More Or Less [world Service]

Episodes

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Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.

Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in polit.

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Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in polit.

Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Ruth Alexander explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Ruth Alexander explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

"samba, Strings And The Story Of Hiv"20170605

Can medical statistics be transformed into a jazzy night out?

Trumpets are blasting in this week’s musical episode. But can medical statistics be transformed into a jazzy night out? That was the challenge which epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani set for composer Tony Haynes. This June, his Grand Union Orchestra will be performing Song of Contagion, an evening of steel pans, saxophones and singers telling the story of diseases including Zika and AIDs.

We met Elizabeth and Tony in an East London music studio, to hear Song of Contagion come together for the very first time.

Producer: Hannah Sander

(Photo: Detail close up of French Horn musical instrument, part of the Brass family of instruments. Credit: Shutterstock)

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in polit...

Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.

03/02/2017 Gmt2017020320170206 (WS)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in polit.

10/02/2017 Gmt2017021020170213 (WS)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

100 Year Floods?2015121120151214 (WS)

Do so-called ‘100 year floods’ only happen once a century?

Do so-called ‘100 year floods’ only happen once a century? Ruth Alexander and Wesley Stephenson investigate.

Also, does the air in Beijing cause as much damage as smoking 40 cigarettes a day?

(Image: Flooding in Paris in 1910. Credit: Getty)

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford investigates explains the numbers and statistics used in political debate,.

Tim Harford investigates explains the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

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A Grand Economic Experiment?2012050520120506

European austerity versus US stimulus.

Are we witnessing a grand economic experiment being played out between Europe, trying to cut its way out of trouble, and the United States, trying to spend its way to redemption?

A Grand Economic Experiment?20120506

European austerity versus US stimulus.

€sympathy’ For Jihadis.2015112720151130 (WS)

Are claims that one in five British Muslims ‘sympathise with jihadis’ correct?

A front page article in a British tabloid claimed that one in five British Muslims have sympathy for jihadis. Ruth Alexander investigates whether this is correct, and asks which countries have the most support for Islamic State fighters.

(Image: A muslim demonstration against terrorism. Credit: Getty)

Alcohol And Cancer2014012520140126 (WS)
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Do two large glasses of wine triple your risk of mouth cancer, as claimed on a health leaflet spotted by a sceptical listener? Tim Harford examines the difficulties of extracting smoking from the equation.

Surprising as this may seem, one of the world's best tennis players of all time, Roger Federer, is also the worst ranked player on one scale. The scoring system makes it possible to lose a match despite winning more points, and Federer has lost the highest percentage of these types of games. Tim speaks to sports number-cruncher Ryan Rodenberg about why this might be the case.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Ruth Alexander

Do two large glasses of wine triple the risk of mouth cancer?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Algorithms, Crime And Punishment2016101420161017 (WS)

When maths can get you locked up.

A drive-by shooting in the US midwest has raised fundamental questions about how algorithms are being used in the country's criminal justice system. A defendant in the case was put behind bars after an algorithm used by the court calculated that he was at high risk of reoffending. The risk assessment algorithm crunches data about defendants' past criminal history and from their answers to a questionnaire to come up with the risk score. It's supposed to help make decisions less subjective, but one recent analysis found that the algorithm was biased against black people.

(Photo: A guard walking down a cell block. Credit: Getty Images)

An Urban Maze20170508

Why some parts of town are hard to navigate.

Antibiotics And The Problem Of The Broken Market2016022620160229 (WS)

The world needs new antibiotics so how do we entice big pharmaceuticals back in?

It is a life and death situation – the world is at its last line of defence against some pretty nasty bacteria and there are no new antibiotics. But it is not the science that’s the big problem, it is the economics. Despite the $40 billion market worldwide there is no money to be made in antibiotics so big pharmaceuticals have all but stopped their research. Why is this and how do we entice them back in? Wesley Stephenson finds out.

(Image: Computer artwork of bacteria. Credit: Science Photo Library)

Are African Football Players More Likely To Die On The Field?20170612

After the death of Cheick Tiote, are African footballers more prone to heart attacks?

Cheick Tiote, the much loved former Newcastle United player collapsed and died while training with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises earlier this month. His death and that of other black footballers have caused some commentators to ask – are African or black players more likely to die while playing than other people?

The data of footballers deaths is pretty poor but we try to glean some answers from the scant numbers available. It look like one of the most common causes of death among players on the pitch is cardiac arrest – son is this is a greater risk factor for people of African heritage?

We speak to statistician Dr Robert Mastrodomenico and Professor Sanjay Sharma, a specialist in sports cardiology.

Presented and produced by Jordan Dunbar and Charlotte McDonald

(Photo: Cheick Tiote of Newcastle United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St James Park Credit: Getty Images)

Are African Leaders More Likely To Die In Office?2012082520120826 (WS)

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia is the fourth African premier to die this year alone. Are African leaders more likely to die in office, than their counterparts elsewhere? Also: does marriage make economic sense?

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia is the fourth African premier to die this year alone.

Are African leaders more likely to die in office, than their counterparts elsewhere?

Also, does marriage make economic sense?

(Image: Ghanaian soldiers carry the coffin of late President John Atta Mills during the funeral service at Independence Square in Accra on 10 August 2012. Credit: AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEIPIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Are African leaders more likely than their counterparts elsewhere to die in office?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Are Extradition Treaties Fair? Plus, Tour De France Performance Statistics2013072120130722 (WS)

The predicament of a young man stuck in the transit area of a Moscow airport after blowing the whistle on the US's systematic seizing of vast amounts of phone and web data has highlighted the international politics of extradition. Edward Snowden is wanted by the US for leaking details of government surveillance programmes. But are critics right to complain that it is easier to extradite a suspect to the US than vice versa? Ruth Alexander takes a look at the numbers on this - and also European arrest warrants - and some of the results might surprise you. The programme hears from Ted Bromund, a senior research fellow in Anglo-American relations at the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom thinktank in Washington DC; and Anand Doobay, an extradition lawyer from Peters and Peters Solicitors in the UK.

Plus, the leader of this year's Tour de France, British rider Chris Froome, has been speaking of his disappointment that his victory so far has been marked by questions about doping. More or Less assesses his performance stats, and asks whether maths can measure whether cycling really has cleaned up its act. Dr Ross Tucker from The Science of Sport website gives us his views.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander

Producer: Ben Carter

(Image: Edward Snowden Speaks To The Guardian. Credit: Getty Images)

Is the US-UK deal on suspects balanced? Can maths show competition leader is dope-free?

Are Tall People More Likely To Get Cancer?2015100920151010 (WS)
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Are tall people really more likely to get cancer? Ruth Alexander looks at a new Swedish study that has caused headlines around the world, and asks how worried tall people like her should be about developing the condition.

(Photo: A patient has her height measured. Credit: Shutterstock)

Are tall people really more likely to get cancer? Ruth Alexander looks at a new study

Are There 15,000 Transgender People Serving In The Us Military?20170814

President Trump says transgender individuals cannot serve, but how many do already?

President Trump recently announced that the US Government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military." This provoked criticism from Congressman Mark Pocan who said that there were 15,000 transgender people serving in the military today. That number was widely reported – but is it true?

Presenter and Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(image: US Joint Service Honor Guard, Washington DC. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Are Us Millennials More Politically Engaged Online?20171023

Did the 2016 US election galvanise young people to become more engaged in politics?

Did the 2016 US election galvanise young people to become more engaged in politics? This was something that millennial Kevin Lin heard in the media after President Trump was elected. He decided to design a research project to see if there was evidence on the website Reddit that more young people were engaging with politics. Kevin explains his findings and the pitfalls of trying to measure anything on social media. He is the winner of the 2017 Young Writers competition for the statistical magazine Significance.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald and Jordan Dunbar
Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(Photo: Students from Los Angeles California high schools gather to protest the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States. Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Austerity: A Spreadsheet Error?2013042120130422 (WS)

Tim Harford tells the story of the student who uncovered a mistake in a famous economic paper that has been used to make the case for austerity cuts.

In 2010, two Harvard economists published an academic study, which showed that when government debt rises above 90% of annual economic output, growth falls significantly.

As politicians tried to find answers to the global economic crisis, “Growth in a Time of Debt? by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff was cited by some of the key figures making the case for tough debt-cutting measures in the US and Europe.

But graduate student Thomas Herndon and his professors say they have found problems with the Reinhart-Rogoff findings. What does this mean for austerity economics?

Producer: Ruth Alexander

(Image: A cardboard cut-out of a pair of scissors, Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

The story of the student who uncovered a mistake in a famous economic paper.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Avoiding Asteroids2016111820161121 (WS)

We’re getting better at spotting Earth-bound space rocks – but how safe are we?

A new NASA warning system means we’re getting better at spotting Earth-bound space rocks. But how safe are we?

The proportion of asteroids we know about has grown rapidly in the past few decades, so what are the chances of us being taken by surprise? If we did spot an asteroid hurtling towards Earth, what could we do about it? And – perhaps most importantly of all – could the plot of the film Armageddon happen in real life? We get answers from NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

Image: Asteroid - photo credit: Shutterstock

Baby Boxes € Are They Really Saving Infant’s Lives?2017032420170327 (WS)
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They’ve become a bit of a phenomenon but what’s the evidence that they work?

Ever since a BBC article highlighted the use of baby boxes in Finland they have become a bit of a phenomenon. They’re not new though: Finland has been doing this for 75 years. The simple cardboard boxes are given to families for their new born babies to sleep in. Since their introduction, cot death and has fallen and child health has improved. Governments and individuals across the world have adopted them and companies have sprung up selling them. But think about it for minute – can a cardboard box on its own really have such a huge effect? Elizabeth Cassin and Charlotte McDonald have been looking at the truth behind the story.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald

Producer: Elizabeth Cassin

(Photo:One of Scotland's first baby boxes is seen at Clackmannanshire Community Health Centre. Credit: Getty Images)

Big Polluters: Ships Versus Cars20171002

Do the largest ships emit as much pollution as all the cars in the world?

A number of websites have claimed that ‘15 of the largest ships emit as much pollution as all the cars in the world.’ That is a very catchy statement which gives an indication of the pollution produced by shipping containers around the world. But is it true? We look at the different types of emissions produced by container ships and cars.

Presenter: Tim Harford
Producer: Charlotte McDonald and Jordan Dunbar

(Photo: The ultra-large container ship MOL Triumph, from South Korea, coming in to port. Credit: M.MacMatzen/Getty Images)

Brazil’s Maths Superstar2014050920140511 (WS)
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Alex Bellos tells the surprising story of Brazil's favourite maths book.

Alex Bellos tells the story of The Man Who Counted, a book of 'Arabic' mathematical tales written by middle-eastern scholar Malba Tahan. Published in Brazil in the 1930s, it became a huge success. Malba Tahan's birthday, May 6, is now celebrated as Brazil's National Day of Mathematics. But the author was not who everybody thought he was.

(Photo credit: Official family collection/malbatah.com.br)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Brexit Economics2016062420160627 (WS)

What will happen to trade and business in the UK after leaving the EU?

Following a referendum, the UK has voted to leave the European Union. Tim Harford and the team explore what that might mean for the UK’s economy. Most notably - what might be the impact on trade? We examine the economic forecasts from the government, and how the UK might manage its relationships with other countries.

(Photo: A pay-per-view binocular with the British and European Union flags. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Calling The Shots At Wimbledon20170717

Using statistics to prove or disprove the wisdom of tennis.

Using statistics to prove or disprove the wisdom of tennis is the theme this week. In this digital age we are used to information at our fingertips. This week More or Less finds out how every rally, every shot at this tennis championship is counted and makes its way to our phones, desktops and TV screens. And once you have this information – what can you do with it? Is it useful for players and coaches? Traditionally, players will take a risk on their first chance to serve, and hit the ball as fast as they can, knowing that they have a second chance. On their second attempt, players tend to serve more slowly and carefully to make sure it goes in. But could the statistics show they might as well take a risk again?

(Photo: Venus Williams plays a backhand during the Ladies Singles first round match against Elise Mertens at Wimbledon. Credit: Getty Images)

Can We Trust Food Surveys?2016031120160314 (WS)

The pitfalls of nutrition science - how do really know what people are eating?

Stories about what foods are good and bad for you, which foods are linked to cancer and which have beneficial qualities are always popular online and in the news. But how do experts know what people are eating? Tim Harford speaks to Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for science, about the pitfalls of food surveys. She kept a food diary and answered nutrition surveys and found many of the questions were really hard to answer – how could she tell all the ingredients in a restaurant curry? And, how many tomatoes did she eat regularly over the past six months?

(Photo: Food diary. Credit: Shutterstock)

Child Marriage And Dangerous Algorithms2016102820161031 (WS)

Is a girl under the age of 15 married every seven seconds somewhere in the world? That is what the charity Save the Children claim in their attempts to raise awareness of child marriage. But how is this figure calculated? We take a look at the difficulties with counting child brides.

Data scientist and activist Cathy O’Neil wants to protect you from dangerous, and often hidden, algorithms. They help make important decisions, like whether you are eligible for a loan, but they could be based on unfair statistics with hidden biases. She talks about her new book Weapons of Math Destruction.

(Photo: Algorithm code. Credit: Shutterstock)

Is a girl under 15 married every seven seconds? And beware dangerous algorithms

China Stock Market Crash2015082820150829 (WS)
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The Chinese stock market may have crashed but was it really ‘Black Monday’?

