Thought Show, The [world Service]



A debate has been raging over the last month about the benefits of mass deworming projects. Hugely popular with the UN and many charities, the evidence behind the practice has come under attack. Are the criticisms justified?

BBC Trending asks if it’s time to get rid of the “comments? section. This month the Daily Dot decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and closed theirs down. Several other technology sites are assessing the need for online comment. But how do you foster engagement and dialogue without inadvertently feed the trolls?

In The Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why do we keep diaries. He talks to the people who write diaries and the historians on a mission to “rescue? the diaries of normal people.

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

01/12/2016 Gmt20161201
100 Year Floods20151217

More Or Less investigates whether “100 year floods? only happen once a century

In More Or Less, Ruth Alexander and Wesley Stephenson investigate whether so-called ‘100 year floods’ only happen once a century and ask if it’s true breathing the air in Beijing causes as much damage as smoking 40 cigarettes a day.

BBC Trending reports on an alleged sexual assault which surfaced through the controversial social network Yeti – Campus Stories, also dubbed a college ‘party’ app. How does it work, and why are so many students using it to upload illicit material? And – a video that suggests an Egyptian man died after being tortured by police has been widely shared on Facebook. It’s the latest in a spate of recent deaths that have spurred people to speak out against the government on social media.

And in the The Why Factor Mike Williams looks at the meaning of wearing a skirt – a garment which throughout centuries has had social meaning, including the liberation and oppression of women. The programme includes an interview with Jung Chang, author of the bestselling “Wild Swans?, who describes how it was dangerous to wear a skirt during the Cultural Revolution.

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

29/09/2016 Gmt2016092920160930 (WS)

Algorithms, Crime And Punishment20161020

A drive-by shooting in the US midwest has raised questions about how algorithms are being used in the country's criminal justice system. A defendant in the case was jailed after an algorithm used by the court calculated that he was at high risk of reoffending. The risk assessment algorithm is supposed to make decisions less subjective, but one recent analysis found that the algorithm was biased against black people.

In Iran, social media users found novel ways to support the national football team when a match fell on a day of public mourning and the country’s religious leaders banned cheering and said only religious chanting would be tolerated. Also, how US prison inmates are arranging a nationwide prison strike from their cells, using banned social media.

And why do we write farewell letters? Whether it's messages from the living to the dying or from the dying to the living, how can we find the words to say goodbye?

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

Are Tall People More Likely To Get Cancer?20151015

Are tall people really more likely to get cancer? In More Or Less Ruth Alexander looks at a new Swedish study that’s caused headlines around the world, and asks how worried tall people like her should be about developing the illness.

BBC Trending reports on the outpouring of grief online over the death of teenager Caleb Bratayley, a member of one of YouTube’s most famous families, who became well known for simply uploading vast swathes of their day to day lives. Why is there such a big audience for ‘family vlog’ channels? We also hear from an Instagram user posting pictures of the good life… in Syria, from a part largely untouched by the war. And we find out about Afghanistan’s first satirical Facebook page ‘Kabul Taxi’.

In the Why Factor, Mike Williams, looks at the pain and pleasure of commuting and asks how it makes us the people we are.

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

Avoiding Asteroids20161124

We are 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.

DJ Khaled is kind of a big deal on Snapchat. His messages reach millions of young people who find him both hilarious and inspirational. Whitney Henry takes a trip to his hometown in Miami to try to find out the key to his success.

Also, Mike Williams asks why so many people are obsessed with discovering their family origins and also learns new things about his own ancestors along the way.

(Photo: Asteroid heading towards Earth. Credit: Shutterstock)

Brexit Economics; Viral Videos And Us Murder Rates; Attraction2016063020160701 (WS)

What might the UK’s vote to leave the European Union mean for the UK’s economy?

Following a referendum, the UK has voted to leave the European Union. What might that mean for the UK’s economy, especially for trade? Tim Harford examines the economic forecasts from the government, and how the UK might manage its relationships with other countries for More Or Less.

Why have murder rates spiked in several US cities? The head of the FBI, James Comey, has asked whether police are holding back from their work through fear of being filmed on camera phones and going viral on YouTube. The theory has been dubbed the ‘Viral Video Effect’, or the ‘Ferguson Effect’ after the city that witnessed unrest after a black teenager was killed by a white police officer. BBC Trending reports.

Why are we attracted to some people and to not others? Beauty, facial symmetry, personality and values all play a role in our attraction to others. Evolution biologist Dr Anna Machin from Oxford University explains the science behind our feelings. Mike Williams presents the Why Factor.

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

Can We Trust Food Surveys; Cricketing Fans Clash; What Motivates Magicians20160317

More or Less asks if we can trust the food surveys which inform popular stories about what foods are good and bad for you. How do experts really know what people are eating? Tim Harford speaks to Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for science, about the pitfalls of keeping a food diary and answering surveys. How could she tell all the ingredients in a restaurant curry; and how many tomatoes did she eat regularly over the past six months?

BBC Trending reports how after a recent cricket match Indian and Bangladeshi fans took their longstanding rivalry online where it became less than amiable. As a result, some government sites in Bangladesh were hacked and taken down. And a video in the United States explaining a simple maths problem using national educational standards – or Common Core methods - went viral and again raises the debate about whether Common Core maths methods in schools work.

And in the Why Factor Mike Williams explores the world of the magicians - the tricksters and the conjurers. Who are they and why do they do what they do?

(Photo: Food diary. Credit: Shutterstock)

More Or Less asks if we can trust food surveys that link foods to good and bad health.

Child Marriage And Dangerous Algorithms20161103

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

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? Data scientist and activist Cathy O’Neil wants to protect you from dangerous, and often hidden, algorithms.

In Nairobi one woman's online post about harassment on the city's private-hire minibuses or Matatus, has triggered dozens of similar accounts and complaints on social media of robbery, harassment and dangerous driving. We hear from the woman behind the #StopMatatuMenace hashtag campaign.

And can you believe your own eyes? Can you trust your own memory? Why is it that so many social scientists and so many in the police and the judiciary are so very concerned about eye-witness testimony. Mike Williams finds out why we often fail to accurately recall a face or an event.

China Stock Market Crash20150903

More or Less puts the Chinese Market Crash in context. Tim Harford asks how big the market is, how many investors does it have and does it tell us anything about the wider Chinese economy? He also looks at a fascinating piece of research showing that world class runners don’t actually move their legs faster than the average park runner!

BBC Trending asks should we be allowed to delete our tweets. It follows Twitter’s action in banning a website which flagged up MPs deleted tweets. And Trending also talks to a 19 year old Dutchman who’s been mapping the Syrian conflict – from his bedroom.

