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Can the world's population really fit on the Isle of Wight? More or Less is back

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Ruth Alexander Ruth Alexander 12:21, Friday, 2 December 2011

More or Less

"And, this week, that train of thought led us to try to squeeze as many Radio 4 presenters and producers
into our studio as possible..."

A bunch of attention seekers would be one way of describing the More or Less team.

With the Financial Times' Undercover Economist Tim Harford at the helm, we go to great lengths to get listeners to tune in to chat about statistics. They can be revealing, surprising, unexpected and, of course, confusing, contradictory or plain bogus.

But on More or Less, we aim to provide a clear way through the numbers of the moment.

And, this week, that train of thought led us to try to squeeze as many Radio 4 presenters and producers into our studio as possible.

With the UN recently announcing that the world's population had grown to 7bn, we thought there was no time like the present to test the popular belief that you could fit everyone in the world on the Isle of Wight (people really do believe this, and have done for a long time - type it into your search engine), if they stood shoulder to shoulder.

If we could fit about 74 people into our studio, we calculated, then the whole world could move to the Isle of Wight. If it so wished.

Measuring just 4m2, once you take away the furniture, our studio's modelled in the finest BBC broom cupboard tradition.

It wasn't immediately clear it was advisable to stuff it full of human beings. But we did. (We consulted a BBC health and safety adviser - and persuaded him to squeeze in too).

We had strict rules - keep your hands to yourself and you're only allowed in if you've deodorised. Money Box presenter Paul Lewis was first through the door, followed - if you'll believe us - by dozens of his production staff. Other Radio 4 presenters appeared, rallying round to help the programme. And it was a tight fit.

"Oh, I can't get in there!" Jim Naughtie was heard to exclaim, while Gerry Northam sat on Winifred Robinson's knee. Tim was in charge of the counting, partly because he is good with numbers but mainly because he's really tall.

Meanwhile I, as producers always are, was in charge of worrying that something might go wrong.

You'll have to listen to find out how many we squashed in and how many of the big name presenters were really there. Suffice to say, I was quite surprised. And a bit hot.

Ruth Alexander is series producer, More or Less, BBC Radio 4


  • Comment number 1.

    More or Less has impressed me with it's assessment of facts & figures, but I was dismayed by the way that you treated the facts about world population. What purile nonsense ! Of course it would be possible to fit 7bn people into comparitively small areas e.g. a city the size of France. That's not the issue. If we all lived in cities like western Europeans, we'd need another planet to provide the agricultural land, oil & water. If we lived like Americans we'd need three planets. Please do a feature on the amount of available farm land, farm land used, the amount of oild used & how much we'd need to inclrease the population to 10bn, 15bn. etc.

  • Comment number 2.

    Theoretically, if the population of the world could fit on the Isle of Wight, then the Isle of Wight would actually then be the world......
    ..... it just so happens that a group of Isle of Wight singers / musicians have just recorded a version of "We are the World 2011". This was produced to raise vital funds for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice on the Isle of Wight. The group called Isle of Wight Unite all gave their time to support this very worthy cause. All money raised from the sales / downloads of the song will go directly to the hospice.


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