More or Less: Behind the Stats

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

Auction Theory - Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson
Oct 17 • 8 min
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.…
A short history of probability
Oct 10 • 8 min
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
Oct 7 • 21 min
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?…
“Record” Covid cases, Trump on the death count, and ant pheromones
Sep 30 • 28 min
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
Sep 23 • 29 min
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…
The magical maths of pool testing
Sep 19 • 8 min
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
Sep 16 • 28 min
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…
Covid cases rising, a guide to life’s risks, and racing jelly-fish
Sep 9 • 28 min
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…
Schools and coronavirus, test and trace, maths and reality
Sep 2 • 27 min
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…
Covid plasma therapy
Aug 26 • 27 min
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…
A-level algorithms, poker and buses
Aug 19 • 28 min
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…
Belarus’ contested election
Aug 15 • 9 min
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…
Hawaiian Pizza, obesity and a second wave?
Aug 12 • 27 min
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:…
Melting Antarctic ice
Aug 8 • 8 min
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?…
Covid in Africa
Aug 1 • 10 min
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:…
Data in the time of cholera
Jul 25 • 8 min
Tim Harford speaks to Steven Johnson about William Farr and the birth of epidemiology in the 1800s.
Covid misconceptions and US deaths
Jul 18 • 8 min
Tim Harford talks to statistician Ola Rosling about his research into misconceptions about Covid-19. And an update on the epidemic in the US.
Sweden’s lockdown lite
Jul 11 • 14 min
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 Casserly Picture: A woman wearing a…
Why Trump is wrong about the USA’s coronavirus case comeback
Jul 4 • 9 min
Are cases really rising in the US or are they just testing more? Tim digs into the data.
Why did the UK have such a bad Covid-19 epidemic?
Jul 1 • 28 min
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…
A new Covid-19 drug and a second wave
Jun 27 • 9 min
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?
Child Poverty, School Inequality and a Second Wave
Jun 24 • 28 min
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…
Who Should be Quarantined?
Jun 20 • 9 min
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.…
Quarantine, Test and Trace and BODMAS
Jun 17 • 28 min
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…
Antibody tests, early lockdown advice and European deaths
Jun 10 • 27 min
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…
Keep your distance
Jun 6 • 9 min
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…
False negatives, testing capacity and pheasants
Jun 3 • 27 min
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…
Obeying lockdown, flight arrivals and is this wave of the epidemic waning?
May 27 • 27 min
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…
60 Harvests and statistically savvy parrots
May 23 • 8 min
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:…
School re-opening, Germany’s Covid-19 success and statistically savvy parrots
May 20 • 28 min
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…
Social Distancing and Government Borrowing
May 16 • 9 min
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…
Vitamin D, explaining R and the 2 metre rule
May 13 • 27 min
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…
Covid-19 fatality rate
May 9 • 8 min
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…
Testing truth, fatality rates, obesity risk and trampolines.
May 5 • 27 min
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,…
Climate change and birdsong
May 2 • 9 min
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…
Ethnic minority deaths, climate change and lockdown
Apr 29 • 28 min
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…
Comparing countries’ coronavirus performance
Apr 25 • 9 min
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…
Bonus Podcast: Professor John Horton Conway
Apr 23 • 14 min
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…
Comparing countries, the risk to NHS staff, and birdsong
Apr 22 • 27 min
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?
Superforecasting the Coronavirus
Apr 18 • 8 min
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…
Should you wear a face mask?
Apr 11 • 8 min
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…
Coronavirus deaths, face masks and a potential baby boom
Apr 8 • 27 min
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…
Are more men dying from coronavirus?
Apr 4 • 8 min
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…
Supermarket stockpiling, A-level results and Covid-19 gender disparity
Mar 31 • 28 min
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…
The Risk
Mar 28 • 9 min
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…
Coronavirus Special
Mar 25 • 27 min
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…
Mitigation or Suppression: What’s best to tackle Coronavirus?
Mar 21 • 9 min
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…
The mystery of Iran’s coronavirus numbers
Mar 14 • 13 min
Does Iran have a lot more covid-19 cases that its figures suggest?
How much heat do you lose from your head?
Mar 9 • 9 min
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…
Netflix vs the environment
Feb 29 • 8 min
Does watching 30 minutes of Netflix have the same carbon footprint as driving four miles?
More or Less: Superforecasting, wood burning stoves and the real story of Hidden Figures
Feb 28 • 25 min
Dipping into the archive for stories on the art of prediction and wood burner pollution
Artificial (not so) Intelligence
Feb 22 • 8 min
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…
WS More or Less: Coronavirus - The Numbers
Feb 15 • 8 min
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.…
Coronavirus, jam, AI and tomatoes
Feb 14 • 23 min
Covid-19 stats, spreading jam far and wide, cooking with AI, and James Wong on vegetables
WS More or Less: How fast are Alligators and Hippos?
Feb 8 • 10 min
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…
Tracking terror suspects
Feb 7 • 28 min
Costing counter-terrorism, interrogating tomatoes, the UK’s reading age, politics and GDP
WS More or Less: Coronavirus
Feb 1 • 8 min
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…
Coronavirus, emotions and guns.
Jan 31 • 28 min
Fact checking claims about coronavirus and whether more guns equal fewer homicides.
WS More or Less: Dozy Science
Jan 25 • 9 min
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…
Netflix and Chill
Jan 24 • 28 min
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…
WS More or Less: Japan’s 99% Conviction Rate
Jan 18 • 8 min
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…
Weighing the Cost of Brexit
Jan 17 • 16 min
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?
