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

Esther Duflo and women in economics
Oct 18 • 20 min
Discussing Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banjeree and Michael Kremer’s economics Nobel Prize.
The Extra Episode: Minimum wage, drinking in Scotland and identical twins.
Oct 11 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 8 min
Using statistics to compare world records in athletics and swimming.
Dementia, inflation and shark deaths
Sep 20 • 24 min
Health risks for Presidential hopefuls, falling inflation, shark deaths and salary claims
WS More or Less: Cape Town murders
Sep 16 • 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 • 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 • 8 min
Has it increased significantly since President Bolsonaro took office in January?
Climate deaths, austerity and pet food
Sep 6 • 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 • 8 min
Are they really 85 percent worse than last year?
Amazon fires, state pension and American burgers
Aug 30 • 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 • 8 min
Were millions of trees planted in just one day in Ethiopia?
Exam grades, Chernobyl and Ethiopian trees
Aug 23 • 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 • 9 min
Re-inserting a caveat and discussing a really cool numbers trick.
Immigrant Crime Rate in the US
Aug 9 • 8 min
Do immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans in the United States?
The spread of fact-checking in Africa
Aug 2 • 8 min
With misinformation so easy to spread, how can it be stopped or challenged?
Pregnancy prohibitions – the evidence
Jul 26 • 8 min
Taking a statistical look at what expectant mothers should avoid.
Missing women from drug trials
Jul 19 • 9 min
How medical testing on just men causes problems.
Zimbabwe’s economy: Are sanctions to blame?
Jul 19 • 8 min
We look at politicians’ claims that sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe’s difficulties.
Two World Cups: Football and Cricket
Jul 5 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 9 min
How one woman used statistics to help cope with cancer.
WS More or Less: The things we fail to see
Jun 10 • 9 min
The hidden influences that a make a big difference to the way the world works.
Are married women flipping miserable?
Jun 7 • 23 min
Measuring happiness, university access in Scotland, plus will one in two get cancer?
WS More or Less: Volcanoes versus humans
Jun 3 • 9 min
Does Mount Etna produce more carbon emissions than humans? We check the numbers.
Hay Festival Special
May 31 • 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 • 10 min
How collecting data about the dead led the famous nurse to promote better sanitation.
Eurovision and fact-checking Naomi Wolf
May 24 • 24 min
The stats behind making a successful song, plus misunderstanding Victorian court records.
Making music out of Money
May 20 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 9 min
Tim Harford talks to Matt Parker on how simple maths mistakes can cause big problems.
Climate Change, Victorian Diseases, Alcohol
Feb 15 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 9 min
A listener doubts her popularity on the dating app Tinder. We investigate the numbers.
Holocaust Deniers; Venezuelan Hyperinflation; Tinder Likes
Feb 1 • 28 min
Tim Harford on Holocaust deniers; food prices in Venezuela, and dating app statistics
WS More or Less: Is Suicide Seasonal?
Jan 26 • 9 min
Tim Harford asks which times of the year are riskiest for suicide.
Domestic Violence, Jobs, Easter Snowfall
Jan 25 • 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 • 9 min
Which planet is closest to Earth?
Intersex Numbers, Fact-Checking Facebook, Jack Bogle
Jan 18 • 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 • 10 min
We look at the numbers behind body temperature – what is normal?
Sugar, Outdoors Play and Planets
Jan 11 • 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 • 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
WS More or Less: Child Marriage, Dangerous Algorithms
Oct 28, 2016 • 8 min
Is a girl under 15 married every seven seconds? And beware dangerous algorithms
WS More or Less: Escobar’s Cocaine Deaths
Oct 24, 2016 • 8 min
How many people die for every kilo of cocaine? More Or Less investigates.
WS More or Less: Algorithms, Crime and Punishment
Oct 14, 2016 • 8 min
When maths can get you locked up.
WS More or Less: The Sustainable Development Goals – are there just too many?