In The Why Factor, Mike Williams looks at the history of encryption – from the Roman Caesar Cipher to modern day computer encryption. We use encryption every day – in our bank transfers, on our mobile phones and whenever we buy anything online. Why is it so important?

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

China’s One Child Policy20151112

More Or Less investigates the impact on population growth of China’s one child policy. 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.

BBC Trending reports on the release by the hackers group Anonymous of the names of hundreds of people who they claim are members of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. But what happens when hackers get it wrong and falsely label people as KKK sympathisers?

And, a report from Brazil where a 12-year-old contestant on cooking competition Masterchef Junior was harassed online. The incident prompted feminist Juliana de Faria to create a campaign for women to share their first experiences of sexual harassment. Thousands of women shared their stories.

Plus, Why Factor asks why a growing number of people worldwide believe they are intolerant to certain foods and whether developing nations will end up with the same levels of allergies. Mike Williams reports.

(Photo: A woman carrying a baby in Yanji, in China's north-east Jilin province. Credit: Getty Images)

More Or Less investigates the impact on population growth of China’s one child policy

Climate Change20151210

More Or Less investigates the claim that climate change has contributed to war in Syria

In More Or Less, Ruth Alexander investigates claims that climate change has contributed to the war in Syria, and with the climate change summit COP21 underway in Paris, the team answers listeners’ climate change number questions.

BBC Trending hears from the Australian feminist columnist Clementine Ford who was bombarded by misogynistic abuse on Facebook. She reported one of her trolls to his employer and it cost him his job.

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams looks at the paradox symbolised by the wearing of a necktie – the desire to conform while standing out from the crowd.

Could You Forgive Someone That Raped Or Tortured You?20161229

Some crimes may seem unforgettable, but can forgiveness help heal the hurt?

Could you forgive the person who killed your child or who raped or tortured you? Some crimes, some events are so awful, so cruel, it’s impossible to imagine ever being able to say to the wrongdoer, ‘I forgive you’. Mike Williams hears the stories of those who have experienced unimaginable pain and suffering at the hands of others. And discovers what it feels like to turn anger and desire for revenge against the perpetrators into compassion and understanding for them. What does the act of forgiveness mean to the offender? Contributors include Kemal Pervanic, a survivor from the Omarska concentration camp during the Bosnian war, a rape survivor and a woman whose ex-husband killed her two children.

After two decades working in development, Claire Melamed is ready to reveal a 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.

Four of the biggest stories on the internet this year divided opinion around the world. We discuss the most popular memes of US Elections, the highlights of the EU referendum in the UK, why people around the world were scared of clowns and how live streaming made its mark on the digital world.

(Photo: Criminal man beg for forgiveness. Credit: Shutterstock)

After two decades working in development, Claire Melamed is ready to reveal a 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.

Counting Terror Deaths2016082520160826 (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?

Also, it is not common for Olympic athletes to discuss their menstrual cycle live on TV. But that’s what happened when Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui admitted she was not at her best because of period pains. It has opened up a whole new conversation about tampons in China - a country where some have never even heard of them.

Plus, why do we love to watch and follow pets on social media? Mike Williams meets the cat at the top of the viral video tree, Grumpy Cat.

(Photo: A man wrapped in a Belgian flag holds a candle at a makeshift memorial on Place de la Bourse. Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

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

Creativity And Mental Illness20151119

In More Or Less, are creative people more likely to suffer mental illness, and has Cuba wiped out child hunger? Wesley Stephenson investigates.

BBC Trending reports on the protests by black students against racism in Missouri which have attracted global attention. The head of the university has resigned. But there are now signs that the online campaign has spread to other campuses across the United States as students share their experiences of being ‘Black on Campus.’

In the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why private tutoring has become so commonplace worldwide. In London it is estimated that 50% of schoolchildren have a tutor at some point. In Hong Kong, that figure is much higher. What impact does tutoring have on education systems around the world? And does it entrench inequality?

Death Penalty Abolition2016090120160902 (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 practise. 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.

Also, we delve into the world of viral video trading, speaking to the people who acquire and sell viral footage – some of it entertaining, some of it tragic – as well as the news organisations (the BBC included) that buy it.

And, what does it mean to be an introvert? Anu Anand explores the growing movement which is challenging a seeming bias in favour of the extrovert – for the person who talks first in meetings and makes off-the-cuff remarks and who may shout the loudest to get their ideas heard.

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

Drug Deaths In The Philippines20160915

How many people have died in the Philippines since the Government encouraged 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. The press have reported that many thousands are the victims of extra-judicial killings but exactly how high is the death toll likely to be?

Sightings of suspicious clowns have left a US community in fear. Is the town the victim of a viral elaborate prank, or witnessing an outbreak of mass hysteria?

And why do we find certain types of voices or accents annoying ? Does that irritation reveal more about the speaker or about our own biases and prejudices and are irritating voices the same the world over?

(Photo: 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)

Dying For Cocaine2016102720161028 (WS)

The world of Pablo Escobar, one of the world’s most infamous drug traffickers, is dramatised in the Netflix TV drama series Narcos. We find out the truth behind the series’ claim about the number of deaths involved in Colombia’s drug trade.

A taxi driver’s political rant has gone viral in Egypt, prompting a debate about the state of the nation.

And, last year an estimated 119,000 people worldwide received organ transplants but many more are still waiting. Mike Williams talks to a surgeon in the United States, a doctor in Israel whose direct action led to an improvement in donation rates, and a daughter who gave a kidney to her father.

(Image: Posters of Pablo Escobar on a wall saying " Pablo for President". Credit: Getty Images)

E-cigarettes, Why Mexican Police Ran Away And Why Water Is Special20160211

More Or Less checks out research published last month which claimed to show that e-cigarettes harm your chances of quitting smoking. The paper got coverage world-wide but it has been described as 'grossly misleading' and 'not scientific'. What is wrong with the paper and should it have been published in the first place?

BBC Trending reports on a video showing an assassination in Mexico, which has shocked many in the country, because it shows armed police running away from the scene just beforehand. Why did the police run away? And will the video change anything?

Mukul Devichand also finds out about the man accused of being a ‘rape advocate’. A petition to ban Roosh V from Australia received more than 100,000 signatures. But who is he and why is he so controversial?

In the Why Factor Mike Williams explains why water is exceptional. Water is the only molecule in the natural world which expands when it freezes. It is also the cornerstone of all of life on this planet, and maybe others, and it is part of the myths and rituals of civilisations all over the world.

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

Fact Checking The Big Short; The €bride Price’ Story In China; Conspiracy Theory20160310

More Or Less checks out a fact quoted in the film the Big Short that for every 1% that unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die. But is there any truth in this statistic? It turns out it is a figure that has been around for many decades. Charlotte McDonald explores its origins. And, is it true that the UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, as said by many politicians in the debate over whether the UK should leave the European Union?

