Podcast

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

Episodes

  • Bolivia: Can statistics help detect electoral fraud?

    Nov 15 2019

    Evo Morales, Bolivia’s longest-serving leader and first indigenous president, stepped down last week amid weeks of protests sparked by a dispute over a recent presidential election in the country. His opponents say the election was rigged but the embattled former president said it was a cunning coup. We take a closer look at the election results and ask if statistics can tell whether it was fair or fraudulent. Dr Calla Hummel of the University of Miami and Professor Romulo Chumacero of the Univ...more

  • Reducing your risk of death

    Nov 09 2019

    Two statistics about reducing your risk of an early death made headlines around the world recently. The first seems to be a great reason to add a four-legged friend to your life. It suggests that owning a dog is tied to lowering your chance of dying early by nearly a quarter. The second statistic claims that even a minimal amount of running is linked to reducing your risk of premature death by up to 30%. Ruth Alexander finds out what’s behind these numbers and we hear from epidemiologist, Gide...more

  • Unbelievable: The forgotten rape data

    Nov 01 2019

    In the United States, some police jurisdictions didn’t send off DNA evidence from people who were raped for testing in a crime lab and for uploading into a national criminal database. Instead, the sets of evidence, known as rape kits, were sat on shelves and in warehouses. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands need processing. In this edition, Ruth Alexander explores how some jurisdictions are testing the kits now and using the data to catch criminals. Producer: Darin Graham Presenter: R...more

  • Edith Abbott and crime statistics

    Oct 28 2019

    Social worker and economist Edith Abbott and her contribution to crime statistics.

  • Esther Duflo and women in economics

    Oct 18 2019

    Discussing Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer’s economics Nobel Prize.

  • The Extra Episode: Minimum wage, drinking in Scotland and identical twins.

    Oct 11 2019

    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 hear our special extra episode.

  • WS More or Less: Does San Francisco have more rough sleepers than Britain?

    Oct 07 2019

    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 04 2019

    Dissecting the government’s hospitals announcement and President Trump’s Ukraine claims.

  • WS More or Less: Who fought in World War 1?

    Sep 30 2019

    Were a third of those that fought for Britain in WW1 black or Asian?

  • Austerity Deaths, C-Sections and being struck by lightning

    Sep 27 2019

    Has Austerity caused 120 thousand deaths in the UK and does God hate men?

  • WS More or Less: Peaty v. Bolt: Which is the greatest world record?

    Sep 23 2019

    Using statistics to compare world records in athletics and swimming.

  • Dementia, inflation and shark deaths

    Sep 20 2019

    Health risks for Presidential hopefuls, falling inflation, shark deaths and salary claims

  • WS More or Less: Cape Town murders

    Sep 16 2019

    Are eight people a day murdered in Cape Town and is that number unusually high?

  • Maternal deaths, taxi driver earnings and statistical pop music

    Sep 13 2019

    Are black women five times more likely to die in childbirth? Plus making pop music.

  • WS More or Less: Deforestation in Brazil

    Sep 09 2019

    Has it increased significantly since President Bolsonaro took office in January?

  • Climate deaths, austerity and pet food

    Sep 06 2019

    Challenging the idea of six billion deaths due to climate change; plus what pets eat.

  • WS More or Less: Amazon forest fires

    Sep 02 2019

    Are they really 85 percent worse than last year?

  • Amazon fires, state pension and American burgers

    Aug 30 2019

    Are forest fires in Brazil the worst in recent times? What is the state pension worth?

  • WS More or Less: Ethiopia’s 350m trees in a day

    Aug 26 2019

    Were millions of trees planted in just one day in Ethiopia?

  • Exam grades, Chernobyl and Ethiopian trees

    Aug 23 2019

    Was your A Level grade correct? Plus were 350m trees planted in one day in Ethiopia?

  • Mice and mind blowing maths

    Aug 16 2019

    Re-inserting a caveat and discussing a really cool numbers trick.

  • Immigrant Crime Rate in the US

    Aug 09 2019

    Do immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans in the United States?

  • The spread of fact-checking in Africa

    Aug 02 2019

    With misinformation so easy to spread, how can it be stopped or challenged?

  • Pregnancy prohibitions – the evidence

    Jul 26 2019

    Taking a statistical look at what expectant mothers should avoid.

  • Missing women from drug trials

    Jul 19 2019

    How medical testing on just men causes problems.

  • Zimbabwe’s economy: Are sanctions to blame?

    Jul 19 2019

    We look at politicians’ claims that sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe’s difficulties.

  • Two World Cups: Football and Cricket

    Jul 05 2019

    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 if you double the score after 30 overs you get a good estimate of the final innings total? Producer: Richard Vadon Image: Cricket World Cup Trophy 2019 Credit: Getty Images/ Gareth Copley-IDI

  • Is nuclear power actually safer than you think?

    Jun 28 2019

    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 when compared to other energy sources? Dr Hannah Ritchie of the University of Oxford joins Charlotte McDonald to explore. Image:Chernobyl nuclear plant, October 1st 1986 Credit: Getty Images

  • Questioning the Chernobyl disaster death count

    Jun 21 2019

    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 how many people will die because of the Chernobyl disaster. Image: Chernobyl nuclear power plant a few weeks after the disaster. Credit: Getty Images

  • WS More or Less: Dealing with the Numbers of Cancer

    Jun 14 2019

    How one woman used statistics to help cope with cancer.

  • WS More or Less: The things we fail to see

    Jun 10 2019

    The hidden influences that a make a big difference to the way the world works.

  • Are married women flipping miserable?

    Jun 07 2019

    Measuring happiness, university access in Scotland, plus will one in two get cancer?

  • WS More or Less: Volcanoes versus humans

    Jun 03 2019

    Does Mount Etna produce more carbon emissions than humans? We check the numbers.

  • Hay Festival Special

    May 31 2019

    What does it mean to say that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world?

  • WS More or Less: Florence Nightingale – recognising the nurse statistician

    May 27 2019

    How collecting data about the dead led the famous nurse to promote better sanitation.

  • Eurovision and fact-checking Naomi Wolf

    May 24 2019

    The stats behind making a successful song, plus misunderstanding Victorian court records.

  • Making music out of Money

    May 20 2019

    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 interpretation of a chart depicting the yield-curve of American bonds. Image: Human heart attack, illustration Credit: Science Photo Library

  • Heart deaths, Organised crime and Gender data gaps

    May 17 2019

    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 bad news – but is it? Does Huawei contribute £1.7billion to the UK economy? People were sceptical that the Chinese telecom company could contribute such a large amount to the UK economy. We take a deeper look at the number and discuss whethe...more

  • Sex Every Seven Seconds

    May 13 2019

    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 British economy?