The Chinese Market Crash in context.

How big is the market, how many investors does it have and does it tell us anything about the wider Chinese economy?

Sprinters legs

It may seem strange, but world class runners don’t move their legs faster than average park runner. That’s the claim anyway – is it true and if so what is it that makes athletes like Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin run so fast?

(Image: An investory looks at a stock information board. Credit: Reuters.)

China’s One Child Policy2015110620151109 (WS)

As China ends its one child rule what has been its impact on the country’s population? The More or Less team take a look at whether the policy on its own has slowed the rate at which China’s population has been growing. And now that parents in China will be allowed to have two children, which country will have the largest population in 2030? China or India? Ruth Alexander presents.

(Image: A woman carrying a baby in Yanji, in China's northeast Jilin province. Credit: Getty)

As China ends its one child policy what has been its impact? Ruth Alexander investigates.

Christian Martyrs2017011320170116 (WS)

Were 90,000 Christians killed because of their faith in 2016?

Were 90,000 Christians killed because of their faith in 2016, as a new report claims? The figure comes from The Center for the Study of Global Christianity and was published earlier this month. But another report published this week says that 1,207 were killed – that’s from Open Doors, an organisation which helps persecuted Christians. So how did two groups, apparently looking at the same thing, come up with such different numbers? And who, if anyone, is right?

Presenters: Charlotte MacDonald and Wesley Stephenson

Producer: Joe Kent

(Image: Rrmaj cemetery in Shkoder, Albania.

Photo Credit: Gent Shkullaku /Getty Images)

Climate Change2015120420151207 (WS)

Ruth Alexander investigates claims climate change has contributed to the war in Syria, and with the climate change summit COP21 underway in Paris, we answer listener’s climate change number questions.

(Photo: COP21-Eiffel Tower, Credit: Stephane de Sakutin/Getty Images)

Did climate change contribute to the war in Syria?

Could An Apple-a-day Reduce Illness?2014011820140119 (WS)
20140120 (WS)

An apple-a-day will actually keep the doctors away, according to a study in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal. It generated headlines around the world. But were the media right to take the story so seriously? Tim interviews one of the study’s authors and critic Paul Marantz.

And, mathemagical mind-reading with Jolyon Jenkins as he reveals the maths behind a classic long-distance mind-reading card trick.

(Photo: Apples)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Could North Korea Wipe Out 90% Of Americans?2017041020170411 (WS)

Experts warn that North Korea could wipe out most Americans in one go

A single nuclear weapon could destroy America’s entire electrical grid, claims a former head of the CIA. The explosion would send out an electromagnetic pulse – resulting in famine, societal collapse and what one newspaper has called a “Dark Apocalypse?

But are hungry squirrels a greater threat to the electrical grid than North Korean weapons? We speak to senior security adviser Sharon Burke and Yoni Applebaum from The Atlantic.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald

Producer: Hannah Sander

(Photo:The launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 Credit: Getty Images)

Could Statistics Cure Cancer?2013112320131125 (WS)

Some of the best minds in medical research are working to understand and ultimately eliminate one of the world's biggest killers - cancer. But they are not all doctors, chemists, and biologists. Statistician professor Terry Speed has just been awarded Australia's Prime Minister Prize for his important contribution. Ruth Alexander speaks to him about how statistics is playing an important role in pioneering cancer research.

(Image: Cancer cells. Credit: Getty Images)

Professor Terry Speed explains how statistics plays an important role in cancer research

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Counting Climate Migrants2013090120130902 (WS)

Is it true that environmental problems will create 200 million migrants?

Is it true that environmental problems will create 200 million migrants? Some politicians and environmentalists warn that this is the case.

But migration experts say that the numbers are exaggerated. Tim Harford and Hannah Barnes investigate.

Image: A woman tends her crops, Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Counting Images Of Queen Elizabeth Ii2012060220120603
20120603 (WS)

How many images of the Queen have ever been created?

And is Facebook really worth more than twice as much as every company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange?

(Image: Composite image showing Queen Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee visits and events around the UK in one month spanning 17 April to 17 May 2012 in various locations. Credit: Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Counting Terror Deaths2016081920160822 (WS)

With high profile attacks in Brussels, Nice and Munich, you might think that 2016 has been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe. But what happens when you put the numbers in historical context and compare them with figures for the rest of the world? More Or Less hears from Dr Erin Miller of the Global Terrorism Database and Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker.

(Image: A man wrapped in a Belgian flag holds a candle as people gather at a makeshift memorial on Place de la Bourse two days after a triple bomb attack hit. Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

Has 2016 been a particularly bad year for terrorism in Europe?

Creativity And Mental Illness2015111320151116 (WS)

Are creative people more likely to suffer mental illness, and has Cuba wiped out child hunger? Wesley Stephenson investigates.

(Photo: A visitor photos a screen featuring Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Credit: Getty Images)

Are creative people more likely to be mentally ill, and has Cuba wiped out child hunger?

Death Penalty Abolition2016082620160829 (WS)

The story behind the countries that have not executed anyone for 10 years

Statistics suggest that officially about half of the countries in the world have abolished Capital Punishment, and a further 52 have stopped its use in practice. But we tell the story behind the numbers and show why the picture is more complicated. We speak to Parvais Jabbar, co-director of the Death Penalty Project.

(Image: Handcuffed hands of a prisoner behind the bars of a prison. Credit: View Apart via Shutterstock)

Diet Coke Habit20171215

What effect could the US President’s Diet Coke habit have on his health?

The State of California has seen 8,871 wild fires this year but what is the difference between a contained fire and a controlled one and how do you know it’s safe to approach an area that has been on fire? Peter Rogers of the Forestry Commission explains.

And

The New York Times claims that Donald Trump drinks ‘a dozen’ Diet Coke’s a day, at 42mg of caffeine per 330ml what impact, if any, could this have on the Presidents health? Jordan Dunbar speaks to experts about the effects caffeine has on your brain and chats to someone whose own Diet Coke habit could put the President’s to shame.

Presenter: Jordan Dunbar
Producer: Lizzy McNeill

(image: Donald Trump enjoying his Diet Coke at a Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, New York. Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Diet Coke Habit20171215

What effect could the US President’s Diet Coke habit have on his health?

The State of California has seen 8,871 wild fires this year but what is the difference between a contained fire and a controlled one and how do you know it’s safe to approach an area that has been on fire? Peter Rogers of the Forestry Commission explains.

And

The New York Times claims that Donald Trump drinks ‘a dozen’ Diet Coke’s a day, at 42mg of caffeine per 330ml what impact, if any, could this have on the Presidents health? Jordan Dunbar speaks to experts about the effects caffeine has on your brain and chats to someone whose own Diet Coke habit could put the President’s to shame.

Presenter: Jordan Dunbar
Producer: Lizzy McNeill

(image: Donald Trump enjoying his Diet Coke at a Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, New York. Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Diet Coke Habit20171215

What effect could the US President’s Diet Coke habit have on his health?

The State of California has seen 8,871 wild fires this year but what is the difference between a contained fire and a controlled one and how do you know it’s safe to approach an area that has been on fire? Peter Rogers of the Forestry Commission explains.

And

The New York Times claims that Donald Trump drinks ‘a dozen’ Diet Coke’s a day, at 42mg of caffeine per 330ml what impact, if any, could this have on the Presidents health? Jordan Dunbar speaks to experts about the effects caffeine has on your brain and chats to someone whose own Diet Coke habit could put the President’s to shame.

Presenter: Jordan Dunbar
Producer: Lizzy McNeill

(image: Donald Trump enjoying his Diet Coke at a Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, New York. Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Do Big Football Clubs Win More Penalties?20120401

Tim Harford looks at referee bias, and he gazes into the future with Hans Rosling's data.

Do Manchester United and other leading clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona benefit from biased refereeing decisions when they play in front of their home crowd? It’s a widely-held view, but Tim Harford challenges it with a look at the penalty statistics.

Plus, if you want to understand the world you’re living in, and how it will be different to the world your children and grandchildren will live in, listen to Tim’s interview with Hans Rosling of Gapminder.

Do E-cigarettes Harm Your Chances Of Quitting?2016020520160208 (WS)

Should research described as 'misleading; and 'not scientific' have been published?

Research last month claimed to show that e-cigarettes harm your chances of quitting smoking. The paper got coverage world-wide but it also came in for unusually fierce criticism from academics who spend their lives trying to help people quit. It has been described as 'grossly misleading' and 'not scientific'. We look at what is wrong with the paper and ask if it should have been published in the first place.

(Photo: Man smoking e-cigarette. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Do Nigerian Lawmakers Make More Than President Trump?20171105

Fact checking the claim that Nigerian politicians earn more than 1.7million dollars

Two claims from Nigeria are scrutinised this week. First we look at news reports stating that: “a Nigerian senator earns 1.7 million US dollars year, far higher than the salary of the US President.” We also hear of a popular belief going back decades which has appeared again on social media - that yam consumption has led to Nigeria’s Yoruba people having the world’s highest twin birth rate. But is there any evidence for this? We talk to the fact-checkers at Africa Check.

(Photo: Seven-year-old twin sisters Seye and Sayo on their way to a party. Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Do We Use Only 10% Of Our Brains?2014082920140831 (WS)
20140901 (WS)

Is it true that humans use just 10% of their brains? It’s the premise of the new film Lucy, in which the brain capacity of Scarlett Johansson’s character increases to dangerous levels. Tim Harford uses considerably more than 10% of his brain to separate the neuro-science facts from the fiction with Professor Sophie Scott.

What drives the price of footballers? Tim Harford tries to understand the huge transfer fees with Raffaele Poli from the CIES Football Observatory and football agent Seb Ewen.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Ruth Alexander

Does Scarlett Johansson really have super powers in Lucy? Plus, football transfer fees

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Does A Child Die From Hunger Every 15 Seconds?2013061620130617 (WS)

Ruth Alexander looks at the facts behind the shock statistic from aid campaigns.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Does Eating Chocolate Make Your Brain Younger?20171210

Are research findings misrepresented by funders, PR machines and the media?

Headlines claim that eating chocolate can protect you from developing Alzheimer’s disease. The theory is that bioactives within chocolate called flavanols can help reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and even make your brain 30 years younger! But isn’t this all a bit too good to be true? The BBC’s Head of Statistics, Robert Cuffe, investigates whether research findings are misrepresented by funders, PR machines and the media.

Presenter: Robert Cuffe
Producer: Lizzy McNeill

(Image: Large chunks of chocolate. Credit: Shutterstock)

Does Politics Make Us Get Our Sums Wrong?2013110920131111 (WS)

To what degree do our personal opinions cloud our judgement? Yale University researchers have attempted to detect and measure how our political beliefs affect our ability to make rational decisions. The study suggests that our ability to do maths plummets when we’re looking at data which clashes with our worldview. Ruth Alexander and Ben Carter consider Professor Dan Kahan’s findings.

(Image: 'The Thinker' by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

How researchers have measured the extent to which personal opinions cloud our judgement

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Does Sweden Really Have A Six Hour Day?2016123020170102 (WS)

There have been reports that those radical Swedes have decided to reduce the working day to just six hours because, it has been claimed, productivity does not suffer. Before you all rush to the Swedish job pages this is not quite the case – but there have been trials in Sweden to test whether you can shorten people’s working hours without having an effect on output. Tim Harford talks to our Swedish correspondent Keith Moore about what the trials have found. He also speaks to professor John Pencavel, Emeritus Professor of Economics, at Stanford University, and finds that reducing working hours may not be as radical idea as it first appears.

(Photo: A business man carries a black briefcase)

Can you reduce working hours without affecting productivity?

Drug Deaths In The Philippines20160912

Over the last two months the Government in the Philippines has been encouraging the police to clampdown on the illegal drug trade. The new President, Rodrigo Duterte, went as far as saying that citizens could shoot and kill drug dealers who resisted arrest, and the killings of drug suspects were lawful if the police acted in self-defence. The press have been reporting numbers of how many people have been killed during the crackdown – but how much trust can we put in these figures?

Lottery wins

We interview Adam Kucharski, author of The Perfect Bet, to find out if maths can give you an edge to playing the lottery or gambling.

(Image: A Filipino human rights advocate holds a placard as he joins a demonstration in front of the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, protesting the number of deaths related to government's war against illegal drugs. Credit: European Photopress Agency)

How many people have died during President Duterte’s drug crackdown?

Fact Checking The Big Short2016030420160307 (WS)

Is it true that “every one percent unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die"?

"Every one percent unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?" says Brad Pitt playing a former investment banker Ben Rickert, in the recent Oscar-winning film The Big Short. Although based on a true story, the filmmakers admit there is some creative license in some of the scenes. But is there any truth to this statistic? It turns out it’s a figure that has been around for many decades. We explore its origins.

The debate over whether the UK should leave the European Union is heating up ahead of the referendum this summer. Many politicians have said that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world – is that a fair assessment? We look at the GDP figures.

(Image: Brad Pitt attends the premiere of "The Big Short" in New York 2015. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Fantasy Football - How To Win20170828

Figuring out the best strategy as a wannabe team manager

How to win at fantasy football

As the world’s most popular football leagues start up again after the summer break one loyal listener asks us to figure out the best strategy to become a fantasy football champion. Just how should you spend that £100m budget? On great strikers like Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku or top defenders like Toby Alderweireld, David Luiz and Vincent Kompany. More or Less investigates.

