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)

  • Magic Numbers 18 Apr 14

    Sat, 19 Apr 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Do you have a favourite number - one you love, one you think stands out from all the others? Author Alex Bellos joins us to talk about his quest to find the world's favourite number and discuss whether numbers really can be magical, mystical and memorable, or whether it's all mumbo jumbo. Why are odd numbers so appealing? Which number strikes fear into some people's hearts? And why do lists of questions like these always come in threes? This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Nigeria - rich or poor? 11 Apr 14

    Sat, 12 Apr 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Nigeria's bureau of statistics has overhauled the way it calculates the country's GDP figures. With GDP now estimated at around $510 billion, it has surpassed South Africa as the continent's largest economy. But just because it has earned this accolade – does that make it one of the richest? Plus was the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, right to say recently that Nigeria is one of just five countries that together are home to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor? We sift through the statistics to find out if economic development is benefitting everyone in Nigeria. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Freedom in Numbers 04 Apr 14

    Sat, 5 Apr 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    How many people in the world live in freedom? The BBC's Freedom 2014 season got Tim Harford and the More or Less team wondering about this. It's actually pretty hard to put a number on freedom, so Tim begins by looking at something more quantifiable: how many people live in a democracy? And are people in democracies happier? Tim Harford looks at the numbers with Simon Baptist from the Economist Intelligence Unit. Plus, he examines the price of a cup of coffee, and whether Ruth Alexander can be persuaded to pay for his. This programme was first broadcast live on the BBC World Service on 01 April 2014 from the Media Café at BBC New Broadcasting House in London.

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  • Is London France’s sixth largest city? 29 Mar 14

    Sat, 29 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Are there really be 300,000 French people in London and would they really want to leave France for the UK anyway? The Mayor of London, British journalists and commentators have trotted out this "fact" a number of times over the last few years to illustrate just how popular the UK’s capital is with its neighbours across the Channel. It appears that Nicolas Sarkozy may have said it as far back as 2008. Wesley Stephenson and Charlotte McDonald brush off their best French to find out the truth. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Missing planes 22 Mar 14

    Sat, 22 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Could Bayesian statistics find Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing? This niche form of statistical modelling has been used to find everything from submarines to missing people. More or Less explores how it was used to locate the wreckage of Air France flight 447 from Brazil to France which disappeared in 2009. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Mailbox edition 15 Mar 14

    Sat, 15 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Your questions answered - Do the Maasai in Africa number one million? Is it true that a quarter of Americans do not know the Earth goes round the sun? Are half of Tasmanians innumerate and illiterate? Plus, Do the 85 richest people in the world hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half? This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • WS Modern Slavery 08 Mar 2014

    Sat, 8 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Are there 21 million slaves in the world today? Director of 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen, made this claim at both the Oscars and the BAFTAs while accepting awards. More or Less looks into the definition of a slave, where they can be found, and explores how they can be counted. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • The 10,000 hours rule 01 Feb 14

    Sat, 1 Mar 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Becoming a pro on practice alone – is that possible? Or do you need innate talent? After reading books promoting the idea, a photographer with no natural talent explains how he is practising for 10,000, hours to become a professional golfer. We hear David Epstein, author of 'The Sports Gene', and Malcolm Gladwell, author of 'Outliers' explain their views on whether you need innate ability. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • WS Neknomination Outbreak 22 Feb 2014

    Sat, 22 Feb 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    The rise and fall of an online epidemic: How studying the spread of infectious diseases suggests the global drinking craze Neknomination will fizzle out. Drinkers post videos of their exploits and nominate others to do the same – but eventually the fad will run out of steam says epidemiologist Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Plus, while politicians debate how much to tax the rich in France and the UK– we look at which countries levy the highest and the lowest rates of income tax for both the wealthy and average worker. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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  • Love by numbers 15 Feb 14

    Sat, 15 Feb 14

    Duration:
    10 mins

    Can economics help you find love? Tim Harford and the team look at the maths behind modern match-making. Economist Michele Belot from the University of Edinburgh explains why women are pickier than men at speed dating events. Plus - how analysing numbers from online dating agencies can help improve the chances of finding a partner: a personal story by Amy Webb, CEO of digital strategists Webbmedia Group. This programme was first broadcast on the BBC World Service.

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