  • Sex, coal, missing people and mice

    May 10 2019

    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 the past year has tripled in a decade. But is it true? No coal power for a week There were many reports in the newspapers this week saying the UK has set a new record for the number of consecutive days generating energy without burning any coal....more

  • Avengers - Should we reverse the snap?

    May 06 2019

    *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 would it better for mankind to live in a world with a population of less than 4 billion? Tim Harford investigates the economics of Thanos with anthropologist Professor Sharon DeWitte and fictionomics blogger Zachary Feinstein PHD. Image: The Aveng...more

  • Nurses, flatmates and cats

    May 03 2019

    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 killed a year by cats? Newspapers reported this week that 27 million birds are killed by cats each year. We find out how this number - which might not really be "news" - was calculated. How rare are house shares? A listener got in touch to say ...more

  • Bernie Sanders and the cost of having a baby

    Apr 29 2019

    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 it costs $60. In this edition of More or Less, Tim Harford looks at whether Sanders has got his figures right. With Carol Sakala of US organisation Childbirth Connection and Mika Gissler of the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland...more

  • Hottest Easter, Insects, Scottish villages

    Apr 26 2019

    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 in April? We crunch the numbers supplied by the Met Office. Insectageddon 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% of ins...more

  • The economic impact of mega sporting events

    Apr 19 2019

    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 of More or Less, we’ll be finding out – after all the sporting activities are over – how realistic were those economic predictions? Producer: Darin Graham Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Picture Credit: Fang Guangming/Southe...more

  • Where is Scotland’s highest village?

    Apr 15 2019

    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 be one winner. More or Less attempts to settle the age old dispute once and for all. Presenter: Phoebe Keane Picture: A village in the Southern Scottish uplands. Credit: Jan Halfpenny

  • Rounding up the weed killer cancer conundrum

    Apr 08 2019

    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 arguing for against this. So in this edition of More or Less, we look at the disagreements and how the authors of the review came up with the results. With cancer epidemiologist Dr Geoffrey Kabat, Toxicologist Dr Luoping Zhang and statistician S...more

  • Chess cheats and the GOAT

    Apr 02 2019

    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 moves can teach us about this ancient board game. Presenter: David Edmonds Producer: Darin Graham Image: A Chess Board Credit: Getty Images

  • Is Mansa Musa the richest person of all time?

    Mar 25 2019

    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, merchants and slaves. A train of camels followed, each carrying gold. In recent reports, he has been described as the richest person that ever lived. He has been compared to some of the wealthiest people alive today. But how can we know the value of ...more

  • Day light saving time and heart attacks

    Mar 18 2019

    Does the sudden loss of an hour of sleep raise the risk of having a heart attack?

  • The gender gap in tech

    Mar 09 2019

    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 better statistics that can help explain why fewer women than men work in tech in the USA and lessons to be learned from India, where there is a much smaller gender gap in the tech sector. Presenter: Phoebe Keane Photo: An engineer looking at inf...more

  • Insectageddon

    Mar 04 2019

    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 suggests they could disappear in one hundred years. And as some headlines in February warned of the catastrophic collapse of nature, some More or Less listeners questioned the findings. Is insect life really in trouble? Presenter: Ruth Alexander Pro...more

  • How To Make Your Art Work More Valuable

    Feb 22 2019

    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 big return on your investment. Presenter: Dave Edmonds Producer: Darin Graham Editor: Richard Vadon Picture Credit: BBC

  • WS More or Less: When maths mistakes really matter

    Feb 18 2019

    Tim Harford talks to Matt Parker on how simple maths mistakes can cause big problems.

  • Climate Change, Victorian Diseases, Alcohol

    Feb 15 2019

    Tim Harford on climate change, Victorian diseases, maths mistakes and alcohol consumption

  • WS More or Less: From the archives: Groundhogs and Kings

    Feb 12 2019

    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 Less archives.

  • Teen Suicide; Brexit Business Moves; Wood-Burner Pollution

    Feb 08 2019

    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 04 2019

    A listener doubts her popularity on the dating app Tinder. We investigate the numbers.

  • Holocaust Deniers; Venezuelan Hyperinflation; Tinder Likes

    Feb 01 2019

    Tim Harford on Holocaust deniers; food prices in Venezuela, and dating app statistics

  • WS More or Less: Is Suicide Seasonal?

    Jan 26 2019

    Tim Harford asks which times of the year are riskiest for suicide.

  • Domestic Violence, Jobs, Easter Snowfall

    Jan 25 2019

    Tim Harford on domestic violence, employment numbers, and the chance of a white Easter.

  • WS More or Less: Close Encounters of a Planetary Kind

    Jan 19 2019

    Which planet is closest to Earth?

  • Intersex Numbers, Fact-Checking Facebook, Jack Bogle

    Jan 18 2019

    Tim Harford asks whether 1.7% of people are intersex, and examines false claims about MPs

  • WS More or Less: The Mathematics of Fever

    Jan 12 2019

    We look at the numbers behind body temperature – what is normal?

  • Sugar, Outdoors Play and Planets

    Jan 11 2019

    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 04 2019

    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

    The numbers that made 2018.

  • WS More or Less: Mission Impossible - Quantifiying Santa

    Dec 22 2018

    What to look out for on Christmas Eve.

  • WS More or Less: Dam Lies and Statistics

    Dec 17 2018

    Are mega-dams really sustainable?

  • WS More or Less: Sex and Heart Attacks

    Nov 30 2018

    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

    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

    Updating the kilogram.

  • WS More or Less: Do Assassinations Work?

    Nov 09 2018

    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

    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

    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

    The economists tackling climate change and growth.

  • Loneliness, School Funding, Same-Sex Divorce

    Oct 09 2018

    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 the bulk of the divorcing. Tim Harford discusses why this may be with Marina Ashdade, economist at Canada’s Vancouver School of Economics and author of Dirty Money, a book which applies economic ideas to the study of sex and love. Producer: Ruth ...more

  • WS More or Less: Why are Lesbians More Likely to Divorce than Gay Men?

    Oct 07 2018

    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 the bulk of the divorcing. Tim Harford discusses why this may be with Marina Ashdade, economist at Canada’s Vancouver School of Economics and author of “Dirty Money”, a book which applies economic ideas to the study of sex and love. Producer: R...more

  • Loneliness; School Funding; Same-Sex Divorce.

