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More or Less: Behind the Stats podcast

More or Less: Behind the Stats

Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4

Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4

 

#300

When do food shortages become a famine?

Somalia is experiencing its worst drought for 40 years and there are warnings that millions of people need food assistance urgently. The UN body tasked with classifying levels of food security has projected a famine, although no official declaration has yet been made. We ask what data is used to formally categorise famine and explore some of the difficulties in collecting it, with the help of UN IPC Global Programme Manager Jose Lopez and Professor Laura Hammond, Pro Director of Research & Knowledge Exchange at SOAS. Presenter & producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: People affected by the worsening drought due to failed rain seasons, look on, at the Alla Futo camp for internally displaced people, in the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. REUTERS/Feisal Omar) ... Read more

Yesterday

08 MINS

08:57

Yesterday


#299

A $220 billion World Cup?

As the FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets underway, and the newly built stadia, lavish hotels and transport networks come to life, More or Less investigates just how much the Gulf nation has spent in the lead-up to the tournament. Reports claim the figure could be as much as $220 billion - that’s more than Qatar's annual GDP, and more than ten times higher than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. At an estimated $15 billion, this was previously the most expensive tournament to date. With no access to Qatar’s accounts, and with very few official figures in circulation, More or Less has recruited some of the world’s leading experts in sports finance to crunch the numbers and to ask…is this really a $220 billion World Cup? Presenter: Paul Connolly Producers: Paul Connolly and Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Image: Al Wakrah Stadium, the second FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (TM) venue: The 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy via Getty Images) ... Read more

19 Nov 2022

08 MINS

08:58

19 Nov 2022


#298

Bonus Episode: Understand the Economy

Tim Harford brings you the first episode of his new podcast, Understand the Economy. If you’ve been missing his dulcet tones, here’s a chance for you to have a preview of Tim Harford’s latest podcast, in which he offers really simple explanations to help make sense of the economy today. If you enjoy it, you can find the rest of the series on BBC Sounds or wherever you get your podcasts. In this episode, inflation. What is inflation, why does it matter, and is someone to blame if it goes up? Understanding inflation will help you understand why your shopping is getting more and more expensive and why prices rarely seem to go down. Tim Harford explains why the inflation figure you see on the TV might not reflect the price rises you’re experiencing and economic historian Victoria Bateman tells us why having a boat load of silver coins isn’t always a good thing. Everything you need to know about the economy and what it means for you. This podcast will cut through the jargon to bring you clarity and ensure you finally understand all those complicated terms and phrases you hear on the news. Inflation, GDP, Interest rates, and bonds, Tim Harford and friends explain them all. We’ll ensure you understand what’s going on today, why your shopping is getting more expensive or why your pay doesn’t cover your bills. We’ll also bring you surprising histories, from the war hungry Kings who have shaped how things are counted today to the greedy merchants flooding Spain with Silver coins. So if your eyes usually glaze over when someone says ‘cutting taxes stimulates growth’, fear no more, we’ve got you covered. Producer: Phoebe Keane Researcher: Drew Hyndman Editor: Clare Fordham Find all the episodes here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001dwr7 A BBC Long Form Audio Production for BBC Radio 4 ... Read more

14 Nov 2022

14 MINS

14:32

14 Nov 2022


#297

Improving the numbers in the news

How can journalists improve their use of statistics in their reporting of the world around us? It’s a question US academics John Bailer and Rosemary Pennington tackle in their new book Statistics Behind the Headlines. They join Tim Harford to talk about how journalism can be improved by asking the right questions about numbers and using them in the wider context of a story. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: Electronic and paper media: scanrail/Getty) ... Read more

12 Nov 2022

08 MINS

08:59

12 Nov 2022


#296

Lula’s “zero deforestation” plan for the Amazon

Lula Da Silva has pledged “zero deforestation” in the Amazon as he prepares to become Brazil’s next president, in contrast to the policies of outgoing leader Jair Bolsonaro under whom the destruction of the rainforest has soared. On this edition of More or Less we ask how much of the Amazon has been lost and whether Lula’s aim of zero deforestation can be achieved. Presenter and producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Simon Watts: Sound engineer: David Crackles Production Co-ordinator: Jacqui Johnson (Image: Aerial view of the deforestation of the Amazon: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo) ... Read more

05 Nov 2022

08 MINS

08:58

05 Nov 2022


#295

Can China’s GDP data be trusted?

