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Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford
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Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

Author: Pushkin Industries

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We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “The Data Detective” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries. 

28 Episodes
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When James Dallas Egbert III was reported missing from his college dorm - one of America's most flamboyant private detectives was summoned to solve the case. "Dallas" had many of the same problems that most teenagers face - but P.I. William Dear stoked fears that he might have fallen under the evil spell of a mysterious and sinister game.... Dungeons & Dragons. The global panic about the dangers the role-playing game posed to impressionable young minds may seem quaint 40 years on - but again and again we show how fearful we are of creative endeavours we don't quite understand. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
Pepsi twice ended up in court after promotions went disastrously wrong. Other big companies have fallen into the same trap - promising customers rewards so generous that to fulfil the promise might mean corporate bankruptcy. Businesses and customers alike are sometimes blinded by the big numbers in such PR stunts - but it's usually the customers, not the businesses, who end up losing out. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
Why were soldiers on horseback told to ride straight into a valley full of enemy cannon? The disastrous "Charge of the Light Brigade" is usually blamed on blundering generals. But the confusing orders issued on that awful day in 1854 reveal a common human trait - we often wrongly assume that everyone knows what we know and can easily comprehend our meaning. Starring Helena Bonham Carter as Florence Nightingale. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
The hijackers of flight 961 wanted its pilot to fly them to Australia - and wouldn't listen to his pleas that there simply wasn't enough fuel for the mammoth trip. What would cause them to totally disregard the advice of an expert when the stakes were so very high? The Dunning Kruger effect. But being too stupid to recognise the limits of your knowledge isn't confined to such prize idiots - it's something we are all guilty of at times and has huge implications for society. Starring Jeffrey Wright (Hunger Games, Westworld, and the Bond films) as Ethiopian Airlines captain Leul Abate. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
Catching a Killer Doctor

Catching a Killer Doctor

2021-03-1936:1514

Family doctor Harold Shipman got away with murdering his patients for decades. He was one of the most prolific serial killers in history - but his hundreds of crimes largely went unnoticed despite a vast paper trail of death certificates he himself had signed. Why do we sometimes fail to see awful things happening right under our noses? And how can the systems that maintain quality control in cookie factories be employed to prevent another doctor like Shipman killing with impunity? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
"The Pope" was a revered Dutch art expert - and yet he fell for a not very convincing forgery of a "lost" Vermeer masterpiece. The forger had duped other art connoisseurs too - including the high ranking Nazi Hermann Göring. But perhaps Han van Meegeren's biggest con was to convince the Dutch public that he was a cheeky resistance hero. We assume knowledge and intelligence can protect us from being duped - but often they are not enough to save us from the fraudster's greatest ally - our own wishful thinking. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
Victorian nurse Florence Nightingale (played by her distant cousin Helena Bonham Carter) is a hero of modern medicine - but her greatest contribution to combating disease and death resulted from the vivid graphs she made to back her public health campaigns. Her charts convinced the great and the good that deaths due to filth and poor sanitation could be averted - saving countless lives. But did Nightingale open Pandora's Box, showing that graphs persuade, whether or not they depict reality? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
One speechmaker inspired millions with his words, the other utterly destroyed his own multi-million-dollar business with just a few phrases. Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr (played by Jeffrey Wright of Westworld, The Hunger Games, and the James Bond films) and jewelry store owner Gerald Ratner offer starkly contrasting stories on when you should stick to the script and when you should take a risk. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
The Data Detective

The Data Detective

2021-02-0236:1218

Cautionary Tales' host Tim Harford has a new book - The Data Detective - setting out ten commandments for understanding the numbers, charts, graphs and statistics that bombard us every day. In this free extract, Tim explains his extra "golden" rule that allows us to observe all his other commandments - be curious. Enjoy. Cautionary Tales returns February 26. The Data Detective (Riverhead Books) is published in the US and Canada on February 2. The same book is available elsewhere under the title How to Make the World Add Up. (Audio excerpted courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio from The Data Detective by Tim Harford, narrated by the author.) Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
It's easy to mock statistics or cast doubt on them... but we do so at our peril. Undermining our trust in facts and figures can cause great harm, and even death. We should guard against it. Tim Harford looks at how the seeds of doubt are planted in this mini-episode of Cautionary Tales to celebrate the release of his latest book. “How To Make The World Add Up” is out now in much of the world, while listeners in US/Canada can pre-order it under the title "The Data Detective" - ahead of its release in early 2021. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
How To End A Pandemic

How To End A Pandemic

2020-07-1725:4326

The eradication of smallpox is one of humanity's great achievements - but the battle against the virus was fought by the most unlikely of alliances. How did the breakthrough happen - and can we guarantee that the world is still safe from smallpox? This episode owes a debt to Stephen Coss’s book The Fever of 1721, Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped From the Beginning, and to an article about Dark Winter written by Tara O’Toole, Michael Mair and Tomas Inglesby. For a full list of our sources please see the shownotes at http://timharford.com/ Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
That Turn To Pascagoula

That Turn To Pascagoula

2020-07-1026:3122

For years, people had warned that New Orleans was vulnerable - but when a hurricane came close to destroying the city, the reaction was muted. Some people took the near miss as a warning - others, as confirmation that there was nothing to worry about. So why do we struggle to prepare for disasters? And why don't we draw the obvious lessons from clear warnings? Sources for this episode include Amanda Ripley's The Unthinkable, The Ostrich Paradox by Howard Kunreuther and Robert Meyer, Margaret Heffernan's Willful Blindness, and Predictable Surprises by Max Bazerman and Michael Watkins. For a full list of sources see http://timharford.com/ Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
The Village of Heroes