    Oct 05 2018

    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, said All in the Mind, while the accompanying BBC press release reported that “The survey results indicate that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group. 40% of respondents aged 16-24 reported f...more

  • WS More of Less: Surviving the Battle of Britain

    Oct 01 2018

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    A listener asks whether his Volvo is the safest car on the road?

  • Heart Age Calculator; Danish Sperm Imports; Counting Goats

    Sep 07 2018

    Tim Harford questions the usefulness of a popular heart age calculator.

  • WS: More or Less - How well do you understand your world?

    Sep 03 2018

    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

    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

    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. Why did they lead to coffins full of car getting sent to the US Federal Reserve? What factors affect what you have to pay on your loans? And what do your film choices say about why you decide to borrow? Producers: Simon Maybin & Phoebe Keane P...more

  • WS: More or Less - Automated fact-checking

    Aug 27 2018

    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

    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

    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 explain how hyperinflation is affecting how Venezuelans have sex, why you can’t afford a ticket to see your favourite band in concert anymore and why a sale on sofas isn’t always a good thing. Producers: Simon Maybin & Phoebe Keane Presenters:...more

  • WS More or Less: Are Wildfires Really Burning More Land?

    Aug 20 2018

    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

    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 anonymous mother send her bracelet to the government to be turned into a bullet? How are you lending the government money without even realising? And when should you be worried about how much debt the government is in? Producers: Simon Maybi...more

  • Numbers Behind a Tweetstorm

    Aug 10 2018

    How do you get a hashtag to trend around the world?

  • BONUS PODCAST: Economics with Subtitles - How Buying Cocaine Helps the Government

    Aug 08 2018

    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 and Steve look at how we quantify economic success. Should dodgy drug deals be included? What is Steve’s contribution to GDP? And should we ban people who pinch too many of your crisps? Producers: Simon Maybin & Phoebe Keane Presenters: Ayeis...more

  • Carbs, Sugar and the Truth

    Aug 03 2018

    Does a baked potato contain the equivalent of 19 cubes of sugar?

  • Getting Creative with Statistics

    Jul 27 2018

    How big are your testicles and what does that mean?

  • Should we have smaller families to save the planet?

    Jul 23 2018

    Having one fewer child could be the biggest thing you do to reduce your carbon footprint

  • How to Cycle Really Fast

    Jul 20 2018

    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 06 2018

    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 gigantically large numbers. (Photo: The barred spiral galaxy M83. Credit: Nasa).

  • Running at the World Cup

    Jun 29 2018

    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. We look at how they compare to other teams and what it might signify. Also –is it just bad luck that Germany has crashed out of the competition? Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Richard Vadon (Picture: Artem Dzyuba of Russia celeb...more

  • How many words do you need to speak a language?

    Jun 22 2018

    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 language. Reporter Beth Sagar-Fenton finds out with help from Professor Stuart Webb, and puts Tim through his paces to find out how big his own English vocabulary is. (Image: The World surrounded by Flags. Credit: Shutterstock) Presenter: Tim Harfor...more

  • FIFA World Cup Extravaganza

    Jun 15 2018

    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 questions; which World Cups have seen the most shots, fouls, dribbles and most importantly goals? Do the statistics back up the reputations of famous players like Pele, Cruyff, Maradona and Paul Gascoigne? And which of them actually committed ...more

  • WS More or Less: How Many Animals are Born Every Day?

    Jun 10 2018

    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 discovers that very, very small animals are much more important than very, very big animals when it comes to the sums. (09.05) Artificial Intelligence or A.I. has been hailed as the answer to an easier life – but will it really make the world a ...more

  • Infant Mortality, How to Reduce Exam Revision With Maths, London’s Murder Rate

    Jun 08 2018

    (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 can minimise exam revision, while still ensuring a high chance of passing – we do the sums. (15.44) Do a billion birds really die each year by flying into buildings? We explain another zombie statistic which refuses to die. (18.40) I...more

  • Counting Rough Sleepers

    Jun 04 2018

    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 in the sky. They need – like any statistic – to be collected and calculated. So how is it done?

  • The High Street, Home Births and Harry Potter Wizardry

    Jun 01 2018

    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

    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 people than venomous animals? Australia is known for its dangerous wildlife, but how deadly is it for humans? Plus, a politician says lots of Australians have used cannabis – we take a look at the evidence. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers:...more

  • Forecasting rain, teabags and voter ID trials

    May 25 2018

    (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 station. (15:46) How much tea do Brits drink? We investigate a regularly cited estimate (20:06) Are pensioners richer than people of working age?

  • WS More or Less: James Comey - Basketball Superstar?

    May 21 2018

    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 professional basketball player? In this week’s programme Tim Harford looks at the likelihood that James Comey – or any very tall person - might make it as a pro in the NBA. He speaks to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz who has crunc...more

  • Poverty, Progress 8 and how green is grass?

    May 18 2018

    (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 Wedding economics

  • WS More or Less: Tulipmania mythology

    May 14 2018

    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 financial markets, lately as a comparison to buying and selling bitcoin. But how much of what we know of the Tulip craze is fact, and how much is myth? We speak to Anne Goldgar at Kings College London who explains all.

  • Abortion, modern slavery, math versus maths

    May 11 2018

    (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 07 2018

    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 became ill, Hans had started working on a book about these questions and what they reveal about the mental biases that tend to lead us astray. Tim Harford speaks to his son Ola and daughter in law Anna who worked on the book with him.

  • Cancer screening, the Windrush Generation, Audiograms

    May 04 2018

    (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 Question Time too often? We chart his appearances over 18 years (16:32) Painting a picture with an audiogram: Data journalist Mona Chalabi talks about her unusual approach to analysing numbers. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Cha...more

  • WS More or Less: Puerto Rico - statistics versus politics

    Apr 29 2018

    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 struck last year, many are questioning whether the move could have long reaching implications. Presenters: Tim Harford and Kate Lamble Producer: Kate Lamble (Photo: Damage to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: The La Perla neighbourhood...more

  • Straws, women on boards, plus animals born each day

    Apr 27 2018

    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 (11’28”) Hetan Shah, the Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society, talks about storing people’s data. How many animals are born every day? (15’39”)

  • WS More or Less: How Should We Think About Spending?

    Apr 20 2018

    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 sharing a restaurant bill again. (Photo: Mannequins in a shop window wearing sale t-shirts. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • WS More More or Less: Are We Breathing Unsafe Air?

    Apr 13 2018

    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 14mm, but who is calculating this? And how do they know the answer with such accuracy? (Photo: People wear masks as smoke billows from a coal fired power plant, Shanxi, China. Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

  • WS More or Less: Why London’s Murder Rate is Being Compared to New York’s

    Apr 08 2018

    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 children statistics A viral Facebook post has suggested that one child is kidnapped every thirty seconds in South Africa. We examine the evidence which shows that a child is reported missing every nine hours to the police, and this includes more th...more

  • WS More or Less: How Deadly Was 1920s Melbourne?

