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SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

38 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

Fun, like the first

Levitt and Dubner's new book provides insight and thought that basically leaps from where Freakonomics stopped. I love that they take the "truths" that the world hold as self evident and test them. From the radio interviews I have heard it is obvious that some people be...
Levitt and Dubner's new book provides insight and thought that basically leaps from where Freakonomics stopped. I love that they take the "truths" that the world hold as self evident and test them. From the radio interviews I have heard it is obvious that some people believe that some things shouldn't be considered. I was floored when their analysis showed that walking drunk was significantly more dangerous than driving drunk. They, of course, are not recommending that we drive drunk (are you stupid, or what?) but that we be more mindful of our decisions. If you can have fun with the intellectual exploration, even if you don't always agree with their conclusions, you'll love this book. Another one I enjoyed recently that I strongly recommend if you're interested in personal development is "Emotional Intelligence 2.0"

posted by Patrick_Newman on October 24, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

14 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

Too many obvious mistakes and too much second-hand material

While people have commented at length (negatively) on the global cooling chapter, no one has pointed out the obvious mistakes in the drunk-walking chapter. Namely, there is "adverse selection" in that drunk-walkers are usually more drunk than drunk drivers. How do you...
While people have commented at length (negatively) on the global cooling chapter, no one has pointed out the obvious mistakes in the drunk-walking chapter. Namely, there is "adverse selection" in that drunk-walkers are usually more drunk than drunk drivers. How do you know this? Who has ever said: "I am too drunk to walk. I think I'll drive" ? Given the obvious error there that a layperson like me can spot (and I also think there is a per-hour and per-mile mistake), and the well-documented errors (including refutation by the sources quoted at length) in the global-cooling chapter, I would both recommend against buying this book and recommend that the authors remove it from the shelves and try again, so as not to destroy the wonderful brand image they created with the first.

I would recommend reading the review in the Guardian to learn how such a bad sequel is almost inevitable after such a promising first effort (Blair Witch Project, anyone?). had I read that, I wouldn't have bought the book.

Howeever, in the lemons-into-lemonade department, I am a teacher and might make unauthorized copies (I feel like I got ripped off buying the book, so all's fair) of both those chapters and give them to my students to hone their critical-thinking skills and get them to comment on why the analysis might be wrong, and how to challenge it, rather than to automatically accept like so many of my students do, that it is in a book by experts with data, so it must be right.

posted by CriticalThinkerMD on October 24, 2009

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  • Posted October 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fun, like the first

    Levitt and Dubner's new book provides insight and thought that basically leaps from where Freakonomics stopped. I love that they take the "truths" that the world hold as self evident and test them. From the radio interviews I have heard it is obvious that some people believe that some things shouldn't be considered. I was floored when their analysis showed that walking drunk was significantly more dangerous than driving drunk. They, of course, are not recommending that we drive drunk (are you stupid, or what?) but that we be more mindful of our decisions. If you can have fun with the intellectual exploration, even if you don't always agree with their conclusions, you'll love this book. Another one I enjoyed recently that I strongly recommend if you're interested in personal development is "Emotional Intelligence 2.0"

    38 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 24, 2009

    Too many obvious mistakes and too much second-hand material

    While people have commented at length (negatively) on the global cooling chapter, no one has pointed out the obvious mistakes in the drunk-walking chapter. Namely, there is "adverse selection" in that drunk-walkers are usually more drunk than drunk drivers. How do you know this? Who has ever said: "I am too drunk to walk. I think I'll drive" ? Given the obvious error there that a layperson like me can spot (and I also think there is a per-hour and per-mile mistake), and the well-documented errors (including refutation by the sources quoted at length) in the global-cooling chapter, I would both recommend against buying this book and recommend that the authors remove it from the shelves and try again, so as not to destroy the wonderful brand image they created with the first.

    I would recommend reading the review in the Guardian to learn how such a bad sequel is almost inevitable after such a promising first effort (Blair Witch Project, anyone?). had I read that, I wouldn't have bought the book.