Disputing the link between climate change and war in Syria

In an eye catching claim Al Gore has said that by helping provoke the civil war in Syria, climate change contributed to Brexit. We ask to what extent the Syrian conflict can be blamed on climate change.

Presenter: Tim Harford and Ben Carter
Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(photo: Manchester United player Paul Pogba in action. Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Fat Or Fiction20130126

A ‘new’ BMI calculation has been proposed by Oxford Mathematician Professor Nick Trefethen but does it really address the problem with a calculation that is over a century old. Ruth Alexander looks at how it has developed and what it really tells us, if anything, about our health.

Picture: Lifestyle and Leisure Gastronomy, Science Photo Library

A ‘new’ BMI calculation has been proposed by Oxford Mathematician Professor Nick Trefethen

Fear Of Flying2014080120140803 (WS)
20140804 (WS)

Following recent airline incidents, is flying more dangerous? Plus: Commonwealth Games.

After three tragic airline incidents in eight days, is flying becoming more dangerous? Wesley Stephenson looks at the statistics behind air travel to find out.

And what is the most successful nation in Commonwealth Games history? Australia, Canada, England? Not even close.

Fishy Numbers?2016021220160215 (WS)

Will there be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050?

There were reports recently that there will more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. The report comes from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. But as we discover there's something fishy about these figures.

And what are the chances that as a parent you share your birthday with two of your children.

(Image: Waste plastic strewn on the Bao beach near Dakar - photo credit: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Food Waste And Scrabble2013011220130113 (WS)

Reports this week suggest that we are wasting 50 per cent of our food globally.

Reports this week suggest that we are wasting 50 per cent of our food globally. Ruth Alexander discovers why this number is years out of date.

Also are the values on Scrabble tiles correct? They were first assigned in the 1930's. With our changing language do we need to reassess the values?

Football’s Red Card Clich2015100220151003 (WS)
20151004 (WS)
20151005 (WS)

Managers and pundits often say “it’s harder to play against 10 men?, but is there any truth in it? Also, Tim Harford speaks to the author Siobhan Roberts about Professor John Conway, who has been described as a genius and one of the world’s most charismatic mathematicians.

(Photo: A hand holding a red card. Credit: Shutterstock)

Is it harder to play football against ten men? Tim Harford finds out

Foreign Aid: More Harm Than Good?2015101620151017 (WS)
20151018 (WS)
20151019 (WS)

Tim Harford interviews Nobel Prize winning economist professor Angus Deaton about a lifetime measuring inequality.

(Photo: Angus Deaton listens to a question after winning the Nobel Prize for Economics. Credit: Getty Images)

Nobel Prize winning economist professor Angus Deaton on a lifetime measuring inequality.

Goat Or Car?2014052320140526 (WS)

We discuss a famous probability puzzle involving goats and game shows with German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer. Is he right to suggest in his new book 'Risk Savvy' that we really don't understand risk and uncertainty?

And More or Less listeners weigh in on a problem from last week’s programme - how old will you be before you're guaranteed to celebrate a major, round-number birthday (like 40 or 50) on a weekend?

Gerd Gigerenzer on the famous probability puzzle involving goats and game shows.

Golden Ticket2014071120140714 (WS)

What are Charlie's odds of finding a golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

In the film and musical based on Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket receives a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. But one of our younger More or Less listeners in England wanted to find out what the chances would be of winning one of those Golden Tickets. So we sent maths book author Rob Eastaway to her school in Derby to explain the answer to her class-mates. A must-listen for anyone who struggles to get their head around probability.

Also on the programme we look at whether the age of players makes a difference in World Cup football.

(Photo: A Wonka bar. Credit: Getty Images)

Good News On Renewables?2016112520161128 (WS)

With all the bad news related to the climate is there actually some good news? Worldwide renewable capacity has now passed coal capacity for the first time. The story was reported across the world but is it the good news it first appears? What does the term ‘capacity’ actually mean? We've been speaking to the International Energy Agency to find out.

Last week we looked at how good we are at spotting earth-bound asteroids but listeners were a bit puzzled by NASA’s claim that they had found 95% of all the asteroids over a kilometre. If they don’t know how many there are how can they have found 95% of them? Simon Maybin has been back to NASA for clarification.

Tim Harford presents.

Image credit: Shutterstock - solar panels and wind turbines

Renewable capacity has surpassed that of coal – is this good news?

Gravitational Waves2016011520160118 (WS)

One of our 2015 ‘Numbers of the Year’ predictions might have come to pass. There is great excitement over rumours that one of the predictions Einstein made in his theory of General Relativity has finally been observed. But it’s not the first time it’s been reported that ‘gravitational waves’ have been discovered, and the last time proved to be an equipment test.

What is the total number of possible tweets that could be created from 140 characters? In a recent programme Professor John Allen-Paulos told us that when you take into account all of the symbols available, the total number of possible tweets is Googol2.8 (which is a 1 followed by 280 zeros.) But has he missed some options?

(Image: A photographer looks at the sky at night to see the annual Geminid meteor shower on the Elva Hill, in Maira Valley, near Cuneo, northern Italy on December 12, 2015. Credit: AFP / Getty Images)

In search of a previously unobserved part of Einstein’s theory.

Gun Laws And Gold Medals2012072820120729
20120729 (WS)

Would tighter gun laws lead to fewer gun deaths? Also: how Olympians have changed.

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.

Also: how have Olympians changed in the last century?

(Image: Shell casing for.40 caliber cartridges. Credit: Getty Images)

Has Islamic State Been Losing Territory?2015112020151123 (WS)

Has so-called Islamic State been losing territory?

Has so-called Islamic State been losing territory? Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed IS have lost about 25-30% of their territory in Iraq. Is this true?

Plus, is Premier League footballer Héctor Bellerín faster than Usain Bolt? Bellerín can reportedly run 40 metres in 4.41 seconds. Ruth Alexander asks how their times compare.

(Photo:A Shiite Hezbollah flag on top of a mural depicting the emblem of the Islamic State group. Credit: Getty Images)

Have 100,000 Christians Died As Martyrs?2013110220131104 (WS)

Is there a global war on Christians? It is claimed that an average of 100,000 Christians have died because of their faith every year for the past decade - and that this is an 'unreported catastrophe'.

The Vatican has called it a credible number. But is it?

Ruth Alexander and Wesley Stephenson fact-check the widely-quoted statistic.

We speak to: John Allen, journalist and author of The Global War on Christians; Professor Thomas Schirrmacher, from the International Society for Human Rights; Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in the US; Ian Linden, associate professor in the study of religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and author of Church and Revolution in Rwanda

(Image: An Egyptian Christian mourns. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

How true are claims that there is an unreported global war on Christians?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Have 65% Of Future Jobs Not Yet Been Invented?20170529

Education is failing our kids, claim experts. We go sleuthing around the world.

Our entire education system is faulty, claim experts. They worry that schools don’t prepare kids for the world outside. But how could anyone prove what the future will be like?

We set off on a round-the-world sleuthing trip to trace a statistic that has been causing headaches for students, teachers and politicians alike. Helping us on our quest are educators Cathy Davidson, Daisy Christodoulou and Andrew Old – plus a little bit of Blade Runner and a lot data-wrangling.

Producer: Hannah Sander

(Photo: Classmates taking part in peer learning. Credit: Shutterstock)

Have Mosquitoes Killed Half The World?2013100620131007 (WS)

Have mosquitoes been responsible for the death of half the people who have ever lived?

Have mosquitoes been responsible for the death of half the people who have ever lived? Tim Harford assesses the claim. And he looks into a charity’s statistic that 96 elephants a day are being killed in Africa.

Plus, a return to the subject of left-handers – could it be true that they are more likely to be criminal masterminds?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Heads Or Tails?2014061320140615 (WS)
20140616 (WS)

What can we learn about happiness if people make key life decisions based on a coin toss?

Freakonomics guru Steven Levitt joins us to talk about an unusual experiment – getting people to agree to make major life decisions based on the toss of a coin. Is this really good social science? And what do the results tell us about decision making and happiness?

With 365 days in the year, it feels like a huge coincidence when we meet someone with the same birthday. But you only need 23 people to have a better than even chance that two will share a birthday. This counter-intuitive result is known as the birthday paradox, and the best place to look for proof is the World Cup, where 32 squads of 23 players provide an ideal data-set. Alex Bellos crunches the numbers for us.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Hidden Figures: The Real Story2017021720170220 (WS)

Hidden Figures, the film, has been nominated for three awards at the Oscars and has been a box office hit in the US. It tells the little-known story of a group of African American women and their contribution to the space race in the 50s and 60s. We explore the history of how these women were recruited by Nasa and put to work on complex mathematical tasks – at a time when African Americans and women were far less likely to be employed in such jobs.

(Photo: Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson,in a scene from Hidden Figures. Credit: Hopper Stone/Twentieth Century Fox/AP)

African American women's part in the space race of the '50s and '60s

Hiv In Africa2016060320160606 (WS)

The news aggregation website Zimbabwe Today recently ran a headline stating that 74% of African girls aged 15-24 are HIV positive. Although the statistic is not true, Mary Mahy from UNAIDS reveals that young women do have a higher infection rate than young men.

Kyle Evans is a folk singing mathematician by trade who is always looking for new ways to communicate his love of maths to a sometimes apprehensive audience. Next week he is representing the UK against 26 other countries at the Cheltenham Science festival in England. He came into the studio to perform his competition entry.

(Photo: HIV test in Africa. Credit: Polepole-tochan/Getty Images)

Is it true that 74% of African girls aged 15-24 HIV positive?

How Deadly Is Ebola?2014081020140811 (WS)

It is claimed it kills up to 90% of victims, but fatality rates vary widely

How deadly is the Ebola virus? It’s often said that it kills up to 90% of victims, but while that’s true of one outbreak, the death rate in other Ebola outbreaks has varied widely.

More or Less investigates what we know about how dangerous Ebola is, what factors might influence whether people survive once they’re infected, and how likely it is that there might be an outbreak of the virus in the United States or Europe.

How Do We Calculate The Distance To The Sun?2014092820140929 (WS)

Two young listeners emailed the programme to ask how we calculate the distance to the sun. We decided to invite them and their parents to More or Less towers where Andrew Pontzen, an astrophysicist at University College London was on hand to explain the answer.

A BBC nature documentary stated that there are 14,000 ants to every person on earth, and that were we to weigh all of these ants they would weigh the same as all the people. Can this be true? Tim Harford and Hannah Moore investigate with the help of Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at the University of Sussex.

Image: Shutterstock

Two young listeners ask how we calculate the distance to the sun.

How Expensive Is Italys World Cup Failure?20171117

How much will Italy's surprise failure to make it to the world cup cost FIFA?

The Italians are calling it the apocalypse. Their team has failed to make it to the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. But it is about more than just national pride - there is a financial cost too. Some have suggested that it will cost FIFA $100m. Is this really true? We speak to sports writer Graham Dunbar who has been counting how much money football's world governing body might lose out on. Also we fact check the claim that 45% of Nigerian women marry before their 18th birthday.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Xavier Zapata

(Image: Alessandro Florenzi of Italy at the end of the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier play-off, November 13, 2017. Credit: Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

How Extraordinary Is Ye Shiwen?2012080420120805 (WS)

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.

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.

(Image: China's Ye Shiwen competing in the women's 200m individual medley heats swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Credit: AFP PHOTO/LEON NEALLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

How extraordinary was Ye Shiwen's Olympic performance? More or Less looks at the numbers

How Long Can You Wait Until You Try To Have A Baby?2013102720131028 (WS)

Why 300-year-old fertility statistics are still in use today

How long can you wait until you try to have a baby? Psychologist Jean Twenge argues that women in their late 30s shouldn't be as anxious about their prospects as is commonly assumed. The author of The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant has been amazed to discover that key fertility statistics come from studies based on people who lived several hundred years ago - before electricity was even invented. Tim Harford and Hannah Barnes find fertility experts agree that the modern woman's prospects are better than is often thought.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Ruth Alexander

Psychologist Jean Twenge argues that women in their late 30s shouldn't be as anxious about their prospects as is commonly assumed. The author of The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant has been amazed to discover that key fertility statistics come from studies based on people who lived several hundred years ago - before electricity was even invented. Tim Harford and Hannah Barnes find fertility experts agree that the modern woman's prospects are better than is often thought.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

How Long Will You Live?2013063020130701 (WS)

Why life expectancy around the world has increased by six years in the past two decades

Ruth Alexander examines life expectancy gains.

Life expectancy around the world has increased by six years in the past two decades. But can this striking trend continue?

The biggest leaps in longevity are occurring in Africa, Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The world's richest countries have also seen life expectancy at birth increase steadily, but there is some evidence that this could slow.

And there are some countries that are being left behind - which are they, and why?

Contributors: Colin Mathers, World Health Organisation; Professor James Vaupel, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany; Richard Willets, director of longevity at Partnership insurance firm, UK. With thanks to Paul Sweeting, professor of actuarial science at the University Kent in the UK.

Presenter and producer: Ruth Alexander

Image: Pensioners keep fit as they participate in an exercise class. Credit: Getty Images

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

How Many Is Too Many Bananas?2015091120150912 (WS)
20150913 (WS)
20150914 (WS)

Should population density affect refugee movements? How many bananas are too many?

Is population density the right measure to be looking at when working out how many refugees countries should take - and if not what is?

Plus, there is a belief among some people that too many bananas will kill you. Eat too many and you will overdose on potassium and die. But how many bananas would you need to eat?