    Mar 29 2018

    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 metaphorical plate. So how does the series compare with the real life murder rate at that time? Join the More Or Less team as we step back in time for some statistical sleuthing.

  • Were ‘extra’ votes counted in Russia’s presidential election?

    Mar 23 2018

    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 allegations of irregularities including inflated turnout figures. More or Less takes a closer look at the election data from Russia to see if these complaints have merit.

  • Factchecking Trump on Trade

    Mar 16 2018

    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 than that country buys from America there’s a deficit, and Trump claims America has a trade deficit with almost every country in the world. Is he right? We unpick whether President Trump is quoting the correct numbers on trade, hear how t...more

  • WS More or Less: Sir Roger Bannister

    Mar 09 2018

    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 05 2018

    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 representation. They have to fulfil three criteria: are there at least two named female characters in the cast? Do those two women speak to each other? And do they have a conversation about something other than a man? In collaboration with the BBC’s 100 Women...more

  • WS More or Less: The Winter Olympics

    Feb 25 2018

    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 bobsleigh event ended in a dead heat with both Canada and Germany achieving a time of three minutes 16.86 seconds. Is this the coldest winter games? (8’41”)

  • WS More or Less: Debunking guide – on a postcard

    Feb 18 2018

    How to question dubious statistics in just a few short steps.

  • UN rape claims, Stalin and Mr Darcy

    Feb 16 2018

    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 supposed to be fabulously wealthy. Is he? How many people did Stalin kill? – (10’00”) Why there are so many different figures reported. Avoid splitting the bill – (18’25”) Credit card roulette is Dan Ariely’s preferred way of ending a meal wi...more

  • WS More or Less: Has Russian Drinking Fallen by 80% in five years?

    Feb 11 2018

    Alcohol consumption has fallen sharply according to Russia’s health ministry

  • The Dow, Tampons, Parkrun part II

    Feb 09 2018

    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 05 2018

    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 contributed more than any other country to global poverty reduction. So how does China measure poverty? And is it possible for them to make sure, over the next few years, that no one falls below their poverty line? Photo: A woman tends to her niece a...more

  • Transgender Numbers, Parkrun and Snooker

    Feb 02 2018

    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. We explore what we do know, and what is harder to measure. Do 4% of the population drink nearly a third of the alcohol? According to recent headlines, just 4% of the population drink nearly a third of the alcohol sold in England. But can...more

  • Is the US Census Under Threat?

    Jan 29 2018

    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 of its results. We look at the real life consequences if groups choose not to complete the 2020 census, and ask whether the recent politically charged debate is unusual in its two hundred year history. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Kat...more

  • A Girl's First Time, Shark's Stomachs, Prime numbers

    Jan 26 2018

    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 figure? We go back to the reports that were used to source the claim, and find the research has been misinterpreted. How long can a shark go for without eating? A recent episode of Blue Planet II stated that after a large meal a Sixgill shark m...more

  • WS More or Less: Real Lives Behind the Numbers

    Jan 22 2018

    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 together the information available for thousands or millions of people to work out trends. But are we getting the whole picture? We speak to Rachel Schneider, co-author of the book, ‘The Financial Diaries’. It’s based on a large study in the U...more

  • Gender Pay Gaps and How to Learn a Language

    Jan 19 2018

    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 current discussion about equal pay at the BBC. Alcohol reaction times We take a look at a study that suggests that people's reaction speeds are affected over time by regular drinking. It recommends that official guidelines for the amount o...more

  • WS More or Less: How Louis Bachelier Scooped Economists by Half a Century

    Jan 15 2018

    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 Mathematics at the University of Oxford, we explain how his ideas were rediscovered decades after his death. (Photo: Pocket watch. Credit: Kanyapak Lim/Shutterstock)

  • Missed appointments, graduate pay, plus cocaine on bank notes

    Jan 12 2018

    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 don’t missed appointments actually ease the pressure on an overcrowded system? Graduate pay – is it always higher than non-graduates’ pay? It is often claimed that if you go to university and get a degree, you will earn more than those who ...more

  • WS More or Less: Just how rare is a hole-in-one?

    Jan 07 2018

    Why it isn’t as simple to work out as you think.

  • More or Less: Statistics of the Year 2017

    Dec 31 2017

    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

    Measuring the energy used to keep the cryptocurrency secure.

  • WS More or Less: Diet Coke Habit; 'Contained' Wildfires

    Dec 18 2017

    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

    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 isn’t this all a bit too good to be true? The BBC’s Head of Statistics, Robert Cuffe, investigates whether research findings are misrepresented by funders, PR machines and the media. Presenter: Robert Cuffe Producer: Lizzy McNeill

  • WS More or Less: Just how lucky are regular lottery winners?

    Dec 04 2017

    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

    What the Pride and Prejudice character would have earned in today’s money.

  • How expensive is Italy's World Cup failure?

    Nov 17 2017

    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. Is this really true? We speak to sports writer Graham Dunbar who has been counting how much money football's world governing body might lose out on. Also we fact check the claim that 45% of Nigerian women marry before their 18th birthday. Presen...more

  • WS More or Less: Why Albums are Getting Longer

    Nov 12 2017

    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 McIntyre, a music journalist who has found out that a numerical change in the way the album charts are measured is tempting artists into making longer albums. We also talk to Marc Hogan, a senior writer at Pitchfork, about a number that is chan...more

  • WS More or Less: Do Nigerian lawmakers get $1.7m and do Yams cause twins?

    Nov 05 2017

    Finding out if Nigerian politicians really get paid more than the American President.

  • WS More or Less: Novelists in numbers

    Oct 30 2017

    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

    Did the 2016 US election galvanise young people to become more engaged in politics?

  • How Richard Thaler changed Economics

    Oct 13 2017

    The behavioural economist who has inspired governments around the world.

  • WS More or Less: Kilobyte to Brontobyte

    Oct 10 2017

    Naming the monster numbers - how the names of digital storage files evolved.

  • WS More or Less: Big polluters - ships versus cars

    Oct 02 2017

    Do the largest ships emit as much pollution as all the cars in the world?

  • Uber; EU passports; counting domestic violence

    Sep 29 2017

    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

    How much of a problem is falling sperm count?

  • Statistics abuse, tuition fees and beer in 1887

    Sep 22 2017

    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is accused of mis-using official statistics.

