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.

  • Updated:
    Weekly
  • Episodes available:
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Recent episodes (10)

  • Big Data 17 Oct 14

    Sat, 18 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Big data has been enjoying a lot of hype, with promises it will help deliver everything from increased corporate profits to better healthcare. While the potential is certainly there, Tim Harford asks if the hype is blinding us to some basic statistical lessons learned over the past two-hundred years? This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Species in Decline? 10 Oct 14

    Sat, 11 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    The coverage of the Living Planet Index and its claim that species populations have dropped 50% in the last 40 years aroused much suspicion among More Or Less listeners. The team looks at what the figure means and how it was calculated. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • WS Will Berlin see a sub-two-hour marathon? 03 Oct 14

    Mon, 6 Oct 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Why is Berlin the place to break the marathon world record and how long will it be before we witness someone run it in less than two hours?

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  • WS How do we calculate the distance to the sun? 26 Sept 2014

    Mon, 29 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Two young listeners emailed the programme to ask how we calculate the distance to the sun. We decided to invite them and their parents to More or Less towers where Andrew Pontzen, an astrophysicist at University College London was on hand to explain the answer. A BBC nature documentary stated that there are 14,000 ants to every person on earth, and that were we to weigh all of these ants they would weigh the same as all the people. Can this be true? Tim Harford and Hannah Moore investigate with the help of Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at the University of Sussex.

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  • The Barnett Formula 26 Sept 14

    Fri, 26 Sep 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    This week Tim explains the Barnett Formula with a bit of help from Money Box's Paul Lewis. He looks at Ed Balls sleight of hand in his speech to the Labour Party Conference. Is Ed Miliband's promise on NHS funding really worse than the funding increases delivered by Margaret Thatcher? And how do we know how far away is the sun really is?

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  • WS The UK vs Mississippi 19 Sept 2014

    Mon, 22 Sep 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Is Britain poorer than every US state, except for Mississippi? Journalist Fraser Nelson calculates that’s the case. Tim Harford speaks to economist Chris Dillow about why he’s right. Late last year BBC Trending referred to Eritrea as ‘tiny’. Listeners complained and the complaint was upheld. More or Less talks to Trending producer Mukul Devichand and asks whether any country can rightly be called ‘tiny’.

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  • Kidney donation: the chance of finding a match 19 Sept 14

    Fri, 19 Sep 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    The chance of a successful kidney match between two unrelated people has increased significantly in the past ten years - why? Tim Harford speaks to Professor Anthony Warrens, president of the British Transplantation Society. Donations to the Manchester Dogs' Home have exceeded £1m in the wake of a fire, which killed more than 50 dogs. The large sum raised caused Today presenter Justin Webb to comment that it often seems easier to raise money for animals than humans who are in need. Is it true that we give more generously to animals? Ben Carter reports. An edition of BBC Four's Wonder of Animals states that there are 14,000 ants to every person on earth, and that were we to weigh all of these ants they would weigh the same as all the people. Can this be true? And a complaint has been held up against a BBC programme for calling Eritrea 'tiny'. Can any country rightly be described this way?

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  • 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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