(Photo: Bunch of bananas)

How Many Stormtroopers Are There?2015121820151221 (WS)

Are Star Wars’ Stormtroopers the biggest secret army on Earth?

Are Star Wars’ Stormtroopers the biggest secret army on Earth? Ruth Alexander investigates, and looks at some of the other numbers behind one of the most successful movie franchises in history.

(Image: Stormtroopers at Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere. Credit: PA Wire)

How Much Gold?2013032320130324 (WS)

Ruth Alexander investigates just how much gold there is in the world.

In More or Less Ruth Alexander explains - and sometimes debunks - the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life. This week we ask - how much gold? It's often said that all the gold ever mined in the world would only make an 18m x 18m cube. That’s small enough to fit inside a tennis court. Is this true and how on earth do we know? Ruth Alexander finds out.

(Image: Gold bars. Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files)

How Not To Test Public Opinion2016120220161205 (WS)

The survey by the Indian PM that breaks all the polling rules.

People took to the streets in India this week to protest about the government’s decision to withdraw R500 R1,000 notes. But despite the uproar the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has insisted he has the support of the people after a survey, carried out on his very own mobile app, found that the decision was supported by more than 90% of respondents.

But the whole episode has echoes of the kind of manipulation evident in one particular sketch from the British political sitcom ‘Yes, Prime Minister’. With accusations of leading and confusing questions designed to get a particular outcome one marketing Professor tells us that if anyone had come up with this survey in his marketing class he would fail them.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Charlotte McDonald

Image: Protestors burn an effigy of the Prime Minister at a rally in Kolkata. Credit Dibyanshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty

How Rare Are Deadly Tower Block Fires?20170626

How statistics can help us understand the tragic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower.

Grenfell Tower, a residential block in London, made headlines around the world. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead and many are still missing. But how unusual is this? More or Less speaks to Robert Solomon, a fire protection engineer, who explains the recent history of fires in high-rise buildings around the world. Are tower blocks really dangerous? Or are they safer than houses?

Presenter: Tim Harford
Producer: Richard Vadon

(image:Smoke rises from the 24 story Grenfell Tower in West London. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty images)

How Reliable Is Psychology Science?2015092520150926 (WS)
20150927 (WS)
20150928 (WS)

The Reproducibility of Psychological Science project reported recently and it made grim reading. Having replicated 100 psychological studies published in three psychology journals only 36 had significant results compared to 97% first time around. So is there a problem with psychological science and what should be done to fix it.

Decimate

Tim used the word in an interview last week to mean devastate rather than cut by ten percent – many listeners said this was unforgivable – was it? We ask Oliver Kamm, author of Accidence Will Happen: The Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage.

(Photo: Conceptual image of a brain. Credit: Shutterstock)

How reliable are psychological science studies? Tim Harford finds out.

How Rich Was Jane Austens Mr Darcy?20171126

What the Pride and Prejudice character would have earned in today’s money

The male love interest of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is supposed to be fabulously wealthy. It says in the early 19th century English novel that Mr Darcy has an income of £10,000 a year - that seems to impress the fictional characters. Two hundred years later, it’s not clear how remarkable it really is. Today £10,000 a year in the UK is less than the amount a full-time worker on national minimum wage would earn. But as Tim Harford discovers, you need to do more than adjust the amount for inflation – there are other ways of measuring the value of Mr Darcy’s income in today’s money.

Presenter: Tim Harford
Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(image: Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' 1995)

How Richard Thaler Changed Economics20171016

The behavioural economist who has inspired governments around the world.

This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics was awarded to the American, Richard Thaler, for his contributions to behavioural economics. In this week’s More or Less, Charlotte McDonald and Tim Harford explain why Thaler’s work has been so important. They introduce the audience to his world of good nudges, evil nudges and sludge.

Presenter: Tim Harford
Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(Professor Richard Thaler standing in front of portraits of previous winners at the University of Chicago. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

How To Explain Infinity To A Four-year-old2012090120120902 (WS)

Can Johnny Ball explain infinity to a 4-year-old? Plus, an interview with Count von Count.

"What's the number before infinity?" asks Claudia, aged four. We challenge Johnny Ball, legendary British TV presenter, to explain.

And in celebration of the voice of Sesame Street's Count von Count, Jerry Nelson - who has died aged 78 - there's another chance to hear our 2009 interview with the Count, in which he revealed his favourite number - 34,969.

Presenter and producer: Ruth Alexander.

(Image: Johnny Ball explaining infinity to a four-year-old Claudia)

How To Lose Money - Fast20120812

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?

(Image: $100 bills. Credit: AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER)

Is the rapid growth of high frequency trading progress or a threat to the financial system

How To Measure A Hurricane20170918

What’s the best way to measure a hurricane?

As hurricanes continue to ravage the Caribbean and southern American states Tim Harford examines the different ways of calculating their respective strengths and he talks to a structural engineer about the considerations that are made for high winds when designing buildings.

Producer: Ben Carter

(Satellite image showing Hurricane Irma moving towards the Florida Coast on Sept 07 2017. Photo credit NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images)

Ice Cream Versus Aid2016110420161107 (WS)

Does the world spend more on ice cream than on humanitarian aid?

‘The world spends three times as much on ice cream as it does on humanitarian aid.’ That’s the claim one listener spotted but is it true? We look at the stats behind the statement and ask whether it’s a useful comparison.

The fact-checkers have been working overtime looking into the numbers used by Donald Trump during his campaign to become President of the USA. In the wake of the election next week, we take a look at some of Trump’s more outrageous statistical claims.

Image: The great British seaside Weston-Super-Mare. Photo Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty

‘The world spends three times as much on ice cream as it does on humanitarian aid.’ That’s the claim one listener spotted but is it true? We look at the stats behind the statement and ask whether it is a useful comparison.

(Photo: The great British seaside Weston-Super-Mare. Credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Indian Farmer Suicides2013011920130120 (WS)

This week Ruth Alexander is looking at farmer suicides in India

This week Ruth Alexander is looking at farmer suicides in India. But is it any more prevalent than in any other area of Indian society? Given the attention it has had in India and across the world the results are surprising showing the suicide rate amongst farming and agricultural workers is a third lower than the national average. It also shows that the over-emphasis on farmers may be drawing attention away from other groups that are in more urgent need of help.

Also what is the history behind the Lakh and the Crore in South Asia? It confused one contributor on the farmer suicide story and caused him to get the figures wrong by a factor of 10.

Ruth Alexander explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Interview With Daniel Kahneman2012060920120610
20120610 (WS)

Tim Harford interviews psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Tim Harford interviews Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The author of Thinking, Fast and Slow describes the common mistakes people make when confronted with statistics.

(Image: Daniel Kahneman. Credit: Getty Images)

Investigating Crime Statistics2012091520120916 (WS)

The Julian Assange extradition case has put Sweden's relatively high rate of rape under the spotlight. But can such statistics be reliably compared from one country to another?

Ruth Alexander investigates and finds out which countries are the surprise leaders of the world kidnap league, and why even murder rates are difficult to compare internationally.

Plus, who went home from the London 2012 Games with more medals – Olympians or Paralympians?

(Image: A woman sitting on bed with her head in her hands. Credit: JIM VARNEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

Investigating Sweden's high rape rate; and which surprising countries top kidnap league?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Ireland’s Shock Gdp Figures2016072220160725 (WS)

The Irish Central Statistics Office has released figures showing that Ireland’s economy grew by 26% in 2015. That would make it the fastest growing economy in the world. But American economist Paul Krugman described this as “leprechaun economics? as this growth rate is so unrealistically high. More or Less explores how multinational companies with headquarters in Ireland have led to an accounting headache for working out the country’s GDP.

Also, the mobile gaming app Pokemon Go has taken the US by storm and is now spreading across the world. But does Pokemon Go really have 26 million daily active users in the US? More Or Less investigates.

(Image: Riverpoint buildings and Shannon bridge in Limerick, Ireland. Credit: Luis Santos/Shutterstock)

Does Ireland have the fastest growing economy in the world?

Is Coffee Bad For You?2013082520130826 (WS)

People who drink more than four cups of coffee increase their chances of dying by 50%, it was reported recently. Given everyone’s chance of dying is already 100%, this seems a puzzle.

What does the research really say, and how reliable are the findings? Ruth Alexander speaks to Dr Vivek Muthu, director for healthcare at the Economist Intelligence Unit and chief executive of the healthcare evidence consultancy, Bazian.

Plus, she interviews Emily Oster, economist and author of Expecting Better. When the University of Chicago associate professor became pregnant, she received mixed messages about whether her daily three or four cups of coffee were still safe to drink. So she decided to use her statistical training to assess the medical evidence herself. She also discusses the conclusions she came to on alcohol and which foods she should avoid – and which she thought were probably safe for her to eat.

Presenter and producer: Ruth Alexander

How dangerous is your daily caffeine fix?

Is London France’s Sixth Largest City?2014032920140330 (WS)
20140331 (WS)

The Mayor of London, British journalists and commentators have trotted out this "fact" a number of times over the last few years to illustrate just how popular the UK’s capital is with its neighbours across the Channel. It appears that Nicolas Sarkozy may have said it as far back as 2008. But could there really be 300,000 French people in London and would they really want to leave France for the UK anyway? Wesley Stephenson and Charlotte McDonald brush off their best French to find out the answer.

Are there really 300,000 French people in London?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Is My Baby A Giant?20170515
Is Steph Curry Cheap And How Random Is Random?20170710

Evaluating the biggest basketball contract in NBA history, plus Ryanair’s seat allocation

Are top basketball players underpaid?

The American basketballer Stephen Curry has just signed the biggest contract in NBA history. The new deal will pay him $200 million over 5 years but amazingly, according to fellow superstar player Lebron James, he’s probably being underpaid. It may sound ridiculous but economists agree. How can this be true? We look at the economics of superstar sports salaries.

The mystery of Ryanair’s seat allocation

Ryanair carries more international passengers a year than any other airline. The European budget carrier is renowned for its low cost seats. If you want to guarantee seating next to people you book with, you have to pay extra. Otherwise, Ryanair says it will allocate seats randomly. We speak to statistician Dr Jennifer Rogers from the University of Oxford about her doubts over the ‘random’ nature of the seat allocation.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald
Producer: Charlotte McDonald and Richard Vadon

(Image: NBA Finals: Game Four, Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Are top basketball players underpaid? The American basketballer Stephen Curry has just signed the biggest contract in NBA history. The new deal will pay him $200 million over 5 years but amazingly, according to fellow superstar player Lebron James, he’s probably being underpaid. It may sound ridiculous but economists agree. How can this be true? We look at the economics of superstar sports salaries.

The Mystery of Ryanair’s Seat Allocation
Ryanair carries more international passengers a year than any other airline. The European budget carrier is renowned for its low cost seats. If you want to guarantee seating next to people you book with, you have to pay extra. Otherwise, Ryanair says it will allocate seats randomly. We speak to statistician Dr Jennifer Rogers from the University of Oxford about her doubts over the ‘random’ nature of the seat allocation.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald
Producer: Charlotte McDonald and Richard Vadon

(Image: NBA Finals: Game Four, Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Just How Lucky Are Regular Lottery Winners?20171203

How statistics were used to show how unlikely it is to win hundreds of times by chance.

Over the last decade a number of journalists in the US have been suspicious of the number of people who seem to have won multiple prizes on scratch cards and the lottery. This week we talk to a reporter and statistician who poured over data across a number of states to work out the chances of multiple wins. Are some people just very lucky? The maths suggest that is unlikely.

Presenter and Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(Image: A customer purchasing lottery tickets at a store in San Lorenzo, California. Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Kidney Donation: The Chance Of Finding A Match2014110120141102 (WS)
20141104 (WS)

Why has the chance of a kidney match between unrelated people risen so much in 10 years?

The chance of a successful kidney match between two unrelated people has increased significantly in the past 10 years - why? Ruth Alexander speaks to Professor Anthony Warrens, president of the British Transplantation Society.

And we find out for our loyal listener how many individuals he will need to create a new race of people.

Killed For Being Female?2014042520140427 (WS)
20140428 (WS)

“More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th Century? It is a powerful and shocking statement from a book called Half the Sky, written by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

It has been quoted in articles, by UN agencies and on TV to highlight the fatal consequences of discrimination against women based on their sex. But is it true? More or Less looks at the evidence. How can we know if a woman is killed precisely because she is a woman? And how do we know how many men have been killed in war?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Kilobyte To Brontobyte: Naming The Monster Numbers20171009

How the names of digital storage files evolved.

The numbers we need to describe the world around us are getting bigger. Thirty years ago computers had megabytes and kilobytes of storage space but now we need to come with bigger units of measurement every few years. We invited maths author Rob Eastaway onto the programme to tell the story behind these numbers and make the case for a new giant unit of measurement: the Brontobyte.

(Photo: Journalist working on his computer, August 1980, at the Agence France-Presse. Credit: Getty Images)

Leicester City Football Fluke?2016050620160509 (WS)

The statistics behind the English Premier League’s surprise winners

At the beginning of the season of the English football Premier League, few people would have been brave enough to predict that Leicester City would finish top. But was it that surprising?

Tim Harford speaks to Lord Finkelstein, a political journalist, who has been running his own statistical model to assess the teams in the Premier League. We also hear from James Yorke from the football analytics website Stats Bomb. Was Leicester’s success down to the team’s skills, or was it down to luck?

