Discovering Interesting Data with Freakonomics Co

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    Solving Problems with Data - Freakonomics Co-Author Stephen Dubner #JOINData 2016


    Hear Part 3 of Stephen Dubner's Keynote session at #JOINData 2016

    Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He is best-known as co-author of the books in the Freakonomics series, including Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, Think Like a Freak and When to Rob a Bank. They have sold more than 7 million copies in more than 40 countries. Dubner is also the host of the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which gets 5 million downloads a month.

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    Learning by Disrupting with Data - Stephen Dubner, Co-Author Freakonomics #JOINData 2016


    Hear Part 2 of Stephen Dubner's Keynote session at #JOINData 2016

    Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He is best-known as co-author of the books in the Freakonomics series, including Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics, Think Like a Freak and When to Rob a Bank. They have sold more than 7 million copies in more than 40 countries. Dubner is also the host of the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which gets 5 million downloads a month.

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    Freakonomics 6


    A look at everyday experiences in freaky ways based on the bestselling book Freakonomics.

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    The Monkey Economy: Freakonomics Radio Live in St. Paul


    Stephen Dubner describes the research of Keith Chen and his experiments with the monkey economy. Monkeys were taught to use money by economists to buy different commodities, hilarity ensues.

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    Freakonomics 1


    A look at everyday experiences in freaky ways based on the bestselling book Freakonomics.

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    Looker - Database to Dashboard Technical Demo


    Anika Kuesters Smith, Sales Engineering Manager at Looker, takes us through the process of connecting your data to Looker, generating a model, and exploring your data in Looker.

    In this demo you'll learn about:

    - Connecting your data to Looker
    - Building out your data model
    - Creating and sharing dashboards
    - Generating and scheduling reports for various departments

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    Freakonomics: Three Geoengineering Solutions to Global Warming


    Complete video at:

    Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of SuperFreakonomics, argue that the simplest solution to global warming involves geoengineering technologies that reflect a percentage of sunlight away from the Earth. Levitt describes why he prioritizes this technological solution over carbon reduction.


    With Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner revealed the good, bad, ugly and super freaky of the world around us.

    The freakquel is here. Back with more than pop-culture trivia, Inforum's next 21st Century Visionary Award recipients are ready to revolutionize our understanding of causality in an incredibly interconnected world. - Commonwealth Club of California

    Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author and journalist who lives in New York City. He is the co-author, with Steven D. Levitt, of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. He is also the author of Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family (1998), Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper (2003), and a children's book, The Boy With Two Belly Buttons (2007).

    Steve Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory.

    Levitt received his BA from Harvard University in 1989 and his PhD from MIT in 1994. He has taught at Chicago since 1997. In 2004, Levitt was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of 40. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World.

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    Freakonomics: What Prostitutes Can Teach About Economics


    Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, recounts a story of talking economics and business practice with a prostitute while researching for SuperFreakonomics.

    Complete video available for free at

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    Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner - Superfreakonomics


    People respond to incentives, although not necessarily in ways that are predictable. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the bestselling Freakonomics challenge you to think differently about a range of controversial subjects.

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    White Names vs. Black Names: Freakonomics Movie


    What's in a name? Roland Fryer explains the bifurcation of naming in Caucasian communities and black communities.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

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    The freakonomics of McDonalds vs. drugs | Steven Levitt


    Freakonomics author Steven Levitt presents new data on the finances of drug dealing. Contrary to popular myth, he says, being a street-corner crack dealer isnt lucrative: It pays below minimum wage. And your boss can kill you.

    TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers are invited to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes -- including speakers such as Jill Bolte Taylor, Sir Ken Robinson, Hans Rosling, Al Gore and Arthur Benjamin. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, politics and the arts. Watch the Top 10 TEDTalks on, at

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    Think Small to Solve Big Problems | Stephen Dubner


    In this summarized version of Big Think's ( interview with Stephen Dubner, he explains how chipping away at smaller problems that are rolled into Big problems can lead to that Big Problem actually being solved

    See more on Stephen at

    Be sure to check out the full version here

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    Stephen J. Dubner - Dont Pretend to Have the Answer


    Backstage interview with Stephen J. Dubner - New York Times Bestselling Author, Freakonomics & SuperFreakonomics.