BBC Trending reports on a story shared on Weibo, about a girl forced to have an abortion when her boyfriend could not pay her family to marry her. It has raised the issue of ‘bride price’ payments in China. And there is news of Ese, a Nigerian girl who was abducted last August, but returned to her family this week thanks in part to a hashtag campaign - #FreeEse.

And, the Why Factor asks why throughout history people have held conspiracy theories which cast doubt on the official narratives of some very serious events - from the Holocaust to 9/11, Diana to JFK, Lockerbie to Sandy Hook. What prompts people to think in this way and how should governments react to the people who doubt them? Mike Williams reports.

(Photo: Conspiracy word cloud concept, with abstract background. Credit: Shutterstock)

Are the facts about unemployment and the death rate in the film the Big Short accurate?

Football’s Red Card Clich20151008

Football managers and pundits often say “it’s harder to play against 10 men?, but is there any truth in this cliché? More Or Less investigates. 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.

BBC Trending reports on medical malpractice in France, revealed after a French woman became concerned about the way her routine gynaecology examination was carried out and her husband asked a simple question about standard procedures on Twitter. The tweet triggered a slew of accusations about malpractice.

We also hear from Emily Bingham, whose Facebook plea for people to stop asking ‘when will you have a baby?’ struck a chord online.

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why humans have had the urge to leave their mark from Stone Age caves to the walls of our modern cities. He joins the artists at a Graffiti competition held in London and has a go himself with the spray paint.

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

Foreign Aid: More Harm Than Good?20151022

In More Or Less, Tim Harford interviews Nobel Prize winning economist Professor Angus Deaton about his views on foreign aid and how far he thinks our wealth affects our happiness.

BBC Trending describes how scientists are swapping academic papers in secret - most of the time illegally – using a Twitter hashtag ‘#ICanHazPDF’. We ask the scientist who came up with the idea why thousands of people are using it, and how they justify their actions.

And, this week Salman Rushdie dubbed the internet trolls who back the Indian Prime Minister ‘Modi Toadies’. But who are they and are they a sign of growing intolerance in India?

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why hundreds of millions of people support sports team, even if they are playing on the other side of the world.

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

Gender Inbalance In Sweden20160204

More Or Less asks if refugees have 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. Tim Harford asks if the numbers add up and why this might be.

BBC Trending reports on the support group set up by a Brazilian woman on Whatsapp for mothers with Zika virus. Also, are British Muslim women ‘traditionally submissive?’ Women respond with #traditionallysubmissive online following reported comments by the British prime minister. And, Mukul Devichand reports on the rise of black activism in the United States

In the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks what motivates people to pretend to be someone they are not. Impersonators, imposters, con-artists and entertainers – people do it for financial gain, to pay tribute to a music icon or simply to raise a laugh. But what happens when people start to believe their fantasy life is real?

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

Have refugees caused a gender imbalance in Sweden?

Gravitational Waves20160121

More Or Less asks if Einstein’s gravitational waves have finally been observed.

In More or Less, 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?

In BBC Trending, two stories about rape in South Africa; one about a woman who posted about her experience on Instagram to find people didn’t believe her and another which gripped the nation butwas totally made up. And why are people so upset about a statue of the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University? We hear from the students who want it taken down.

In the Why Factor, Angie Hobbs asks why do we want or need heroes? What constitutes a heroic act? Is it something you set out to do, or something you don’t choose, but live up to when it’s thrust upon you? And why do societies celebrate heroism? Professor Hobbs talks to people who’ve been hailed as heroes: Colonel Tim Collins who gave a much praised eve-of-battle speech to his troops as they were about to enter Iraq in 2003, Justin Oliphant who tackles gang violence in South Africa and Dame Ellen MacArthur who broke the record for solo round the world sailing.

(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)

Has Islamic State Been Losing Territory?20151126

More Or Less asks if so-called Islamic State has 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.

BBC Trending reports on the Smartphone footage of an Englishman being racially abused in Taiwan which has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube. What does this reveal about attitudes to foreigners? And what lies behind a popular hashtag which claims that India is 'choking' Nepal by stopping fuel and medical supplies getting into the country – claims which the Indian government denies.

And, in the Why Factor, Mike Williams traces the history of the T-shirt from its humble origins as an undergarment to its current status as a tool of the rebel, the protester, the campaigner and the corporate marketeer.

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

More Or Less asks if Islamic State has been losing territory

Hiv In Africa; Hate Speech; Safe Space2016060920160610 (WS)

Why a claim that 74 % of African girls aged 15 – 24 are HIV positive is untrue

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.

And Kyle Evans, a folk singing mathematician, performs his competition entry for the international Cheltenham Science festival in England in the studio for More Or Less.

The hashtag 'I stand with hate speech' has been trending in several countries, causing outrage as tens of thousands of people appeared to support online abuse. But the hashtag’s supporters claim they’re simply taking a stand for freedom of expression on the internet. BBC Trending also meets some of the Pakistani women who've been reacting to a recent suggestion that men in the country should be allowed to beat their wives, as long as it's done ‘lightly’.

The university experience is expected to train the minds of students by exposing them to new ideas and challenging their assumptions. Why then, in the English speaking west at least, are some students rebelling against this principle by insisting there are some ideas which are so abhorrent they should not be heard? To them a university should be a safe space. In the Why Factor, Mike Williams tries to discover where the balance lies between freedom of speech and protection from offence.

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

How Long Should We Sleep2016071420160715 (WS)

Why sleeping for longer or shorter than average seems to be bad for you

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 much longer, or shorter, than the average seven hours is associated with an increased risk of disease and mortality.

Also on the programme, the new Snapchat subculture where millions of people tune in to gory live videos of plastic surgery operations. It’s raised questions about how young women are being advertised to on the app. And as digital news threatens traditional newspapers around the world, why do they survive and what is their future?

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

How Many Is Too Many Bananas?20150917

More Or Less investigates the belief that too many bananas will kill you because you will overdose on potassium. But how many bananas would you need to eat?

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

BBC Trending reports on a surge in Facebook groups calling on Peruvians to take justice into their own hands, sharing videos showing beatings of alleged criminals. Peru’s Interior Minister calls for an end to vigilantism. And Canadian comedian Nicole Arbour tells Mukul Devichand why the critics of her online video “Dear Fat People?, which attacks the obese, are missing the point of satire.

In the Why Factor Mike Williams looks at our complicated relationship with the space we live in.

(Image: A bunch of bananas)

How Many Stormtroopers Are There?20151224

How many Star Wars’ Stormtroopers are there? More Or Less investigates.

