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More or Less: Behind the Stats

More or Less: Behind the Stats

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

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Pregnancy prohibitions ? the evidence

Taking a statistical look at what expectant mothers should avoid.
2019-07-26
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Missing women from drug trials

How medical testing on just men causes problems.
2019-07-19
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Zimbabwe?s economy: Are sanctions to blame?

We look at politicians? claims that sanctions are to blame for Zimbabwe?s difficulties.
2019-07-19
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Two World Cups: Football and Cricket

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
2019-07-05
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Is nuclear power actually safer than you think?

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
2019-06-28
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Questioning the Chernobyl disaster death count

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
2019-06-21
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WS More or Less: Dealing with the Numbers of Cancer

How one woman used statistics to help cope with cancer.
2019-06-14
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WS More or Less: The things we fail to see

The hidden influences that a make a big difference to the way the world works.
2019-06-10
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Are married women flipping miserable?

Measuring happiness, university access in Scotland, plus will one in two get cancer?
2019-06-07
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WS More or Less: Volcanoes versus humans

Does Mount Etna produce more carbon emissions than humans? We check the numbers.
2019-06-03
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Hay Festival Special

What does it mean to say that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world?
2019-05-31
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WS More or Less: Florence Nightingale ? recognising the nurse statistician

How collecting data about the dead led the famous nurse to promote better sanitation.
2019-05-27
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Eurovision and fact-checking Naomi Wolf

The stats behind making a successful song, plus misunderstanding Victorian court records.
2019-05-24
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Making music out of Money

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
2019-05-20
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Heart deaths, Organised crime and Gender data gaps

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 whether it is reasonable to include such a broad range of activities connected to the company to reach that figure. Deaths from organised crime The National Crime Agency (NCA) said this week that organised crime kills more people in the UK than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined. But what does the evidence say? The NCA also said that there are 181,000 offenders in the UK fueling serious and organised crime. That?s more than twice the strength of the British Army. We try to find out where those figures came from. The absence of women?s lives in data Do government and economic statistics capture the lives of women fairly? If not, does it matter? How could things be changed? Tim Harford speaks to Caroline Criado-Perez about her new book ?Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.? Image: Human heart attack, illustration Credit: Science Photo Library
2019-05-17
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Sex Every Seven Seconds

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?
2019-05-13
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Sex, coal, missing people and mice

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. So where is our electricity coming from? Missing people Some listeners got in touch to say they were surprised to hear that a person is reported missing in the UK every 90 seconds. Dr Karen Shalev Greene of the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons joins us to explore the numbers. In Mice One scientist is correcting headlines on Twitter by adding one key two-word caveat ? the fact that the research cited has only been carried out "in mice". We ask him why he?s doing it.
2019-05-10
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Avengers - Should we reverse the snap?

*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 Avengers Endgame film poster Credit: ©Marvel Studios 2019
2019-05-06
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Nurses, flatmates and cats

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 she was surprised to read that only 3% of people aged 18 to 34 live in a house share with other people. She feels it must be too low ? but is she living in a London house-sharing bubble? We find out. Proving that x% of y = y% of x Why is it that 4% of 75 is the same as 75% of 4? Professor Jennifer Rogers from the University of Oxford joins Tim in the studio to explore a mind-blowing maths ?trick?. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Charlotte McDonald, Darin Graham and Beth Sagar-Fenton
2019-05-03
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Bernie Sanders and the cost of having a baby

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. Producer: Darin Graham Presenters: Tim Harford and Charlotte McDonald Image: A newborn baby's hand. Credit:Getty Images/TongRo Images Inc
2019-04-29
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Hottest Easter, Insects, Scottish villages

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 insect species are decreasing and that a decline rate of 2.5% a year suggests they could disappear in 100 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? Collecting income tax from the 1% Recently Lord Sugar said in a Tweet ?The fact is if you taxed everyone earning over £150k at a rate of 70% it would not raise enough to pay for 5% of the NHS.? Is that true? Helen Miller, Deputy Director and head of tax at the Institute for Fiscal Studies looks at how much such a policy might raise from the 1% of tax payers who earn over £150,000. Where is Scotland?s highest village? 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. Image: A man and woman sitting on deckchairs on the beach Credit: Getty Images
2019-04-26
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The economic impact of mega sporting events

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/Southern Metropolis Daily/VCG
2019-04-19
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Where is Scotland?s highest village?