Oct 7, 2016 • 8 min
It’s now a year since the UN set its new Sustainable Development Goals to try to make the world a better place. They include 17 goals and a massive 169 targets on subjects like disease, education and governance. But some people like Bjorn Lomborg are…
WS More or Less: Who Won the US Presidential Debate?
Sep 30, 2016 • 8 min
Polling on the first TV debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appears to be divided over who won it. But not all polls are equal. If the people being polled aren’t representative of the population at large, then their responses may not tell you…
WS More or Less: Trump’s crime claims
Sep 23, 2016 • 9 min
This week Donald Trump claimed that there are some inner city areas in the US which are suffering from the worst crime rates ever. They are so dangerous, he says, that Afghanistan is safer than many of these areas. But could this be true? We take a look…
WS More or Less: Wedding gift economics
Sep 17, 2016 • 9 min
Can economics help us work out the perfect amount to spend on a wedding gift? Our reporter Jordan Dunbar is in a tricky situation-he’s heading to an old friend’s wedding and needs to figure out how much to give as a gift without breaking the bank.…
WS More or Less: Drug deaths in the Philippines
Sep 11, 2016 • 9 min
Over the last two months the Government in the Philippines has been encouraging the police to clampdown on the illegal drug trade. The new President, Rodrigo Duterte, went as far as saying that citizens could shoot and kill drug dealers who resisted…
WS More or Less: Menstrual Syncing
Sep 5, 2016 • 9 min
It is a commonly held belief that if women spend enough time together, their bodies start to communicate through chemical signals, known as pheromones. Eventually the women’s bodies will start to menstruate at the same time. But where does this idea come…
Irish Passports
Sep 2, 2016 • 28 min
Britons entitled to Irish passports After the Brexit vote in June, so many Britons applied for Irish passports that Ireland’s foreign minister had to ask them to stop – pointing out that the UK remains, for now, in the EU. If some of the figures that have…
Death Penalty abolition
Aug 30, 2016 • 9 min
Statistics suggest that officially about half of the countries in the world have abolished Capital Punishment, and a further 52 have stopped its use in practice. But we tell the story behind the numbers and show why the picture is more complicated. We…
Gender Pay Gap
Aug 26, 2016 • 27 min
The “gender pay gap” This topic has been in the news this week after the Institute for Fiscal Studies published research showing women end up 33% worse off than their male counterparts after they have children. But earlier in the summer, Fraser Nelson…
WS More or Less: Counting Terror Deaths
Aug 22, 2016 • 9 min
With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the…
Counting Terror Deaths
Aug 19, 2016 • 28 min
Is 2016 an unusually deadly year for terrorism? In a joint investigation with BBC Newsbeat and BBC Monitoring, we’ve analysed nearly 25,000 news articles to assess whether 2016 so far has been a unusually deadly year for terrorism. It certainly feels like…
WS More or Less: Swimming World Records
Aug 15, 2016 • 9 min
World Records are being set at a much faster rate in swimming than in other sports. At the Rio Olympics, British swimmer Adam Peaty managed to break the men’s 100m breaststroke world record twice in two days. Tim Harford speaks to swimming coach, Rick…
Grammar Schools
Aug 12, 2016 • 28 min
It has been reported that Prime Minister Theresa May is planning on lifting the ban on creating new grammar schools. Chris Cook, Policy Editor for Newsnight, has been looking at the evidence for whether these selective schools improve exam performance or…
WS More or Less: Predicting Olympic Medals
Aug 8, 2016 • 9 min
How can we use statistics to predict how many medals each nation will win? We speak to Dr Julia Bredtmann, an economist at the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research. She has come up with a model to predict how many medals each country will win,…
Plastic Bags
Aug 5, 2016 • 28 min
The Government says that since the introduction of the 5p fee for single use plastic bags their use has plummeted. We take a look at the numbers. Olympic Medals at Rio 2016 The Olympic Games are with us again. So how can we use statistics to predict how…
WS More or Less: Odd Socks and Algorithms
Aug 1, 2016 • 9 min
How can the techniques of computer science help us in everyday life? We speak to Brian Christian co-author of ‘Algorithms to Live by: The Computer Science of Human Decisions’. He argues that the techniques of computer science can help us manage everyday…
The Supermarket Effect
Jul 29, 2016 • 24 min
Many news outlets have reported this week that a Waitrose supermarket pushes up house prices in the surrounding area. It’s based on research that also suggests that other supermarkets have a similar but smaller effect. We take a highly sceptical look at…
WS More or Less: Ireland’s Shock GDP figures
Jul 22, 2016 • 9 min
