Thursday, March 6, 2008


During my recent travel I invited my copy of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by By Steven D. Levitt, and Stephen J. Dubner and found myself through the 240 or so pages in no time.

Freakonomics is the work of an economist who shed the typical trappings of his calling and applied his mathematical prowess and abounding curiosity to tease hidden meaning from terabytes of otherwise incorrigible data.

His practical guidance on the differences between correlation and causality arms the reader with tools of discernment and a healthy skepticism. Both of which can be applied in the critical analysis of the "facts" fed to us by the media, government and politicians.

A sample of some of the application of the authors’ economic tools elsewhere applied include:

Which children's names come from the most and least educated parents?

What really caused the precipitous drop in crime in New York City and the entire US in the 1990's? Does the end justify the means? (you will have to read the book to find out)

How did the Chicago Public School System use algorithms to catch cheating teachers?

Why do crack dealers still live with their moms?

What does the Ku Klux Klan have in common with your real estate agent?

Each chapter's analysis includes a back story or two, the rich and personal telling of which belies the fact that it is penned by a mathematician. No offense.

Freakonomics is for anyone that seeks a better understanding of statistics and the hidden motivations and stories that can (or shouldn't) be gleaned from them.

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