More Or Less

Andrew Dilnot presents the magazine which reports on the ways we use numbers, statistics, measurement and quantification of every kind, in the news, in politics and in life.

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Episodes

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Featuring the man who can walk only by counting and the art of being statistically slippery.

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0201Revealing Numbers In The Nhs20021112

This edition asks what NHS performance statistics really tell us - and more importantly, what they fail to tell us.

0202The Complexity Of Call Charges20021119

Andrew Dilnot presents the magazine which looks at numbers.

This edition includes an interview with Mervyn King, tipped to be the next Governor of the Bank of England.

0203Quantifying Economic Success20021126

Andrew Dilnot presents the magazine which looks at numbers.

0204Making Sense Of Millions20021203
0205Numbers In The Dock20021210
0206 LASTSchool League Tables20021217
0301Measuring Behaviour20030218

As anti-war protestors marched in London, More or Less asked who's counting, and how?

0302The Perception Of Risk20030225

More or Less asks how well does news of danger measure up to the facts.

Also in the programme, the test which attempts to screen children for "number blindness".

0303Testing Toxicity20030304

More or Less finds out how we measure the toxicity of substances.

Also in the programme, is there any logic behind the way buses are numbered?

0304Good Business20030311

More or Less asks what makes a good company.

How do you measure how nice a business is? And did the language of maths hijack science?

0305Singular Statistics20030318

More or Less asks where are all the men? What is the statistical evidence for the Bridget Jones syndrome - single career women finding it hard to meet a man.

0306Pensioner Poverty20030325

More or Less asks is pensioner poverty the measure of a pension crisis.

And we find out how a pack of cards can make sense of the laws of probability.

0401Measuring Illness20030612

More or Less examines what the thermometer doesn't tell you.

Why does the threat of illness, including Sars, have at its heart arguments about measurement?

0402Many More Fish In The Sea?20030619

There has been a collapse of fish stocks in the north sea.

But who's counting? And how? Plus, do we routinely misuse cancer statistics?

0403Taxing Issues20030626

The debate about income tax rises misses the critical numbers.

When it comes to earnings, where is the middle? And see how your pay compares.

Plus, we looked at gambling and round numbers.

0404Is God A Mathematician?20030703

More or Less looks for the numbers in nature.

There are some who argue maths can explain complexity in nature better than evolution.

Plus, how reliable is DNA testing?

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Andrew Dilnot presents the series that explores numbers and their place in the world around us.

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Among the questions for this week's programme: why might a surfeit of overdue babies be all in the counting?

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Among the questions for this week's programme: what have the government's attempts to improve performance in the public sector got to do with the collapse of the Soviet economy.

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0504Speed Cameras2004012920040205

Andrew Dilnot looks at the numbers behind the news, and figures out which stories do and don't add up.

0505The Divided Kingdom?2004020520040212

Andrew Dilnot asks whether the gap between Britain's richest and poorest neighbourhoods is any narrower under New Labour than it was under Margaret Thatcher

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Andrew Dilnot presents the essential guide to numbers, risk, league tables, targets, budgets, you name it; measurement and quantification of every kind in the news, our personal lives and elsewhere.

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Andrew Dilnot presents the essential guide to numbers, risk, league tables, targets, budgets, you name it; measurement and quantification of every kind in our personal lives and elsewhere.

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Andrew Dilnot presents the essential guide to numbers, risk, league tables, targets, budgets, you name it; quantification of every kind in the news, in our personal lives and elsewhere.

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Andrew Dilnot reports on all the ways we use numbers, STATISTICS, measurement and quantification of every kind, in the NEWS, in politics, in life.

Includes reports on how we get the reams of data so often quoted when "a survey has shown...".

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Andrew Dilnot presents the essential guide to numbers, risk, league tables, targets, budgets, you name it; measurement and quantification of every kind in the NEWS, in politics and in life.

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Andrew Dilnot presents the essential guide to numbers, risk, league tables, targets, budgets, you name it: measurement and quantification of every kind in the news, in politics and in life.

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Andrew Dilnot presents the essential guide to numbers, risk, league tables, targets, budgets, you name it; measurement and quantification of every kind in the news, in politics and in life.

