More or Less: Behind the Stats

More or Less: Behind the Stats

By BBC Radio 4

Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4


Federer’s 54%: Tennis stats explained

How can tennis star Roger Federer have won only 54% of the points he played, but been the best player in the world? Jeff Sackmann, the tennis stats brain behind, explains to Tim Harford how probability works in the sport.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: Nigel Appleton Editor: Richard Vadon
13/07/248m 59s

The magic of trigonometry

You might have found it boring in school maths classes, but Matt Parker thinks we should all learn to love trigonometry. The ‘Love Triangle’ author talks to Tim Harford about the maths used in GPS, architecture and special effects. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Series Producer: Tom Colls Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: Nigel Appleton Editor: Richard Vadon
06/07/249m 35s

Election endings, tennis and meeting men in finance

Are Labour right about employment? Are the Conservatives right about cutting NHS managers? Are the Lib Dems right about share buyback? Are Reform UK right about their tax plans? How do they make the exit poll so accurate? What are the odds of meeting a very tall man in finance (with a trust fund)? What does it mean that Roger Federer only won 54% of the points he played? Tim Harford investigates some of the numbers in the news. Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Kate Lamble Producers: Nathan Gower, Beth Ashmead Latham and Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Rod Farquhar Editor: Richard Vadon
03/07/2437m 24s

How a tick box doubled the US maternal mortality rates.

he US has been portrayed as in the grip of a maternal mortality crisis. In contrast to most other developed nations, the rate of maternal deaths in the US has been going up since the early 2000s. But why? With the help of Saloni Dattani, a researcher at Our World in Data, Tim Harford explores how a gradual change in the way the data was gathered lies at the heart of the problem. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Emma Harth Editor: Richard Vadon
29/06/249m 3s

Election claims and erection claims

Are Labour right about the Liz Truss effect on mortgages? Are the Conservatives right about pensioners? Are Plaid Cymru right about spending? Are the Lib Dems right about care funding? Is Count Binface right about croissants?Why are MRP polls coming up with such different numbers?Do erections require a litre of blood?Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Kate Lamble Producers: Simon Tulett, Nathan Gower, Beth Ashmead Latham and Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Rod Farquhar Editor: Richard Vadon
26/06/2428m 29s

Do ‘pig butchering’ cyber scams make as much as half Cambodia’s GDP?

So-called “pig butchering” scams take billions of dollars from people around the globe. But do the cyber scams run from compounds in Cambodia really take an amount of money equivalent to half that country’s GDP? We investigate how the scale of these criminal operations has been calculated. Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Andrew Garratt Editor: Richard Vadon
22/06/249m 31s

Worse mortgages, better readers, and potholes on the moon

Will Conservative policies raise mortgages by £4800, as Labour claim? Are primary school kids in England the best readers in the (western) world, as the Conservatives claim? Are there more potholes in the UK than craters on the moon? Tim Harford investigates some of the numbers in the news. Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Kate Lamble Producers: Nathan Gower, Simon Tullet Beth Ashmead-Latham and Debbie Richford Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
19/06/2431m 52s

Shakespeare’s maths

AWilliam Shakespeare might well rank as the most influential writer in the English language. But it seems he also had a knack for numbers. Rob Eastaway, author of Much Ado about Numbers, tells Tim Harford about the simple maths that brings Shakespeare’s work to life. Presenter: Tim Harford Readings: Stella Harford and Jordan Dunbar Producer: Beth Ashmead-Latham Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
15/06/249m 53s

Leaflets, taxes, oil workers and classrooms

What’s going on with the dodgy bar charts that political parties put on constituency campaign leaflets?What’s the truth about tax promises?Are 100,000 oil workers going to lose their jobs in Scotland?Will class sizes increase in state schools if private schools increase their fees?Tim Harford investigates some of the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Kate Lamble Producers: Nathan Gower, Beth Ashmead-Latham, Debbie Richford Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon
12/06/2428m 31s

Why medical error is not the third leading cause of death in the US

The claim that medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US has been zooming around the internet for years. This would mean that only heart disease and cancer killed more people than the very people trying to treat these diseases. But there are good reasons to be suspicious about the claim.Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, director of The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute, or THIS Institute, at Cambridge University, explains what’s going on.Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Nigel Appleton Editor: Richard Vadon
08/06/249m 13s

Debate, Reform, tax evasion and ants

Were there any suspicious claims in the election debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer?Do the claims in Reform UK’s policy documents on excess deaths and climate change make sense?Can the Conservatives and Labour raise £6bn a year by cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion?And do all the humans on earth weigh more than all of the ants?Presenter: Tim Harford Reporters: Kate Lamble and Nathan Gower Producer: Beth Ashmead-Latham Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Editor: Richard Vadon
05/06/2430m 5s

Data for India

India’s election has been running since 19 April. With results imminent on 4th June, More or Less talks with Chennai based data communicator Rukmini S. She founded Data for India, a new website designed to make socioeconomic data on India easier to find and understand. She talks us through the changing trends to help give a better picture of the type of country the winning party will govern.Producers: Bethan Ashmead and Nathan Gower Sound Engineer: Nigel Appleton Production Coordinator: Brenda Brown Editor: Richard Vadon
01/06/248m 58s

UK growth, prisons and Swiftonomics

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that the UK economy is growing faster than Germany, France and the US, while Labour says the typical household in the UK is worse off by £5,883 since 2019. Are these claims fair? We give some needed context. Net migration has fallen - we talk to someone who predicted it would - Dr Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. Is Taylor Swift about to add £1 bn to the British economy as some media outlets have claimed? The answer is ‘No’. Why are our prisons full? We ask Cassia Rowland from the Institute for Government. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower, Bethan Ashmead Latham and Ellie House Series producer: Tom Colls Sound mix: Neil Churchill Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Editor: Richard Vadon
29/05/2428m 41s

Is intermittent fasting going to kill you?

News stories earlier in the year appeared to suggest that time restricted eating – where you consume all your meals in an 8 hour time window – was associated with a 91% increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. But is this true? Tim Harford looks into the claim with the help of Cardiologist Dr Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University in the US.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Nigel Appleton Editor: Richard Vadon
25/05/2410m 16s

MP misconduct, NHS waiting lists and gold (gold)

Is it going to take 685 years to clear NHS waiting lists in England?Are 10 per cent of MPs under investigation for sexual misconduct?How does gold effect the UKs export figures?What does it mean to say that a woman has 120% chance of getting pregnant?Tim Harford investigates some of the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower and Bethan Ashmead Latham Series producer: Tom Colls Sound mix: Neil Churchill Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Editor: Richard Vadon
22/05/2429m 5s

Are falling marriage rates causing happiness to fall in the US?

It’s long been known that marriage is associated with happiness in survey data. But are falling marriage rates in the US dragging down the mood of the whole nation? We investigate the statistical relationships with Professor Sam Peltzman from the University of Chicago, and Professor John Helliwell, from the University of British Columbia.Presenter: Tom Colls Reporter: Natasha Fernandes Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Nigel Appleton Editor: Richard Vadon
18/05/249m 49s

Is reading for pleasure the single biggest factor in how well a child does in life?

If a child loves reading, how big a difference does that make to their future success? In a much-repeated claim, often sourced to a 2002 OECD report, it is suggested that it makes the biggest difference there is – that reading for pleasure is the biggest factor in future success. But is that true? We speak to Miyako Ikeda from the OECD and Professor Alice Sullivan from University College London.Presenter / series producer: Tom Colls Reporter / producer: Debbie Richford Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon
11/05/2410m 20s

Do one in five young Americans think the holocaust is a myth?

Polling by YouGov made headlines around the world when it suggested 20% of young adults in the US thought the holocaust was a myth.But polling experts at the Pew Research Centre thought the result might not be accurate, due to problems with the kind of opt-in polling it was based on. They tried to replicate the finding, and did not get the same answer.We speak to Andrew Mercer from the Pew Research Centre and YouGov chief scientist Douglas Rivers.Presenter /series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon
04/05/249m 43s

Has Milei fixed Argentina’s inflation problem?

Libertarian populist Javier Milei won the presidential election in Argentina on a promise austerity and economic “shock” measures for the ailing economy. Just a few months in, some are hailing the falling rate of inflation as showing those measures are working. Economist Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, explains whether that thinking is correct. Presenter/producer: Tom Colls Producer: Ajai Singh Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon.
26/04/248m 58s

98%: Is misinformation being spread about a review of trans youth medicine?

The Cass Review is an independent report on the state of gender identity services for under-18s in England’s NHS.It found children had been let down by a lack of research and "remarkably weak" evidence on medical interventions in gender care.But before it was even released, claims were circulating online that it ignored 98% of the evidence in reaching its conclusion. Is that claim true?We speak to Dr Hilary Cass, the author of the review, Professor Catherine Hewitt of York University, who analysed the scientific research, and Kamran Abbasi, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal.Presenter: Kate Lamble Producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
20/04/2411m 53s

Tackling The Three-Body Problem

Netflix has a big new show named after and inspired by a classic problem in astrophysics, 'The Three Body Problem', where predicting the course and orbits of three or more celestial bodies proves near impossible.But how faithful is the Netflix show - and original novel - to the actual physics? Dr Anna Lisa Varri from the University of Edinburgh explains what we can and can't say about the complex and beautiful motions of planets, stars and moons, and brings a dose of scientific facts to science fiction.Presenter: Kate Lamble Producer: Nathan Gower Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon
13/04/248m 58s

Is loneliness as bad for you as smoking?

Is loneliness as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes per day? That’s the claim circulating on social media.We trace this stat back to its source and speak the scientist behind the original research on which it is based, Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad.Presenter / series producer: Tom Colls Reporter: Perisha Kudhail Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon
06/04/248m 57s

Remembering Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize-winning behavioural economist and More or Less hero, has died at the age of 90. Tim Harford explains his ideas and influence. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Series producer: Tom Colls Sound mix: Hal Haines Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Editor: Richard Vadon
30/03/248m 58s

Bonus episode: Daniel Kahneman on Thinking, Fast and Slow

In an episode of More or Less from 2012, Daniel Kahneman – the Nobel prize-winning behavioural economist who has died at the age of 90 – explains the big ideas in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.
28/03/249m 12s

What's happening to Arctic ice?

The area of ice covering the Arctic ocean has been in a state of long decline, as climate change takes effect. But recent fluctuations in the ice have been seized on by climate change sceptics, who say it tells a different story.We speak to polar climate scientist Professor Julienne Stroeve to better understand how to read the ice data.Presenter / producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon
25/03/249m 48s

Does the Russian government really spend 40% of its budget on the military?

According to the head of the British military, the Russian government spends 40% of its budget on its war machine. But is it true? With the help of Professor Bettina Renz from Nottingham University and Dr Richard Connolly from The Royal United Services Institute, Olga Smirnova investigates the figure. Presenter: Tom Colls Producer: Olga Smirnova Production Co-ordinator Katie Morrison Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard VadonImage: Russian Military Perform Victory Day Parade Night Rehearsal in Moscow Credit: (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)
16/03/248m 58s

Is public speaking really our biggest fear?

For over 50 years it’s been widely reported that speaking before a group is people’s number one fear. But is it really true? With the help of Dr Karen Kangas Dwyer, a former Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Dr Christopher Bader, Professor of Sociology at Chapman University, Tim Harford tracks the source of the claim back to the 1970’s and explores whether it was true then, and whether it’s true today. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Production Co-ordinator: Katie Morrison Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard VadonPicture Credit: vchal via Getty
09/03/248m 58s

Ultramarathons: Are women faster than men?

As running races get longer, the gap between male and female competitors seems to close. Tim Harford and Lucy Proctor investigate the claim that when the race is 195 miles long, women overtake men to become the fastest runners. Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Lucy Proctor Producers: Nathan Gower and Debbie Richford Production Co-ordinator: Katie Morrison Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon(Image:Male and female running together up a mountain trail. Credit: nattrass via Getty)
02/03/248m 58s

School spending, excess deaths and billions of animals at Heathrow

Is school funding at record levels as the education secretary claimed? Why did the ONS change how they measure excess deaths? Is there a shoplifting epidemic? Did 6.5bn creatures arrive in the UK by plane last year?Tim Harford investigates some of the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower, Perisha Kudhail, Debbie Richford and Olga Smirnova Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Katie Morrison Sound mix: Sarah Hockley Editor: Richard Vadon
28/02/2428m 59s

NBA basketball: Is height more important than skill?

In the NBA, the US professional basketball league, the average player is a shade over 6ft 6 inches tall. So just how much does being very tall increase a man’s chances of becoming a professional player? Tim Harford talks to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Who Makes the NBA?: Data-Driven Answers to Basketball’s Biggest Questions.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Production Co-ordinator: Katie Morrison Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: David Crackles Editor: Richard Vadon(Image: Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks. Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
24/02/248m 59s

Per capita GDP, MP claims and the entire EU budget

What does per capita GDP tell us about the UK economy? Did the government spend £94bn helping with rising energy prices? Was Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg right about the cost of the EU covid recovery scheme? How did Ben Goldacre persuade scientists to publish all their medical research?Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Reporters: Nathan Gower and Lucy Proctor Producers: Debbie Richford, Perisha Kudhail, Olga Smirnova Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Katie Morrison Sound mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon
21/02/2428m 23s

The digital ‘robots’ unlocking medical data

Big medical datasets pose a serious problem. Thousands of patients’ health records are an enormous risk to personal privacy. But they also contain an enormous opportunity – they could show us how to provide better treatments or more effective health policies. A system called OpenSAFELY has been designed to solve this problem, with the help of a computer code “robot”. Professor Ben Goldacre, director of the Bennett Institute for Applied Data Science at the University of Oxford, explains how it works. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Janet Staples Sound mix: Hal Haines Editor: Charlotte McDonald
17/02/249m 47s

Debt, students, shark and chips

What is the government’s fiscal rule on the national debt? Are international students stealing places from the UK’s young people? How much social housing is really being built? Do 90% of chip shops sell shark and chips?Tim Harford investigates some of the numbers in the news. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower and Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Janet Staples Sound mix: Rod Farquhar Editor: Charlotte McDonald
14/02/2428m 35s

The global gender split in young people’s politics

In a surprising new trend, young men and women around the world are dividing by gender on their politics and ideologies. Whilst young women are becoming more liberal, young men are becoming more conservative. Tim Harford speaks to John Burn-Murdoch, Columnist and Chief Data Reporter at the Financial Times, about why this global phenomena may be occurring and Dr Heejung Chung, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, explains why the ideological divisions between young men and women in South Korea are some of the most extreme. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Series Producer: Tom Colls Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon (Picture: A couple with their back to each other busy with their mobile phones Credit: Martin DM / Getty)
10/02/248m 58s

Council tax weirdness: Hartlepool vs Westminster

Do you really pay more in council tax on a semi in Hartlepool than a mansion in Westminster? How do the Office for National Statistics work out how much the UK population is going to grow by? How much do junior doctor strikes cost? Is home grown veg worse for climate change than veg grown on a farm?Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower, Debbie Richford and Perisha Kudhail Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
07/02/2428m 43s

A pocket-size history of the calculator

How was the calculator invented? How did it go from something the size of a table to something that could be carried in your pocket, the must-have gadget of the 1970’s and 80’s? Tim Harford unpicks the history of the calculator with Keith Houston, author of Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Hal Haines Editor: Richard Vadon
03/02/249m 11s

Measles, Traitors and the cost of Brexit

Was there really a 5% measles vaccination rate in Birmingham? Has Brexit already cost 6% of the UKs economy? For how long has crime been falling? And are contestants on the reality gameshow any good at finding traitors?Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower and Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Rod Farquhar Editor: Richard Vadon
31/01/2428m 44s

Is Oxfam right about the world’s richest and poorest people?

We investigate Oxfam’s claim that “since 2020, the five richest men in the world have seen their fortunes more than double, while almost five billion people have seen their wealth fall”. With the help of Johan Norberg, Historian and Author of ideas and Felix Salmon, Financial Correspondent at Axios, we explore the figures behind the wealth of the richest and uncover what it really tells us about the world’s financial markets. And Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development in Washington DC, helps us unpick why, when looking at the world’s poorest people, measurements of wealth don’t always tell us what we really need to know. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Debbie Richford Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Hal Haines Editor: Richard Vadon(image: Elon Musk at the Viva Tech fair in Paris June 2023. Credit: Nathan Laine/Getty Images)
27/01/2410m 5s

Shopping, shipping and wind chill-ing

Was Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves wrong about the increase in the price of the weekly shop? What has the violence at sea done to the cost of shipping? Why did YouGov feel the need to correct an analysis of their polling? Are there 30 million GP appointments every month? And how does wind chill work? Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.Presenter: Tim Harford Reporters: Charlotte McDonald and Nathan Gower Producer: Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: Rod Farquhar
24/01/2428m 32s

Are there more possible games of chess than atoms in the universe?

We investigate how the vast possibilities in a game of chess compare to the vastness of the observable universe.Dr James Grime helps us understand the Shannon number – a famous figure on the chess side of the equation - and astronomer Professor Catherine Heymans takes on the entire observable universe. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Debbie Richford and Nathan Gower Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: Andy Fell Editor: Richard Vadon
20/01/248m 58s

Life expectancy, inheritance tax and the NHS vs winter

We report on the state of the NHS as it struggles through a double wave of Covid and flu infections.We report on the state of the NHS as it struggles through a double wave of Covid and flu infections.Do only 4% of people pay inheritance tax? Paul Lewis sets out the figures.And what do the latest life expectancy figures tell us about how long we’re going to live?Presenter: Tim Harford Reporter: Kate Lamble Producers: Nathan Gower and Debbie Richford Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound mix: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon
17/01/2423m 56s

Do we see 10,000 adverts per day?

How many adverts does the average person see in a day? If you search for this question online, the surprising answer is that we might see thousands – up to 10,000.However, the idea that we see thousands of adverts is a strange and confusing one, without any good research behind it. We investigate the long history of these odd numbers, with the help of Sam Anderson from The Drum and J Walker Smith from Kantar. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
13/01/248m 58s

Deaths, taxes and missing cats

Did London see a 2500% increase in gun crime? Are taxes in the UK the highest since the 1950s? Did the UK have high excess deaths from Covid, compared to the rest of Europe? Do three cats go missing every second in the UK? Tim and the team investigate a few of the numbers in the news. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Series Producer: Tom Colls Production co-ordinator: Maria Ogundele Sound mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
10/01/2428m 46s

How much money do the ‘Ndrangheta mafia make?

The ‘Ndrangheta are one of Italy’s biggest and most dangerous criminal gangs. One piece of research suggested they have an annual turnover of €53bn - more than McDonalds and Deutsche Bank combined.But is that number realistic? Professor Anna Sergi and Professor Francesco Calderoni help us figure out what kind of number makes sense.Reporter: Perisha Kudhail Series producer: Tom Colls Sound mix: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon(Picture: Human hands with strings controlling diagram. Credit: Boris Zhitkov/Getty Images)
06/01/248m 58s

Numbers of the year 2023

Each year we ask some of our favourite statistically-minded people for their numbers of the year. Here they are - from the population of India to the results of a first division football match. Contributors: Hannah Ritchie, Our World in Data Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Cambridge University Timandra Harkness, writer and comedian Rob Eastaway, maths author Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon (Picture: Colourful numbers on blue background Credit: Tanja Ivanova / Getty Images)
30/12/2313m 8s

Can chocolate be better than salad?

We investigate a nutritional conundrum –can chocolate ever be better for you than salad? Today we dive in to one of our listener’s family debates and try to find an answer, with the help of nutrition experts Dr David Katz and Professor Bernadette Moore.Reporter: Paul Connolly Researcher: Perisha Kudhail Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Engineer: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon (Picture: A pyramid made of chocolate and salad Credit: Gandee Vasan / Getty Images)
23/12/238m 59s

China’s missing numbers

How many young people are unemployed? How much debt does the government owe? How many people have died from Covid? These are questions that many governments will keep regularly updated. But in China they have disappeared. We investigate the reasons behind China’s missing numbers. Reporter: Celia Hatton Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon (Picture: Chinese flag behind a graph with statistics Credit: Igor Kutyaev/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
16/12/238m 58s

Does endurance sport harm your heart?

Exercise is good for you in all kinds of ways, there is no medicine like it to prevent a whole range of illnesses. But for some endurance athletes, exercise also comes with increased risk of a heart condition called atrial fibrillation.We look for the right way to think about the risks around exercise. Reporter: Paul Connolly Series Producer: Tom Colls Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot Editor: Richard Vadon(Picture: A cyclist training in the mountains Credit: anton5146/Getty Creative)
09/12/238m 58s

Will there be a billion climate refugees?