The Irish Central Statistics Office has released figures showing that Ireland’s economy grew by 26% in 2015. That would make it the fastest growing economy in the world. But American economist Paul Krugman described this as “leprechaun economics” as this…
WS More or Less: Violence, shootings and the police in the US
Jul 15, 2016 • 9 min
Protests have spread across the United States over the last few weeks. The protestors have been registering their feelings about incidents where police have shot and killed black men. High profile recent incidents resulted in the deaths of Alton Sterling…
WS More or Less: Sleeping: the 8-hour myth
Jul 8, 2016 • 9 min
It’s often said that we should all be aiming to get eight hours of sleep a night. But could it actually lead you to an early grave? Research shows that sleeping for longer, or shorter, than average is associated with an increased risk of disease and…
Ranking Iceland’s Football Team
Jul 1, 2016 • 9 min
Is Iceland the best football team in the world per capita? England suffered a 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the European Football Championship in France. This was embarrassing for England when you consider its population is 163 times bigger than Iceland’s. We…
WS More or Less: Brexit Economics
Jun 24, 2016 • 9 min
Following a referendum, the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Tim Harford and the team explore what that might mean for the UK’s economy. Most notably - what might be the impact on trade? We examine the economic forecasts from the government, and…
WS More or Less: When Companies Track Your Life
Jun 20, 2016 • 9 min
How are companies using our personal data? It’s a familiar concern. Online retailers are tracking us so they can sell things to us. Bricks and mortar retailers have loyalty card schemes. Our banks and credit card companies know all about us. And of…
The Referendum by Numbers: Trade
Jun 17, 2016 • 11 min
If it seems the EU referendum debate just involves two politicians shouting contradictory statistics at each other - then we are here to help. In this series, we’re giving you a break from the politicians and we’re going to try to figure out the truth.…
The Referendum by Numbers: Regulation
Jun 16, 2016 • 11 min
If it seems the EU referendum debate just involves two politicians shouting contradictory statistics at each other - then we are here to help. In this series, we’re giving you a break from the politicians and we’re going to try to figure out the truth.…
The Referendum by Numbers: Law
Jun 15, 2016 • 11 min
If it seems the EU referendum debate just involves two politicians shouting contradictory statistics at each other - then we are here to help. In this series, we’re giving you a break from the politicians and we’re going to try to figure out the truth.…
The Referendum by Numbers: Immigration
Jun 14, 2016 • 11 min
If it seems the EU referendum debate just involves two politicians shouting contradictory statistics at each other - then we are here to help. In this series, we’re giving you a break from the politicians and we’re going to try to figure out the truth.…
The Referendum by Numbers: The Cost of EU Membership
Jun 13, 2016 • 11 min
If the EU referendum debate just involves two politicians shouting contradictory statistics at each other - then we are here to help. In this series, we’re giving you a break from the politicians and we’re going to try to figure out the truth. Bracing…
WS More or Less: Sexist Data Crisis
Jun 10, 2016 • 9 min
There is a black hole in our knowledge of women and girls around the world. Campaigners say that they are often missing from official statistics and areas of their lives are ignored completely - but what needs to be done? Producer: Charlotte McDonald…
WS More or Less: HIV in Africa
Jun 3, 2016 • 9 min
The news aggregation website Zimbabwe Today recently ran a headline stating that 74% of African girls aged 15-24 are HIV positive. Although the statistic is not true, Mary Mahy from UNAIDS reveals that young women do have a higher infection rate than…
WS More or Less: Refugee Camp Statistics
May 27, 2016 • 9 min
What is the average length of stay in a refugee camp? It is regularly reported that it is 17 years but is this true? Floppy Disks This week’s shocking revelation of the computer world was that the Department of Defence still uses 1970s floppy disks to…
WS More or Less: The World’s Most Profitable Product
May 20, 2016 • 9 min
Recently one of our listeners contacted us to say he heard a BBC correspondent describe the iPhone as the most profitable product in history. It was just an off-the-cuff comment but it got us thinking - could it be true? We compare and contrast a range of…
WS More or Less: The world’s most diverse city
May 13, 2016 • 9 min
Is London the most diverse city in the world? The new London mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed that it is, but is he right? How is diversity measured? This month, British mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles will go to Oslo to collect the Abel prize, a prestigious…
WS More or Less: Leicester City football fluke?
