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Super Freakonomics

I recently read and enjoyed Super Freakonomics. The book was a worthy sequel to its predecessor, of course, titled Freakonomics.  Unlike most other books I’ve read, it’s tough to put in a few words what the underlying theme of this book is.

Instead, I’ll offer my take on a few of the anecdotes the book presents, and not assume that you are familiar with either the original book or the co-authors and their work.

Global Warming, not. If there is such a thing, its source isn’t any of the energy related fuels that are routinely blamed. Instead, it’s cows and the methane they produce. Increasing wealth across the world had shifted the demand from grain to meat and this shift is ultimately the cause. The Mount Pinatubo eruption? It actually helped cool the planet a bit, negating nearly a hundred years worth of observed warming. (I am not saying I agree with their conclusions, just sharing them. A number of scientists have spoken again these claims.)

Next, there is a discussion of suicide bombers and the criteria that one would use to discover them in a large population. Unfortunately, even a 1/10 of 1% false positive means that when analyzing a group of say 100,000 suspects, there will be 100 innocent people who are falsely accused. One factor in the data mining is that suicide bombers don’t buy life insurance, at least not until this book was published.

You drink just a bit too much at a party, and live just a mile or so from home, do you walk or drive? We are offered data that suggests it may be safer for you to drive, as you may have a lower chance of injury per drunk mile driven vs walked. (Disclaimer – Don’t do either. Get a ride from a sober person or call a cab.)

Last, a look at the impact of The Club (a metal anti-theft device that goes across a car steering wheel) vs LoJack (a hidden transmitter used to track a car after it’s stolen) and how the visible Club effectively says to move on to the next car, while LoJack has every thief wonder which cars are protected. Interesting way of comparing these two anti-theft devices.

You see, the chapters within the book skip from one seemingly unrelated topic to the next but still maintains an overall feel. Sort of an economist looking at the world through some strange glasses  and sharing his observations. Have you read this book, or the original? What did you think of them?


  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 16, 2010, 10:18 am


    I didn’t read either one, but I assumed that it would discuss some of the financial implications of various events. This seems somewhat random, but I guess that is the point. I’m curious.

  • JOE September 16, 2010, 11:56 am

    No macro/big picture items for finance. The anecdotes were mostly individual stories, the economics of prostitution, for instance, from interviews with one successful gal, and a number of street workers.
    There seems to be a book genre of this style of grouping of articles gaining popularity. Malcolm Gladwell’s work strikes me as similar.

  • John September 17, 2010, 10:18 am

    I’ve read both and liked them overall. While I may not agree with every conclusion they made (the drive drunk one for example), the authors have a way of examining things from different angles and making you think about things differently.

  • JOE September 17, 2010, 3:04 pm

    Agreed, I offered that one (drinking/driving/walking) as one example that stuck in my head after closing the book for a week. I view the series as an example of how to look at things in a different way, not necessarily advice to be followed. Thanks for visiting.

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