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

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-28 06:00:00

Are wild mammals only 4% of the mammal population? (p0dzc33k.mp3)

A widely respected and cited study says humans and livestock account for 96% of all mammals on Earth. We ask how the study was carried out and what hope there might be for the future. Plus we answer another listener question about whether most mammals are in fact rodents. With the help of Dr Hannah Ritchie, Deputy Editor at Our World in Data and Dr Axel Rossberg, Reader in Theoretical Ecology at Queen Mary University of London.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-25 09:30:00

Coffee with the Chancellor, inflation measures, GP numbers and toilet paper (p0dyj9rr.mp3)

Jeremy Hunt has pledged in a new social media video to halve the UK’s high rate of inflation. Tim Harford and the team fact check the Chancellor’s claims. Also – CPI, CPIH, RPI – which measure of inflation is best for assessing the impact of the rising cost of living? Plus has the number of GPs in England gone up or down since the start of the pandemic. And does toilet paper cause 15% of global deforestation? Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Josephine Casserly, Nathan Gower, Louise Hidalgo, Charlotte McDonald Sound Engineer: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross Editor: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-21 05:50:00

Does toilet paper cause 15% of global deforestation? (p0dxs0g2.mp3)

A British company has claimed that the production and use of toilet paper is responsible for 15% of deforestation globally. We investigate the claim and ask what the true environmental cost of toilet paper is. Charlotte McDonald talks to climate change scientist Professor Mary Gagen, chief adviser on forests to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the WWF. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Louise Hidalgo and Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross Studio Engineer: Rod Farquhar

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-18 09:30:00

Ambulance response times, teacher pay and Irish pubs (p0dwzrsb.mp3)

How long are people really waiting when they call 999 for an ambulance? Tim Harford and the team examine in detail the sheer scale of delays in responding to emergency calls. We also ask why the NHS is facing a crisis when it’s got more funding and more staff than before the pandemic, with the help of Ben Zaranko from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Plus we fact check a claim from one of Britain’s leading teaching unions about pay. And are there more pubs in Ireland or Irish pubs in the rest of the world? Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Josephine Casserly, Nathan Gower, Paul Connolly Sonic Landscape: James Beard Production Co-ordinator: Helena Warwick-Cross Editor: Richard Vadon Image: Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-14 07:00:00

How we shook the world of very large numbers (p0dw6pxd.mp3)

How did an edition of More or Less from 2017 end up influencing the choice of official names for extremely large numbers? We tell the tale of how an interview between presenter Tim Harford and maths whizz Rob Eastaway did just that. Also featuring Professor Richard Brown, head of metrology at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Janet Staples Sound Engineer: James Beard Image: Large number, Credit: Getty Images

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-11 12:18:00

A&E delays and deaths, religious identity in N Ireland and naming the monster numbers (p0dvklfl.mp3)

Tim Harford and the team return for a new series of the number crunching show. With the huge pressures facing the NHS we ask how many people may be dying because of treatment delays in A&E. We hear what the latest census tells us about changing religious identity in Northern Ireland. We look at misleading claims about covid vaccines after the collapse of American football player Damar Hamlin. And we hear how More or Less has wielded its influence over how we all describe very large numbers. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Louise Hidalgo, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: James Beard

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2023-01-07 06:00:00

Can China's data on covid deaths be trusted? (p0dtps3c.mp3)

When the pandemic took hold, the Chinese government imposed a Zero-Covid policy that aimed to contain the virus through mass-testing and strict lockdowns. But early last December, amidst widespread public protests, and the spread of the omicron variant to more than 200 cities, those draconian, highly restrictive measures were lifted almost entirely. For the first time in just under two years, the majority of the country’s near one-and-a-half billion citizens were free to meet, mix and mingle where they pleased, triggering what experts believe is a gargantuan exit-wave of covid infections - and related deaths. Some analysts say death rates there could be as high as15,000 per day. But the Chinese authorities are reporting 5 or fewer deaths a day. The numbers don't stack up, so More or Less's Paul Connolly speaks to some of the world's leading experts and epidemiologists to work out if China's data on covid deaths can be trusted - and, if not, what the real death toll could be.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-12-31 06:00:00

Irish pubs - a global numbers game (p0dr7pjt.mp3)

It's possible that the question we focus on in this week's programme occurred to you as you were sipping on an Irish Coffee in Bubbles O'Leary's in Kampala, Uganda: Where can the most Irish pubs be found - in Ireland? Or in all other countries combined? The popularity and sheer ubiquity of Irish pubs is a thing to behold. In 2015, the Irish Pubs Global Federation said there was approximately 6500 Irish pubs doing business outside the Emerald Isle - and our own research tells us there's at least one Irish bar in more than 160 of the world's 195 countries. But what is the secret, the recipe for global success? And can the More or Less team track down a definite number, thus answering the question some of you will have pondered whilst settling into a firelit Irish bar on a scorching hot day in rural Hawaii.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-12-24 06:00:00

Numbers of the Year 2022 (p0dqthnj.mp3)

Tim Harford discusses the numbers that help explain some of the biggest stories of the year, including the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation and a breakthrough for women’s football, with the help of Olga Ivshina, correspondent for the BBC Russian service; Chris Giles, economics editor of the Financial Times; Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and Georgina Sturge, author and House of Commons statistician.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-12-17 06:00:00

Qatar World Cup: the pressure of penalties (p0dpv2rl.mp3)

The World Cup in Qatar is drawing to a close. Penalties and penalty shootouts have provided some of the biggest moments of the tournament. We analyse penalty data from the World Cup and ask what boosts the chance of scoring from the spot, with the help of Ben Lyttleton, author of Twelve Yards: The Art and Psychology of the Perfect Penalty.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-12-10 06:00:00

Why are data so important in determining how we live? (p0dn4nj4.mp3)

Why are good data so important to policymakers – whether they know it or not – and what happens when good data is missing? Presenter Tim Harford speaks to Georgina Sturge, a statistician at the House of Commons library in London and the author of Bad Data: How Governments, Politicians and the Rest of Us Get Misled by Numbers.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-12-03 16:00:00

The World Cup: how many migrant workers have died? (p0dlg0qg.mp3)