WS More or Less: Bushfire mystery
Jan 11 • 9 min
Have a billion animals died in Australia’s fires? And which ones are likely to survive?
Australian Animal Deaths, Carbon Emissions, Election Mystery
Jan 10 • 34 min
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?
C-sections and sharks
Jan 4 • 8 min
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…
Presidential candidates and dementia
Dec 28, 2019 • 8 min
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…
The Simpsons and maths
Dec 20, 2019 • 8 min
We explore the maths secrets of The Simpsons on their 30th anniversary.
Dec 13, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Election Special (2/2)
Dec 10, 2019 • 27 min
Labour’s spending plans, Conservatives claims on homelessness, the SNP’s education record
Tree Planting Pledges
Dec 6, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Election Special 1/2
Dec 3, 2019 • 27 min
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…
Testing tomatoes
Nov 29, 2019 • 8 min
Have these saucy fruits become less healthy over time?
The world’s busiest shipping lanes
Nov 23, 2019 • 9 min
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…
Bolivia: Can statistics help detect electoral fraud?
Nov 15, 2019 • 11 min
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…
Reducing your risk of death
Nov 9, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Unbelievable: The forgotten rape data
Nov 1, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Edith Abbott and crime statistics
Oct 28, 2019 • 8 min
Social worker and economist Edith Abbott and her contribution to crime statistics.
Esther Duflo and women in economics
Oct 18, 2019 • 20 min
Discussing Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer’s economics Nobel Prize.
The Extra Episode: Minimum wage, drinking in Scotland and identical twins.
Oct 11, 2019 • 28 min
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…
WS More or Less: Does San Francisco have more rough sleepers than Britain?
Oct 7, 2019 • 8 min
Are the shocking statistics true? and how do you count people who don’t wish to be found?
New hospitals promised, aid to Ukraine, and bacon sandwiches
Oct 4, 2019 • 27 min
Dissecting the government’s hospitals announcement and President Trump’s Ukraine claims.
WS More or Less: Who fought in World War 1?
Sep 30, 2019 • 8 min
Were a third of those that fought for Britain in WW1 black or Asian?
Austerity Deaths, C-Sections and being struck by lightning
Sep 27, 2019 • 23 min
Has Austerity caused 120 thousand deaths in the UK and does God hate men?
WS More or Less: Peaty v. Bolt: Which is the greatest world record?
Sep 23, 2019 • 8 min
Using statistics to compare world records in athletics and swimming.
Dementia, inflation and shark deaths
Sep 20, 2019 • 24 min
Health risks for Presidential hopefuls, falling inflation, shark deaths and salary claims
WS More or Less: Cape Town murders
Sep 16, 2019 • 8 min
Are eight people a day murdered in Cape Town and is that number unusually high?
Maternal deaths, taxi driver earnings and statistical pop music
Sep 13, 2019 • 24 min
Are black women five times more likely to die in childbirth? Plus making pop music.
WS More or Less: Deforestation in Brazil
Sep 9, 2019 • 8 min
Has it increased significantly since President Bolsonaro took office in January?
Climate deaths, austerity and pet food
Sep 6, 2019 • 24 min
Challenging the idea of six billion deaths due to climate change; plus what pets eat.
WS More or Less: Amazon forest fires
Sep 2, 2019 • 8 min
Are they really 85 percent worse than last year?
Amazon fires, state pension and American burgers
Aug 30, 2019 • 27 min
Are forest fires in Brazil the worst in recent times? What is the state pension worth?
WS More or Less: Ethiopia’s 350m trees in a day
Aug 26, 2019 • 8 min
Were millions of trees planted in just one day in Ethiopia?
Exam grades, Chernobyl and Ethiopian trees
Aug 23, 2019 • 24 min
Was your A Level grade correct? Plus were 350m trees planted in one day in Ethiopia?
Mice and mind blowing maths
Aug 16, 2019 • 9 min
Re-inserting a caveat and discussing a really cool numbers trick.
Immigrant Crime Rate in the US
Aug 9, 2019 • 8 min
Do immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans in the United States?
The spread of fact-checking in Africa
Aug 2, 2019 • 8 min
With misinformation so easy to spread, how can it be stopped or challenged?
Pregnancy prohibitions – the evidence
Jul 26, 2019 • 8 min
Taking a statistical look at what expectant mothers should avoid.
Missing women from drug trials
Jul 19, 2019 • 9 min
How medical testing on just men causes problems.
Zimbabwe’s economy: Are sanctions to blame?
Jul 19, 2019 • 8 min
We look at politicians’ claims that sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe’s difficulties.
Two World Cups: Football and Cricket
Jul 5, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Is nuclear power actually safer than you think?
Jun 28, 2019 • 9 min
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…
Questioning the Chernobyl disaster death count
Jun 21, 2019 • 15 min
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…
WS More or Less: Dealing with the Numbers of Cancer
Jun 14, 2019 • 9 min
How one woman used statistics to help cope with cancer.
WS More or Less: The things we fail to see
Jun 10, 2019 • 9 min
The hidden influences that a make a big difference to the way the world works.
Are married women flipping miserable?
Jun 7, 2019 • 23 min
Measuring happiness, university access in Scotland, plus will one in two get cancer?
WS More or Less: Volcanoes versus humans
Jun 3, 2019 • 9 min
Does Mount Etna produce more carbon emissions than humans? We check the numbers.