Former Vice President Al Gore has said that climate change is predicted to lead to a billion climate refugees. But where do these predictions come from and are they realistic? We investigate the idea that floods, droughts, storms and sea level rise will cause a mass migration of people across borders. Reporter and Producer: Tom Colls Sound Mix: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon (Photo: Floods in central Somalia Credit: Said Yusuf - WARSAME/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
02/12/239m 58s

A boy meets girl meets stats story

Veronica Carlin is a data scientist who loves romantic comedies. But she had a hunch about those movies, that there aren’t many women like her, women in STEM - science, technology, engineering and maths – taking the lead roles. So she set out on a maths quest to find out what’s what. Presenter: Kate Lamble Series Producer: Tom Colls Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Picture: A young couple with a heart-shaped balloon on the street Credit: Cultura RM Exclusive/Spark Photographic / Getty)
25/11/238m 58s

Are women in the UK the biggest binge drinkers in the world?

We check out suspect stats on boozing Brits and fishy figures on fishing fleets in the South China Sea.With the help of Professor John Holmes from the University of Sheffield's School of Medicine and Population Health and Simon Funge-Smith, a senior fishery officer at the FAO.Presenter and producer: Charlotte McDonald Series Producer: Tom Colls Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot
18/11/238m 58s

Can maths prove the existence of aliens?

Are we alone in the universe – and if not, how many other civilisations might there be? Remarkable images and data sent back to Earth by the James Webb telescope have given a new impetus to a well-worn debate. We ask how far mathematics – and in particular a famous equation called the Drake Equation – can be used to answer one of the most fundamental questions we face. Paul Connolly investigates with the help of Catherine Heymans, Astronomer Royal for Scotland and Professor at the University of Edinburgh and Bill Diamond, President and CEO of the SETI Institute in California.Presenter: Paul Connolly Producers: Paul Connolly and Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinator: Katie Morrison Sound Engineer: David Crackles(Image: : A cluster of young stars, surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust, in a nebula, located in the constellation Carina. Credit: Reuters)
11/11/2310m 0s

Do Indian women own 11% of the world’s gold?

The cultural importance of gold in India as a symbol of wealth, prosperity and safety is well known – but how much do Indians actually own? Reporter Perisha Kudhail looks at a widely circulated claim about Indian women owning 11% of the world’s gold, with the help of Delhi based journalist Mridu Bhandari and Joshua Saul, CEO of the Pure Gold Company. Presenter: Ben Carter Reporter and Producer: Perisha Kudhail Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: James Beard(Image: A saleswoman shows gold bangles to a customer at a jewellery showroom in Kolkata. Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo)
04/11/238m 57s

The Overlooked Mathematicians of History

Conventional histories of mathematics are dominated by well-known names like Pythagoras, Leibniz or Newton. But to concentrate solely on figures from Europe gives us only a patchwork understanding of the rich and varied history of mathematical achievement around the world. Tim Harford speaks to Dr Kate Kitagawa, co-author of ‘The Secret Lives of Numbers’ to explore the long history of mathematical advances and innovation across civilisations and centuries, from the female mathematician at court in imperial China to the pioneers in the mathematical powerhouses of the Middle East in the first millennium AD. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: James Beard (Picture: Statue of Al Khwarizmi, a ninth century mathematician Credit: Mel Longhurst/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
28/10/239m 23s

What do windscreen splats tell us about insect decline?

Do you notice fewer insect splats on windscreens than you used to? There’s a study in the UK trying to measure this ‘windscreen phenomenon’, as it’s become known. We hear more about the study and whether we can draw conclusions about insect numbers in general, from reporter Perisha Kudhail, Dr Lawrence Ball from the Kent Wildlife Trust and Professor Lynn Dicks from the University of Cambridge. Presenter: Ben Carter Reporter/Producer: Perisha Kudhail Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Photo: Dead insects on a windshield Credit: shanecotee / Getty)
21/10/238m 58s

Greedy jobs and the gender pay gap

Harvard professor Claudia Goldin has become only the third woman to win the Nobel Economics Prize for her groundbreaking research on women’s employment and pay. Tim Harford discusses her work showing how gender differences in pay and work have changed over the last 200 years and why the gender pay gap persists to this day. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: David Crackles (Picture: Claudia Goldin at Havard University Credit: Reuters / Reba Saldanha)
14/10/2312m 52s

Are half the words in English from French?

Are almost half the words in the English language of French origin? It’s a claim one of our loyal listeners found surprising. Tim Harford talks to Dr Beth Malory, lecturer in English Linguistics at University College London, who explains why so many words derived from French have ended up in English. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Daniel Gordon Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Picture: A French dictionary showing the entry 'Dictionnaire' Credit: NSA Digital Archive / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
07/10/239m 45s

Vaccine claims, Alzheimer's treatment and Tim's Parkrun times

John Campbell, a YouTuber whose posts get millions of views, has made claims about excess deaths and the Covid vaccine. We show why he's incorrect. Also will a much-vaunted new treatment for Alzheimer's really change lives and how much longer can Tim expect his Parkrun times to improve? We look at the trends – and the rest of the team’s times.
04/10/2328m 25s

Is the UK really ahead in cutting carbon emissions?

The UK Prime Minister has announced several changes to key policies designed to help Britain reach net zero by 2050. In a major speech justifying what many see as a watering down of commitments, Rishi Sunak championed Britain’s achievements to date in cutting emissions. But where does the UK actually stand compared to other countries? Tim Harford talks to Hannah Ritchie from Our World in Data and author of “Not the End of the World”.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower, Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: James Beard (Photo: Smoke rising out of chimneys at Ratcliffe on Soar power station Credit: David Jones / PA)
30/09/238m 58s

NHS consultant pay, Net Zero claims and Scotland's ferry woes

NHS consultants in England are striking over a pay offer of 6%. We look at whether they are paid an average of £120,000 a year and examine how much their pay compared to inflation has fallen. Also we fact check some of the claims Rishi Sunak made in his net zero speech, ask whether Britain is really that bad at building infrastructure compared to other countries and investigate the real levels of cancellations at Scotland and the UK's largest ferry company, Calmac.
27/09/2330m 25s

Which city has the longest canals?

After a listener emailed More or Less to ask whether world famous Venice or the slightly less famous English city of Birmingham has more canals, Daniel Gordon decided to investigate and widen the question to the whole world – with some interesting answers. Guests: Giovanni Giusto, Venice City Councillor David Edwards-May, Inland Waterways International Dr Hamed Samir, University of Basra Bai Lee, Editor of China Grand Canal Presenter/Producer: Daniel Gordon Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: David Crackles (Picture: Gondola in Venice Credit: Jane Worthy/BBC)
23/09/239m 35s

Social housing, NHS workforce and Liz Truss debt claims

Long: Housing minister Rachel Maclean claimed the government has built a record number of social rent homes. Tim and the team investigate. Following Lucy Letby’s conviction, we look at how sentences for murder have changed over the past few decades. Plus after Liz Truss’s speech this week defending her short stint as Prime Minister, Tim reminds us how her mini-budget raised borrowing costs and might have pushed up the national debt even more. And will 1 in 11 workers in England really work for the NHS by the middle of the next decade?Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Producers: Daniel Gordon, Natasha Fernandes, Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald, Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinator: Maria Ogundele Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar
20/09/2327m 47s

How to approach the world through numbers

How can we navigate our lives in a more efficient and satisfactory way? It’s a question Professor David Sumpter is looking to answer in his new book, Four Ways of Thinking. He talks to Tim Harford about four different approaches to our day to day challenges. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Sound Engineer: Andy Fell Editor: Richard Vadon (Picture: Conceptual illustration of mathematics Credit: Science Photo Library / Getty)
16/09/239m 28s

Skin cancer, London rents and your great great great granddaughter

A BBC report quoted a study that said 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women in the UK will get skin cancer in their lifetime. Tim Harford and the team look into the detail. Also London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said London’s average rent will hit £2,700 a month next year, with the average take home salary £2,131. How accurate are the figures and what do they tell us about the affordability of the capital’s rental properties? We fact check Donald Trump’s recent claim that 35,000 Americans died building the Panama Canal. And as noughties band Busted re-release Year 3000 with the Jonas Brothers, just how many greats should be in front of “granddaughter” in that famous lyric?
13/09/2328m 52s

Did 35,000 Americans die building the Panama Canal?

The construction of the Panama Canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through Central America is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of all time. It also caused enormous human suffering and loss of life. Donald Trump claimed in a recent interview that 35,000 Americans died in the canal’s construction. But is that true? Tim Harford finds out, with the help of Matthew Parker, author of Hell’s Gorge: The Battle to Build the Panama Canal. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Boat Crossing on the Panama Canal in Panama Credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
11/09/2314m 11s

Covid deaths, North Sea gas and Chloe Kelly's World Cup penalty

Covid related deaths are rising in England and Wales - but what do the figures really tell us? Also the UK's GDP during the pandemic has been revised upwards. Tim Harford and team ask why and discuss what it tells us about the UK's economic performance compared to other countries. Is North Sea gas really four times cleaner than gas from abroad? It's a claim recently made by the government. And we ask whether Chloe Kelly's penalty shot at the World Cup was really faster than the Premier League's fastest goal last season.Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Natasha Fernandes Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Maria Ogundele
06/09/2328m 43s

What percentage of our brain do we actually use?

On this week’s episode of More or Less we interrogate a widely circulated myth relating to how much of our brain power we can access and engage. Ever heard someone say, “You know we can only use 10% of our brains, right?”. Well, they’re wrong. It’s the stuff of make believe and far-fetched movie plots. Science and evidence based research tells us so - and has, it turns out, been telling us so for decades…politely, if impatiently. So, then, if not 10%…what percentage of our brain do we actually use? From dark matter neurons to super-highway synapse and ghost cells that serve as inert echoes of our evolutionary past - with the help of two leading experts in the field, we crack open the figurative cranium of this debate and rummage around for the definitive truth. Presenter: Paul Connolly Producers: Jon Bithrey, Natasha Fernandes Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Artificial intelligence brain network/Getty)
02/09/238m 59s

HS2 and electric cars, UK vs China emissions & massive maths errors

Can you really buy an electric car for everybody in the UK for the cost of HS2? That claim was recently made on Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme. Also we look at a viral claim that 1 in 73 people who received the Covid vaccine in England was dead by May 2022. Plus we look at the size of the UK's carbon emissions when compared with China and talk about how a recent More or Less maths error pales in comparison to one in the Guardian.Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Natasha Fernandes Production Co-ordinator: Janet Staples Editor: Richard Vadon
30/08/2328m 38s

How safe is the release of Fukushima nuclear plant water?

Water used to cool nuclear reactors at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan is being released into the Pacific Ocean by Japanese authorities. The move has sparked protests and concerns about safety in the region and met with retaliation from near neighbour China. But how safe is the water that’s been released? Presenter Charlotte McDonald and reporter Calum Grewar investigate, with the help of Professor Jim Smith of the University of Portsmouth and Professor Gerry Thomas, formerly of Imperial College London and the Chernobyl Tissue Bank.Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Reporter: Calum Grewar Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown
26/08/239m 53s

How many butterflies are there in the world?

Butterflies are a much-loved feature of summer in many parts of the world. But how many of them are there on Earth? That’s the question a young listener to More or Less wanted an answer to – and she couldn’t find the answer no matter how hard she searched the internet.Presenter Daniel Gordon enlists Professor Jane Hill, a butterfly expert at York University, England, who’s also President of the Royal Entomological Society, to try and help solve the mystery.He also consults Holly Mynott, International Officer of Butterfly Conservation, who describes the techniques used to run The Big Butterfly Count in the UK – the biggest event of its kind in the world.Producer/Presenter: Daniel Gordon Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot
19/08/238m 58s

Why is it so hard to predict the outcome of competitions like the Premier League?

Football competitions are kicking off all around Europe in the coming days and weeks, including the world’s most watched division: The English Premier League. We might make our predictions on who we think is going to win a sporting competition but what factors are we considering? In this programme we look at some of the most popular variables that are taken into account when making sporting predictions and why even these have drawbacks. From upcoming football leagues to the Olympic Games, Head Analyst from Nielsen Gracenote, Simon Gleave tells us what are some of the most difficult sports to predict and why.Presenter: Paul Connolly Producer: Natasha Fernandes Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinators: Debbie Richford and Janet Staples Sound Engineer: Graham PuddifootImage: Premier League Trophy, Credit: Carl Recine/Reuters
12/08/239m 48s

Are the media exaggerating how hot it is in the Mediterranean?

Reports on heatwaves across the globe have dominated our newsfeeds over the last few weeks, with temperatures said to have soared over the 40C mark in many parts of Europe. But across social media, not everyone is buying it. A trickle of scepticism swelled to a tidal surge, with people questioning whether temperatures are being hyped up by the wider media to drive fear and scare-monger. In this programme, we unpick allegations made about how these temperatures are recorded - and if they are accurate. We hear from Samantha Burgess at the Copernicus Climate Change Service; Alessandro Delitala from the Sardinia Environmental Protection Agency; and Sean Buchan from Climate Action Against Disinformation. Presenter: Paul Connolly Producer: Natasha Fernandes Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar
05/08/238m 59s

Data, extreme weather and climate change

Recent global headlines have been dominated by record temperatures across Europe, North America and parts of Asia. As extreme weather events have happened for decades, how are links to climate change made? In this programme we look at how scientists use data to draw climate conclusions and hear how that data isn’t always available, with a focus on severe flooding earlier this year in part of Central Africa. With Joyce Kimutai, principal meteorologist and climate scientist at the Kenya Meteorological Department and researcher at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College.Presenter: Kate Lamble Producer: Nathan Gower, Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot
29/07/238m 58s

Ukraine war: A new way of calculating Russian deaths

Official information on the numbers of dead and injured in the Ukraine war has been in short supply. Little has come from either the Ukrainian or Russian sides, with estimates from western governments and intelligence agencies filling the information void. But some Russian journalists have been documenting war deaths and have come up with a new way of estimating fatalities using probate records. With contributions from David Frenkel, reporter at Mediazona and the BBC’s Russian Service correspondent Olga Ivshina.
22/07/239m 42s

Are more adult nappies sold in Japan than baby ones?

Japan has one of the highest rates of life expectancy and one of the lowest birth rates. But does that mean that a widely circulated claim – that more nappies aimed at adults are sold in Japan than those made for babies – is true? With guests Sarah Parsons, Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS in London and Dr Mireya Solis, Knight Chair in Japan Studies at the Brookings Institution.Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Reporter: Isobel Gough Producers: Isobel Gough, Jon Bithrey Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown
15/07/239m 29s

Does it take 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans?

Various claims have been made about how much water is used in the production of a pair of jeans, that cornerstone of casual clothing. With growing worries over the environmental impact of denim production, More or Less decided to investigate - with the help of journalist and researcher Elizabeth L. Cline who has written extensively on sustainability and the fashion industry. This programme was first broadcast in July 2022. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Lizzy McNeill, Jon Bithrey Programme Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound engineer: Neil Churchill Editor: Richard Vadon (A worker sews blue jeans in a textile company in Xintang, China, dubbed the 'denim jeans capital of the world'. Photo: Lucas Schifres/Getty images)
08/07/239m 41s

Immigration: A More or Less Special Programme

More than 1.2 million people came into the country to stay for more than 12 months in 2022. As only 560,000 left the country, this means net migration is at an all-time high. Both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have said the number of people coming needs to come down. But who counts as an immigrant? How are the figures worked out? Charlotte McDonald will be finding out what the numbers tell us about who is coming to the UK and why. Plus - what about the people who left in 2022?
05/07/2328m 56s

Will there be just 6 grandchildren for every 100 South Koreans?

An article on the UK’s Telegraph newspaper website claimed that there would be just 6 grandchildren for every 100 South Koreans today. We ask whether that figure is correct and look at why South Korea’s birth rate has fallen to one of the lowest in the world, with the help of author and mathematician Rob Eastaway and journalist and author Hawon Jung.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Bethan Ashmead Latham, Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: James Beard
01/07/239m 35s

Halving inflation, Scottish tidal power and have 1 in 3 women had an abortion?

One of Rishi Sunak's five priorities for 2023 is to halve inflation. Given prices are still rising, we discuss whether it's going be possible. Also does Scotland have more tidal power capacity than the rest of the world combined, as has been claimed? We look at competing claims about how prepared the NHS was before the pandemic, ask whether scrapping VAT on products like tampons and e-books has actually benefitted consumers and look at the claim that one in three women in the UK has had an abortion.
28/06/2331m 22s

US National Debt: is $32 trillion a big number?

‘This episode was updated on 26th June to remove an error in how we quantified 32 trillion dollars’ The level of US government debt has just surpassed 32 trillion dollars. Negotiations over raising the borrowing limit once again went down to the wire a few weeks ago. But how concerned should we all be about how much the US government borrows? We investigate with the help of Kent Smetters, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Betsey Stevenson, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
24/06/238m 58s

Mortgages, birth rates and does space contribute 18% to UK GDP?

Mortgage rates have risen to 6%. But are things as bad as when rates were much higher in the 1970s and 80s? We look at just how much pain today's rises mean. Also will there be just 6 grandchildren for every 100 South Koreans today? And we look into a claim that the space industry supports 18% of the UK's economy.Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Beth Ashmead Latham, Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown
21/06/2328m 40s

Is breastfeeding the key to exam success?

A new study by researchers at Oxford University has linked better exam results at school with being breastfed as a baby. But how much faith can we put in the findings? Tim Harford speaks to Emily Oster, professor of economics at Brown University in the US and the author of three books about pregnancy and parenting.
17/06/239m 22s

Electric vehicles, 600 million bottles and does oral sex cause cancer?

There's been a lot of coverage about the risks electric cars may pose to infrastructure like bridges and car parks. We look at how much heavier EVs are. Plus we look at a new study that suggests a link between breastfeeding and improved grades at GCSE level. Also is throat cancer now primarily caused by a sexually transmitted disease - and are 600 million bottles going to litter Scotland because of disagreements with the UK government over the new Deposit Return Scheme?
14/06/2332m 15s

Counting Hunger in India

How prevalent is hunger and malnutrition in India? With Indian data journalist Rukmini S, we interrogate recent claims that hunger has worsened dramatically in recent years, and explore how malnutrition affects child mortality in the world’s most populous country.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill
10/06/239m 32s

Lib Dem ambulance claims, affordable rent and goat meat

The Liberal Democrats say 120 people a day in England died last year whilst waiting for an ambulance. We investigate whether the claim stands up to scrutiny. Also Rishi Sunak's pandemic-era scheme Eat Out To Help Out is back in the spotlight. How much did it really contribute to a second wave of infections? We look at a claim that no single woman in England on an average salary can afford to rent a home of her own. And Jonathan Agnew said on Test Match Special that goat is the most eaten meat in the world. Is he right?Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Jo Casserly, Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown(Woman looking for a flat to rent. Credit: Oscar Wong/Getty images)
07/06/2328m 42s

A short history of data

We live in a world where data is everywhere – informing if not governing our lives. But this wealth of data didn’t just turn up overnight. Tim Harford talks to academics Chris Wiggins and Matthew Jones, whose new book How Data Happened aims to explain how the world we know today has been shaped by not just technological developments but battles around how emerging sources of data should be utilised.
03/06/239m 48s

Food prices, net migration and beef about beef

Does Britain really have the most affordable food in Europe? That's a recent claim of the President of the National Farmers' Union. We ask if it's true and look in detail at what is driving rising food prices in the UK. We also try and make sense of the latest net migration figures, ask if dating apps are making Gen Z more single and explain why a correction to a correction on Radio 4's Farming Today wasn't quite right.
31/05/2330m 2s

Are young people more single than ever before?

