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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

The numbers behind Squid Game

Netflix has announced that South Korean survival drama Squid Game is its most popular series ever. We scrutinise the statistics behind the claim, and look at the odds of surviving one of the show’s deadly contests. ... Read more

24 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:58

24 Oct 2021


#299

The prize-winning economics of migration and the minimum wage

Do immigrants drive down wages, do minimum wage increases reduce job opportunities, and do people who did well in school earn more money? These are questions that the winners of the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics looked to the world around them for answers to. David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens developed ways of interpreting what they saw that changed the way economists think about what they see. In this episode of More or Less, presenter-turned-guest Tim Harford explains how. (Image: Mariel boat lift, which brought over 100,000 Cubans into the United States: Photo by Tim Chapman/Miami Herald) ... Read more

17 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:58

17 Oct 2021


#298

Bonus episode: the first ever More or Less

A chat with More or Less's founding producer and presenter plus the first episode in full. Tim talks to Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot about how More or Less came into being (after several rejections), whether politicians and journalists are more numerate now, and where the name come from. Then, the very first episode of More or Less, originally broadcast on Radio 4 on 13 November 2001. ... Read more

07 Oct 2021

36 MINS

36:27

07 Oct 2021


#297

Twenty years of More or Less

A look back at our origins, plus the usual mix of numerical nous and statistical savvy. It’s two decades since More or Less first beamed arithmetic into the unsuspecting ears of Radio 4 listeners. We revisit the show’s genesis with the original presenter and producer. Why are there two different figures about our vaccination rate doing the rounds and how does the UK now compare internationally? Plus listener questions on how the colour of your front door affects your house price, TVs on standby mode, and more. And we try to respond to a meteor storm of complaints about our earlier item asserting that Star Trek’s Mr Spock is in fact highly illogical. ... Read more

06 Oct 2021

27 MINS

27:50

06 Oct 2021


#296

The Gender Pay Gap

Tim Harford talks to Planet Money’s Stacey Vanek Smith about the gender pay gap in the US and the UK – and how Renaissance writer, Machiavelli might be an unlikely source of inspiration for women in the workplace. ... Read more

03 Oct 2021

08 MINS

08:58

03 Oct 2021


#295

Is it easy being green?

Is our electricity extra expensive and our insulation inadequate? And a tale of tumbling trees. Internet infographics suggest we’re paying way more for our energy than countries in the EU. Are they being interpreted correctly? And what part, if any, has Brexit had to play? Insulation Britain activists have been gluing themselves to motorway slip-roads to raise awareness about poor home insulation. Their website says we have the least energy efficient homes in Europe. What’s the evidence? Plus, what do the numbers tell us about migrants trying to cross the Channel in small boats? Are stereotypes about different generations backed up by the data? And is it or is it not true that the UK has lots of trees? ... Read more

29 Sep 2021

29 MINS

29:03

29 Sep 2021


#294

Covid trends, face mask use, and the universal credit cut

A coronavirus check-in, our daily mask use measured, and a minister's claim on the universal credit cut questioned. There was a time when the latest Covid statistics were headline news daily, but as the pandemic has stretched on into its second year and third wave people don't pay as much attention. But on More or Less we still keep an eye on them because that’s how we roll. A recent article estimated that 129 billion single-use face masks are used every day around the world. It sounds wrong, but how wrong is it? And how did it get so wrong? Making up the shortfall from the £20 weekly cut in the universal credit benefit means working an extra two hours a week - or an extra nine, depending on who you listen to. We run the numbers. Plus, has the number of periods women have in a lifetime increased fourfold? And how many holes does a drinking straw have? ... Read more

22 Sep 2021

27 MINS

27:33

22 Sep 2021


#293

How many holes are there in a drinking straw?

Tim Harford talks to Jordan Ellenberg, professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, about the pandemic, geometry and drinking straws. (multi-coloured straws/Getty images) ... Read more

19 Sep 2021

08 MINS

08:58

19 Sep 2021


#292

Death, Tax and Dishwashers

New data appears to show that double vaxxed people between 40 and 79 are getting Covid at higher rates than people who are unvaccinated, but that's not the case. It's all down to how Public Health England estimates the size of different populations. The Office for National Statistics described 2020 as "the deadliest year in a century". Now that we're more than two-thirds into 2021, we examine how this year is shaping up. We answer your questions on the new health and social care levy, and have words of congratulations and caution following Emma Raducanu's astonishing win in the US Open. Plus, where do you stand on in the dishwasher vs kitchen sink debate? GUESTS: Mathematician James Ward Adele Groyer of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group Helen Miller of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. ... Read more

15 Sep 2021

27 MINS

27:41

15 Sep 2021


#291

Vaccine waning, hot dogs and Afghanistan

Should we be worried that the protection against Covid-19 provided by the vaccines is going down? Could it really be the case that eating a hot dog takes 36 minutes from your life? The Bank of England holds 35% of Government debt. Who owns the other 65%? Has the UK spent more on Test and Trace than on its operations in Afghanistan? ... Read more