(Image: Leicester City celebrate with the trophy after winning the Barclays Premier League. Credt: Action Images via Reuters)

Levelling The Statistical Playing Field2012081820120819 (WS)

Which countries over and under achieved at London 2012?

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 have looked like, based only on those factors? In other words, which countries over and under-achieved at London 2012?

Also, 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.

(Image: A combination of images taken during the Olympic Games in London. Credit: AFP

PHOTO/STAFFSTAFF/AFP/GettyImages)

Liberia’s Rape Statistic Debunked2016111120161114 (WS)

Sexual violence was widespread in Liberia’s brutal and bloody year civil war. But were three quarters of women in the country raped?

We tell the story behind the number and reveal how well-meaning efforts to expose what happened have fuelled myths and miss-leading statistics that continue to be propagated to this day, including by the UN.

We speak to Amelia Hoover Green from Drexel University, Dara Cohen from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, researcher Phyllis Kimba and Aisha Dukule from the think tank Center For Liberia's Future in Monrovia.

(Photo: Liberian women and children wait for rice rations in overcrowded Monrovia, June 2003. Credit: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

Is the claim that three out of four women were raped during Liberia's civil war true?

Life, Death And Data2016122320161226 (WS)

Improving data to target help for the world's poorest people

After two decades working in development, Claire Melamed is ready to reveal a dirty secret about her work. Many of the numbers that lie behind life-and-death decisions in developing countries are, as she puts it, “a bit shaky? If you don’t know how many people live somewhere and who’s dying when of what, you can’t make well-informed decisions to help them. Now she and others are working to change that by getting better data and using it smarter. We hear what that means in practice and the story of Justice Aheto, whose award-winning mathematical models could also be life-saving for malnourished children in his native Ghana.

Image: African children in a refugee camp. Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty

London’s High-rise Death Toll20170904

Why it’s so hard to know how many people died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

In the early hours of June 14th a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in West London. A large number of people died and in the aftermath residents, the wider public, politicians and celebrities all expressed frustration that a tragedy like this one was able to happen in 21st Century Britain. Some people were also sceptical at the numbers of fatalities being reported by the police – and then the media. Were the police being too conservative in their estimates?

A local resident emailed the programme asking us to look into the numbers. Tim Harford talks to Commander Stuart Cundy, who oversaw the Met police operation following the fire; to ask him why it is has been so hard to establish the death toll.

(image: A man watches as smoke continues to rise from the Grenfell building Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Magic Numbers2014041820140420 (WS)
20140421 (WS)

Exploring our emotional connection to numbers with author Alex Bellos.

Do you have a favourite number - one you think stands out from all the others?

Do you have a favourite number - one you love, one you think stands out from all the others? Author Alex Bellos joins us to talk about his quest to find the world’s favourite number and to discuss whether numbers really can be magical, mystical and memorable.

Why are odd numbers so appealing? Which number strikes fear into some people’s hearts? And why do lists of questions like these always come in threes?

Picture: Stock car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr drives around a large number three, Credit: Getty Images

Do you have a favourite number - one you love, one you think stands out from all the others? Author Alex Bellos joins us to talk about his quest to find the world’s favourite number and discuss whether numbers really can be magical, mystical and memorable, or whether it’s all mumbo jumbo. Why are odd numbers so appealing? Which number strikes fear into some people’s hearts? And why do lists of questions like these always come in threes?

(Image: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Credit: Getty Images)

Mailbox Edition2014031520140316 (WS)
20140317 (WS)

Your questions – from the USA, Australia and the world.

This programme is dedicated to answering as many questions posed by listeners as possible.

Do the Maasai in Africa number one million?

This figure has been regularly cited over the last 15 years for the traditionally nomadic group which live in Kenya and Tanzania - but where does it come from and is it true? A listener from Boston in the US asks the team to investigate.

Is it true that a quarter of Americans do not know the Earth goes round the sun?

"Does the Earth go around the sun, or does the sun go around the Earth?" - This was a question in a quiz by a government agency to test understanding of science in the US. Why did a quarter of Americans appear to get this basic fact wrong? A listener in Dubai asks us to find out.

Is it true that half of Tasmanians are innumerate and illiterate?

An Australian listener got in touch to say he was shocked that in a developed country like Australia, there could be a region where half of adults could not read or write. He heard the figures reported on TV and asked us to check out the numbers.

Do the 85 richest people in the world hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half?

A number of listeners contacted us asking us to check this fact which has been widely reported around the world - from the Wall Street Journal to CNN.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Making Penalty Shoot-outs Fairer20170703

The maths behind plans to change penalty shoot-outs

UEFA, European football's governing body, is currently trialling a new system for penalty shoot-outs that is based on mathematical research. At the moment if no-one manages to score a winning goal during the course of the match, the teams go to penalty shoot-outs. Each team takes turns to have a player take a penalty. But it’s well-known that the team who goes first seems to have an unfair advantage and a better chance of scoring. But 60% of penalty shoot-outs are won by the team going first, can this unfairness be overcome?

Maths whizz and football aficionado Rob Eastaway explains how the new system should help even up the chances of winning.

(image: Numbers / Shutterstock)

Maryam Mirzakhani € A Genius Of Maths20170724

Celebrating the only woman to win the biggest prize in mathematics.

The only woman to win the maths world’s biggest prize has died at the age of 40. Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani stunned colleagues with her ability and imagination. As the only female winner of the Fields Medal – the maths equivalent to the Nobel Prize – she inspired a generation of female mathematicians.

In this week’s programme we look at Maryam Mirzakhani’s life and legacy. We speak to her close friend Curtis McMullen, the Harvard Professor who worked with Mirzakhani in her earliest years; and we also hear from Professor Gwyneth Stallard OBE, a champion of women in maths.

Mirzakhani solved problems involving bizarre shapes and forms. Dr Tom Crawford explains why the doughnuts and tea-cup shapes of Mirzakhani’s work are so vitally important.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald
Producer: Hannah Sander

(image: Front pages of Iranian newspapers on July 16, 2017 bearing portraits of the top female scientist and mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani. Credit: Atta Kenare/ Getty Images)

Menstrual Syncing2016090220160905 (WS)

It is a commonly held belief that if women spend enough time together, their bodies start to communicate through chemical signals, known as pheromones. Eventually the women’s bodies will start to menstruate at the same time.

But where does this idea come from? And is it really true? We look at the evidence and wonder – could it be down to chance?

(Photo: Two women. Credit: Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock)

Do women’s periods start to synchronise if they spend time together?

Missing Planes2014032220140323 (WS)
20140324 (WS)

Could a branch of statistics named after an 18th century mathematician, Thomas Bayes, be used to find flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing?

Senior analyst Colleen Keller, from Metron Inc in the US, tells More or Less how her team used Bayesian statistics to help locate the wreckage of Air France flight 447 from Brazil to France which disappeared in 2009.

This niche form of statistical modelling has been used to find everything from submarines to missing people. Could it help locate MH370?

(Image: CHINA-VIETNAM-MALAYSIA-MALAYSIAAIRLINES-TRANSPORT-ACCIDENT. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Mobiles Or Lightbulbs2016031820160321 (WS)

Mobile technology is spreading fast in Africa, and one lawyer Gerald Abila has done the maths and worked out that there are more mobile phones than lightbulbs in Uganda. We look at his figures and find that measuring them is more complicated than you might imagine. There are certainly numbers you can choose to demonstrate this, but are they the right ones?

Thyroid cancer has gone up after the Fukushima accident - but it's not what you think. Japanese authorities were worried about the impact of radiation that escaped into the atmosphere after a nuclear plant was damaged during the earthquake of 2011. Around 300,000 under-19s received ultrasound scans to look for abnormalities, and the results appeared alarming. One expert claimed there were 30 times more cases than might have been expected. But a group of epidemiologists have since questioned this - they say if you survey so many people, you will always find more cases.

Producer: Charlotte McDonald/Laura Gray

(Image: Woman looking at her mobile phone in Kampala, Uganda. Credit: AFP / Getty Images)

Are there more mobile phones than lightbulbs in Uganda? And thyroid cancer in Fukushima.

Modern Slavery2014030820140309 (WS)

Are there 21 million slaves in the world today?

“I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today,? said director Steve McQueen, as he accepted the Oscar for Best Picture for his film 12 Years a Slave. But where does he get that number from?

More or Less explores the figures to find out who are modern day slaves, and where are they? We speak to Kevin Bales, lead author of the Global Slavery Index and Dr Alex Balch from Centre for the Study of International Slavery at the University of Liverpool.

(Photo: Indian activists of the United Nations Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery pose as bonded labourers with their hands tied up by rope to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery in New Delhi, 2003. Credit: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

Money For Nothing?2014062020140622 (WS)
20140623 (WS)

When it comes to aid, what works best – giving people food, shelter, medicine, or just handing over cash and letting them spend it how they like? One group of researchers went to a Kenyan village to try to answer this question and to do so they also employed a new tool - randomised controlled testing. RCTs have long been the gold standard for measuring whether medical drugs work, but could they revolutionise how we measure the impact of aid?

When it comes to aid, what works best - providing goods, or handing over cash?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

More Boys Than Girls In Sweden?20170731

Exploring if an influx of teenage boys claiming asylum skewed the population’s sex ratio

Last year it was reported that there could soon be up to 123 boys aged 16 to 17 for every 100 girls the same age in Sweden. It should be around 105 boys for every 100 girls. The disparity was thought to be caused by an influx of teenage boys claiming asylum in the country. But we now look back to see if these predictions came true. We look at whether age testing of asylum seekers has had an impact and whether the numbers of people who have been granted asylum really have skewed the sex ratio in Sweden.

(image: teenagers enjoying themselves outdoors. Credit: Shutterstock)

More Horses Than Tanks?20170911

Is the UK the only country with more horses than tanks in its army?

The idea that the number of horses exceeds the number of tanks in the British army is one that has been repeated over a number of years. Sometimes it has been used as a way to suggest that money is wasted on an animal that serves primarily a ceremonial purpose. While sometimes it is used as a way to argue more money needs to be spent on equipment such as tanks. But is it true? And what happens in other countries?

Presenter: Tim Harford and Hannah Sander
Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(image: Members of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery at Wellington Barracks in London, England. Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty images)

More Or Less20170619

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Against expectations, the UK’s Labour party gained a number of seats in the recent General Election. On the news and on social media it has been reported that it was due to a young voters going to the polls in bigger numbers than in previous elections. Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn is being hailed for this success due to his popular policies such as scrapping university tuition fees. But what is the evidence that young people turned out in bigger numbers than usual? In recent decades the turnout among those under 25 in the UK has been very low – could this have changed?

Presenter: Tim Harford
Producer: Charlotte McDonald

Most Expensive Building2016042220160425 (WS)

What is the most expensive 'object' ever built? There are plans in the UK to build a brand new nuclear power station called Hinckley Point. The environmental charity Greenpeace have claimed it is set to be the most expensive object on Earth. But could it really cost more to build than the Great Pyramid of Giza? We take a look at some of the most costly building projects on the planet.

(Photo: Egyptians ride their camels past the pyramid of Khafre (Chefren) in Giza. Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

How much to build The Great Pyramid, a nuclear power station, or an airport?

Neknomination Outbreak2014022220140223 (WS)
20140224 (WS)

How quickly will the online global drinking craze Neknomination spread - and fizzle out?

An online craze – Neknomination – has caught the attention of media around the world. The idea is that someone makes a video of themselves drinking- usually downing a pint of beer. At the end they nominate two or three more people to do the same within 24 hours.

“Neknomination has all the marks of an epidemic, so it makes sense to look at the phenomenon as if it were an infection,? says Adam Kucharski, a research fellow of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

He decided to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations comparing the spread of the NekNomination game, to a disease outbreak. Using maths, he plots how quickly the game spreads among friends, and how long it takes to fizzle out.

Also, with countries such as France and Britain fixated on how much income tax the rich should pay, we take a look at which countries levy the highest and the lowest rates. Plus, we look at how the average worker fares.

Image: Man drinking beer; Credit: Press Association

Nobel Prize Puzzle2013102020131021 (WS)

Tim Harford tells the story of how two economists who disagree with each other have been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize.

Eugene Fama of Chicago University is being recognised for his work showing that stock markets are efficient, while Robert Shiller of Yale is being recognised for showing they’re not.

Tim explores this apparent contradiction.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Ruth Alexander

(Image: A man looks at the electronic board showing downward graph of share prices. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

How the economist who called markets efficient is sharing top award with his big critic.

Novelists In Numbers20171030

Counting the favourite words of well-known authors

Stephen King once said that wannabe authors should avoid using adverbs which end with ‘ly’ but does he follow his own advice? Data journalist Ben Blatt decided to find out. He also analysed texts written by some of the best known authors to discover the words they use obsessively, and why. Elmore Leonard whose book inspired the film Jackie Brown loved exclamation marks, while Vladimir Nabokov who wrote Lolita was keen on the colour ‘mauve.’

Presenter: Tim Harford

(Photo: American novelist Ernest Hemingway in 1954 on safari in Africa. Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Numbers Of 201220121229

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

Numbers Of The Year 2015 - Part One2015122520151228 (WS)

How has the European migrant crisis affected the number of people seeking asylum? In this special programme Tim Harford looks back at some of the numbers making the news in 2015. He speaks to Leonard Doyle from the International Organisation for Migration and Claire Melamed from the Overseas Development Institute.