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Andrew Dilnot is the man with all the most vital statistics as the numbers magazine investigates subjects that range from medicine to the climate, or from speed cameras to plane crashes.

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The programme that makes sense of numerical nonsense, guiding us through the numbers and statistics in the news and in life, showing where numbers have the power to explain as well as to deceive.

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Andrew Dilnot is the man with all the most vital statistics as the numbers magazine investigates subjects that could range from medicine to the climate, or speed cameras to plane crashes.

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Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

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130420071119

4/8.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

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6/8.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

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7/8.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

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Tim Harford explores the pseudoscience behind best-selling business success books.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere and explores the pseudoscience behind some of the world's best-selling business success books.

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Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

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Tim Harford is joined by former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and comedian Dave Gorman.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

He is joined by two guests who share his love of numbers, former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and comedian Dave Gorman.

Tim Harford is joined by two guests who share his love of numbers, former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and comedian Dave Gorman

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Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

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Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

He investigates the link between cancer and drinking, tests Charles Clarke's maths and finds out why drowning cats can help explain the credit crunch.

Tim Harford investigates the link between cancer and drinking.

We investigate the numbers behind the drug legalisation debate, test a former Home Secretary's maths and find out why drowning cats can help explain the credit crunch.

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Tim Harford takes apart a rogue statistic on domestic violence which has been circulating since the 1990s, questions news reports which suggest that the recession is hitting white collar workers hardest and reveals a new mathematical riddle - the Kate Bush conjecture.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford challenges a much-quoted statistic on domestic violence.

1606 LAST* *2009052220090524

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

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Tim Harford investigates statistics which some claim reveal the 'Islamification' of Europe and checks whether the Home Office has been doing its sums properly.

Do its claims about the DNA Database really add up?

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford investigates statistics which some claim reveal the 'Islamification' of Europe

1702* *2009081420090816

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

1703* *2009082120090823

Tim Harford and the team test the reliability of swine flu data and speak to one of the creators of the 'financial weapons of mass destruction' which, two years ago, led to the credit crisis.

An Open University co-production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford and the team test the reliability of swine flu data.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

1704* *2009082820090830

Tim Harford and the More or Less team examine more numbers in the news, including whether Britain's record on prosecuting rape is as bad as headlines suggest.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Is Britain's record on prosecuting rape is as bad as headlines suggest?

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

1705* *2009090420090906

Tim Harford and the More or Less team investigate widely-reported estimates of the number of people who illegally share files on the internet, and examine the abuse of maths by the public relations industry.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Investigating estimates of the number of people who illegally share files on the internet.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

1706 LAST* *2009091120090913

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere.

Tim Harford and the More or Less team examine reports that the world will cool over the next two decades, before global warming resumes.

They also examine a claim that beautiful people have more daughters, and use maths to decode a Beatles musical mystery.

Tim Harford examines reports that the world will cool over the next two decades.

1801* *2009121120091213

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers in the news.

Tim Harford and the More or Less team ask if claims made about energy efficient lightbulbs are true and if economies can grow forever.

And they meet one of their greatest heroes: Sesame Street's Count von Count.

Tim Harford and the team ask if claims made about energy efficient lightbulbs are true.

1802* *2009121820091220

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers in the news.

18042010010820100110

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers in the news.

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Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers everywhere, in the news, in politics and in life.

An Open University co production for BBC Radio 4.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which looks at numbers in the news.

Tim Harford and the team ask if the electoral system is biased in favour of Labour.

Tim Harford and the team ask if the electoral system is biased in favour of Labour, as some Conservatives claim, and why Wales is so frequently used as a unit of measurement.

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Tim Harford and the team return with the first in a new series of More or Less, looking at the maths of voting and whether the outcome of the fairest democratic model of them all - the Eurovision Song Contest - can be forecasted.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which explains the numbers behind the news.

Tim Harford and the team return with the first in a new series of More or Less, explaining numbers in the news, looking out for misused statistics and using maths to explore the world around us.

19022010052820100530

Which would win in a fight - a shark or a toaster? Tim Harford finds out in this week's More or Less.

The team also investigate whether Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios (or HSMRs) - expected deaths to observed deaths - can be unhelpful, ask who stands to lose from the scrapping of Child Trust Funds and remember the great mathematician, Martin Gardner.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which explains the numbers behind the news.