Qatar has been fiercely criticised over its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom have been employed to build stadiums and other infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. We look at the wildly varying estimates of the number of migrant deaths with the help of Max Tunon, head of the Qatar office of the International Labour Organisation and Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-11-26 06:00:00

When do food shortages become a famine? (p0djvhrg.mp3)

Somalia is experiencing its worst drought for 40 years and there are warnings that millions of people need food assistance urgently. The UN body tasked with classifying levels of food security has projected a famine, although no official declaration has yet been made. We ask what data is used to formally categorise famine and explore some of the difficulties in collecting it, with the help of UN IPC Global Programme Manager Jose Lopez and Professor Laura Hammond, Pro Director of Research & Knowledge Exchange at SOAS. Presenter & producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: People affected by the worsening drought due to failed rain seasons, look on, at the Alla Futo camp for internally displaced people, in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. REUTERS/Feisal Omar)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-11-19 06:00:00

A $220 billion World Cup? (p0dh51zm.mp3)

As the FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets underway, and the newly built stadia, lavish hotels and transport networks come to life, More or Less investigates just how much the Gulf nation has spent in the lead-up to the tournament. Reports claim the figure could be as much as $220 billion - that’s more than Qatar's annual GDP, and more than ten times higher than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At an an estimated $15 billion, this was previously the most expensive tournament to date. With no access to Qatar’s accounts, and with very few official figures in circulation, More or Less has recruited some of the world’s leading experts in sports finance to crunch the numbers and to ask…is this really a $220 billion World Cup? Presenter: Paul Connolly Producers: Paul Connolly and Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Image: Al Wakrah Stadium, the second FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (TM) venue: The 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy via Getty Images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-11-14 16:16:00

Bonus Episode: Understand the Economy (p0dg51kh.mp3)

Tim Harford brings you the first episode of his new podcast, Understand the Economy. If you’ve been missing his dulcet tones, here’s a chance for you to have a preview of Tim Harford’s latest podcast, in which he offers really simple explanations to help make sense of the economy today. If you enjoy it, you can find the rest of the series on BBC Sounds or wherever you get your podcasts. In this episode, inflation. What is inflation, why does it matter, and is someone to blame if it goes up? Understanding inflation will help you understand why your shopping is getting more and more expensive and why prices rarely seem to go down. Tim Harford explains why the inflation figure you see on the TV might not reflect the price rises you’re experiencing and economic historian Victoria Bateman tells us why having a boat load of silver coins isn’t always a good thing. Everything you need to know about the economy and what it means for you. This podcast will cut through the jargon to bring you clarity and ensure you finally understand all those complicated terms and phrases you hear on the news. Inflation, GDP, Interest rates, and bonds, Tim Harford and friends explain them all. We’ll ensure you understand what’s going on today, why your shopping is getting more expensive or why your pay doesn’t cover your bills. We’ll also bring you surprising histories, from the war hungry Kings who have shaped how things are counted today to the greedy merchants flooding Spain with Silver coins. So if your eyes usually glaze over when someone says ‘cutting taxes stimulates growth’, fear no more, we’ve got you covered. Producer: Phoebe Keane Researcher: Drew Hyndman Editor: Clare Fordham Find all the episodes here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001dwr7 A BBC Long Form Audio Production for BBC Radio 4

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-11-12 06:00:00

Improving the numbers in the news (p0df8lby.mp3)

How can journalists improve their use of statistics in their reporting of the world around us? It’s a question US academics John Bailer and Rosemary Pennington tackle in their new book Statistics Behind the Headlines. They join Tim Harford to talk about how journalism can be improved by asking the right questions about numbers and using them in the wider context of a story. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: Electronic and paper media: scanrail/Getty)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-11-05 06:00:00

Lula’s “zero deforestation” plan for the Amazon (p0dcwyb9.mp3)

Lula Da Silva has pledged “zero deforestation” in the Amazon as he prepares to become Brazil’s next president, in contrast to the policies of outgoing leader Jair Bolsonaro under whom the destruction of the rainforest has soared. On this edition of More or Less we ask how much of the Amazon has been lost and whether Lula’s aim of zero deforestation can be achieved. Presenter and producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts: Sound engineer: David Crackles Production Co-ordinator: Jacqui Johnson (Image: Aerial view of the deforestation of the Amazon: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-29 06:00:00

Can China’s GDP data be trusted? (p0db93yk.mp3)

This week, China released its third quarter GDP figure. At 3.9%, its rate of economic growth is better than many analysts expected, but still significantly short of the 5.5% target the Chinese government had set itself. There was an unprecedented delay in releasing this particular GDP stat - and that delay coincided with the 20th Chinese Communist Party congress. President Xi Jinping was reappointed for a historic third term at the twice-a-decade gathering. Some analysts found the delay suspicious. Did President Xi postpone the release of the GDP figures so it wouldn’t tarnish the congress? And can the figure of 3.9 per cent be trusted anyway? Paul Connolly investigates with the help of John Burn Murdoch, Chief Data Reporter at The Financial Times; Associate Professor of Government at Cornell, Jeremy Lee Wallace and Dr Linda Yueh, Oxford University economist and author. Presenter and Producer: Paul Connolly Editor: Simon Watts Programme Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Neva Missirian (Image: Chinese President Xi Jinping: Mark R Cristino/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-22 06:00:00

Do half of new books really sell fewer than twelve copies? (p0d8mr8x.mp3)

A US government lawyer recently caused a stir in the publishing world when he said during a high profile legal trial that half of all new trade titles – books aimed at a general audience - sell a dozen copies or less. Tim Harford investigates with the help of Kristen McLean from the NPD Books group. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Octavia Woodward, Jon Bithrey Editor: Emma Rippon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: Stack of books on display at the bookstore: bitterfly/Getty)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-15 06:00:00

Ben Bernanke and the magic of banking (p0d70l6t.mp3)

The former head of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke is named as one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on how banking collapses were a major factor in the Great Depression of the 1930s. He shares the prize with two fellow US academics, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig. Tim Harford discusses the significance of their work focusing on the role of banks and why their smooth functioning is so important to society. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Emma Rippon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke speaks after he was named among three U.S. economists awarded the 2022 Nobel Economics Prize, during a news conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, U.S., October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-08 06:00:00