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    Data Is Power


    This video by the Data Quality Campaign explains the importance of collecting and using quality data to transform our Nation's education system and improve the achievement of every student.

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    The best stats youve ever seen | Hans Rosling


    With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling uses an amazing new presentation tool, Gapminder, to present data that debunks several myths about world development. Rosling is professor of international health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, and founder of Gapminder, a nonprofit that brings vital global data to life. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA.)

    TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on, at

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    Checkout our Facebook page for TED exclusives

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    Eating Hot Dogs Like a Freak, with Stephen Dubner


    Author and journalist Stephen Dubner explains what we can learn from record-breaking hot dog eater Takeru Kobayashi. Dubner is the co-author of Think Like a Freak (

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    Transcript - Whenever somebody does something so much better than everybody else whether it's a competitive thing or otherwise, it's natural to ask well what do they do that's so different? So we tell the story of Takeru Kobayashi who you may recognize his name as the best, maybe slightly disputed now but a great hot dog eating champion. When he competed in his first Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Coney Island hot dog eating championship, the world record was 25 and one-eighth hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.

    And his first competition -- and guys have been competing for many -- 40 years or so. So, you know, it wasn't an overnight thing. And his first contest eating hot dogs he didn't just win and he didn't just set a new world record but he doubled the old record -- 50 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. So naturally you would ask how could he be so, so, so much better? Was he an anatomical freak or was there something in his methodology and his approach and in his strategy and so on. That's what we set out to find out. We spent a lot of time talking to him about his approach. And it turns out what he did was he looked at the way all the past competitors were doing it which is basically you have a pile of hot dogs and you pick one up two hands, eat it and then fast as you can, dah, dah, dah, slub down some water, swallow and then keep going as fast as you can.

    He looked at it and he thought is that really the right way to solve that problem or to attack that challenge. And he thought maybe but not necessarily. And so he decided to kind of break it down and try to experiment from top to bottom and in Think Like a Freak we write a lot about the need for experimentation. Experimentation can give great feedback, great answers. A lot of people are scared of experimentation because they think you have to be scientists or they're also scared of it because it means that you have to admit that you don't know the answer. A lot of people like to assume they know the solution to a problem when they don't. But experimentation can really, you know, set you up to learn the real answer. So he tried a lot of different things. Not all of them worked, many didn't. He found that if he broke the dog in two pieces before he ate that would help just a little bit at the start because he's first of all doing one move with his hands that he doesn't need his mouth for so he's starting to speed up there.

    Then he found that he liked to separate the dog from the bun. He found that he could eat each faster that way. The dog actually goes down fairly easy because it's dense and salty and slick. The bun is actually airy and kind of hard. That's why they were hard to chew together. So then he found that if he soaked the bun in warm water before eating then squeezed out the excess water then he could make a kind of bun ball, pop that in, that goes down. Now you might think, well wait a minute. Why would you want to take on excess water when you're trying to eat as many hot dogs as you can. It turns out however that there was a benefit to this idea which in addition to making it faster which was that he was now getting liquid down his system without having to stop after eating each hot dog and drink. So he's constantly making his process more efficient. He's videotaping his training sessions. He's recording all this data and analyzing it in a spreadsheet. He's experimenting with pace. He's experimenting with sleep. He's experimenting with weight training.

    And when it came time to compete for the first time he blows everybody's mind and doubles the world record. So you could say well this is just a nice albeit silly, albeit disgusting story about some guy who did something better than everybody else. And that's fair enough. But we make a couple of conclusions from it. The first is that what he really did that I think can be applied to any kind of problem is he redefined the problem he was trying to solve. So all the other eaters were basically asking themselves this question. How can I eat a lot of hot dogs in 12 minutes, right. That's kind of the natural conventional question. He asked a very different question -- maybe not very different -- subtly different question that led to an entirely different result which was how can I eat one hot dog faster. And by asking a different question he came up with an entirely different set of answers.

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    A Data-Driven Day: An Intro to Looker as a Business User


    In this demo, Daniel Mintz, Chief Data Evangelist at Looker, provides a tour through the Looker data platform and explains how having readily accessible data can make you better at your job.

