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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio: Should Tipping Be Banned?

Friday, June 20, 2014

To an economist, tipping is a puzzling behavior – why pay extra when it’s not required? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, host Stephen Dubner looks at why we tip, which factors affect the amount, and whether tipping should perhaps be eliminated altogether. Research shows that African-American servers earn smaller tips than white servers, so there’s an argument to be made that the practice is discriminatory.

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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio: Legacy of a Jerk

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Since the beginning of civilization, we’ve thought that human waste was worthless at best and quite often dangerous. What if it turns out we were wrong? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner explores the power of poop, focusing on an experimental procedure called the fecal transplant. A sort of combination of organ transplant and blood transfusion (one doctor calls it a “transpoosion”), fecal transplants may present a viable way to treat not only intestinal problems but also obesity and a number of neurological disorders.  We’ll talk to two doctors at the vanguard of this procedure and a patient who says it changed his life.

Also: we’ve all heard our share of poignant and loving eulogies. But what if the deceased was (gulp) a real jerk? Ancient wisdom tells us not to speak ill of the dead, but in this very chatty age, which includes online obituaries, what happens to a person’s reputation once they’re no longer around to defend themselves? Stephen Dubner speaks with Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson about the Apple CEO’s well-known proclivity toward jerkitude, and we offer a radical reassessment of baseball’s biggest jerk, Ty Cobb.

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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio Goes to College

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Is a college diploma really worth the paper it’s printed on? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner breaks down the costs and benefits of going to college, especially during an economy that’s leaving a lot of people un- and underemployed. The data say that college graduates make a lot more money in the long run and enjoy a host of other benefits as well.  But does that justify the time and money? We’ll hear from economists David Card, Betsey Stevenson, and Justin Wolfers, as well as former Bush advisor Karl Rove, who made it to the White House without a college degree. Amherst College president Biddy Martin describes what an education provides beyond facts and figures, while Steve Levitt wonders if the students he teaches at the University of Chicago are actually learning anything.  Finally, a former FBI agent tells us about the very robust market for fake diplomas.

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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio: The Truth Is Out There … Isn’t It?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Until not so long ago, chicken feet were nothing but waste material.  Now they provide enough money to keep chicken producers in the black -- the U.S. exports 300,000 metric tons of these “paws” to China and Hong Kong each year. In the first part of this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner looks at this and other examples of weird recycling. We hear the story of MedWish, a Cleveland non-profit that sends unused or outdated hospital equipment -- from gauze and tongue depressors to beds and x-ray machines – to hospitals in poor countries. We also hear Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold describe a new nuclear-power reactor that runs on radioactive waste. 

Also in this hour: we look at the strange moments when knowledge is not power.  Issues like gun control, nuclear power, vaccinations, and climate change consistently divide the public along ideological lines. Maybe someone just needs to sit down and explain the science better?  Or maybe not.  Stephen Dubner looks into the puzzle of why learning more only makes people more stubborn. Also, we look into conspiracy theories to see how people form their own version of the truth, even when the data contradict it.

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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio: You Eat What You Are

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Americans are in the midst of a food paradox: we have access to more and better and cheaper food than ever before but at the same time, we are surrounded by junk food and a rise in obesity and heart disease.  In this hour-long episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner talks about our massive, but balky food network with economist Tyler Cowen, who argues that agribusiness and commercialization are not nearly the villains that your foodie friends might have you think. We also hear from food philosopher Michael Pollan, who weighs in on a number of our problems, and chef Alice Waters, who talks about a renewed appreciation for the American farmer.  

In the second half of this program, we explore whether eating local can solve most of our food problems. We check in on Santa Barbara County, Calif., one of the top agriculture-producing counties in the U.S., which imports nearly all of the produce it eats, and we run the numbers on how many carbon emissions are actually created by shipping food around the country (or the world).  Finally, we ask whether there is a moral upside to eating food grown far away, and we offer some unconventional advice for people trying to do less damage to the earth every time they eat.

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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio: Save Me From Myself

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dates and times for this program: Wednesdays: 8pm on 93.9FM; Saturdays: 6am on 93.9FM and NJPR, 2pm on AM820 and 4pm on 93.9FM; Sundays: 8pm on AM820 and NJPR

Sometimes we have a hard time committing ourselves – whether it’s quitting a bad habit or following through on a worthy goal. In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, we share stories about “commitment devices.” They’re a clever way to force yourself to do something that you know will be hard. Host Stephen J. Dubner talks to a struggling gambler who signs himself up for a program that bans him from state casinos – only to return, win a jackpot, and have it confiscated. We’ll also hear from a new father trying to shed bad habits. So he makes a list of things he wants to change and vows to pay a penalty if he can’t shape up in 30 days. The penalty? He’d write a $750 check to someone he really dislikes: Oprah Winfrey. Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt offers a few of his own off-the-wall commitment devices and the Brown economist Anna Aizer talks about using commitment devices to fight domestic violence.

Then we’ll take a look at some misadventures in baby-making.  First, the story of how China’s one-child policy was inspired by a couple of scholars having a beer in the Netherlands.  Also: Levitt discusses his controversial research showing that legalized abortion lowered the U.S. crime rate.  We’ll also talk to the author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Unnatural Selection, which looks at how the introduction of the ultrasound led to the disappearance of tens of millions of baby girls.  Finally: Stanford professor Stephen Quake ponders the consequences, intended and otherwise, of a new genetic test he has developed.

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