What’s the definition of being single – and how easy is it to measure? There’s a perception that young people today are more single – in a relationship sense - than ever, and dating apps are to blame. But how true is that? Ellie House investigates, with the help of Marina Adshade of the Vancouver School of Economics. Presenter: Ellie House Producers: Ellie House, Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown
28/05/238m 58s

NHS waiting lists, Voter ID and measuring divorce

The government has trumpeted a big fall in those waiting over 18 months for hospital treatment in England. But total numbers on waiting lists have hit a new high. Also we look at how much impact the introduction of Voter ID had on turnout in May's English local elections. We ask whether Portugal really has a divorce rate of 94%. And we remember mathematician Dr Vicky Neale of Oxford University, who has died at the age of 39. The government has trumpeted a big fall in those waiting over 18 months for hospital treatment in England. But total numbers on waiting lists have hit a new high. Also we look at how much impact the introduction of Voter ID had on turnout in May's English local elections. We ask whether Portugal really has a divorce rate of 94%. And we remember mathematician Dr Vicky Neale of Oxford University, who has died at the age of 39.Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Josephine Casserly, Octavia Woodward, Ellie House Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown
24/05/2328m 35s

Detecting Bad Science with Data

For more than a decade there’ve been longstanding concerns about the credibility and reliability of science research. This “bad science” has often stemmed from poor data practice or worse. But statistics can also help us identify and understand some of what’s going wrong, whether that’s selective data-slicing or outright fabrication.Tim Harford talks to writer and broadcaster Michael Blastland about his new BBC radio documentary ‘The Truth Police’, which hears from the outsiders who are calling out fraud, malpractice and incompetence in science.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: James Beard
20/05/2310m 26s

Do 94% of marriages in Portugal really end in divorce?

Portugal has a divorce rate of 94% and India just 1%, according to a social media post about divorce in 33 countries that has gone viral. But how are these figures calculated and what do they really tell us about the quality and endurance of marriage? We investigate with guests Marina Adshade, assistant professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and Dr Cheng-Tong Lir Wang of the Institute for the Future in San Francisco.Presenter: Ben Carter Producers: Octavia Woodward and Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill
13/05/2310m 21s

Why is life expectancy falling in the USA?

The average life expectancy of Americans is shrinking at an alarming rate. Between 2019 and 2021, a staggering 2.7 years has been shaved off, leaving the revised figure at 76.1 years - the lowest it’s been in more than two decades. It also sees the U.S. rank 46th in the global life expectancy charts, behind Estonia and just a nose ahead of Panama. Paul Connolly is joined by John Burn Murdoch, Mary Pat Campbell and Dr Nick Mark to discuss why, on average, citizens of the world’s richest country are dying so young.
06/05/2310m 21s

How much is the Coronation crown worth?

Consisting of 2 kilograms of gold and 444 gemstones, the iconic St Edward’s Crown will play a central role in the coronation of King Charles III, as it has for many of his predecessors. There has been much speculation as to what the value of the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels really is. Charlotte McDonald talks to Dr Anna Keay, historian and author of The Crown Jewels - the Official History, and Alan Hart, CEO of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. Together they break down what we know about the crown’s cost to make in the 17th century and what it might be worth today.
29/04/2310m 24s

The Pentagon Leaks and Fox News

The leaking of US intelligence documents and the arrest of a 21 year old airman who authorities believe to be responsible has caused a media and diplomatic storm. We look at how the leaks were reported by primetime Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said seven Ukrainian troops are dying for every one Russian, contrary to most estimates. And we examine an advert Fox News took out claiming to be the American TV network most trusted for news. With guests Aric Toler from investigative journalism site Bellingcat, data journalist and author G. Elliott Morris and BBC correspondent Olga Ivshina.
22/04/239m 42s

How accurate is baby's due date?

Paul Connolly is expecting his second child, and the due date is just under two weeks away. In hopes of easing his anxiety every time the phone rings , he is joined by Professor Asma Khalil, Professor Chris Pettker and Doctor Melissa Wong to discover exactly how accurate his baby's due date is...Presenter: Paul Connolly Researcher: Octavia Woodward Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown
15/04/2310m 19s

How to better understand and explain numbers

The covid-19 pandemic has brought the use of statistics into everyday life in a way never seen before. Tim Harford talks to Professor Oliver Johnson, author of Numbercrunch: A Mathematician’s Toolkit for Making Sense of Your World, about his visual presentation of covid-19 related figures on Twitter and how we can all improve our understanding and use of numbers.
08/04/2310m 25s

A groundbreaking new proof for Pythagoras’ Theorem?

Pythagoras’ Theorem, explaining the relationship between the three sides of a right angled triangle, is one of the most famous in maths. It’s been studied and put to use for thousands of years. Now two US high school students say they’ve found a new trigonometric proof for the theorem, something many in the mathematical community believe to be impossible. We discuss Pythagoras’ Theorem, the importance of proofs in maths and the chances of this being a real breakthrough with mathematician, author and YouTuber Matt Parker.
01/04/2310m 25s

Covid vaccines and false claims about miscarriage

Misinformation around covid-19 and vaccines is rife and as the data available increases, so do often misleading and even wild claims. This week More or Less examines multiple viral claims that the Covid 19 mRNA vaccines increase the risk of miscarriage. To explain where these incorrect figures come from and what the science actually tells us, we are joined by Dr Viki Male, senior lecturer in reproductive immunology at Imperial College London. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald, Producers: Octavia Woodward and Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Sound Engineer: John Scott Production Co-ordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross(Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
25/03/239m 52s

Silicon Valley Bank: a very modern bank run

After the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank sent jitters through the financial system, Duncan Weldon explains how it’s just the latest in the long history of bank runs.He talks to financial analyst and former banking regulator Dan Davies - author of ‘Lying for Money’ - to understand how bank runs happen, and what the repercussions of this very modern bank run might be for the global financial system. Presenter: Duncan Weldon Producer: Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinators: Helena Warwick-Cross Sound Engineer: Neva Missirian(Photo credit: Reuters)
18/03/239m 52s

Do fungi kill three times as many people as malaria?

The smash hit TV show and video game ‘The Last of Us’ has spawned lots of curiosity about how worried we should be about the relatively unknown world of fungi. A figure in a recent BBC online article stated that fungal infections kill around 1.7 million people a year, about three times as many as malaria. In this episode we look at the both the global fight against malaria and David Denning, Professor of Infectious Diseases and Global Health at the University of Manchester explains the risks posed by fungal infections globally.
11/03/238m 57s

Does your jewellery contain stolen Brink’s-Mat gold?

The Brink’s-Mat robbery remains to this day one of Britain’s biggest and most audacious heists. Six armed men stole diamonds, cash and three tonnes of gold bullion from a warehouse close to London’s Heathrow Airport in November 1983. It’s now the subject of a BBC television drama, The Gold, which includes the claim that most gold jewellery bought in the UK from 1984 onwards will contain traces of that stolen gold. But how true is that? Tim Harford and team investigate, with the help of Zoe Lyons from Hatton Garden Metals and Rob Eastaway, author of Maths on the Back of an Envelope.
04/03/2310m 11s

UK vs European energy prices, falling excess deaths and is 5 grams of cocaine a lot?

Does the UK really have by far the highest domestic energy bills in Europe? We debunk a viral social media claim suggesting just that. Also the number of excess deaths has been falling in the UK - how positive should we be that we’re through the worst? Plus do we really have access to only 3% of rivers and 8% of the countryside in England – and after the conviction of former MP Jared O’Mara we ask whether 5 grams of cocaine is a lot.
01/03/2328m 34s

Do 29,000 coffee pods really go to landfill every minute?

How environmentally destructive is our thirst for coffee? Tim and the team investigate a claim that 29,000 coffee pods end up in landfill globally every minute with the help of Dr Ying Jiang, a senior lecturer in bioenergy from Cranfield University in the UK.
25/02/2310m 47s

Reoffending rates, Welsh taxes and the menopause

The Justice Secretary Dominic Raab says crime reoffending rates in England and Wales have fallen significantly since the Conservatives came to power. We ask whether he’s right and look more broadly at crime and conviction rates with former BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw. Also we look at how much taxes in Wales might have to rise to pay for increases in NHS funding. We ask whether 13 million women in the UK are really menopausal. And we return to the debate that has sparked consternation among loyal listeners everywhere – should the word data be treated as plural or singular.
22/02/2329m 2s

Florence Nightingale and how she visualised data

Florence Nightingale became one of the icons of Victorian Britain for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War and the public health improvements she successfully campaigned for later on. Tim Harford discusses how she and her ‘Nightingale Circle’ used spectacular diagrams to explain health statistics persuasively with RJ Andrews, editor of “Florence Nightingale, Mortality and Health Diagrams”.
18/02/2310m 39s

Nurses' pay, ambulance times and forgotten female economists

How much do nurses in the UK earn compared with those elsewhere in Europe? Tim Harford and the team investigate. Also we have an update on ambulance response times, which were the worst on record in December but are showing signs of improvement. Should we use the word data in the singular or plural? The Financial Times has just changed its policy and Tim’s not happy. We look back at women who have made a key contribution to economics but have often been forgotten. And we hear how a spreadsheet error by the Office for National Statistics made the UK’s productivity appear to be one of the fastest improving in Europe.
15/02/2328m 40s

Spreadsheet disasters

The UK’s Office for National Statistics recently published some dramatically incorrect data - all because of a spreadsheet slip-up. But that’s just the most recent in a long list of times when spreadsheets have gone wrong, often with costly consequencesStand-up mathematician Matt Parker takes us through a short history of spreadsheet mistakes.
11/02/2310m 13s

The IMF and the UK economy, NHS staff shortages and British vs English

The International Monetary Fund says the UK will be the only major economy to shrink in size this year. We ask how much faith we should put in the IMF’s forecasts and look at some of the big economic challenges facing the UK. Also why the headline number of job vacancies in the NHS in England doesn’t tell the whole story of staff shortages. And why has there been such a dramatic change in whether people describe themselves as British or English?
08/02/2328m 38s

Hannah Fry on using shopping data to detect ovarian cancer

A new study led by Imperial College in London suggests that data from loyalty card spending in supermarkets and pharmacies could be used as a way of detecting ovarian cancer much earlier. Tim Harford discusses the findings with Professor Hannah Fry, who was most recently on the show talking about her own experience with cancer.
04/02/239m 44s

Brexit and trade, pensioner millionaires and Hannah Fry on loyalty cards and cancer

Has trade with the EU increased since Britain left the European Union? Tim Harford and the team look at a claim suggesting just that. There’s a row over the renaming of a street in North London previously called Black Boy Lane – but how much has it really all cost? Also are there more pensioners in “millionaire households” than pensioners in poverty. And mathematician Hannah Fry talks about a new study suggesting cases of ovarian cancer can be detected by looking at spending on loyalty cards.
01/02/2328m 34s

Are wild mammals only 4% of the mammal population?

A widely respected and cited study says humans and livestock account for 96% of all mammals on Earth. We ask how the study was carried out and what hope there might be for the future. Plus we answer another listener question about whether most mammals are in fact rodents. With the help of Dr Hannah Ritchie, Deputy Editor at Our World in Data and Dr Axel Rossberg, Reader in Theoretical Ecology at Queen Mary University of London.
28/01/2310m 24s

Coffee with the Chancellor, inflation measures, GP numbers and toilet paper

Jeremy Hunt has pledged in a new social media video to halve the UK’s high rate of inflation. Tim Harford and the team fact check the Chancellor’s claims. Also – CPI, CPIH, RPI – which measure of inflation is best for assessing the impact of the rising cost of living? Plus has the number of GPs in England gone up or down since the start of the pandemic. And does toilet paper cause 15% of global deforestation?Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Josephine Casserly, Nathan Gower, Louise Hidalgo, Charlotte McDonald Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross Editor: Richard Vadon
25/01/2328m 18s

Does toilet paper cause 15% of global deforestation?

A British company has claimed that the production and use of toilet paper is responsible for 15% of deforestation globally. We investigate the claim and ask what the true environmental cost of toilet paper is. Charlotte McDonald talks to climate change scientist Professor Mary Gagen, chief adviser on forests to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the WWF.Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Louise Hidalgo and Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross Studio Engineer: Rod Farquhar
21/01/238m 57s

Ambulance response times, teacher pay and Irish pubs

How long are people really waiting when they call 999 for an ambulance? Tim Harford and the team examine in detail the sheer scale of delays in responding to emergency calls. We also ask why the NHS is facing a crisis when it’s got more funding and more staff than before the pandemic, with the help of Ben Zaranko from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Plus we fact check a claim from one of Britain’s leading teaching unions about pay. And are there more pubs in Ireland or Irish pubs in the rest of the world?Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Josephine Casserly, Nathan Gower, Paul Connolly Sonic Landscape: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross Editor: Richard VadonImage: Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock
18/01/2329m 16s

How we shook the world of very large numbers

How did an edition of More or Less from 2017 end up influencing the choice of official names for extremely large numbers? We tell the tale of how an interview between presenter Tim Harford and maths whizz Rob Eastaway did just that. Also featuring Professor Richard Brown, head of metrology at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Janet Staples Sound Engineer: James BeardImage: Large number, Credit: Getty Images
14/01/238m 57s

A&E delays and deaths, religious identity in N Ireland and naming the monster numbers

Tim Harford and the team return for a new series of the number crunching show. With the huge pressures facing the NHS we ask how many people may be dying because of treatment delays in A&E. We hear what the latest census tells us about changing religious identity in Northern Ireland. We look at misleading claims about covid vaccines after the collapse of American football player Damar Hamlin. And we hear how More or Less has wielded its influence over how we all describe very large numbers.Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Louise Hidalgo, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: James Beard
11/01/2328m 59s

Can China's data on covid deaths be trusted?

When the pandemic took hold, the Chinese government imposed a zero-Covid policy that aimed to contain the virus through mass-testing and strict lockdowns. But early in December, amidst widespread public protests and the spread of the omicron variant to more than 200 cities, those draconian, highly restrictive measures were lifted almost entirely. For the first time in just under two years, the majority of the country’s near one-and-a-half billion citizens were free to meet, mix and mingle where they pleased, triggering what experts believe is a gargantuan wave of covid infections and related deaths. Some analysts say death rates could be as high as15,000 per day. But the Chinese authorities are reporting five or fewer deaths a day. The numbers don't stack up so More or Less's Paul Connolly speaks to some of the world's leading experts and epidemiologists to work out if China's data on covid deaths can be trusted - and, if not, what the real death toll could be.
07/01/239m 52s

Irish pubs - a global numbers game

It's possible that the question we focus on in this week's programme occurred to you as you were sipping on an Irish Coffee in Bubbles O'Leary's in Kampala, Uganda: Where can the most Irish pubs be found - in Ireland? Or in all other countries combined? The popularity and sheer ubiquity of Irish pubs is a thing to behold. In 2015, the Irish Pubs Global Federation said there was approximately 6500 Irish pubs doing business outside the Emerald Isle - and our own research tells us there's at least one Irish bar in more than 160 of the world's 195 countries. But what is the secret, the recipe for global success? And can the More or Less team track down a definite number, thus answering the question some of you will have pondered whilst settling into a firelit Irish bar on a scorching hot day in rural Hawaii.
31/12/2210m 34s

Numbers of the Year 2022

Tim Harford discusses the numbers that help explain some of the biggest stories of the year, including the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and a breakthrough for women’s football, with the help of Olga Ivshina, correspondent for the BBC Russian service; Chris Giles, economics editor of the Financial Times; Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and Georgina Sturge, author and House of Commons statistician.
24/12/228m 57s

Qatar World Cup: the pressure of penalties

The World Cup in Qatar is drawing to a close. Penalties and penalty shootouts have provided some of the biggest moments of the tournament. We analyse penalty data from the World Cup and ask what boosts the chance of scoring from the spot, with the help of Ben Lyttleton, author of Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty.
17/12/228m 58s

Why are data so important in determining how we live?

Why are good data so important to policymakers – whether they know it or not – and what happens when good data is missing? Presenter Tim Harford speaks to Georgina Sturge, a statistician at the House of Commons library in London and the author of Bad Data: How Governments, Politicians and the Rest of Us Get Misled by Numbers.
10/12/228m 59s

The World Cup: how many migrant workers have died?

Qatar has been fiercely criticised over its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom have been employed to build stadiums and other infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. We look at the wildly varying estimates of the number of migrant deaths with the help of Max Tunon, head of the Qatar office of the International Labour Organisation and Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International.
03/12/2210m 6s

When do food shortages become a famine?

Somalia is experiencing its worst drought for 40 years and there are warnings that millions of people need food assistance urgently. The UN body tasked with classifying levels of food security has projected a famine, although no official declaration has yet been made. We ask what data is used to formally categorise famine and explore some of the difficulties in collecting it, with the help of UN IPC Global Programme Manager Jose Lopez and Professor Laura Hammond, Pro Director of Research & Knowledge Exchange at SOAS. Presenter & producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard(Image: People affected by the worsening drought due to failed rain seasons, look on, at the Alla Futo camp for internally displaced people, in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. REUTERS/Feisal Omar)
26/11/228m 57s

A $220 billion World Cup?

As the FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets underway, and the newly built stadia, lavish hotels and transport networks come to life, More or Less investigates just how much the Gulf nation has spent in the lead-up to the tournament. Reports claim the figure could be as much as $220 billion - that’s more than Qatar's annual GDP, and more than ten times higher than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At an estimated $15 billion, this was previously the most expensive tournament to date. With no access to Qatar’s accounts, and with very few official figures in circulation, More or Less has recruited some of the world’s leading experts in sports finance to crunch the numbers and to ask…is this really a $220 billion World Cup?Presenter: Paul Connolly Producers: Paul Connolly and Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Image: Al Wakrah Stadium, the second FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (TM) venue: The 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy via Getty Images)
19/11/228m 58s

Bonus Episode: Understand the Economy

Tim Harford brings you the first episode of his new podcast, Understand the Economy. If you’ve been missing his dulcet tones, here’s a chance for you to have a preview of Tim Harford’s latest podcast, in which he offers really simple explanations to help make sense of the economy today. If you enjoy it, you can find the rest of the series on BBC Sounds or wherever you get your podcasts. In this episode, inflation. What is inflation, why does it matter, and is someone to blame if it goes up? Understanding inflation will help you understand why your shopping is getting more and more expensive and why prices rarely seem to go down. Tim Harford explains why the inflation figure you see on the TV might not reflect the price rises you’re experiencing and economic historian Victoria Bateman tells us why having a boat load of silver coins isn’t always a good thing. Everything you need to know about the economy and what it means for you. This podcast will cut through the jargon to bring you clarity and ensure you finally understand all those complicated terms and phrases you hear on the news. Inflation, GDP, Interest rates, and bonds, Tim Harford and friends explain them all. We’ll ensure you understand what’s going on today, why your shopping is getting more expensive or why your pay doesn’t cover your bills. We’ll also bring you surprising histories, from the war hungry Kings who have shaped how things are counted today to the greedy merchants flooding Spain with Silver coins. So if your eyes usually glaze over when someone says ‘cutting taxes stimulates growth’, fear no more, we’ve got you covered.Producer: Phoebe KeaneResearcher: Drew HyndmanEditor: Clare FordhamFind all the episodes here: A BBC Long Form Audio Production for BBC Radio 4
14/11/2214m 32s

Improving the numbers in the news

How can journalists improve their use of statistics in their reporting of the world around us? It’s a question US academics John Bailer and Rosemary Pennington tackle in their new book Statistics Behind the Headlines. They join Tim Harford to talk about how journalism can be improved by asking the right questions about numbers and using them in the wider context of a story. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot(Image: Electronic and paper media: scanrail/Getty)
12/11/228m 59s

Lula’s “zero deforestation” plan for the Amazon

Lula Da Silva has pledged “zero deforestation” in the Amazon as he prepares to become Brazil’s next president, in contrast to the policies of outgoing leader Jair Bolsonaro under whom the destruction of the rainforest has soared. On this edition of More or Less we ask how much of the Amazon has been lost and whether Lula’s aim of zero deforestation can be achieved.Presenter and producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts: Sound engineer: David Crackles Production Co-ordinator: Jacqui Johnson(Image: Aerial view of the deforestation of the Amazon: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo)
05/11/228m 58s

Can China’s GDP data be trusted?

This week, China released its third quarter GDP figure. At 3.9%, its rate of economic growth is better than many analysts expected, but still significantly short of the 5.5% target the Chinese government had set itself. There was an unprecedented delay in releasing this particular GDP stat - and that delay coincided with the 20th Chinese Communist Party congress. President Xi Jinping was reappointed for a historic third term at the twice-a-decade gathering. Some analysts found the delay suspicious. Did President Xi postpone the release of the GDP figures so it wouldn’t tarnish the congress? And can the figure of 3.9 per cent be trusted anyway? Paul Connolly investigates with the help of John Burn Murdoch, Chief Data Reporter at The Financial Times; Associate Professor of Government at Cornell, Jeremy Lee Wallace and Dr Linda Yueh, Oxford University economist and author. Presenter and Producer: Paul Connolly Editor: Simon Watts Programme Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Neva Missirian (Image: Chinese President Xi Jinping: Mark R Cristino/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
29/10/228m 58s

Do half of new books really sell fewer than twelve copies?

