More or Less: Behind the Stats-logo

More or Less: Behind the Stats


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


United Kingdom




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




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.


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.


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...


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...


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?


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.


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.


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.


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...


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...


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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?


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.


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.