Hay Festival Special
May 31, 2019 • 27 min
What does it mean to say that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world?
WS More or Less: Florence Nightingale – recognising the nurse statistician
May 27, 2019 • 10 min
How collecting data about the dead led the famous nurse to promote better sanitation.
Eurovision and fact-checking Naomi Wolf
May 24, 2019 • 24 min
The stats behind making a successful song, plus misunderstanding Victorian court records.
Making music out of Money
May 20, 2019 • 9 min
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…
Heart deaths, Organised crime and Gender data gaps
May 17, 2019 • 27 min
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…
Sex Every Seven Seconds
May 13, 2019 • 15 min
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…
Sex, coal, missing people and mice
May 10, 2019 • 27 min
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…
Avengers - Should we reverse the snap?
May 6, 2019 • 10 min
*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…
Nurses, flatmates and cats
May 3, 2019 • 23 min
Nurse suicide rates There 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…
Bernie Sanders and the cost of having a baby
Apr 29, 2019 • 9 min
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…
Hottest Easter, Insects, Scottish villages
Apr 26, 2019 • 27 min
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…
The economic impact of mega sporting events
Apr 19, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Where is Scotland’s highest village?
Apr 15, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Rounding up the weed killer cancer conundrum
Apr 8, 2019 • 8 min
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…
Chess cheats and the GOAT
Apr 2, 2019 • 10 min
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…
Is Mansa Musa the richest person of all time?
Mar 25, 2019 • 8 min
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,…
Day light saving time and heart attacks
Mar 18, 2019 • 8 min
Does the sudden loss of an hour of sleep raise the risk of having a heart attack?
The gender gap in tech
Mar 9, 2019 • 9 min
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…
Mar 4, 2019 • 12 min
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…
How To Make Your Art Work More Valuable
Feb 22, 2019 • 9 min
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…
WS More or Less: When maths mistakes really matter
Feb 18, 2019 • 9 min
Tim Harford talks to Matt Parker on how simple maths mistakes can cause big problems.
Climate Change, Victorian Diseases, Alcohol
Feb 15, 2019 • 23 min
Tim Harford on climate change, Victorian diseases, maths mistakes and alcohol consumption
WS More or Less: From the archives: Groundhogs and Kings
Feb 12, 2019 • 18 min
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…
Teen Suicide; Brexit Business Moves; Wood-Burner Pollution
Feb 8, 2019 • 28 min
Tim Harford finds untrue a recent report that there is a ‘suicidal generation’ of teens.
WS More or Less: You have 15,000 likes!
Feb 4, 2019 • 9 min
A listener doubts her popularity on the dating app Tinder. We investigate the numbers.
Holocaust Deniers; Venezuelan Hyperinflation; Tinder Likes
Feb 1, 2019 • 28 min
Tim Harford on Holocaust deniers; food prices in Venezuela, and dating app statistics
WS More or Less: Is Suicide Seasonal?
Jan 26, 2019 • 9 min
Tim Harford asks which times of the year are riskiest for suicide.
Domestic Violence, Jobs, Easter Snowfall
Jan 25, 2019 • 23 min
Tim Harford on domestic violence, employment numbers, and the chance of a white Easter.
WS More or Less: Close Encounters of a Planetary Kind
Jan 19, 2019 • 9 min
Which planet is closest to Earth?
Intersex Numbers, Fact-Checking Facebook, Jack Bogle
Jan 18, 2019 • 30 min
Tim Harford asks whether 1.7% of people are intersex, and examines false claims about MPs
WS More or Less: The Mathematics of Fever
Jan 12, 2019 • 10 min
We look at the numbers behind body temperature – what is normal?
Sugar, Outdoors Play and Planets
Jan 11, 2019 • 28 min
Tim Harford on sugar, train fares, children’s outdoors play and Earth’s closest neighbour
WS More or Less: Numbers of the Year Part 2
Jan 4, 2019 • 8 min
Helena Merriman with numbers about water shortage, plastic recycling and American jobs.
WS More or Less: Numbers of the Year Part 1
Dec 29, 2018 • 8 min
The numbers that made 2018.
WS More or Less: Mission Impossible - Quantifiying Santa
Dec 22, 2018 • 8 min
What to look out for on Christmas Eve.
WS More or Less: Dam Lies and Statistics
Dec 17, 2018 • 8 min
Are mega-dams really sustainable?
WS More or Less: Sex and Heart Attacks
Nov 30, 2018 • 8 min
Are women more likely to die from a heart attack than men?
WS More or Less: Are 90% of War Fatalities Civilians?
Nov 23, 2018 • 16 min
Xavier Zapata examines what the data tells us about the deadly impact of war on civilians
WS More or Less: When’s a Kilogram Not a Kilogram?
Nov 16, 2018 • 9 min
Updating the kilogram.
WS More or Less: Do Assassinations Work?
Nov 9, 2018 • 8 min
How likely are assassination attempts on heads of state to succeed?
WS More or Less: Vaccines - The importance of the herd and social media
Oct 28, 2018 • 11 min
What proportion of a population needs to be vaccinated to stop a disease spreading?
WS More or Less: Foreign Aid: Who’s the most generous?
Oct 19, 2018 • 8 min
In foreign aid terms what’s the best way of measuring how generous a country is?
WS More or Less: Paul Romer and William Nordhaus’ Big Ideas
Oct 12, 2018 • 9 min
The economists tackling climate change and growth.
