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People I (Mostly) Admire
People I (Mostly) Admire
Freakonomics Radio + Stitcher

Steve Levitt, the iconoclastic University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series, tracks down other high achievers and asks... more

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Episodes

77. Can Games Prepare Us for Catastrophes?

Many of us hate to think about future crises. Game designer Jane McGonigal wants to make it fun.

28 May 2022 · 34 minutes
76. Is Gaming Good for You? (Part 2)

Jane McGonigal designed a game to help herself recover from a traumatic brain injury — and she thinks playing games... more

21 May 2022 · 41 minutes
75. Self-Help for Data Nerds

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz combs through mountains of information to find advice for everyday life.

14 May 2022 · 52 minutes
74. Getting Our Hands Dirty

Soil scientist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe could soon hold one of the most important jobs in science. She explains why the... more

07 May 2022 · 52 minutes
73. Turning Work into Play

How psychologist Dan Gilbert went from high school dropout to Harvard professor, found the secret of joy, and inspired Steve... more

30 Apr 2022 · 51 minutes
72. “Leaving Black People in the Lurch”

Linguist and social commentator John McWhorter explains how good intentions may be hurting Black America — and where the word... more

23 Apr 2022 · 47 minutes
71. Bombs Away

Beatrice Fihn wants to rid the world of nuclear weapons. As Russian aggression raises the prospect of global conflict, can... more

16 Apr 2022 · 46 minutes
70. You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Experiment

Nobel Prize winner Joshua Angrist explains how the draft lottery, the Talmud, and West Point let economists ask — and... more

09 Apr 2022 · 35 minutes
69. Does Death Have to Be a Death Sentence?

Palliative physician B.J. Miller asks: Is there a better way to think about dying? And can death be beautiful?

02 Apr 2022 · 45 minutes
68. “No One Can Resist a Jolly, Happy Pig.”

Naturalist Sy Montgomery explains how she learned to be social from a pig, discovered octopuses have souls, and came to... more

26 Mar 2022 · 46 minutes
67. We Can Play God Now

Gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna worries that humanity might not be ready for the technology she helped develop.

19 Mar 2022 · 41 minutes
66. The Professor Who Said “No” to Tenure

Columbia astrophysicist David Helfand is an academic who does things his own way — from turning down job security to... more

12 Mar 2022 · 47 minutes
65. A Rockstar Chemist and Her Cancer-Attacking “Lawn Mower”

Stanford professor Carolyn Bertozzi’s imaginative ideas for treating disease have led to ten start-ups. She talks with Steve about the... more

05 Mar 2022 · 50 minutes
64. How Larry Miller Went from Prison Valedictorian to Nike Executive

Climbing the corporate ladder to become head of Nike’s Jordan brand, he kept his teenage murder conviction a secret from... more

26 Feb 2022 · 37 minutes
63. The Only Covid-19 Book Worth Reading

Steve loved Michael Lewis’s latest, The Premonition, but has one critique: Why aren’t there even more villains? Also, why the... more

19 Feb 2022 · 50 minutes
62. How Does Historian Brad Gregory Make a Boring Topic So Mind-Blowing?

A leading expert on the Reformation era, Brad, a University of Notre Dame professor, tells Steve about how the “blood... more

12 Feb 2022 · 44 minutes
61. Was Austan Goolsbee’s First Visit to the Oval Office Almost His Last?

The former chairman of the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisors tells Steve how improv comedy was a better training... more

05 Feb 2022 · 52 minutes
60. Cassandra Quave Thinks the Way Antibiotics Are Developed Might Kill Us

By mid-century, 10 million people a year are projected to die from untreatable infections. Can Cassandra, an ethnobotanist at Emory... more

29 Jan 2022 · 49 minutes
Why Aren’t All Drugs Legal? (Replay Ep. 28)

The Columbia neuroscientist and psychology professor Carl Hart believes that recreational drug use, even heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine, is an... more

22 Jan 2022 · 43 minutes
Are We Under Threat from a New Kind of Terror? (Replay Ep. 24)

Amaryllis Fox is a former C.I.A. operative and host of the Netflix show The Business of Drugs. She explains why... more

15 Jan 2022 · 49 minutes
59. Who Gives the Worst Advice?

Steve usually asks his guests for advice, whether they’re magicians or Nobel laureates. After nearly 60 episodes, is any of... more

08 Jan 2022 · 43 minutes
58. Why Is Richard Thaler Such a ****ing Optimist?

The Nobel laureate and pioneering behavioral economist spars with Steve over what makes a nudge a nudge, and admits that... more

01 Jan 2022 · 46 minutes
57. What Makes John Doerr Think He Can Save the Planet?

The legendary venture capitalist believes the same intuition that led him to bet early on Google can help us reach... more

25 Dec 2021 · 51 minutes
56. Claudia Goldin: What’s “Greedy Work” and Why Is It a Problem?

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin and Steve talk about how inflexible jobs and family responsibilities make it harder for women to... more

18 Dec 2021 · 48 minutes
55. Jared Diamond on the Downfall of Civilizations — and His Optimism for Ours

He’s the award-winning author of hugely popular books like Guns, Germs, and Steel; Collapse; and Upheaval. But Jared actually started... more

11 Dec 2021 · 47 minutes
54. Andrew Yang Is Not Giving Up on Politics — or the U.S. — Yet

He’s tried to shake up the status quo — as a Democratic presidential candidate, a New York City mayoral candidate,... more

04 Dec 2021 · 53 minutes
53. The Simple Economics of Saving the Amazon Rainforest

Everyone agrees that massive deforestation is an environmental disaster. But most of the standard solutions — scolding the Brazilians, invoking... more