This week, China released its third quarter GDP figure. At 3.9%, its rate of economic growth is better than many analysts expected, but still significantly short of the 5.5% target the Chinese government had set itself. There was an unprecedented delay in releasing this particular GDP stat - and that delay coincided with the 20th Chinese Communist Party congress. President Xi Jinping was reappointed for a historic third term at the twice-a-decade gathering. Some analysts found the delay suspicious. Did President Xi postpone the release of the GDP figures so it wouldn’t tarnish the congress? And can the figure of 3.9 per cent be trusted anyway? Paul Connolly investigates with the help of John Burn Murdoch, Chief Data Reporter at The Financial Times; Associate Professor of Government at Cornell, Jeremy Lee Wallace and Dr Linda Yueh, Oxford University economist and author. Presenter and Producer: Paul Connolly Editor: Simon Watts Programme Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Neva Missirian (Image: Chinese President Xi Jinping: Mark R Cristino/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock) ... Read more

29 Oct 2022

08 MINS

08:58

29 Oct 2022


#294

Do half of new books really sell fewer than twelve copies?

A US government lawyer recently caused a stir in the publishing world when he said during a high profile legal trial that half of all new trade titles – books aimed at a general audience - sell a dozen copies or less. Tim Harford investigates with the help of Kristen McLean from the NPD Books group. Presenter: Tim Harford Producers: Octavia Woodward, Jon Bithrey Editor: Emma Rippon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: Stack of books on display at the bookstore: bitterfly/Getty) ... Read more

22 Oct 2022

08 MINS

08:58

22 Oct 2022


#293

Ben Bernanke and the magic of banking

The former head of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke is named as one of three winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on how banking collapses were a major factor in the Great Depression of the 1930s. He shares the prize with two fellow US academics, Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig. Tim Harford discusses the significance of their work focusing on the role of banks and why their smooth functioning is so important to society. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Emma Rippon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke speaks after he was named among three U.S. economists awarded the 2022 Nobel Economics Prize, during a news conference at the Brookings Institution in Washington, U.S., October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno) ... Read more

15 Oct 2022

10 MINS

10:04

15 Oct 2022


#292

Catching Chess Cheats with Data

A cheating scandal is currently rocking the world of chess, as World Champion Magnus Carlsen accuses the young American Hans Niemann of cheating. A bombshell new report has said that Niemann is likely to have cheated in over 100 games online, and uses data to support its argument. So how is statistics being used to catch cheats in chess - and just how prevalent might cheating be at the highest levels of the game? David Edmonds finds out. Presenter: David Edmonds Producer: Nathan Gower Editor: Richard Vadon Programme Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Graham Puddifoot (Image: US international grandmaster Hans Niemann, St. Louis, Missouri, on October 6, 2022: Photo by Tim Vizer /AFP via Getty Images) ... Read more

08 Oct 2022

08 MINS

08:59

08 Oct 2022


#291

Teens and antidepressants, stamp duty savings and earthquake probabilities

A survey from a mental health charity suggested that more than a third of British teenagers had been prescribed antidepressants. We debunk the figure. Also we investigate a tweet from the UK Treasury about how much homebuyers will save in stamp duty. Plus how Mexico has been hit by earthquakes three times on the same day of the year - what are the chances? And how incorrect figures from the government have given a false picture of the number of cars on Britain’s minor roads. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard ... Read more

07 Oct 2022

28 MINS

28:28

07 Oct 2022


#290

NASA’s asteroid collision: how many asteroids are really out there?

This week NASA slammed a spacecraft into an asteroid in the hope of diverting its course. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART mission will help scientists understand how easy it would be protect Earth if one was headed in our direction. More Or Less first discussed this in 2016 with a little help from the movie Armageddon – with listeners getting in touch once again we ask how many asteroids are really out there and how dangerous they might be to Earth. Presenters: Charlotte McDonald and Simon Maybin Producer: Charlotte McDonald Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard (Image: 3D rendering of a swarm of Meteorites or asteroids entering the Earth atmosphere: ratpack223/ Getty) ... Read more

01 Oct 2022

09 MINS

09:36

01 Oct 2022


#289

Falling pound, the Queen’s funeral and is 0.5 on the Richter scale a big number?