Loneliness, School Funding, Same-Sex Divorce
Oct 9, 2018 • 9 min
New figures reveal that same-sex divorce rates are much higher among women than among men. The pattern is the same in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Everywhere where there are statistics on same-sex divorce it is the same sex doing…
WS More or Less: Why are Lesbians More Likely to Divorce than Gay Men?
Oct 7, 2018 • 9 min
New figures reveal that same-sex divorce rates are much higher among women than among men. The pattern is the same in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK. Everywhere where there are statistics on same-sex divorce it is the same sex doing…
Loneliness; School Funding; Same-Sex Divorce.
Oct 5, 2018 • 20 min
This week BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind programme announced the results of The Loneliness Experiment. It was a large survey conducted by the programme in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection. The largest survey into the issue of loneliness to date,…
WS More of Less: Surviving the Battle of Britain
Oct 1, 2018 • 9 min
Were Spitfire pilots killed after an average of four weeks in the World War Two battle?
Surviving the Battle of Britain; the World Cup and Domestic Violence; Buckfast and Arrests in Scotland
Sep 28, 2018 • 22 min
Tim Harford on Spitfire pilots, and whether football triggers violence in the home.
WS More or Less: Trump and the Puerto Rico Death Toll
Sep 24, 2018 • 8 min
How can we calculate excess mortality after a natural disaster?
How Many Schoolchildren are Carers? Shareholder Income, and Museum Visitors Vs Football Fans
Sep 21, 2018 • 25 min
Tim Harford on child carers, shareholder income, football vs museums and dangerous sports
WS More or Less: DNA - Are You More Chimp or Neanderthal?
Sep 17, 2018 • 9 min
What is the difference between 96% similarity or sharing 20% of our DNA?
Male suicide, school ratings, are female tennis players treated unfairly by umpires?
Sep 14, 2018 • 24 min
Tim Harford with statistics on suicide, good schools and sexism in tennis. Plus goats
WS More or Less: The Safest Car in the World?
Sep 10, 2018 • 9 min
A listener asks whether his Volvo is the safest car on the road?
Heart Age Calculator; Danish Sperm Imports; Counting Goats
Sep 7, 2018 • 23 min
Tim Harford questions the usefulness of a popular heart age calculator.
WS: More or Less - How well do you understand your world?
Sep 3, 2018 • 8 min
Tim Harford talks to Bobby Duffy about why we are often wrong about a lot of basic facts
African Trade Tariffs; Alcohol Safe Limits; President Trump’s Popularity
Aug 31, 2018 • 23 min
Tim Harford fact checks EU trade deals with Africa, and whether one drink is one too many
BONUS PODCAST: Economics with Subtitles - Coffins Full of Car Keys
Aug 29, 2018 • 28 min
BONUS PODCAST: For the rest of August, in addition to More or Less you’ll get a brand new podcast, Economics with Subtitles. It’s your everyday guide to economics and why you should care. In this edition, Ayeisha and Steve make sense of interest rates.…
WS: More or Less - Automated fact-checking
Aug 27, 2018 • 8 min
Computer programmes are being developed to combat fake news.
A no-frills life, automated fact-checking and Lord-of-the-Rings maths
Aug 24, 2018 • 24 min
What would have been the most efficient way to get to Mordor?
BONUS PODCAST: Economics with Subtitles - How Condoms Can Cost a Week’s Wages
Aug 22, 2018 • 27 min
BONUS PODCAST: For the rest of August, in addition to More or Less you’ll get a brand new podcast, Economics with Subtitles. It’s your everyday guide to economics and why you should care. In this show, Ayeisha and Steve make sense of inflation. They’ll…
WS More or Less: Are Wildfires Really Burning More Land?
Aug 20, 2018 • 8 min
Are Wildfires in the United States and Southern Europe burning more land than before?
BONUS PODCAST: Economics with Subtitles - Bracelets for Bullets
Aug 15, 2018 • 28 min
BONUS PODCAST: For the rest of August, in addition to More or Less you’ll get a brand new podcast, Economics with Subtitles. It’s your everyday guide to economics and why you should care. In this show, Ayeisha and Steve explore government debt. Why did an…
Numbers Behind a Tweetstorm
Aug 10, 2018 • 8 min
How do you get a hashtag to trend around the world?
BONUS PODCAST: Economics with Subtitles - How Buying Cocaine Helps the Government
Aug 8, 2018 • 28 min
BONUS PODCAST: For the rest of August, in addition to More or Less, you’ll get four bonus editions of Economics with Subtitles. It’s a brand new podcast that will bring you an everyday guide to economics and why you should care. In this edition, Ayeisha…
Carbs, Sugar and the Truth
Aug 3, 2018 • 8 min
Does a baked potato contain the equivalent of 19 cubes of sugar?
Getting Creative with Statistics
Jul 27, 2018 • 8 min
How big are your testicles and what does that mean?
Should we have smaller families to save the planet?
Jul 23, 2018 • 10 min
Having one fewer child could be the biggest thing you do to reduce your carbon footprint
How to Cycle Really Fast
Jul 20, 2018 • 8 min
How much better are the pros than the rest of us and how effective is slipstreaming?
Are there more stars than grains of beach sand?
Jul 6, 2018 • 8 min
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…
Running at the World Cup
Jun 29, 2018 • 10 min
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.…
How many words do you need to speak a language?
Jun 22, 2018 • 8 min
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…
FIFA World Cup Extravaganza
Jun 15, 2018 • 8 min
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…
WS More or Less: How Many Animals are Born Every Day?
