More or Less: Behind the Stats

More or Less: Behind the Stats

Tim Harford investigates numbers in the news. Numbers are used in every area of public debate. But are they always reliable? Tim and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. A half-hour programme broadcast at 1600 on Friday afternoons and repeated at 2000 on Sundays on Radio 4. BBC World Service broadcasts a short edition over the weekend.

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Recent episodes (10)

  • Shakespeare vs Rappers 12 Sep 14

    Mon, 15 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    It's a 'fact' beloved of English teachers around the world: that Shakespeare, the greatest playwright in English, also had the greatest vocabulary. But research published earlier this year suggests English teachers might have to look elsewhere to establish the superiority of the Bard - apparently his vocabulary lags behind the best and most famous rappers of the last decades. Is this comparison fair, and if so, does it diminish the Bard's lustre? This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Scottish referendum polls 12 Sep 14

    Fri, 12 Sep 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Tim Harford talks to pollsters about how they are trying to gauge the political mood in Scotland, and he analyses Nigel Farage's claim that more than half of Scotland is on benefits. Plus: celebrating Countdown, the longest-running TV quiz show; quantifying malnutrition in the UK; and does the ‘Curse of Strictly Come Dancing’ really exist?

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  • WS To ice or not to ice? 05 Sep 14

    Mon, 8 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    The ALS ice bucket challenge has become a viral phenomenon. People around the world have been dousing themselves in ice-cold water and in the process have raised over $100m for charity. But a true nerd doesn't run with the herd, and Tim Harford is only going to do the challenge if the facts stack up. He investigates whether a viral challenge like this is good for charitable giving overall, and whether there are reasons to be more choosy about the charities we give to. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • To ice or not to ice? 05 Sep 14

    Fri, 5 Sep 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    The ALS ice bucket challenge viral phenomenon has raised over $100m. Is this good for charitable giving overall, and should we be more choosy about the charities we give to? Plus: is there a 'rising tide' of anti-Semitism in Europe; does Shakespeare have the largest vocabulary, or is the Bard bested by hip hop’s finest; and is the current generation of young people likely to live shorter lives than their parents?

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  • WS Do We Use Only 10% of Our Brains? 29 Aug 14

    Mon, 1 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Is it true that humans use just 10% of their brains? It’s the premise of the new film Lucy, in which the brain capacity of Scarlett Johansson’s character increases to dangerous levels. Tim Harford uses considerably more than 10% of his brain to separate the neuro-science facts from the fiction with Professor Sophie Scott. What drives the price of footballers? Tim Harford tries to understand the huge transfer fees with Raffaele Poli from the CIES Football Observatory and football agent Seb Ewen. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Ruth Alexander This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • How Deadly Is Ebola? 29 Aug 14

    Fri, 29 Aug 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Media reports are suggesting that as many as 12,000 people may have Ebola in West Africa, but experts tell More or Less that's not the case. It's also said that Ebola kills up to 90% of victims, but while that's true of one outbreak, the death rate in other Ebola outbreaks has varied widely. Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander

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  • WS Deaths in Gaza 22 Aug 14

    Mon, 25 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    As the Gaza conflict continues, the fact that there are estimated to be nearly three times as many men as women among the Palestinian civilian casualties has been an issue in the spotlight. Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander look at why men are often over-represented in civilian death tolls, and how the statistics in this conflict are being gathered. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Troubled families? 22 Aug 14

    Fri, 22 Aug 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    "Revealed: half a million problem families" reported The Sunday Times. The government's expanding its Troubled Families programme - two years after More or Less found it statistically wanting. Tim Harford discusses the new numbers with BBC Newsnight's Chris Cook. Plus: CEO remuneration; deaths in Gaza; divorce risks and further adventures in the audio presentation of data.

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  • WS Anti-Semitism 15 Aug 14

    Mon, 18 Aug 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Is anti-semitism on the rise? Ruth Alexander and James Fletcher look at the numbers, as media reports in the wake of the Gaza conflict suggest anti-semitism is a growing problem. Does the evidence support the claims? This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Student Loans 15 Aug 14

    Fri, 15 Aug 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    The cost of the government's new student loan system is rising according to a recent report. Tim Harford investigates whether the rising costs should have been foreseen, and whether the new system will end up costing more than the old one. Plus: mobile phone goldmines in our pockets; paedophilia in the priesthood and from machine learning to deep learning.

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