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

BBC Trending reports on a viral video showing a mother in China punishing her daughter for allegedly getting bad grades. She dangles her over a fast flowing river while shouting at her. When does discipline cross the line? Why are some Chinese parents so tough on their children? Do ‘tiger mums’ practise the best parenting? Also, an agony aunt who’s using Instagram to dish out relationship advice to her followers in Nigeria explains why she does it this way.

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams looks at why we make lists – from shopping lists to wish lists - and what they reveal about our efforts to impose order on a confusing world.

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

How Not To Test Public Opinion20161208

People took to the streets in India 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 he’s been criticised for leading and confusing questions designed to get a particular outcome.

When Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte swept to power in May, many believed social media played a major role in his victory. But some allege his supporters used trolling and intimidation, in addition to clever campaigning, to bolster his position. Since winning, he has waged a war on drugs, leading to allegedly thousands of extra-judicial killings.

And, why don’t we understand how the female orgasm works? After years of scientific research, the male body is understood but when it comes to how women work, we are a long way behind. It appears research has been hindered by the assumption that the female body works in the same way as the male body and that for women, arousal is all in the mind. Researchers are slowly correcting these assumptions and making surprising discoveries.

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

How Reliable Is Psychology Science?20151001

More Or Less investigates the dismal findings of the recent Reproducibility of Psychological Science project: having replicated 100 psychological studies published in three psychology journals, it found 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?

BBC Trending hears why women around the world are sharing deeply personal stories about having an abortion and publishing their experiences on social media, and also talks to one of those who strongly object to what is being shared. And, the daughter of a Yemeni doctor who tried to tell the world about the war in his country talks about her fears for her father who disappeared over a month ago.

In the Why Factor, why do we love dolls? They are made for children but collected by adults. From the rag dolls of Ancient Egypt to the mass produced plastic fashion dolls of today, what purpose do they serve? Mike Williams looks at the evidence that playing with dolls develops children’s social skills, and hears how a South African doll maker was told ‘black dolls will never sell’ in her country.

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

Ice Cream Versus Aid20161110

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.

We investigate the rise and rise of fake news online. Deliberately making up news stories to fool or entertain people is nothing new. But the arrival of social media has meant real and fictional stories are now presented in such a similar way, it can be increasingly difficult to tell the two apart. With 60% of US adults now getting some news from their Facebook feed, more and more of us are seeing and believing incorrect information.

Are you sexist, racist or ageist? Even if you think you’re open-minded, the chances are, you’ll be judging people and situations without even realising. These hidden biases – which are different from conscious prejudice – lurk within our minds. And they can affect the way we behave, the decisions we make: whether it’s who we hire, who we promote or even – in the case of jurors – who we believe is guilty or not guilty.

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

Ireland’s Shock Gdp Figures2016072820160729 (WS)

Why Ireland’s GDP figures showing 26 per cent growth in 2015 are hard to believe

Official figures showing that Ireland’s economy grew by 26% in 2015 would make it the fastest growing economy in the world. But American economist Paul Krugman says this is “leprechaun economics? as this growth rate is so unrealistically high.

Also in the programme, online streaming services like Periscope and Facebook Live were used to show what was happening during the attempted coup in Turkey and are even being credited with changing the course of events.

And, why are men more violent than women, committing 90% of murders across the world and being more likely to join a gang? Caroline Bayley reports.

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

Leicester City Football Fluke, The Perfect Promposal, Why We Build Statues2016051220160513 (WS)

How surprising was it that Leicester City finished top of English Premier League?

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 for More Or Less to Lord Finkelstein, a political journalist, who has been running his own statistical model to assess the teams in the Premier League, and to James Yorke from the football analytics website Stats Bomb.

Promposals (that is, a prom proposal) have been sweeping the internet recently. But there has been a mixed reaction to some of the videos that have gained the most attention in which students ask their disabled friends to the high school dance. A woman who shared her experiences of pre-marital sex in Pakistan talks about trending on Twitter after she claimed the country made her feel repressed when she later moved to Canada. Plus, an update on the young Afghani who became an internet sensation after he was photographed wearing a Lionel Messi football shirt made from a plastic bag.

For thousands of years and across almost every culture, mankind has erected statues. For some they pay homage to gods, for others they are attempts at immortalising man. Their toppling has become a symbol of regime change. For the Why Factor, Lucy Ash investigates this unique art form that has seemingly never gone out of vogue.

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

Menstrual Syncing2016090820160909 (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?

Happy couples in Shanghai have been rushing to get divorced because of rumours of a rule change that would make it more expensive for them to buy property.

And what makes one voice trustworthy and another not? Mike Williams hears from a voice coach about how we can adapt our voices to persuade or deceive.

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

Is it true that women who spend time together end up menstruating together?

More Plastic Than Fish; Sexual Harassment In Iran; Why We Like What We Like20160218

More Or Less investigates recent reports that there will more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. The report comes from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. But 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?

BBC Trending reports on allegations by a news reader at Press TV in Iran that she suffered sexual harassment for two years from her managers. Her revelations are emboldening Iranian women to share their own experiences, breaking their silence in a country where sexual harassment is traditionally not acknowledged. A mother tells BBC Trending how she succeeded in removing a cruel meme mocking her four year old son who suffers from Pfeiffer Syndrome which can affect cranial and facial features. And there’s news of the online debate sparked by Beyonce’s performance invoking the black rights struggle at the Superbowl in the US.

In the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why we like the things that we like. At the root of our feelings of pleasure is dopamine, a chemical produced by the nerve cells in the brain, which can be triggered by some obvious and not so obvious things.

(Photo of waste plastic strewn on the Bao beach, near Dakar. Credit to: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

More Or Less asks if it’s true that soon there will be more plastic than fish in the sea

Most Expensive Building, Don’t Buy Death, How America Sees Itself2016042820160429 (WS)

Will a new nuclear power station in the UK be the most expensive 'object' ever built?

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 C. The environmental charity Greenpeace has 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? More Or Less takes a look at some of the most costly building projects on the planet.

Why are Somalis using a hashtag to try and persuade young people not to make the dangerous journey to Europe? #DhimashoHaGadan, which translates as “Don’t buy death?, aims to counteract the positive and sometimes misleading pictures many emigrants post to social media. Students in South Africa are publishing the names of alleged rapists online. They say it is to make people take sexual assault seriously, but others have accused them of mob justice. Also in BBC Trending, how three Indian students are using Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe to make a point about overbearing mothers-in-law.

And what are notions of national identity and how do they arise? Mike Williams travels around the United States of America for the Why Factor to find out how Americans see themselves.

(Credit: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

Numbers Of The Year 2015 - Part 120151231

More Or less looks back at some of the most interesting numbers of the year.

In More or Less Tim Harford looks back at some of the most interesting numbers in the news in 2015. He investigates how the migrant crisis has affected the number of people seeking asylum, talking to Leonard Doyle from the International Organisation for Migration and Clare Melamed from the Overseas Development Institute.

