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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.

  • 2024 / 2 / 29
    578. Water, Water Everywhere — But You Have to Stop and Think

    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...

  • 2024 / 2 / 22
    Is Google Getting Worse? (Update)

    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...

  • 2024 / 2 / 19
    Extra: Mr. Feynman Takes a Trip — But Doesn’t Fall

    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...

  • 2024 / 2 / 15
    The Vanishing Mr. Feynman

    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...

  • 2024 / 2 / 8
    The Brilliant Mr. Feynman

    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...

  • 2024 / 2 / 5
    How the San Francisco 49ers Stopped Being Losers (Update)

    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...

  • 2024 / 2 / 1
    The Curious Mr. Feynman

    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...

  • 2024 / 1 / 25
    574. “A Low Moment in Higher Education”

    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...

  • 2024 / 1 / 22
    5 Psychology Terms You’re Probably Misusing (Replay)

    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...

  • 2024 / 1 / 18
    573. Can Academic Fraud Be Stopped?

    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...

  • 2024 / 1 / 11
    572. Why Is There So Much Fraud in Academia?

    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...

  • 2024 / 1 / 4
    571. Greeting Cards, Pizza Boxes, and Personal Injury Lawyers

    In a special episode of The Economics of Everyday Things, host Zachary Crockett explains what millennials do to show they care, how corrugated cardboard keeps your food warm, and why every city has a...

  • 2023 / 12 / 28
    570. Is Gynecology the Best Innovation Ever?

    In a special episode of People I (Mostly) Admire, Steve Levitt talks to Cat Bohannon about her new book Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution. SOURCE:Cat Bohannon, researcher and...

  • 2023 / 12 / 21
    569. Do You Need Closure?

    In a special episode of No Stupid Questions, Angela Duckworth and Mike Maughan talk about unfinished tasks, recurring arguments, and Irish goodbyes. SOURCES:Roy Baumeister, social psychologist and visiting...

  • 2023 / 12 / 14
    568. Why Are People So Mad at Michael Lewis?

    Lewis got incredible access to Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire behind the spectacular FTX fraud. His book is a bestseller, but some critics say he went too easy on S.B.F. Lewis tells us why the critics are...

  • 2023 / 12 / 7
    567. Do the Police Have a Management Problem?

    In policing, as in most vocations, the best employees are often promoted into leadership without much training. One economist thinks he can address this problem — and, with it, America’s gun...

  • 2023 / 11 / 30
    513. Should Public Transit Be Free? (Update)

    It boosts economic opportunity and social mobility. It’s good for the environment. So why do we charge people to use it? The short answer: it’s complicated. Also: We talk to the man who gets half the nation’s...

  • 2023 / 11 / 23
    566. Why Is It So Hard (and Expensive) to Build Anything in America?

    Most industries have become more productive over time. But not construction! We identify the causes — and possible solutions. (Can you say ... “prefab”?) RESOURCES:"The Strange and Awful Path of Productivity...

  • 2023 / 11 / 19
    Extra: Jason Kelce Hates to Lose

    Pro footballer and star podcaster Jason Kelce is ubiquitous right now (almost as ubiquitous as his brother and co-host Travis, who's been in the limelight for his relationship with Taylor Swift). After you...

  • 2023 / 11 / 16
    565. Are Private Equity Firms Plundering the U.S. Economy?

    They say they make companies more efficient through savvy management. Critics say they bend the rules to enrich themselves at the expense of consumers and employees. Can they both be right? (Probably...

  • 2023 / 11 / 9
    480. How Much Does Discrimination Hurt the Economy? (Replay)

    Evidence from Nazi Germany and 1940’s America (and pretty much everywhere else) shows that discrimination is incredibly costly — to the victims, of course, but also the perpetrators. One modern solution is to...

  • 2023 / 11 / 2
    564. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 4: Extreme Resiliency

    Everyone makes mistakes. How do you learn from them? Lessons from the classroom, the Air Force, and the world’s deadliest infectious disease. RESOURCES:Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well, by Amy...

  • 2023 / 10 / 26
    563. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 3: Grit vs. Quit

    Giving up can be painful. That's why we need to talk about it. Today: stories about glitchy apps, leaky paint cans, broken sculptures — and a quest for the perfect bowl of ramen.  RESOURCES"Data Snapshot:...

  • 2023 / 10 / 19
    562. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 2: Life and Death

    In medicine, failure can be catastrophic. It can also produce discoveries that save millions of lives. Tales from the front line, the lab, and the I.T. department. RESOURCES:Right Kind of Wrong: The Science...

  • 2023 / 10 / 12
    561. How to Succeed at Failing, Part 1: The Chain of Events

    We tend to think of tragedies as a single terrible moment, rather than the result of multiple bad decisions. Can this pattern be reversed? We try — with stories about wildfires, school shootings, and...

  • 2023 / 10 / 10
    232. A New Nobel Laureate Explains the Gender Pay Gap (Replay)

    Claudia Goldin is the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. We spoke with her in 2016 about why women earn so much less than men — and how it’s not all explained by discrimination.

  • 2023 / 10 / 5
    560. Is This “the Worst Job in Corporate America” — or Maybe the Best?

    John Ray is an emergency C.E.O., a bankruptcy expert who takes over companies that have succumbed to failure or fraud. He’s currently cleaning up the mess left by alleged crypto scammer Sam Bankman-Fried. And...

  • 2023 / 9 / 28
    559. Are Two C.E.O.s Better Than One?

    If two parents can run a family, why shouldn’t two executives run a company? We dig into the research and hear firsthand stories of both triumph and disaster. Also: lessons from computer programmers, Simon...

