a Behavior-Change Revolution.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Academic studies are nice, and so are Nobel Prizes. But to truly prove the value of a new idea, you have to unleash it to the masses. That’s what a dream team of social scientists is doing and we sat in on their first meeting.

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

*      *      *

Several months ago, we introduced you to a pair of University of Pennsylvania professors — Angela Duckworth

Angela DUCKWORTH: Hi, Stephen.

And Katy Milkman

Katy MILKMAN: Hi!

They wanted to solve a problem …

MILKMAN in a previous Freakonomics Radio episode: A problem that, if we fixed it, could truly solve every social problem we could think of.

The problem is: ourselves.

DUCKWORTH in a previous Freakonomics Radio episode: In other words, the problem with human beings is that they’re human beings and that they repeatedly make decisions that undermine their own...

Tiny parasitic wasps are the USDA’s warrior against aphids. (Photo: Katja Schulz/flickr)

There are hundreds of thousands of species of parasitic wasps. They lay their eggs inside other insects. Their larva feed on the host while it lives and eventually kill it, chewing their way out and leaving a husk of an insect.

The USDA found a way to deploy these weird bugs in their war against invasive pests such as soybean aphids. For a decade, USDA researchers tested different species of parasitic wasps to find the one wasp that would attack soybean aphids and nothing else. In 2012, they found their soldier: Aphelinus glycinis.

Musical crickets, crop-saving wasps — and why you should pre-bug your software. John McWhorter is co-host; the live fact-checker is Bari Weiss.

The post All About Bugs (of the Animal and Computer Varieties): TMSIDK Episode 32 appeared first on Freakonomics.

(Photo: Ron Edmonds/Associated Press)

Season 7, Episode 7

This week on Freakonomics Radio: he’s been U.S. Treasury Secretary, a chief economist for the Obama White House and the World Bank, and president of Harvard. He’s one of the most brilliant economists of his generation (and perhaps the most irascible). And he thinks the Trump Administration is wrong on just about everything.

To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: “Why Larry Summers Is the Economist Everyone Hates to Love” and “Legacy of a Jerk.”

You can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, or get the RSS feed.

The post Why Larry Summers Is the Economist Everyone Hates to Love appeared first on Freakonomics.

Celiac is the only autoimmune diseases for which we know the trigger that turns the immune system against the body. The culprit? Gluten. (Photo: Pixabay)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “The Demonization of Gluten.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Celiac disease is thought to affect roughly one percent of the population. The good news: it can be treated by quitting gluten. The bad news: many celiac patients haven’t been diagnosed. The weird news: millions of people without celiac disease have quit gluten – which may be a big mistake.

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

*      *      *

In the 1930s, a Dutch pediatrician named Willem Dicke began to study a mysterious, often-fatal disease that was afflicting his patients. Children were losing weight and becoming malnourished despite consuming plenty of calories. The symptoms were intense and widespread.

Alessio FASANO: The damage is the intestine. This is a systemic disease that does not spare any tissue organ in your body.

That’s Alessio Fasano.

FASANO: I’m professor of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

Willem Dicke suspected the illness was somehow related to the children’s diet....

Starting all U.S. middle and high schools at 8:30 a.m. would add roughly $9 billion per year to GDP. (Photo: David Joyce/flickr)

Teenagers have different sleep-wake cycles than adults and young children, but middle and high schools in the U.S. still expect them to be ready to learn at 8 a.m. or earlier. Major medical organizations recommend that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to accommodate teenagers’ biology.

Later school start times would have benefits beyond increasing teenagers’ health. One researcher found that starting schools at 8:30 a.m. nationwide would add about $9 billion per year to GDP in the U.S. To put that into perspective: that’s roughly the annual revenue of Major League Baseball.

Alex Wagner (CBS This Morning SaturdayThe Atlantic) is our special guest co-host, with AJ Jacobs (author of It’s All Relative) as real-time fact-checker. We filled this episode with insights about the true value of ground beef, sleeping in, company names, and more.

The post School Start Times, Brand Names, and Too Much Ground Beef: TMSIDK Episode 31 appeared first on Freakonomics.

(Photo: Anna Fox)

Season 7, Episode 6

This week on Freakonomics Radio: a tiny behavioral-sciences startup in the Obama White House tried to improve the way federal agencies did their work. Considering the size (and habits) of most federal agencies, it wasn’t so simple.

Plus: a terrorism summit. Stephen Dubner reviews what we do and don’t know about terrorism; what’s working to prevent it and what’s not.

To find out more, check out the podcasts from which this hour was drawn: The White House Gets Into the Nudge Business” and “Is There a Better Way to Fight Terrorism?

You can subscribe to the Freakonomics Radio podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, or get the RSS feed.

The post When the White House Got Into the Nudge Business appeared first on Freakonomics.

More than 22 percent of Germany’s workforce is in the manufacturing sector. (Photo: Jens Meyer / Associate Press)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “What Are the Secrets of the German Economy — and Should We Steal Them?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at Apple Podcasts or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.)

Smart government policies, good industrial relations, and high-end products have helped German manufacturing beat back the threats of globalization.

Below is a transcript of the episode, modified for your reading pleasure. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

*      *      *

Unless you’ve managed to totally tune out every American politician, you’ve probably heard that our manufacturing sector has been crushed.

Bernie SANDERS: We have had, for the last 30+ years, disastrous trade policies.

President TRUMP: We’ve lost 60,000 factories since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

The consensus estimate is that we’ve lost about five million manufacturing jobs since 2000. There are a number of factors — but clearly, one of them has been global trade.

David AUTOR: We estimate that as much as 40 percent of the drop in U.S. manufacturing between 2000–2007 is attributable to the trade shock following China’s accession to the W.T.O. in 2001.

That’s...