    Howeever, in the lemons-into-lemonade department, I am a teacher and might make unauthorized copies (I feel like I got ripped off buying the book, so all's fair) of both those chapters and give them to my students to hone their critical-thinking skills and get them to comment on why the analysis might be wrong, and how to challenge it, rather than to automatically accept like so many of my students do, that it is in a book by experts with data, so it must be right.

    14 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    sore 1-5 SuperFreakonomics gets a 20!

    Fell in love with the first Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics is an amazing follow up. Same writing style and amazing twist and turns that keep you flipping the page again and again. If you have not read the first Freakonomics I highly recomend that you do so before picking up this book, Levitt and Dubner make several references to their previous work in this amazing use of book binding materials!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Freak your mind, and the rest will follow.

    Superfreakonomics is a friendly but wild read that keeps the mind flexing at a steady pace throughout. It seems impossible that so much diverse information could be assembled into a book this seamless and absorbing, but they have done it. Better than Freakonomics.

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not as freaky as the original

    Once again, Levitt and Dubner present unique topics and counter-intutitive arguments. However, in Superfreakonomics, they rely too heavily on the research of others, instead of presenting their own work and findings. The book reads more like it was written by Malcolm Gladwell (who relies almost exclusively on third-party research) than by two economists. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but readers looking for another Freakonomics will likely be disappointed.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2009

    the tradition continues

    If you enjoyed the original Freakonomics, then you want to read the authors' latest foray into the quirky. Once again, they will encourage you to look at things in a new way, and draw connections you never would have imagined. Their ideas for tackling global warming are especially intriguing... and worth exploring! Read this book - the authors will give you much to contemplate.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    Worth reading

    Enjoyed the whole thing; for me the most entertaining pages (about 10%) of 'Super' are focused on Intellectual Ventures and their solutions for global warming/cooling. Written so everybody can understand and interesting enough to finish without a break.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Statistics is Not Causality

    I found the book interesting but not all that informative. The authors apparently believe that statistical correlations impart meaning by themselves,and that the underlying causal relationships don't matter. Not so.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2009

    critical thinking

    every reader should realize that conventional wisdom often is not! This a great read and a tutorial on thinking outside the box.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    Innovative

    The information is super-useful. Some of it was of immediate use in the classes I've been teaching at college. Only caveat is that sometimes there is an inductive leap in the reasoning chains--but once that is understood it is an extremely useful, creative and worthy book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This would be your standard fare, modest follow-up to a surprisingly successful first effort, if it weren't for the final 20% of the book.

    This would be your standard fare, modest follow-up to a surprisingly successful first effort, if it weren't for the final 20% of the book. Here the authors apply their lens of data and incentives to the global issue of Climate Change. They change the focus from the left-right divide of "whether" there is climate change and to what extent it is manmade to the more meaningful question of what do we do about it. Therein is the revelation. The unintended (some have argued conspiratorially intended) consequences of the single course of remedial action of dramatically reducing manmade carbon through Cap-n-Trade legislations, which would greatly add to costs and taxes in developed countries, would significantly reward the Gore-like doomsayers by creating a mega-market for their carbon-offset investments, while dramatically limiting vast swaths of the planet from advancing beyond subsistence existence.

    (As a side note: given the atmospheric harm done by the methane gases in ruminate belches and farts, an adult could, by a factor of three, decrease their carbon footprint more by cutting out red meat from their diets then by driving a hybrid.)

    But, I digress. The key question is are we looking for a solution or must we accept the tremendously high cost proposals presently being pushed forward. The myopic carbon focus is particularly troublesome especially if there are far less costly and more elegant solutions. Superfreakonomics' review of these possible alternative solutions reveals how little has been included in the public policy debate. The most sobering consideration is that the narrow solutions being driven at Kyoto, Copenhagen and next year, at Mexico City could create as much adverse impact on life as the worst case planetary scenario. But at least Al Gore would have made a pile of money!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    Well researched and fun to read!