Jun 10, 2018 • 15 min
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…
Infant Mortality, How to Reduce Exam Revision With Maths, London’s Murder Rate
Jun 8, 2018 • 24 min
(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…
Counting Rough Sleepers
Jun 4, 2018 • 12 min
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…
The High Street, Home Births and Harry Potter Wizardry
Jun 1, 2018 • 20 min
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? (Photo: Mother and baby. Credit: Shutterstock)
WS More or Less: Australia Calling
May 28, 2018 • 11 min
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…
Forecasting rain, teabags and voter ID trials
May 25, 2018 • 23 min
(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…
WS More or Less: James Comey - Basketball Superstar?
May 21, 2018 • 9 min
Former FBI Director James Comey is very, very tall – over two metres tall, or 6’8” - and many media outlets commented on his height during his recent run-in with President Trump. But to what extent does being very tall improve your chances of becoming a…
Poverty, Progress 8 and how green is grass?
May 18, 2018 • 24 min
(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…
WS More or Less: Tulipmania mythology
May 14, 2018 • 11 min
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…
Abortion, modern slavery, math versus maths
May 11, 2018 • 23 min
(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?
WS More or Less: Exposing the biases we have of the world
May 7, 2018 • 9 min
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…
Cancer screening, the Windrush Generation, Audiograms
May 4, 2018 • 23 min
(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…
WS More or Less: Puerto Rico - statistics versus politics
Apr 29, 2018 • 10 min
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…
Straws, women on boards, plus animals born each day
Apr 27, 2018 • 23 min
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…
WS More or Less: How Should We Think About Spending?
Apr 20, 2018 • 8 min
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…
WS More More or Less: Are We Breathing Unsafe Air?
Apr 13, 2018 • 9 min
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…
WS More or Less: Why London’s Murder Rate is Being Compared to New York’s
Apr 8, 2018 • 8 min
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…
WS More or Less: How Deadly Was 1920s Melbourne?
Mar 29, 2018 • 8 min
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…
Were ‘extra’ votes counted in Russia’s presidential election?
Mar 23, 2018 • 9 min
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…
Factchecking Trump on Trade
Mar 16, 2018 • 9 min
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…
WS More or Less: Sir Roger Bannister
Mar 9, 2018 • 9 min
After Sir Roger Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes, did positive thinking propel dozens to do the same?
WS More or Less: Women, the Oscars and the Bechdel Test
Mar 5, 2018 • 13 min
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…
WS More or Less: The Winter Olympics
Feb 25, 2018 • 11 min
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…
WS More or Less: Debunking guide – on a postcard
Feb 18, 2018 • 10 min
How to question dubious statistics in just a few short steps.
UN rape claims, Stalin and Mr Darcy
Feb 16, 2018 • 28 min
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…
WS More or Less: Has Russian Drinking Fallen by 80% in five years?
Feb 11, 2018 • 6 min
Alcohol consumption has fallen sharply according to Russia’s health ministry
The Dow, Tampons, Parkrun part II
Feb 9, 2018 • 28 min
Why the biggest ever fall in the Dow wasn’t, and how much do women spend on tampons?
WS More or Less: Is China On Track to End Poverty by 2020?
Feb 5, 2018 • 13 min
A key pledge of the Chinese President Xi Jinping is that China will have eradicated poverty by 2020. It’s an extraordinary claim, but the country does have a good track record in improving the wealth of its citizens; the World Bank says China has…
Transgender Numbers, Parkrun and Snooker
Feb 2, 2018 • 31 min
How many transgender people are there in the UK? The UK produces official statistics about all sorts of things – from economic indicators to demographic data. But it turns out there are no official figures for the number of transgender people in the UK.…
Is the US Census Under Threat?
Jan 29, 2018 • 9 min
The survey question that could affect the accuracy of its results. The United States are due to run their next nationwide census in 2020, but already critics are warning that underfunding and proposed question about citizenship could affect the accuracy…
A Girl’s First Time, Shark’s Stomachs, Prime numbers
Jan 26, 2018 • 23 min
First sexual experience - checking the facts A short film for the Draw A Line campaign has made the claim that one in three girls first sexual experience is rape. This seems shockingly high, but what is the evidence? Is it just for the UK or a global…
WS More or Less: Real Lives Behind the Numbers
Jan 22, 2018 • 8 min
If you ask an economist to explain what is happening in a country’s economy. They rely on economic data points to describe what is happening – they might talk about the unemployment rate, average wages, and the numbers of people in poverty. They pull…
Gender Pay Gaps and How to Learn a Language
Jan 19, 2018 • 27 min
Gender Pay Gap This week the Office for National Statistics has published analysis trying to find out why it is that on average women are paid less than men in specific industries and occupations. We examine their findings, as well as taking a look at the…
WS More or Less: How Louis Bachelier Scooped Economists by Half a Century
Jan 15, 2018 • 9 min
A forgotten French mathematician is the focus of our programme. He anticipated both Einstein’s theories and the application of maths to the stock market. Born in the 1870s, his work was unusual at the time. With the help of Alison Etheridge, Professor of…
Missed appointments, graduate pay, plus cocaine on bank notes
Jan 12, 2018 • 28 min
Did missed appointments cost the NHS £1 billion last year? New figures published recently suggest that the financial cost to the NHS for missed appointments was £1 billion last year. But our listeners are curious. How has this figure been worked out? And…
WS More or Less: Just how rare is a hole-in-one?