(Image: Migrants and refugees cross the Greek-Macedonian border. Credit: Getty Images)

A look back at some of the most interesting numbers that made the news during 2015

Numbers Of The Year 2015 Part 22016010120160104 (WS)

Tim Harford looks back at some of the most interesting numbers of 2015.

How healthy is the Nigerian economy and how many possible tweets are there? Tim Harford looks back over some of the numbers that made the news in 2015.

(Image: Nigerians check their ballot station positions in Yenagoa. Credit: Getty Images)

Numbers Of The Year 2015: Part Three2016010820160111 (WS)

What is preventing some Americans from being creative? And, how much money does the English Premier League contribute in tax? Tim Harford looks back over some of the numbers that made the news in 2015. He speaks to author and broadcaster Farai Chideya, former footballer Graeme le Saux, and BBC cricket statistician Andrew Samson.

(Photo: Days marked on a calendar as a holiday crossed and a word postponed written over it. Credit: Shutterstock)

Tim Harford looks back at some of the most interesting numbers making the news in 2015

Odd Socks And Algorithms2016072920160801 (WS)

How can the techniques of computer science help us in everyday life?

How can the techniques of computer science help us in everyday life? We speak to Brian Christian co-author of Algorithms to Live by: The Computer Science of Human Decisions. He argues that the techniques of computer science can help us manage everyday situations in a more logical and efficient manner. So which algorithm can help solve the problem of odd socks? And what is the most efficient way of alphabetising your book collection? Tim Harford investigates.

(Photo: Socks. Credit: Angela N Perryman/Shutterstock)

Oil2015102320151024 (WS)
20151025 (WS)
20151026 (WS)

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said a million barrels of the country’s oil were stolen per day. Is he right? Ruth Alexander asks Peter Cunliffe-Jones of Africa Check. And, does 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil lie in the Arctic? Producers: Keith Moore and Phoebe Keane (Image: A Nigerian Oil Rig. Credit: Getty)

Are a million barrels of Nigeria’s oil stolen per day? Ruth Alexander finds out.

Oxfam And Wealth Inequality2016012220160125 (WS)

You may have seen the claim that ‘62 people now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population’. You may also have seen headlines that suggest that 1% of the world’s population now own more than the 99% put together. This is the latest iteration of Oxfam’s annual report looking at global inequality. They say that the overall the world may be getting richer but that most of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. But is this really telling us what we think it’s telling us? Tim Harford asks economics writer Felix Salmon and development expert Charles Kenny.

(Image: One of the world's richest people, Bill Gates, participates in a panel discussion during the Financial Inclusion Forum. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Were Oxfam right to compare the wealth of the rich with that of the poor?

Predicting L'aquila Earthquake: Is It Right To Blame The Scientists?20121027

This week six scientists and one ex-government official were sentenced to six years in prison for multiple manslaughter. Part of the case against them was the falsely reassuring comments they made before the earthquake struck. On More or Less this week we look at how the probability of an earthquake is estimated. And how will this case effect scientists giving advice in the future?

Plus, Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Congress party, has caused a political storm in India by claiming that 70% of the youth in Punjab are drug addicts. More or Less explains why the figure is wrong - it comes from a gross misreading of the research - but there certainly is a serious drug problem in Punjab.

(Image: An Italian military carabinieri walking on debris past destroyed buildings after an earthquake in L'Aquila. Credit: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files)

On More or Less this week we look at how the probability of an earthquake is estimated.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Predicting Olympic Medals2016080520160808 (WS)

What makes a country successful at winning gold, silver and bronze?

How can we use statistics to predict how many medals each nation will win? We speak to Dr Julia Bredtmann, an economist at the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research. She has come up with a model to predict how many medals each country will win, along with her colleagues, Sebastian Otten, also from the Leibniz Institute, and Carsten Crede of the University of East Anglia.

Some countries like the US and China have a large population and GDP, but a number of countries do very well for their size and wealth. Julia explains the different factors you have to consider to predict Olympic success.

(Image: Lagoa Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit: Reuters)

Pregnancy And Homicide2014111520141116 (WS)
20141118 (WS)

The movie Gone Girl claims homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant women. Ruth Alexander asks Dr Katherine Gold from the University of Michigan if this is true.

And can we trust country rankings seen in the growing number of performance indices? We speak to the Economist’s international editor Helen Joyce.

(Image: Ben Affleck in a scene from Gone Girl. Credit: Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox/AP Photo )

Is murder a leading cause of death for pregnant women as claimed in the film Gone Girl?

Processed Meat And Cancer2015103020151102 (WS)

Are processed meats as cancer-causing as cigarettes? Ruth Alexander investigates.

Are processed meats as cancer-causing as cigarettes, and has the Rugby world cup been the most brutal? Ruth Alexander investigates.

(Image: Cigarette sliced like Salami. Credit: Shutterstock)

Queuing Backwards2015090420150905 (WS)
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20150907 (WS)

Would life be better if we served the last person to join a queue not the first.

Queuing backwards

Britons love to queue, but have we been getting it wrong? Lars Peter Osterdal from the University of Southern Denmark discusses his theory of how to make queuing more efficient.

Thinking Like an Engineer

Engineer Guru Madhavan tells the story of the development of the barcode and argues that those making policy should ask engineers as well as economists about solving social problems.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Wesley Stephenson

(Photo: Commuters queue for buses Credit: AFP Wires)

Ranking Iceland’s Football Team2016070120160704 (WS)

Is Iceland the best football team in the world per capita? England suffered a 2-1 defeat to Iceland in the European Football Championship in France. This was embarrassing for England when you consider its population is 163 times bigger than Iceland’s. We take a look at whether Iceland is now the best performing football team in the world if you compare Uefa ranking to the size of each country’s population. Plus, we take a look at the chances of a young man in Iceland and in England getting to represent their country on the pitch.

Old v Young Brexit Voters

Many media outlets have reported that it was predominantly the older generations in the UK who voted to ‘Leave’ the EU in a recent referendum, while those under 25 were keenest to ‘Remain’. It has prompted many listeners to ask whether a referendum on this topic might yield a different result if held in a few years’ time as the electorate changes. We attempt some back of the envelope calculations with Tom Chivers from Buzzfeed. But how good is the data available? How do we know how people voted or how they would vote in the future?

(Photo: England v Iceland, EURO 2016, Nice, France. Credit: Reuters)

Are Iceland's football team the best in the world per capita?

Refugee Camp Statistics2016052720160530 (WS)

What is the average length of stay in a refugee camp? It is regularly reported that it is 17 years but is this true?

Floppy Disks

This week’s shocking revelation of the computer world was that the Department of Defence still uses 1970s floppy disks to coordinate its nuclear weapons systems. But can it possibly be true that you could fit more than three million of them on a single ten dollar USB drive?

Producer: Laura Gray

Presenter: Ruth Alexander

(Image: An Afghan woman carries laundry in a refugee camp in Malakasa. Credit: Milos Bicanski / Getty)

Is it true that the average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years?

Rush: Formula 1 Risk2013092220130923 (WS)

How dangerous was motor-racing in the 1970s? Plus: environmental facts about plastic bags

Sachin Tendulkar - The Greatest, Or Just The 29th Best Test Batsman Of All Time?2013111620131118 (WS)

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has amassed 15,847 test runs, which is 2,500 more runs than any other batsman. But other ways have been devised to calculate cricketing greatness and the Little Master, as he has become known, does not feature as prominently in a lot of them. More or Less crunches the numbers.

(Image: Sachin Tendulkar batting. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

How do other measuring systems rate the Little Master?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Safe Drinking2016032520160328 (WS)

UK Alcohol guidelines recommend drinking less – but do the numbers support them?

New alcohol guidelines were issued recently in the UK which lowered the number of units recommended for safe drinking. But are the benefits and harms of alcohol being judged correctly? We speak to Professor David Speigelhalter.

Tim Harford presents.

(Photo: Man drinking beer. Credit: George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Samba, Strings And The Story Of Hiv20170605
Sexist Data Crisis2016061020160613 (WS)

Are we collecting enough data about women?

Are countries around the world failing to collect adequate details about their female citizens? Campaigners have argued we are missing data in areas that would help us understand women’s lives better, for example land and inheritance rights. We also explore how women’s work can be overlooked in labour surveys.

(Photo: A woman works in a corn field, near Bouake, central Ivory Coast. Credit: Issouf Sanogo/Getty Images)

Sexual Violence And Statistics In Asia2013091520130916 (WS)

A report suggests almost a quarter of men in some Asian countries admit rape. Is it true?

Should We Really Be Drinking Eight Glasses Of Water A Day?2017010620170109 (WS)

How much water should you be drinking? There’s some age-old advice that suggests you should be drinking eight ounces (230 ml) eight times a day. Some people even advise you should be drinking this on top of what you normally drink. There is lots of advice out there but how do you know when you’ve had enough or if you’re drinking too much. With help from Professor Stanley Goldfarb from the University of Pennsylvania, Wesley Stephenson finds out.

(Image: Hand holding a glass of water. Credit: Charlotte Ball/PA Wire)

Simpson’s Paradox2016042920160502 (WS)

We explore how statistics can support two seemingly contradictory results.

A Dutch statistician recently became suspicious by headlines in the Dutch news that women were being discriminated against when it came to getting science research funding. Professor Casper Albers of the Heymans Institute for Psychological Research, Groningen, discovered that the study into the funding process showed that when you looked at the overall numbers of successful candidates, women seemed to be less successful than men. And yet, when you looked at a breakdown of the different subjects people could apply for, it showed that women were not losing out disproportionately to men. How could two opposite findings be true? This contradiction is explained by a famous statistical paradox. We explain what is known as Simpson’s Paradox with the aid of a choir metaphor, performed by the BBC Singers.

(Image: A circle of women and men, Credit: Thinkstock)

Sleeping: The 8-hour Myth2016070820160711 (WS)

It’s often said that we should all be aiming to get eight hours of sleep a night. But could it actually lead you to an early grave? Research shows that sleeping for longer, or shorter, than average is associated with an increased risk of disease and mortality. But what’s causing the health problems, and should you really give up the lie-in? Ruth Alexander looks at the latest sleep science with Dr Gregg Jacobs from UMASS Medical Center, US; Professor Franco Cappuccio from Warwick University, UK; Professor Jim Horne of Loughborough University, UK; and Professor Shawn Youngstedt of Arizona State University, US.

(Photo: Man asleep in a bed. Credit: Corbis)

Could having a lie-in lead to an early death?

Species In Decline?2014101020141012 (WS)
20141013 (WS)

The coverage of the Living Planet Index and its claim that species populations have dropped 50% in the last 40 years aroused much suspicion among More Or Less listeners. The team looks at what the figure means and how it was calculated.

(Photo: Male Royal Bengal tiger staring towards the camera from inside the jungle. Credit: Shutterstock)

Are claims that species populations have dropped 50% in the last 40 years true?

Sperm - Are We Going Extinct?20170925

How much of a problem is falling sperm count?

A study released recently says that male sperm count has declined by 50 percent since 1973. It’s not the first time we’ve been worried about this issue, in 1992 the now contentious ‘Carlsen’ study also suggested a plunging sperm count.

But previous studies have made similar claims and turned out to have questionable methodology. Is the new study more reliable? (Yes.) Previous critics claim it has addressed many of the problems faced by previous studies.

And how much of a problem is falling sperm count?

We speak with Prof Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, Dr Hagai Levine from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Dr Tina Jensen of Syddansk University, Denmark.

(Image: A father with his daughter at breakfast time. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A study released recently says that male sperm count has declined by 50 percent since 1973. It’s not the first time we’ve been worried about this issue, in 1992 the now contentious ‘Carlsen’ study also suggested a plunging sperm count.

But previous studies have made similar claims and turned out to have questionable methodology. Is the new study more reliable? (Yes.) Previous critics claim it has addressed many of the problems faced by previous studies.

And how much of a problem is falling sperm count?

We speak with Prof Allan Pacey of Sheffield University, Dr Hagai Levine from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Dr Tina Jensen of Syddansk University, Denmark.

Spurious Correlations2014060620140608 (WS)
20140609 (WS)

Is the divorce rate in the US state of Maine linked to margarine consumption?

Is the divorce rate in the US state of Maine linked to margarine consumption? It sounds ridiculous, but you might be tempted to believe it if you saw the graphs side by side. It's one of many pairs of statistics featured on the 'Spurious Correlations' website started recently by Tyler Vigen. We talk to him about some of the funniest correlations he's found and the serious point he's trying to make. And it's World Cup Office Sweepstake time, so Tim Harford peels the probability onion to help a listener decide the ideal sweepstake strategy, and lifts the lid on our own office sweepstake design.

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Statistics of the Year 201720171231

Phones, lawn mowers and how Kim Kardashian helped the public understanding of risk

How many active phone lines are there in the world? How many people die from lawn mowers on average each year in the US? How does this compare to terrorism deaths? Plus, is England densely populated compared to the rest of the world? We speak to Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter about the winners of the Royal Statistical Society’s competition to find numbers reported in the news that surprise us.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander
Producers: Charlotte McDonald and Lizzy McNeill

(Photo: US reality TV star Kim Kardashian looks at her iPhone. Credit: Karen Minasyan/Getty Images.)