    With Looker, anybody, no matter how technical, can ask questions of the data, and get correct, meaningful answers. And it lets them do that right in their browser, without having to wait in line.

    With Looker, anyone can:

    - Schedule Email Alerts & Notifications
    - Explore Interactive Dashboards
    - Drill into Granular Detail of a Query

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    Think Small to Solve Big Problems, with Stephen Dubner


    Stephen Dubner talks about the importance of thinking small in order to tackle some of the world's biggest problems piece by piece. Dubner is the co-author of Think Like a Freak (

    Don't miss new Big Think videos!  Subscribe by clicking here:

    Transcript: One argument that we make is that we could all benefit a little bit from thinking more like children, okay. Now you could say well, we're -- first of all everybody's biased in a lot of ways and we have our set of biases too. It may be that we embrace the idea in this book of thinking like children because we're kind of, you know, childlike. We have kind of obvious observations sometimes. There's observations that strike people as obvious. We ask a lot of questions that are not considered, you know, the kind of questions that people ask in good company or smart company. But one of the most powerful pieces of thinking like a child that we argue is thinking small. So I realize that this runs exactly counter to the philosophy of the arena in which I'm appearing which is thinking big, Big Think, but our argument is this. Big problems are by their nature really hard to solve for a variety of reasons. One is they're large and therefore they include a lot of people and therefore they include a lot of crossed and often mangled and perverse incentives.

    But also a big problem -- when you think about a big problem like the education reform. You're dealing with an institution or set of institutions that have gotten to where they've gotten to this many, many years of calcification and also accidents of history. What I mean by that is things have gotten the way they've gotten because of a lot of things a few people did many, many years ago and traditions were carried on. And now to suddenly change that would mean changing the entire stream of the way that this institution has functioned for many years. Therefore, attacking any big problem is bound to be really hard and the danger is you spend a lot of resources -- time, money, manpower, optimism which is perhaps one of our most precious resources attacking a problem that you can't make any headway on. So I mean, you know, history is littered with brilliant people who have attacked large problems in the past half century, century among them famine, among them poverty and most recently I think education reform, a healthy diet and so on. So these are all really big problems.

    So our argument is -- you know what? There's a lot of people out there thinking big. Maybe some of them will be successful. Probably not so many honestly. It's very, very hard. Our argument is -- you know what? Let the people who are gonna try to think big solve big problems -- let them go. There's enough people doing that. Why don't you just try to think small. Why don't you try to find one piece of the problem that you can identify and peel it off and try to solve that problem or answer that question. So there are a lot of reasons why it's better to do that. It's easier to satisfactorily answer a small question or solve a big problem because you can get the data, you can understand the incentives, it's just inherently much less complicated. If you can come up with a solution to a small problem there's a much better chance you'll actually be able to get it done. A lot of people feel like they come up with the answers to big problems but then you need to get all the political and capital will to do it. And that can be much harder than actually solving the problem.

    So if you can peel off a small piece of a problem and then someone else peels off another small piece and you add them up, you're constantly, you know, working toward a better place. So I'll give you an example. If you think about, let's say, education reform. Even that very phrase is kind of weighted or biased toward the supply side, the schools. It's basically saying that oh, all the kids and the families who are sending their kids to school -- they're all doing exactly the right thing. But education needs to be reformed because plainly the schools and teachers and principals, they're the bad people. So that's kind of an assumption already about where the problem should be solved. So you think, you know, people have been talking about the many, many inputs that go into education -- class size, technology in the classroom, resources spent, curricula -- the way the curricula are taught and so on. [TRANSCRIPT TRUNCATED]

    Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

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    RSA ANIMATE: Superfreakonomics


    Are we really as altruistic as we might like to think? In the RSA's new animation series, we put into pictures Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's case for re-evaluating the evidence.

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    This audio has been edited from the original event by Becca Pyne.

    Animation by Cognitive Media. Andrew Park, the mastermind behind the Animate series and everyone's favourite hairy hand, discusses their appeal and success in his blog post, 'Talk to the hand':

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    The beauty of data visualization - David McCandless


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    David McCandless turns complex data sets, like worldwide military spending, media buzz, and Facebook status updates, into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut -- and it may just change the way we see the world.