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Tim Harford and the More or Less team explain numbers in the news, look out for misused statistics and use maths to explore the world around us.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which explains the numbers behind the news.

1906 LAST2010062520100627

Tim Harford and the More or Less team tackle the budget, drink-driving statistics, the maths of public toilet equality and they reveal the surprising results of their 'what are you doing right now' data-gathering exercise.

Tim Harford and the More or Less team explain the numbers behind the news.

Tim Harford and the More or Less team explain numbers in the news, look out for misused statistics and use maths to explore the world around us.

Tim Harford presents the magazine which explains the numbers behind the news.

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Tim Harford presents the magazine which explains the numbers behind the news.

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Magazine show investigating the ways we use numbers, statistics and measurements.

In this week's programme:

The Chancellor recently said that while he would continue to protect deserving benefit claimants, people who claimed benefits "as a lifestyle choice" would have to stop because the money would no longer be there.

What does the evidence tell us about how many people fall into that category - and how incentives work in the welfare system?

After spotting a new unit of measurement - the Prime Minister's salary (£142,500) - we create our Prime Minister Index, allowing us to calculate any individual's place on the index (or, as we like to say, work out their PMI).

The median salary in Britain is £25,800, so that's a PMI of 0.2, for example.

If you jump to a PMI of 10,000, you get to the hedge fund manager John Paulson on £1.4 billion.

Last week the British Trust for Ornithology published the results of its 40th annual garden bird-feeding survey - revealing huge falls in the numbers of some species.

Blue tits down 42% over 40 years.

House sparrows down 70%.

Song thrushes down 75%.

Are cats to blame?

Last week we were examined how to adjust for age and sex to create a level playing field for two runners - a 28-year-old woman, and a 52-year-old man.

Our very own 28-year-old woman and 52-year-old man entered the Great North Run half marathon to test our calculations.

This week, we bring you the results.

This week: welfare numbers, pay revisited and how many birds do cats kill?

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Tim Harford and the More or Less team examine the micromort measure of risk and official statistics on sexual identity.

We examine official statistics on sexual identity and the micromort measure of risk.

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Tim Harford and the team look behind the numbers in the news.

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Tim Harford narrates "A More or Less Christmas Carol" in which Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of banking past, present and future.

Featuring interviews with: Andrew Haldane from the Bank of England; Simon Johnson, the former chief economist of the IMF; Gillian Tett, the author of Fool's Gold; the economist John Kay; the philosopher and consultant Jamie Whyte; and Angela Knight from the British Bankers' Association.

Starring the cast of the Giant Olive Theatre Company (and Robert Peston).

Tim Harford narrates 'A More or Less Christmas Carol'.

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Tim Harford and the More or Less team explore 2010 in numbers.

Contributors include Ben Goldcare, Robert Peston, the National Statistician and the Swedish statistical guru Hans Rosling.

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Tim Harford and the More or Less team look at tax, train fares and the truth about psychic animals.

Tim Harford looks at tax, train fares and the truth about psychic animals.

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Tim Harford is back with a new series of More or Less, and the numbers behind the news.

Tim Harford returns with a new series, explaining the numbers behind the news.

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Investigating the numbers in the news.

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In the last series we looked at what changes to the tuition fee system will cost students.

In this programme we examine the other side of the equation: how much will the changes cost the taxpayer? Could the Government be on the hook for more than it thinks?

The US Supreme Court recently issued a judgement on what might seem an unlikely subject: the uses and abuses of statistical significance testing.

We explain why it matters.

It seems not a week goes by without a politician claiming to be progressive - or claiming that the other guy to be regressive.

Everyone seems to assume that progressivity in the tax system is self-evidently a good thing.

But is that always true?

This week we were told that inflation has fallen by all measures but with the biggest drop shown in the Consumer Prices Index.

What exactly is the difference between CPI and RPI? It's not - as most journalists report - all about housing costs.

Producer: Richard Knight.

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In More or Less this week: Salt, 'zero tolerance' policing and how to predict the adult height of growing children.

Salt, 'zero tolerance' policing, and how to predict the adult height of growing children.