Catching Chess Cheats with Data (p0d5gfc7.mp3)

A cheating scandal is currently rocking the world of chess, as World Champion Magnus Carlsen accuses the young American Hans Niemann of cheating. A bombshell new report has said that Niemann is likely to have cheated in over 100 games online, and uses data to support its argument. So how is statistics being used to catch cheats in chess - and just how prevalent might cheating be at the highest levels of the game? David Edmonds finds out. Presenter: David Edmonds Producer: Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: US international grandmaster Hans Niemann, St. Louis, Missouri, on October 6, 2022: Photo by Tim Vizer /AFP via Getty Images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-07 15:27:00

Teens and antidepressants, stamp duty savings and earthquake probabilities (p0d5f4zg.mp3)

A survey from a mental health charity suggested that more than a third of British teenagers had been prescribed antidepressants. We debunk the figure. Also we investigate a tweet from the UK Treasury about how much homebuyers will save in stamp duty. Plus how Mexico has been hit by earthquakes three times on the same day of the year - what are the chances? And how incorrect figures from the government have given a false picture of the number of cars on Britain’s minor roads. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-05 09:30:00

Teens and antidepressants, stamp duty savings and earthquake probabilities (p0d4jyr2.mp3)

A survey from a mental health charity suggested that more than a third of British teenagers had been prescribed antidepressants. We debunk the figure. Also we investigate a tweet from the UK Treasury about how much homebuyers will save in stamp duty. Plus how Mexico has been hit by earthquakes three times on the same day of the year - what are the chances? And how incorrect figures from the government have given a false picture of the number of cars on Britain’s minor roads. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-10-01 06:00:00

NASA’s asteroid collision: how many asteroids are really out there? (p0d3r5fx.mp3)

This week NASA slammed a spacecraft into an asteroid in the hope of diverting its course. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART mission will help scientists understand how easy it would be protect Earth if one was headed in our direction. More Or Less first discussed this in 2016 with a little help from the movie Armageddon – with listeners getting in touch once again we ask how many asteroids are really out there and how dangerous they might be to Earth. Presenters: Charlotte McDonald and Simon Maybin Producer: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: 3D rendering of a swarm of Meteorites or asteroids entering the Earth atmosphere: ratpack223/ Getty)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-28 09:30:00

Falling pound, the Queen’s funeral and is 0.5 on the Richter scale a big number? (p0d2zypz.mp3)

The value of the pound against other currencies has been incredibly volatile ever since the Chancellor’s ‘mini-budget’. We ask how much we should worry and look at how much taxes will really fall. Also did 4.1 billion people really watch the Queen’s funeral? Gas prices are falling – so why aren’t energy bills? There are early signs that new covid variants could cause another spike in cases over the winter. And with the government lifting a moratorium on fracking, we ask how seismic a number the current limit of 0.5 on the Richter scale actually is. Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-24 06:00:00

Ukraine’s progress in numbers (p0d27x90.mp3)

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from and what they mean. Plus with Norway supplanting Russia to become Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas, we ask how much money the country is making from the increased demand and higher prices. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-22 18:14:00

Ukraine offensive, weak pound & how much do women really exercise (p0d21pk3.mp3)

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from, what they mean and why everyone is comparing them to the size of Greater London. We ask how much money Norway is making out of the current energy crisis. Also why is the pound so weak against the dollar, some odd claims about women and exercise and does it really take 20,000 uses for an organic cotton bag to become more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag? Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-21 09:30:00

Ukraine offensive, weak pound & how much do women really exercise (p0d1gvnt.mp3)

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from, what they mean and why everyone is comparing them to the size of Greater London. We ask how much money Norway is making out of the current energy crisis. Also why is the pound so weak against the dollar, some odd claims about women and exercise and does it really take 20,000 uses for an organic cotton bag to become more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag? Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-17 06:00:00

How bad is fashion for the environment? (p0d0vcdh.mp3)

Is fashion really the second most polluting industry after oil and does it account for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions? Sustainable fashion journalist Alden Wicker does some fashion fact checking with Adam Fleming, presenter of BBC podcast and Radio 4 programme Antisocial. And reporter Charlotte McDonald revisits a claim made in an edition of More or Less last month about the effectiveness of using condoms as a form of contraception. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Image: Models display outfits / BBC images/Susana Vera/Reuters)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-14 09:30:00

Energy crisis plan, imperial measures survey, gardens v national parks (p0d05qb7.mp3)

One of Liz Truss's first acts as Prime Minister was to announce a giant plan to protect domestic energy users from huge rises in wholesale gas and electricity costs, meaning a typical household will pay about £1000 less than otherwise would have been the case. We ask how much the Energy Price Guarantee will cost the government and also explain what a “typical” household really is. A consultation has opened into whether we’d like more of our goods and services priced in imperial measures – but some listeners are suggesting a survey on the issue is biased against metric. And we examine a claim made on the BBC’s Springwatch programme that all of the gardens in Newcastle are bigger than the combined size of our national parks. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-10 06:00:00

Is a third of Pakistan really under water? (p0czg539.mp3)

Pakistan is battling a huge natural disaster as a result of heavy monsoon rains. It’s been widely reported that a third of the country is under water. But can that really be the case? Featuring the BBC’s correspondent in Pakistan Pumza Fihlani and Dr Simon Cook, a senior lecturer in Environmental Science at the University of Dundee. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineers: Graham Puddifoot & James Beard (Image: aerial photograph of flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan province. Credit: Getty/Fida Hussain)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-07 09:30:00

Pakistan flooding, UK power prices and Boris’s broadband claim (p0cys5bw.mp3)

Devastating floods have wreaked havoc across Pakistan after the heaviest monsoon rains in at least a decade. But is a third of the country really under water, as has been claimed? Also why do electricity prices in the UK rise in line with gas prices when we get so much of our power from other sources like nuclear, wind and solar? As criminal barristers go on strike in England and Wales, we ask if those starting in the profession really earn £12,200 a year. And as Boris Johnson waves goodbye to Downing Street, we investigate his claim that 70% of the UK now has access to gigabit broadband. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-09-03 06:00:00

Can we use maths to beat the robots? (p0cy213n.mp3)

