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Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford podcast

Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “The Data Detective”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. New episodes every other Friday.

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “The Data Detective”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. New episodes every other Friday.

 

#64

The Wild Turkeys of Schleswig

There are eight American turkeys painted on the walls of Schleswig's Cathedral of St Peter - which is odd... since the frescoes were created two centuries before Columbus even crossed the Atlantic.    How did the creatures come to be added to the medieval Biblical scene? Was this proof that the German's reached the Americas before Columbus? Or do the painted birds tell a different story all together?  For a full list of sources used in this episode visit [Tim Harford.com] (https://timharford.com/)   See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

25 Nov 2022

39 MINS

39:13

25 Nov 2022


#63

Cautionary Conversation: The Blitz Spirit and the Blackout Ripper

In a crisis most people respond with decency and solidarity. The bombing of British cities in the Second World War did not cause society to crumble as was expected, but proved instead human resilience. That defiant "Blitz Spirit" is still a source of pride for Britons... but have inconvenient facts about that time been ignored? Alice Fiennes (co-host of the podcast Bad Women: The Blackout Ripper) explains that the chaos and disruption of the bombing allowed some people to commit awful crimes - and especially a trainee RAF pilot who embarked on a vicious killing spree under cover of darkness.    Find Bad Women: The Blackout Ripper wherever you get your podcasts.  See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

18 Nov 2022

32 MINS

32:51

18 Nov 2022


#62

The Inventor Who Almost Ended the World

Thomas Midgley's inventions caused his own death, hastened the deaths of millions of people around the world, and very nearly extinguished all life on land.  Midgley and his employers didn't set out to poison the air with leaded gasoline or wreck the ozone layer with CFCs - but while these dire consequences were unintended... could they have been anticipated? For a full list of sources used in this episode visit [Tim Harford.com] (https://timharford.com/)   See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

11 Nov 2022

36 MINS

36:47

11 Nov 2022


#61

The Halloween Poisoner

Candy laced with cyanide and needles in marshmallows, we've long been warned to be suspicious of the sweet treats handed out by strangers at Halloween. But it seems that most stories of "Halloween sadism" are just that, stories. No child seems to have been  killed by adulterated Halloween candy... well... there is one terrible exception. The poisoned Pixy Stix of Pasadena, TX. For a full list of sources used in this episode visit [Tim Harford.com] (https://timharford.com/)   See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

28 Oct 2022

35 MINS

35:23

28 Oct 2022


#60

Cautionary Conversation: The Conspiracy Theorist Who Changed His Mind

Charlie Veitch was certain that 9/11 was an inside job. The attack on the World Trade Center wasn't the work of Al-Qaeda, but an elaborate conspiracy. He became a darling of so-called "9/11 truthers" - until he actually visited Ground Zero to meet architects, engineers and the relatives of the dead. The trip changed his mind... there was no conspiracy.   His fellow "truthers" did not take Charlie's conversion well.  David McRaney (host of [You Are Not So Smart] (https://youarenotsosmart.com/podcast/)  and author of How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion and Persuasion) joins Tim Harford to discuss what happened to Charlie Veitch; what it tells us about those who hold strong beliefs even in the face of damning contrary evidence; and why persuasion isn't always the right answer.   See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

21 Oct 2022

41 MINS

41:15

21 Oct 2022


#59

Cautionary Tales Presents: Warfare, The Life of Anne Frank

This week, it's an episode from Warfare, a podcast from our friends at History Hit. It's 1942. The year Anne Frank and her family went into hiding during the Second World War. It was there that Anne began keeping a diary that would become one of the most recognisable testimonies of the Jewish war-time experiences. But what do we know of her life before the war? Host James Rogers explores the Franks' lives before the outbreak of war, and why this story is still so relevant today. You can find more from Warfare at  [https://podfollow.com/the-world-wars] (https://podfollow.com/the-world-wars) . See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

14 Oct 2022

41 MINS

41:01

14 Oct 2022


#58

The Online Date That's Too Good to be True

Single and looking for love, Dr Robert Epstein found himself chatting with a slim, attractive brunette online. She seemed perfect... perhaps even too good to be true.  Dr Epstein is an expert on artificial conversation - so surely he'd be the last person to fall for a computer? Chatbots fool us more often than we think... especially when they replicate our very worst conversational habits.   To read more on this topic try Brian Christian’s “The Most Human Human”. For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) .   See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

07 Oct 2022

37 MINS

37:13

07 Oct 2022


#57

A Leap of Faith From the Eiffel Tower

Inventor Franz Reichelt wants to test his novel "parachute suit" from as tall a structure as possible - and the Eiffel Tower seems ideal. Previous trial runs used a mannequin strapped to the chute and have not ended well. Despite this, his plan is to make the Eiffel Tower jump himself. Can he be persuaded to see sense? Self-experimentation - particularly in the field of medicine - has a long and checkered history. Can we learn anything useful from such unorthodox experiments, or are they reckless acts of egotism and hubris?  For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) .   See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

