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Episodes

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:00:09:04

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

WS More More or Less: Are We Breathing Unsafe Air?

4/13/2018
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The World Health Organisation say that 95% of people who live in cities breathe unsafe air. But what do they mean by ‘unsafe’? And how do they calculate the levels or air pollution for every city in the world? Plus Mt Etna in Italy has reportedly moved by 14mm, but who is calculating this? And how do they know the answer with such accuracy? (Photo: People wear masks as smoke billows from a coal fired power plant, Shanxi, China. Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Duration:00:09:38

WS More or Less: Why London’s Murder Rate is Being Compared to New York’s

4/8/2018
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London’s murder rate is on the rise – and for the first time ever it has just overtaken New York’s, according to a number of media outlets. But is it true? And is it appropriate for journalists to compare between the two cities? South Africa’s missing children statistics A viral Facebook post has suggested that one child is kidnapped every thirty seconds in South Africa. We examine the evidence which shows that a child is reported missing every nine hours to the police, and this includes...

Duration:00:08:58

WS More or Less: How Deadly Was 1920s Melbourne?

3/29/2018
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Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is one of Australia’s most popular television series and has been broadcast in 172 territories worldwide. Set in 1920’s Melbourne the series’ protagonist, Miss Phryne Fisher, seems to have a lot of dead bodies on her metaphorical plate. So how does the series compare with the real life murder rate at that time? Join the More Or Less team as we step back in time for some statistical sleuthing.

Duration:00:08:58

Were ‘extra’ votes counted in Russia’s presidential election?

3/23/2018
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Last week Vladimir Putin won a second consecutive and fourth overall term as the Russian President. Official polling results from the election show he received over 76 percent of the vote, with a total turnout of 67 percent, but there were also widespread allegations of irregularities including inflated turnout figures. More or Less takes a closer look at the election data from Russia to see if these complaints have merit.

Duration:00:09:37

Factchecking Trump on Trade

3/16/2018
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Whenever Donald Trump talks about trade he brings up one statistic again and again, the US trade balance. This is the relationship between the goods and services the US imports from other countries and what it exports – if America buys more from a country than that country buys from America there’s a deficit, and Trump claims America has a trade deficit with almost every country in the world. Is he right? We unpick whether President Trump is quoting the correct numbers on trade, hear how...

Duration:00:09:31

WS More or Less: Sir Roger Bannister

3/9/2018
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After Sir Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, did positive thinking propel dozens to do the same?

Duration:00:09:19

WS More or Less: Women, the Oscars and the Bechdel Test

3/5/2018
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Are Hollywood films ignoring women? As this is the 90th year of the Academy Awards - we find out how many ‘Best Picture’ winners pass the Bechdel Test. This is a light-hearted way of challenging whether a film meets a low standard of female representation. They have to fulfil three criteria: are there at least two named female characters in the cast? Do those two women speak to each other? And do they have a conversation about something other than a man? In collaboration with the BBC’s 100...

Duration:00:13:14

WS More or Less: The Winter Olympics

2/25/2018
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What’s the most successful nation? (0’40”) We look at population, GDP per capita and ski areas of the countries with the most medals. How do you judge a country’s ‘best’ performance? (3.45”) What are the chances of dead heat in a race? (6’35”) The two-man bobsleigh event ended in a dead heat with both Canada and Germany achieving a time of three minutes 16.86 seconds. Is this the coldest winter games? (8’41”)

Duration:00:11:01

WS More or Less: Debunking guide – on a postcard

2/18/2018
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How to question dubious statistics in just a few short steps.

Duration:00:10:04

UN rape claims, Stalin and Mr Darcy

2/16/2018
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How many people have UN staff raped? – (0’40’’) It was reported in a number of the newspapers this week that UN staff are responsible for 60,000 rapes in a decade. The wealth of Mr Darcy – (5’10”) The male love interest of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is supposed to be fabulously wealthy. Is he? How many people did Stalin kill? – (10’00”) Why there are so many different figures reported. Avoid splitting the bill – (18’25”) Credit card roulette is Dan Ariely’s preferred way of ending a meal with...

Duration:00:28:21

WS More or Less: Has Russian Drinking Fallen by 80% in five years?

2/11/2018
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Alcohol consumption has fallen sharply according to Russia’s health ministry

Duration:00:06:33

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