  • WS More or Less: How to measure a Hurricane

    Sep 15 2017

    What’s the best way to measure a hurricane?

  • Are Natural Disasters on the Rise?

    Sep 15 2017

    Has the number of natural disasters really quadrupled in the last forty years?

  • WS More or Less: More Horses than Tanks?

    Sep 11 2017

    Is the UK the only country with more horses than tanks in its army?

  • Electric cars, school-ready and feedback

    Sep 08 2017

    Will we need more power stations? Plus, are children in Manchester ready for school?

  • One in 500 Year Storm

    Sep 04 2017

    Experts are saying that Houston just suffered a one in 500 year storm but what does that mean?

  • Grenfell Tower's Death Toll

    Sep 01 2017

    The difficulties of finding the true number of people who died in the fire.

  • Fantasy Football - How to win

    Aug 28 2017

    Figuring out the best strategy as a wannabe team manager.

  • A-levels, drowning and dress sizes

    Aug 25 2017

    Are boys getting more top A Level grades than girls? Plus why are dress sizes so weird?

  • The Trump Bump

    Aug 20 2017

    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 country.” This is not the first time the American President has taken credit for a booming economy. But is that fair? We take a look at the numbers.

  • Are there 15,000 transgender people serving in the US military?

    Aug 14 2017

    President Trump says transgender individuals cannot serve, but how many do already?

  • Why is Kenya’s election so expensive?

    Aug 07 2017

    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 estimated that it cost Rwanda $1 a head, and Uganda $4 a head to lay on elections. Recently an expert on this programme estimated that the UK General election cost about $4 a head. We explore why there is such a difference in the amounts spent.

  • More boys than girls in Sweden?

    Jul 31 2017

    Exploring if an influx of teenage boys claiming asylum skewed the population’s sex ratio

  • Maryam Mirzakhani – A Genius of Maths

    Jul 24 2017

    Celebrating the only woman to win the biggest prize in mathematics.

  • Calling the shots at Wimbledon

    Jul 17 2017

    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 makes its way to our phones, desktops and TV screens. And once you have this information – what can you do with it? Is it useful for players and coaches? Traditionally, players will take a risk on their first chance to serve, and hit the ball as f...more

  • Is Steph Curry cheap and how random is random?

    Jul 10 2017

    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 probably being underpaid. It may sound ridiculous but economists agree. How can this be true? We look at the economics of superstar sports salaries. The mystery of Ryanair’s seat allocation Ryanair carries more international passengers a...more

  • In Search of Woodall Primes

    Jun 30 2017

    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 lending computer processing power to GIMPS – the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. Matt explains to Tim Harford what a Woodall Prime is, and why it deserves more attention. Also - Making penalty shoot-outs fairer - 60% of penalty shoot-ou...more

  • How rare are deadly tower block fires?

    Jun 26 2017

    How statistics can help us understand the tragic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower.

  • Trumpton Extra

    Jun 21 2017

    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

    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 the claims and questions that have been floating around on social media and in the press. Tim Harford and the team are going to analyse, add context and try and find answers.

  • WS More or Less: Are African football players more likely to die on the field?

    Jun 12 2017

    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 black players more likely to die while playing than other people? The data of footballers deaths is pretty poor but we try to glean some answers from the scant numbers available. It look like one of the most common causes of death among players...more

  • UK Election extra

    Jun 07 2017

    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 armed police officers.

  • WS More or Less: Samba, strings and the story of HIV

    Jun 05 2017

    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 performing Song of Contagion, an evening of steel pans, saxophones and singers telling the story of diseases including Zika and AIDs. We met Elizabeth and Tony in an East London music studio, to hear Song of Contagion come together for the v...more

  • Election Special: Tax, borders and climate

    Jun 02 2017

    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 highest burden lay? We take a look. Also, we look at the different political parties’ tax policies. This includes corporation tax, but what about National Insurance? How do you cut migration? The Conservative manifesto again includes...more

  • WS More or Less: Have 65% of future jobs not yet been invented?

    May 28 2017

    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 been causing headaches for students, teachers and politicians alike. Helping us on our quest are educators Cathy Davidson, Daisy Christodoulou and Andrew Old – plus a little bit of Blade Runner and a lot data-wrangling. Producer: Hannah San...more

  • Spies, care homes, and ending sneak peeks

    May 26 2017

    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 Rimmington, about the difficulties of monitoring people who have been flagged up to the services. We are re-visiting that interview. Chances of ending up in a care home There are around 11.6 million people over the age of 65 in the UK, but how m...more

  • WS More or Less: Uganda’s refugees

    May 22 2017

    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 millions to leave their homes, and this has had a colossal impact on neighbouring Uganda. We speak to Gopolang Makou, a researcher at Africa Check who has some startling figures to share. (Photo: Children wait as WFP, 'World Food Programme' ...more

  • Tax, speed dating and sea ice

    May 19 2017

    Exploring the Labour manifesto's tax plans for high earners.

  • Nurses' pay, Scottish seats, Penalty shootouts

    May 13 2017

    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 do so many nurses say they’re earning much less than that? The Great Scottish Election Conspiracy The reporting of the Scottish council elections has caused a bit of a stir. Did the SNP lose seven seats or gain six. The media including...more

  • WS More or Less: Is my Baby a Giant?

    May 12 2017

    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 worried he’s one of the biggest babies in America. But where do these numbers come from? Is it an average? Why do they measure a baby’s head? Reporter Jordan Dunbar sets out to find out how we get these baby numbers and just how big Baby Arlo is. P...more

  • WS More or Less: An urban maze

    May 08 2017

    Why some parts of town are hard to navigate.

  • Is Crime Rising?

    May 05 2017

    It looks like homicides are on the rise - but better check the footnotes

  • WS More or Less: The Maths of Dating

    May 01 2017

    How to use mathematics to find your partner. And, how reliable are pregnancy due dates?

  • Fact-checking Boris Johnson

    Apr 28 2017

    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

    Are middle-aged white Americans dying younger than other groups?

  • Living standards and Kate Bush maths

    Apr 21 2017

    Are people's incomes falling? Plus singing Pi like Kate Bush

  • WS More or Less: The Ignorance Test

    Apr 14 2017

    How much do you know about the world?

  • Economics of Overbooking

    Apr 14 2017

    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

    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”. But are hungry squirrels a greater threat to the electrical grid than North Korean weapons? We speak to senior security adviser Sharon Burke and Yoni Applebaum from The Atlantic. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Hannah Sander

  • WS More or Less: Will one in four people develop a mental health problem?