  • 2023 / 9 / 21
    558. The Facts Are In: Two Parents Are Better Than One

    In her new book The Two-Parent Privilege, the economist Melissa Kearney says it’s time for liberals to face the facts: U.S. marriage rates have plummeted but the babies keep coming, and the U.S. now leads the...

  • 2023 / 9 / 21
    558. When Did Marriage Become a Luxury Good?

    U.S. marriage rates have plummeted. But the babies keep coming, and the U.S. now leads the world in single-parent households. In her new book The Two-Parent Privilege, the economist Melissa Kearney says this...

  • 2023 / 9 / 14
    557. When Is a Superstar Just Another Employee?

    The union that represents N.F.L. players conducted their first-ever survey of workplace conditions, and issued a report card to all 32 teams. What did the survey reveal? Clogged showers, rats in the locker...

  • 2023 / 9 / 7
    556. A.I. Is Changing Everything. Does That Include You?

    For all the speculation about the future, A.I. tools can be useful right now. Adam Davidson discovers what they can help us do, how we can get the most from them — and why the things that make them helpful...

  • 2023 / 8 / 31
    555. New Technologies Always Scare Us. Is A.I. Any Different?

    Guest host Adam Davidson looks at what might happen to your job in a world of human-level artificial intelligence, and asks when it might be time to worry that the machines have become too powerful. (Part 2...

  • 2023 / 8 / 24
    554. Can A.I. Take a Joke?

    Artificial intelligence, we’ve been told, will destroy humankind. No, wait — it will usher in a new age of human flourishing! Guest host Adam Davidson (co-founder of Planet Money) sorts through the big claims...

  • 2023 / 8 / 17
    553. The Suddenly Diplomatic Rahm Emanuel

    The famously profane politician and operative is now U.S. ambassador to Japan, where he’s trying to rewrite the rules of diplomacy. But don’t worry: When it comes to China, he’s every bit as combative as...

  • 2023 / 8 / 10
    Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished? (Ep. 454 Replay)

    Americans are so accustomed to the standard intersection that we rarely consider how dangerous it can be — as well as costly, time-wasting, and polluting. Is it time to embrace the lowly, lovely roundabout?

  • 2023 / 8 / 6
    Extra: A Modern Whaler Speaks Up

    Bjorn Andersen killed 111 minke whales this season. He tells us how he does it, why he does it, and what he thinks would happen if whale-hunting ever stopped.

  • 2023 / 8 / 3
    552. Freakonomics Radio Presents: The Economics of Everyday Things

    In three stories from our newest podcast, host Zachary Crockett digs into sports mascots, cashmere sweaters, and dinosaur skeletons.

  • 2023 / 7 / 27
    551. What Can Whales Teach Us About Clean Energy, Workplace Harmony, and Living the Good Life?

    In the final episode of our whale series, we learn about fecal plumes, shipping noise, and why "Moby-Dick" is still worth reading. (Part 3 of "Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.")

  • 2023 / 7 / 20
    550. Why Do People Still Hunt Whales?

    For years, whale oil was used as lighting fuel, industrial lubricant, and the main ingredient in (yum!) margarine. Whale meat was also on a few menus. But today, demand for whale products is at a historic...

  • 2023 / 7 / 13
    549. The First Great American Industry

    Whaling was, in the words of one scholar, “early capitalism unleashed on the high seas.” How did the U.S. come to dominate the whale market? Why did whale hunting die out here — and continue to grow...

  • 2023 / 7 / 6
    548. Why Is the U.S. So Good at Killing Pedestrians?

    Actually, the reasons are pretty clear. The harder question is: Will we ever care enough to stop?

  • 2023 / 6 / 29
    Why Did You Marry That Person? (Ep. 511 Replay)

    Sure, you were “in love.” But economists — using evidence from Bridgerton to Tinder — point to what’s called “assortative mating.” And it has some unpleasant consequences for society.

  • 2023 / 6 / 22
    547. Satya Nadella’s Intelligence Is Not Artificial

    But as C.E.O. of the resurgent Microsoft, he is firmly at the center of the A.I. revolution. We speak with him about the perils and blessings of A.I., Google vs. Bing, the Microsoft succession plan — and why...

  • 2023 / 6 / 15
    546. Are E.S.G. Investors Actually Helping the Environment?

    Probably not. The economist Kelly Shue argues that E.S.G. investing just gives more money to firms that are already green while depriving polluting firms of the financing they need to get greener. But she has...

  • 2023 / 6 / 8
    545. Enough with the Slippery Slopes!

    Gun control, abortion rights, drug legalization — it seems like every argument these days claims that if X happens, then Y will follow, and we’ll all be doomed to Z. Is the slippery-slope argument a valid...

  • 2023 / 6 / 1
    544. Ari Emanuel Is Never Indifferent

    He turned a small Hollywood talent agency into a massive sports-and-entertainment empire. In a freewheeling conversation, he explains how he did it and why it nearly killed him.

  • 2023 / 5 / 25
    Make Me a Match (Ep. 209 Update)

    Sure, markets work well in general. But for some transactions — like school admissions and organ transplants — money alone can’t solve the problem. That’s when you need a market-design wizard like Al Roth....

  • 2023 / 5 / 18
    543. How to Return Stolen Art

    Museums are purging their collections of looted treasures. Can they also get something in return? And what does it mean to be a museum in the 21st century? (Part 3 of “Stealing Art Is Easy. Giving It Back Is...

  • 2023 / 5 / 11
    542. Is a Museum Just a Trophy Case?

    The world’s great museums are full of art and artifacts that were plundered during an era when plunder was the norm. Now there’s a push to return these works to their rightful owners. Sounds simple, right?...