Statistics Of The Year 201720171231

Phones, lawn mowers and how Kim Kardashian helped the public understanding of risk

How many active phone lines are there in the world? How many people die from lawn mowers on average each year in the US? How does this compare to terrorism deaths? Plus, is England densely populated compared to the rest of the world? We speak to Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter about the winners of the Royal Statistical Society’s competition to find numbers reported in the news that surprise us.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander
Producers: Charlotte McDonald and Lizzy McNeill

(Photo: US reality TV star Kim Kardashian looks at her iPhone. Credit: Karen Minasyan/Getty Images.)

Swedish Refugees2016012920160201 (WS)

Have refugees caused a gender imbalance in Sweden's teenage population?

Have refugees caused a gender imbalance in Sweden? It has been reported that there are 123 boys for every 100 girls aged between 16 and 17 in Sweden. In China, the ratio is 117 boys to 100 girls. We explore if the numbers add up and why this might be.

(Photo: People hold a 'Refugees Welcome' banner in Stockholm. Credit: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Swimming World Records2016081220160815 (WS)

World Records are being set at a much faster rate in swimming than in other sports. At the Rio Olympics, British swimmer Adam Peaty managed to break the men's 100m breaststroke world record twice in two days. Tim Harford speaks to swimming coach, Rick Madge, about the reasons swimmers keep getting better results in the pool.

Also, science writer Christie Aschwanden makes the case for the virtues of the 5,000 metre race. She says that in recent times it has become very popular for people to train to run a marathon. But when you look at the numbers, is the 5K a better distance?

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Charlotte McDonald

(Image: Britain's Adam Peaty swimming, credit: Reuters)

Why are swimming world records frequently being broken?

That's Not Much Gold2013033020130401 (WS)

What would happen if a super-villain managed to take control of the world’s gold and melt it down into a cube? How big would it be? It’s often said that all the gold ever mined would only form a cube with sides of 20 metres. Is this true and how- on-earth do we know? Wesley Stephenson finds out.

(Image: Gold bars. Credit: REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files)

What if a super-villain took control of the world’s gold and melted it into a cube?

The 10,000 Hours Rule2014030120140302 (WS)
20140303 (WS)

Is it possible to become an expert on practice alone?

If you practised anything for long enough, would you become a pro? Author Malcolm Gladwell popularised the idea that if you devote yourself to anything from chess to playing an instrument for 10,000 hours, you will become an expert.

But where did the idea come from, and is it true? More or Less tells the story of how a paper published in 1993 went on to spark a debate – is practice enough, or do you need innate talent as well?

David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene and Malcolm Gladwell explain their views.

Plus, we hear from a photographer who quit his job to concentrate on trying to become a golf pro, despite claiming to have no natural talent.

The Attention Span Of A Goldfish2017031020170313 (WS)

Everyone knows our attention spans are getting shorter. It's just obvious. In the always-connected world of social media, smartphones and hyperlinks in the middle of everything you read, it's become that much harder to stay focused. And there are statistics too. They say that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now. That's less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

But the statistics are not all that they seem - and neither is the received wisdom about goldfish.

Producer/Presenter: Simon Maybin

(Image: Shutterstock/Goldfish)

Are our attention spans now shorter than a goldfish's?

The Concrete Facts About Trump’s Wall And China2017031720170320 (WS)

If the US is going to build a wall on their border with Mexico – it’s going to take a heck of a lot of concrete - millions of tonnes in fact. But as Wesley Stephenson finds out there is a unlikely winner from all this construction. But even with such a huge construction project the US is still a minnow when it comes to concrete use and it is often said that China used more concrete between 2008-2011 than the US did in the whole of the Twentieth Century. It sounds astonishing - but is it true?

Presenter/Producer: Wesley Stephenson

Image: Getty/Credit: David McNew / Stringer

Did China use more concrete in three years than the US in the 20th Century?

The Cost Of A Wedding Gift20160919

How much should spend when a couple get married?

Can economics help us work out the perfect amount to spend on a wedding gift? Our reporter Jordan Dunbar is in a tricky situation-he’s heading to an old friend’s wedding and needs to figure out how much to give as a gift without breaking the bank. Luckily, economist Maria Kozlovskaya is on hand to talk about her findings on what factors we need to consider for gift giving, as well as preserving Jordan’s friendship and wallet.

(Photo: Several gifts wrapped and on a table. Credit: Jayme Burrows/Shutterstock)

The Death Rate Of White Americans20170421

Are middle-aged white Americans dying younger than other groups?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

The Death Rate Of White Americans € What’s Going On?2017042120170424 (WS)
20170425 (WS)

Throughout the 20th Century the developed world saw mortality rates fall and people lived longer and longer. But there is one group who may no longer be seeing a fall in their mortality rate –middle-aged White Americans. This is according to research from the eminent economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton. It is shocking research that adds to a view that times are tough for white working class men, a group that contributed to Donald Trump’s electoral success. But it is work that some have criticised for statistical problems and for not focusing enough on black Americans. Tim Harford attempts to explain what is really going on with mortality rates in the USA.

(Photo: Harmonica playing steel workers perched on a girder on the 22nd storey of the Murray Hill building, New York. Credit: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Are middle-aged white Americans dying younger than other groups?

The Death Toll In Syria2013090820130909 (WS)

How accurate are the reported death estimates in the Syrian conflict?

As global leaders remain divided on whether to carry out a military strike against Syria in response to the apparent use of chemical weapons against its people, Tim Harford looks at the different claims made about how many people have been killed. The United States, the UK and France are sharing intelligence, but all quote different estimates of how many people they think died in the attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Tim speaks to Kelly Greenhill, a professor of political science at Tufts University in the US, and co-author of Sex, Drugs and Body Counts about why the numbers vary so widely. And he speaks to Megan Price from the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, who has been trying to keep a tally of the deaths in Syria since the conflict began.

Apparently, it is a fact that if there's one thing that's worse for you than drinking, scoffing bacon sandwiches and smoking 80 unfiltered cigarettes a day, it is being left-handed. Left-handers die on average several years earlier than right-handers. Or do they? Tim gets to the bottom of a sinister statistic with Professor Chris McManus, author of Right Hand, Left Hand.

(Image: A man holds his forehead as he stands amongst rubble in Syria. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

The Elliptical Pool Table2015082120150822 (WS)
20150823 (WS)
20150824 (WS)

The geometric properties of an elliptical pool table.

The ancient Greeks saw magic in the geometry of an ellipse and now mathematical writer Alex Bellos has put this to use in a specially designed table for a specially designed game of pool.

Premier League predictions

If a Martian came to earth wanting to know where each team would finish in the English Premier League this season where should he go to get the most accurate prediction?

The Great Eu Cabbage Myth2016040120160404 (WS)

Does the European Union dedicate 26,911 words to cabbage regulation?

Could there really be 26,911 words of European Union regulation dedicated to the sale of cabbage? This figure is often used by those arguing there is too much bureaucracy in the EU. But we trace its origins back to 1940s America. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true today. So how did this cabbage myth grow and spread? And what is the real number of words relating to the sale of cabbages in the EU? Tim Harford presents.

The Great Playing Field Sell Off?2012081820120819 (WS)

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 have looked like, based only on those factors? In other words, which countries over and under-achieved at London 2012?

Also, 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.

(Image: A combination of images taken during the Olympic Games in London. Credit: AFP

PHOTO/STAFFSTAFF/AFP/GettyImages)

The Hawthorne Effect2013101320131014 (WS)

Tim Harford tells the story of the Hawthorne Experiments, one of the most famous social studies of the 20th Century.

The finding – that workers are more productive if they are given attention - became known as the Hawthorne Effect, and gave rise to the human resources sector. But did the experiments really prove the existence of this effect? Tim Harford speaks to John List, author of The Why Axis, who has tracked down some of the original Hawthorne data.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Ruth Alexander

The social study that showed that workers are more productive if they are given attention

The Ignorance Test2017041420170417 (WS)
20170418 (WS)

How much do you know about the world?

Following the death of Professor Hans Rosling - perhaps best described as a kind of international development myth buster – we rebroadcast one of his interviews from the show. In this episode he delivers his Ignorance Test. Hans was a professor of international public health, and started the Ignorance Project to investigate what people know and don’t know about the world. His organisation, Gapminder, uses surveys to ask people simple questions about key-aspects of global development. Most people do badly. Hans asked presenter Ruth Alexander three questions from his Ignorance Test. Can you do any better?

(Photo: Hans Rosling, Statistician, Founder of Gapminder speaks about the impact of growing global population on resources at the ReSource 2012 conference Credit: Matthew Lloyd)

The Ignorance Test20170417

How much do you know about the world?

The Life Expectancy Of A Pope2016041520160418 (WS)

Statistics show that the Head of the Catholic Church can expect to live to an old age

In 2014 Pope Francis alluded to the fact he did not expect to live more than another two or three years. A group of statisticians have taken a look at the life expectancy of popes over the centuries and decided that he may have been rather pessimistic.

The Curse of the London Olympics

In a similar vein, is there an unusually high death count among athletes who took part in the London Olympics in 2012? The French press seem to think there is. Currently news reports estimate that 18 people have so far died since taking part in the sports event. The athletes come from teams around the world and have died from all sorts of causes – from cancer to drowning, murder, suicide, a helicopter crash among other things. But is there really a link between taking part in the London Olympics and the chances of dying? Or is it to be expected, statistically speaking, that 18 people have died over the last four years?

(Photo: Pope Francis. Credit: European Photo press Agency)

The Magic Of Maths2013081820130819 (WS)

Tim Harford talks to Persi Diaconis about how a love of magic led to a love of maths.

Tim Harford speaks to Persi Diaconis, top professor of maths and statistics and legendary magician. The Stanford University professor and co-author of the book "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.

Presenter: Tim Harford

Producer: Ruth Alexander

Image Title: Lane The Conjuror, credit: Getty Images

The Maths Of Infidelity2012052620120527

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? And we answer a cry for help from an Australian listener who wants to be “a bit more average?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

The Numbers Of 2013 - Part One2013122820131230 (WS)

The most informative, interesting and idiosyncratic statistics of the year

A guide to 2013 in numbers - the most informative, interesting and idiosyncratic statistics of the year discussed by More or Less interviewees.

The contributors are: David Spiegelhalter, Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University; Linda Yueh, BBC Chief Business Correspondent; and Simon Singh, author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets.

Producer: Ben Carter

The Numbers Of 2013 - Part Two2014010420140106 (WS)

The most informative, interesting and idiosyncratic statistics of the year

A guide to 2013 in numbers - the most informative, interesting and idiosyncratic statistics of the year discussed by More or Less interviewees.

The contributors are: Dr Pippa Malmgren, president and founder of Principalis Asset Management; Merryn Somerset-Webb, editor-in-chief of MoneyWeek; Helen Arney, comedian and presenter.

Producer: Ben Carter

The Parable Of The Ox20130105

Tim Harford tells us what a 'guess the weight of the ox' competition tells us about a bloated and disfunctional financial system. It features two noted economics writers: James Surowiecki of the New Yorker and John Kay of the Financial Times and a brand new composition from the legendary Radiophonic Workshop.

Tim Harford tells us about a 'guess the weight of the ox' competition.

The Piketty Affair2014053020140601 (WS)
20140602 (WS)

Did ‘rock-star’ French economist Thomas Piketty get his numbers wrong?

Did ‘rock-star’ French economist Thomas Piketty get his numbers wrong? His theories about rising inequality and the increasing importance of capital have been the talk of the economic and political worlds this year. And part of their power has been the massive amount of data Piketty has brought together to back them.

But the Financial Times claims to have found significant problems with Piketty’s data on wealth. Tim Harford examines the FT's claims and Thomas Piketty’s response.

(Image: "Best Selling Economist Author Thomas Piketty Speaks At UC Berkeley". Credit: Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

The Prevalence Of Paedophilia2014072520140727 (WS)
20140728 (WS)

The Pope was reported to have said that 2% of Catholic clergy were paedophiles. Is this a big number? Wesley Stephenson looks at the research on the prevalence of paedophilia and how the Catholic clergy compare to the world's population as a whole.

(Image: Pope Francis Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

If 2% of Catholic clergy are paedophiles how does this compare to the rest of society?

The Rise Of The Giants?2015091820150919 (WS)
20150920 (WS)
20150921 (WS)

The average rugby pack is much bigger than it was 20 years ago but has the growth finally plateaued?

Living Blue Planet Index

A report says populations of marine mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have declined by 49% since 1970, but what does this actually mean?

(Photo: England's number eight Billy Vunipola looks at a ball. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Are rugby players getting bigger and bigger?

The Story Of Average2016040820160411 (WS)

In the 1600s astronomers were coming up with measurements to help sailors read their maps with a compass. But with all the observations of the skies they were making, how do they choose the best number? We tell the story of how astronomers started to find the average from a group of numbers. By the 1800s, one Belgian astronomer began to apply this to all sorts of social and national statistics – and the ‘Average Man’ was born.

(Image: Illustration of an observatory. Credit: Shutterstock)

How astronomers introduced the world to the average.

The Tour De France2014071820140720 (WS)
20140721 (WS)

What is the best body type to win the Tour de France's yellow jersey?

The Tour de France has reached the mountains, but what does it take to be a good climber and why are the cyclists thin and bony, while sprinters are bigger with bulging muscles? And what is the best body type to win the yellow jersey?

Also are 24,000 people really killed by lightning each year?

Picture: The Tour de France, Credit: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

The Tour De France And The Statistics Of Cheating2012072120120722
20120722 (WS)

The Tour de France, 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?

Also in the programme - does when you retire influence when you die?