May 9, 2016 • 9 min
At the beginning of the season of the English football Premier League, few people would have been brave enough to predict that Leicester City would finish top. But was it that surprising? Tim Harford speaks to Lord Finkelstein, a political journalist, who…
The most profitable product in history
May 6, 2016 • 27 min
Recently one of our listeners contacted us to say he heard a BBC correspondent describe the iPhone as the most profitable product in history. It was just an off-the-cuff comment but it got us thinking – could it be true? We asked listeners to get in touch…
WS More or Less: Simpson’s Paradox
May 2, 2016 • 9 min
A Dutch statistician recently became suspicious by headlines in the Dutch news that women were being discriminated against when it came to getting science research funding. Professor Casper Albers of the Heymans Institute for Psychological Research,…
EU Migration
Apr 29, 2016 • 28 min
How many people have come from the EU to live in the UK? And what impact do they have on the economy? This week it was reported there had been an increase in fire deaths – we aren’t so sure. We explain the achievement of Abel Prize winning mathematician…
WS More or Less: Most Expensive Building
Apr 25, 2016 • 9 min
What is the most expensive “object” ever built? There are plans in the UK to build a brand new nuclear power station called Hinckley Point. The environmental charity Greenpeace have claimed it is set to be the most expensive object on Earth. But could it…
Brexit numbers
Apr 22, 2016 • 27 min
EU Treasury report This week there was much debate over the Treasury report which modelled how leaving the EU would affect the economy. Tim Harford speaks to the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson about how the document was presented to the public, and how it was…
WS More or Less: The life expectancy of a Pope
Apr 18, 2016 • 9 min
Life expectancy of a Pope In 2014 Pope Francis alluded to the fact he didn’t expect to live more than another two or three years. A group of statisticians have taken a look at the life expectancy of popes over the centuries and decided that he may have…
Celebrity deaths
Apr 15, 2016 • 28 min
Celebrity deaths A number of people have asked the team if more famous people have died this year compared to other years. It’s a hard one to measure – but we have had a go at some back of the envelope calculations with data from Who’s Who and BBC…
WS More or Less: The story of average
Apr 11, 2016 • 9 min
In the 1600s astronomers were coming up with measurements to help sailors read their maps with a compass. But with all the observations of the skies they were making, how do they choose the best number? We tell the story of how astronomers started to find…
Fathers and babies
Apr 8, 2016 • 27 min
Paternity Leave This week it was claimed that only 1 percent of men are taking up the option of shared parental leave – a new provision that came into force a year ago. A number of media outlets covered the story, interviewing experts about why there was…
WS More or Less: The Great EU Cabbage Myth
Apr 5, 2016 • 9 min
Could there really be 26,911 words of European Union regulation dedicated to the sale of cabbage? This figure is often used by those arguing there is too much bureaucracy in the EU. But we trace its origins back to 1940s America. It wasn’t true then, and…
The Great EU Cabbage Myth
Apr 4, 2016 • 27 min
Could there really be 26,911 words of European Union regulation dedicated to the sale of cabbage? This figure is often used by those arguing there is too much bureaucracy in the EU. But we trace its origins back to 1940s America. It wasn’t true then, and…
WSMoreOrLess: Safe drinking
Mar 24, 2016 • 9 min
New alcohol guidelines were issued recently in the UK which lowered the number of units recommended for safe drinking. But are the benefits and harms of alcohol being judged correctly? We speak to Professor David Speigelhalter. Tim Harford presents.…
WSMoreOrLess: Mobiles or lightbulbs
Mar 18, 2016 • 9 min
Mobile technology is spreading fast in Africa, and one lawyer Gerald Abila has done the maths and worked out that there are more mobile phones than lightbulbs in Uganda. We look at his figures and find that measuring them is more complicated than you…
WSMoreOrLess: Can we trust food surveys?
