When to Rob a Bank, with Freakonomics’ Stephen J. Dubner
No, Stephen J. Dubner doesn't actually endorse bank robbery. What he does endorse is amusing deconstructions of cultural acts or items — robbing banks, for instance — and analyzing data to stumble upon intriguing observations.
Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He is best-known for writing, along with the economist Steven D. Levitt, Freakonomics (2005) and SuperFreakonomics (2009), which have sold more than 5 million copies in 35 languages. Their latest books are When to Rob a Bank... and Think Like a Freak (2014).
Dubner is also the author of Turbulent Souls/Choosing My Religion (1998), Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper (2003), and the children's book The Boy With Two Belly Buttons (2007). His journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, and elsewhere, and has been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing, The Best American Crime Writing, and others.
Freakonomics, published in April 2005, was an instant international best-seller and cultural phenomenon. It made numerous "books of the year" lists, a few "books of the decade" lists, and won a variety of awards, including the inaugural Quill Award, a BookSense Book of the Year Award, and a Visionary Award from the National Council on Economic Education. It was also named a Notable Book by the New York Times. SuperFreakonomics, published in 2009, was published to similar acclaim, and also became an international best-seller.
The Freakonomics enterprise also includes an award-winning blog, a high-profile documentary film, and a public-radio project called Freakonomics Radio, which Dubner hosts. He has also appeared widely on television, including a three-year stint on ABC News as a Freakonomics contributor. He also appeared on the reality show Beauty and the Geek. Alas, he played neither beauty nor geek.
Dubner's first book, Turbulent Souls, was also named a Notable Book, and was a finalist for the Koret National Jewish Book Award. It was republished in 2006 under a new title, Choosing My Religion, and is currently being developed as a film.
The eighth and last child of an upstate New York newspaperman, Dubner has been writing since he was a child. (His first published work appeared in Highlights magazine.) As an undergraduate at Appalachian State University, he started a rock band that was signed to Arista Records, which landed him in New York City. He ultimately quit playing music to earn an M.F.A. in writing at Columbia University, where he also taught in the English Department. He was an editor and writer at New York magazine and The New York Times before quitting to write books. He is happy he did so.
He lives in New York with his wife, the documentary photographer Ellen Binder, and their two delicious children.
Stephen J. Dubner: So if your question is when to rob a bank, which plainly is our question — that’s what we titled the book, you think about a few things. You think about, you know, time of day, day of week, part of the year, and so on. And this grew out of the fact that I’d read about a bank robber in New Jersey who was finally arrested after robbing banks on six Thursdays. And it made me wonder maybe Thursday is the best day to rob a bank. Maybe he knew something about the way the bank operated. Maybe that was his day off, whatever. So I went looking into the bank robbery data itself because that’s kind of what we do is look at data and see what’s interesting and this one was more, you know, we weren’t searching for this before the question arose. And so it turns out that the data are kind of fun to play with. It turns out that bank robberies are most — the most common day is Friday, which I guess people, it makes sense because people think it’s payday and there’s a lot of money coming in and going out. But that doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, you’ll be more likely to be successful on Friday. There’s really no big difference in success rates from day of week. But you are much more likely to get more money if you rob a bank in the morning than in the afternoon.
And yet most bank robbers work in the afternoon and not the morning, which leads you to think well either bank robbers aren’t very good at profit maximizing, you know, thinking the way economists do or that maybe they just can’t get up in the morning and go to work bank robbing, which means that maybe if they could get up in the morning early in the first place they wouldn’t have to resort to bank robbery. But the real answer to when to rob a bank is never. And never is the right answer because the ROI or the return on investment on bank robbery is terrible. So if you’re going to become a criminal, bank robbery is a bad crime. The average haul is about $4,000 in the U.S. per bank robbery. In the UK, it’s substantially more, so you could consider that. And you’re likely to get arrested after just three bank robberies and sent to prison. So you have to think as a career move, bank robbery is really dreadful. And then one other tangent that we got involved with on this and looking into bank robberies is internal, you know, inside jobs. And one of the most interesting ones we came across was a woman in Iowa who for years and years and years had been embezzling money from a bank, about $2 million worth. And the bank was actually owned — the president of the bank was her father, interestingly. So I don’t know what the dynamics were there. And the way she was finally caught — and it turns out that she kept two sets of books, which is kind of how you want to embezzle. And she was exhausted when she was caught.
The reason she was exhausted was because she’s worked so hard. She’d never taken a vacation over all those years. And the reason was that she was scared to because if she took a vacation, someone would find that she’d been keeping two sets of books and she would have been found out. So what was interesting is she went to prison for a few years. She was let out. She moved back in with her parents who were obviously very forgiving since it was the dad’s bank that she had kind of put into trouble. And then she went to work with law enforcement. And what I love about this is it’s the classic tale of — only someone who knows how to cheat or how to steal or how to lie or rob would know how to help the good guys catch the bad guys from doing it. So she went to work for law enforcement and they found that one of the best metrics to look for in preventing white collar crime generally in embezzlement, particularly it was people who took, who didn’t take vacations or who took really strange vacations. So if in your firm you see that someone is passing up on their vacation time, you shouldn’t necessarily think of them as just like a super-hard worker or an altruist to your company. You might want to take a look in their drawer and see if they’re keeping a second set of books.
No, Stephen J. Dubner doesn't actually endorse bank robbery. What he does endorse is amusing deconstructions of cultural acts or items — robbing banks, for instance — and analyzing data to stumble upon intriguing observations. Such is the perspective he shares with Freakonomics co-author Steven D. Levitt in their new book, When to Rob a Bank... In this video, Dubner wittily reveals how bank robbers can maximize their return on investment (spoiler alert: by not robbing banks) and how one bank robber's experience helped police learn to better pinpoint embezzlers.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
43% of people think they can get a sense of someone's personality by their picture.
If you've used a dating app, you'll know the importance of choosing good profile pics.
The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
Quarantine rule breakers in 17th-century Italy partied all night – and some clergy condemned the feasting
17th-century outbreaks of plague in Italy reveal both tensions between religious and public health authorities.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts between religious freedom and public health regulations have been playing out in courts around the world.