In BBC Trending Anne-Marie Tomchak talks us through some of her favourite viral songs of the year. And we revisit one of this year’s biggest talking point - #thedress. People around the world debated which colour it was - dark blue and black or white and gold. Was discussing the dress a fuss over nothing, or did we learn something valuable in the process?

In the Why Factor, Mike Williams looks at the phenomenon of 'Groupthink'. He asks why we succumb to it, and how we can fight the urge to follow the crowd when voicing dissent might avoid dangerous consequences.

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

Numbers Of The Year 2015 - Part 220160107

More Or Less looks back over some of the numbers that made the news in 2015

In More Or Less, Tim Harford analyses some of the numbers that made the news in 2015.

For example, how healthy is the Nigerian economy and how many possible tweets are there?

A year on from the killing of 11 staff at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, BBC Trending’s Mukul Devichand looks back at the impact of #JesuisCharlie – a slogan which became a rallying cause for free speech, spreading around the world via social media and inspiring many causes.

The recognition brought the paper wealth and an international audience, but also a level of scrutiny it had never before experienced, with its past and current covers now being shared around the world, debated and often criticised as people argue over the limits of satire.

Also, Anne-Marie Tomchak reports on the viral body image issues of the year past.

In the Why Factor, Lucy Ash asks, why do we hunt? In some societies hunting is necessary to get food, but why do those who can buy meat in a shop go out hunting? Do they like to kill? Or is there something else at play? Lucy Ash talks to hunters from Canada, South Africa, the US and Scotland, who between them have killed animals ranging from deer to elephants, to ask them why they do it.

Numbers Of The Year 2015 - Part 320160114

More Or Less hears why Americans should take more time off.

In More Or Less, Tim Harford hears that a failure to take time off is preventing some Americans from being creative. And he looks back over some of the numbers that made the news in 2015 with author and broadcaster Farai Chideya, former footballer Graeme le Saux, and BBC cricket statistician Andrew Samson.

BBC Trending talks to Nawal Al-Hawsawi, a black Saudi woman who’s received racist abuse online for tweeting about her support for inter-racial relationships. She’s been called the “Rosa Parks? of Saudi Arabia for her campaigning against racism. And the makers of a viral video criticising Facebook’s plans to bring ‘free internet’ to those without access in rural India explain their objections.

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks how far hypocrisy is part of the human condition. No-one likes a hypocrite, yet most of us are hypocritical to some degree. So why do we profess one thing but do another? And what would a world be like without it?

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

Odd Socks And Algorithms2016080420160805 (WS)

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

Brian Christian, co-author of ‘Algorithms to Live by: The Computer Science of Human Decisions’, 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? Tim Harford investigates.

Also, photoshopped images of Mark Zuckerberg, Narendra Modi and several Bollywood stars - all wounded by pellet guns - are trending in Kashmir. They are part of a campaign to raise awareness about unrest in the region, which also claims Facebook is censoring posts about the story.

And why do we love driving? Mike Williams asks if we would miss driving ourselves, as auto-piloted cars are tested in cities around the world.

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

Oil And Trainers20151029

The claims that millions of barrels of Nigeria’s oil are stolen every day

More Or Less checks out a claim by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari that a million barrels of the country’s oil are 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?

BBC Trending reports on controversy surrounding ‘consent lessons’ on offer in a number of British universities to tackle both rape and sexual assault. And we hear from the ‘Man who has it all’, a Twitter account that’s actually a scathing satire of the patronising lifestyle articles usually aimed at women. Also, one of the British Sikhs behind the #SikhLivesMatter hashtag – a response to recent violence in Punjab - explains what is motivating supporters.

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why trainers – or sneakers- have become such a popular fashion item far removed from their original purpose of health and fitness.

Oxfam And Wealth Inequality20160128

More Or Less checks out the claim that ‘62 people now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population’. Taken alongside Oxfam’s annual report that suggests that 1% of the world’s population now own more than the 99% put together, what does this mean in terms of global inequality? Tim Harford asks economics writer Felix Salmon and development expert Charles Kenny to paint the full picture.

BBC Trending explains how an image of a three-year-old girl being abducted has flooded social media in China. The girl has now been found, but the search sheds light on the country's huge digital campaigns trying to return tens of thousands of missing children to their parents. And, a Bollywood actress wowed the web over the grilling she received during a TV interview, and Bill, the new stick figure that went viral this week, offers advice on internet etiquette.

In the Why Factor, Mike Williams investigates the age of consent, the age at which a person is considered by law to be capable of agreeing to sex. He finds the age varies greatly around the world, and is bound up with child protection, notions of honour and marriage and concerns about paedophilia. How far is the number simply a social construct or is it based on any scientific evidence?

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

More Or Less asks if adding up individual wealth helps to measure global inequality

Police Shootings In The United States2016072120160722 (WS)

Why journalists are doing the counting for the numbers killed by police in the US

Journalists in the United States are doing the counting for the number of people killed each year by the police, as official figures are incomplete or non-existent. Tim Harford reports and asks why black people are disproportionately killed.

Also, the anti-vaccination movement that appears to be gaining ground in India, and why we seem to be getting smarter with every passing decade. Mike Williams reports on the Flynn Effect, which measures rising IQ scores across the globe.

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

Predicting Olympic Medals2016081120160812 (WS)

How statistics can help to predict how many Olympic medals each nation will win

How can we use statistics to predict how many medals each nation will win? Dr Julia Bredtmann, an economist at the RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, explains the different factors you have to consider to predict Olympic success.

The British-American porn star Candy Charms has become the talk of social media in Iran because she travelled to the Islamic republic to get a nose job. Her story has put the spotlight on Iran as a top destination for rhinoplasty and it has re-ignited a campaign to save the Iranian nose.

Also, do we live in a post factual age where messages of fear dominate? Mike Williams investigates the “Backfire Effect? which means that entrenched views can become more entrenched – when confronted by contradictory facts.

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

Processed Meat And Cancer20151105

More Or Less asks if processed meats are as cancer- causing as cigarettes

In More Or Less Ruth Alexander investigates whether processed meats are as cancer-causing as cigarettes, and asks if the Rugby World Cup has caused the most injuries to date?

BBC Trending reports on the on-air sexual harassment that got Mexico talking - when presenter Tania Reza was groped live on air by her co-host, Enrique Tovar, the clip went viral. As the saga unfolded, she and her co-host were both fired after making a video brushing it off as a social media stunt. Tania then claimed that she was pressured into making the video with Enrique. So what does the incident – and the huge reaction online - tell us about women’s rights in Mexico?

BBC Trending also investigates one of the internet’s most popular memes known as the ‘Sceptical Third World Kid’. What’s the story behind the photo? And are depictions of third-world children exploitative?