Mar 11, 2016 • 9 min
Stories about what foods are good and bad for you, which foods are linked to cancer and which have beneficial qualities are always popular online and in the news. But how do experts know what people are eating? Tim Harford speaks to Christie Aschwanden,…
WSMoreOrLess: Fact checking The Big Short
Mar 4, 2016 • 9 min
“Every one percent unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?” says Brad Pitt playing a former investment banker Ben Rickert, in the recent Oscar-winning film The Big Short. Although based on a true story, the filmmakers admit there is…
WSMoreOrLess: Antibiotics and the problem of the broken market
Feb 26, 2016 • 9 min
It’s a life and death situation – the world is at its last line of defence against some pretty nasty bacteria and there are no new antibiotics. But it’s not the science that’s the big problem, it the economics. Despite the $40 billion market worldwide…
WSMoreOrLess: When £10,000 isn’t a good incentive
Feb 19, 2016 • 9 min
Could no prize have been a better way to motivate snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan?
WSMoreOrLess: Fishy numbers?
Feb 15, 2016 • 9 min
There were reports recently that there will more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. The report comes from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. But as we discover there’s something fishy about these figures. And what are the chances that as a parent you…
Selfies, sugar daddies and dodgy surveys
Feb 12, 2016 • 27 min
Adverstising dressed up as research has inspired us this week. Firstly recent reports that said that young women aged between 16 and 25 spend five and a half hours taking selfies on average. It doersn’t take much thinking to realise that thhere something…
WSMoreOrLess: Do e-cigarettes really harm your chances of quitting smoking?
Feb 8, 2016 • 9 min
Research last month claimed to show that e-cigarettes harm your chances of quitting smoking. The paper got coverage world-wide but it also came in for unusually fierce criticism from academics who spend their lives trying to help people quit. It’s been…
E-cigarettes: Can They Help People Quit?
Feb 5, 2016 • 27 min
Do e-cigarettes make quitting smoking more difficult? Research last month claimed to show that e-cigarettes harm your chances of quitting smoking. The paper got coverage world-wide but it also came in for unusually fierce criticism from academics who…
Swedish refugees
Feb 1, 2016 • 9 min
Have refugees caused a gender imbalance in Sweden? It has been reported that there are 123 boys for every 100 girls aged between 16 and 17 in Sweden. In China, the ratio is 117 boys to 100 girls. We explore if the numbers add up and why this might be.
How harmful is alcohol?