The value of the pound against other currencies has been incredibly volatile ever since the Chancellor’s ‘mini-budget’. We ask how much we should worry and look at how much taxes will really fall. Also did 4.1 billion people really watch the Queen’s funeral? Gas prices are falling – so why aren’t energy bills? There are early signs that new covid variants could cause another spike in cases over the winter. And with the government lifting a moratorium on fracking, we ask how seismic a number the current limit of 0.5 on the Richter scale actually is. Presenter: Tim Harford Series Producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: James Beard ... Read more

28 Sep 2022

29 MINS

29:10

28 Sep 2022


#288

Ukraine’s progress in numbers

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from and what they mean. Plus with Norway supplanting Russia to become Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas, we ask how much money the country is making from the increased demand and higher prices. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Neil Churchill ... Read more

24 Sep 2022

10 MINS

10:19

24 Sep 2022


#287

Ukraine offensive, weak pound & how much do women really exercise

Ukraine has reportedly recaptured nearly 10,000 square kilometres of territory that had been occupied by Russia. We ask where the numbers come from, what they mean and why everyone is comparing them to the size of Greater London. We ask how much money Norway is making out of the current energy crisis. Also why is the pound so weak against the dollar, some odd claims about women and exercise and does it really take 20,000 uses for an organic cotton bag to become more environmentally friendly than a plastic bag? Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Charlotte McDonald, Nathan Gower Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon ... Read more

22 Sep 2022

28 MINS

28:43

22 Sep 2022


#286

How bad is fashion for the environment?

Is fashion really the second most polluting industry after oil and does it account for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions? Sustainable fashion journalist Alden Wicker does some fashion fact checking with Adam Fleming, presenter of BBC podcast and Radio 4 programme Antisocial. And reporter Charlotte McDonald revisits a claim made in an edition of More or Less last month about the effectiveness of using condoms as a form of contraception. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar (Image: Models display outfits / BBC images/Susana Vera/Reuters) ... Read more

17 Sep 2022

08 MINS

08:58

17 Sep 2022


#285

Energy crisis plan, imperial measures survey, gardens v national parks

One of Liz Truss's first acts as Prime Minister was to announce a giant plan to protect domestic energy users from huge rises in wholesale gas and electricity costs, meaning a typical household will pay about £1000 less than otherwise would have been the case. We ask how much the Energy Price Guarantee will cost the government and also explain what a “typical” household really is. A consultation has opened into whether we’d like more of our goods and services priced in imperial measures – but some listeners are suggesting a survey on the issue is biased against metric. And we examine a claim made on the BBC’s Springwatch programme that all of the gardens in Newcastle are bigger than the combined size of our national parks. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon ... Read more

14 Sep 2022

28 MINS

28:53

14 Sep 2022


#284

Is a third of Pakistan really under water?

Pakistan is battling a huge natural disaster as a result of heavy monsoon rains. It’s been widely reported that a third of the country is under water. But can that really be the case? Featuring the BBC’s correspondent in Pakistan Pumza Fihlani and Dr Simon Cook, a senior lecturer in Environmental Science at the University of Dundee. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Editor: Richard Vadon Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Sound Engineers: Graham Puddifoot & James Beard (Image: aerial photograph of flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan province. Credit: Getty/Fida Hussain) ... Read more

10 Sep 2022

08 MINS

08:58

10 Sep 2022


#283

Pakistan flooding, UK power prices and Boris’s broadband claim

Devastating floods have wreaked havoc across Pakistan after the heaviest monsoon rains in at least a decade. But is a third of the country really under water, as has been claimed? Also why do electricity prices in the UK rise in line with gas prices when we get so much of our power from other sources like nuclear, wind and solar? As criminal barristers go on strike in England and Wales, we ask if those starting in the profession really earn £12,200 a year. And as Boris Johnson waves goodbye to Downing Street, we investigate his claim that 70% of the UK now has access to gigabit broadband. Presenter: Tim Harford Series producer: Jon Bithrey Reporters: Nathan Gower, Charlotte McDonald Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon ... Read more

07 Sep 2022

28 MINS

28:38

07 Sep 2022


#282

Can we use maths to beat the robots?

Daily advances in the technology of artificial intelligence may leave humans playing catch-up – but in at least one area we can still retain an edge, mathematics. However it’ll require changes in how we think about and teach maths and we may still have to leave the simple adding up to the computers. Junaid Mubeen, author of Mathematical Intelligence, tells Tim Harford what it’ll take to stay ahead of the machines. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jon Bithrey Sound Engineer: Rod Farquhar Production Coordinator: Jacqui Johnson Editor: Richard Vadon (Image: Digital generated image of artificial intelligence robot scanning the data: Getty / Andriy Onufriyenko) ... Read more

03 Sep 2022

08 MINS

08:58

03 Sep 2022


#281

Energy prices, excess deaths and the race to count to 200

With energy prices in the UK spiralling, Tim Harford asks whether there is an easy and realistic way for bills to be cut. Also the number of excess deaths in the UK is rising – we’ll hear how much covid is still to blame. We return to the subject of counting in twenties, this time hearing how the Welsh language mixes traditional and decimal systems. And we debunk some spurious social media claims around Liverpool players and asthma medication. ... Read more

31 Aug 2022

28 MINS

28:57

31 Aug 2022