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How extraordinary is Ye Shiwen?

Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen's statistics, what is happening to homelessness, and TV's murder capital. Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.

In this week's programme:

How extraordinary is Ye Shiwen?

There was controversy this week after Ye Shiwen, a young Chinese swimmer, won the 400 metre individual medley in fine style. A US swimming coach called the performance "disturbing", implying that she may have cheated. More or Less investigates the numbers and finds there's no statistical smoking gun.


Does the news that homelessness has risen by 25% mean that homelessness has risen by 25%? The simple answer is yes. But that word "homeless"; in the words of the great Inigo Montoya, I do not think it means what you think it means.

How many songs could ever be written?

TV's Yan Wong answers this listener's question: "I'm always amazed by the number of songs one can recognise on hearing the first second or two of music. Is it possible to calculate the total number of potential opening bars? Surely it must be finite?"

The crime capital of television

We look for the most dangerous place in TV crime drama. Why? Because we can.

Presenter: Tim Harford
Producer: Richard Knight.

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30 minutes


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