A US government lawyer recently caused a stir in the publishing world when he said during a high profile legal trial that half of all new trade titles – books aimed at a general audience - sell a dozen copies or less. Tim Harford investigates with the help of Kristen McLean from the NPD Books group.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Octavia Woodward, Jon Bithrey Editor: Emma Rippon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: Stack of books on display at the bookstore: bitterfly/Getty)
22/10/228m 58s

Ben Bernanke and the magic of banking

The former head of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke is named as one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on how banking collapses were a major factor in the Great Depression of the 1930s. He shares the prize with two fellow US academics, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig. Tim Harford discusses the significance of their work focusing on the role of banks and why their smooth functioning is so important to society. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Emma Rippon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke speaks after he was named among three U.S. economists awarded the 2022 Nobel Economics Prize, during a news conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, U.S., October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno)
15/10/2210m 4s

Catching Chess Cheats with Data

A cheating scandal is currently rocking the world of chess, as World Champion Magnus Carlsen accuses the young American Hans Niemann of cheating. A bombshell new report has said that Niemann is likely to have cheated in over 100 games online, and uses data to support its argument.So how is statistics being used to catch cheats in chess - and just how prevalent might cheating be at the highest levels of the game? David Edmonds finds out. Presenter: David Edmonds Producer: Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot(Image: US international grandmaster Hans Niemann, St. Louis, Missouri, on October 6, 2022: Photo by Tim Vizer /AFP via Getty Images)
08/10/228m 59s

Teens and antidepressants, stamp duty savings and earthquake probabilities

A survey from a mental health charity suggested that more than a third of British teenagers had been prescribed antidepressants. We debunk the figure. Also we investigate a tweet from the UK Treasury about how much homebuyers will save in stamp duty. Plus how Mexico has been hit by earthquakes three times on the same day of the year - what are the chances? And how incorrect figures from the government have given a false picture of the number of cars on Britain’s minor roads. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard
07/10/2228m 28s

NASA’s asteroid collision: how many asteroids are really out there?

This week NASA slammed a spacecraft into an asteroid in the hope of diverting its course. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART mission will help scientists understand how easy it would be protect Earth if one was headed in our direction. More Or Less first discussed this in 2016 with a little help from the movie Armageddon – with listeners getting in touch once again we ask how many asteroids are really out there and how dangerous they might be to Earth. Presenters: Charlotte McDonald and Simon Maybin Producer: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: 3D rendering of a swarm of Meteorites or asteroids entering the Earth atmosphere: ratpack223/ Getty)
01/10/229m 36s

Falling pound, the Queen’s funeral and is 0.5 on the Richter scale a big number?

The value of the pound against other currencies has been incredibly volatile ever since the Chancellor’s ‘mini-budget’. We ask how much we should worry and look at how much taxes will really fall. Also did 4.1 billion people really watch the Queen’s funeral? Gas prices are falling – so why aren’t energy bills? There are early signs that new covid variants could cause another spike in cases over the winter. And with the government lifting a moratorium on fracking, we ask how seismic a number the current limit of 0.5 on the Richter scale actually is.Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard
28/09/2229m 10s

Ukraine’s progress in numbers

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from and what they mean. Plus with Norway supplanting Russia to become Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas, we ask how much money the country is making from the increased demand and higher prices.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill
24/09/2210m 19s

Ukraine offensive, weak pound & how much do women really exercise

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from, what they mean and why everyone is comparing them to the size of Greater London. We ask how much money Norway is making out of the current energy crisis. Also why is the pound so weak against the dollar, some odd claims about women and exercise and does it really take 20,000 uses for an organic cotton bag to become more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag?Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon
22/09/2228m 43s

How bad is fashion for the environment?

Is fashion really the second most polluting industry after oil and does it account for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions? Sustainable fashion journalist Alden Wicker does some fashion fact checking with Adam Fleming, presenter of BBC podcast and Radio 4 programme Antisocial. And reporter Charlotte McDonald revisits a claim made in an edition of More or Less last month about the effectiveness of using condoms as a form of contraception.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Image: Models display outfits / BBC images/Susana Vera/Reuters)
17/09/228m 58s

Energy crisis plan, imperial measures survey, gardens v national parks

One of Liz Truss's first acts as Prime Minister was to announce a giant plan to protect domestic energy users from huge rises in wholesale gas and electricity costs, meaning a typical household will pay about £1000 less than otherwise would have been the case. We ask how much the Energy Price Guarantee will cost the government and also explain what a “typical” household really is. A consultation has opened into whether we’d like more of our goods and services priced in imperial measures – but some listeners are suggesting a survey on the issue is biased against metric. And we examine a claim made on the BBC’s Springwatch programme that all of the gardens in Newcastle are bigger than the combined size of our national parks.Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon
14/09/2228m 53s

Is a third of Pakistan really under water?

Pakistan is battling a huge natural disaster as a result of heavy monsoon rains. It’s been widely reported that a third of the country is under water. But can that really be the case? Featuring the BBC’s correspondent in Pakistan Pumza Fihlani and Dr Simon Cook, a senior lecturer in Environmental Science at the University of Dundee. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineers: Graham Puddifoot & James Beard(Image: aerial photograph of flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan province. Credit: Getty/Fida Hussain)
10/09/228m 58s

Pakistan flooding, UK power prices and Boris’s broadband claim

Devastating floods have wreaked havoc across Pakistan after the heaviest monsoon rains in at least a decade. But is a third of the country really under water, as has been claimed? Also why do electricity prices in the UK rise in line with gas prices when we get so much of our power from other sources like nuclear, wind and solar? As criminal barristers go on strike in England and Wales, we ask if those starting in the profession really earn £12,200 a year. And as Boris Johnson waves goodbye to Downing Street, we investigate his claim that 70% of the UK now has access to gigabit broadband.Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon
07/09/2228m 38s

Can we use maths to beat the robots?

Daily advances in the technology of artificial intelligence may leave humans playing catch-up – but in at least one area we can still retain an edge, mathematics. However it’ll require changes in how we think about and teach maths and we may still have to leave the simple adding up to the computers. Junaid Mubeen, author of Mathematical Intelligence, tells Tim Harford what it’ll take to stay ahead of the machines.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon(Image: Digital generated image of artificial intelligence robot scanning the data: Getty / Andriy Onufriyenko)
03/09/228m 58s

Energy prices, excess deaths and the race to count to 200

With energy prices in the UK spiralling, Tim Harford asks whether there is an easy and realistic way for bills to be cut. Also the number of excess deaths in the UK is rising – we’ll hear how much covid is still to blame. We return to the subject of counting in twenties, this time hearing how the Welsh language mixes traditional and decimal systems. And we debunk some spurious social media claims around Liverpool players and asthma medication.
31/08/2228m 57s

Kenya’s Election Rounding Error

When the official figures were announced in Kenya’s presidential election, it looked like the total percentage share of the vote for each candidate came to more than 100%. As this should not be possible, many wondered if up to 142,000 votes might be miscounted. We explore what turns out to be a simple mathematical misunderstanding of the numbers.
27/08/228m 58s

The numbers behind “natural” birth control

Videos on TikTok have been claiming that so-called “natural” birth control methods can be 99% effective. We examine what we really know, and how we know it.
20/08/229m 41s

Is opinion polling broken?

The opinion polling industry’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years, as high profile slip-ups in the US presidential election exposed frailties. So should we write them off? Not according to Economist data journalist G Elliot Morris, who’s written a book called Strength in Numbers: How Polls Work and Why We Need Them.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar
13/08/228m 58s

Debunking the Liverpool FC Conspiracy Theory

Ahead of the opening of the new season of the English Premier League, baseless rumours and dodgy statistics circulating online have implied that Liverpool FC use asthma medication to enhance their players’ performance. Ben Carter speaks to sports scientist Professor John Dickinson to examine the science that disproves these rumour, and tracks down its original source with the help of Mike Wendling from the World Service's Trending programme.Presenter: Ben Carter Producer: Richard Vadon
06/08/228m 58s

How our world measures up

Why do we measure the world around us in the way we do? There is a rich history to be explored - from measuring the depth of the Nile in Ancient Egypt to the central role the French played in developing the metric system and the ultra-precise measurement systems we use today. Presenter Tim Harford is joined by journalist and author James Vincent to discuss the political, social and technological factors that have influenced how we size up our world.
30/07/228m 58s

Does the World Athletics Championships have a false start problem?

US athlete Devon Allen has made global headlines this week after being disqualified from the 110m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon. He was judged to have left the starting blocks a thousandth of a second too early. On More or Less we crunch the numbers behind false starts in athletics, asking how quick is too quick when it comes to reacting to a starting gun and whether something else might have gone wrong with the measurement system.
23/07/2210m 6s

Is Uganda about to become a middle income country?

In his State of the Nation address in early June 2022, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda was on the cusp of becoming a middle income country. That’s been contradicted by World Bank figures. In response to a question from a More or Less fan in Uganda, Tim Harford looks at how a country’s income status is calculated and what relevance it has. Featuring Rachel Sebudde, Senior Economist at the World Bank.
16/07/2210m 1s

Does it take 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans?

Various claims have been made about how much water is used in the production of a pair of jeans, that cornerstone of casual clothing. With growing worries over the environmental impact of denim production, More or Less decided to investigate - with the help of journalist and researcher Elizabeth L. Cline who has written extensively on sustainability and the fashion industry.
09/07/2210m 10s

How many American women will have an abortion in their lifetime?

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling on Roe vs Wade - the case which guaranteed a constitutional right to a legal abortion across the US, sparking heated protests and debates across the country.But how many American women will have an abortion in their lifetime? One statistic circulating online puts it at as high as one in three. Reporter Charlotte McDonald has been looking into the figures and has uncovered some surprising statistics.
02/07/229m 37s

Covid climb, childcare costs and why can’t the French count properly?

Covid cases are rising once again – how accurately are official figures picking up the new wave and how worried we should be? We discuss inflationary spirals and how much wage and pension increases contribute to inflation. Also how many parents actually struggle with childcare costs? Can long waits at A&E be put down to the pandemic and why the French count differently to the British.
29/06/2229m 16s

Ed Sheeran and the mathematics of musical coincidences

After beating a plagiarism claim in court, musician Ed Sheeran said that musical coincidences were inevitable with only 12 notes to choose from… but what do the numbers say? Mathematician and concert pianist Eugenia Cheng takes us through the mathematics of music and explains how the power of exponentials mean that just a handful of notes can open up a seemingly endless world of musical variety. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Programme Coordinator: Janet Staples Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill
25/06/2211m 0s

Rail strikes, tyre pollution and sex statistics

Do rail workers really earn £13,000 a year more than nurses? As rail strikes severely hit services we look at some of the claims being made around pay – and explain how you can measure average pay in different ways.Plus we investigate claims that Chancellor Rishi Sunak wasted £11bn by paying too much interest on Britain’s national debt.Is pollution from tyres really 2000 times worse than pollution from exhausts?And we look at sex and statistics in America.Produced in partnership with the Open University.Credits: Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Charlotte McDonald Reporters: Nathan Gower, Jon Bithrey Production Coordinator: Janet Staples Sound Engineer: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon
22/06/2228m 37s

How often do people have sex?

Magazine articles and advice columns are commonly littered with spurious statistics about how much sex we’re having. So how much do we really know – and what are the difficulties of collecting information about such an intimate part of our lives? Doctor Marina Adshade from the Vancouver School of Economics, who specialises in the economics of sex and love, answers questions posed by a curious More or Less listener in Japan.
18/06/228m 58s

Maternity litigation, stars, bees and windowless planes

The former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that the cost of maternity litigation claims in England is now more than the cost of salaries for maternity nurses and doctors. We crunch the numbers and ask how worried parents and taxpayers should be. Also are there more bees in the world than stars in the galaxy? And would planes be much lighter if they didn’t bother with windows? Maths Professor Hannah Fry talks to us about her experience of cancer and the choices she and others have faced after a diagnosis. And we hear from author Simon Singh, who wants to bring fun maths conversations into homes everywhere.Produced in partnership with the Open University.
15/06/2228m 38s

Hannah Fry: Understanding the numbers of cancer

British mathematics professor and broadcaster Hannah Fry has spent many years trying to explain the world through numbers. But when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer she embarked on a new mission – to discover whether the medical world, and we as individuals, make the right choices around treatment. Are patients always given the facts – and the time - they need to make rational decisions? And could we be at risk of unnecessary overtreatment?
11/06/2210m 16s

Employment puzzle, pyramids and triplets

The UK has a low unemployment rate, and a large number of people who are not working right now – we look at how both of these are true with the help of Chris Giles from the FT and Louise Murphy from the Resolution Foundation.Have pyramids really moved 4km south since they were built?For years, the media has been claiming that the odds of having identical triplets are one in 200 million – we are very suspicious. And we look at apparently concerning reports about women's life expectancy in the poorest parts of England.Plus, we have received a lot of emails from listeners about last week’s episode. Some questioning the definition of a billion, others questioning our explanation of the nautical mile. We do some reflecting.
08/06/2228m 51s

Are girls starting puberty earlier?

In the 1980s, Dr Marcia Herman-Giddens was one of the first people to notice that girls were starting puberty earlier than expected. We talk to Dr Marcia Herman-Giddens and Dr Louise Greenspan about what we know now about whether the age of girls’ puberty is falling. (Mother and daughter in the supermarket choosing sanitary items. Getty Images)
04/06/228m 53s

Jubilee costs, fuel poverty and imperial measures

Is the government really spending a billion pounds on the Jubilee, as some have claimed? We investigate some of the facts and figures around this week’s commemorations. We also ask why energy bills are becoming so high in the UK when we actually have plenty of gas, and we unpack the mystery of measuring fuel poverty. Plus after the Texas school shooting we investigate the statistics around gun deaths in the US.And finally we hear about the joys and perplexities of imperial measures with Hannah Fry and Matt Parker.
01/06/2228m 59s

Noisy Decisions

Nobel memorial prize winner Daniel Kahneman is one of the world’s most famous psychologists, known particularly for his work identifying the role of cognitive bias in everyday decision making. In this edition of More or Less he talks to Tim Harford about his latest book, Noise - A Flaw in Human Judgement, in which he outlines how a multitude of often irrelevant factors influence important decisions, whether in job interviews, the courtroom or workplaces generally - and what we can do about it.
28/05/228m 58s

Germany’s excess deaths, Eurovision and teacher shortages

Some recent, and surprising, estimates from the World Health Organisation suggested that the UK fared better than Germany in the pandemic. But did they get it right?At Eurovision this year an algorithm was apparently used to replace whole countries’ votes - was it responsible for the UK’s second-place finish?The global economy has been putting the squeeze on many of us this year. Various factors have caused food, fuel and energy prices to rocket and many households are starting to feel the pinch. We speak to economist Duncan Weldon about whether this year is the worst hit to the cost of living since records began.An unusually large contingent of children are set to hit English secondary schools just as the number of 21 year olds dips – so are we heading for a teaching crunch in England?Produced in partnership with The Open University.
25/05/2229m 14s

Are just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions and how stressed are South Africans?

In the fight against global warming we’re constantly told to do our bit to reduce green house gas emissions. However, a claim circulating that just ‘100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions’ can make any individual effort seem futile. But does this claim mean what you think it means? We look into this and the claim that the pandemic pushed South African stress levels up by 56%. With guests Abbas Panjwani from Fullfact and Kirsten Cosser from Africa Check.(Image: Power plant emitting smoke at sunset. Credit: Enviromantic/Getty)
21/05/228m 58s

Did the WHO get some of its excess death estimates wrong?

The World Health Organisation recently released some new estimates of the global death toll of the pandemic. But the figures for a few countries have caused controversy. Tim Harford speaks to Professor Jon Wakefield, who worked on the analysis - and Indian data journalist Rukmini S about the debate that’s erupted in India over the figures.(man puzzled at blackboard. Credit: Getty images)
14/05/228m 59s

Have the oceans become 30% more acidic?

Although the climate-changing effects of Carbon Dioxide emissions are well known, they are changing our oceans too, making them more acidic. But how much?Tim Harford explores the statistical quirks of ocean acidification, from pH to the mysteries of logarithmic scales. With Dr Helen Findlay from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.
07/05/228m 58s

Sweden’s polarising pandemic response

When much of Europe went into lockdown at the start of pandemic, Sweden’s lighter touch strategy got lots of attention. Fans of the approach say it was a huge success that showed lockdowns were pointless. Opponents say it has been a disaster. But what do the numbers say?In this episode of More Or Less, Tim Harford and journalist Keith Moore carve a nuanced path through one of the pandemic’s most polarising approaches.
30/04/228m 58s

Understanding India through Data

How do you go about understanding a country with a population as diverse as it is vast?Data journalist Rukmini S is the author of Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India. Tim Harford spoke to her about the power and pitfalls of using statistics to make sense of modern India, from basic questions like average income to the huge challenges of keeping track of Covid.
23/04/228m 58s

Subitising and simplifying: how to better explain numbers

Have you ever looked at a numerical claim and thought ‘what on earth does that mean?’ Complex numbers are often badly communicated, making it difficult for the public to appreciate what they signify - but dial things down too much and you’re at risk of oversimplifying important issues. It’s a tightrope walk authors Chip Heath and Karla Starr have explored in their new book ‘Making Numbers Count’. Tim Harford talks to them about how we can improve the way we communicate numbers to the general public. Producer: Lizzy McNeill (Image: Child in front of numbers, Credit: Getty Images)
15/04/228m 59s

Did tea-drinking cut deaths in the Industrial Revolution?

Could an explosion in tea-drinking explain a decline in deaths in England during the industrial revolution? Professor Francisca Antman, an economist at the University of Colorado Boulder believes it might.Tim Harford discovers that dusting down the data from tea shipments and local burial records gives us surprising insight into how boiling water for tea accidentally improved public health. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot
09/04/228m 58s

Will the war in Ukraine cause a global wheat shortage?

As the Russian Invasion of Ukraine continues, the effects ripple around the rest of the world. One concern involves the wheat harvest. There have been claims that Ukraine and Russia supply 25% of the worlds wheat and that as a result we’re facing a global wheat crisis. We look into this misleading figure to determine what the real impact might be.
02/04/228m 58s

Pizza and Nuclear War

The War in Ukraine has reminded the world how easily conflict might escalate into a Nuclear War. But according to Professor Barry Nalebuff of Yale University, good strategy and negotiating can help us with everything from avoiding Armageddon to dividing up a pizza fairly. Tim Harford talks to Barry Nalebuff about his new book, “Split the Pie”.Presenter:Tim Harford Producer: Lizzy McNeill
20/03/228m 58s

Does the UK take in more refugees than other European countries?

As the war in Ukraine continues, Reuters has reported that some 2.3 million people have been displaced. So far many of those have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The UN estimates that as of the 8th of march Poland has taken in almost 1.3 million refugees, Hungary just over 200,000 and Slovakia almost 100,000. In comparison the UK has issued visa’s to just under 1000 people. Some say this isn’t enough, however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the governments record claiming that ‘"We've done more to resettle vulnerable people than any other European country since 2015." Sound familiar? Join us on a journey back to 2020 to find out whether this is accurate or just a repeated misleading claim.
13/03/2211m 53s

Numbers in Ukraine and low seas in Chagos

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we take a look at some of the numbers coming out of the conflict and ask how to know which information you can trust during a war. We also investigate the perplexing claim that the seas around the Chagos Islands are 100m lower than the seas around the rest of the world.
06/03/228m 58s

Troop and Casualty Numbers in Ukraine

How reliable are the figures coming out of the conflict in Ukraine?Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we consider claims about the numbers of troops involved, people killed, and planes downed.Also: are the prime minister’s parliamentary claims about growing numbers of NHS staff backed up by data? We investigate the perplexing claim that the Chagos Islands are 100 metres below sea level. How long do you have to drive an electric car to offset the pollution from making the battery? And do we really make 35,000 decisions a day?
02/03/2229m 8s

Did lockdowns save any lives?

