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More or Less: Behind the Stats

BBC

Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us.

Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us.
More Information

Location:

London, United Kingdom

Networks:

BBC

Description:

Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us.

Language:

English


Episodes

How to Cycle Really Fast

7/20/2018
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How much better are the pros than the rest of us and how effective is slipstreaming?

Duration:00:09:06

Are there more stars than grains of beach sand?

7/6/2018
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The astronomer, Carl Sagan, famously said that there were more stars in our Universe than grains of sand on the Earth’s beaches. But was it actually true? More or Less tries to count the nearly uncountable. Content warning: This episode includes gigantically large numbers. (Photo: The barred spiral galaxy M83. Credit: Nasa).

Duration:00:08:58

Running at the World Cup

6/29/2018
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This week we take a look at some of the statistics which have caught our attention at the World Cup. There has been much debate in both the press and social media about the large distances which Russian football players have run in their first two games. We look at how they compare to other teams and what it might signify. Also –is it just bad luck that Germany has crashed out of the competition? Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Richard Vadon (Picture: Artem Dzyuba of Russia...

Duration:00:10:15

How many words do you need to speak a language?

6/22/2018
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Ein Bier bitte? Loyal listener David made a new year's resolution to learn German. Three years later, that's about as far as he's got. Keen to have something to aim for, he asked More or Less how many words you really need to know in order to speak a language. Reporter Beth Sagar-Fenton finds out with help from Professor Stuart Webb, and puts Tim through his paces to find out how big his own English vocabulary is. (Image: The World surrounded by Flags. Credit: Shutterstock) Presenter: Tim...

Duration:00:09:06

FIFA World Cup Extravaganza

6/15/2018
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The World Cup starts this week and the More or Less team is marking the event by looking at the data behind all the World Cups since 1966 (our data shows that this was the best world cup because England won). We’ll answer all football fans most burning questions; which World Cups have seen the most shots, fouls, dribbles and most importantly goals? Do the statistics back up the reputations of famous players like Pele, Cruyff, Maradona and Paul Gascoigne? And which of them actually...

Duration:00:08:59

WS More or Less: How Many Animals are Born Every Day?

6/10/2018
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From penguins to nematodes, is it possible to count how many animals are born around the world every day? That’s the question one 10-year-old listener wants answered, and so reporter Kate Lamble sets off for the zoo to find out. Along the way, she discovers that very, very small animals are much more important than very, very big animals when it comes to the sums. (09.05) Artificial Intelligence or A.I. has been hailed as the answer to an easier life – but will it really make the world a...

Duration:00:15:03

Infant Mortality, How to Reduce Exam Revision With Maths, London’s Murder Rate

6/8/2018
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(0.24) Infant mortality is on the rise in England and Wales – but is this change down to social issues such as obesity and deprivation, as claimed, or the way doctors count very premature babies? (9.45) A self-confessed lazy student wrote in to ask how he can minimise exam revision, while still ensuring a high chance of passing – we do the sums. (15.44) Do a billion birds really die each year by flying into buildings? We explain another zombie statistic which refuses to die. (18.40) It was...

Duration:00:24:21

Counting Rough Sleepers

6/4/2018
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How do you count the number of people sleeping rough? According to the latest official figures around 4700 people were sleeping in the streets in the autumn of 2017. And that got us thinking. These statistics aren’t just downloaded from some big database in the sky. They need – like any statistic – to be collected and calculated. So how is it done?

Duration:00:12:22

The High Street, Home Births and Harry Potter Wizardry

6/1/2018
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Is WH Smith really the worst shop on the High Street? Harry Potter fans want to know how many wizards there are – we try to work it out. Is giving birth at home as safe as giving birth in hospital?

Duration:00:20:42

WS More or Less: Australia Calling

5/28/2018
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This week we tackle some of our listeners’ questions from Australia: do one in seven businessmen throw out their pants after wearing them once? This is a claim made by an expert talking about clothes waste – but what does it come from? Do horses kill more people than venomous animals? Australia is known for its dangerous wildlife, but how deadly is it for humans? Plus, a politician says lots of Australians have used cannabis – we take a look at the evidence. Presenter: Tim Harford...