    Mar 31 2017

    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 neuroscientist Jamie Horder asked, and far from being simple, it led him on quite a journey. So do we really know how many people are likely to develop mental health problems – Elizabeth Cassin and Charlotte McDonald find out. Presenter: Charlot...more

  • WS More Or Less: Baby Boxes – are they really saving infant’s lives?

    Mar 24 2017

    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 sleep in. Since their introduction cot death and has fallen and child health improved. Governments and individuals across the world have adopted them and companies have sprung up selling them. But think about for minute – can a cardboard box on it...more

  • More or Less: The concrete facts about Trump’s wall and China

    Mar 17 2017

    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

    Are our attention spans now shorter than a goldfish's?

  • WS More or Less: Why are Hollywood actresses paid less than men?

    Mar 03 2017

    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

    What happened last night in Sweden?

  • Hidden Figures: The Real Story

    Feb 17 2017

    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 explore the history of how these women were recruited by Nasa and put to work on complex mathematical tasks – at a time when African Americans and women were far less likely to be employed in such jobs. (Photo: Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johns...more

  • WS More or Less: Hans Rosling - the extraordinary life of a statistical guru

    Feb 13 2017

    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 influence. His friend Bill Gates said Hans ‘brought data to life and helped the world see the human progress it often overlooked’. In a world that often looks at the bad news coming out of the developing world, Rosling was determined to spread the good...more

  • WS More or Less: Is democracy failing in America?

    Feb 03 2017

    Does North Carolina really rank alongside North Korea if you measure electoral integrity

  • WS More or Less: Counting Crowds

    Jan 27 2017

    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

    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

    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 06 2017

    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 out there but how do you know when you’ve had enough or if you’re drinking too much. With help from Professor Stanley Goldfarb from the University of Pennsylvania, Wesley Stephenson finds out. (Image: Hand holding a glass of water. Credit: ...more

  • WS More or Less: Does Sweden Really Have a Six Hour Day?

    Jan 03 2017

    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 been trials in Sweden to test whether you can shorten people’s working hours without having an effect on output. Tim Harford talks to our Swedish correspondent Keith Moore about what the trials have found. He also speaks to professor John Penca...more

  • The Haber-Bosch Process

    Dec 28 2016

    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

    Improving data to target help to the poorest people

  • Christmas Quiz

    Dec 23 2016

    Tim Harford poses a tough statistical challenge

  • WS More or Less: Yellow cards for Christmas

    Dec 16 2016

    Are footballers trying to get suspended for Christmas?

  • Have more famous people died this year?

    Dec 16 2016

    Notable deaths, Rule Britannia and creating your own Christmas speech

  • WS More or Less: How risky is the contraceptive pill?

    Dec 12 2016

    We look at the numbers behind the scary headlines about birth control.

  • How wrong were the Brexit forecasts?

    Dec 09 2016

    The economic doom that never was; childhood cancer figures and Ed Balls

  • WS More or Less: How not to test public opinion

    Dec 02 2016

    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 02 2016

    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

    Renewable capacity has surpassed that of coal–is this good news? Plus an asteroid update.

  • Pensioners aren't poor anymore

    Nov 25 2016

    High-rolling pensioners? predicting Norovirus, air pollution deaths and lost or found?

  • WS More or Less: Avoiding Asteroids

    Nov 21 2016

    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

    Is dementia on the rise? Plus immigration, incomplete contacts and chocolate muffins

  • WS More or Less: Liberia’s Rape Statistic Debunked

    Nov 14 2016

    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 miss-leading statistics that continue to be propagated to this day, including by the UN. We speak to Amelia Hoover Green from Drexel University, Dara Cohen from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, researcher Phyllis Kimba a...more

  • US election, stray cats and puzzles

    Nov 11 2016

    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 07 2016

    Does the world really spend three times as much on ice cream than on humanitarian aid?

  • Trump tells the Truth

    Nov 04 2016

    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

    Is a girl under 15 married every seven seconds? And beware dangerous algorithms

  • WS More or Less: Escobar’s Cocaine Deaths

    Oct 24 2016

    How many people die for every kilo of cocaine? More Or Less investigates.

  • WS More or Less: Algorithms, Crime and Punishment

    Oct 14 2016

    When maths can get you locked up.

  • WS More or Less: The Sustainable Development Goals – are there just too many?

    Oct 07 2016

    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 saying that there’s just too many and they are too broad, and left like that will never achieve anything. Is he right – and is there a better way to make the world better and stop some countries lagging behind? Wesley Stephenson and Charlotte McDona...more

  • WS More or Less: Who Won the US Presidential Debate?

    Sep 30 2016

    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 anything useful. And when internet polls can be hijacked by online activists, they can throw up some pretty strange results. (Photo: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton first presidential debate. Credit: Getty Images)

  • WS More or Less: Trump’s crime claims

    Sep 23 2016

    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 at crime in the US and assess whether you can compare it to a conflict zone such as Afghanistan. (Image: Chicago - Neighbourhood residents watch as police investigate a homicide scene. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • WS More or Less: Wedding gift economics

    Sep 18 2016

    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. Luckily, economist Maria Kozlovskaya is on hand to talk about her findings on what factors we need to consider for gift giving, as well as preserving Jordan’s friendship and wallet.

  • WS More or Less: Drug deaths in the Philippines

    Sep 12 2016

    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 arrest, and the killings of drug suspects were lawful if the police acted in self-defence. The press have been reporting numbers of how many people have been killed during the crackdown – but how much trust can we put in these figures? Lottery wi...more

  • WS More or Less: Menstrual Syncing

    Sep 05 2016

    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 from? And is it really true? We look at the evidence and wonder – could it be down to chance?

  • Irish Passports

    Sep 02 2016

    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 been quoted are correct, the Irish passport service may find itself completely inundated in future. But does one in four Britons really have Irish heritage? We reveal the dubious history of that number and attempt to estimate the number of Bri...more

  • Death Penalty abolition

    Aug 30 2016

    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 speak to Parvais Jabbar, co-director of the Death Penalty Project.

