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Superfreakonomics [Paperback]

Steven D. Levitt , Stephen J. Dubner
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 16 2011

SuperFreakonomics was an instant New York Times bestseller that caused a media uproar, continuing the amazing success begun with the groundbreaking, worldwide sensation Freakonomics. SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as

  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • How much good do car seats do?
  • What’s the best way to catch a terrorist?
  • What do hurricanes, heart attacks and highway deaths have in common?
  • Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is—good, bad, ugly and, in the final analysis, super-freaky. Freakonomics has been imitated many times over, but only now, with SuperFreakonomics, has it met its match.


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Review

Like Freakonomics, but better ... thrilling ... you are guaranteed a good time ... underneath the dazzle, there is substance too Tim Harford, Financial Times Levitt is a master at drawing counter-intuitive conclusions ... great fun ... Superfreakonomics travels further than its predecessor Tom Standage, Sunday Times A humdinger of a book: page-turning, politically incorrect and ever-so-slightly intoxicating, like a large swig of tequila The Times One of the most important books you'll read this autumn GQ Levitt and Dubner's zeal for statistical anomalies is as undimmed as their eye for a good story ... lie back and let Levitt and Dubner's bouncy prose style carry you along from one peculiarity to the next Sunday Telegraph There's material here not just for one conversation, but for several.The authors mash together interesting academic research, surprising historical comparisons ... and cute factoids Daily Mail [Freakonomics] was fascinating ... [SuperFreakonomics] is similarly studded with intriguing examples of economic analysis in action Daily Telegraph Entertaining BBC Focus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics was a worldwide sensation, selling more than four million copies in thirty-five languages and changing the way we look at the world.

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner return with Superfreakonomics, and fans and newcomers alike will find that the freakquel is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:

  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is—good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky. Freakonomics has been imitated many times over—but only now, with SuperFreakonomics, has it met its match.

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun to Read Oct. 27 2009
Format:Hardcover
Much like Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics is an entertaining book that covers a wide variety of unrelated topics in a fun way. But in contrast with Freakonomics, it is less reliant on econometric analysis and more on anecdotal evidence. As a result, its conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.

For example, their finding that it is safer to drive than walk while drunk depends on several assumptions that may not hold. One such assumption is that the level of inebriation is on average the same for both drunk walkers and drunk drivers whereas, as they point out themselves earlier in the section, most people believe it is safer to walk when drunk, indicating that those who walk while drunk are probably more inebriated than those who drive while drunk. But to put things in context, that was just a small example and is only a very minor part of the book.

Sadly, many critics and reviewers are basing their entire opinion of the book on the last chapter concerning global warming. Let me just point out that it is not true that they are claiming that global warming is not a problem. Yes, they do mention some old global cooling theories from the 70's. But put this in the context of this book - a random collection of fun facts - and you can see why such theories were mentioned.
But that misses the main point of the chapter. In fact, the purpose of the chapter is to find a way to cool the globe, but using geoengineering, as opposed to restricting emissions of Carbon Dioxide. They propose an idea sponsored by Intellectual Ventures, a company whose business is to accumulate patents in a wide range of fields. The plan basically entails the injection of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which would reflect sunlight and possibly cool the Earth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Levitt & Dubner do it again Dec 13 2009
Format:Audio CD
Much like the first book , Superfreakonomics engages the listener through a fascinating combination of research and story telling. The unabridged audio set is narrated by author Steven Levitt, who's voice is enjoyable. This book seems to be getting some flack from environmentalists for the way that it tackles solutions to the global warming problem. But like it or not, this book adds a lot to the discussion and reveals some very novel and counter-intuitive ways to solve this problem. Whether you agree or disagree with them, Levitt and Dubner make their topics fun and interesting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars using statisticsa creatively July 4 2010
Format:Hardcover
This book is not really about economics, and unlike its predecessor, Freakanomics, it is a really good read. What Superfreakonomics is about is the clever use of statistics. But who would buy a book entitled 'New discoveries based on the unconventional interpretation of statistics'.
One early example of the clever interpretation of statistics consists of the story of a nineteenth century Viennese physician who found that he could reduce greatly the maternal mortality rate in his hospital if he required doctors to wash their hands before they did a delivery, and this was decades before Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria.
Jumping right ahead to the 21st century, the authors reinterpret other statistics. They discover that children whose mothers fasted during pregnancy because of Ramadan are more likely to suffer from behavioural and learning disabilities. And that condoms are more likely to fail in India than elsewhere because Indian men apparently have small penises. (Has anyone ever tried studying whether the mothers of suicide bombers fasted during pregnancy?)
The chapter on climate change is the weakest. The authors start out well enough by demonstrating that statistics can be used to prove as well as disprove the occurrence of climate change, and they point out that in the past volcanic eruptions have caused cooling that could be interpreted as climate change. And this was written before the recent eruption of the Icelandic volcano. The authors are to be congratulated for pointing out the often forgotten obvious fact that it makes no sense to say that humans should not interfere with nature. This would mean letting diseases take their toll, and that's just for starters. So far so good.
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3.0 out of 5 stars `Many of life's decisions are hard.' July 2 2010
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Three of the five chapters of this book are presented as questions:
How is a street prostitute like a department store Santa?
Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?
What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common?

The other two are:
The fix is in ... and it's cheap and simple
Unbelievable stories about apathy and altruism.
These two chapter titles aren't quite so catchy, but there is some really good material buried within on topics such as the benefits of hand washing and the benison of fertiliser. Posing questions in the form of catchy chapter titles is one way to get people's attention, and much of the material presented is entertaining and thought-provoking. But what about the conclusions? Can it possibly be true that there is a cheap fix for climate change? But how do we (globally) measure `cheap', and who determines whether it is effective?

I found the various anecdotes interesting and generally entertaining. But I found myself wondering whether this book added materially to the ground already covered so successfully in `Freakonomics'. Clearly, for some readers, it does. I'm not convinced.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
awesome
Published 8 days ago by alex donald
5.0 out of 5 stars Freakonomics Part II
This book is essentially a continuation of the same general theme as the earlier one – Freakonomics. Read more
Published 2 months ago by G. Poirier
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Loved this book and the underlying concepts; however I didn't enjoy it as much as the original
Published 3 months ago by Polly
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
The authors go a long way beyond basic economics to analyse the way things work these days. They break down systems I to their small parts and analyse the relationships. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jessie
4.0 out of 5 stars fact and factoid heaven
You'll have to go through all the references and related research to determine if it's all true, but it sure makes for entertaining reading. Stop pollution? Read more
Published 7 months ago by Michael Petsalis
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first one.
On many spots, I couldn't help but feel the authors had rushed and not done as thorough of a research as the first book. Also it didn't flow as smoothly. Read more
Published 9 months ago by hotdoc007
3.0 out of 5 stars A slight let down, but interesting
LOVED Freakonomics and all its connections, so this one was a let down when the connections are weak and not formulated enough to truely compare to the first book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Trent Norman Ross Gillespie
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit disjointed
Some stuff is pretty good, but some is a bit lame. Jumps around a lot. Author says as much in the forward but you have to learn code.
Published 13 months ago by Gord Rachar
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it a lot, but wanted more
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I wanted another chapter or two. it felt so brief. The autheors get into theory a bit more than the previous book, but still a good read.
Published 13 months ago by Canadian Baconator
5.0 out of 5 stars better than the first
If you loved the first book the second is better. The book is fascinating and interesting can't say enough good about this book.
Published on July 7 2011 by matt1000944794
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