Daily advances in the technology of artificial intelligence may leave humans playing catch-up – but in at least one area we can still retain an edge, mathematics. However it’ll require changes in how we think about and teach maths and we may still have to leave the simple adding up to the computers. Junaid Mubeen, author of Mathematical Intelligence, tells Tim Harford what it’ll take to stay ahead of the machines. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon (Image: Digital generated image of artificial intelligence robot scanning the data: Getty / Andriy Onufriyenko)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-08-31 09:30:00

Energy prices, excess deaths and the race to count to 200 (p0cx9cbm.mp3)

With energy prices in the UK spiralling, Tim Harford asks whether there is an easy and realistic way for bills to be cut. Also the number of excess deaths in the UK is rising – we’ll hear how much covid is still to blame. We return to the subject of counting in twenties, this time hearing how the Welsh language mixes traditional and decimal systems. And we debunk some spurious social media claims around Liverpool players and asthma medication.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-08-27 06:00:00

Kenya’s Election Rounding Error (p0cwpvdr.mp3)

When the official figures were announced in Kenya’s presidential election, it looked like the total percentage share of the vote for each candidate came to more than 100%. As this should not be possible, many wondered if up to 142,000 votes might be miscounted. We explore what turns out to be a simple mathematical misunderstanding of the numbers.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-08-20 06:00:00

The numbers behind “natural” birth control (p0cv3bvl.mp3)

Videos on TikTok have been claiming that so-called “natural” birth control methods can be 99% effective. We examine what we really know, and how we know it.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-08-13 06:00:00

Is opinion polling broken? (p0cshm4m.mp3)

The opinion polling industry’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years, as high profile slip-ups in the US presidential election exposed frailties. So should we write them off? Not according to Economist data journalist G Elliot Morris, who’s written a book called Strength in Numbers: How Polls Work and Why We Need Them. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Brenda Brown Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-08-06 06:00:00

Debunking the Liverpool FC Conspiracy Theory (p0crdghc.mp3)

Ahead of the opening of the new season of the English Premier League, baseless rumours and dodgy statistics circulating online have implied that Liverpool FC use asthma medication to enhance their players’ performance. Ben Carter speaks to sports scientist Professor John Dickinson to examine the science that disproves these rumour, and tracks down its original source with the help of Mike Wendling from the World Service's Trending programme. Presenter: Ben Carter Producer: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-07-30 06:00:00

How our world measures up (p0cpxqyr.mp3)

Why do we measure the world around us in the way we do? There is a rich history to be explored - from measuring the depth of the Nile in Ancient Egypt to the central role the French played in developing the metric system and the ultra-precise measurement systems we use today. Presenter Tim Harford is joined by journalist and author James Vincent to discuss the political, social and technological factors that have influenced how we size up our world.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-07-23 06:00:00

Does the World Athletics Championships have a false start problem? (p0cnjk48.mp3)

US athlete Devon Allen has made global headlines this week after being disqualified from the 110m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon. He was judged to have left the starting blocks a thousandth of a second too early. On More or Less we crunch the numbers behind false starts in athletics, asking how quick is too quick when it comes to reacting to a starting gun and whether something else might have gone wrong with the measurement system.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-07-16 06:00:00

Is Uganda about to become a middle income country? (p0cm53s4.mp3)

In his State of the Nation address in early June 2022, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda was on the cusp of becoming a middle income country. That’s been contradicted by World Bank figures. In response to a question from a More or Less fan in Uganda, Tim Harford looks at how a country’s income status is calculated and what relevance it has. Featuring Rachel Sebudde, Senior Economist at the World Bank.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-07-09 06:00:00

Does it take 10,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans? (p0ckr030.mp3)

Various claims have been made about how much water is used in the production of a pair of jeans, that cornerstone of casual clothing. With growing worries over the environmental impact of denim production, More or Less decided to investigate - with the help of journalist and researcher Elizabeth L. Cline who has written extensively on sustainability and the fashion industry.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-07-02 06:00:00

How many American women will have an abortion in their lifetime? (p0cjcdqg.mp3)

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling on Roe vs Wade - the case which guaranteed a constitutional right to a legal abortion across the US, sparking heated protests and debates across the country. But how many American women will have an abortion in their lifetime? One statistic circulating online puts it at as high as one in three. Reporter Charlotte McDonald has been looking into the figures and has uncovered some surprising statistics.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-29 09:30:00

Covid climb, childcare costs and why can’t the French count properly? (p0chndr3.mp3)

Covid cases are rising once again – how accurately are official figures picking up the new wave and how worried we should be? We discuss inflationary spirals and how much wage and pension increases contribute to inflation. Also how many parents actually struggle with childcare costs? Can long waits at A&E be put down to the pandemic and why the French count differently to the British.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-25 06:00:00

Ed Sheeran and the mathematics of musical coincidences (p0cgy8yw.mp3)

After beating a plagiarism claim in court, musician Ed Sheeran said that musical coincidences were inevitable with only 12 notes to choose from… but what do the numbers say? Mathematician and concert pianist Eugenia Cheng takes us through the mathematics of music and explains how the power of exponentials mean that just a handful of notes can open up a seemingly endless world of musical variety. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Programme Coordinator: Janet Staples Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-22 09:30:00

Rail strikes, tyre pollution and sex statistics (p0cg8t8v.mp3)

Do rail workers really earn £13,000 a year more than nurses? As rail strikes severely hit services we look at some of the claims being made around pay – and explain how you can measure average pay in different ways. Plus we investigate claims that Chancellor Rishi Sunak wasted £11bn by paying too much interest on Britain’s national debt. Is pollution from tyres really 2000 times worse than pollution from exhausts? And we look at sex and statistics in America. Produced in partnership with the Open University. Credits: Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Charlotte McDonald Reporters: Nathan Gower, Jon Bithrey Production Coordinator: Janet Staples Sound Engineer: James Beard Editor: Richard Vadon

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-18 06:00:00

How often do people have sex? (p0cfmhg8.mp3)

Magazine articles and advice columns are commonly littered with spurious statistics about how much sex we’re having. So how much do we really know – and what are the difficulties of collecting information about such an intimate part of our lives? Doctor Marina Adshade from the Vancouver School of Economics, who specialises in the economics of sex and love, answers questions posed by a curious More or Less listener in Japan.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-15 09:30:00