Jan 29, 2016 • 27 min
New alcohol guidelines were issued recently which lowered the number of units recommended for safe drinking. But are the benefits and harms of alcohol being jusged correctly? We speak to Professor David Speigelhalter and Sepsis – do 44,000 people die of…
WSMoreOrLess: Oxfam and Wealth Inequality
Jan 25, 2016 • 9 min
You may have seen the claim that ‘62 people now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population’. You may also have seen headlines that suggest that 1% of the world’s population now own more than the 99% put together. This is the latest iteration of…
Billionaires versus the world
Jan 22, 2016 • 27 min
Oxfam says that 62 people now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. But is this really telling us anything meaningful? And how is it that this study shows that some of the world’s poorest people live in the United States? What do you do…
WS MoreOrLess: Gravitational Waves
Jan 18, 2016 • 9 min
One of our 2015 ‘Numbers of the Year’ predictions might have come to pass. There is great excitement over rumours that one of the predictions Einstein made in his theory of General Relativity has finally been observed. But it’s not the first time it’s…
Weekend Stroke Deaths
Jan 15, 2016 • 27 min
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said this week that if you have a stroke at the weekends, you’re 20% more likely to die. But is that true? We look at the evidence. Are you more likely to win prizes with newer Premium Bonds? We ask Radio 4’s Money Box…
WS MoreOrLess: Numbers of the Year 2015: Part Three
Jan 11, 2016 • 9 min
What is preventing some Americans from being creative? And, how much money does the English Premier League contribute in tax? Tim Harford looks back over some of the numbers that made the news in 2015. He speaks to author and broadcaster Farai Chideya,…
Flood Defence Spending
Jan 8, 2016 • 24 min
Tim Harford and the team take a look at some of the numbers in the news about flooding. What is a one hundred year flood? And is there really a north-south divide in the amount of money spent on flood defences in England? What is the total number of…
WSMoreOrLess: Numbers of the Year 2015 Part 2
Jan 4, 2016 • 9 min
How healthy is the Nigerian economy and how many possible tweets are there? Tim Harford looks back over some of the numbers that made the news in 2015. Guests include: Peter Cunliffe-Jones from Africa Check, Professor John Allen Paulos and Dr Andrew…
Numbers of the Year 2015
Jan 1, 2016 • 28 min
Tim Harford looks back at some of the most interesting numbers behind the news in 2015, from the migrant crisis to social media messages. Contributors include: Professor Jane Green, Helen Arney, Paul Lewis, Andrew Samson, Leonard Doyle , Peter…
WS MoreOrLess: Numbers of the Year 2015 Part 1
Dec 25, 2015 • 9 min
How has the European migrant crisis affected the number of people seeking asylum? In this special programme Tim Harford looks back at some of the numbers making the news in 2015. Guests include: Leonard Doyle from the International Organisation for…
WS MoreOrLess: How Many Stormtroopers are there?
Dec 18, 2015 • 12 min
Are Star Wars’ Stormtroopers the biggest secret army on Earth? Ruth Alexander investigates, and looks at some of the other numbers behind one of the most successful movie franchises in history.
WS MoreOrLess:100 Year Floods?
Dec 11, 2015 • 9 min
Do so-called ‘100 year floods’ only happen once a century? Ruth Alexander and Wesley Stephenson investigate. Also, does the air in Beijing cause as much damage as smoking 40 cigarettes a day?
WS MoreOrLess: Climate Change
Dec 8, 2015 • 9 min
Ruth Alexander investigates claims climate change has contributed to the war in Syria, and with the climate change summit COP21 underway in Paris, we answer listener’s climate change number questions.
WS MoreOrLess: ‘‘Sympathy’ for jihadis
Nov 27, 2015 • 9 min
A front page article in a British tabloid claimed that one in five British Muslims have sympathy for jihadis. Ruth Alexander investigates whether this is correct, and asks which countries have the most support for Islamic State fighters.
WS MoreOrLess: Has Islamic State been Losing Territory?
Nov 20, 2015 • 9 min
Has so-called Islamic State been losing territory? Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed IS have lost about 25-30% of their territory in Iraq. Is this true? Plus, is Premier League footballer Héctor Bellerín faster than Usain Bolt? Bellerín…
WS MoreOrLess: Creativity and Mental Illness
Nov 13, 2015 • 9 min
Are creative people more likely to suffer mental illness, and has Cuba wiped out child hunger? Wesley Stephenson investigates.
WS MoreOrLess: China’s One Child Policy
Nov 6, 2015 • 9 min
As China ends its one child rule what has been its impact on the country’s population? The More or Less team take a look at whether the policy on its own has slowed the rate at which China’s population has been growing. And now that parents in China will…
WS MoreOrLess: Processed Meat and Cancer
Oct 30, 2015 • 9 min
Are processed meats as cancer-causing as cigarettes, and has the Rugby world cup been the most brutal? Ruth Alexander investigates.