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

Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt tracks down other high achievers for surprising, revealing conversations about their lives and obsessions. Join Levitt as he... more

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Episodes

125. Is Gynecology the Best Innovation Ever?

Cat Bohannon’s new book puts female anatomy at the center of human evolution. She tells Steve why it takes us... more

17 Feb 2024 · 48 minutes
124. Daron Acemoglu on Economics, Politics, and Power

Economist Daron Acemoglu likes to tackle big questions. He tells Steve how colonialism still affects us today, who benefits from... more

03 Feb 2024 · 44 minutes
123. Walt Hickey Wants to Track Your Eyeballs

Journalist Walt Hickey uses data to understand how culture works. He and Steve talk about why China hasn’t produced any... more

20 Jan 2024 · 50 minutes
122. Arnold Schwarzenegger Has Some Advice for You

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a bodybuilder, an actor, a governor, and, now, an author. He tells Steve how he’s managed... more

06 Jan 2024 · 39 minutes
121. Exploring Physics, from Eggshells to Oceans

Physicist Helen Czerski loves to explain how the world works. She talks with Steve about studying bubbles, setting off explosives,... more

23 Dec 2023 · 45 minutes
120. Werner Herzog Thinks His Films Are a Distraction

The filmmaker doesn’t want to be known only for his movies. He tells Steve why he considers himself a writer... more

09 Dec 2023 · 50 minutes
119. Higher Education Is Broken. Can It Be Fixed?

Economist Michael D. Smith says universities are scrambling to protect a status quo that deserves to die. He tells Steve... more

25 Nov 2023 · 47 minutes
118. “My God, This Is a Transformative Power”

Computer scientist Fei-Fei Li had a wild idea: download one billion images from the internet and teach a computer to... more

11 Nov 2023 · 43 minutes
117. Nate Silver Says We're Bad at Making Predictions

Data scientist Nate Silver gained attention for his election predictions. But even the best prognosticators get it wrong sometimes. He... more

28 Oct 2023 · 42 minutes
116. Abraham Verghese Thinks Medicine Can Do Better

Abraham Verghese is a physician and a best-selling author — in that order, he says. He explains the difference between... more

14 Oct 2023 · 48 minutes
BONUS: Nobel Laureate Claudia Goldin on "Greedy Work" and the Wage Gap

Claudia Goldin is the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Steve spoke to her in 2021 about how... more

09 Oct 2023 · 43 minutes
115. The Future of Therapy Is Psychedelic

For 37 years, Rick Doblin has been pushing the F.D.A. to approve treating post-traumatic stress disorder with MDMA, better known... more

30 Sep 2023 · 53 minutes
114. Is Perfectionism Ruining Your Life?

Psychologist Thomas Curran argues that perfectionism isn’t about high standards — it’s about never being enough. He explains how the... more

16 Sep 2023 · 58 minutes
113. Do We Have Evidence of Alien Life?

Avi Loeb is a Harvard astronomer who argues that we’ve already encountered extraterrestrial technology. His approach to the search for... more

02 Sep 2023 · 49 minutes
112. Reading Dostoevsky Behind Bars

Reginald Dwayne Betts spent more than eight years in prison. Today he's a Yale Law graduate, a MacArthur Fellow, and... more

19 Aug 2023 · 53 minutes
111. Can a Moonshot Approach to Mental Health Work?

Obi Felten used to launch projects for X, Google’s innovation lab, but she’s now tackling mental health. She explains why... more

05 Aug 2023 · 56 minutes
110. Drawing from Life (and Death)

Artist Wendy MacNaughton knows the difficulty of sitting in silence and the power of having fun. She explains to Steve... more

22 Jul 2023 · 1 hour, 1 minute
Extra: An Update on the Khan World School

Sal Khan returns to discuss his innovative online high school’s first year — and Steve grills a member of the... more

15 Jul 2023 · 24 minutes
109. David Simon Is On Strike. Here’s Why.

The creator of "The Wire", "The Deuce", and other shows is leading the Writers Guild on the picket lines. He... more

08 Jul 2023 · 58 minutes
The Economics of Everyday Things: T. rex Skeletons

In the newest show from the Freakonomics Radio Network, host Zachary Crockett explores the hidden side of the things around... more

01 Jul 2023 · 18 minutes
108. Ninety-Eight Years of Economic Wisdom

Robert Solow is 98 years old and a giant among economists. He tells Steve about cracking German codes in World... more

24 Jun 2023 · 54 minutes
107. Bringing Data to Life

Talithia Williams thinks you should rigorously track your body's data. She and Steve Levitt trade birth stories and bemoan the... more

10 Jun 2023 · 58 minutes
106. Will A.I. Make Us Smarter?

Kevin Kelly believes A.I. will create more problems for humanity — and help us solve them. He talks to Steve... more

27 May 2023 · 56 minutes
105. Can Data Keep People Out of Prison?

Clementine Jacoby went from performing in a circus to founding a nonprofit that works to shrink the prison population.