Duration:00:11:11

Forecasting rain, teabags and voter ID trials

5/25/2018
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(00.28) Reading the BBC weather app – we explain the numbers on the forecast (06:55) University of Oxford Admissions: how diverse is its intake? (11:37) Voter idea trial at the local elections – counting those who were turned away from the polling station. (15:46) How much tea do Brits drink? We investigate a regularly cited estimate (20:06) Are pensioners richer than people of working age?

Duration:00:23:48

WS More or Less: Does Being Taller Make You a Pro Basketballer?

5/21/2018
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Former FBI Director James Comey is very, very tall – over two metres tall, or 6’8”. Many media outlets commented on his height during his recent difficulties with President Trump. It has prompted us to explore – if he hadn’t worked for the FBI, could he have counted on his height alone to have a career in basketball? In this week’s programme Tim Harford looks at the likelihood that James Comey – or any very tall person - might have made it as a pro in the NBA. He speaks to data scientist...

Duration:00:09:12

Poverty, Progress 8 and how green is grass?

5/18/2018
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(0.22) Are more children from working families in poverty? (6.50) Progress 8 – explaining the new school league tables for England (12.51) Can a garden product really make your grass 6 times greener? (18.03) ‘Data is’ versus ‘data are’ (20.21) Royal Wedding economics

Duration:00:24:00

WS More or Less: Tulipmania mythology

5/14/2018
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The story goes that Amsterdam in the 1630’s was gripped by a mania for Tulip flowers. But then there was a crash in the market. People ended up bankrupt and threw themselves into canals. This story is still being trotted out when people talk about financial markets, lately as a comparison to buying and selling bitcoin. But how much of what we know of the Tulip craze is fact, and how much is myth? We speak to Anne Goldgar at Kings College London who explains all.

Duration:00:11:12

Abortion, modern slavery, math versus maths

5/11/2018
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(00:26) The UK abortion statistics gaining attention in Ireland’s referendum debate (03:49) Superforecasting author Phillip Tetlock talks to Tim Harford (09:51) Modern Slavery figures in the UK (17:43) Should you say math or maths?

Duration:00:23:26

WS More or Less: Exposing the biases we have of the world

5/7/2018
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The great statistician, Hans Rosling, died in February last year. Throughout his life Hans used data to explain how the world was changing – and often improving – and he would challenge people to examine their own preconceptions and ignorance. Before he became ill, Hans had started working on a book about these questions and what they reveal about the mental biases that tend to lead us astray. Tim Harford speaks to his son Ola and daughter in law Anna who worked on the book with him.

Duration:00:09:56

Cancer screening, the Windrush Generation, Audiograms

5/4/2018
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(0:32) Breast screening – the Numbers: 450,000 women have accidentally not been invited for breast cancer screening (07:26) Counting the Windrush Generation: What do we know about those who might be lacking documentation (11:15) Has Nigel Farage been on Question Time too often? We chart his appearances over 18 years (16:32) Painting a picture with an audiogram: Data journalist Mona Chalabi talks about her unusual approach to analysing numbers. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Charlotte...

Duration:00:23:57

WS More or Less: Puerto Rico - statistics versus politics

4/29/2018
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The government of Puerto Rico has developed a plan to strip the island’s statistical agency of its independent board as part of a money saving enterprise. But as the Caribbean island recovers from a debt crisis and the devastation of Hurricane Maria which struck last year, many are questioning whether the move could have long reaching implications. Presenters: Tim Harford and Kate Lamble Producer: Kate Lamble (Photo: Damage to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: The La Perla neighbourhood,...

Duration:00:10:38

Straws, women on boards, plus animals born each day

4/27/2018
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Does the UK throw away 8.5 billion straws a year? (0’33’’) Women on FTSE 100 boards (4’35”) We explore whether the proportion of female directors has changed over time, and what it tells us about women in business. Using personal data for the public good (11’28”) Hetan Shah, the Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society, talks about storing people’s data. How many animals are born every day? (15’39”)

Duration:00:23:42

WS More or Less: How Should We Think About Spending?

4/20/2018
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Tim Harford talks to economist Dan Ariely about the psychology of money. They discuss how understanding the way we think about our finances can help us to spend more carefully and save more efficiently. Plus Dan explains how to never have an argument over sharing a restaurant bill again. (Photo: Mannequins in a shop window wearing sale t-shirts. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Duration:00:08:58