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why the bicycle - and cycling – which started out as a faddish leisure pursuit quickly became the world’s most popular means of transport and remains so to this day. What lies behind its mass appeal?

(A cigarette sliced up like salami. Credit: Shutterstock)

Queuing Backwards20150910

Britons love to queue, but have we been getting it wrong? Lars Peter Osterdal from the University of Southern Denmark tells More Or Less about his theory of how to make queuing more efficient. And engineer Guru Madhavan tells the story of the barcode and argues that those making policy should ask engineers as well as economists to help solve problems.

BBC Trending hears from Maryam Malak, considered one of Egypt’s top performing students before she scored zero in all seven of her exams. The incident caused outcry in the country, and many believe corrupt officials are to blame. We also hear about the social media battle being launched by some of the drivers of London’s traditional black cabs against taxi-app firm Uber.

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams looks at the subject of human rights - what are they, how are they evolving, and what if one person’s human right clashes with that of another?

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

Ranking Iceland’s Football Team; Social Media Movements Inspired By The Uk’s Vote To Leave The Eu; Why We Love Cycling2016070720160708 (WS)

Ranking Iceland’s Football Team – is it the best football team in the world per capita?

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 whose 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.

Many media outlets have reported that it was predominantly the older generations in the UK who voted to ‘Leave’ the EU in the recent referendum, while those under 25 were keenest to ‘Remain’. It has prompted many people to ask whether a referendum on this topic might yield a different result if held in a few years’ time as the electorate changes. The More Or Less team attempts some back of the envelope calculations but asks how good is the data available.

First came #Brexit, could #Frexit, #Ausexit or #Texit follow? The social media movements which have been inspired by Britain voting to leave the European Union are explained. And less than an hour after a terror attack in Istanbul, why did Turkey's government ban Facebook and Twitter? BBC Trending reports.

The bicycle - and cycling - started out as somewhat of a faddish leisure pursuit, largely the preserve of middle-aged and wealthy men. Yet it quickly became the world’s most popular means of transport and remains so to this day. Mike Williams explores its history and role in society for the Why Factor.

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

Refugee Camp Statistics, The Prison Pen Pal Debate, Being Thin2016060220160603 (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 and how difficult or useful is it to make such a calculation? More Or Less reports.

Robert Torres is serving four consecutive life sentences for four counts of aggravated rape. Lori Williams, one of his victims, was alarmed to find him advertising for a romantic relationship on a prisoner pen pal website. She started a petition to outlaw the practise for violent and sexual offenders in Texas, and was overwhelmed with support from the public online.

And, as their country faces a tomato shortage, lots of Nigerians have taken to Twitter to complain about the 100 tonnes of tomatoes wasted every year in Spain’s Tomatina festival. BBC Trending talks to both sides.

For thousands of years, a thin body was a sign of poverty or disease. But there is now a growing, global obsession with being thin. And this at a time when many populations around the world are, paradoxically, suffering epidemics of obesity. Mike Williams finds out why, as he speaks to former French model Victoire Macon Dauxerre, Tony Glenville from the London College of Fashion, Anne Becker from Harvard Medical School, professor John Speakman from University of Aberdeen and Etta Edim from Nigeria’s Efik tribe.

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

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

Safe Drinking, Sex Tape Mystery And Fanfiction2016033120160401 (WS)

In More Or Less, 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? Tim Harford hears from Professor David Speigelhalter.

In BBC Trending, the mystery of the sex-tapes featuring Georgian politicians which have been posted online, and more are expected soon. But it isn’t clear who’s responsible, or what the people posting them want to achieve. And Chinese women explain why they took the ‘A4 Challenge’, and posted pictures of themselves online showing that their waists are thinner than a piece of A4 paper. The trend has been widely criticised, but some participants say the critics are missing the point.

And in the Why Factor, what motivates the writers of Fanfiction, the global phenomenon in which amateur writers create new stories in the existing fictional worlds of their most loved films, TV shows and books. For many it is an obsession – but why do they do it? And how do the writers whose works are taken on by the fanfiction community feel about it?

It is not for the money; fanfiction is a non-commercial pursuit, although some writers do make the transition from amateur to published author. The most famous example of this is E.L. James, whose blockbuster book: 50 Shades of Grey, started out as fanfiction based on the Vampire inspired Twilight series.

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

Are the benefits and harms of drinking alcohol being judged correctly?

Sexist Data Crisis, Trading Medicine In Venezuela, Copying Art2016061620160617 (WS)

How countries around the world fail to collect adequate data about their female citizens

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. Women’s work can also be overlooked in labour surveys, More Or Less reports.

Patients in Venezuela are resorting to social media to source vital medical supplies. If the government declared a state of emergency, international aid agencies could provide fresh supplies, but the government says the situation is manageable. And, why people are putting their names in parenthesis on Twitter. BBC Trending hears how a campaign led by anti-Semitic trolls turned into an act of defiance, as both Jewish and non-Jewish people try to reclaim the racist symbol.

And why do people try to create old masters and modern art, brush stroke by brush stroke? Why do people buy them? Mike Williams talks to art copier David Henty, gallery owner Philip Mould and Paul Dong a Beijing based art auctioneer, among others, for the Why Factor.

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

Simpson’s Paradox; The Prank Call Crimewave; How The Rest Of The World Sees America2016050520160506 (WS)

Simpson’s Paradox explains how two opposite findings can statistically both be true

A Dutch statistician recently became suspicious over 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? More Or Less explains Simpson’s Paradox with the aid of a choir metaphor, performed by the BBC Singers.

This year a series of fast food restaurants across America have been damaged when their employees smashed out windows after receiving a call from the fire department who warned them about a gas leak. But the thousands of dollars in damage were really the result of illegal prank calls, broadcast live on the internet. BBC Trending investigates the online communities responsible, asking what motivates them and how they can be stopped.

What does the rest of the world think of the United States, one of the most recognisable nations on the planet? In the Why Factor, Mike Williams presents the second of two programmes looking into the concepts of identity for the BBC World Service's Identity season.

(Image: A river view in the Netherlands)

Sustainable Development Goals € Are There Just Too Many?20161013

It is now a year since the UN set its new Sustainable Development Goals to try to make the world a better place. They include 17 goals and no fewer than 169 targets on subjects like disease, education and governance. But some people, such as Bjorn Lomborg, say that they are too broad and too numerous to achieve anything, if left as they are.

There is another chance to hear a special report on the trade in viral video clips. Plus, why do we feel so many different and intense emotions when someone close to us dies? Whether it is yearning, sadness, anger or even shame, Mike Williams explores why each person’s grief is unique when they lose a loved one.