    Talk by David McCandless.

  • Big Ideas: Why Big Data Matters


    Watch all the Big Ideas videos at
    Big Data is changing how we work and live. Understanding how and why is important to gauge and identify the technological challenges it will impose. In this video, EMC's Patricia Florissi, VP and Global CTO, provides concrete evidence as to how Big Data is transforming our lives and why we need to be able to have Big Data conversations with our customers today.

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    Top 10 car safety technologies


    StarMetro looks at 10 of the car safety systems in the cars manufactured by Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.

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    How to Think Like a Freak: Learn How to Make Smarter Decisions with the authors of Freakonomics


    Filmed at the Royal Geographical Society on 28th May 2014.

    The books 'Freakonomics' and 'SuperFreakonomics' have been worldwide sensations, selling tens of millions of copies. They have come to stand for challenging conventional wisdom using data rather than emotion. Questions they examine are typically: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? How much do parents really matter? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's so ineffective?

    Now the books' two authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, have turned what they've learned into a readable and practical toolkit for thinking smarter, harder, and different -- thinking, that is, like a Freak.

    On 28th May they came to Intelligence Squared to discuss their new Frequel, 'Think Like a Freak'. They offered entertaining and practical insights such as 'Put Your Moral Compass in Your Pocket,' 'If You Have No Talent, Follow Levitt's Path to Success,' and 'The Upside of Quitting,'. By analysing the plans we form and the morals we choose, they showed how their insights can be applied to help us make smarter decisions in our daily lives.

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    Looker + Google: Gaming Analytics


    Erin Franz, Alliances Analyst at Looker, takes us through a demo of how gaming analytics can be visualized and analyzed in the Looker data platform.

    Learn more at

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    Distinguished Alumni Award: Stephen Dubner 84


    Distinguished Alumni Award
    Given annually to Appalachian State University alumni who have attained extraordinary distinction and success in their career field and have demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership in their community.

    Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Appalachian State University offers a challenging academic environment, energetic campus life and breathtaking location. Appalachian combines the best attributes of a small liberal arts college with those of a large research university. Known for its value and affordability, Appalachian enrolls about 17,300 students and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors. Small classes and close interactions between faculty and students create a strong sense of community, which has become an Appalachian hallmark. Appalachian, located in Boone, N.C., is one of 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system.

    This video won an AVA Digital gold award in 2013.

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    Abortions and Crime: Freakonomics Movie


    Levitt takes you through his research on the relationship between dropping crime and the legalization of abortion.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

  • FREAKONOMICS Explains reality of using a Real Estate Agent.


    Expert journalist Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levit shed some light on the truth about Real Estate Agents.

  • Freakonomics Radio - The Economics of Sleep, Part 1


    Could a lack of sleep help explain why some people get much sicker than others?

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    Freakonomics author and journalist.

    Each idea presented by Dubner will be illustrated by a story or example, in the ever-popular counterintuitive Freakonomics style, that will provide you with illuminating thoughts for profitable thinking!

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    Think Like A Freak by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt


    Freakonomics guys are back here at the table. The new book Think Like A Freak offers to retrain your brain you can tackle problems in a fresh fun way. Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt join us once again. Freakonomics is a National best-seller, still very very popular. What is different in this book?

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    Economist Potty Training: Freakonomics Movie


    Levitt's incentive scheme for potty training his daughter Amanda backfires.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

  • Opening Keynote: The Hidden Side of Human Behavior — iProspect 2015 Client Summit


    Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics

    A relationship is defined as the way two or more concepts, objects or people are connected. Our human nature gravitates towards relationships that are incentivized and beneficial. Our customers are attracted to the same qualities in their digital relationships. The New York Times bestselling book Freakonomics exposed the hidden relationship incentives behind just about everything. Now, in Think Like a Freak, Stephen J. Dubner (with Steven D. Levitt) offers a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems and reach people – whether that be in minor lifehacks or major global reform. In this illuminating keynote, Stephen Dubner will inspire us to put aside what we think we know about the digital relationships we share with our customers. We will learn to admit that maybe we don’t know the answers, and maybe we’re asking all the wrong questions. We’ll learn that for better or worse, incentives rule our world. We’ll learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded and that being right or pushy is rarely the answer. Once we retrain our brains to see human relationships and behavior with fresh eyes, perhaps we’ll have a new understanding of our customers and their interest in what we have to offer …an understanding that will “Redefine the Digital Relationship.” Using his trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, Dubner will teach us all to think a bit more productively, creatively and rationally. And along the way, we might learn why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

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    Levitts Crime Research: Freakonomics Movie


    Levitt has studied crime since the 1990s, it was at its peak. But then something happened - crime dropped dramatically. What no one knew was: why?

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

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    Correlation vs. Causality: Freakonomics Movie


    Bad historical assumptions about why things happen - after all, ice cream consumption was blamed for causing polio once upon a time.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

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    Backup camera basics 101 for your car


    In this video we go though the basics of rear camera installation. We show you the 3 type of camera wiring harness you may run into.

    some of the cameras used in this video
    type 3
    black camera no lines

    chrome camera no lines


    Pac Audio BC-UN01

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    Freakonomics Author Explains Why Zappos Pays People to Quit


    Incentives are everything to an economist seeking to solve workplace problems, and not just financial perks like cash bonuses, says Steven Levitt, Co-Author of Think Like A Freak. Social incentives are also valuable to improving performance. Levitt and co-author Stephen Dubner offer tips on creative problem-solving in their latest behavioral finance book. Levitt says the rush in behavioral finance books after Freakonomics is healthy and good for society. Finally, Levitt gives an example of Freakonomics in action by explaining why Zappos' policy of paying people to quit increases employee loyalty.

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    Creative Market + Looker: Driving Curiosity with Data


    At Creative Market, employees of all technical levels are encouraged to ask and answer questions of the data to make the best decisions for the company.

    With the Looker data platform, a centralized view of Creative Market's data allows anyone to quickly ask questions, interact with visualizations, and share findings.

  • Freakonomics Radio - How to Be More Productive


    Freakonomics - How to Be More Productive

    It's Self-Improvement Month at Freakonomics Radio. We begin with a topic that seems to be on

    everyone's mind: how to get more done in less time. First, however, a warning: there's a big

    difference between being busy and being productive.

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    The Grades Experiment: Freakonomics Movie


    At Chicago's Bloom Trail High School, Levitt tests if you can get students to increase their test scores by simply providing them with a financial incentive.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

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    What Really Makes a Good Parent?: The Freakonomics Movie


    It might surprise you what makes a good parent - and it might have nothing to do with what you do, but everything to do with who you are already.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

  • Has the U.S. Presidency Become a Dictatorship?


    Sure, we all pay lip service to the Madisonian system of checks and balances. But as one legal scholar argues, presidents have been running roughshod over the system for decades. The result? An accumulation of power that’s turned the presidency into a position the Founders wouldn’t have recognized.

    Thank You For Listening.

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  • Why Data Matters: Context Reveals Answers


    When can a piece of data provide information that matters? IBM expert Jeff Jonas explains how context involves taking each transaction, deciding where it fits, and analyzing its surroundings in order to draw insight.

    IBMer Jeff Jonas: The word context gets throw around a lot, but when I say, context, its looking at the things around something to better understand the thing. The question is: How can organizations do that in real time, as fast as they learn something? It's at that moment, if the organization wants to be really responsible and really competitive, they're going to say, Now that I learned this, how does it relate to what I know? Now does that matter and if so to who? One of the things that organizations have historically been doing is they take the transactions that happens, the piece of data that just happened in the enterprise, which is like a puzzle piece, its like a pixel, and they try to make a decision about whether it's good or bad by staring at the single puzzle piece. Well, there's a real limit to how smart you can be by staring at individual transactions. Contrast that with this notion of accumulating context. You get the next piece of data that happens in the enterprise, and you look at the puzzle and you look at the rest of the data, and now you figure out where it belongs. Sometimes the puzzle piece maybe connects two chucks of the puzzle that you hadn't anticipated. And it's only after you figure out where the puzzle piece goes and you can see the context, the surrounding things around it. That then is your best opportunity to say, Have I learned something that matters? So if you're in public safety you might be finding something that's a risk to the population. And if you're a bank or insurance company maybe it's helping you really better understand your customer.