Maternity litigation, stars, bees and windowless planes (p0cdwms9.mp3)

The former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that the cost of maternity litigation claims in England is now more than the cost of salaries for maternity nurses and doctors. We crunch the numbers and ask how worried parents and taxpayers should be. Also are there more bees in the world than stars in the galaxy? And would planes be much lighter if they didn’t bother with windows? Maths Professor Hannah Fry talks to us about her experience of cancer and the choices she and others have faced after a diagnosis. And we hear from author Simon Singh, who wants to bring fun maths conversations into homes everywhere. Produced in partnership with the Open University.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-11 06:00:00

Hannah Fry: Understanding the numbers of cancer (p0cd7c8f.mp3)

British mathematics professor and broadcaster Hannah Fry has spent many years trying to explain the world through numbers. But when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer she embarked on a new mission – to discover whether the medical world, and we as individuals, make the right choices around treatment. Are patients always given the facts – and the time - they need to make rational decisions? And could we be at risk of unnecessary overtreatment?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-08 09:30:00

Employment puzzle, pyramids and triplets (p0cchlr4.mp3)

The UK has a low unemployment rate, and a large number of people who are not working right now – we look at how both of these are true with the help of Chris Giles from the FT and Louise Murphy from the Resolution Foundation. Have pyramids really moved 4km south since they were built? For years, the media has been claiming that the odds of having identical triplets are one in 200 million – we are very suspicious. And we look at apparently concerning reports about women's life expectancy in the poorest parts of England. Plus, we have received a lot of emails from listeners about last week’s episode. Some questioning the definition of a billion, others questioning our explanation of the nautical mile. We do some reflecting.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-04 06:00:00

Are girls starting puberty earlier? (p0cbk765.mp3)

In the 1980s, Dr Marcia Herman-Giddens was one of the first people to notice that girls were starting puberty earlier than expected. We talk to Dr Marcia Herman-Giddens and Dr Louise Greenspan about what we know now about whether the age of girls’ puberty is falling. (Mother and daughter in the supermarket choosing sanitary items. Getty Images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-06-01 09:30:00

Jubilee costs, fuel poverty and imperial measures (p0cb9vmm.mp3)

Is the government really spending a billion pounds on the Jubilee, as some have claimed? We investigate some of the facts and figures around this week’s commemorations. We also ask why energy bills are becoming so high in the UK when we actually have plenty of gas, and we unpack the mystery of measuring fuel poverty. Plus after the Texas school shooting we investigate the statistics around gun deaths in the US. And finally we hear about the joys and perplexities of imperial measures with Hannah Fry and Matt Parker.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-05-28 06:00:00

Noisy Decisions (p0c9jdh5.mp3)

Nobel memorial prize winner Daniel Kahneman is one of the world’s most famous psychologists, known particularly for his work identifying the role of cognitive bias in everyday decision making. In this edition of More or Less he talks to Tim Harford about his latest book, Noise - A Flaw in Human Judgement, in which he outlines how a multitude of often irrelevant factors influence important decisions, whether in job interviews, the courtroom or workplaces generally - and what we can do about it.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-05-25 09:30:00

Germany’s excess deaths, Eurovision and teacher shortages (p0c8rhs7.mp3)

Some recent, and surprising, estimates from the World Health Organisation suggested that the UK fared better than Germany in the pandemic. But did they get it right? At Eurovision this year an algorithm was apparently used to replace whole countries’ votes - was it responsible for the UK’s second-place finish? The global economy has been putting the squeeze on many of us this year. Various factors have caused food, fuel and energy prices to rocket and many households are starting to feel the pinch. We speak to economist Duncan Weldon about whether this year is the worst hit to the cost of living since records began. An unusually large contingent of children are set to hit English secondary schools just as the number of 21 year olds dips – so are we heading for a teaching crunch in England? Produced in partnership with The Open University.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-05-21 06:00:00

Are just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions and how stressed are South Africans? (p0c82vdw.mp3)

In the fight against global warming we’re constantly told to do our bit to reduce green house gas emissions. However, a claim circulating that just ‘100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions’ can make any individual effort seem futile. But does this claim mean what you think it means? We look into this and the claim that the pandemic pushed South African stress levels up by 56%. With guests Abbas Panjwani from Fullfact and Kirsten Cosser from Africa Check. (Image: Power plant emitting smoke at sunset. Credit: Enviromantic/Getty)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-05-14 06:00:00

Did the WHO get some of its excess death estimates wrong? (p0c6nwq0.mp3)

The World Health Organisation recently released some new estimates of the global death toll of the pandemic. But the figures for a few countries have caused controversy. Tim Harford speaks to Professor Jon Wakefield, who worked on the analysis - and Indian data journalist Rukmini S about the debate that’s erupted in India over the figures. (man puzzled at blackboard. Credit: Getty images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-05-07 06:00:00

Have the oceans become 30% more acidic? (p0c5bp0t.mp3)

Although the climate-changing effects of Carbon Dioxide emissions are well known, they are changing our oceans too, making them more acidic. But how much? Tim Harford explores the statistical quirks of ocean acidification, from pH to the mysteries of logarithmic scales. With Dr Helen Findlay from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-04-30 06:00:00

Sweden’s polarising pandemic response (p0c41lfw.mp3)

When much of Europe went into lockdown at the start of pandemic, Sweden’s lighter touch strategy got lots of attention. Fans of the approach say it was a huge success that showed lockdowns were pointless. Opponents say it has been a disaster. But what do the numbers say? In this episode of More Or Less, Tim Harford and journalist Keith Moore carve a nuanced path through one of the pandemic’s most polarising approaches.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-04-23 06:00:00

Understanding India through Data (p0c2qmx8.mp3)

How do you go about understanding a country with a population as diverse as it is vast? Data journalist Rukmini S is the author of Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India. Tim Harford spoke to her about the power and pitfalls of using statistics to make sense of modern India, from basic questions like average income to the huge challenges of keeping track of Covid.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-04-15 05:50:00

Subitising and simplifying: how to better explain numbers (p0c1bb62.mp3)

