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

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Overview

Seeing is believing . . . The Smash Hit SuperFreakonomics is now Bigger and Better

SuperFreakonomics was an instant New York Times bestseller that caused a media uproar, continuing the amazing success begun with the groundbreaking, worldwide sensation Freakonomics.

With the Illustrated Edition, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner bring alive their smart thinking and great storytelling with an explosion of...

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Overview

Seeing is believing . . . The Smash Hit SuperFreakonomics is now Bigger and Better

SuperFreakonomics was an instant New York Times bestseller that caused a media uproar, continuing the amazing success begun with the groundbreaking, worldwide sensation Freakonomics.

With the Illustrated Edition, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner bring alive their smart thinking and great storytelling with an explosion of visual evidence, including:

  • A by-the-numbers tally of a high-priced call girl's career, and a tracking sheet from an intensive survey of Chicago street prostitutes.
  • A visual quiz that lets you pit your memory against the memory of a chess grand master.
  • Images of the hurricane-killing machine and other geo-engineering inventions described in SuperFreakonomics.
  • A look into whether doctors are better at saving lives in TV dramas or in real hospitals.

Whether probing the intricacies of sex change operations, the effectiveness of child car seats, or what really motivates people to do good, the Illustrated Edition of SuperFreakonomics employs photographs, drawings, and graphs that will lead readers to see the world in a bold, fresh way.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Most survivors of Economics 101 leave the course feeling no great urgency to pick up a book on the subject as leisure reading. One very unconventional book changed that: Steven D. Levitt's 2005 Freakonomics became an international bestseller, racking up sales of more than four million copies. Fans have waited eagerly for this follow-up and, fortunately, it doesn't disappoint. Like its predecessor, SuperFreakonomics explores "the hidden side of everything." In this case, the roster of improbable topics includes the similarities between streetwalkers and department store Santas; the most effective ways to catch terrorists; whether eating kangaroos can save the planet; correlations between television viewing and crime; and whether we're hardwired for altruism and selfishness.
Publishers Weekly
Economist Levitt and journalist Dubner capitalize on their megaselling Freakonomics with another effort to make the dismal science go gonzo. Freaky topics include the oldest profession (hookers charge less nowadays because the sexual revolution has produced so much free competition), money-hungry monkeys (yep, that involves prostitution, too) and the dunderheadedness of Al Gore. There’s not much substance to the authors’ project of applying economics to all of life. Their method is to notice some contrarian statistic (adult seat belts are as effective as child-safety seats in preventing car-crash fatalities in children older than two), turn it into “economics” by tacking on a perfunctory cost-benefit analysis (seat belts are cheaper and more convenient) and append a libertarian sermonette (governments “tend to prefer the costly-and-cumbersome route”). The point of these lessons is to bolster the economist’s view of people as rational actors, altruism as an illusion and government regulation as a folly of unintended consequences. The intellectual content is pretty thin, but it’s spiked with the crowd-pleasing provocations—“'A pimp’s services are considerably more valuable than a realtor’s’” —that spell bestseller. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
A sequel to the megaselling Freakonomics (2005). It's not exactly economics for dummies-or, as Levitt (Economics/Univ. of Chicago) and business journalist Dubner (Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, 2003, etc.) write, "Chicken Soup for the Freakonomics Soul"-but this follow-up is certainly more of the same, a relentlessly enthusiastic cheer for the application of the dismal science to everyday life. That is, everyday life as the world knows it, as when Levitt and Dubner explore some of the curious economic questions on the underside of terror bombings. Econometrics can be a soulless and sometimes divisive business, so the authors may incite some controversy with their report that in the UK, "a person with neither a first nor last Muslim name stood only a 1 in 500,000 chance of being a terrorist," whereas for a person with both first and last Muslim names the odds went to 1:2,000. (They add, however, that the odds scale way back if the person has a savings account and a life-insurance policy.) Less controversial, perhaps, is their look at the economics of prostitution, with some surprising findings-not least that the average street hooker in Chicago earns only $27 an hour and works only 13 hours a week, drawing about $350 a week. They're priced out of the market, the ever-provocative authors assert, by women willing to have sex for free. The authors also write that it's safer to travel by car than by most other means of transport, thanks in part to no less a personage than Robert S. McNamara, and by far less safe to walk drunk than to drive drunk. The authors' view of the climate crisis through an economic lens is similarly spirited, but certainly worth adding to the debate. Jaunty,entertaining and smart. Levitt and Dubner do a good service by making economics accessible, even compelling. Agent: Suzanne Gluck/William Morris Endeavor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061941221
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/19/2010
  • Edition description: Illustrated
  • Pages: 281
  • Sales rank: 234,499
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven D. Levitt is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of forty. He is also founder of The Greatest Good, a company that applies Freakonomic principles to philanthropy and business.