  • Freakonomics Chapter 2 Summary


    via YouTube Capture

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    Look & Learn - Development Mode


    Tig Newman, Documentation Manager at Looker, takes us through Developer Mode in Looker and how to make changes to our LookML.

    This mode accesses a completely separate version of your data model that only you can see and edit. Development mode enables you to make and test LookML changes without affecting business users, who as mentioned above, are using production mode.

    Learn more about Developer mode at:

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    Cheating Teachers: Freakonomics Movie


    Levitt's research on teacher cheating using Chicago Public Schools data.

    Clip from the 2010 documentary Freakonomics: The Movie. A dream team of directors explore the hidden side of everything.

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    Data Driven Companies Use Looker


    Data-Driven companies choose Looker as their single source of truth to access the data they need. Hear from companies like Gilt, Bonobos, DigitalOcean, and Avant on how data helps drive better decision making and the wide variety of ways they use data.

    Learn more about how customers are using Looker at

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    Person Place Thing: Stephen Dubner


    Stephen Dubner is best known for writing the Freakonomics books (with coauthor Steve Levitt); they have sold more than 7 million copies in 40 countries. Dubner also hosts the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which gets 6 million downloads a month. Dubner is a regular contributor to ABC News, as well as the host of the Emmy-nominated NFL Network program Football Freakonomics. His journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Time. He lives in New York with his wife and their two children.

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    THINKING LIKE A FREAK | Freakonomics - Steven Levitt | Book review


    Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything is the debut non-fiction book by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt

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    What Drug Dealers Can Learn From Walgreens, with Stephen J. Dubner


    Author Stephen J. Dubner analyzes the economics of drug dealing in the most Freakonomics way possible, comparing the capitalist tendencies of Walgreens with your friendly neighborhood gang of crack dealers. Dubner's latest book is When to Rob a Bank (


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    Transcript - In our first book Freakonomics we wrote about the economics of a crack selling gang in Chicago. And it was really fun and interesting because we have these assumptions that if you sell drugs you become a millionaire. And it turns out that the average criminal drug selling gang is set up kind of like a franchise, kind of like a McDonald’s really. And that if you own ten McDonald’s you do pretty well, you make good money. And if you’re a manager at one you do okay. But if you’re an employee at one, you know, you make very little money. And it turns out that’s the way a drug gang works. That the vast majority of the profits are concentrated at the top. And so we made the argument that, you know, the average crack dealer isn’t, you know, they’re not very well off and the average crack dealer lives at home with mom and often has a second job at a place like McDonald’s. Well if crack dealers could take lessons from their legitimate drug selling counterparts they could do a lot better. So here’s what I mean by that.

    Generic drugs we think – most people seem to think because they’re generic they’re priced the same. That seems to be kind of the way we think it should work. But as it turns out if you look at the pricing data on generic drugs across different companies, retailers, that sell it there are instances where I could go to a Walgreens and buy a bottle of, you know, pills, generic let’s say a statin and it would cost about $110. And the same exact bottle of pills at a different place like a Sam’s Club or a Costco would cost literally about $10 or $15. So a markup of like 1,000 percent for the same product that is sold by two companies that look pretty similar and that are generic moreover. So when you look at this data it’s just shocking. You think how can this possibly be. Not only how can they get away with it. I mean anybody can charge anything they want. Nobody has to buy it but why would people buy it. And it turns out the reason is very simply that most people who get their, buy their prescriptions in a given place, especially a lot of older people who you get more drugs as you – you buy more drugs as you get older and you’re more on a kind of plan. They just kind of make the assumption that a generic pill is going to be priced the same from one to the next. But it turns out there’s massive, massive disparity in that.

