Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics co-author Stephen J. Dubner uncovers the hidden side of everything. Why is it safer to fly in an airplane than drive a car? How do we decide whom to marry? Why is the media so full of bad news? Also: things you never knew you wanted to know about wolves, bananas, pollution, search engines, and the quirks of human behavior. Join the Freakonomics Radio Plus membership program for weekly member-only episodes of Freakonomics Radio. You’ll also get every show in our network without ads. To sign up, visit our show page on Apple Podcasts or go to freakonomics.com/plus.

Episodes

April 11, 2024 49 mins

People who are good at their jobs routinely get promoted into bigger jobs they’re bad at. We explain why firms keep producing incompetent managers — and why that’s unlikely to change.

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Nick Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University.
    • Katie Johnson, freelance data and analytics coach.
    • Kelly Shue, professor of finance at the Yale University School of Management.
    • Steve Tadelis, professor of economics at the Unive...
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Fareed Zakaria says yes. But it’s not just political revolution — it’s economic, technological, even emotional. He doesn’t offer easy solutions but he does offer some hope.

 

 

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The political debates over immigration can generate a lot of fuzzy facts. We wanted to test Americans’ knowledge — so, to wrap up our special series on immigration, we called some Freakonomics Radio listeners and quizzed them.

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Zeke Hernandez, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

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March 28, 2024 49 mins

As the U.S. tries to fix its messy immigration system, our neighbor to the north is scooping up more talented newcomers every year. Are the Canadians stealing America’s bacon? (Part three of a three-part series.)

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Zeke Hernandez, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
    • William Kerr, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
    • David Leonhardt, senior writer at the New York...
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The U.S. immigration system is a massively complicated machine, with a lot of worn-out parts. How to fix it? Step one: Get hold of some actual facts and evidence. (We did this step for you.) (Part two of a three-part series.)

 

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She arrived in the U.S. as an 11-year-old refugee, then rose to become Secretary of State. Her views on immigration, nationalism, and borders, from this 2015 interview, are almost strangely appropriate to the present moment. 

 

  • SOURCE:
    • Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 

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How did a nation of immigrants come to hate immigration? We start at the beginning, sort through the evidence, and explain why your grandfather was lying about Ellis Island. (Part one of a three-part series.)

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Leah Boustan, professor of economics at Princeton University.
    • Zeke Hernandez, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
    • Roger Nam, professor of Hebrew Bible at Emory University.

...

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Economists have discovered an odd phenomenon: many people who use social media (even you, maybe?) wish it didn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean they can escape.

 

  • SOURCES:

 

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In ancient Rome, it was bread and circuses. Today, it’s a World Cup, an Olympics, and a new Saudi-backed golf league that’s challenging the PGA Tour. Can a sporting event really repair a country’s reputation — or will it trigger the dreaded Streisand Effect? Also: why the major U.S. sports leagues are warming up to the idea of foreign investment.

 

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What surprises lurk in our sewage? How did racist city planners end up saving Black lives? Why does Arizona grow hay for cows in Saudi Arabia? Three strange stories about the most fundamental substance we all take for granted.

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Brian Beach, professor of economics at Vanderbilt University.
    • Marc Johnson, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
    • Amy Kirby, progra...
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February 22, 2024 56 mins

It used to feel like magic. Now it can feel like a set of cheap tricks. Is the problem with Google — or with us? And is Google Search finally facing a real rival, in the form of A.I.-powered “answer engines”? 

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Marissa Mayer, co-founder of Sunshine; former C.E.O. of Yahoo! and vice president at Google.
    • Ryan McDevitt; professor of economics at Duke University.
    • Tim Hwang, media researcher and author; former Google employ...
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A wide-open conversation with three women who guided Richard Feynman through some big adventures at the Esalen Institute. (Part of our Feynman series.)

 

  • SOURCES: 
    • Barbara Berg, friend of Richard Feynman.
    • Cheryl Haley, friend of Richard Feynman.
    • Debby Harlow, friend of Richard Feynma
    • Sam Stern, content creator at the Esalen Institute.

 

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February 15, 2024 61 mins

In his final years, Richard Feynman's curiosity took him to some surprising places. We hear from his companions on the trips he took — and one he wasn’t able to. (Part three of a three-part series.)

 

  • SOURCES: 
    • Alan Alda, actor and screenwriter.
    • Barbara Berg, friend of Richard Feynman.
    • Helen Czerski, physicist and oceanographer at University College London.
    • Michelle Feynman, photographer and daughter of Richard Feynman.
    • Cheryl Hal...
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February 8, 2024 52 mins

What happens when an existentially depressed and recently widowed young physicist from Queens gets a fresh start in California? We follow Richard Feynman out west, to explore his long and extremely fruitful second act. (Part two of a three-part series.)

 

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They’re heading to the Super Bowl for the second time in five years. But back in 2018, they were coming off a long losing streak — and that’s the year we sat down with 49ers  players, coaches, and executives to hear their turnaround plans. It’s probably time to consider the turnaround a success. 

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders; former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
    • Al Guido, presiden...
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February 1, 2024 62 mins

From the Manhattan Project to the Challenger investigation, the physicist Richard Feynman loved to shoot down what he called “lousy ideas.” Today, the world is awash in lousy ideas — so maybe it’s time to get some more Feynman in our lives? (Part one of a three-part series.)

 

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Michael Roth of Wesleyan University doesn’t hang out with other university presidents. He also thinks some of them have failed a basic test of good sense and decency. It’s time for a conversation about college, and courage.  

 

 

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We all like to throw around terms that describe human behavior — “bystander apathy” and “steep learning curve” and “hard-wired.” Most of the time, they don’t actually mean what we think they mean. But don’t worry — the experts are getting it wrong, too.

 

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January 18, 2024 62 mins

Probably not — the incentives are too strong. Scholarly publishing is a $28 billion global industry, with misconduct at every level. But a few reformers are gaining ground.   (Part 2 of 2)

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Max Bazerman, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
    • Leif Nelson, professor of business administration at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business.
    • Brian Nosek, professor of psychology...
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Some of the biggest names in behavioral science stand accused of faking their results. Last year, an astonishing 10,000 research papers were retracted. We talk to whistleblowers, reformers, and a co-author who got caught up in the chaos. (Part 1 of 2)

 

  • SOURCES:
    • Max Bazerman, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
    • Leif Nelson, professor of business administration at the University of California, Berkel...
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