Thursday, January 12, 2012

SUPERFREAKNOMICS by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Levitt and Dubner are back with more social behavior phenomena in this follow-up to Freakonomics.  Once again we have a fascinating mishmash of topics.  One segment delves into the topic of how to identify a terrorist before he strikes by examining the money trail of some known terrorists before they were apprehended.  Another describes several of the many projects and patents being pursued by a group of scientists that formed the company Intellectual Ventures.  Their various solutions to global warming involve atmospheric tinkering, but the authors raise the question as to why this is considered so repugnant, given that we obviously have no qualms about depleting natural resources.  If we can take away, why can't we give back?  The authors keep coming back to the treatise that the simplest solution is often the best, citing the huge safety impact of seat belts in automobiles and the marginal, at best, impact of car seats for children over the age of two.  My favorite is the segment that debunks Adam Smith's centuries-old claim that animals cannot be made to understand the concept of exchanging goods for the benefit of both parties.  This experiment with the use of money by monkeys is fascinating.  The adage that prostitution is the oldest profession rings true.

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