Stephen J. Dubner, a former writer and editor at The New York Times Magazine, is the author of Turbulent Souls (Choosing My Religion), Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, and the children's book The Boy with Two Belly Buttons.

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Table of Contents

An Explanatory Note xiii

Introduction: Putting the Freak in Economics 1

1 How Is a Street Prostitute Like a Department-Store Santa? 26

2 Why Should Suicide Bombers Buy Life Insurance? 81

3 Unbelievable Stories About Apathy and Altruism 139

4 The Fix Is in-and It's Cheap and Simple 190

5 What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common? 235

Epilogue: Monkeys Are People Too 301

Acknowledgments 309

Notes 313

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Reading Group Guide

ARE YOU A SUPERFREAK?
Take the Quiz Now!

Where do you stand on the freak-o-meter?

Four years ago, you were cool. You read Freakonomics when it first came out. You impressed family and friends and dazzled dates with the insights you gleaned. Now Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with SuperFreakonomics, a freakquel even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

Have you been keeping up? Can you call yourself a SuperFreak? Test your SuperFreakonomics know-how now:

Question 1
5 points

According to SuperFreakonomics, what has been most helpful in improving the lives of women in rural India?
A. The government ban on dowries and sex-selective abortions
B. The spread of cable and satellite television
C. Projects that pay women to not abort female babies
D. Condoms made specially for the Indian market

Question 2
3 points

Among Chicago street prostitutes, which night of the week is the most profitable?
A. Saturday
B. Monday
C. Wednesday
D. Friday

Question 3
5 points

You land in an emergency room with a serious condition and your fate lies in the hands of the doctor you draw. Which characteristic doesn't seem to matter in terms of doctor skill?
A. Attended a top-ranked medical school and served a residency at a prestigious hospital
B. Is female
C. Gets high ratings from peers
D. Spends more money on treatment

Question 4
3 points

Which cancer is chemotherapy more likely to be effective for?
A. Lung cancer
B. Melanoma
C. Leukemia
D. Pancreatic cancer

Question 5
5 points

Half of the decline in deaths from heartdisease is mainly attributable to:
A. Inexpensive drugs
B. Angioplasty
C. Grafts
D. Stents

Question 6
3 points

True or False: Child car seats do a better job of protecting children over the age of 2 from auto fatalities than regular seat belts.

Question 7
5 points

What's the best thing a person can do personally to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
A. Drive a hybrid car
B. Eat one less hamburger a week
C. Buy all your food from local sources

Question 8
3 points

Which is most effective at stopping the greenhouse effect?
A. Public-awareness campaigns to discourage consumption
B. Cap-and-trade agreements on carbon emissions
C. Volcanic explosions
D. Planting lots of trees

Question 9
5 Points

In the 19th century, one of the gravest threats of childbearing was puerperal fever, which was often fatal to mother and child. Its cause was finally determined to be:

A. tight bindings of petticoats early in the pregnancy
B. foul air in the delivery wards
C. doctors not taking sanitary precautions
D. the mother rising too soon in the delivery room

Question 10
3 Points

Which of the following were not aftereffects of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001:

A. the decrease in airline traffic slowed the spread of influenza.
B. thanks to extra police in Washington, D.C., crime fell in that city.
C. the psychological effects of the attacks caused people to cut back on their consumption of alcohol, which led to a decrease in traffic accidents.
D. the increase in border security was a boon to some California farmers, who, as Mexican and Canadian imports declined, sold so much marijuana that it became one of the states most valuable crops.

ANSWERS and SCORING

Question 1
B, Cable and satellite TV. Women with television were less willing to tolerate wife beating, less likely to admit to having a "son preference," and more likely to exercise personal autonomy. Plus, the men were perhaps too busy watching cricket.

Question 2
A, Saturday nights are the most profitable. While Friday nights are the busiest, the single greatest determinant of a prostitute's price is the specific trick she is hired to perform. And for whatever reason, Saturday customers purchase more expensive services.

Question 3
C, One factor that doesn't seem to matter is whether a doctor is highly rated by his or her colleagues. Those named as best by their colleagues turned out to be no better than average at lowering death rates - although they did spend less money on treatments.

