11. SuperFreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner

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11. SuperFreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner

Post  wmeisel on Tue Jun 01, 2010 3:45 pm

I had mixed feelings about this one. From what I have read online, the chapter on Global Warming is riddled with errors; I decided to just skip that chapter. (A better person than me would have read the chapter anyway, keeping in mind that it might not be accurate, but so much nonsense is written about Global Warming that I just didn't have the patience.) So, my review covers the rest of the book.

I don't think this one is as good as the first one, and I am not exactly sure why. It might be the fact that there are now a whole bunch of competing pop-economics books out there, which was not true when the first book came out. On the other hand, this book is organized a bit more cleanly, with slightly more flow.

And there are still bunches of interesting facts here: Most interesting is the section of Kitty Genovese, who, as the story goes, was murdered in New York in the 70s while her neighbors watched and did nothing. It turns out that's not exactly true: the murder happened in the middle of the night, it seems fewer people saw it than is usually reported, and several of them DID call the police. Since this story seems to be one of the sources of the "New York Is Very Dangerous" meme, this was really interesting.

Another section compares the effectiveness of car seats versus plain old seat belts in protecting children over age 2. It turns out there is little difference between them; in fact, in some crashes, the seat belts seem to perform slightly better. The summary of the data set is also provided, so I can steal it and use it as a problem in my Statistics class, so that's nice too.

Another interesting section covers a pseudonymous English gentleman, who thinks he can narrow down who might be a terrorist based on their bank records -- details about when they deposit checks, how often they use the account, etc. Another section discussed a method to possibly prevent Tornados -- it was interesting enough that I wrote down the name of the procedure to read some more about it later.

So, I clearly enjoyed this one even if I didn't think it was as mind-blowing as the first one. And if you read it, be sure and tell me what you thought about the chapter I skipped.

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