Lockdown. A word we’ve all become overly familiar with over the past two years. Lockdowns were intended to protect people, especially societies most vulnerable, from the risks associated with contracting Covid. However, a new study has been making headlines which claims to show that mandatory lockdowns have only reduced Covid-19 mortality by 0.2%, or one death in five hundred. We examine the evidence behind the claim.
27/02/228m 58s

Vaccinating children, lockdowns, and ebikes

Jabs for five to 11-year-olds, lockdown effectiveness, and being green on two wheels.Governments across the UK have decided to offer Covid vaccinations to primary school-aged children. What was the data behind this decision?What effect did lockdowns have on preventing deaths from Covid? We look at a research paper that says almost none. Plus, is Elon Musk right to warn of a global population collapse? And can it really be greener to ride an e-bike than a good old-fashioned push bike?
23/02/2228m 28s

Hospitalisation rates for children with Covid

Covid vaccines will be offered to all children across the UK between the ages of 5 and 12 - some months after the same decision in countries such as Italy and Germany. It is a topic that has caused a fair amount of controversy and with controversy often comes suspicious statistical claims. We look at the data behind child hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid19.
20/02/228m 58s

Questioning claims about Covid and children

How likely are children to end up in hospital because of Covid? And how many have died?We scrutinise some scary stats that have been circulating on social and examine what excess deaths figures tell us about the risks of Covid compared to other illnesses.Plus, with the gift of hindsight, we examine the joys and sorrows of modelling the spread of the virus. Do MPs understand how false positive rates work? And we unwrap the mystery of the nanomoles.
16/02/2229m 8s

Testosterone and sport

In early December 2021 a member of Penn University Women’s Swim Team caused a stir. Lia Thomas not only won three events but she had the fastest time in elite college swimming in the country in two out of three races. This achievement reignited a debate as Lia Thomas is a transgender woman; we examine the rules around testosterone and trans women’s participation in elite sport.
13/02/228m 57s

The prime minister in statistical bother

Boris Johnson has been ticked off for misleading Parliament on jobs and on crime. He claimed that the number of people in employment has been rising - when it’s been falling. And he made a claim that crime has fallen - when it’s risen. We discuss the truth, and what Parliament can do to defend it.Plus, we examine the rules around testosterone and trans women’s participation in elite sport, and the spirit of Donald Rumsfeld is with us as we try to navigate the largely unknown world of fungi.
09/02/2228m 52s

Can you fool your brain?

Have you given up on your New Year’s resolution yet? Every year many of us make the promise to become better, shinier, more accomplished versions of ourselves by the same time next year. It’s often easier said than done but to an extent it really is the thought that counts. David Robson, author of ‘The Expectation Effect’ says the power of our expectations can cause real physiological effects but Mike Hall, co-director of ‘The Skeptic’ magazine isn’t convinced.
06/02/228m 58s

Does the UK have the fastest growing economy in the G7?

Conservative politicians have taken to the airwaves to tell us to forget the parties, and just look at the economic growth - but is the UK really growing faster than other leading economies?The Omicron variant has raised the chance that people are re-infected with Covid - how common is that, and should it change the way we read the statistics that are reported each day?The great statistician Sir David Cox has died; we remember his life and his contribution to the science of counting.And does comparing the number of food banks to the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the UK tell us anything about food poverty?
02/02/2228m 48s

Fertility rates: baby boom or bust?

Under lockdown, couples were destined to find themselves closer than ever before, but despite what you’d think – this didn’t result in a higher birth rate. In fact in developed countries across the world the birth rate is falling, we spoke to Professor Marina Adshade about why this is and what this could mean for the future.
30/01/228m 57s

Should you follow the 5 second rule? And does inflation hit the poorest harder?

Food writer Jack Monroe sparked national debate this week when she tweeted about food price hikes on the cheapest goods in supermarkets - but does inflation really hit low income households hardest?Social media and some news outlets have spread claims this week that only around 17,000 people have actually died of Covid. We debunk.We test the truth of the five second rule - is it a good idea to eat watermelon within five seconds of dropping it on the floor? And can you think yourself better?
26/01/2228m 20s

Are female patients more likely to die if the surgeon is male?

In early January several newspapers ran article claiming that ‘women are 32% more likely to die after operation by male surgeon. If true, this is a terrifying figure but is all as it seems? We dig into the data to find out whether women should really be worried about having a male surgeon.
23/01/2210m 31s

Are women 32% more likely to die after operation by a male surgeon?

Are women 32% more likely to die after operation by a male surgeon? Headlines asserting this were shared across social media recently - but the truth is a bit more complicated.We compare the price and the quality of the UK’s Test and Trace system with that of Germany and check on what’s happening to the Covid death toll during the Omicron wave.And we investigate the worrying statistic that one in ten people are planning to start a podcast in the coming year.
19/01/2228m 34s

QAnon: Did 365,348 children go missing in the US in 2020?

In December, Republican politician Lauren Boebert tweeted the claim that ‘365,348 children went missing in 2020’. This is a shocking statistic but is it true and does it mean what we think it means? We speak to Gabriel Gatehouse, international editor of Newsnight, who has been investigating conspiracy theories including the Qanon conspiracy theory for a new podcast, The Coming Storm.
16/01/228m 58s

Omicron, pandemic birth rates and boosters

The pandemic seems to be entering a new phase as Omicron has taken hold. Is it milder? And how might we make decisions based on the latest data?Predictions that lockdowns might lead to a baby boom have proven wrong - in fact fertility is falling.We re-examine a baffling claim about the number of children being abducted every year in the US after claims by a Republican politician on social media, and we run our statistical measuring tape up the inside leg of the government’s promise to give everyone a booster jab before New Year’s Day.
12/01/2227m 56s

How much plastic is in the Ocean and can Mr Beast make a difference?

In October of last year popular Youtubers Mark Rober and the enigmatically named Mr Beast pledged to remove 30 million pounds of plastic from the Ocean – if they could raise $30 million dollars. A dollar per pound of plastic sounds like a fairly good deal, but how much plastic is out there and will they actually be removing anything from the Ocean at all?(Image: Sahika Encumen dives amid plastic waste in Ortakoy coastline: photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
09/01/228m 58s

Will the population of Nigeria be larger than Europe’s?

In recent years population growth has slowed rapidly. Experts believe that the global population will stabilise somewhere around 11 billion people. But just because global population is stabilising doesn’t mean each country is following the global trend. Some projections estimate that the population of Nigeria will increase rapidly to the point that there will be more people living in Nigeria than the whole of Europe combined. We look at the methods behind this claim.
02/01/228m 58s

Numbers of 2021

A guide to the most concerning, striking and downright extraordinary numbers of 2021. Tim Harford asks three More or Less interviewees about their most significant and memorable figure over the past year. From the excess death toll of Covid-19; to declining total fertility rates, and a spike in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we showcase the numbers that tell us something about the year gone by. During this programme, we speak to Hannah Ritchie, head of research at Our World in Data and senior researcher at the University of Oxford; Marina Adshade, Economics Professor at the University of British Columbia; and Heleen De Coninck, professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, and a lead author on several reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
26/12/218m 58s

The psychological economics of gift giving

Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year – if you have something to sell that is. Every year we waste hundreds of dollars on gifts that aren’t appreciated, but how can you ensure that the gifts you buy hit the mark every time? We speak to behavioural scientist Professor Francesca Gino to find out more then use our newfound knowledge to exam an old Christmas classic
19/12/218m 58s

Does catching covid give you more immunity than being vaccinated?

Immunity to Covid-19. We've all been hoping to develop it ever since the virus emerged two years ago. Since then, a race to vaccinate the world has begun in earnest, with many countries rolling out booster shots in response to the rise of the Omicron variant. Health officials and scientists agree that vaccines are the safest way to develop immunity to the disease. But when US Congresswoman Nancy Mace took to Fox News recently, citing a study showing a whooping 27 times better immunity from natural infection than vaccination, we thought we'd better investigate. How did this study arrive at this number, and is it a fair representation of its findings?
12/12/218m 58s

Does wearing a mask halve your chances of getting Covid-19?

Masks, you may not have worn them before 2020 but now we’re all at it. With the rise of the Omicron variant countries have scrambled to reintroduce public health policies, among them mask wearing. Health officials and scientists agree that masks help reduce the incidence of covid19 infections – but by how much is still debated. Several newspapers recently reported that masks could cut Covid-19 infections by 53%, we look at how they came to this number and whether we should be believe it. (Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
05/12/218m 58s

Simpson’s Paradox: How to make vaccinated death figures misleading

Vaccines are the best way to stop deaths and serious cases related to covid19, this is an irrefutable fact. However, recent ONS data seems to show that vaccinated people had a higher all cause death rate than unvaccinated people. Why is this data misleading? Here’s a clue: it’s to do with a quirky statistical phenomenon called Simpsons Paradox. (Image: The Simpsons / TCFFC )
28/11/218m 58s

A TikTok tale

Nowadays if you are an academic and who needs some participants for a study you go online, but over the summer academic studies were inundated with participants who all happened to be teenage girls ... we explore how one TikTok can tip the balance of data gathering. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Chris Flynn(Image: TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone screen/Getty/NurPhoto/contributor)
21/11/218m 58s

The carbon cost of breakfast at COP26

A French minister told people to eat fewer croissants at this year’s COP26 summit, after the menu said the carbon cost of the pastry was higher than that of a bacon roll, even if it was made without butter. Tim Harford investigates whether this claim could be true, and how the effect of food on climate change can be measured.(Image: Continental breakfast with coffee and croissants: Getty/Cris Cantón)
14/11/218m 57s

Same data, opposite results. Can we trust research?

When Professor Martin Schweinsberg found that he was consistently reaching different conclusions to his peers, even with the same data, he wondered if he was incompetent. So he set up an experiment. What he found out emphasises the importance of the analyst, but calls into question the level of trust we can put into research.Features an excerpt from TED Talks(Image: Getty/erhui1979)
07/11/218m 58s

The art of counting

Who is counting, why are they counting, and what are they are counting? These three questions are important to ask when trying to understand numbers, according to Deborah Stone, author of Counting, How We Use Numbers to Decide What Matters. In this episode, she explains how different ways of totting up can have real-world consequences.(Image: Betta Blue Red Veiltail/Getty Images/zygotehasnobrain)
31/10/218m 58s

The numbers behind Squid Game

Netflix has announced that South Korean survival drama Squid Game is its most popular series ever. We scrutinise the statistics behind the claim, and look at the odds of surviving one of the show’s deadly contests.
24/10/218m 58s

The prize-winning economics of migration and the minimum wage

Do immigrants drive down wages, do minimum wage increases reduce job opportunities, and do people who did well in school earn more money? These are questions that the winners of the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics looked to the world around them for answers to. David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens developed ways of interpreting what they saw that changed the way economists think about what they see. In this episode of More or Less, presenter-turned-guest Tim Harford explains how.(Image: Mariel boat lift, which brought over 100,000 Cubans into the United States: Photo by Tim Chapman/Miami Herald)
17/10/218m 58s

Bonus episode: the first ever More or Less

A chat with More or Less's founding producer and presenter plus the first episode in full. Tim talks to Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot about how More or Less came into being (after several rejections), whether politicians and journalists are more numerate now, and where the name come from. Then, the very first episode of More or Less, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 13 November 2001.
07/10/2136m 27s

Twenty years of More or Less

A look back at our origins, plus the usual mix of numerical nous and statistical savvy.It’s two decades since More or Less first beamed arithmetic into the unsuspecting ears of Radio 4 listeners. We revisit the show’s genesis with the original presenter and producer.Why are there two different figures about our vaccination rate doing the rounds and how does the UK now compare internationally?Plus listener questions on how the colour of your front door affects your house price, TVs on standby mode, and more. And we try to respond to a meteor storm of complaints about our earlier item asserting that Star Trek’s Mr Spock is in fact highly illogical.
06/10/2127m 50s

The Gender Pay Gap

Tim Harford talks to Planet Money’s Stacey Vanek Smith about the gender pay gap in the US and the UK – and how Renaissance writer, Machiavelli might be an unlikely source of inspiration for women in the workplace.
03/10/218m 58s

Is it easy being green?

Is our electricity extra expensive and our insulation inadequate? And a tale of tumbling trees.Internet infographics suggest we’re paying way more for our energy than countries in the EU. Are they being interpreted correctly? And what part, if any, has Brexit had to play?Insulation Britain activists have been gluing themselves to motorway slip-roads to raise awareness about poor home insulation. Their website says we have the least energy efficient homes in Europe. What’s the evidence?Plus, what do the numbers tell us about migrants trying to cross the Channel in small boats? Are stereotypes about different generations backed up by the data? And is it or is it not true that the UK has lots of trees?
29/09/2129m 3s

Covid trends, face mask use, and the universal credit cut

A coronavirus check-in, our daily mask use measured, and a minister's claim on the universal credit cut questioned.There was a time when the latest Covid statistics were headline news daily, but as the pandemic has stretched on into its second year and third wave people don't pay as much attention. But on More or Less we still keep an eye on them because that’s how we roll.A recent article estimated that 129 billion single-use face masks are used every day around the world. It sounds wrong, but how wrong is it? And how did it get so wrong?Making up the shortfall from the £20 weekly cut in the universal credit benefit means working an extra two hours a week - or an extra nine, depending on who you listen to. We run the numbers.Plus, has the number of periods women have in a lifetime increased fourfold? And how many holes does a drinking straw have?
22/09/2127m 33s

How many holes are there in a drinking straw?

Tim Harford talks to Jordan Ellenberg, professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, about the pandemic, geometry and drinking straws.(multi-coloured straws/Getty images)
19/09/218m 58s

Death, Tax and Dishwashers

New data appears to show that double vaxxed people between 40 and 79 are getting Covid at higher rates than people who are unvaccinated, but that's not the case. It's all down to how Public Health England estimates the size of different populations. The Office for National Statistics described 2020 as "the deadliest year in a century". Now that we're more than two-thirds into 2021, we examine how this year is shaping up. We answer your questions on the new health and social care levy, and have words of congratulations and caution following Emma Raducanu's astonishing win in the US Open. Plus, where do you stand on in the dishwasher vs kitchen sink debate? GUESTS: Mathematician James Ward Adele Groyer of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group Helen Miller of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
15/09/2127m 41s

Vaccine waning, hot dogs and Afghanistan

Should we be worried that the protection against Covid-19 provided by the vaccines is going down? Could it really be the case that eating a hot dog takes 36 minutes from your life? The Bank of England holds 35% of Government debt. Who owns the other 65%? Has the UK spent more on Test and Trace than on its operations in Afghanistan?
08/09/2127m 56s

The Bill for Afghanistan

American President Joe Biden has said the war in Afghanistan cost more than $2 trillion. Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic International Studies helps us unpick what’s included in this figure.
04/09/218m 58s

Covid, HGV driver shortages and protest costs

English Covid restrictions were lifted in July. Back then, some predicted that there could be as many as 6,000 hospital admissions a day by the following month. So, what happened?The Metropolitan Police says it’s spent £50 million on policing Extinction Rebellion since 2019. They’re on the streets again – can it really be that costly?The economics correspondent at The Economist Duncan Weldon puts government borrowing during the pandemic into context and talk about his new book, 200 Years of Muddling Through.Are we running out of lorry drivers? And to what extent is Brexit to blame? We look at the numbers behind a claim that there is a shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK.Plus, disturbing evidence that Star Trek’s Mr Spock may actually be terrible at logic.
01/09/2128m 51s

Reason, numbers and Mr Spock

Writer Julia Galef talks to Tim Harford about the role of numbers in helping us think more rationally, and what Star Trek’s Mr Spock can teach us about making predictions. Julia is author of The Scout Mindset, a book about how our attempts to be rational are often clouded or derailed by our human impulses, and the ways we can avoid these traps. Producer: Nathan Gower(Image: Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock. Credit: Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images)
28/08/218m 58s

The extraordinary life of Robert Moses

Dr Robert Moses, a pioneer in African-American civil rights and mathematics education has died at the age of 86. Charmaine Cozier looks at an extraordinary life, from the courthouses of 1960s Mississippi to the classrooms of modern public schools, and traces the philosophy and values that threaded their way through his life. Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producer: Nathan GowerPortrait of American Civil Rights activist Robert Parris Moses, New York, 1964. (Photo by Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Gety Images)
21/08/218m 58s

How good were the performances at the Tokyo Olympics?

A year later than planned, The Tokyo Olympics, have now finished. Thousands of athletes have competed in events that few thought might go ahead and there’s been record success. This week we take a look at Olympic numbers – how many records were broken in Tokyo, what factors might have influenced the races and what else can the data tell us?Tim Harford speaks to Dr Joel Mason, who runs the blog, Trackademic. Producer: Olivia Noon
16/08/218m 57s

Jab fears explained: a base rate fallacy

As some countries rapidly roll out vaccination programmes, there have been concerns that increases in infection rates amongst vaccinated groups mean vaccines are less effective than we hoped, especially in the face of the feared Delta variant. Epidemiologist Dr Katelyn Jetelina from the University of Texas Health Science Centre School of Public Health explains why this isn’t what the numbers show – rather than decreasing vaccine effectiveness, increasing rates can be explained by a statistical phenomenon known as ‘base rate fallacy’. Presenter: Charlotte McDonaldProducer: Nathan Gower
07/08/218m 58s

Breaking Climate Records

June saw a brutal heatwave shatter a number of all-time temperature records in Canada and the Northwest of the USA. But when can we attribute new records to man-made climate change, rather than natural variation? Peter Stott, an expert in climate attribution at the UK’s Met Office, explains how climate change has dramatically increased the probability of seeing such extremes.Presenter: Tim HarfordProducer: Nathan Gower
31/07/218m 58s

The Rise of Delta

The Delta Variant was first identified in India, fuelling a huge wave of cases and deaths. It is now spreading around the world, becoming the most dominant variant in many countries. This week we take a look at the numbers - where’s it spreading, how is this different to previous waves and what can be done to stop it?Tim Harford speaks to Professor Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College, London and John Burn-Murdoch, the chief data reporter at The Financial Times.
24/07/218m 58s

The Freedom Day Gamble

On the day the Government plans to drop the remaining Covid restirictions, Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to work out how long cases will continue to rise and whether we can be sure the link with deaths and hospitalisations has been broken. Is this “freedom day" or an unnecessary gamble with people’s lives?
19/07/2128m 44s

Are there 40 million Nigerians on Twitter?

In recent months, Twitter has rarely been out of the headlines in Nigeria. After it deleted a tweet by the country’s president, the Nigerian government responded by banning it altogether. In the media coverage of the story it has been commonly claimed that Nigeria has 40 million Twitter users – but could this really be true? We spoke to Allwell Okpi of the fact-checking organisation AfricaCheck.Also, which places have the best full vaccination rates in the world? Turns out, its some of the smallest. We run through the top five.Producer: Nathan Gower
10/07/218m 58s

Is Ivermectin a Covid ‘wonder drug’?