Question 4
C, Leukemia. Chemotherapy has proven effective on some cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and testicular cancer, especially if these cancers are detected early. But in most cases, chemotherapy is remarkably ineffective, often showing zero discernible effect. That said, cancer drugs make up the second-largest category of pharmaceutical sales, with chemotherapy comprising the bulk.

Question 5
A, Inexpensive drugs. Expensive medical procedures, while technologically dazzling, are responsible for a remarkably small share of the improvement in heart disease. Roughly half of the decline has come from reductions in risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which are treated with relatively inexpensive drugs. And much of the remaining decline is thanks to ridiculously inexpensive treatments like aspirin, heparin, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers.

Question 6
False. Based on extensive data analysis as well as crash tests paid for by the authors, old-fashioned seat belts do just as well as car seats.

Question 7
B, Shifting less than one day per week's worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more greenhouse--gas reduction than buying all locally sourced food, according to a recent study by Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews, two Carnegie Mellon researchers. Every time a Prius or other hybrid owner drives to the grocery store, she may be cancelling out its emissions-reducing benefit, at least if she shops in the meat section. Emission from cows, as well as sheep and other ruminants, are 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide released by cars and humans.

Question 8
C, the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines discharged more than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which acted like a layer of sunscreen, reducing the amount of solar radiation and cooling off the earth by an average of one degree F.

Question 9
C, doctors not taking sanitary precautions. This was the dawning age of the autopsy, and doctors did not yet know the importance of washing their hands after leaving the autopsy room and entering the delivery room.

Question 10
C. the psychological effect of the attacks caused people to increase their alcohol consumption, and traffic accidents increased as a result.

SCORING
32-40 Certified SuperFreak
25-31 Freak-surprises lay in wait for you
16-24 Wannabe freak-you've got some reading to do
1-15 Conventional wisdomer-you're still thinking in old ways


Meet the PROFESSORS, PROSTITUTES, DOCTORS, INVENTORS, PSYCHOLOGISTS, and OTHER REAL-LIFE CHARACTERS of SUPERFREAKONOMICS

CRAIG FEIED, a onetime Berkeley skateboarder, has revolutionized emergency medicine by building a system that has little to do with actual doctor skill.

IAN HORSLEY is a "completely average and unforgettable" Englishman who found his calling as a bank officer stopping fraud - and who has now turned his attention to using bank data to hunt down terrorists.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD is a physics geek with a realistic, budget-friendly plan to prevent the next Hurricane Katrina - and to stop global warming too. He and his colleagues have another few thousand inventions up their collective sleeve as well.

ALLIE is a highly paid prostitute and unlikely entrepreneur who got rich by maintaining quality control and understanding the market forces of supply and demand.

JOHN LIST is an accidental economist, the son of a truck driver, who proves that most altruism isn't as altruistic as we might think.

SUDHIR VENKATESH, an inventive sociologist who collected real-time, on-the-spot data from Chicago street prostitutes, shows how the feminist revolution has lowered prostitutes' wages (and cheapened the price of oral sex).

KEN CALDEIRA runs an ecology lab at Stanford and is one of the most respected climate scientists in the world - but his research shows that carbon dioxide is the wrong villain, and that even trees can exacerbate global warming.

BEN BARRES, a Stanford neurobiologist who was born Barbara Barres and had a sex-change operation, is part of a statistical look at why men make more money than women.

JOSEPH DE MAY, Jr. is a lawyer and Kew Gardens, Queens, resident, who tears apart the legend of the Kitty Genovese murder, which shocked the world in 1964 because 38 people apparently witnessed the crime and did nothing to help.

K. ANDERS ERICSSON, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, studies talented performers in all fields and finds that the thing we call "raw talent" is vastly overrated.

KEITH CHEN, a thirty-three-year-old, spiky-haired associate economics professor at Yale and the son of Chinese immigrants, taught a bunch of monkeys to use money, disproving Adam Smith's contention that humankind alone had a knack for monetary exchange.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2011

    Illustrations illegible on iPad

    If you're thinking of buying this NOOK book, SuperFreakonomics Illustrated edition, to read on your iPad...STOP. I do not recommend doing this unless you enjoy wasting money. The illustrations and the text that accompanies them were completely unreadable on my iPad. Even when trying to enlarge them, they still remained illegible. I'd recommend buying the hard copy instead.

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