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In More or Less this week:

Scottish independence

Listeners have already been in touch with us asking for clarification on the various claims made about the economic viability of an independent Scotland with the prospect of a referendum in the next five years.

Is Scotland subsidised by the rest of the UK or does it more than pay its way through North Sea oil revenues? And what would have happened if an independent Scotland had to bail out RBS and HBOS?

Mobile phones and cancer

There have been some scary headlines about mobile phones and links to brain cancer recently after the WHO classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

But did all the press coverage get this right? Professor Kevin McConway from the Open University explains what this development really means.

Is Tendulkar the greatest sportsman alive?

It's a question that often prompts heated discussion but can maths help us arrive at a more definitive answer? Writer Rob Eastaway makes the case for Indian cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar.

Producer: Phil Kemp.

Scottish independence, mobile phones and cancer; and is Tendulkar the greatest sportsman?

Investigating the numbers in the news.

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In More or Less this week:

Debt: A European Odyssey

On More or Less we're always looking for the perfect analogy to help clarify complicated things.

And the European debt crisis is pretty complicated.

The good news is that we think we've come up with exactly the right way to describe the whole sorry business - as Homer's Odyssey.

Alternative medicine and the placebo effect

Earlier in the summer a study was published which seemed to suggest that acupuncture might help some patients with unexplained symptoms.

Interesting.

We asked Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP and a blogger on medical evidence, to investigate.

But Dr McCartney thinks the study tells us about more than just acupuncture - it tells us something about the whole way in which treatments are administered on the NHS.

Asking the right questions

This summer, the Office for National Statistics celebrates seventy years of its social surveys.

We've been looking back at their work, some of which is a little surprising.

In November 1941 the Wartime Social Survey Unit undertook a major study of women's undergarments.

The reason? Steel.

Britain needed to know how much metal was being used to support the country's women, rather than the war effort.

Producer: Richard Knight.

Euro debt odyssey, the placebo effect and 70 years of social surveys.

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Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.

The National Literacy Trust said this week that one in three children does not own a book.

The national media lamented, but we take a closer inspection of the report and the data collected, and find some better news.

Supermarket price wars:

Tim Harford and Anthony Reuben work out how all supermarkets can claim to be cheaper than each other, without being slapped down for false advertising.

Eurostats II:

We continue to scrutinise the enormous numbers emerging from the Eurozone crisis.

Do Italian tax payers really pay 2 billion euros a year for their politicians to be chauffered around? Wesley Stephenson checks out the figures.

Amazing?

What are the odds of breaking four double-yolk eggs into your baking bowl, one after another? That's what happened to our colleague Jennifer Clarke and her friend Lynsey as they prepared profiteroles at the weekend.

Tim Harford works out the probabilities for the amazed bakers...before Jennifer then breaks the remaining two eggs in the box...will they too be double yolkers?

Producer: Ruth Alexander

Editor: Richard Vadon.

The maths of supermarket price wars and odds of cracking six double-yoke eggs in a row.

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Higgs Boson:

In the week that scientists at the Large Hadron Collider announced that the most coveted prize in particle physics - the Higgs boson - may have been found, Tim Harford hears how everyone is getting confused about how to report statistical significance.

Robert Matthew of Aston University says the meaning of 2, 3 and 5-sigma evidence is being misinterpreted by science journalists and some of the physicists themselves.

Medieval mathematics:

Tim Harford talks to author Keith Devlin about how Fibonacci revolutionised trade by introducing medieval businessmen to simple arithmetic.

How (not) to corner a market:

Performance artist Jamie Moakes is trying to corner the market in a 1980s plastic doll from cartoon series He- Man.

Tim Harford explores the difficulties of Jamie's quest to push up the price of something that for many years no one has much wanted.

He hears from Professor Eric Smith of the University of Essex who says that there is no saying why certain items gain value, although in this instance Jamie may struggle to achieve his goal.

He also hears lessons from history from John Gapper of the Financial Times.

Producer: Ruth Alexander

More or Less is made in association with the Open University.

Higgs boson statistics; how to corner a market; and Fibonacci's medieval mathematics.

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Tim Harford asks what we do and don't know about income inequality in the UK, the US, and other countries around the world. He speaks to Professor Sir Tony Atkinson of Oxford University; Stewart Lansley, author of 'The Cost of Inequality'; and Professor Donald Boudreaux of George Mason University in Virginia.