(Photo: A teacher writes on a blackboard during a class in Kenya. Credit: Getty Images)

Swimming World Records2016081820160819 (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 in the programme, photos of an overcrowded jail in the Philippines – taken by photographer Noel Celis – have gone viral. But remarkably some prisoners told him they felt ‘lucky’ to be there. They say many have met with a much worse fate as the new president Rodrigo Duterte cracks down on the country’s illegal drug trade.

And, why do we still fear animals that pose no serious threat to us and how can the effect of that irrational fear be so overpowering? Mike Williams discovers the answers lie deep in our evolutionary past.

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

Why are swimming world records frequently being broken?

Sympathy For Jihadis20151203

More Or Less investigates a claim about the level of sympathy among Muslims for Jihadis

In More Or Less, Ruth Alexander investigates a claim in a front page article in a popular British newspaper that one in five British Muslims have sympathy for jihadis. Is it, in fact, correct or misleading?

BBC Trending reports on a popular hashtag #ExMuslimBecause used by thousands to explain online why they left Islam, but criticised by others as “hateful? and ill- timed. And, we hear about the outcry on Russian social media, calling on citizens not to holiday in Turkey following the shooting down of a Russian plane. But was it started by ordinary Russian citizens, or led by pro-Kremlin accounts?

And in the Why Factor, Mike Williams looks at a style of dress that’s spread around the world and survived, largely unchanged, for the three centuries – the suit.

(Photo: A muslim demonstration against terrorism. Credit: Getty Images)

The Cost Of A Wedding Gift20160922

Can economics help us work out the perfect amount to spend on a wedding gift? Economist Maria Kozlovskaya has advice on the factors we need to consider.

Also, when Hillary Clinton almost collapsed at a 9/11 memorial, conspiracy theorists went into overdrive, falsely claiming the presidential candidate was using a body double to avoid questions about her health. The lookalike in question tells her side of the story.

And why do some games, hobbies and activities – like Pokemon Go - become crazes while others do not? Is there a secret formula?

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

The Elliptical Pool Table20150827

The ancient Greeks saw magic in the geometry of an ellipse. In “More or Less? mathematical writer Alex Bellos has put this to use in a specially designed table for a specially designed game of pool.

BBC Trending looks at the phenomenon of online pranks. Pranksters like Vitaly, Joey Salads and Prank v Prank get billions of views but some of the videos have been pushing the boundaries and causing controversy. Is all fair in love, war and pranking? Mukul Devichand is joined at the Edinburgh Festival by three obliging comedians – Nish Kumar, Kai Humphries and Anna Morris.

In The Why Factor, Mike Williams is talking about death. Why do we find it so hard to talk about? Mike meets a British doctor facing her own mortality and another in India who wrestles with telling her patients the bad news.

The Great Eu Cabbage Myth; White People And Dreadlocks; The Meaning Of Identity2016040720160408 (WS)

Could there really be 26,911words of European Union regulation about the sale of cabbage?

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 for More Or Less.

Two million people watched a video of a confrontation between two American students over his dreadlocks. What’s wrong with white people having dreadlocks? One student had a problem with Cory Goldstein’s dreadlocks, because he is white and she believed he is “appropriating? her culture. And also in BBC Trending, a Mexican father seeks justice on social media for his daughter’s alleged rape.

How are our identities created? How far do they shape the way we see the world, and the way the world sees us? Mike Williams reports for the Why Factor, as part of the BBC World Service Season on Identity.

The Life Expectancy Of A Pope; How Anonymous Are You; Radio Requests2016042120160422 (WS)

Was Pope Francis being too pessimistic when he predicted how much longer he would live?

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. And 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. But was it to be expected, statistically speaking, that the current total of 18 people would have died over the last four years since taking part in the sports event? More Or Less finds out.

A Russian photographer has carried out an experiment to show how easy it is to identify complete strangers. Egor Tsvetkov took photos of people in public places and then tracked them down on the Russian social media site VKontakte using a facial recognition app.

The experiment 'Your Face Is Big Data' was published online and has been viewed more than 70,000 times. BBC Trending also reports on an investigation into police officers in New South Wales over the alleged trolling of an Australian politician.

When there are so many ways in the world we can listen to music, why does getting your request played on a radio station feel universally so special and exciting? Gemma Cairney speaks to music fans and radio stations from Mexico to Myanmar for the Why Factor.

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

The Problem With Antibiotics; Opposition To Afrikaans; The Origins Of Life20160303

The problems with the antibiotics market, and the opposition to Afrikaans

In More Or Less Wesley Stephenson finds out how the search for new antibiotics is hampered not by science but by economics. Despite the $40 billion market worldwide there is no money to be made so big pharmaceuticals have all but stopped their research. Why is this and how do we entice them back in?

BBC Trending reports on the violence which has erupted over the use of Afrikaans at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Some students want to see the language banned from lecture theatres, and say its presence is a form of racism. But others think it should remain. And a Hollywood actor – Terry Crews – has posted several videos to Facebook about fighting his addiction to pornography. It sparked a wave of support in online communities dedicated to abstaining from porn.

In the Why Factor Mike Williams asks why we search for the origins of life. He visits the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, where researchers from around the world have built the largest single machine on earth to discover some of the most extreme elements of nature, from the heart of an atom to the origins of the universe.

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

The Right Incentive; Promoting Marijuana; The Power Of Addiction20160225

More Or Less reports on British snooker player Ronnie O’ Sullivan’s decision not to complete a maximum 147 this week because he said the prize money at £10,000 was too low. Can incentives demotivate as well as motivate people?

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

BBC Trending looks at Facebook’s attitude to pages that advertise and promote recreational marijuana and hear from one company whose page was taken down. The sale of marijuana is legal in four states in America while still illegal under federal law.

Also, women in Trinidad and Tobago shared their experiences of sexual assault and called on the mayor to resign after he blamed a victim’s ‘vulgar’ behaviour for her death.

And, in the Why Factor Mike Williams asks why some people succumb to addiction. He asks scientists what happens when the biochemistry of the brain’s pleasure and reward system goes wrong and hears from former addicts about the power of addiction.

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

More Or Less asks when prize money of £10,000 is not a good incentive

The Rise Of The Giants20150924

The average rugby pack is much bigger than it was 20 years ago but has the growth finally plateaued? Populations of marine mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have declined by 49% since 1970, a report says. But what does this actually mean? Tim Harford finds out in More Or Less.

BBC Trending hears from the victim of an online hate campaign apparently launched by Joshua Goldberg, a 20-year-old from Florida, who stands accused of inciting others to behave violently - from a computer in his parent’s home, using a string of false identities. Also, we meet the woman who started the #IStandWithAhmed campaign to support Ahmed Mohamed, a young Muslim boy arrested in Texas on suspicion of creating a 'hoax bomb', which was, in fact, a clock, winning Ahmed praise from around the world.