Have you ever looked at a numerical claim and thought ‘what on earth does that mean?’ Complex numbers are often badly communicated, making it difficult for the public to appreciate what they signify - but dial things down too much and you’re at risk of oversimplifying important issues. It’s a tightrope walk authors Chip Heath and Karla Starr have explored in their new book ‘Making Numbers Count’. Tim Harford talks to them about how we can improve the way we communicate numbers to the general public. Producer: Lizzy McNeill (Image: Child in front of numbers, Credit: Getty Images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-04-09 06:00:00

Did tea-drinking cut deaths in the Industrial Revolution? (p0c07qtr.mp3)

Could an explosion in tea-drinking explain a decline in deaths in England during the industrial revolution? Professor Francisca Antman, an economist at the University of Colorado Boulder believes it might. Tim Harford discovers that dusting down the data from tea shipments and local burial records gives us surprising insight into how boiling water for tea accidentally improved public health. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-04-02 06:00:00

Will the war in Ukraine cause a global wheat shortage? (p0bywtj1.mp3)

As the Russian Invasion of Ukraine continues, the effects ripple around the rest of the world. One concern involves the wheat harvest. There have been claims that Ukraine and Russia supply 25% of the worlds wheat and that as a result we’re facing a global wheat crisis. We look into this misleading figure to determine what the real impact might be.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-03-20 15:00:00

Pizza and Nuclear War (p0bw77g9.mp3)

The War in Ukraine has reminded the world how easily conflict might escalate into a Nuclear War. But according to Professor Barry Nalebuff of Yale University, good strategy and negotiating can help us with everything from avoiding Armageddon to dividing up a pizza fairly. Tim Harford talks to Barry Nalebuff about his new book, “Split the Pie”. Presenter:Tim Harford Producer: Lizzy McNeill

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-03-13 15:00:00

Does the UK take in more refugees than other European countries? (p0btwss4.mp3)

As the war in Ukraine continues, Reuters has reported that some 2.3 million people have been displaced. So far many of those have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. The UN estimates that as of the 8th of march Poland has taken in almost 1.3 million refugees, Hungary just over 200,000 and Slovakia almost 100,000. In comparison the UK has issued visa’s to just under 1000 people. Some say this isn’t enough, however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the governments record claiming that ‘"We've done more to resettle vulnerable people than any other European country since 2015." Sound familiar? Join us on a journey back to 2020 to find out whether this is accurate or just a repeated misleading claim.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-03-06 15:00:00

Numbers in Ukraine and low seas in Chagos (p0bsjzbv.mp3)

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we take a look at some of the numbers coming out of the conflict and ask how to know which information you can trust during a war. We also investigate the perplexing claim that the seas around the Chagos Islands are 100m lower than the seas around the rest of the world.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-03-02 09:30:00

Troop and Casualty Numbers in Ukraine (p0brw2y5.mp3)

How reliable are the figures coming out of the conflict in Ukraine? Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we consider claims about the numbers of troops involved, people killed, and planes downed. Also: are the prime minister’s parliamentary claims about growing numbers of NHS staff backed up by data? We investigate the perplexing claim that the Chagos Islands are 100 metres below sea level. How long do you have to drive an electric car to offset the pollution from making the battery? And do we really make 35,000 decisions a day?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-27 15:00:00

Did lockdowns save any lives? (p0br6sqp.mp3)

Lockdown. A word we’ve all become overly familiar with over the past two years. Lockdowns were intended to protect people, especially societies most vulnerable, from the risks associated with contracting Covid. However, a new study has been making headlines which claims to show that mandatory lockdowns have only reduced Covid-19 mortality by 0.2%, or one death in five hundred. We examine the evidence behind the claim.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-23 09:30:00

Vaccinating children, lockdowns, and ebikes (p0bql1r4.mp3)

Jabs for five to 11-year-olds, lockdown effectiveness, and being green on two wheels. Governments across the UK have decided to offer Covid vaccinations to primary school-aged children. What was the data behind this decision? What effect did lockdowns have on preventing deaths from Covid? We look at a research paper that says almost none. Plus, is Elon Musk right to warn of a global population collapse? And can it really be greener to ride an e-bike than a good old-fashioned push bike?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-20 15:00:00

Hospitalisation rates for children with Covid (p0bpr87h.mp3)

Covid vaccines will be offered to all children across the UK between the ages of 5 and 12 - some months after the same decision in countries such as Italy and Germany. It is a topic that has caused a fair amount of controversy and with controversy often comes suspicious statistical claims. We look at the data behind child hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid19.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-16 09:30:00

Questioning claims about Covid and children (p0bp8bsc.mp3)

How likely are children to end up in hospital because of Covid? And how many have died? We scrutinise some scary stats that have been circulating on social and examine what excess deaths figures tell us about the risks of Covid compared to other illnesses. Plus, with the gift of hindsight, we examine the joys and sorrows of modelling the spread of the virus. Do MPs understand how false positive rates work? And we unwrap the mystery of the nanomoles.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-13 15:00:00

Testosterone and sport (p0bnmj05.mp3)

In early December 2021 a member of Penn University Women’s Swim Team caused a stir. Lia Thomas not only won three events but she had the fastest time in elite college swimming in the country in two out of three races. This achievement reignited a debate as Lia Thomas is a transgender woman; we examine the rules around testosterone and trans women’s participation in elite sport.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-09 09:30:00

The prime minister in statistical bother (p0bmybtp.mp3)

Boris Johnson has been ticked off for misleading Parliament on jobs and on crime. He claimed that the number of people in employment has been rising - when it’s been falling. And he made a claim that crime has fallen - when it’s risen. We discuss the truth, and what Parliament can do to defend it. Plus, we examine the rules around testosterone and trans women’s participation in elite sport, and the spirit of Donald Rumsfeld is with us as we try to navigate the largely unknown world of fungi.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-06 15:00:00

Can you fool your brain? (p0bm70w5.mp3)

Have you given up on your New Year’s resolution yet? Every year many of us make the promise to become better, shinier, more accomplished versions of ourselves by the same time next year. It’s often easier said than done but to an extent it really is the thought that counts. David Robson, author of ‘The Expectation Effect’ says the power of our expectations can cause real physiological effects but Mike Hall, co-director of ‘The Skeptic’ magazine isn’t convinced.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-02-02 09:30:00

Does the UK have the fastest growing economy in the G7? (p0bll3gk.mp3)