Laughing in the face of risk:

David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University explains what led him to take on what could be his riskiest venture to date - appearing as a contestant on BBC One's Winter Wipeout. Really.

The magic of maths:

As a special Christmas treat, we're honoured to have a guest appearance from a top professor of maths and statistics - described by magician (and loyal listener) Paul Daniels as a 'legend'. Persi Diaconis, of Stanford University in California and co-author of "Magical Mathematics", has an enthralling story to tell of how he discovered magic as a boy, and then, as a consequence, a love of maths. And to illustrate how closely maths and magic are linked, Crossing Continents editor and the BBC's in-house magician, Hugh Levinson, performs a mathemagical card trick - see the performance below.

Producer: Ruth Alexander.

Tim Harford discusses income inequality and meets the professor appearing on TV's Wipeout.

Tim Harford investigates the numbers in the news.

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A guide to interesting, informative or just plain idiosyncratic numbers of the year. Plus, does probability really exist?

Contributors: David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University; Owen Spottiswoode, Fullfact.org; Tracey Brown from Sense about Science; Jil Matheson, UK Statistics Authority; George Monbiot; Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust; Money Box presenter Paul Lewis; Sports Statistician, Robert Mastrodomenico; Dr Linda Yeuh Economics Correspondent at Bloomberg; Stand up Mathematician Matt Parker.

A guide to interesting, informative or just plain idiosyncratic numbers of the year.

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With Tim Harford. Rain and drought in numbers, the formula that changed Wall Street and then the world, and why Conservative MPs used to be taller than their Labour counterparts.

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With Tim Harford. Austerity, border queues and bank holidays.

A grand economic experiment?

Are we witnessing a Grand Economic Experiment being played out between Britain, trying to cut its way out of trouble, and the United States, trying to spend its way to redemption?

Border brouhaha

Just how long have travellers been waiting to get through immigration at Heathrow Airport? We wade into a statistical slanging match between an airline operator and a Home Office minister.

Bank holidays

What are you planning to do with the bank holiday? Paint the bathroom? Listen to old podcasts of More or Less? Or DESTROY THE ECONOMY? Could it possibly be true that cancelling all eight regular bank holidays in England and Wales would boost GDP by 1.3%?

Choral coincidence

Lister Julia Atkins wrote: "I belong to a wonderful choir, Rock Chorus, in Milton Keynes. I discovered one evening that 3 new ladies had come along from Olney, 10 miles away. They all sat next to each other. They had never met before. But most extraordinary was that they all lived in the same road!! That's quite a combination of coincidences, I think you'll agree." Well, we'll see.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

Lister Julia Atkins wrote: "I belong to a wonderful choir, Rock Chorus, in Milton Keynes. I discovered one evening that 3 new ladies had come along from Olney, 10 miles away. They all sat next to each other. They had never met before. But most extraordinary was that they all lived in the same road!! That's quite a combination of coincidences, I think you'll agree." Well, we'll see.

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2506 LASTWould Firing Staff At Will Boost The Economy?2012052520120527

In this week's programme:

Fire "at will"?

The Beecroft Report has been stirring up controversy all week. But is there any evidence that the economy would be boosted if employers could fire their staff "at will", as Adrian Beecroft recommends? Professor John Van Reenan - director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics - can't find much.

Hard-working Greeks

One version of the Euro crisis story has it that hard-working Germans are bailing out lazy Greeks. But in fact Greek workers put in far longer hours than their German counterparts.

The maths of infidelity

It's a very commonly-held belief that men are less faithful than women. But it takes two to tango. So can this be mathematically possible?

Publication bias

If we on More or Less were only to report statistical errors, and never statistical triumphs, you could be forgiven for concluding that the world is full of numerical lies. That's "publication bias" - and it's a big problem in science, as Ben Goldacre explains.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

Investigating the numbers in the news.

2601Who Are The Libor Losers?2012071320120715

How much damage did messing with Libor really do to the financial system? Plus, investigating the claim made by a leading charity that a million British children are 'starving'.