    So really, you know, Walgreens is way better at dealing drugs than drug dealers are if the goal is profit maximizing. And I think that even though the people who are just selling at the counter at Walgreens, they are I’m sure not making very much money. You know the shareholders of Walgreens appreciate that a firm like Walgreens is really good at dealing drugs and profit maximizing. So from an economic perspective you have to applaud them. From a fairness perspective you have to decry them. On the other hand that’s what capitalism is about. It’s about, you know, caveat emptor, you are free to shop around. And if someone can take advantage of what’s called information asymmetry, right, people on different sides of a transaction – I know a lot more about this price than you do – they can exploit it. That’s what’s good about the digital revolution is it makes information asymmetry much harder to maintain. So I don’t know if such an app exists but a good one would be a very, very, very, very simple price comparison for generic drugs. And it would presumably off the bat save, you know, elderly Medicare patients billions of dollars within a month. Of course it would cut into the corporate profits of those shareholders but that would work.

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    When to Rob a Bank, with Freakonomics’ Stephen J. Dubner


    No, Stephen J. Dubner doesn't actually endorse bank robbery. What he does endorse is amusing deconstructions of cultural acts or items -- robbing banks, for instance -- and analyzing data to stumble upon intriguing observations. Dubner's latest book is When to Rob a Bank (


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    Transcript - So if your question is when to rob a bank which plainly is our question – that’s what we titled the book, you think about a few things. You think about, you know, time of day, day of week, part of the year and so on. And this grew out of the fact that I’d read about a bank robber in New Jersey who was finally arrested after robbing banks on six Thursdays. And it made me wonder maybe Thursday is the best day to rob a bank. Maybe he knew something about the way the bank operated. Maybe that was his day off, whatever. So I went looking into the bank robbery data itself because that’s kind of what we do is look at data and see what’s interesting and this one was more, you know, we weren’t searching for this before the question arose. And so it turns out that the data are kind of fun to play with. It turns out that bank robberies are most – the most common day is Friday which I guess people, it makes sense because people think it’s payday and there’s a lot of money coming in and going out. But that doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, you’ll be more likely to be successful on Friday. There’s really no big difference in success rates from day of week. But you are much more likely to get more money if you rob a bank in the morning than in the afternoon.

    And yet most bank robbers work in the afternoon and not the morning which leads you to think well either bank robbers aren’t very good at profit maximizing, you know, thinking the way economists do or that maybe they just can’t get up in the morning and go to work bank robbing which means that maybe if they could get up in the morning early in the first place they wouldn’t have to resort to bank robbery. But the real answer to when to rob a bank is never. And never is the right answer because the ROI or the return on investment on bank robbery is terrible. So if you’re going to become a criminal bank robbery is a bad crime. The average haul is about $4,000 in the U.S. per bank robbery. In the UK it’s substantially more so you could consider that. And you’re likely to get arrested after just three bank robberies and sent to prison. So you have to think as a career move bank robbery is really dreadful. And then one other tangent that we got involved with on this and looking into bank robberies is internal, you know, inside jobs. And one of the most interesting ones we came across was a woman in Iowa who for years and years and years had been embezzling money from a bank, about two million dollars’ worth. And the bank was actually owned – the president of the bank was her father interestingly. So I don’t know what the dynamics were there. And the way she was finally caught – and it turns out that she kept two sets of books which is kind of how you want to embezzle. And she was exhausted when she was caught.

    The reason she was exhausted was because she’s worked so hard. She’d never taken a vacation over all those years. And the reason was that she was scared to because if she took a vacation someone would find that she’d been keeping two sets of books and she would have been found out. So what was interesting is she went to prison for a few years. She was let out. She moved back in with her parents who were obviously very forgiving since it was the dad’s bank that she had kind of put into trouble. And then she went to work with law enforcement. And what I love about this is it’s the classic tale of – only someone who knows how to cheat or how to steal or how to lie or rob would know how to help the good guys catch the bad guys from doing it. So she went to work for law enforcement and they found that one of the best metrics to look for in preventing white collar crime generally in embezzlement, particularly it was people who took, who didn’t take vacations or who took really strange vacations. So if in your firm you see that someone is passing up on their vacation time you shouldn’t necessarily think of them as just like a super hard worker or an altruist to your company. You might want to take a look in their drawer and see if they’re keeping a second set of books.

    Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Aaron Lehmann

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