Conservative politicians have taken to the airwaves to tell us to forget the parties, and just look at the economic growth - but is the UK really growing faster than other leading economies? The Omicron variant has raised the chance that people are re-infected with Covid - how common is that, and should it change the way we read the statistics that are reported each day? The great statistician Sir David Cox has died; we remember his life and his contribution to the science of counting. And does comparing the number of food banks to the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the UK tell us anything about food poverty?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-30 15:00:00

Fertility rates: baby boom or bust? (p0bkz11h.mp3)

Under lockdown, couples were destined to find themselves closer than ever before, but despite what you’d think – this didn’t result in a higher birth rate. In fact in developed countries across the world the birth rate is falling, we spoke to Professor Marina Adshade about why this is and what this could mean for the future.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-26 09:30:00

Should you follow the 5 second rule? And does inflation hit the poorest harder? (p0bk862y.mp3)

Food writer Jack Monroe sparked national debate this week when she tweeted about food price hikes on the cheapest goods in supermarkets - but does inflation really hit low income households hardest? Social media and some news outlets have spread claims this week that only around 17,000 people have actually died of Covid. We debunk. We test the truth of the five second rule - is it a good idea to eat watermelon within five seconds of dropping it on the floor? And can you think yourself better?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-23 15:00:00

Are female patients more likely to die if the surgeon is male? (p0bjmhbx.mp3)

In early January several newspapers ran article claiming that ‘women are 32% more likely to die after operation by male surgeon. If true, this is a terrifying figure but is all as it seems? We dig into the data to find out whether women should really be worried about having a male surgeon.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-19 09:25:00

Are women 32% more likely to die after operation by a male surgeon? (p0bhy10w.mp3)

Are women 32% more likely to die after operation by a male surgeon? Headlines asserting this were shared across social media recently - but the truth is a bit more complicated. We compare the price and the quality of the UK’s Test and Trace system with that of Germany and check on what’s happening to the Covid death toll during the Omicron wave. And we investigate the worrying statistic that one in ten people are planning to start a podcast in the coming year.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-16 15:00:00

QAnon: Did 365,348 children go missing in the US in 2020? (p0bhbts6.mp3)

In December, Republican politician Lauren Boebert tweeted the claim that ‘365,348 children went missing in 2020’. This is a shocking statistic but is it true and does it mean what we think it means? We speak to Gabriel Gatehouse, international editor of Newsnight, who has been investigating conspiracy theories including the Qanon conspiracy theory for a new podcast, The Coming Storm.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-12 09:30:00

Omicron, pandemic birth rates and boosters (p0bgmbj5.mp3)

The pandemic seems to be entering a new phase as Omicron has taken hold. Is it milder? And how might we make decisions based on the latest data? Predictions that lockdowns might lead to a baby boom have proven wrong - in fact fertility is falling. We re-examine a baffling claim about the number of children being abducted every year in the US after claims by a Republican politician on social media, and we run our statistical measuring tape up the inside leg of the government’s promise to give everyone a booster jab before New Year’s Day.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-09 07:00:00

How much plastic is in the Ocean and can Mr Beast make a difference? (p0bfxyk9.mp3)

In October of last year popular Youtubers Mark Rober and the enigmatically named Mr Beast pledged to remove 30 million pounds of plastic from the Ocean – if they could raise $30 million dollars. A dollar per pound of plastic sounds like a fairly good deal, but how much plastic is out there and will they actually be removing anything from the Ocean at all? (Image: Sahika Encumen dives amid plastic waste in Ortakoy coastline: photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2022-01-02 15:00:00

Will the population of Nigeria be larger than Europe’s? (p0bcjxpx.mp3)

In recent years population growth has slowed rapidly. Experts believe that the global population will stabilise somewhere around 11 billion people. But just because global population is stabilising doesn’t mean each country is following the global trend. Some projections estimate that the population of Nigeria will increase rapidly to the point that there will be more people living in Nigeria than the whole of Europe combined. We look at the methods behind this claim.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-12-26 15:00:00

Numbers of 2021 (p0bcjr35.mp3)

A guide to the most concerning, striking and downright extraordinary numbers of 2021. Tim Harford asks three More or Less interviewees about their most significant and memorable figure over the past year. From the excess death toll of Covid-19; to declining total fertility rates, and a spike in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we showcase the numbers that tell us something about the year gone by. During this programme, we speak to Hannah Ritchie, head of research at Our World in Data and senior researcher at the University of Oxford; Marina Adshade, Economics Professor at the University of British Columbia; and Heleen De Coninck, professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, and a lead author on several reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-12-19 15:00:00

The psychological economics of gift giving (p0bbnz20.mp3)

Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year – if you have something to sell that is. Every year we waste hundreds of dollars on gifts that aren’t appreciated, but how can you ensure that the gifts you buy hit the mark every time? We speak to behavioural scientist Professor Francesca Gino to find out more then use our newfound knowledge to exam an old Christmas classic

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-12-12 15:00:00

Does catching covid give you more immunity than being vaccinated? (p0b98c55.mp3)

Immunity to Covid-19. We've all been hoping to develop it ever since the virus emerged two years ago. Since then, a race to vaccinate the world has begun in earnest, with many countries rolling out booster shots in response to the rise of the Omicron variant. Health officials and scientists agree that vaccines are the safest way to develop immunity to the disease. But when US Congresswoman Nancy Mace took to Fox News recently, citing a study showing a whooping 27 times better immunity from natural infection than vaccination, we thought we'd better investigate. How did this study arrive at this number, and is it a fair representation of its findings?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-12-05 23:59:00

Does wearing a mask halve your chances of getting Covid-19? (p0b7zp00.mp3)

Masks, you may not have worn them before 2020 but now we’re all at it. With the rise of the Omicron variant countries have scrambled to reintroduce public health policies, among them mask wearing. Health officials and scientists agree that masks help reduce the incidence of covid19 infections – but by how much is still debated. Several newspapers recently reported that masks could cut Covid-19 infections by 53%, we look at how they came to this number and whether we should be believe it. (Image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-11-28 15:00:00

Simpson’s Paradox: How to make vaccinated death figures misleading (p0b6j0x4.mp3)