To some on the internet, the cheap anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin is a potential wonder drug that could dramatically change the global fight against Covid-19. It has passionate proponents, from a small group of scientists to the more conspiratorially-minded. But with a scattered evidence base of varying quality, what - if anything - do we know for sure about Ivermectin? And is uncovering the truth a more complex process than some appreciate?With Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz from the University of Wollongong, Australia.Producer: Nathan Gower
03/07/218m 58s

Scotland cases, flood risk and taxing the poor

The UK’s Covid cases are still rising and Scotland is being hit particularly hard - so are we speeding up our vaccination programme in response?Will many of the UK’s coastal towns, not to mention central London, be underwater in the next few years?Do the country’s poorest households really pay more than half their income in tax?What are the top five places with the best vaccination rates in the world? The answers may surprise you.We speak to Tom Chivers, a science journalist who has written a book called “How to Read numbers” with his cousin the economist David Chivers.
30/06/2128m 42s

Maths and the Mayflower

This year sees the delayed 400th anniversary celebrations of the Mayflower voyage, an event seen as a crucial moment in the history of the United States. But how many people alive today can trace back their lineage to those first 102 passengers? Tim speaks to Rob Eastaway and Dr Misha Ewen about maths and the Mayflower.
26/06/218m 58s

Delta cases, blue tits and that one-in-two cancer claim

The Delta variant is behind the big increase in the number of new Covid 19 cases in the UK since April. We take a look at what impact vaccines have had on infections, hospitalisations and deaths.Chris Packham told viewers on the BBC’s Springwatch that blue tits eat 35 billion caterpillars a year. We get him onto the programme to explain.How much does Type 2 diabetes cost the NHS a year? While exploring a dubious claim we find out why its hard to work that out.Is it true that on in two people will get cancer? We’ve looked at this statistic before but listeners keep spotting it on TV.We also ask: if the SarsCov2 RNA is 96% similar to the RNA of a virus found in bats - is that similar, or not?
23/06/2129m 1s

The origins of Covid

To find out where a virus comes from, researchers compare it to other viruses to try to trace its origin. This leads to claims like SARS-CoV-2 is 91 or even 96% similar to other known viruses. But what does that really mean? Tim Harford talks to the virus ecologist Marilyn J Roossinck.
19/06/218m 58s

Covid deaths, outdoor swimming and care homes

The official number of deaths attributed to Covid 19 around the world in the whole of 2020 is 1.88 million. The global toll this year surpassed this figure on 11th of June. We look at how things are worse worldwide, despite vaccines and lock downs. Does the UK have the worst bathing sites in Europe? That’s certainly a claim made by a number of newspapers. We show why this is not the case. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been in the news again with comments regarding care homes during the pandemic. Just how good was the government’s ‘ring of protection’ around care homes during the first wave - and the second? We speak to Steven Johnson about his book ‘Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer.’
16/06/2128m 56s

The doubling of life-expectancy

Steven Johnson, author of Extra Life, tells the fascinating history of life expectancy, and the extraordinary achievements of the last century, in which it has practically doubled.It’s a story that has data at its heart, from the ground-breaking invention of the category itself in 17th century London to the pioneering social health surveys of W.E.B. Du Bois in 1890s Philadelphia. Tim Harford spoke to Steven about the numbers beneath possibly the most important number of all.
12/06/218m 58s

Third wave fears, smart motorways and bra sizes

Covid cases are rising again in the UK – should we be worried about a third wave? Tim Harford speaks to David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of Risk at the University of Cambridge.How safe are smart motorways? Many listeners have concerns that they seem more dangerous than conventional motorways. We take a look at the numbers.What proportion of adults in England have been vaccinated? Listeners have spotted a potential discrepancy in the public data online.Are 80% of women wearing the wrong size bra? This frequently repeated statistic has been around for decades – could it possibly be true?
09/06/2128m 39s

Bolton vaccines, Yorkshire versus Scotland and the average gamer

Health Minister Matt Hancock recently told the House of Commons that: “The number of vaccinations happening in Bolton right now is phenomenal - tens of thousands every single day.” We explain why this is not the case.The recent SNP election success has turned attention to the question of independence. We compare Scotland’s finances to the comparably sized Yorkshire and Humber region.How do you work out 28 + 47 in your head? We speak to mathematician Katie Steckles.A listener asked us to find out if it is true that the average age of a gamer is over 40.Plus, we take a look at this claim from Netflix documentary Seaspiracy: “if current fishing trends continue we will see virtually empty oceans by the year 2048.”
02/06/2128m 58s

The Seaspiracy “virtually empty ocean” claim

Popular Netflix documentary Seaspiracy has sparked a lot of debate recently, including some controversy over some of the claims the documentary makes and the numbers behind them. One of the most striking is that: “if current fishing trends continue we will see virtually empty oceans by the year 2048.” Although overfishing is a global problem, we take a look and find that this scenario is unlikely.
29/05/218m 58s

Wales jab success, Eurovision and living with your parents

Wales has given one vaccination dose against Covid 19 to a larger proportion of their population than any other country except a couple of super tiny ones. They’ve given one vaccine dose to over 80% of their adult population. We explore some reasons why they seem to be doing so well.The UK continues to do poorly at Eurovision – we take a look back over the years to examine why the UK used to do well, and why it doesn’t any more.Waiting lists for NHS treatment across the UK have grown – but why are things so bad in Northern Ireland?Is it true that 42% of young people are living at home with their parents? We find out what a young person is and why they haven’t flown the nest.
26/05/2128m 43s

The medical trial that proved Trump wrong

The Recovery Trial, a nation-wide clinical study in the UK, helped identify treatments for Covid 19 in the early months of the pandemic. Tim Harford speaks to Professor Martin Landray of Oxford University whose team established the randomised trial.
22/05/218m 58s

Explaining maths without Numbers

Tim Harford interviews Milo Beckman - a young mathematician, still in his twenties, who has written a book called ‘Math without Numbers’. Milo explains why he wanted to strip out digits to make it easier to describe the beauty of mathematics.
15/05/218m 58s

Finding Mexico City’s real death toll

Mexico City’s official Covid 19 death toll did not seem to reflect the full extent of the crisis that hit the country in the spring of 2020 - this is according to Laurianne Despeghel and Mario Romero. These two ordinary citizens used publicly available data to show that excess deaths during the crisis - that’s the total number of extra deaths compared to previous years - was four times higher than the confirmed Covid 19 deaths.
08/05/218m 58s

Bayes: the clergyman whose maths changed the world

Bayes’ Rule has been used in AI, genetic studies, translating foreign languages and even cracking the Enigma Code in the Second World War. We find out about Thomas Bayes - the 18th century English statistician and clergyman whose work was largely forgotten until the 20th century.
02/05/218m 58s

Will 2021 have more Covid deaths than 2020?

In 2020 there were 1.8 million reported Covid deaths. So far this year, we’ve had 1.2 million. We’re currently seeing around 12,000 deaths a day across the world. But while some areas are seeing falls in numbers, others such as India are seeing a surge.This week Tim Harford tries to answer the question: Will there be more global deaths this year from Covid 19 compared to last year?
24/04/218m 58s

How many swimming pools full of vaccine do we need?

If we brought together all the Covid 19 vaccine needed for the whole world, how much space would it fill up? An Olympic size swimming pool? We do some back of the envelope sums. Plus - we look at the increased risk of clots from pregnancy. Last week we looked at the increased risk of getting a clot from taking the combined contraceptive pill and compared it to risk of possible rare clots identified following the Astra Zeneca jab. How does pregnancy compare?
17/04/218m 58s

Clot risks: The Pill versus the vaccine

The Astra Zeneca Covid 19 jab remains in the headlines because some regulators have concluded that it may raise the risk of a very rare type of blood clot, albeit to a risk that is still very low. In the past few weeks a number of countries have said they will limit its use to older age groups. But people are drawing comparisons to the contraceptive pill which is well-known to increase the risk of clots and asking why this level of risk is tolerated. Is this comparison fair? Tim Harford speaks to Professor Frits Rosendaal from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and Susan Ellenberg, professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.
10/04/218m 58s

Too fast for Minecraft?

The impressive speed records of a well-known gamer called Dream for the video game Minecraft have come under scrutiny. Many say that Dream has completed speed runs in such a fast time that it doesn’t seem possible. Are these suspicions correct? We speak to stand-up mathematician Matt Parker who has looked at the probabilities on the elements of chance in the game to see if these records seem plausible.
04/04/219m 10s

In praise of Covid Data

On this week’s programme we talk to Clare Griffiths from the UK’s coronavirus dashboard and Alexis Madrigal from the Atlantic Magazine’s Covid Tracking Project in the US.
27/03/218m 59s

Deciding when to suspend a vaccine

Many countries recently decided to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine over fears it was increasing the risk of blood clots. The European Medicines Agency and the WHO called on countries to continue using the vaccine but regulators in individual countries opted to be cautious, waiting for investigations to take place. But why? Tim Harford explores the risks of blood clots and weighing up whether it was necessary to suspend using the vaccine.
20/03/218m 58s

The truth about obesity and Covid 19

A widely reported study claims that 90% of Covid 19 deaths across the world happened in countries with high obesity rates. While an individual’s risk of death is increased by having a high Body Mass Index, the broader effect on a country’s death rate is not what it seems.
13/03/218m 58s

Sainthood and Cup draws

Tim Harford explores the chances of becoming a saint, inspired by a throw away comment by the detective on the TV drama ‘Death in Paradise.’ Plus, a listener has a question about the recent Europa League Draw for the final knockout round. He spotted that none of the teams face a rival from their own country. What were the chances of that happening?
06/03/218m 58s

Why are US Covid cases falling?

Cases of Covid 19 began to soar in the US in the autumn. By early January there were around 300,000 new cases a day. But since then the numbers have fallen steeply. What caused this dramatic drop? From herd immunity to the weather, Tim Harford explores some of the theories with Derek Thompson of The Atlantic magazine and Professor Jennifer Dowd, deputy director of the Lever Hume Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford.
27/02/218m 58s

Covid 19 death count: which countries are faring worst?

Are different countries counting deaths from Covid 19 in the same way? Tim Harford finds out if we can trust international comparisons with the data available. We discover Peru currently has the most excess deaths per capita over the course of the pandemic, while Belgium has the highest Covid death count per capita.Tim speaks to Hannah Ritchie from Our World in Data and John Burn Murdoch, senior data visualisation journalist at the Financial Times.
20/02/218m 58s

Comparing death counts, Lock Down drinking and Long Covid

The UK was the first European country to surpass 100,000 deaths from Covid 19. The UK has one of the worst death rates. But can we trust the numbers? Many of our listeners have asked us to investigate. Long Covid is widely acknowledged as being a growing problem, but what are the numbers involved? Just how many people have longterm symptoms after their initial infection? There have been reports that we are drinking more in Lock Down. We examine the evidence. Dr Natalie MacDermott was one of the first guests invited on to More or Less to talk about the new coronavirus early last year. We revisit what she said then and what we know now. Plus, she tells of her own struggles with Long Covid.
17/02/2128m 55s

How much Covid in the World?

If we brought all the virus particles of the Sars-CoV-2 virus from every human currently infected, how much would there be? This was a question posed by one of our listeners. We lined up two experts to try to work this out. YouTube maths nerd Matt Parker and Kit Yates, senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath, UK give us their best estimates. One believes the particles would fit into a small can of coke, the other a spoonful.
13/02/218m 58s

Brexit exports, cladding and are 1 in 5 disabled?

Are exports to the EU from the UK down 68% since Brexit? This apocalyptic statistic is being widely reported, but does it really tell us what’s happening at Dover and Folkstone?Ministers are tweeting reassuring numbers about flammable cladding on high rise buildings. We’re not so sure.Is it really true that one in five people are disabled?Plus, if you assembled all the coronavirus particles in the world into a pile - how big would it be?
10/02/2128m 36s

Glasgow vs Rwanda

Tim explores a shocking claim that life expectancy in some parts of Glasgow is less than it is in Rwanda. But is that fair on Glasgow and for that matter is it fair on Rwanda? And a listener asks whether loss of smell is a strong enough symptom of Covid that it might be used to help diagnose the virus, replacing rapid testing. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Chloe Hadjimatheou(Left: Rwanda refugee - photo Reza. Right: Glasgow homeless man - photo Christopher Furlong / both Getty images)
06/02/218m 58s

Teachers, Test & Trace and Butterflies

Prominent Labour politicians have claimed teachers are more likely to catch Covid-19, is that true?England’s Test and Trace programme has been widely criticised, has it raised its game in recent months? A ferocious row has broken out between scientists about how effective fast turnaround Lateral Flow tests are, and how they should be used. We examine the data.Plus, we examine a claim from Extinction Rebellion that British butterflies have declined by 50% since 1976.
03/02/2128m 36s

The Rapid Test Row

A ferocious row has broken out among scientists about new coronavirus tests. Lateral flow tests provide results within minutes and some scientists believe they are offer accurate enough results at a speed that could allow us to resume business as usual. Others think they are so poor at detecting the virus that they could pose a huge danger.In this week’s More or Less, Tim Harford looks at the evidence and what we know about these new tests.
30/01/218m 58s

Deaths at Home, Supermarket Infections and the Cobra Effect

Since the start of the pandemic there have been many warnings that people might die not just from the coronavirus itself, but also if they didn’t seek medical help out of fear that hospitals might be dangerous. Is there any evidence that this has happened? David Spiegelhalter is on the case.The UK is in lockdown, but tens of thousands of people a day are still testing positive for Coronavirus. Where are they catching it? Grim data on drug deaths in Scotland has been called into question on social media. We ferret out the truth. Plus, what can venomous snakes tell us about the government's plan to increase the number of people self-isolating?
27/01/2128m 24s

Deaths at home, supermarket infections and the Cobra effect

Since the start of the pandemic there have been many warnings that people might die not just from the coronavirus itself, but also if they didn’t seek medical help out of fear that hospitals might be dangerous. Is there any evidence that this has happened? David Spiegelhalter is on the case.The UK is in lockdown, but tens of thousands of people a day are still testing positive for Coronavirus. Where are they catching it? Grim data on drug deaths in Scotland has been called into question on social media. We ferret out the truth. Plus, what can venomous snakes tell us about the government's plan to increase the number of people self-isolating?
27/01/2128m 24s

Counting Covid’s impact on GDP

GDP figures for the period covering lockdown appear to show that the UK suffered a catastrophic decline, worse than almost any other country. But as Tim Harford finds out, things aren’t quite as bad for the UK as they might seem - though they might be worse for everywhere else. Also, alarming claims have been circulating in the UK about the number of suicides during lockdown. We look at the facts.There is support for the issues discussed in the programme at help.befrienders.orgPresenter: Tim Harford Producers: Nathan Gower and Chloe Hadjimatheou(Robots work on the MINI car production line at the BMW plant in Cowley, Oxford, UK. Credit: Tolga Akmen/ Getty Images)
23/01/218m 58s

Will the vaccine bring back normal life? GDP and Fishing

The vaccine rollout continues: how long will it take before we see the benefits, and what benefits will we see? Figures suggest the UK’s economy performed worse than almost anywhere else in the world during the pandemic. But are the numbers misleading us? Alarming claims have been circulating about the number of suicides during lockdown. We look at the facts. Plus, will UK fishing quotas increase two thirds in the wake of Brexit? We trawl through the data.
20/01/2127m 49s

How effective is one dose of the vaccine?

A lot has changed since More or Less was last on air. We give you a statistical picture of the second wave: how bad is it, and is there hope? The new vaccine regime is to delay the booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for up to 3 months. But is the first dose 52% or 90% effective? A new virus variant is meant to be 70% more transmissible, what does that mean? Plus, one of our youngest loyal listeners has a question about her classmates names.
14/01/2129m 10s

Ants and Algorithms

What can ants tells us about whether something deserves to be popular? This is a question tackled in David Sumpter’s book – ‘The Ten Equations that Rule the World: And How You Can Use Them Too.’ He tells Tim Harford about some of the algorithms that you see in nature, and those harnessed by tech companies such as YouTube.
09/01/218m 58s

Numbers of the year: Part two

From the economic impact of Covid 19 to the number of people who have access to soap and water, we showcase figures that tell us something about 2020. Tim Harford asks a group of numbers-minded people to take a look back on the year and think of one statistic that really stands out for them. We speak to Razia Khan, the head of research and chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered; Sana Safi, presenter for BBC Pashto TV at the BBC's Afghanistan Service; and Jennifer Rogers, vice president for external affairs at the Royal Statistical Society. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Charlotte McDonald
08/01/218m 58s

Numbers of the year: Part one

Tim Harford asks a group of numbers-minded people to take a look back on the year and think of one statistic that really stands out for them. From the spread of Covid-19 to the number of songs added to Spotify this year, we showcase figures that tell us something about 2020. We speak to Oliver Johnson, professor of information theory at the University of Bristol in the UK; Anne-Marie Imafidon, creator and CEO of social enterprise Stemettes; and economist Joel Waldfogel, of the University of Minnesota.
08/01/218m 59s

The economics of a Covid Christmas

Tim Harford asks economist Joel Waldfogel how Covid 19 could affect spending at Christmas this year. They discuss the usual bump in sales and gift giving. The author of ‘Scroogenomics’ usually argues that presents are rarely as valued by the recipient compared to something they might buy for themselves. But what should people do this year?
19/12/208m 58s

QAnon: Child runaways and trafficking numbers debunked

Tim Harford looks at false statistical claims online about missing and trafficked children in the US. These numbers have resurfaced online in part due to conspiracy theorists following QAnon. In the past few months they have inspired protests under the banner - ‘Save Our Children’. We wade through some of the false numbers with the help of Michael Hobbes, a reporter for Huff Post and the co-host of the podcast called You're Wrong About.
12/12/208m 59s

Vaccines: how safe and who gets it?

The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the use of a vaccine for Covid 19. But some people are worried that the decision was taken too quickly - can we really know it’s safe yet? Tim Harford tackles these safety concerns. Plus, what is the best way to distribute the vaccine? How do you maximise the benefit of the first round of vaccines? Stuart McDonald, a fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries in the UK works out what groups would benefit most.
05/12/208m 59s

Tracking Covid 19

This year has shown us the importance of good robust data - as Covid-19 spread around the world it was vital to track where it was, how many people it was infecting and where it might go next. On More or Less we’ve spent months reporting on data inaccuracies and vacuums, but what makes for good or indeed bad data? I’ve been speaking to Amy Maxmen, Senior reporter at the scientific journal ‘Nature’ about which countries are getting data collection right and which aren’t.
28/11/209m 58s

Inviting Covid for Dinner

If you go to a gathering of 25 or more people, what are the chances one of you has coronavirus?Imagine that you’re planning to hold some sort of gathering or dinner at your home. Take your pick of big festivities - it’s Thanksgiving in the US, we’ve just had Diwali and Christmas is on the horizon. In some places such a gathering is simply illegal anyway. But if it IS legal, is it wise?Professor Joshua Weitz and his team at Georgia Tech in the US have created a tool which allows people in the US and some European countries to select the county they live in, and the size of gathering they are intending on having, and then it calculates the chances that someone at that party, has Covid 19.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Charlotte McDonald
21/11/209m 16s

Vaccine numbers

A vaccine which has shown in a clinical trial to be 90% effective against Covid 19 has been widely welcomed. But what does it mean and how was it worked out? Although experts and politicians urge caution, how excited can we be about the results of this trial of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech? Tim Harford explores what we know about this new vaccine candidate with Jennifer Rogers, vice president of the Royal Statistical Society in the UK, and she also works for Phastar, a consultancy which specialises in analysing clinical trials. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Charlotte McDonald
14/11/208m 59s

How deadly is Covid 19?