  • Gender Pay Gap

    Aug 26 2016

    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 wrote in the Telegraph that the pay gap is “no longer an issue” for women born after 1975. Can both assessments be true? And could the label “gender pay gap” be hindering our understanding of what really lies behind the numbers? The cost of a h...more

  • WS More or Less: Counting Terror Deaths

    Aug 22 2016

    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 world? More Or Less hears from Dr Erin Miller of the Global Terrorism Database and Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker. (Image: A man wrapped in a Belgian flag holds a candle as people gather at a makeshift memorial on Place de la Bours...more

  • Counting Terror Deaths

    Aug 19 2016

    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 it. But what do the numbers say? We estimate that, between January and July this year, 892 people died in terrorist attacks in Europe – making it the most deadly first seven months of a year since 1994. But the vast majority of those deaths ...more

  • WS More or Less: Swimming World Records

    Aug 15 2016

    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 Madge, about the reasons swimmers keep getting better results in the pool. Also, science writer Christie Aschwanden makes the case for the virtues of the 5,000 metre race. She says that in recent times it has become very popular for people to ...more

  • Grammar Schools

    Aug 12 2016

    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 social mobility. Swimming World Records New world records are being set in swimming at a much faster rate than other sports – but why? Tim Harford speaks to swim coach and blogger, Rick Madge about the reason swimmers keep getting better re...more

  • WS More or Less: Predicting Olympic Medals

    Aug 08 2016

    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, along with her colleagues, Sebastian Otten, also from the Leibniz Institute, and Carsten Crede of the University of East Anglia. Some countries like the US and China have a large population and GDP, but a number of countries do very well for thei...more

  • Plastic Bags

    Aug 05 2016

    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 many medals each nation will win? We speak to Dr Julia Bredtmann, an economist at the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research. Income inequality Politicians and commentators often claim that the rich are getting richer while the poor are ...more

  • WS More or Less: Odd Socks and Algorithms

    Aug 01 2016

    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 situations in a more logical and efficient manner. So which algorithm can help solve the problem of odd socks? And what is the most efficient way of alphabetising your book collection? Tim Harford investigates.

  • The Supermarket Effect

    Jul 29 2016

    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 the correlation. Statistics and the EU referendum campaign We look at how the two campaigns, the media, and the much-discussed “experts” used statistics during the EU referendum campaign. Tim Harford interviews Will Moy, director of Fullfact,...more

  • WS More or Less: Ireland’s Shock GDP figures

    Jul 22 2016

    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 growth rate is so unrealistically high. More or Less explores how multinational companies with headquarters in Ireland have led to an accounting headache for working out the country’s GDP. Also, the mobile gaming app Pokemon Go has taken the ...more

  • WS More or Less: Violence, shootings and the police in the US

    Jul 15 2016

    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 and Philando Castle, and the protestors feel that minorities are being disproportionately targeted by the police. On top of this, at a recent protest in Dallas a gunman shot and killed five police officers. But what can the numbers tell us...more

  • WS More or Less: Sleeping: the 8-hour myth

    Jul 08 2016

    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 mortality. But what’s causing the health problems, and should you really give up the lie-in? Ruth Alexander looks at the latest sleep science with Dr Gregg Jacobs from UMASS Medical Center, US; Professor Franco Cappuccio from Warwick University, UK; ...more

  • Ranking Iceland’s Football Team

    Jul 01 2016

    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 take a look at whether Iceland is now the best performing football team in the world if you compare UEFA ranking to the size of each country’s population. Plus, we take a look at the chances of a young man in Iceland and in England getting to re...more

  • WS More or Less: Brexit Economics

    Jun 24 2016

    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 how the UK might manage its relationships with other countries. (Image: A pay-per-view binocular with the British and European Union flags. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

  • WS More or Less: When Companies Track Your Life

    Jun 20 2016

    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 course, the big computer and telecoms companies could potentially track our internet searches, our phone calls – even our location as we wander around. But this isn’t the first time that large corporations have gathered sensitive data about their cust...more

  • The Referendum by Numbers: Trade

    Jun 17 2016

    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. Bracing concept, isn't it? We'll be looking at some of the big questions - the cost of being a member, immigration, lawmaking and regulation. But today we're looking at trade. Tim Harford asks if the UK would be better off in or out when it comes ...more

  • The Referendum by Numbers: Regulation

    Jun 16 2016

    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. Bracing concept, isn't it? We'll be looking at some of the big questions - the cost of being a member, immigration, law-making and trade. But today we're looking at EU regulation. Tim Harford asks how much red tape from the EU is costs the UK and ...more

  • The Referendum by Numbers: Law

    Jun 15 2016

    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. Bracing concept, isn't it? We'll be looking at some of the big questions - the cost of being a member, immigration, regulations and trade. But today we're looking at lawmaking. Tim Harford asks how much UK law comes from the EU and are we always b...more

  • The Referendum by Numbers: Immigration

    Jun 14 2016

    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. Bracing concept, isn't it? We'll be looking at some of the big questions - The cost of the EU, lawmaking, regulations and trade. In th secomd of these programmes Tim Harford asks what might happen to migration if we left the EU, and what are the b...more

  • The Referendum by Numbers: The Cost of EU Membership

    Jun 13 2016

    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 concept, isn't it? We'll be looking at some of the big questions - immigration, lawmaking, regulations and trade. But in this first program, Tim Harford tackles two very basic questions: how much would we save if we left the EU? And what would w...more

  • WS More or Less: Sexist Data Crisis

    Jun 10 2016

    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 Presenter: Tim Harford

  • WS More or Less: HIV in Africa

    Jun 03 2016

    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 young men. Kyle Evans is a folk singing mathematician by trade who is always looking for new ways to communicate his love of maths to a sometimes apprehensive audience. Next week he is representing the UK against 26 other countries at the Cheltenh...more

  • WS More or Less: Refugee Camp Statistics

    May 27 2016

    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 coordinate its nuclear weapons systems. But can it possibly be true that you could fit more than three million of them on a single ten dollar USB drive? Producer: Laura Gray Presenter: Ruth Alexander

  • WS More or Less: The World's Most Profitable Product

    May 20 2016

    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 products suggested by More or Less listeners to work out if the iPhone truly is the most profitable. Producer: Laura Gray

  • WS More or Less: The world’s most diverse city

    May 13 2016

    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 maths prize for his work proving Fermat’s last theorem. Science author Simon Singh explains his work. Producers: Laura Gray and Ed Davey.

  • WS More or Less: Leicester City football fluke?

    May 09 2016

    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 has been running his own statistical model to assess the teams in the Premier League. We also hear from James Yorke from the football analytics website Stats Bomb. Was Leicester’s success down to the team’s skills, or was it down to luck?

  • The most profitable product in history

    May 06 2016

    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 with their suggestions. We take a look at a handful of them, from Viagra to popcorn in our quest for an answer. Could it be something more historical? EU and trade: We take a look at the numbers on trade and at the UK’s relationship with th...more

  • WS More or Less: Simpson’s Paradox

    May 02 2016

    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, Groningen, discovered that the study into the funding process showed that when you looked at the overall numbers of successful candidates, women seemed to be less successful than men. And yet, when you looked at a breakdown of the different subjects ...more

  • EU Migration

    Apr 29 2016

    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 Sir Andrew Wiles for Fermat’s Last Theorem. Plus, we explore the numbers behind Simpson’s Paradox.