    This book should be required reading for everyone from high school on up. In fact, if high school kids read this they might become more interested in science and math.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Follow-up!

    It's funny because as his intro explains the issues they had trying to get their book's title approved and the way the book may have an un-cohesive structure and as I listened to this sequel, so to speak, I realized how true it was but at the same time, how "Tarantino-esque" their approach was which made it even more enjoyable (who doesn't like a good Quinten Tarantino film??). The book would take you into a subject which it would sentence-summarize in the beginning, then send you all over the world into different directions and down back roads through a scenic route and then BOOM! The subject's point is reached, and you're almost sad because it means the trip is over! lol I would recommend it to anyone whose interests include a variety of scientific and historical facts and fascinations.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    Don't waste your money

    I really liked Freakonomics and was looking forward to the sequel Super Freakonomics . What a major disappointment!!! The content of each chapter wondered unmercifully from the chapter titles. Old material form Freakonomics was rehashed and the new material was not very interesting except for the subject on global warming. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK. I would ask for a refund if I could. P.S. The book contained about 320 pages of which the last 50 pages were appendices!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2011

    Not as good as the original...

    ...but some interesting thoughts nonetheless. I highly recommend the global warming chapter (at a minimum) for all the 'environmentalists' out there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2010

    The freaky world of an economist

    Economist Steven D. Levitt refuses to look at the world the way everybody else does, he believes that given the right questions and a little economics everything in the world can be explained. His book SuperFreakonomics, co-written with Stephen Dubner, refuses to take anything for granted as it challenges conventional thinking. In it he examines some of the most controversial and challenging questions of our time (Are people innately altruistic? How do you catch a terrorist? How do you solve global warming?), as well as some that are just bizarre (How is TV related to crime?, Who adds more value pimps or realtors? What do hurricanes, heart attacks and highway deaths have in common?) and methodically breaks them down variable by variable. Using this method as well as some data mining they are able to unbiasedly analyze controversial topics and provide solutions and explanation. The brilliance of this book stems from its ability to persuade the reader to look at the world differently. Using case studies they demonstrate that some of the most pressing questions the has faced were solved simply through a little creative thinking. Take the birthing problem as an example, it used to be that women who gave birth at home had a much higher probability of surviving then those who gave birth at a hospital. Even more puzzling was the fact that the midwives ward had a death rate far lower then the doctors ward. Explanations for this odd occurrence, were bizarre ranging from the idea that doctors offended the patients modesty to foul air in the doctors ward. It took a doctor realizing that the diseases were the same that a doctor contracted after being exposed to dead bodies from dissection. He observed that doctors often preformed cadaver dissections before delivering children, and came to the conclusion that particular must be infecting women in labor. By simply ensuring that doctors sterilized their hands in ether before exiting the surgical wing thousands of lives where saved in a single hospital. In the process he also completely changed common perception and now his breakthrough is common place because its simple and effective. If there is a single theme to the studies found in this book it is the idea that a little inventive thought can turn perceptions upside down and a simple actions like washing your hands, can have massive effects. This book is different, different in the way it approaches thinking, different in that it makes economics genuinely entertaining. The analyses were fascinating, the case studies were relevant, and the conclusions that Levitt and Dubner reached were mind boggling. This book opens your mind to the idea that nothing should be taken for granted and everything should be tested. With this type of mind set, Levitt and Dubber see all types of hidden interacts and processes beyond the obvious, and as a result they are able to find correlation between all types of occurrences, and show why conventional thinking is flawed. This book shows the inherent freakiness of the world and that alone makes it well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Levitt and Dubner Have Done It Again

    "How Is a Street Prostitute Like a Deparment-Store Santa?" This is the title of the first chapter of SuperFreakonomics. Dubner and Levitt have once again presented an examination of seemingly unrelated topics that end up revealing some big answers about our world. The Sequel is not quite as strong as the original in terms of presenting ground-breaking research. The pop economics phenomenon was touched off by the original Freakonomics, and since a flood of books have been released that cover how data analysis may be used to uncover relations among seemingly extraneous details. The theme is getting a little tired this book stands out as one of the better ones though.