23 Sep 2022

33 MINS

33:00

23 Sep 2022


#56

Cautionary Conversation: Flying on Empty

A meter is longer than a yard. An ounce is heavier than a gram. We harmlessly mix them up sometimes, but a "unit conversion error" when you're filling up the fuel tanks of an airliner can be fatal. Which is exactly what happened to Air Canada Flight 143.  Tim Harford talks to mathematician and comedian Matt Parker about how the aircraft came to take off without the proper fuel load, how no one noticed until it was too late, and why such errors give us an insight into just how important maths is to keeping our complex world working as it should.  For more "unit conversion errors"  check out Matt's book Humble Pi. See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

09 Sep 2022

32 MINS

32:06

09 Sep 2022


#55

Tim Talks Bicycles with Patented

Invented in the mid-1800s, bicycles have had enduring popularity. Across cultures, they have been embraced, promising freedom and mobility at a lower price point.  Tim joins Dallas Campbell on Patented: History of Inventions, to discuss the history of the bicycle, from the invention story through to bicycle booms, the C5 Sinclair and the rise of dockless bike sharing schemes.  If you're interested in the stories behind the world's greatest inventions - from the mighty steam train to the humble condom - subscribe to Patented: History of Inventions today. See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

02 Sep 2022

38 MINS

38:37

02 Sep 2022


#54

"You’re Not Howard Hughes!"

By the 1970s Howard Hughes was the "invisible billionaire”. A business tycoon, a daring aviator and Hollywood Lothario, Hughes had an amazing life story... but hiding away in luxury hotels he wasn't sharing his memories with anyone. Then the recluse told a respected publishing house - via intermediaries - that he was working on an autobiography. The book would be a blockbuster... only it was all a lie. For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

26 Aug 2022

35 MINS

35:44

26 Aug 2022


#53

"Who would you dine with Scott or Amundsen?" Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Harford in Discussion.

Malcolm Gladwell joins Tim Harford to discuss our recent three-part tale about the race to reach the South Pole. There's talk of imperial decline; the power of the underdog; why getting everything you want is actually a handicap; and limes... lots and lots of limes.    See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

19 Aug 2022

25 MINS

25:14

19 Aug 2022


#52

South Pole Race: When the Limeys Get Scurvy

Polar exploration is dangerous... but trudging hundreds of miles in subzero temperatures isn't made any easier if you're suffering from scurvy. The deadly vitamin deficiency destroys the body and will of even the strongest and most determined adventurer - and it seems that scurvy stuck down the ill-fated expedition of Captain Scott.  But scurvy... in 1912? Hadn't the Royal Navy to which Scott belonged famously cracked the problem of scurvy a century before, with a daily dose of lime juice? How did the 'Limeys' seemingly unlearn that lesson?  For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

12 Aug 2022

33 MINS

33:48

12 Aug 2022


#51

The Bowery Boys and the Black Tom Explosion

Cautionary Tales returns next week, but in the meantime enjoy a story of disaster from The Bowery Boys Podcast.  It's July 30th 1916, just after 2am, and a massive explosion rips apart the munitions depot on Black Tom, an island off Jersey City. Tons of debris and jagged shrapnel pepper neighboring Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Thousands of windows across New York are shattered, and millions of residents are awoken wondering what had just happened. Was it an accident or German sabotage?  The Bowery Boys is show about the people and events that have shaped the history of New York City, and really, shaped America. Listen to more episodes of The Bowery Boys at  [https://www.boweryboyshistory.com/bowery-boys-first/bowery-boys-podcast] (https://www.boweryboyshistory.com/bowery-boys-first/bowery-boys-podcast) or wherever you get your podcasts. See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

05 Aug 2022

45 MINS

45:29

05 Aug 2022


#50

South Pole Race: “Mummy, is Amundsen a good man?”

Roald Amundsen beat Captain Scott to the South Pole. The Norwegian - using dog sleds and skis - made it look easy... fun, even. He was heading home to safety, while the British party - hauling sleds by hand - were struggling to survive out on the ice. In this case, to the victor went a spoiled reputation. The British grumbled that Amundsen had somehow cheated, or had at least behaved in an underhand manner. These stinging accusations would haunt the adventurer until the day he died in the polar wastes. For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

29 Jul 2022

35 MINS

35:33

29 Jul 2022


#49

South Pole Race: David and Goliath on Ice

1910: Two men are racing to be the first to reach the South Pole. Captain Robert Falcon Scott heads a well-financed, technologically-advanced expedition - aiming to reach the pole in the "proper" and heroic way... on foot. Roald Amundsen's effort is more modest, relying on cheap sled dogs to carry him to victory.  Scott - for all his money, for all his fancy equipment, for all his backing from the mighty Royal Navy - is doomed to failure in the icy wastes of Antarctica. Why? For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