In this week's programme:

Libor losers

How much damage did messing with Libor really do to the financial system? After all, most financial trades are two way bets - and for every winner, there is a loser. Did the banks really pick our pockets as they manipulated Libor? Or were they just picking each others'?

A million starving children?

We investigate the claim made by a leading charity that a million British children are "starving".

Challenge Yan

Yan Wong from "Bang Goes the Theory" offers to answer any question More or Less listeners can throw at him.

Crunching the census

Late last March, you may remember filling in a form for the 2011 census. Whatever happened to that? Well, the first results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland are coming out next week. We find out what we'll be finding out.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

2602The Tour De France And The Statistics Of Cheating2012072020120722

Can maths prove whether the Tour de France has successfully clamped down on the use of performance-enhancing drugs? Also retirement and death, obesity stats and a deficit update.

Has the Tour cleaned up?

The Tour de France reaches its climax this week. Cycling, we are told, has finally cleaned up its act and clamped down on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But if it has, should we expect today's drug-free riders to be slower than their drug-fuelled forebears? Can statistics tell us whether the Tour de France really is cleaner than it was?

Will 90% of us be too fat by 2050?

Should companies such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola sponsor the Olympics? Well, who knows? But amid the arguments about the rights and wrongs of promoting burgers and fizzy drinks through sport, some suspicious obesity statistics have been belched into the debate.

Deficit update

Over the last few weeks government ministers have been repeatedly telling us that they have cut the deficit by a quarter. The government would like us to feel cheerful about this. But how impressed should we be?

Does when you retire influence when you die?

Every now and again on More or Less we investigate a statistical claim which is repeated again and again by people who can't quite remember where they heard it, but believe it to be true. Here's one: the earlier you retire, the longer you live. Is it true?

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

Can maths prove whether the Tour de France has successfully clamped down on drugs?

2603Levelling The Playing Field2012072720120729

Which countries punch above and below their weight at the Olympics? With Tim Harford.

Levelling the statistical playing field

If you adjust for the fact that some countries are richer than others, and some have more people in them, can we work out what the Olympic medal tally should look like, based only on those factors?

Gun control

Last week's mass-shooting at a cinema in Colorado has - not surprisingly - intensified America's bitter and long-running argument with itself about gun control. The argument is political and highly partisan. But it is also practical: would tighter gun laws actually lead to fewer gun deaths? You might think it's obvious that they would. But it seems the evidence isn't quite that clear.

Tax

The treasury minister David Gauke came in for some stick this week for arguing that people who pay plumbers and cleaners cash-in-hand, while not breaking the law, are immoral. Several commentators have argued that the problem is small beer compared to the huge amounts sheltered from the taxman by large companies and rich individuals. Are they right?

Leaders' mums

Listener Mike Shearing wrote to us after noticing that the mums of post-war US presidents seem to have died very late, while British prime ministerial mothers seem to die young. Had he - he asked - found something of significance? He certainly had.

How has Britain changed since 1908?

A new book by researchers at the House of Commons Library charts in numbers how Britain has changed since it hosted the 1908 Olympics. Their findings may surprise you.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

2604How Extraordinary Is Ye Shiwen?2012080320120805

Ye Shiwen's statistics, what's happening to homelessness, and TV's murder capital.

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.

Homelessness

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.

2605How To Lose Money, Fast2012081020120812

High-frequency trading, Trumptonomics and more medalling with the Olympics.

In this week's programme:

High frequency trading

Last week Knight Capital lost a lot of money very quickly. It was the latest chapter in the story of something called 'high frequency trading'. Investors have always valued being the first with the news. But high frequency trading is different: algorithms execute automatic trades, conducted by computers, at astonishing speeds. We ask: is the rapid growth of high frequency trading progress, or - as some think - a threat to the stability of the entire financial system?

Medalling with the Olympics

While the Olympic medal table puts all UK successes together, some people have been tempted to peer under the surface. Scotland has been pronounced superior to England per head of population, while Yorkshire has been hailed as the number one county, beating Australia in the medals table. We check the sums.

Trumptonomics

A year after Trumptonshire's Treasurer (Con. T Harford) embarked on a round of public spending cuts which included sacking Fireman Dibble, we return to Trumpton to find out what happened next to the county's economy - and to poor old Dibble.