  • WS More or Less: Most Expensive Building

    Apr 25 2016

    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 really cost more to build than the Great Pyramid of Giza? We take a look at some of the most costly building projects on the planet.

  • Brexit numbers

    Apr 22 2016

    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 reported. Chris Giles of the Financial Times explains that there are useful points to take from the Treasury’s analysis. Hinckley Point nuclear power station What is the most expensive “object” ever built? The environmental charity Gree...more

  • WS More or Less: The life expectancy of a Pope

    Apr 18 2016

    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 been rather pessimistic. The curse of the London Olympics In a similar vein, is there an unusually high death count among athletes who took part in the London Olympics in 2012? The French press seem to think there is. Currently news rep...more

  • Celebrity deaths

    Apr 15 2016

    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 obituaries. Is the intuitive feeling that more people have died this year misplaced? ‘What British Muslims really think’ poll This week many news outlets covered polling research carried out for a documentary on Channel 4. Some of the points t...more

  • WS More or Less: The story of average

    Apr 11 2016

    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 the average from a group of numbers. By the 1800s, one Belgian astronomer began to apply this to all sorts of social and national statistics – and the ‘Average Man’ was born.

  • Fathers and babies

    Apr 08 2016

    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 such a low take-up. But in reality the figures used are deeply flawed and cannot be used to prove such a statement. Exponential Love “I love you twice as much today as yesterday, but half as much as tomorrow.” – This is the inscription on ...more

  • WS More or Less: The Great EU Cabbage Myth

    Apr 05 2016

    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 it isn’t true today. So how did this cabbage myth grow and spread? And what is the real number of words relating to the sale of cabbages in the EU? Tim Harford presents.

  • The Great EU Cabbage Myth

    Apr 04 2016

    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 it isn't true today. So how did this cabbage myth grow and spread? And what is the real number of words relating to the sale of cabbages in the EU? After the recent announcement that all schools would be converted to academies, a number of liste...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Safe drinking

    Mar 24 2016

    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. Producer: Charlotte McDonald/Richard Vadon

  • WSMoreOrLess: Mobiles or lightbulbs

    Mar 18 2016

    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 might imagine. There are certainly numbers you can choose to demonstrate this, but are they the right ones? Thyroid cancer has gone up after the Fukushima accident - but it's not what you think. Japanese authorities were worried about the impact of ...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Can we trust food surveys?

    Mar 11 2016

    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, FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for science, about the pitfalls of food surveys. She kept a food diary and answered nutrition surveys and found many of the questions were really hard to answer – how could she tell all the ingredients in a restauran...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Fact checking The Big Short

    Mar 04 2016

    "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 some creative license in some of the scenes. But is there any truth to this statistic? It turns out it’s a figure that has been around for many decades. We explore its origins. The debate over whether the UK should leave the European Union is h...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Antibiotics and the problem of the broken market

    Feb 26 2016

    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 there’s no money to be made in antibiotics so big pharma have all but stopped their research. Why is this and how do we entice them back in? Wesley Stephenson finds out. (Image: Computer artwork of bacteria - credit: Science Photo Library)

  • WSMoreOrLess: When £10,000 isn’t a good incentive

    Feb 19 2016

    Could no prize have been a better way to motivate snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan?

  • WSMoreOrLess: Fishy numbers?

    Feb 15 2016

    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 share your birthday with two of your children.

  • Selfies, sugar daddies and dodgy surveys

    Feb 12 2016

    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 really wrong with this number. We pick apart the survey that suggested women are spending all that time taking pictures of themselves. The second piece of questionable research comes from reports that a quarter of a million UK students are g...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Do e-cigarettes really harm your chances of quitting smoking?

    Feb 08 2016

    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 described as "grossly misleading" and "not scientific". We look at what is wrong with the paper and ask if it should have been published in the first place. (Image: Man smoking e-cigarette. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • E-cigarettes: Can They Help People Quit?

    Feb 05 2016

    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 spend their lives trying to help people quit. It's been described as 'grossly misleading' and 'not scientific'. We look at what is wrong with the paper and ask if it should have been published in the first place. A campaign of dodgy statistics...more

  • Swedish refugees

    Feb 01 2016

    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

    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 it a year? Is it the country's second biggest killer? We speak to Dr Marissa Mason about the difficulties of knowing the numbers. Dan Bouk tells the story of a statistician who crept around graveyards in South Carolina at the turn of the ...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Oxfam and Wealth Inequality

    Jan 25 2016

    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 Oxfam’s annual report looking at global inequality. They say that the overall the world may be getting richer but that most of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. But is this really telling us what we think it’s te...more

  • Billionaires versus the world

    Jan 22 2016

    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 with bored children on a bus? Rob Eastaway, author of ‘Maths on the go,’ gets three pupils to play a game on the Number 12 in south London. Prime Minister David Cameron said this week that 22% of British Muslim women speak little or no Engl...more

  • WS MoreOrLess: Gravitational Waves

    Jan 18 2016

    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 been reported that ‘gravitational waves’ have been discovered, and the last time proved to be an equipment test. What is the total number of possible tweets that could be created from 140 characters? In a recent programme Professor John Allen-Pa...more

  • Weekend Stroke Deaths

    Jan 15 2016

    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 presenter Paul Lewis if there is any truth in this. A few weeks ago many newspapers were reporting that alcohol was the cause of 70% of Accident and Emergency attendances over the weekends. Did the newspapers misunderstand the research? Why wa...more

  • WS MoreOrLess: Numbers of the Year 2015: Part Three

    Jan 11 2016

    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, former footballer Graeme le Saux, and BBC cricket statistician Andrew Samson.

  • Flood Defence Spending

    Jan 08 2016

    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 possible tweets that could be created from 140 characters? In a recent programme Professor John Allen-Paulos told us that when you take into account all of the symbols available, the total number of possible tweets is Googol2.8 (which is a 1 foll...more

  • WSMoreOrLess: Numbers of the Year 2015 Part 2

    Jan 04 2016

    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 Pontzen

  • Numbers of the Year 2015

    Jan 01 2016

    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 Cunliffe-Jones, Farai Chideya, Claire Melamed and Professor John Allen Paulos.

  • WS MoreOrLess: Numbers of the Year 2015 Part 1

    Dec 25 2015

    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 Migration and Claire Melamed from the Overseas Development Institute.

  • WS MoreOrLess: How Many Stormtroopers are there?

    Dec 18 2015

    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

    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 08 2015

    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

    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.