The Village of Heroes

2020-07-0324:3324

It looked like any ordinary roll of cloth, but it brought the dreaded plague to the village of Eyam. First it killed the tailor, then resident after resident succumbed. To stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring towns the people of Eyam agreed to isolate themselves and let the plague run its deadly course. This terrible act of sacrifice is still remembered centuries later - but what does it tell us about how far people will go to save the lives of strangers? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
Clive had a deadly form of cancer, but fortunately there was a new drug to treat it. Imagine his anger when he was told the treatment was too expensive. He’d entered a world where unique human lives are given a value in a mathematical formula. So how much should we spend to extend or save a life? And are some lives worth more than others? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
A Tsunami of Misery

A Tsunami of Misery

2020-06-1921:5223

A monstrous wave and then a nuclear disaster forced Mikio and Hamako Watanabe from their home. But being saved from the potential dangers of a radiation leak destroyed their lives in a different way. Why do we overlook the fact that taking action against an urgent danger can also cause longer term ills? WARNING: This episode discusses death by suicide. If you are suffering emotional distress or having suicidal thoughts, support is available - for example, from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
Flames are spreading through a Cincinnati hotel. The staff know it, the fire department is coming, and the people in the packed cabaret bar have been told to evacuate… and yet they hesitate to leave. Why don’t we react to some warnings until it’s too late? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
In this special episode of Cautionary Tales, we feature Cautionary Tales host Tim Harford's TED Talk Daily from 2018. What can we learn from the world's most enduringly creative people? They "slow-motion multitask," actively juggling multiple projects and moving between topics as the mood strikes -- without feeling hurried. Tim Harford shares how innovators like Einstein, Darwin, Twyla Tharp and Michael Crichton found their inspiration and productivity through cross-training their minds. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
We may mock our ancestors for seeking the advice of oracles, soothsayers and psychics, but today we rely heavily on computer programs and math formulas to help us navigate our world. If we continue to follow them unthinkingly, should we be surprised when we end up in unexpected and dangerous places? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
It was the biggest concert of Keith Jarrett's career - but the pianist was in for a shock when he entered Koln's opera house. The only piano at the venue was a broken-down wreck. Should he risk humiliation and play anyway or simply walk out? The collaboration between pop superstar David Bowie and arch disruptor Brian Eno offers a lesson that staying in your comfort zone isn't always the best option. Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
In 1917, a brilliant British officer developed a way to use an emerging military technology: the tank. The British army promptly squandered the idea – but the Germans did not. Blitzkrieg, the devastating advance of German tanks across Europe in 1940, was invented by the British. This is a common story: Sony invented the forerunner of the iPod, Xerox the personal computer, and Kodak the digital camera. In each case they failed to capitalize on the idea. Why? Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com
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Comments (37)

Sayeh Majzoob

So inspiring. Story-telling at its best 😍😍😍😍

Apr 6th
Reply

Abhishek Shah

My Lord! What an episode. 🔥❤️

Mar 22nd
Reply

Teresa Wilkinson

understand you're trying to sell your book, but it got tedious listening to the ads over and over, it put me off

Mar 21st
Reply (2)

Gilad Amar

I generally have loved all the episodes. One complaint though, you have one particular ad 'quick books online' several times in all the episodes that is so noisy and abrasive it makes me want to rip off my headphone.

Mar 14th
Reply

Kyle Pavelka

You forced an advertisement onto a podcast about logically dissecting mistakes people have made historically. This channel isn't about satire or cheap jokes. I'm a big fan of this channel and seeing this leaves the wrong taste in my mouth. Low brow and money grabbing would be the flavor im experiencing. p.s. I'm in no way a Trump supporter I just thought this channel was more about education.

Jan 21st
Reply

Frankomagic

I like you Chris Harford..

Sep 17th
Reply

Teresa Wilkinson

"Cautionary Tales" is an absolute feast for the intellect, full of historical references, data, modern tech, and of course those wonderful Cautionary Tales

Jul 21st
Reply

Claire Howdle

Great episode and very relevant to what's happening in the world today, couldnt agree more with the moral to the story at the end, Covid is NOT the worst that could happen but a very good warning for the future, thanks for outlining that Tim 👍

Jul 12th
Reply

Nicole Whalley

bad a

May 21st
Reply

Alex Harris

What a load of nationalistic crap. General Monash was the first to use blitzkrieg tactics. and it was because the British had no say in it, in 1918.

Apr 21st
Reply

Teresa Wilkinson

love this podcast, funny, witty, intelligent, interesting .... more please!

Mar 16th
Reply

Barry Hemmings

Yep...fantastic work here. Keep them coming :)

Jan 29th
Reply

agustin venegas

anyone caught the start fairytale that he said not to google? i wanna google it

Jan 15th
Reply (1)

Jonathan Pillinger-Cork

Makes me think, entertains me and means I tell other people all about it. 5*

Jan 5th
Reply

Claire Howdle

love love love these! exactly what I'm into but didnt know it until they were released as there was nothing else out there that was similar. Please hurry up with the 2nd series 😁

Dec 31st
Reply

Nate Picone

brilliant scripting, story weaving and narration. Thanks Tim and team. I can't wait for season 2.

Dec 31st
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Winnie Sullivan

Really enjoying this new show. Totally meant for adults, young adults, but not kiddies. I enjoy the host’s voice and cadence as well as the content.

Dec 30th
Reply

Gina Boosey

very original, such a good idea, 5 stars!

Dec 18th
Reply

Garrett Dickson

This hardly seems to be a tale of competition, and more a tale of how corrupt socialist governments inevitably become.

Dec 8th
Reply (3)

Bahram Kalviri

That's enjoyable, well polished, enlightening and original #podcast.

Dec 7th
Reply
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