Jan 7, 2018 • 8 min
Why it isn’t as simple to work out as you think.
More or Less: Statistics of the Year 2017
Dec 31, 2017 • 9 min
Phones, lawn mowers and how Kim Kardashian helped the public understanding of risk.
WS More or Less: Will Bitcoin use more electricity than the United States?
Dec 24, 2017 • 9 min
Measuring the energy used to keep the cryptocurrency secure.
WS More or Less: Diet Coke Habit; ‘Contained’ Wildfires
Dec 18, 2017 • 9 min
Could the US President’s Diet Coke habit affect his health? and ‘contained’ wildfires
WS More or Less: Does Eating Chocolate Make Your Brain Younger?
Dec 11, 2017 • 10 min
Headlines claim that eating chocolate can protect you from developing Alzheimer’s disease. The theory is that bioactives within chocolate called flavanols can help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and even make your brain 30 years younger! But…
WS More or Less: Just how lucky are regular lottery winners?
Dec 4, 2017 • 10 min
Are some people just very lucky? The maths suggest that is unlikely.
WS More or Less: How Rich was Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy?
Nov 26, 2017 • 8 min
What the Pride and Prejudice character would have earned in today’s money.
How expensive is Italy’s World Cup failure?
Nov 17, 2017 • 8 min
The Italians are calling it the apocalypse. Their team has failed to make it to the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. But it is about more than just national pride - there is a financial cost too. Some have suggested that it will cost FIFA $100m.…
WS More or Less: Why Albums are Getting Longer
Nov 12, 2017 • 13 min
Chris Brown’s latest album is stuffed with so many songs it runs at a sprawling two hours and twenty minutes. It’s only the latest in a string of lengthy album releases that includes artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Lil B. More or Less speaks to Hugh…
WS More or Less: Do Nigerian lawmakers get $1.7m and do Yams cause twins?
Nov 5, 2017 • 8 min
Finding out if Nigerian politicians really get paid more than the American President.
WS More or Less: Novelists in numbers
Oct 30, 2017 • 8 min
Counting the favourite words of well-known authors: Stephen King, Hemingway and others
WS More or Less: Are US millennials more politically engaged online?
Oct 20, 2017 • 8 min
Did the 2016 US election galvanise young people to become more engaged in politics?
How Richard Thaler changed Economics
Oct 13, 2017 • 22 min
The behavioural economist who has inspired governments around the world.
WS More or Less: Kilobyte to Brontobyte
Oct 10, 2017 • 8 min
Naming the monster numbers - how the names of digital storage files evolved.
WS More or Less: Big polluters - ships versus cars
Oct 2, 2017 • 9 min
Do the largest ships emit as much pollution as all the cars in the world?
Uber; EU passports; counting domestic violence
Sep 29, 2017 • 24 min
Is Uber safe? The post Brexit dual nationality surge and measuring partner abuse.
WS More or Less: Sperm - Are we going extinct?
Sep 25, 2017 • 9 min
How much of a problem is falling sperm count?
Statistics abuse, tuition fees and beer in 1887
Sep 22, 2017 • 25 min
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is accused of mis-using official statistics.
WS More or Less: How to measure a Hurricane
Sep 15, 2017 • 9 min
What’s the best way to measure a hurricane?
Are Natural Disasters on the Rise?
Sep 15, 2017 • 25 min
Has the number of natural disasters really quadrupled in the last forty years?
WS More or Less: More Horses than Tanks?
Sep 11, 2017 • 9 min
Is the UK the only country with more horses than tanks in its army?
Electric cars, school-ready and feedback
Sep 8, 2017 • 25 min
Will we need more power stations? Plus, are children in Manchester ready for school?
One in 500 Year Storm
Sep 4, 2017 • 6 min
Experts are saying that Houston just suffered a one in 500 year storm but what does that mean?
Grenfell Tower’s Death Toll
Sep 1, 2017 • 27 min
The difficulties of finding the true number of people who died in the fire.
Fantasy Football - How to win
Aug 28, 2017 • 10 min
Figuring out the best strategy as a wannabe team manager.
A-levels, drowning and dress sizes
Aug 25, 2017 • 27 min
Are boys getting more top A Level grades than girls? Plus why are dress sizes so weird?
The Trump Bump
Aug 20, 2017 • 10 min
During a recent press conference President Trump said: “I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We’ve got the highest employment numbers we have ever had I the history of our…
Are there 15,000 transgender people serving in the US military?
Aug 14, 2017 • 8 min
President Trump says transgender individuals cannot serve, but how many do already?
Why is Kenya’s election so expensive?
Aug 7, 2017 • 8 min
On Tuesday Kenyans go to the polls to elect members of parliament and the next president. A report in Quartz Africa has estimated that the cost of putting on the election by the Government works out at around $25 per head – $480 million in total. It also…
More boys than girls in Sweden?
Jul 31, 2017 • 8 min
Exploring if an influx of teenage boys claiming asylum skewed the population’s sex ratio
Maryam Mirzakhani – A Genius of Maths
Jul 24, 2017 • 9 min
Celebrating the only woman to win the biggest prize in mathematics.
Calling the shots at Wimbledon
Jul 17, 2017 • 8 min
Using statistics to prove or disprove the wisdom of tennis is the theme this week. In this digital age we are used to information at our fingertips. This week More or Less finds out how every rally, every shot at this tennis championship is counted and…
Is Steph Curry cheap and how random is random?