Vaccines are the best way to stop deaths and serious cases related to covid19, this is an irrefutable fact. However, recent ONS data seems to show that vaccinated people had a higher all cause death rate than unvaccinated people. Why is this data misleading? Here’s a clue: it’s to do with a quirky statistical phenomenon called Simpsons Paradox. (Image: The Simpsons / TCFFC )

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-11-21 15:00:00

A TikTok tale (p0b55slb.mp3)

Nowadays if you are an academic and who needs some participants for a study you go online, but over the summer academic studies were inundated with participants who all happened to be teenage girls ... we explore how one TikTok can tip the balance of data gathering. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Chris Flynn (Image: TikTok logo is displayed on a smartphone screen/Getty/NurPhoto/contributor)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-11-14 15:00:00

The carbon cost of breakfast at COP26 (p0b3y8sv.mp3)

A French minister told people to eat fewer croissants at this year’s COP26 summit, after the menu said the carbon cost of the pastry was higher than that of a bacon roll, even if it was made without butter. Tim Harford investigates whether this claim could be true, and how the effect of food on climate change can be measured. (Image: Continental breakfast with coffee and croissants: Getty/Cris Cantón)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-11-07 15:00:00

Same data, opposite results. Can we trust research? (p0b2hbkz.mp3)

When Professor Martin Schweinsberg found that he was consistently reaching different conclusions to his peers, even with the same data, he wondered if he was incompetent. So he set up an experiment. What he found out emphasises the importance of the analyst, but calls into question the level of trust we can put into research. Features an excerpt from TED Talks (Image: Getty/erhui1979)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-10-31 15:00:00

The art of counting (p0b14nbc.mp3)

Who is counting, why are they counting, and what are they are counting? These three questions are important to ask when trying to understand numbers, according to Deborah Stone, author of Counting, How We Use Numbers to Decide What Matters. In this episode, she explains how different ways of totting up can have real-world consequences. (Image: Betta Blue Red Veiltail/Getty Images/zygotehasnobrain)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-10-24 15:00:00

The numbers behind Squid Game (p09zskjd.mp3)

Netflix has announced that South Korean survival drama Squid Game is its most popular series ever. We scrutinise the statistics behind the claim, and look at the odds of surviving one of the show’s deadly contests.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-10-17 14:50:00

The prize-winning economics of migration and the minimum wage (p09ytfb5.mp3)

Do immigrants drive down wages, do minimum wage increases reduce job opportunities, and do people who did well in school earn more money? These are questions that the winners of the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics looked to the world around them for answers to. David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens developed ways of interpreting what they saw that changed the way economists think about what they see. In this episode of More or Less, presenter-turned-guest Tim Harford explains how.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-10-07 18:00:00

Bonus episode: the first ever More or Less (p09xwsr6.mp3)

A chat with More or Less's founding producer and presenter plus the first episode in full. Tim talks to Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot about how More or Less came into being (after several rejections), whether politicians and journalists are more numerate now, and where the name come from. Then, the very first episode of More or Less, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 13 November 2001.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-10-06 09:25:00

Twenty years of More or Less (p09xtfl6.mp3)

A look back at our origins, plus the usual mix of numerical nous and statistical savvy. It’s two decades since More or Less first beamed arithmetic into the unsuspecting ears of Radio 4 listeners. We revisit the show’s genesis with the original presenter and producer. Why are there two different figures about our vaccination rate doing the rounds and how does the UK now compare internationally? Plus listener questions on how the colour of your front door affects your house price, TVs on standby mode, and more. And we try to respond to a meteor storm of complaints about our earlier item asserting that Star Trek’s Mr Spock is in fact highly illogical.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-10-03 14:55:00

The Gender Pay Gap (p09xjlf9.mp3)

Tim Harford talks to Planet Money’s Stacey Vanek Smith about the gender pay gap in the US and the UK – and how Renaissance writer, Machiavelli might be an unlikely source of inspiration for women in the workplace.

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-09-29 09:25:00

Is it easy being green? (p09x66jz.mp3)

Is our electricity extra expensive and our insulation inadequate? And a tale of tumbling trees. Internet infographics suggest we’re paying way more for our energy than countries in the EU. Are they being interpreted correctly? And what part, if any, has Brexit had to play? Insulation Britain activists have been gluing themselves to motorway slip-roads to raise awareness about poor home insulation. Their website says we have the least energy efficient homes in Europe. What’s the evidence? Plus, what do the numbers tell us about migrants trying to cross the Channel in small boats? Are stereotypes about different generations backed up by the data? And is it or is it not true that the UK has lots of trees?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-09-22 09:30:00

Covid trends, face mask use, and the universal credit cut (p09wl287.mp3)

A coronavirus check-in, our daily mask use measured, and a minister's claim on the universal credit cut questioned. There was a time when the latest Covid statistics were headline news daily, but as the pandemic has stretched on into its second year and third wave people don't pay as much attention. But on More or Less we still keep an eye on them because that’s how we roll. A recent article estimated that 129 billion single-use face masks are used every day around the world. It sounds wrong, but how wrong is it? And how did it get so wrong? Making up the shortfall from the £20 weekly cut in the universal credit benefit means working an extra two hours a week - or an extra nine, depending on who you listen to. We run the numbers. Plus, has the number of periods women have in a lifetime increased fourfold? And how many holes does a drinking straw have?

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-09-19 15:00:00

How many holes are there in a drinking straw? (p09w8qs2.mp3)

Tim Harford talks to Jordan Ellenberg, professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, about the pandemic, geometry and drinking straws. (multi-coloured straws/Getty images)

From More or Less: Behind the Stats at 2021-09-15 09:25:00

Death, Tax and Dishwashers (p09vywrp.mp3)

New data appears to show that double vaxxed people between 40 and 79 are getting Covid at higher rates than people who are unvaccinated, but that's not the case. It's all down to how Public Health England estimates the size of different populations. The Office for National Statistics described 2020 as "the deadliest year in a century". Now that we're more than two-thirds into 2021, we examine how this year is shaping up. We answer your questions on the new health and social care levy, and have words of congratulations and caution following Emma Raducanu's astonishing win in the US Open. Plus, where do you stand on in the dishwasher vs kitchen sink debate? GUESTS: Mathematician James Ward Adele Groyer of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group Helen Miller of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.