And the Why Factor asks why the world loves drinking tea – the second most consumed drink after water.

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

The Story Of Average; The Cartoon Mouse God; Not Just Blind2016041420160415 (WS)

We tell the story of how astronomers started to find the average from a group of numbers to help sailors read their maps with a compass. By the 1800s, one Belgian astronomer began to apply this to all sorts of social and national statistics – and the ‘Average Man’ was born. Tim Harford reports for More Or Less.

Dinkoism is a new Indian religion whose followers worship a cartoon mouse with superpowers. More than 40,000 people like the group’s worldwide Facebook pages but Dinkoism was really set up by rationalists in the state of Kerala to parody organised religions and many people have found it offensive. Would you want to attend a Summer Safari Waterpark? Many people who signed up on Facebook for attractive events were disappointed to find they didn’t exist, so were they were invented just to collect people’s personal data? BBC Trending investigates.

Why does blindness comes to define the identity of people who have little or no sight? People in Kingston Jamaica, Accra in Ghana, in Edinburgh Scotland and California in the US explain how they navigate a world which seems to see them in two ways, as either inspirational or deserving of pity. Or both. Lee Kumutat reports for the Why Factor.

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

How astronomers found the average from a group of numbers and defined “the average man?

The World’s Most Diverse City, #airbnbwhileblack, Time Perception2016051920160520 (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? 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 for More Or Less.

The hashtag #Airbnbwhileblack has been trending this week after African American twitter users accused some homeowners on the room booking website of rejecting them because of their skin colour. Greg Selden from Virginia says when he used fake white profiles he was accepted at properties who had previously said the room was unavailable. Plus, has Facebook been censoring conservative news trends? This week it was revealed that a team of journalists review the trending topics which appear in the top right hand corner of the site. That has led to allegations that the site has promoted more liberal stories. BBC Trending investigates.

Why do some weeks just fly by but sometimes minutes can seem like hours? Why do we perceive time differently in different circumstances? On the Why Factor, Mike Williams talks to Pakistani writer and broadcaster Raza Rumi, Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped, David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine at Houston and John McCarthy, a British journalist taken hostage in Lebanon in 1986.

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

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

The World’s Most Profitable Product; €blessers? € South Africa’s Sugar Daddy Problem; Why Are We Afraid Of Robots?2016052620160527 (WS)

Was a BBC correspondent right when he described the iPhone as the most profitable product in history? To find out, the More Or Less team compare and contrast a range of products suggested by listeners.

In South Africa a 'blesser' is a man who showers gifts and money on women in exchange for a relationship or sex. An online backlash against these sugar daddies has been trending this week. Even the health minister has spoken out because of fears the 'blesser' phenomenon is contributing to high rates of HIV among young women. And in Bangladesh, Wikipedia is fighting online pirates who are using its site to allow people to secretly download bootlegged Hollywood films for free. The practice is illegal, but some say it poses difficult questions about internet access in the developing world. BBC Trending reports.

Robots are in our homes, our factories, on battlefields and in hospitals. Some are smarter than us, some are faster. Science fiction is filled with malign machines which rise against humanity. In the Why Factor this week, Mike Williams asks if we have reason to fear the machines we are creating.

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

Is it true that the iPhone is the most profitable product in history?

Thyroid Cancer In Japan; Migrant Worker Rights; Belief In The Supernatural20160324

More or Less checks out the claim that there are more mobile ‘phones than lightbulbs in Uganda. And is it true that there are 30 times more cases than expected of thyroid cancer among the under-19s following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

In BBC Trending, the migrant worker who sent a video about his working conditions as a driver in Saudi Arabia to an activist in India who posted it online where it was seen by millions. His employers denied his allegations and took legal action under a Saudi social media law.

And how a photo taken during the anti-government protests in Brazil began an online debate on the country’s racial and economic divide.

And in the Why Factor, Juju, Evu, Witchcraft, the evil eye, Voodoo, black magic. There are many names for beliefs that supernatural forces can be harnessed by people who are out to cause harm. Mike Williams asks why these beliefs still appear to have such a strong hold across different societies, crossing boundaries of wealth and education.

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

In More Or Less has thyroid cancer gone up in Japan after the Fukushima accident?

When Companies Track Your Life; Tipsters On Trial; Loneliness20160623

How are companies using our personal data? Online retailers track us so they can sell us things, our banks and credit card companies know all about us and the big computer and telecoms companies could track our internet searches, our phone calls , and even our location. But this isn’t the first time companies have gathered sensitive data about their customers. More Or Less tells the shadowy story of how the personal details of Americans were pooled among insurance companies more than a hundred years ago.

Will you be betting on Euro 2016? Most people will probably rely on national allegiances if they decide to gamble, but thousands of social media users, particularly in Britain, are now taking advice from strangers on where to place their money. A new breed of tipster on Twitter and Facebook offer free advice but many are actually in league with the bookies. They’re paid around 30% of all the money their followers lose. So how much faith should people have in these new gambling gurus? Kate Lamble reports for BBC Trending.

What is loneliness and why do we feel it? Why do some people feel lonely when surrounded by people and others never feel lonely at all. Studies of twins in Holland have shown that loneliness has a hereditary element. And it can be catching, too. In the Why Factor, Mike Williams speaks to the Chinese artist Li Tianbing about how growing up under China’s one child policy shaped his art and to a Swedish entrepreneur who invited eleven people to come and live with her to combat her loneliness.

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

Who Won The Us Presidential Debate?2016100620161007 (WS)

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

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: when internet polls can be hijacked by online activists, they can throw up some strange results.

Controversy has erupted in the US over a hip hop song that offers a step-by-step guide to committing burglary and contains lyrics suggesting criminals target Chinese homes.

We talk to one of the protesters who is trying to get the track banned.

In a few countries, terminally-ill people — suffering pain and distress — are allowed to get help from friends, family and physicians to bring their lives to an end. In many countries, it’s a crime. Mike Williams explores the sensitive issues at stake on both sides of the argument.

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

Wrestlers: Dying Too Young?20150813

Following the recent death of wrestler “Rowdy? Roddy Piper, More Or Less asks if wrestlers are more likely to die young. Charlotte McDonald explores why that might be and how they compare to athletes from other sports.

BBC Trending looks at a move by the Indian authorities to cull stray dogs in the state of Kerala. It’s led activists to call for a boycott of Kerala. We ask what impact this could have on the state’s vital tourism industry.

In The Why Factor, Mike Williams asks why do we travel. Why do we leave the comforts of our homes to seek out far flung places? Psychology has shown that travel broadens our minds and makes us more creative. But we travel for many reasons, from acquiring memories to seeing how other people live, even to build or re-invent our identities.

(Image: 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 25. Credit: Getty)