27 Nov 2021 · 32 minutes
52. Max Tegmark on Why Superhuman Artificial Intelligence Won’t be Our Slave (Part 2)

He’s an M.I.T. cosmologist, physicist, and machine-learning expert, and once upon a time, almost an economist. Max and Steve continue... more

20 Nov 2021 · 30 minutes
51. Max Tegmark on Why Treating Humanity Like a Child Will Save Us All

How likely is it that this conversation is happening in more than one universe? Should we worry more about Covid... more

13 Nov 2021 · 45 minutes
50. Edward Miguel on Collecting Economic Data by Canoe and Correlating Conflict with Rainfall

He’s a pioneer of using randomized control experiments in economics — studying the long-term benefits of a $1 health intervention... more

06 Nov 2021 · 52 minutes
49. Mathematician Sarah Hart on Why Numbers are Music to Our Ears

Playing notes on her piano, she demonstrates for Steve why whole numbers sound pleasing, why octaves are mathematically imperfect, and... more

30 Oct 2021 · 46 minutes
48. Marc Davis Can’t Stop Watching Basketball — But He Doesn’t Care Who Wins

His childhood dream of playing in the N.B.A. led him to a career as a referee. Marc is one of... more

23 Oct 2021 · 47 minutes
Ken Jennings on How a Midlife Crisis Led Him to Jeopardy! (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 4 Replay)

It was only in his late twenties that America’s favorite brainiac began to seriously embrace his love of trivia. Jeopardy!’s... more

16 Oct 2021 · 47 minutes
Mayim Bialik on the Surprising Risks of Academia and Stability of Show Biz (People I (Mostly) Admire, Ep. 2 Replay)

This new Jeopardy! host is best known for playing neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, but she... more

09 Oct 2021 · 49 minutes
47. Robert Axelrod on Why Being Nice, Forgiving, and Provokable are the Best Strategies for Life

The prisoner’s dilemma is a classic game-theory problem. Robert, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, has spent his... more

02 Oct 2021 · 44 minutes
46. Amanda & Lily Levitt Share What It’s Like to be Steve’s Daughters

Steve shows a different side of himself in very personal interviews with his two oldest daughters. Amanda talks about growing... more

25 Sep 2021 · 47 minutes
45. Leidy Klotz on Why the Best Solutions Involve Less — Not More

When we try to improve things, our first thought is often: What can we add to make this better? But... more

18 Sep 2021 · 40 minutes
44. Edward Glaeser Explains Why Some Cities Thrive While Others Fade Away

An expert on urban economics and co-author of the new book Survival of the City, Ed says cities have faced... more

11 Sep 2021 · 46 minutes
43. Arne Duncan Says All Kids Deserve a Chance — and Criminals Deserve a Second One

Former U.S. Secretary of Education, 3x3 basketball champion, and leader of an anti-gun violence organization are all on Arne’s resume.... more

04 Sep 2021 · 46 minutes
42. America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up

A special episode: Steve reports on a passion of his. Most high-school math classes are still preparing students for the... more

28 Aug 2021 · 43 minutes
41. Dr. Bapu Jena on Why Freakonomics Is the Best Medicine

He’s a Harvard physician and economist who just started a third job: host of the new podcast Freakonomics, M.D. He’s... more

21 Aug 2021 · 41 minutes
40. Harold Pollack on Why Managing Your Money Is as Easy as Taking Out the Garbage

He argues that personal finance is so simple all you need to know can fit on an index card. How... more

14 Aug 2021 · 46 minutes
39. Aicha Evans Wants You to Take Your Eyes Off the Road

She’s the C.E.O. of Zoox, an autonomous vehicle company. Steve asks Aicha about the big promises the A.V. industry hasn’t... more

07 Aug 2021 · 49 minutes
38. Sendhil Mullainathan Explains How to Generate an Idea a Minute (Part 2)

Steve continues his conversation with his good friend, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and fellow University of Chicago economist. Sendhil breaks... more

31 Jul 2021 · 37 minutes
37. Sendhil Mullainathan Thinks Messing Around Is the Best Use of Your Time

He’s a professor of computation and behavioral science at the University of Chicago, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and author. Steve... more

24 Jul 2021 · 52 minutes
36. How Rahm Emanuel Would Run the World

In this interview, first heard on Freakonomics Radio last year, Steve talks with the former top adviser to presidents Clinton... more

17 Jul 2021 · 42 minutes
35. David Epstein Knows Something About Almost Everything

He’s been an Arctic scientist, a sports journalist, and is now a best-selling author of science books. His latest, Range:... more

10 Jul 2021 · 50 minutes
34. Maya Shankar Is Changing People’s Behavior — and Her Own

She used to run a behavioral unit in the Obama administration, and now has a similar role at Google. Maya... more

03 Jul 2021 · 45 minutes
33. Travis Tygart Is Coming for Cheaters — Just Ask Lance Armstrong

He’s the C.E.O. of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which, under his charge, exposed the most celebrated American cyclist... more

26 Jun 2021 · 45 minutes
32. Angela Duckworth Explains How to Manage Your Goal Hierarchy

She’s the author of the bestselling book Grit, and a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychology — a field Steve... more

19 Jun 2021 · 51 minutes
People I (Mostly) Admire
37. Sendhil Mullainathan Thinks Messing Around Is the Best Use of Your Time
People I (Mostly) Admire
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Description

He’s a professor of computation and behavioral science at the University of Chicago, MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, and author. Steve and Sendhil... more