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


London, United Kingdom




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




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 Harford Producer: Nathan Gower


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...


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?


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...


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...


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...


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.


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...


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.


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...


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.


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...


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...


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.


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...


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?