    This book is once again very well written and presented. The chapter entitled "What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have In Common?" is funny and presents a very interesting take on the solutions to the global warming problem. There may have been some controversy about how the chapter is written, but the point Dubner and Levitt make still stands. Controversy aside this is a great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    Super Freakonomics Review by Joshua Choate

    Joshua Choate
    Period AM
    May 7, 2010
    Economics
    Miss Alvarez
    Book Review
    Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, published in 2009 by Harper Collins Publishers. Approximately 219 pages.
    Authors: Steven D. Levitt was born on May 29th, 1967. He went to St. Paul Academy and Summit School, later graduating from Harvard University in 1989. He earned a Ph.D. from MIT in 1994 and published Freakonomics in April of 2005. He currently teaches Economics at the University of Chicago and has written over 60 academic publications. Stephen J. Dubner is the co-author of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics. He is also the author of Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, and Confessions of a Hero-Worshipper. He went to Appalachian State University and today he teaches in the English Department at Columbia University.
    Thesis: The main idea behind Super Freakomics is the notion of taking macro economics out of the picture and focusing on micro economics. This means exploring the economic transactions between people as individuals and not as a whole. For example, the authors addressed subjects such as the interactions between prostitutes and clients, the effect of global warming on people's livelihoods and the flaws of the effects of the health insurance industry on patients.
    Summary: Freakonomics offered a different way of viewing its three main subjects: the economics of prostitution, the economic effects of global warming, and the more intimate flaws of the healthcare system. When discussing prostitution, the authors addressed how the demand for prostitution correlates with the supply of people willing to conduct the act, even showing how prostitution itself acts in the same way as a household good. When there is a high demand for it, the supply is relatively scarce or laws prevent it. On the subject of global warming, Levitt and Dubner mentioned how a group of scientists had come up with a more efficient way of reducing chimney size to decrease the amount of C02 in the atmosphere. This new innovation helped to solve the global climate problem in a more tangible and less expensive way. When it came to the issue of health insurance, Levitt and Dubner focused on the conduct of doctors who often had to choose which patients would mean more money for them .
    Analysis: Super Freakonomics is an exposé of the types of economics that people are often less willing to address or face. The authors Levitt and Duber expose these issues so that people will be more inclined to come face to face with them. The authors also reveal things to their audience that would otherwise be perceived as unbelievable. One was the story of monkeys being taught to use money. This is a central and pivotal part of their message which is that no matter what the person or species, anyone who uses money uses it in the same way. In their story the monkeys developed the basic knowledge for the use of money and they soon began to discover ways of getting more which led to them reverting to crimes such as petty theft, actual monkey prostitution(on rare occasions) and other illegal monetary transactions.
    Reviews: James Altucher from the Financial Adviser says that Super Freakonomics is more a story about people than about new ideas. What drives the people behind these ideas to take conventional wisdom and turn it completely on its head". http://blogs.wsj.com. Aaron Crowe, critic for walletpop.com, says, "I

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Bad science

    The New Yorker review claimed that this book's take on global warming had been debunked by scientists on the "real climate" blog. So I looked at that. There's a very detailed critique of one specific point in a open letter to Levitt. Levitt himself answers. He doesn't argue with any part of the critique. He responds snottily by saying that his case against solar cells wasn't about how they radiate heat. But if you go back and look at the book, that is precisely the argument made. So Levitt is being dishonest, violating the fundamental value of science. It only takes one example of dishonesty to make the entire book suspect.
    In the previous book, which was limited more to the things Levitt himself had worked on, the conclusions were a stretch, but the reader was given the research results and they were interesting to think about. In this book, the authors have gone too far.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2009

    Great Book! Learn about Econ the way it should be taught!

    Great Book! Learn about Econ the way it should be taught! This is a great companion to other similar works. It will help to fine tune your perspective on a wide variety of subjects.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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