Jul 10, 2017 • 8 min
Are top basketball players underpaid? The American basketballer Stephen Curry has just signed the biggest contract in NBA history. The new deal will pay him $200 million over 5 years but amazingly, according to fellow superstar player Lebron James, he’s…
In Search of Woodall Primes
Jun 30, 2017 • 20 min
It’s the 100 year centenary of an obscure type of prime number – the Woodall Primes. To celebrate, stand-up mathematician Matt Parker is calling on listeners to search for a new one. Ordinary citizens can already help search for Mersenne Prime numbers by…
How rare are deadly tower block fires?
Jun 26, 2017 • 8 min
How statistics can help us understand the tragic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower.
Trumpton Extra
Jun 21, 2017 • 16 min
The Voice of 1960s British children’s TV series ‘Trumpton’, Brian Cant, died this week. The More or Less team has visited the town of Trumpton on a number of occasions so we have brought together a handful of our favourites as a tribute.
Post-Election Special
Jun 19, 2017 • 29 min
The results of the general election are in - but what do they mean? Did more young people vote than expected? Have we now got a more diverse parliament? How many extra votes would Jeremy Corbyn have needed to become Prime Minister - these are just some of…
WS More or Less: Are African football players more likely to die on the field?
Jun 12, 2017 • 9 min
Cheick Tiote, the much loved former Newcastle United player collapsed and died while training with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises earlier this month. His death and that of other black footballers have caused some commentators to ask – are African or…
UK Election extra
Jun 7, 2017 • 14 min
This podcast is a compilation of interviews by the More or Less team with Eddie Mair from Radio 4’s PM programme. Each interview features a different claim or hotly discussed topic from the UK general election campaign: from school funding, to numbers of…
WS More or Less: Samba, strings and the story of HIV
Jun 5, 2017 • 9 min
Trumpets are blasting in this week’s musical episode. But can medical statistics be transformed into a jazzy night out? That was the challenge which epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani set for composer Tony Haynes. This June, his Grand Union Orchestra will be…
Election Special: Tax, borders and climate
Jun 2, 2017 • 29 min
On this final programme of the series we try to give some context to some of the issues that are being discussed during the current election campaign. Who pays tax? What proportion of adults are paying income tax? How much are they paying? Where does the…
WS More or Less: Have 65% of future jobs not yet been invented?
May 28, 2017 • 9 min
Our entire education system is faulty, claim experts. They worry that schools don’t prepare kids for the world outside. But how could anyone prove what the future will be like? We set off on a round-the-world sleuthing trip to trace a statistic that has…
Spies, care homes, and ending sneak peeks
May 26, 2017 • 23 min
Can security services follow everyone known to them? The attack on Manchester Arena took place exactly four years since the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Back in 2013 we broadcast an interview with the former Head of MI5, Dame Stella…
WS More or Less: Uganda’s refugees
May 22, 2017 • 9 min
Has Uganda been accepting more refugees on a daily basis than some European countries manage in an entire year? That is the claim from the Norwegian Refugee Council – and it is a claim we put to the test. Civil war and famine in South Sudan have forced…
Tax, speed dating and sea ice
May 19, 2017 • 24 min
Exploring the Labour manifesto’s tax plans for high earners.
Nurses’ pay, Scottish seats, Penalty shootouts
May 13, 2017 • 23 min
What is happening to nurses pay? Amid reports of nurses using food banks, Jeremy Hunt said he doesn’t recognise claims their wages are worth less now than in 2010. He says nurses are actually paid £31,000 - more than the average person. If he’s right, why…
WS More or Less: Is my Baby a Giant?
May 12, 2017 • 9 min
All over the world mothers are given numbers as their baby grows. The numbers are from ‘growth charts’ showing how a baby is developing in comparison to others. Seven month old Baby Arlo has particularly big numbers, so much so that his parents are…
WS More or Less: An urban maze
May 8, 2017 • 9 min
Why some parts of town are hard to navigate.
Is Crime Rising?
May 5, 2017 • 24 min
It looks like homicides are on the rise - but better check the footnotes
WS More or Less: The Maths of Dating
May 1, 2017 • 9 min
How to use mathematics to find your partner. And, how reliable are pregnancy due dates?
Fact-checking Boris Johnson
Apr 28, 2017 • 28 min
Giant bombs, a war hero and the foreign secretary’s stats.
WS More or Less: The death rate of white Americans – What’s going on?
Apr 21, 2017 • 9 min
Are middle-aged white Americans dying younger than other groups?
Living standards and Kate Bush maths
Apr 21, 2017 • 23 min
Are people’s incomes falling? Plus singing Pi like Kate Bush
WS More or Less: The Ignorance Test
Apr 14, 2017 • 9 min
How much do you know about the world?
Economics of Overbooking
Apr 14, 2017 • 24 min
Why airlines bet that not everybody will turn up for a flight.
WS More or Less: Could North Korea Wipe out 90% of Americans?
Apr 10, 2017 • 9 min
A single nuclear weapon could destroy America’s entire electrical grid, claims a former head of the CIA. The explosion would send out an electromagnetic pulse – resulting in famine, societal collapse and what one newspaper has called a “Dark Apocalypse”.…
WS More or Less: Will one in four people develop a mental health problem?
Mar 31, 2017 • 9 min
The claim that “one in four” of us will suffer from a mental health problem is popular amongst campaigners, politicians and the media. But this leads you to a simple question – where is this figure from and what’s the evidence? This was exactly what…
WS More Or Less: Baby Boxes – are they really saving infant’s lives?