The geeks are coming

Mark Henderson discusses his new book, The Geek Manifesto, which argues for more scientific thinking in public life.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

2606 LASTThe Great Playing Field Sell Off?2012081720120819

How many school playing fields have really been sold off? Presented by Tim Harford.

Playing the fields

The Olympics were supposed to inspire a generation to take up sport. No wonder, then, that people are depressed about the government's record of selling off playing fields. But what do the numbers really tell us?

RIP RPI?

We explain why a weird flaw in the way the retail price index (a key inflation measure) is calculated is dry and technical - but far more important than you might think.

David's line

Our final listener question for TV's Yan Wong: If Solomon - son of King David - had about a thousand wives and concubines, as the Bible says, wouldn't it be the case that by the time of Jesus - many generations later - pretty much everyone in Israel could claim to be a descendant of King David?

20mph roads

It was reported recently that the number of people killed or injured on 20mph roads has risen by nearly a quarter. Does that mean 20mph roads are less safe than we thought? Or is there another explanation?

Thinking in Numbers

On More or Less we think numbers help us to understand the world. But for Daniel Tammet, they're a lot more important than that. For him, numbers don't just help him to understand the real world. They're his ticket to being a part of it. We've been talking to Daniel - a mathematical savant - about his new book, "Thinking in Numbers".

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Richard Knight.

2701Ash Dieback And Fergie-time2012112320121125

Ash Dieback. Did the disease really kill 90 percent of ash trees in Denmark? Is this really a good comparator for the UK and have 100,000 trees really been 'felled' in the UK?

Fiscal Multipliers. The International Monetary Fund has admitted that it got its fiscal multipliers wrong when forecasting growth. This could have huge consequences in assessing whether or not austerity at a time of deep recession is the right way forward. But what does this mean for the Treasurer of Trumpton Tim Harford after he sacked Dibble the fireman last year as part of his cutbacks.

Cod - we show how wrong the headline 'There are only 100 cod left in the North Sea' actually is.

Fergie-time. Does Fergie-time exist? Do Manchester United get more injury time than other top teams when they're drawing or behind?

2702The Art Of Polling, Kevin Pietersen, Stacking Lego20121130

Tim Harford looks at opinion polling, the consistency of Kevin Pietersen's batting, and how high you can stack Lego bricks.

On More or Less this week Tim Harford looks at three polls carried out to gauge the public's opinion on press regulation gave vastly different answers despite being carried out by the same polling company. Tim talks to the Peter Kellner, President of online polling company YouGov.

Would you send Kevin Pietersen out to bat if your life depended on him scoring a century?

Have two thirds of millionaires really left the country as claimed by the Daily Telegraph this week?

What percentage of drinks might be affected by the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.

And how high could you build a Lego tower before the bottom brick collapses? Ruth Alexander dons her safety goggles to find out?

27032012120720121209

Tim Harford asks what severe morning sickness tells us about the chances of having twins, and looks at the Chancellor's Autumn Statement to find the bigger picture of the economy.

2704The Census And What Is - Rare2012121420121216

Tim Harford looks at why the estimate for Eastern Europeans coming to the UK was so wrong and asks, what does 'rare' mean?

2705Fact-checking Us Gun Crime Statistics2012122120121223

Tim Harford investigates gun crime statistics in the US. Plus, questioning the average age of first-time buyers, whether chocolate makes you clever and the maths of juggling.

2706Numbers Of 20122012122820121230

Tim Harford and guests look back at the most surprising statistics of 2012.

A guide to 2012 in numbers - the most informative, interesting and idiosyncratic statistics of the year discussed by More or Less interviewees.

Contributors: Robert Peston, BBC's Business Editor; Dr Pippa Wells, physicist at CERN; Bill Edgar, author of Back of the Net One Hundred Golden Goals; Gabriella Lebrecht, sports analyst at Decision Technology; Helen Joyce, Brazil correspondent for The Economist; Jack Straw, Member of Parliament for Blackburn; Jil Matheson, the UK's National Statistician; Dr James Grime, from the Millennium Mathematics Project at the University of Cambridge; Gillian Tett, columnist and assistant editor of the Financial Times; David Spiegelhalter, Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University

Presenter: Tim Harford.

Producer: Charlotte Pritchard.