Tim Harford explores what we know about mortality rates in the current pandemic. We discuss the differences between the risks to different age groups, and why that has an effect on a country’s Covid 19 fatality rate. We speak to Dr Hannah Ritchie from the University of Oxford and Dr Daniel Howdon of the University of Leeds in the UK.
07/11/208m 58s

Asymptomatic Covid19 Cases

A headline in a British tabloid newspaper claimed that ‘Staggering 86% who tested Covid positive in lockdown had NONE of the official symptoms’ but what does this mean and is it true?
31/10/208m 58s

US election: facts or fiction

Tim Harford hears about the sheer volume of false claims made during the campaign. President Trump is well known for making wild statements, but has his behaviour changed? And what about Joe Biden? So much attention is concentrated on Trump’s claims, how does the Democratic candidate fare? Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post and Katherine J Wu at the New York Times tell us about fact-checking during the run up to the election.
24/10/208m 58s

Auction Theory - Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson

Paul Milgrom and his former tutor Robert Wilson worked together for years developing ways to run complicated auctions for large resources. This month the two Stanford University professors were awarded the Nobel memorial prize in economics for their work. The auction formats they designed facilitated the sale of goods and services that are difficult to sell in a conventional way, such as radio frequencies.
17/10/208m 58s

A short history of probability

Tim Harford speaks to Jacob Goldstein about the unholy marriage of mathematicians, gamblers, and actuaries at the dawn of modern finance.
10/10/208m 57s

Spreadsheet snafu, ‘Long Covid’ quantified, and the birth of probability

After nearly 16,000 cases disappeared off coronaviruses spreadsheets, we ask what went wrong. How common are lasting symptoms from Covid-19? If you survey people about the death toll from Covid, they’ll make mistakes. What do those mistakes teach us? Pedants versus poets on the subject of exponential growth. And we dive deep into the unholy marriage of mathematicians, gamblers, and actuaries at the dawn of modern finance.
07/10/2021m 25s

“Record” Covid cases, Trump on the death count, and ant pheromones

Case counts in perspective, a suspect stat from the US, and life lessons from insects.
30/09/2028m 31s

Covid curve queried, false positives, and the Queen’s head

A scary government graph this week showed what would happen if coronavirus cases doubled every seven days. But is that what’s happening? There’s much confusion about how many Covid test results are false positives - we explain all. Plus, do coffee and pregnancy mix? And the Queen, Mao, and Gandhi go head to head: who is on the most stamps and coins?
23/09/2029m 4s

The magical maths of pool testing

Tim Harford speaks to Israeli researcher, Tomer Hertz, about how the mathematical magic of pool testing could help countries to ramp up their Covid-19 testing capacity.
19/09/208m 58s

Covid testing capacity, refugee numbers, and mascara

Amid reports of problems with coronavirus testing across the UK, we interrogate the numbers on laboratory capacity. Does the government’s Operation Moonshot plan for mass testing make statistical sense? Has the UK been taking more refugees from outside the European Union than any EU country? We explore the connection between socio-economic status and Covid deaths. And we do the maths on a mascara brand’s bold claim about emboldening your eyelashes.
16/09/2028m 9s

Covid cases rising, a guide to life’s risks, and racing jelly-fish

A jump in the number of UK Covid-19 cases reported by the government has led to fears coronavirus is now spreading quickly again. What do the numbers tell us about how worried we should be? Plus a guide to balancing life’s risks in the time of coronavirus, the government’s targets on test and trace, and a suspicious statistic about the speed of jelly-fish.
09/09/2028m 5s

Schools and coronavirus, test and trace, maths and reality

As children return to school in England and Wales, we hear about what we know and what we don’t when it comes to Covid-19 risks in school settings. What do the numbers tell us about how well test and trace is working? Will reopening universities really kill 50,000 people? Are the UK’s figures on economic growth as bad as they look? And is maths real? When someone goes viral asking maths questions on social media, More or Less finds answers.
02/09/2027m 57s

Covid plasma therapy

Donald Trump says allowing the emergency use of blood plasma therapy for coronavirus patients will save “countless lives” and is “proven to reduce mortality by 35%”. We look at the evidence. Amid talk of coronavirus being back on the rise in the UK, what does the data show? Could screening for breast cancer from the age of 40 save lives? And can it really be true than one in five women in 18th century London made a living selling sex?
26/08/2027m 37s

A-level algorithms, poker and buses

We unpick the A-level algoshambles, discover why 1.3 million Covid tests disappeared from the government's statistics last week, and for reasons that may become clear, we examine the chance of being hit by a bus. Plus, what does poker teach us about the role of randomness in our lives?
19/08/2028m 8s

Belarus’ contested election

Autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenko claims to have won a landslide in the country’s presidential elections. But how can we know what really happened? Tim Harford delves into the numbers behind the widely-questioned election result, with Dr Brian Klaas and political analyst Artyom Shraibman.
15/08/209m 8s

Hawaiian Pizza, obesity and a second wave?

Covid-19 cases are rising in the UK - is it a sign of a second wave of the virus? We’re picking apart the data and asking how concerned we should be both now and as autumn approaches. Scotland is undercounting Covid deaths, England is overcounting them: we’ll ask why and whether the problems will be fixed. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver claims over a quarter of all the fruit and veg kids eat is in the form of pizza, can this be true? Plus, as some people are blaming obesity for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, we’ll find out how big a difference it really makes.
12/08/2027m 57s

Melting Antarctic ice

One More or Less listener has heard that if all the ice in Antarctica melted, global sea levels would rise by 70 metres. But it would take 361 billion tonnes of ice to raise the world's sea levels by just 1 millimetre. So how much ice is in Antarctica? And in the coming years, what impact might temperature changes have on whether it remains frozen?(Gentoo penguins on top of an iceberg at King George Island, Antarctica January 2020. Credit: Alessandro Dahan/ Getty Images)
08/08/208m 58s

Covid in Africa

Do we have enough data to know what’s happening on the continent? We talk to Dr Justin Maeda from the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Ghanaian public health researcher Nana Kofi Quakyi about tracking Africa’s outbreak. Producer: Jo Casserly Picture: Volunteers wait to feed local people during the weekly feeding scheme at the Heritage Baptist Church in Melville on the 118 day of lockdown due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2020. Credit: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
01/08/2010m 7s

Data in the time of cholera

Tim Harford speaks to Steven Johnson about William Farr and the birth of epidemiology in the 1800s.
25/07/208m 58s

Covid misconceptions and US deaths

Tim Harford talks to statistician Ola Rosling about his research into misconceptions about Covid-19. And an update on the epidemic in the US.
18/07/208m 58s

Sweden’s lockdown lite

Unlike its Nordic neighbours, Sweden never imposed a lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus. Tim Harford speaks to statistician Ola Rosling to find out what the results have been.Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jo CasserlyPicture: A woman wearing a face mask stands at a Stockholm bus stop where a sign reminds passengers to maintain a minimum social distance. Sweden 25 June 2020. Credit: EPA/ Stina Stjernkvist
11/07/2014m 41s

Why Trump is wrong about the USA’s coronavirus case comeback

Are cases really rising in the US or are they just testing more? Tim digs into the data.
04/07/209m 8s

Why did the UK have such a bad Covid-19 epidemic?

The UK has suffered one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus anywhere in the world. We’ve been tracking and analysing the numbers for the last 14 weeks, and in the last programme of this More or Less series, we look back through the events of March 2020 to ask why things went so wrong - was it bad decision-making, bad advice, or bad luck?
01/07/2028m 24s

A new Covid-19 drug and a second wave

The steroid Dexamethasone has been hailed a “major breakthrough” in the treatment of Covid-19. But what does the data say? Plus, why haven’t mass protests led to a second wave?
27/06/209m 11s

Child Poverty, School Inequality and a Second Wave

As lockdown eases, why hasn't there been a spike in infections? We get a first look at the evidence for the much-trumpeted Covid-19 treatment, Dexamethasone. Stephanie Flanders tells us what’s happening to the UK economy. Keir Starmer says child poverty is up; Boris Johnson says it’s down, who's right? Plus which children are getting a solid home-school experience, and who is missing out?
24/06/2028m 26s

Who Should be Quarantined?

Some countries are requiring new arrivals to self-isolate, a policy designed to stop infection spreading from areas of high prevalence to low prevalence. Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander find out which countries have the highest rate of Covid-19 infection. Plus, is it really true that the coronavirus mostly kills people who would die soon anyway?
20/06/209m 6s

Quarantine, Test and Trace and BODMAS

The UK has introduced new rules requiring all people arriving in the country to self-isolate for 14 days. But given the severity of the UK’s outbreak can there be many places more infectious? Is it true that Covid-19 mostly kills people who would die soon anyway? The first figures are out showing how England’s Test and Trace programme is performing, but they contain a mystery we’re keen to resolve. And we play with some mathematical puzzles, courtesy of statistician Jen Rogers.
17/06/2028m 55s

Antibody tests, early lockdown advice and European deaths

At the start of March the government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that the UK’s coronavirus outbreak was four weeks behind the epidemic in Italy. This ability to watch other countries deal with the disease ahead of us potentially influenced the decisions we made about which actions to take and when, including lockdown. So was he right?
10/06/2027m 56s

Keep your distance

What difference does a metre make? The World Health Organisation recommends that people keep at least 1 metre apart from each other to stop the spread of Covid-19, but different countries have adopted different standards. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying six feet apart - that’s just short of 2 metres; in the UK, the rule is 2 metres. But all this has a big impact on the way businesses and societies get back to work. Tim Harford investigates the economic costs and conundrums of keeping our distance in a post-lockdown world.How can we avoid infection spreading again, while getting on with life?
06/06/209m 1s

False negatives, testing capacity and pheasants

As lockdowns begin to lift the government is relying on testing and contact tracing programmes to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections. But how accurate are the swab tests used to diagnose the disease? The UK Statistics Authority has criticised the government for the way it reports testing figures, saying it’s not surprising that these numbers “are so widely criticised and often mistrusted.” We take a look at how the government achieved its target of developing a daily testing capacity of 200,000 by the end of May. Can we really have only 60 harvests left in the world? Plus, the very pleasant Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has a pleasant pheasant question for us.
03/06/2027m 56s

Obeying lockdown, flight arrivals and is this wave of the epidemic waning?

More than 35,000 people in the UK have now officially died from Covid-19, but what does the data show about whether this wave of the epidemic is waning? We ask who respects lockdown, who breaks it, and why?Our listeners are astounded by how many people allegedly flew into the UK in the first three months of the year - we’re on the story. We look at the performance of the Scottish health system on testing. And some pub-quiz joy involving a pencil.
27/05/2027m 48s

60 Harvests and statistically savvy parrots

A listener asks if there can really only be 60 harvests left in Earth's soil. Are we heading for an agricultural Armageddon? Plus we meet the parrots who are the first animals, outside humans and great apes, to be shown to understand probability.(image: Kea parrots in New Zealand)
23/05/208m 58s

School re-opening, Germany’s Covid-19 success and statistically savvy parrots

Risk expert David Spiegelhalter discusses whether re-opening some schools could be dangerous for children or their teachers. We ask what’s behind Germany’s success in containing the number of deaths from Covid-19. Many governments across the world are borrowing huge sums to prop up their economies during this difficult time, but with everyone in the same boat who are they borrowing from? Plus we revisit the UK’s testing figures yet again and meet some statistically savvy parrots.
20/05/2028m 6s

Social Distancing and Government Borrowing

As lockdowns start to lift, many countries are relying on social distancing to continue to slow the spread of coronavirus. The UK says we should stay 2 metres apart, the World Health Organisation recommends 1 metre, Canada six feet. So where do these different measurements come from? Plus, governments around the world are trying to prop up their economies by borrowing money. But with everyone in the same situation, where are they borrrowing from?
16/05/209m 9s

Vitamin D, explaining R and the 2 metre rule

R is one of the most important numbers of the pandemic. But what is it? And how is it estimated? We return to the topic of testing and ask again whether the governments numbers add up. As the government encourages those who can’t work at home to return to their workplaces - we’re relying on social distancing to continue to slow the spread of the virus. But where does the rule that people should stay 2 metres apart come from? And is Vitamin D an under-appreciated weapon in the fight against Covid-19?
13/05/2027m 38s

Covid-19 fatality rate

The question of just how dangerous Covid-19 really is, is absolutely crucial. If a large number of those who are infected go on to die, there could be dreadful consequences if we relaxed the lockdowns that have been imposed across much of the world. If the number is smaller, for many countries the worst might already be behind us.But the frustrating thing is: we’re still not sure. So how can we work this crucial number out?
09/05/208m 59s

Testing truth, fatality rates, obesity risk and trampolines.

The Health Minister Matt Hancock promised the UK would carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April. He claims he succeeded. Did he? The question of just how dangerous the new coronavirus really is, is absolutely crucial. If it’s high, there could be dreadful consequences if we relaxed the lockdowns. So why is the fatality rate so difficult to calculate? Is it true that being obese makes Covid-19 ten times more dangerous? And whatis injuring more kids in lockdown, trampolines or Joe Wicks’ exercises?
06/05/2027m 55s

Climate change and birdsong

With much of the world’s population staying indoors, there are fewer cars on the roads, planes in the skies and workplaces and factories open. Will this have an impact on climate change? Plus as the streets become quieter, is it just us, or have the birds begun to sing much more loudly?
02/05/209m 11s

Ethnic minority deaths, climate change and lockdown

We continue our mission to use numbers to make sense of the world - pandemic or no pandemic. Are doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds disproportionately affected by Covid-19? Was the lockdown the decisive change which caused daily deaths in the UK to start to decrease? With much of the world’s population staying indoors, we ask what impact this might have on climate change and after weeks of staring out of the window at gorgeous April sunshine, does cruel fate now doom us to a rain-drenched summer? Plus, crime is down, boasts the home secretary Priti Patel. Should we be impressed?
29/04/2028m 5s

Comparing countries' coronavirus performance

Many articles in the media compare countries with one another - who’s faring better or worse in the fight against coronavirus? But is this helpful - or, in fact, fair?Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander discuss the limitations that we come across when we try to compare the numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths in different countries; population size, density, rates of testing and how connected the country is all play a role.
25/04/209m 13s

Bonus Podcast: Professor John Horton Conway

John Horton Conway died in April this year at the age of 82 from Covid-19 related complications. An influential figure in mathematics, Conway’s ideas inspired generations of students around the world. We remember the man and his work with mathematician Matt Parker and Conway’s biographer Siobhan Roberts.
23/04/2014m 13s

Comparing countries, the risk to NHS staff, and birdsong

We compare Covid-19 rates around the world. Headlines say NHS staff are dying in large numbers, how bad is it? And is it just us, or have the birds started singing really loudly?
22/04/2027m 54s

Superforecasting the Coronavirus

Scientific models disagree wildly as to what the course of the coronavirus pandemic might be. With epidemiologists at odds, Tim Harford asks if professional predictors, the superforecasters, can offer a different perspective.(Image: Coronovirus graphic/Getty images)
18/04/208m 57s

Should you wear a face mask?

Do face masks stop you getting coronavirus? You might instinctively think that covering your mouth and nose with cloth must offer protection from Covid-19. And some health authorities around the world say people should make their own masks. But expert opinion is divided. Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander unpick the arguments.
11/04/208m 58s

Coronavirus deaths, face masks and a potential baby boom

Is the coronavirus related death count misleading because of delays in reporting? Do face masks help prevent the spread of the virus? Was a London park experiencing Glastonbury levels of overcrowding this week? And after reports of condom shortages, we ask whether there’s any evidence that we’re nine months away from a lockdown-induced baby boom. Plus in a break from Covid-19 reporting we ask a Nobel-prize winner how many Earth-like planets there are in existence.
08/04/2027m 57s

Are more men dying from coronavirus?

Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander examine the statistics around the world to see if more men are dying as a result of Covid-19, and why different sexes would have different risks. Plus is it true that in the US 40% of hospitalisations were of patients aged between 20 and 50?
04/04/208m 58s

Supermarket stockpiling, A-level results and Covid-19 gender disparity

This week, we examine criticisms of Imperial College’s epidemiologists. We ask how A-Level and GCSE grades will be allocated, given that the exams have vanished in a puff of social distancing. Adam Kucharski, author of The Rules of Contagion, tells us about the history of epidemiology. We look at the supermarkets: how are their supply chains holding up and how much stockpiling is really going on. And is coronavirus having a different impact on men than on women?
31/03/2028m 2s

The Risk

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, puts the risks of Covid-19 into perspective. He found that the proportion of people who get infected by coronavirus, who then go on to die increases with age, and the trend matches almost exactly how our background mortality risk also goes up. Catching the disease could be like packing a year’s worth of risk into a couple of weeks.(Mathematician and Risk guru, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter at the University of Cambridge. Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
28/03/209m 10s

Coronavirus Special

We’ve dedicated this special episode to the numbers surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic. Statistical national treasure Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter put the risks of Covid-19 into perspective. We ask whether young people are safe from serious illness, or if statistics from hospitalisations in the US show a high proportion of patients are under 50. We try to understand what the ever-tightening restrictions on businesses and movement mean for the UK’s economy, and we take a look at the mystery of coronavirus numbers in Iran.Presenter: Tim Harford
25/03/2027m 41s

Mitigation or Suppression: What’s best to tackle Coronavirus?

Last week, while schools and businesses across Europe closed in an attempt to halt the spread of Coronavirus the UK stood alone in a more relaxed approach to the pandemic; letting people choose whether they wanted to go to work, or socially distance themselves. This week, things have changed. Schools are closing for the foreseeable future and exams have been cancelled. The British government says their change of heart was based on the work scientists like Christl Donnelly from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford. So what has Christl found that has caused such concern? (Image: A lollipop lady helps children cross the road in Glasgow. Credit: EPA/Robert Perry)
21/03/209m 13s

The mystery of Iran’s coronavirus numbers

Does Iran have a lot more covid-19 cases that its figures suggest?
14/03/2013m 43s

How much heat do you lose from your head?

Every winter its the same, someone will tell you to put a hat on to save your body from losing all of its heat. But how much heat do you actually lose from your head? We take you on a journey from arctic conditions to a hot tub in Canada to explain why there might actually be more than one answer... Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Leoni Robertson and Lizzy McNeill
09/03/209m 5s

Netflix vs the environment

Does watching 30 minutes of Netflix have the same carbon footprint as driving four miles?
29/02/208m 58s

More or Less: Superforecasting, wood burning stoves and the real story of Hidden Figures

Dipping into the archive for stories on the art of prediction and wood burner pollution
28/02/2025m 54s

Artificial (not so) Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence – or AI for short – is often depicted in films in the shape of helpful droids, all-knowing computers or even malevolent ‘death bots’. In real life, we’re making leaps and bounds in this technology’s capabilities with satnavs, and voice assistants like Alexa and Siri making frequent appearances in our daily lives. So, should we look forward to a future of AI best friends or fear the technology becoming too intelligent. Tim Harford talks to Janelle Shane, author of the book ‘You Look Like a Thing and I Love you’ about her experiments with AI and why the technology is really more akin to an earthworm than a high-functioning ‘death bot’.
22/02/208m 58s

WS More or Less: Coronavirus - The Numbers

A lot has changed since our last episode covering the numbers behind the coronavirus - for a start it now has a name, Covid-19. This week news has broken that deaths are 20 per cent higher than thought, and the number of cases has increased by a third. Tim Harford talks to Dr Nathalie MacDermott, a clinical lecturer at King’s College London about what we know – and what we still don’t.
15/02/208m 58s

Coronavirus, jam, AI and tomatoes

Covid-19 stats, spreading jam far and wide, cooking with AI, and James Wong on vegetables
14/02/2023m 18s

WS More or Less: How fast are Alligators and Hippos?

We all know that you should never smile at a crocodile, but rumour has it that alligators are great perambulators – at least that’s what a booklet about Florida’s wildlife claimed. Tim Harford speaks to John Hutchinson, Professor of evolutionary bio-mechanics to see whether he could outrun one of these reportedly rapid retiles. Also – our editor thinks he could outrun a hippo, is he right? (…probably not).
08/02/2010m 10s

Tracking terror suspects

Costing counter-terrorism, interrogating tomatoes, the UK's reading age, politics and GDP
07/02/2028m 24s

WS More or Less: Coronavirus

The WHO have declared a ‘Global Health Emergency’ as health officials are urgently trying to contain the spread of a new coronavirus in China and beyond; but not all the information you read is correct. We fact-check a particularly hyperbolic claim about its spread that’s been doing the rounds on social media.
01/02/208m 58s

Coronavirus, emotions and guns.