13 May 2023 · 51 minutes
104. The Joy of Math With Sarah Hart

Steve is on a mission to reform math education, and Sarah Hart is ready to join the cause. In her... more

29 Apr 2023 · 53 minutes
103. Rick Rubin on How to Make Something Great

From recording some of the first rap hits to revitalizing Johnny Cash's career, the legendary producer has had an extraordinary... more

15 Apr 2023 · 57 minutes
102. Adding Ten Healthy Years to Your Life

Physician Peter Attia returns to the show to talk about the science of longevity — which focuses not only on... more

01 Apr 2023 · 56 minutes
101. Celebrating 100 People I (Mostly) Admire

Steve and producer Morgan Levey look back at the first 100 episodes of the podcast, including surprising answers, spectacular explanations,... more

18 Mar 2023 · 49 minutes
100. Chicago’s Renegade Sheriff Wants to Fix Law Enforcement

Tom Dart is transforming Cook County’s jail, reforming evictions, and, with Steve Levitt, trying a new approach to electronic monitoring.

04 Mar 2023 · 1 hour, 3 minutes
99. Greg Norman Takes On the P.G.A. Tour

Since his last visit to "People I (Mostly) Admire," the formerly top-ranked golfer has become the sport's most controversial figure.... more

18 Feb 2023 · 48 minutes
98. Searching for Our Aquatic Ancestors

Neil Shubin hunts for fossils in the Arctic and experiments with D.N.A. in the lab, hoping to find out how... more

04 Feb 2023 · 57 minutes
97. How Smart Is a Forest?

Ecologist Suzanne Simard studies the relationships between trees in a forest: they talk to each other, punish each other, and... more

21 Jan 2023 · 58 minutes
96. Steven Strogatz Thinks You Don’t Know What Math Is

The mathematician and author sees mathematical patterns everywhere — from DNA to fireflies to social connections.

07 Jan 2023 · 58 minutes
95. The One Thing Stephen Dubner Hasn’t Quit

When "Freakonomics" co-authors Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner first met, one of them hated the other. Two decades later, Levitt... more

24 Dec 2022 · 1 hour, 7 minutes
94. The Price of Doing Business with John List

From baseball card conventions to Walmart, John List has always used field experiments to say revolutionary things about economics. He... more

10 Dec 2022 · 1 hour, 6 minutes
93. Annie Duke Thinks You Should Quit

Former professional poker player Annie Duke has a new book on Steve’s favorite subject: quitting. They talk about why quitting... more

26 Nov 2022 · 55 minutes
92. John Green’s Reluctant Rocket Ship Ride

Author and YouTuber John Green thought his breakout bestseller wouldn’t be a commercial success, wrote 40,000 words for one sentence,... more

12 Nov 2022 · 1 hour, 8 minutes
91. Jane Goodall Changed the Way We See Animals. She’s Not Done.

The ethologist and conservationist discusses the thrill of observing chimpanzees in the wild, the value of challenging orthodoxy, and why... more

29 Oct 2022 · 58 minutes
90. Peter Singer Isn’t a Saint, But He’s Better Than Steve Levitt

The philosopher known for his rigorous ethics explains why Steve is leading a morally inconsistent life.

15 Oct 2022 · 58 minutes
Extra: A Rockstar Chemist Wins the Nobel Prize

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

08 Oct 2022 · 51 minutes
89. A Cross Between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones

Heeding the warnings of public health officer Charity Dean about Covid-19 could have saved lives. Charity explains why she loves... more

01 Oct 2022 · 53 minutes
88. Ken Burns on Heroism, Horror, and History

The documentary filmmaker, known for "The Civil War," "Jazz," and "Baseball," turns his attention to the Holocaust, and asks what... more

17 Sep 2022 · 49 minutes
87. How Much Are the Right Friends Worth?

Harvard economist Raj Chetty uses tax data to study inequality, kid success, and social mobility. He explains why you should... more

03 Sep 2022 · 53 minutes
86. A Million-Year View on Morality

Philosopher Will MacAskill thinks about how to do as much good as possible. But that's really hard, especially when you're... more

20 Aug 2022 · 52 minutes
85. What It Takes to Know Everything

Victoria Groce is one of the best trivia contestants on earth. She explains the structure of a good question, why... more

06 Aug 2022 · 43 minutes
84. Yuval Noah Harari Thinks Life Is Meaningless and Amazing

The author of "Sapiens" has a knack for finding the profound in the obvious. He tells Steve why money is... more

23 Jul 2022 · 53 minutes
83. “There's So Many Problems — Which Ones Can I Make a Difference On?”

When she's not rescuing chickens from coyotes, Susan Athey uses economics to address real-world challenges — from online ad auctions... more

09 Jul 2022 · 50 minutes
82. Is This the Future of High School?

Khan Academy founder Sal Khan returns to share his vision for a new way to learn — and the conversation... more

02 Jul 2022 · 44 minutes
81. Why Bother Searching for Aliens?

Astronomer Jill Tarter spent her career searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. She explains what civilizations from other planets could teach us... more

25 Jun 2022 · 47 minutes
80. Get Your Share of the Pie

Game theorist Barry Nalebuff explains how he used basic economics to build Honest Tea into a multimillion-dollar business, and shares... more

18 Jun 2022 · 50 minutes
79. Solar Geoengineering Would Be Radical. It Might Also Be Necessary.

David Keith has spent his career studying ways to reflect sunlight away from the earth. It could reduce the risks... more

11 Jun 2022 · 55 minutes
78. Giving It Away

Billionaire John Arnold is figuring out how to do as much good as he can with his wealth. It takes... more

04 Jun 2022 · 51 minutes
77. Can Games Prepare Us for Catastrophes? (Part 2)

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?

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
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