08 Sep 2021

27 MINS

27:56

08 Sep 2021


#290

The Bill for Afghanistan

American President Joe Biden has said the war in Afghanistan cost more than $2 trillion. Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic International Studies helps us unpick what’s included in this figure. ... Read more

04 Sep 2021

08 MINS

08:58

04 Sep 2021


#289

Covid, HGV driver shortages and protest costs

English Covid restrictions were lifted in July. Back then, some predicted that there could be as many as 6,000 hospital admissions a day by the following month. So, what happened? The Metropolitan Police says it’s spent £50 million on policing Extinction Rebellion since 2019. They’re on the streets again – can it really be that costly? The economics correspondent at The Economist Duncan Weldon puts government borrowing during the pandemic into context and talk about his new book, 200 Years of Muddling Through. Are we running out of lorry drivers? And to what extent is Brexit to blame? We look at the numbers behind a claim that there is a shortfall of 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK. Plus, disturbing evidence that Star Trek’s Mr Spock may actually be terrible at logic. ... Read more

01 Sep 2021

28 MINS

28:51

01 Sep 2021


#288

Reason, numbers and Mr Spock

Writer Julia Galef talks to Tim Harford about the role of numbers in helping us think more rationally, and what Star Trek’s Mr Spock can teach us about making predictions. Julia is author of The Scout Mindset, a book about how our attempts to be rational are often clouded or derailed by our human impulses, and the ways we can avoid these traps. Producer: Nathan Gower (Image: Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock. Credit: Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images) ... Read more

28 Aug 2021

08 MINS

08:58

28 Aug 2021


#287

The extraordinary life of Robert Moses

Dr Robert Moses, a pioneer in African-American civil rights and mathematics education has died at the age of 86. Charmaine Cozier looks at an extraordinary life, from the courthouses of 1960s Mississippi to the classrooms of modern public schools, and traces the philosophy and values that threaded their way through his life. Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producer: Nathan Gower Portrait of American Civil Rights activist Robert Parris Moses, New York, 1964. (Photo by Robert Elfstrom/Villon Films/Gety Images) ... Read more

21 Aug 2021

08 MINS

08:58

21 Aug 2021


#286

How good were the performances at the Tokyo Olympics?

A year later than planned, The Tokyo Olympics, have now finished. Thousands of athletes have competed in events that few thought might go ahead and there’s been record success. This week we take a look at Olympic numbers – how many records were broken in Tokyo, what factors might have influenced the races and what else can the data tell us? Tim Harford speaks to Dr Joel Mason, who runs the blog, Trackademic. Producer: Olivia Noon ... Read more

16 Aug 2021

08 MINS

08:57

16 Aug 2021


#285

Jab fears explained: a base rate fallacy

As some countries rapidly roll out vaccination programmes, there have been concerns that increases in infection rates amongst vaccinated groups mean vaccines are less effective than we hoped, especially in the face of the feared Delta variant. Epidemiologist Dr Katelyn Jetelina from the University of Texas Health Science Centre School of Public Health explains why this isn’t what the numbers show – rather than decreasing vaccine effectiveness, increasing rates can be explained by a statistical phenomenon known as ‘base rate fallacy’. Presenter: Charlotte McDonald Producer: Nathan Gower ... Read more

07 Aug 2021

08 MINS

08:58

07 Aug 2021


#284

Breaking Climate Records

June saw a brutal heatwave shatter a number of all-time temperature records in Canada and the Northwest of the USA. But when can we attribute new records to man-made climate change, rather than natural variation? Peter Stott, an expert in climate attribution at the UK’s Met Office, explains how climate change has dramatically increased the probability of seeing such extremes. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Nathan Gower ... Read more

31 Jul 2021

08 MINS

08:58

31 Jul 2021


#283

The Rise of Delta

The Delta Variant was first identified in India, fuelling a huge wave of cases and deaths. It is now spreading around the world, becoming the most dominant variant in many countries. This week we take a look at the numbers - where’s it spreading, how is this different to previous waves and what can be done to stop it? Tim Harford speaks to Professor Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College, London and John Burn-Murdoch, the chief data reporter at The Financial Times. ... Read more

24 Jul 2021

08 MINS

08:58

24 Jul 2021


#282

The Freedom Day Gamble

On the day the Government plans to drop the remaining Covid restirictions, Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to work out how long cases will continue to rise and whether we can be sure the link with deaths and hospitalisations has been broken. Is this “freedom day" or an unnecessary gamble with people’s lives? ... Read more

19 Jul 2021

28 MINS

28:44

19 Jul 2021


#281

Are there 40 million Nigerians on Twitter?

In recent months, Twitter has rarely been out of the headlines in Nigeria. After it deleted a tweet by the country’s president, the Nigerian government responded by banning it altogether. In the media coverage of the story it has been commonly claimed that Nigeria has 40 million Twitter users – but could this really be true? We spoke to Allwell Okpi of the fact-checking organisation AfricaCheck. Also, which places have the best full vaccination rates in the world? Turns out, its some of the smallest. We run through the top five. Producer: Nathan Gower ... Read more

10 Jul 2021

08 MINS

08:58

10 Jul 2021