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
2019-04-15
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Rounding up the weed killer cancer conundrum

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 Sir David Spiegelhalter. Producer: Darin Graham Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Picture: Tractor spraying a field of wheat Credit: Getty Images
2019-04-08
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Chess cheats and the GOAT

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
2019-04-02
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Is Mansa Musa the richest person of all time?

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 the ?golden king?s? wealth and can we compare a monarch to the likes of Amazon founder Bezos? In this edition, historian Dr Emmanuel Ababio Ofosu-Mensah of the University of Ghana in Accra explains who Mansa Musa was and Kerry Dolan of Forbes talks to us about rich lists. Producer: Darin Graham Editor: Richard Vadon (Image: Painting of Mansa Musa, Credit: Getty Images)
2019-03-25
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Day light saving time and heart attacks

Does the sudden loss of an hour of sleep raise the risk of having a heart attack?
2019-03-18
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The gender gap in tech

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 information on a screen interface Credit: Metamorworks / Getty Images
2019-03-09
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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 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 Producer: Darin Graham (Image: Hairy hawker dragonfly. Credit: Science Photo Library)
2019-03-04
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How To Make Your Art Work More Valuable

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
2019-02-22
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WS More or Less: When maths mistakes really matter

Tim Harford talks to Matt Parker on how simple maths mistakes can cause big problems.
2019-02-18
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Climate Change, Victorian Diseases, Alcohol

Tim Harford on climate change, Victorian diseases, maths mistakes and alcohol consumption
2019-02-15
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WS More or Less: From the archives: Groundhogs and Kings

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.
2019-02-12
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Teen Suicide; Brexit Business Moves; Wood-Burner Pollution

Tim Harford finds untrue a recent report that there is a 'suicidal generation' of teens.
2019-02-08
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WS More or Less: You have 15,000 likes!

A listener doubts her popularity on the dating app Tinder. We investigate the numbers.
2019-02-04
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Holocaust Deniers; Venezuelan Hyperinflation; Tinder Likes

Tim Harford on Holocaust deniers; food prices in Venezuela, and dating app statistics
2019-02-01
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WS More or Less: Is Suicide Seasonal?

Tim Harford asks which times of the year are riskiest for suicide.
2019-01-26
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Domestic Violence, Jobs, Easter Snowfall

Tim Harford on domestic violence, employment numbers, and the chance of a white Easter.
2019-01-25
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WS More or Less: Close Encounters of a Planetary Kind

Which planet is closest to Earth?
2019-01-19
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Intersex Numbers, Fact-Checking Facebook, Jack Bogle

Tim Harford asks whether 1.7% of people are intersex, and examines false claims about MPs
2019-01-18
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WS More or Less: The Mathematics of Fever

We look at the numbers behind body temperature ? what is normal?
2019-01-12
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Sugar, Outdoors Play and Planets

Tim Harford on sugar, train fares, children's outdoors play and Earth's closest neighbour
2019-01-11
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WS More or Less: Numbers of the Year Part 2

Helena Merriman with numbers about water shortage, plastic recycling and American jobs.
2019-01-04
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WS More or Less: Numbers of the Year Part 1

The numbers that made 2018.
2018-12-29
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WS More or Less: Mission Impossible - Quantifiying Santa

What to look out for on Christmas Eve.
2018-12-22
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WS More or Less: Dam Lies and Statistics

Are mega-dams really sustainable?
2018-12-17
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WS More or Less: Sex and Heart Attacks

Are women more likely to die from a heart attack than men?
2018-11-30
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WS More or Less: Are 90% of War Fatalities Civilians?

Xavier Zapata examines what the data tells us about the deadly impact of war on civilians
2018-11-23
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WS More or Less: When?s a Kilogram Not a Kilogram?

Updating the kilogram.
2018-11-16
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WS More or Less: Do Assassinations Work?

How likely are assassination attempts on heads of state to succeed?
2018-11-09
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