Fact checking claims about coronavirus and whether more guns equal fewer homicides.
31/01/2028m 30s

WS More or Less: Dozy Science

Anxiety around sleep is widespread. Many of us feel we don’t get enough. An army of experts has sprung up to help, and this week we test some of the claims from one of the most prominent among them: Professor Matthew Walker. He plays ball and answers some of the criticisms of his bestselling book Why We Sleep.
25/01/209m 9s

Netflix and Chill

The list of ways campaigners say we need to change our behaviour in response to climate change seems to grow every week. Now, streaming video is in the frame. We test the claim that watching 30 minutes of Netflix has the same carbon footprint as driving four miles. We hear scepticism about a report that sepsis is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide. Author Bill Bryson stops by with a question about guns – and gets quizzed about a number in his new book. And, how much sleep do we really need? Find out if we need more or less.
24/01/2028m 15s

WS More or Less: Japan’s 99% Conviction Rate

The fugitive former Nissan boss, Carlos Ghosn, has raised questions about justice in Japan. The government in Tokyo has defended its system, where 99% of prosecutions lead to conviction. Prof Colin Jones, from Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, explains what's behind this seemingly shocking statistic. And a listener asks if it’s true Canada’s is roughly the same. Toronto lawyer Kim Schofield sets them straight.
18/01/208m 58s

Weighing the Cost of Brexit

Is it possible to calculate the cost of Brexit? Gemma Tetlow from the Institute for Government helps us weigh the arguments. How much does luck play into Liverpool FC's amazing season? And, crucially, how fast is an alligator?
17/01/2016m 12s

WS More or Less: Bushfire mystery

Have a billion animals died in Australia’s fires? And which ones are likely to survive?
11/01/209m 7s

Australian Animal Deaths, Carbon Emissions, Election Mystery

Tim Harford on animal deaths in Australia's fires, how many Labour voters went Conservative and are UK carbon emissions really down 40%. Plus: have we really entered a new decade?
10/01/2034m 54s

C-sections and sharks

How many women in China give birth in hospitals, and whether it was true that 50% of births there are delivered by caesarean section. Oh, and we also mention guts and bacteria…Sharks kill 12 humans a year but humans kill 11,417 sharks an hour. That’s the statistic used in a Facebook meme that’s doing the rounds. Is it true?
04/01/208m 59s

Presidential candidates and dementia

We talk about the age of some of the frontrunners in the Democrat nomination race and President Donald Trump and the health risks they face.Also, More or Less listeners were surprised by a claim they read on the BBC website recently: “Pets are estimated to be consuming up to 20 percent of all meat globally.” So we – of course – investigated and will explain all.
28/12/198m 59s

The Simpsons and maths

We explore the maths secrets of The Simpsons on their 30th anniversary.
20/12/198m 59s


As bushfires rage in Australia, the plight of the koala made front-page news around the world. There were warnings that fires wiped out 80% of the marsupial's habitat and that koalas are facing extinction. We check the claims with the help of National Geographic's Natasha Daly and Dr Christine Hosking of the University of Queensland. (A Koala receives treatment at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie after its rescue from a bushfire. Credit: Safeed Khan/Getty Images)
13/12/198m 59s

Election Special (2/2)

Labour's spending plans, Conservatives claims on homelessness, the SNP's education record
10/12/1927m 47s

Tree Planting Pledges

The UK General Election is fast approaching, top of the agenda are the political parties green ambitions and one particular initiative is garnering a lot of attention, tree planting. The Labour Party has the most ambitious target – a whopping 2 billion trees planted by 2040. How much land would this take, how does it stack up against other party pledges and what difference will it make? Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Lizzy McNeill
06/12/198m 58s

Election Special 1/2

50,000 nurses? 40 new hospitals? Big corporate tax rises? Childcare promises? Election pledges might sound good, but do they stand up to scrutiny? In the run up to the General Election on 12th December, Tim Harford takes his scalpel of truth to the inflamed appendix of misinformation. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Neal Razzell
03/12/1927m 39s

Testing tomatoes

Have these saucy fruits become less healthy over time?
29/11/198m 58s

The world’s busiest shipping lanes

A listener wrote in asking which is the busiest shipping lane in the world. Ruth Alexander tries to find out with sea traffic analyst and former captain, Amrit Singh and Jean Tournadre, a researcher that uses satellite date to ships. Producer: Darin Graham Editor: Richard VadonImage: Freighter ships in Thessaloniki, Greece Credit: Getty Images
23/11/199m 21s

Bolivia: Can statistics help detect electoral fraud?

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s longest-serving leader and first indigenous president, stepped down last week amid weeks of protests sparked by a dispute over a recent presidential election in the country. His opponents say the election was rigged but the embattled former president said it was a cunning coup. We take a closer look at the election results and ask if statistics can tell whether it was fair or fraudulent.Dr Calla Hummel of the University of Miami and Professor Romulo Chumacero of the University of Chile join Ruth Alexander to discuss.
15/11/1911m 30s

Reducing your risk of death

Two statistics about reducing your risk of an early death made headlines around the world recently. The first seems to be a great reason to add a four-legged friend to your life. It suggests that owning a dog is tied to lowering your chance of dying early by nearly a quarter. The second statistic claims that even a minimal amount of running is linked to reducing your risk of premature death by up to 30%. Ruth Alexander finds out what’s behind these numbers and we hear from epidemiologist, Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz.Producer: Darin Graham
09/11/198m 57s

Unbelievable: The forgotten rape data

In the United States, some police jurisdictions didn’t send off DNA evidence from people who were raped for testing in a crime lab and for uploading into a national criminal database. Instead, the sets of evidence, known as rape kits, were sat on shelves and in warehouses. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands need processing. In this edition, Ruth Alexander explores how some jurisdictions are testing the kits now and using the data to catch criminals. Producer: Darin Graham Presenter: Ruth Alexander(Untested sexual assault kits on warehouse shelves. Image: courtesy Joyful Heart Foundation)
01/11/198m 59s

Edith Abbott and crime statistics

Social worker and economist Edith Abbott and her contribution to crime statistics.
28/10/198m 58s

Esther Duflo and women in economics

Discussing Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer’s economics Nobel Prize.
18/10/1920m 27s

The Extra Episode: Minimum wage, drinking in Scotland and identical twins.

We explore the numbers behind the new minimum wage announcements, whether drinking is going up or down in Scotland, the truth about squeezing people onto the Isle of Wight and how long one identical twin lives after the other twin dies. You’ll want to hear our special extra episode.
11/10/1928m 39s

WS More or Less: Does San Francisco have more rough sleepers than Britain?

Are the shocking statistics true? and how do you count people who don't wish to be found?
07/10/198m 59s

New hospitals promised, aid to Ukraine, and bacon sandwiches

Dissecting the government’s hospitals announcement and President Trump’s Ukraine claims.
04/10/1927m 54s

WS More or Less: Who fought in World War 1?

Were a third of those that fought for Britain in WW1 black or Asian?
30/09/198m 58s

Austerity Deaths, C-Sections and being struck by lightning

Has Austerity caused 120 thousand deaths in the UK and does God hate men?
27/09/1923m 43s

WS More or Less: Peaty v. Bolt: Which is the greatest world record?

Using statistics to compare world records in athletics and swimming.
23/09/198m 58s

Dementia, inflation and shark deaths

Health risks for Presidential hopefuls, falling inflation, shark deaths and salary claims
20/09/1924m 51s

WS More or Less: Cape Town murders

Are eight people a day murdered in Cape Town and is that number unusually high?
16/09/198m 58s

Maternal deaths, taxi driver earnings and statistical pop music

Are black women five times more likely to die in childbirth? Plus making pop music.
13/09/1924m 8s

WS More or Less: Deforestation in Brazil

Has it increased significantly since President Bolsonaro took office in January?
09/09/198m 58s

Climate deaths, austerity and pet food

Challenging the idea of six billion deaths due to climate change; plus what pets eat.
06/09/1924m 7s

WS More or Less: Amazon forest fires

Are they really 85 percent worse than last year?
02/09/198m 58s

Amazon fires, state pension and American burgers

Are forest fires in Brazil the worst in recent times? What is the state pension worth?
30/08/1927m 29s

WS More or Less: Ethiopia’s 350m trees in a day

Were millions of trees planted in just one day in Ethiopia?
26/08/198m 58s

Exam grades, Chernobyl and Ethiopian trees

Was your A Level grade correct? Plus were 350m trees planted in one day in Ethiopia?
23/08/1924m 40s

Mice and mind blowing maths

Re-inserting a caveat and discussing a really cool numbers trick.
16/08/199m 18s

Immigrant Crime Rate in the US

Do immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans in the United States?
09/08/198m 58s

The spread of fact-checking in Africa

With misinformation so easy to spread, how can it be stopped or challenged?
02/08/198m 58s

Pregnancy prohibitions – the evidence

Taking a statistical look at what expectant mothers should avoid.
26/07/198m 57s

Missing women from drug trials

How medical testing on just men causes problems.
19/07/199m 17s

Zimbabwe’s economy: Are sanctions to blame?

We look at politicians’ claims that sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe’s difficulties.
19/07/198m 58s

Two World Cups: Football and Cricket

On this week’s More or Less, Ruth Alexander looks at the numbers involved with the two world cups that are going on at the moment. Are more men than women watching the Women’s World Cup and how accurate is the Cricket World Cup rule of thumb that suggests if you double the score after 30 overs you get a good estimate of the final innings total?Producer: Richard VadonImage: Cricket World Cup Trophy 2019 Credit: Getty Images/ Gareth Copley-IDI
05/07/198m 59s

Is nuclear power actually safer than you think?

We questioned the death count of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in last week’s More or Less podcast. In the end, Professor Jim Smith of Portsmouth University came up with an estimate of 15,000 deaths. But we wondered how deadly nuclear power is overall when compared to other energy sources? Dr Hannah Ritchie of the University of Oxford joins Charlotte McDonald to explore.Image:Chernobyl nuclear plant, October 1st 1986 Credit: Getty Images
28/06/199m 48s

Questioning the Chernobyl disaster death count

The recent TV miniseries ‘Chernobyl’ has stirred up debate online about the accuracy of its portrayal of the explosion at a nuclear power plant in the former Soviet state of Ukraine. We fact-check the programme and try and explain why it so hard to say how many people will die because of the Chernobyl disaster.Image: Chernobyl nuclear power plant a few weeks after the disaster. Credit: Getty Images
21/06/1915m 24s

WS More or Less: Dealing with the Numbers of Cancer

How one woman used statistics to help cope with cancer.
14/06/199m 10s

WS More or Less: The things we fail to see

The hidden influences that a make a big difference to the way the world works.
10/06/199m 6s

Are married women flipping miserable?

Measuring happiness, university access in Scotland, plus will one in two get cancer?
07/06/1923m 33s

WS More or Less: Volcanoes versus humans

Does Mount Etna produce more carbon emissions than humans? We check the numbers.
03/06/199m 5s

Hay Festival Special

What does it mean to say that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world?
31/05/1927m 51s

WS More or Less: Florence Nightingale – recognising the nurse statistician

How collecting data about the dead led the famous nurse to promote better sanitation.
27/05/1910m 59s

Eurovision and fact-checking Naomi Wolf

The stats behind making a successful song, plus misunderstanding Victorian court records.
24/05/1924m 1s

Making music out of Money

Data visualisation is all the rage, but where does that leave the old-fashioned values of audio? Some data visualisation experts are starting to explore the benefits of turning pictures into sound. Financial Times journalist Alan Smith plays his musical interpretation of a chart depicting the yield-curve of American bonds.Image: Human heart attack, illustration Credit: Science Photo Library
20/05/199m 5s

Heart deaths, Organised crime and Gender data gaps

Are deaths from heart disease on the rise?This week the British Heart Foundation had us all stopping mid-biscuit with the news that the number of under 75s dying from cardiovascular disease is going up for the first time in half a century. It sounds like bad news – but is it?Does Huawei contribute £1.7billion to the UK economy?People were sceptical that the Chinese telecom company could contribute such a large amount to the UK economy. We take a deeper look at the number and discuss whether it is reasonable to include such a broad range of activities connected to the company to reach that figure. Deaths from organised crimeThe National Crime Agency (NCA) said this week that organised crime kills more people in the UK than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined. But what does the evidence say? The NCA also said that there are 181,000 offenders in the UK fueling serious and organised crime. That’s more than twice the strength of the British Army. We try to find out where those figures came from. The absence of women’s lives in dataDo government and economic statistics capture the lives of women fairly? If not, does it matter? How could things be changed? Tim Harford speaks to Caroline Criado-Perez about her new book ‘Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.’Image: Human heart attack, illustration Credit: Science Photo Library
17/05/1927m 57s

Sex Every Seven Seconds

We revisit some classic topics from past years. We hear which statistics about sex you should trust, and which are less robust. Do men think about sex every seven seconds? Plus, did the arrival of royal baby Princess Charlotte really contribute to the British economy?
13/05/1915m 6s

Sex, coal, missing people and mice

Sex Recession This week it was reported that British people are having less sex than they used to. Similar statistics are cropping up elsewhere in the world too. But one US stat seemed particularly stark: the number of young men having no sex at all in the past year has tripled in a decade. But is it true? No coal power for a week There were many reports in the newspapers this week saying the UK has set a new record for the number of consecutive days generating energy without burning any coal. So where is our electricity coming from? Missing people Some listeners got in touch to say they were surprised to hear that a person is reported missing in the UK every 90 seconds. Dr Karen Shalev Greene of the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons joins us to explore the numbers.In Mice One scientist is correcting headlines on Twitter by adding one key two-word caveat – the fact that the research cited has only been carried out "in mice". We ask him why he’s doing it.
10/05/1927m 36s

Avengers - Should we reverse the snap?

*Spoiler-free for Avengers: Endgame* At the end of Avengers: Infinity War film the villain, Thanos, snapped his fingers in the magical infinity gauntlet and disintegrated half of all life across the universe. The Avengers want to reverse the snap but would it better for mankind to live in a world with a population of less than 4 billion? Tim Harford investigates the economics of Thanos with anthropologist Professor Sharon DeWitte and fictionomics blogger Zachary Feinstein PHD. Image: The Avengers Endgame film poster Credit: ©Marvel Studios 2019
06/05/1910m 18s

Nurses, flatmates and cats

Nurse suicide ratesThere were some worrying figures in the news this week about the number of nurses in England and Wales who died by suicide over the last seven years. We try to work out what the numbers are really telling us. Are 27 million birds killed a year by cats?Newspapers reported this week that 27 million birds are killed by cats each year. We find out how this number - which might not really be "news" - was calculated.How rare are house shares?A listener got in touch to say she was surprised to read that only 3% of people aged 18 to 34 live in a house share with other people. She feels it must be too low – but is she living in a London house-sharing bubble? We find out.Proving that x% of y = y% of xWhy is it that 4% of 75 is the same as 75% of 4? Professor Jennifer Rogers from the University of Oxford joins Tim in the studio to explore a mind-blowing maths ‘trick’.Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Charlotte McDonald, Darin Graham and Beth Sagar-Fenton
03/05/1923m 45s

Bernie Sanders and the cost of having a baby

Bernie Sanders, a Senator in the United States and one of the front-runners in the campaign to be the Democratic presidential candidate, said on Twitter that it costs $12,000 to have a baby in his country. He compared that figure to Finland, where he said it costs $60. In this edition of More or Less, Tim Harford looks at whether Sanders has got his figures right. With Carol Sakala of US organisation Childbirth Connection and Mika Gissler of the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland. Producer: Darin Graham Presenters: Tim Harford and Charlotte McDonald Image: A newborn baby's hand. Credit:Getty Images/TongRo Images Inc
29/04/199m 32s

Hottest Easter, Insects, Scottish villages

Was it a surprise that Easter Monday was so hot?A heatwave struck the UK over Easter – and in fact Easter Monday was declared the hottest on record in the UK. But listeners asked - is it that surprising that it was the warmest when the date fell so late in April? We crunch the numbers supplied by the Met Office.InsectageddonInsects live all around us and if a recent scientific review is anything to go by, then they are on the path to extinction. The analysis found that more than 40% of insect species are decreasing and that a decline rate of 2.5% a year suggests they could disappear in 100 years. And as some headlines in February warned of the catastrophic collapse of nature, some More or Less listeners questioned the findings. Is insect life really in trouble?Collecting income tax from the 1%Recently Lord Sugar said in a Tweet “The fact is if you taxed everyone earning over £150k at a rate of 70% it would not raise enough to pay for 5% of the NHS.” Is that true? Helen Miller, Deputy Director and head of tax at the Institute for Fiscal Studies looks at how much such a policy might raise from the 1% of tax payers who earn over £150,000.Where is Scotland’s highest village?A battle is brewing in the Southern Scottish uplands between two rival villages. How can statistics help determine which village should take the crown? Wanlockhead and Leadhills both lay claim to the title of Scotland’s highest village but there can only be one winner. More or Less attempts to settle the age old dispute once and for all.Image: A man and woman sitting on deckchairs on the beach Credit: Getty Images
26/04/1927m 44s

The economic impact of mega sporting events

The Olympic Games and the football World Cup, two of the biggest events in the world which are each hosted every four years, are big business. And it costs a lot of money to host them, and a lot of the money comes from public funds. In this week’s edition of More or Less, we’ll be finding out – after all the sporting activities are over – how realistic were those economic predictions? Producer: Darin Graham Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Picture Credit: Fang Guangming/Southern Metropolis Daily/VCG
19/04/198m 59s

Where is Scotland’s highest village?

A battle is brewing in the Southern Scottish uplands between two rival villages. How can statistics help determine which village should take the crown? Wanlockhead and Leadhills both lay claim to the title of Scotland’s highest village but there can only be one winner. More or Less attempts to settle the age old dispute once and for all. Presenter: Phoebe KeanePicture: A village in the Southern Scottish uplands. Credit: Jan Halfpenny
15/04/198m 58s

Rounding up the weed killer cancer conundrum

A recent scientific review claims the weed killer glyphosate raises the risk of developing the cancer non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41 percent. But deciding what causes cancer can be complicated and there are lots of people and organisations on different sides arguing for against this. So in this edition of More or Less, we look at the disagreements and how the authors of the review came up with the results. With cancer epidemiologist Dr Geoffrey Kabat, Toxicologist Dr Luoping Zhang and statistician Sir David Spiegelhalter. Producer: Darin Graham Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Picture: Tractor spraying a field of wheat Credit: Getty Images
08/04/198m 58s

Chess cheats and the GOAT

Who is the greatest chess player in history? And what does the answer have to do with a story of a chess cheating school from Texas? In this week’s More or Less, the BBC’s numbers programme, David Edmonds finds out what a statistical analysis of chess moves can teach us about this ancient board game. Presenter: David Edmonds Producer: Darin GrahamImage: A Chess Board Credit: Getty Images
02/04/1910m 4s

Is Mansa Musa the richest person of all time?

Mansa Musa, the 14th century Mali king, has nothing on Jeff Bezos - read one recent news report. Musa set off on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in the 1300s and it’s said he left with a caravan of 60,000 people. Among them were soldiers, entertainers, merchants and slaves. A train of camels followed, each carrying gold. In recent reports, he has been described as the richest person that ever lived. He has been compared to some of the wealthiest people alive today. But how can we know the value of the ‘golden king’s’ wealth and can we compare a monarch to the likes of Amazon founder Bezos? In this edition, historian Dr Emmanuel Ababio Ofosu-Mensah of the University of Ghana in Accra explains who Mansa Musa was and Kerry Dolan of Forbes talks to us about rich lists. Producer: Darin Graham Editor: Richard Vadon (Image: Painting of Mansa Musa, Credit: Getty Images)
25/03/198m 58s

Day light saving time and heart attacks

Does the sudden loss of an hour of sleep raise the risk of having a heart attack?
18/03/198m 58s

The gender gap in tech

Are women really less likely than men to be hired for jobs in tech just because of their sex? A study claims that sexism in the recruitment process is holding women back from entering the tech sector. But the study is not all it seems. There are much better statistics that can help explain why fewer women than men work in tech in the USA and lessons to be learned from India, where there is a much smaller gender gap in the tech sector. Presenter: Phoebe KeanePhoto: An engineer looking at information on a screen interface Credit: Metamorworks / Getty Images
09/03/199m 3s


Insects live all around us and if a recent scientific review is anything to go by, then they are on the path to extinction. The analysis found that more than 40 percent of insect species are decreasing and that a decline rate of 2.5 percent a year suggests they could disappear in one hundred years. And as some headlines in February warned of the catastrophic collapse of nature, some More or Less listeners questioned the findings. Is insect life really in trouble? Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Darin Graham (Image: Hairy hawker dragonfly. Credit: Science Photo Library)
04/03/1912m 20s

How To Make Your Art Work More Valuable

Die, sell on a sunny day, place your work a third of the way through the auction….There are some surprising factors that can affect the price of an art work. Here are six top tips on how to get the best price for your art or, for art buyers, how to make a big return on your investment. Presenter: Dave Edmonds Producer: Darin Graham Editor: Richard Vadon Picture Credit: BBC
22/02/199m 14s

WS More or Less: When maths mistakes really matter

Tim Harford talks to Matt Parker on how simple maths mistakes can cause big problems.
18/02/199m 10s

Climate Change, Victorian Diseases, Alcohol

Tim Harford on climate change, Victorian diseases, maths mistakes and alcohol consumption
15/02/1923m 4s

WS More or Less: From the archives: Groundhogs and Kings

Who can better forecast the weather – meteorologists or a rodent? What percentage of the English public are related to King Edward the III, and is malnutrition really on the rise in the UK? Sit back, relax and enjoy some of the good stuff from the More or Less archives.
12/02/1918m 35s

Teen Suicide; Brexit Business Moves; Wood-Burner Pollution

Tim Harford finds untrue a recent report that there is a 'suicidal generation' of teens.
08/02/1928m 29s

WS More or Less: You have 15,000 likes!

A listener doubts her popularity on the dating app Tinder. We investigate the numbers.
04/02/199m 11s

Holocaust Deniers; Venezuelan Hyperinflation; Tinder Likes

Tim Harford on Holocaust deniers; food prices in Venezuela, and dating app statistics
01/02/1928m 54s

WS More or Less: Is Suicide Seasonal?

Tim Harford asks which times of the year are riskiest for suicide.
26/01/199m 11s
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