15 Jul 2022

33 MINS

33:20

15 Jul 2022


#48

Chicago When It Sizzles

July 1995: A deadly heatwave gripped Chicago - bridges buckled; the power grids failed; and the morgue ran out of space - but some neighbourhoods saw more deaths than others. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg wanted to know why. So he headed to the hardest hit districts and found that social isolation and loneliness played an unsettling role in their heavy deaths tolls.    Does the Chicago heatwave teach us that in dealing with climate change we need to consider not just physical infrastructure, but social infrastructure too?   Eric Klinenberg's classic text on the topic is called Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. For a full list of other sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

01 Jul 2022

38 MINS

38:22

01 Jul 2022


#47

The French Knight’s Guide to Corporate Culture

France 1346: The army of King Philip VI is Europe's pre-eminent killing machine. It's accustomed to crushing any force stupid enough to oppose it, and now fully expects to annihilate a motley band of English invaders in a field near the village of Crecy.    Except as night falls, it is Philip's army that lies broken and bleeding in the mud. What went wrong? The French knights, it seems, had failed to update their corporate culture.    For a full list of sources go to  [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

17 Jun 2022

36 MINS

36:16

17 Jun 2022


#46

Frankenstein Versus the Volcano

When Mount Tambora erupted it spewed ash across the globe; blotting out the sun; poisoning crops; and bringing starvation, illness and death to millions. It may also have helped inspire great scientific and cultural advances - including the horror masterpiece Frankenstein. How well do we adapt to catastrophe and what are the limits of our ability to weather even the worst circumstances? For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at [Pushkin.fm] (https://pushkin.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ec28005461416f0b42178894f&id=1694c40f69) . See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

03 Jun 2022

34 MINS

34:59

03 Jun 2022


#45

Bless the Coal-black Hearts of the Broadway Critics

When Billy Joel agreed to let dance legend Twyla Tharp turn his songs into a Broadway musical it seemed like a surefire hit. But in previews, Movin’ Out was panned by the critics. It was soon headed for Broadway and was set to be an expensive and embarrassing failure.So how could Twyla turn things around and avert disaster before opening night? For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at [Pushkin.fm] (https://pushkin.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ec28005461416f0b42178894f&id=1694c40f69) . See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

20 May 2022

33 MINS

33:57

20 May 2022


#44

Monkey for Mayor from This Day in Esoteric Political History

What happens when a monkey gets elected mayor? Well, not really a monkey, but a monkey mascot for a town’s football games. Tim Harford joins This Day in Esoteric Political History to discuss a weird moment from UK history in 2002, when the northeastern English town of Hartlepool was gearing up for a mayoral election and ended up voting in…the local football club’s monkey mascot to run their government. They discuss how H’Angus the Monkey got elected, and how the man inside the suit, Stuart Drummond, went on to be a very effective administrator. See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

13 May 2022

28 MINS

28:46

13 May 2022


#43

When the Autopilot Switched Off

An airline captain thought he was giving his children a harmless thrill by letting them "fly" his packed airplane - the young cockpit visitors weren't really in control... the autopilot was doing the real flying. Until it wasn't. Do safety features actually lull us into a false sense of security - tempting us to take greater risks than we otherwise would? For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at [Pushkin.fm] (https://pushkin.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ec28005461416f0b42178894f&id=1694c40f69) . See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

06 May 2022

33 MINS

33:06

06 May 2022


#42

Cautionary Tales Presents: World's Greatest Con

We'll be back with another story of human error next week, but today we're sharing another podcast you might like. On World's Greatest Con, Brian Brushwood talks about the most audacious con jobs, swindles, and heists in history. In this episode of World's Greatest Con, Brian tells the story of how a game show producer was tempted into upping the ante on his own program by feeding answers to the contestants. Those contestants become rich, famous, and admired...until the scheme is discovered and all they are left with is shame. You can hear more episodes by searching for World's Greatest Con wherever you get podcasts. See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

29 Apr 2022

1 HR 12 MINS

1:12:30

29 Apr 2022


#41

Photographing Fairies

Sherlock Holmes is known for approaching all mysteries with cool logic - and yet when his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle saw photographs taken by two young girls purporting to show real life fairies at play... he unwisely declared them genuine. How did Elsie and Frances fool so many people with their photography... and why did they keep the hoax going for decades? For a full list of sources go to [timharford.com] (https://timharford.com/) If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at [Pushkin.fm] (https://pushkin.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ec28005461416f0b42178894f&id=1694c40f69) . See [omnystudio.com/listener] (https://omnystudio.com/listener) for privacy information. ... Read more

22 Apr 2022

37 MINS

37:07

22 Apr 2022