Mar 24, 2017 • 9 min
Ever since a BBC article highlighted the use of baby boxes in Finland they have become a bit of a phenomenon. They’re not new though Finland has been doing this for 75 years. The simple cardboard boxes are given to families for their new born babies to…
More or Less: The concrete facts about Trump’s wall and China
Mar 17, 2017 • 9 min
Did China use more concrete in three years than the US in the 20th Century?
WS More or Less: The Attention Span of a Goldfish
Mar 10, 2017 • 8 min
Are our attention spans now shorter than a goldfish’s?
WS More or Less: Why are Hollywood actresses paid less than men?
Mar 3, 2017 • 8 min
Top Hollywood actresses have complained that they are paid less than their male co-stars
WS More or Less: What happened last night in Sweden?
Feb 24, 2017 • 9 min
What happened last night in Sweden?
Hidden Figures: The Real Story
Feb 17, 2017 • 9 min
Hidden Figures, the film, has been nominated for three awards at the Oscars and has been a box office hit in the US. It tells the little-known story of a group of African American women and their contribution to the space race in the 50s and 60s. We…
WS More or Less: Hans Rosling - the extraordinary life of a statistical guru
Feb 12, 2017 • 26 min
A huge hole was left in the world this week with the death of the Swedish statistician Han Rosling. He was a master communicator whose captivating presentations on global development were watched by millions. He had the ear of those with power and…
WS More or Less: Is democracy failing in America?
Feb 3, 2017 • 8 min
Does North Carolina really rank alongside North Korea if you measure electoral integrity
WS More or Less: Counting Crowds
Jan 27, 2017 • 8 min
How many went to celebrate – and how many to protest – the Trump inauguration?
WS More or Less: Why January makes us want to scream
Jan 20, 2017 • 9 min
Blue Monday and Oxfam’s comparison wealth of billionaires and the poor –the stories that come around every year.
WS More or Less: Christian Martyrs
Jan 13, 2017 • 9 min
Were 90,000 Christians killed because of their faith in 2016?
WS More or Less: Should we really be drinking eight glasses of water a day?
Jan 6, 2017 • 9 min
How much water should you be drinking? There’s some age-old advice that suggests you should be drinking eight ounces (230 ml) eight times a day. Some people even advise you should be drinking this on top of what you normally drink. There is lots of advice…
WS More or Less: Does Sweden Really Have a Six Hour Day?
Jan 3, 2017 • 9 min
There have been reports that those radical Swedes have decided to reduce the working day to just six hours because, it has been claimed, productivity does not suffer. Before you all rush to the Swedish job pages this is not quite the case – but there have…
The Haber-Bosch Process
Dec 28, 2016 • 9 min
Saving lives with thin air - by taking nitrogen from the air to make fertiliser
WS More or Less: Life, death and data
Dec 26, 2016 • 9 min
Improving data to target help to the poorest people
Christmas Quiz
Dec 23, 2016 • 28 min
Tim Harford poses a tough statistical challenge
WS More or Less: Yellow cards for Christmas
Dec 16, 2016 • 9 min
Are footballers trying to get suspended for Christmas?
Have more famous people died this year?
Dec 16, 2016 • 23 min
Notable deaths, Rule Britannia and creating your own Christmas speech
WS More or Less: How risky is the contraceptive pill?
Dec 12, 2016 • 9 min
We look at the numbers behind the scary headlines about birth control.
How wrong were the Brexit forecasts?
Dec 9, 2016 • 24 min
The economic doom that never was; childhood cancer figures and Ed Balls
WS More or Less: How not to test public opinion
Dec 2, 2016 • 9 min
The survey by the Indian PM that broke all the polling rules and started a mass protest
Are you related to Edward III - and Danny Dyer?
Dec 2, 2016 • 23 min
What are the odds of being related to a medieval king? and how many cows for a fiver?
WS More or Less: Good news on renewables?
Nov 28, 2016 • 9 min
Renewable capacity has surpassed that of coal–is this good news? Plus an asteroid update.
Pensioners aren’t poor anymore
Nov 25, 2016 • 24 min
High-rolling pensioners? predicting Norovirus, air pollution deaths and lost or found?
WS More or Less: Avoiding Asteroids
Nov 21, 2016 • 9 min
A new NASA warning system means we’re getting better at spotting Earth-bound space rocks. But how safe are we?
Is dementia the number one killer?
Nov 18, 2016 • 24 min
Is dementia on the rise? Plus immigration, incomplete contacts and chocolate muffins
WS More or Less: Liberia’s Rape Statistic Debunked
Nov 14, 2016 • 9 min
Sexual violence was widespread in Liberia’s brutal and bloody year civil war. But were three quarters of women in the country raped? We tell the story behind the number and reveal how well-meaning efforts to expose what happened have fuelled myths and…
US election, stray cats and puzzles
Nov 11, 2016 • 24 min
Who voted in the US elections? Plus are there nine million stray cats in the UK?
WS More or Less: Ice Cream versus aid
Nov 7, 2016 • 9 min
Does the world really spend three times as much on ice cream than on humanitarian aid?
Trump tells the Truth
Nov 4, 2016 • 23 min
The fact-checkers have been working overtime looking into the numbers used by Donald Trump during his campaign to become President of the USA. In the wake of the election next week, we take a look at some of Trump’s more outrageous statistical claims