(Image: The peloton climbs the Cote de Burs during stage seventeen of the 2012 Tour de France from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes. Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Can maths prove whether the Tour de France has clamped down on the use of banned drugs?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

The Trump Bump20170821

President Trump has taken credit for a booming economy. But is that fair?

During a recent press conference President Trump said: “I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We’ve got the highest employment numbers we have ever had in the history of our country.? This is not the first time the American President has taken credit for a booming economy. But is that fair? We take a look at the numbers.

(Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to auto workers at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Credit: Getty Images)

During a recent press conference President Trump said: “I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We’ve got the highest employment numbers we have ever had I the history of our country.? This is not the first time the American President has taken credit for a booming economy. But is that fair? We take a look at the numbers.

(Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to auto workers at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Credit: Getty Images)

The Uk’s Foreign Secretary Gets A Factcheck20170501

In an interview, Boris Johnson mentioned a few statistics that turned out to be untrue.

The World’s Most Diverse City2016051320160516 (WS)

Is London the most diverse city in the world? The new London mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed that it is, but is he right? How is diversity measured?

This month, British mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles will go to Oslo to collect the Abel prize, a prestigious maths prize for his work proving Fermat’s last theorem. Science author Simon Singh explains his work.

(Photo: A street in Brixton, London. Credit: Getty Images)

Is it true that London is the most diverse city in the world?

The World's Most Profitable Product2016052020160523 (WS)

Recently one of our listeners contacted us to say he heard a BBC correspondent describe the iPhone as the most profitable product in history. It was just an off-the-cuff comment but it got us thinking - could it be true? We compare and contrast a range of products suggested by More or Less listeners to work out if the iPhone truly is the most profitable.

Producer: Laura Gray

(Image: An iPhone on a pile of coins. Credt: Shutterstock)

Is the iPhone the most profitable product in history? What are the other contenders?

To Ice Or Not To Ice?2014090520140907 (WS)
20140908 (WS)

The ALS ice bucket challenge has made $100m. How should we choose charities to donate to?

The ALS ice bucket challenge has become a viral phenomenon. People around the world have been dousing themselves in ice-cold water and in the process have raised over $100m for charity. But a true nerd doesn't run with the herd, and Tim Harford is only going to do the challenge if the facts stack up. He investigates whether a viral challenge like this is good for charitable giving overall, and whether there are reasons to be more choosy about the charities we give to.

(Image: KISS ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Credit: Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Tracking And Tackling Ebola2014110820141109 (WS)

We talk to global health expert and data visionary, Hans Rosling, who has just arrived in Liberia. He is working as an independent professor at the Health ministry there, as part of the team tracking and tackling Ebola. We look at the latest numbers surrounding the virus.

(Image: University Of Oxford and its Smith School Of Enterprise And Environment host ReSource 2012. Credit: Matthew Lloyd/Stringer/Getty)

We speak to global health expert Hans Rosling about the numbers surrounding Ebola.

Trump’s Crime Claims2016092320160926 (WS)

This week Donald Trump claimed that there are some inner city areas in the US which are suffering from the worst crime rates ever. They are so dangerous, he says, that Afghanistan is safer than many of these areas. But could this be true? We take a look at crime in the US and assess whether you can compare it to a conflict zone such as Afghanistan.

(Image: Chicago - Neighbourhood residents watch as police investigate a homicide scene. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Are some US inner cities more dangerous than Afghanistan?

Violence, Shootings And The Police In The Us2016071520160718 (WS)

Tim Harford investigates the numbers surrounding police shootings in the USA.

Protests have spread across the United States over the last few weeks. The protestors have been registering their feelings about incidents where police have shot and killed black men. High profile recent incidents resulted in the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castle, and the protestors feel that minorities are being disproportionately targeted by the police.

On top of this, at a recent protest in Dallas a gunman shot and killed five police officers.

But what can the numbers tell us about the issue? How many people do police officers kill each year in the USA? And how many police officers are killed? Tim Harford investigates.

(Photo: Police officers stand guard at a barricade following the sniper shooting in Dallas. Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

What Happened Last Night In Sweden?2017022420170227 (WS)

Ruth Alexander tells the strange tale that connects Donald Trump, rape in Sweden, immigration and her reporting on More or Less.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander / Producer: Richard Vadon

When £10,000 Isn’t A Good Incentive2016021920160222 (WS)

Could no prize have been a better way to motivate snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan?

British snooker player Ronnie O’ Sullivan decided not to complete a maximum 147 this week because he said the prize money was too low. “If it had been more, I'd have gone for the 147? he told BBC Sport. Can incentives demotivate as well as motivate people, what makes a good incentive and do they really work?

And how do you measure a coastline? It’s trickier than you might think.

Presenter: Wesley Stephenson

(Image: Ronnie O'Sullivan. Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty)

When Companies Track Your Life2016061720160620 (WS)

How are companies using our personal data?

How are companies using our personal data? It is a familiar concern. Online retailers are tracking us so they can sell things to us. Bricks and mortar retailers have loyalty card schemes. Our banks and credit card companies know all about us. And of course, the big computer and telecoms companies could potentially track our internet searches, our phone calls – even our location as we wander around. But this isn’t the first time that large corporations have gathered sensitive data about their customers. We tell the shadowy story of how the personal details of Americans were pooled among insurance companies more than a hundred years ago.

(Photo: A police CCTV camera observes a woman walking. Credit: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Where Are All The Us Paralympics Gold Medals?2012090820120909 (WS)

Why did the USA top the gold medals league in the Olympics, but not the Paralympics?

Ruth Alexander examines the performance numbers of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and discovers which countries are punching above their weight, and which below.

Plus, how many songs could ever be written?

Mathematically-minded evolutionary biologist 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?"

(Image: (L-R) Arnu Fourie of South Africa, Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, Richard Browne of the United States, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, and Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira of Brazil, compete in the T44 100m at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Where Could We Fit The Entire World’s Population?2013081120130812 (WS)

Where could we fit the entire world’s population and the effectiveness of soccer managers?

If all the world’s population crowded together, where could we all fit? London? Texas? More or Less figures it out, and separates fact from fiction. And, as the soccer season returns, is it possible to measure the effectiveness of a team’s manager? We hear from David Sally, author of The Numbers Game.

Who Are The Libor Losers?2012071420120715

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’?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Who Won The Us Presidential Debate?2016093020161003 (WS)

Polling on the first TV debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appears to be divided over who won it. But not all polls are equal. If the people being polled are not representative of the population at large, then their responses may not tell you anything useful. And, when internet polls can be hijacked by online activists, they can throw up some pretty strange results.

(Photo: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton first presidential debate. Credit: Getty Images)

Polling on the Clinton-Trump TV showdown – and why not all polls are equal

Why Albums Are Getting Longer20171112

More or less finds out the numbers that are changing modern music.

Chris Brown’s latest album is stuffed with so many songs it runs at a sprawling two hours and twenty minutes. It’s only the latest in a string of lengthy album releases that includes artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Lil B. More or Less speaks to Hugh McIntyre, a music journalist who has found out that a numerical change in the way the album charts are measured is tempting artists into making longer albums.

We also talk to Marc Hogan, a senior writer at Pitchfork, about a number that is changing the sound of pop music. You can find more of Marc Hogan's writing on pitchfork.com.

Presenter: Jordan Dunbar Producer: Xavier Zapata

(Image: Chris Brown performs onstage at 2017 BET Awards. Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

Chris Brown’s latest album is stuffed with so many songs it runs at a sprawling two hours and twenty minutes. It’s only the latest in a string of lengthy album releases that includes artists like Drake, The Weeknd and Lil B. More or Less speaks to Hugh McIntyre, a music journalist who has found out that a numerical change in the way the album charts are measured is tempting artists into making longer albums.

Presenter: Jordan Dunbar Producer: Xavier Zapata

(Image: Chris Brown performs onstage at 2017 BET Awards. Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

Why Is Kenya’s Election So Expensive?20170807

Why the cost of running the vote will be $25 a person.

On Tuesday Kenyans go to the polls to elect members of parliament and the next president. A report in Quartz Africa has estimated that the cost of putting on the election by the Government works out at around $25 per head – $480 million in total. It also estimated that it cost Rwanda $1 a head, and Uganda $4 a head to lay on elections. Recently an expert on this programme estimated that the UK General election cost about $4 a head. We explore why there is such a difference in the amounts spent.

(image: Staff from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sort ballots for counting at a polling station in Kenya during the last election. Credit: Georgina Goodwin/Getty Images)

Why January Makes Us Want To Scream20170123

There are two things that you can be sure of in January and both of them make us want to scream. Firstly, Oxfam put out their ‘x number of billionaires hold the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’ stat. But as we’ve said in the past the comparison doesn’t make sense. The bottom half can include people with a pretty comfortable income but just because they have lots of debt they has negative wealth and on the other hand there could be people with barely any income – living off less than $1.25 a day - who have a small asset, such as a bike or a shack who are way up the wealth distribution.

The second head-banger is ‘Blue Monday’, the formula that supposedly tells us that the third Monday in January is when people are at their saddest. It’s like a virus that has infected the media. Each year it appears on different press releases promoting different products and the press lap it up. But there is no science to it at all. The formula is a stupid invention dreamt up to promote a TV channel in 1995 and it refuses to die.

In this programme we revisit both these issues to see if we can put them to rest once and for all.

(Image: Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' 1893. No copyright / in the Public Domain)

Blue Monday and Oxfam’s claims about billionaires–the stories that come around every year

Will 40 Per Cent Of The World's Workforce Really Be In Africa By 2050?2013062320130624 (WS)

In late May the US Secretary of State, John Kerry told an audience in Ethiopia that by 2050, 40% of the world's workforce would be African. The night before at the African Union 50th Anniversary Summit he said something slightly different - that 25% of the world's workforce would be African by 2050 rather and that by 2100, 40% of the world's young people would be African. We examine whether any of the claims are true.

The programme hears from Francois Pelletier, the Chief of the Estimates and Projections Division in the United Nations Population Division and Sarah Walters, an African Demographer from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The final scene of one of this year's most popular films - The Fast and the Furious 6 - has been the subject of intense debate. How long must the runway have been to have allowed a transport jet travelling in excess of 100 miles an hour to land, be chased by cars and then try and take off again? The internet has been awash with speculation and estimates but More or Less will attempt to provide the definitive answer.

Image: Nigerian worker with a laptop. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

How do we calculate future population projections in Africa?

Tim Harford explains the numbers and statistics in the news and in life.

Will Berlin See A Sub-two-hour Marathon?2014100320141005 (WS)
20141006 (WS)

Why Berlin is likely to be the place we eventually see a sub-two-hour marathon

In Berlin last Sunday Kenyan runner Dennis Kimetto set a new world record for the mens marathon. He covered the 26.22 mile course in two hours, two minutes and 57 seconds breaking the previous mark by 26 seconds.

It is the fifth time in the last eight years that the record has been broken - each time in Berlin between 25th September and 30th September. The spate of world records has only increased speculation about if and when we might see the marathon run in less than two hours.

Wesley Stephenson and Ben Carter find out what’s so special about the Berlin course and talk to the experts about the possibility of a sub-two-hour marathon.

The programme hears from Mark Milde, director of the Berlin marathon, Dr Ross Tucker, exercise physiologist at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa and Hugh Jones, winner of the 1982 London marathon.

Will Bitcoin use more electricity than the United States?20171224

Measuring the energy used to keep the crypotcurrency secure

There have been stories in the media suggesting that Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than Ireland, 1.5% of the world’s energy.

And if current trends continue, by July 2019, the Bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses.

Can these extraordinary claims be true? We look at the energy required to power the computers to keep the cryptocurrency secure, with help from Alex de Vries of the Digiconomist blog.

Presenter: Jordan Dunbar and Charlotte McDonald
Producer: Richard Vadon

(image: Digital Cryptocurrency, a Bitcoin alongside a selection of fiat currencies, December 2017 in London, UK. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Will One In Four People Develop A Mental Health Problem?2017033120170403 (WS)
20170404 (WS)

The claim that “one in four? of us will suffer from a mental health problem is popular amongst campaigners, politicians and the media. But this leads you to a simple question – where is this figure from and what’s the evidence? This was exactly what neuroscientist Jamie Horder asked, and far from being simple, it led him on quite a journey. So do we really know how many people are likely to develop mental health problems – Elizabeth Cassin and Charlotte McDonald find out.

Presenter: Charlotte McDonald

Producer: Elizabeth Cassin

(Photo: Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal during morning rush hour Credit: Getty Images)

Is there evidence that one in four people will develop a mental health problem?

Worm Wars2015081420150815 (WS)
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Are mass deworming projects a good idea?

A debate has been raging over the last month about the benefits of mass deworming projects. Hugely popular with the UN and charities, the evidence behind the practice has come under attack. Are the criticisms justified? We hear from the different sides – both economists and epidemiologists and their approach to the numbers.

(Photo: A nurse gives medicine to a child to prevent worms. Credit: AFP)

Yellow Cards For Christmas2016121620161219 (WS)

Former football referee Howard Webb told a story recently that he had been approached by players in the English Premier League asking to be booked so they could be suspended for Christmas. Unlike their European counterparts English footballers don’t get a mid-season break around Christmas. In fact, things go the other way and players are expected to play three games in a week meaning that often many will train on Christmas Day. One way to get a break is to rack up five yellow cards and be suspended. But do players really try anything so unsportsmanlike? Tim Harford asks journalist Rob Minto to delve into the data.

Are footballers trying to get suspended for Christmas?