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More or Less: Behind the Stats

Author: BBC Radio 4

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Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4
526 Episodes
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Artificial Intelligence – or AI for short – is often depicted in films in the shape of helpful droids, all-knowing computers or even malevolent ‘death bots’. In real life, we’re making leaps and bounds in this technology’s capabilities with satnavs, and voice assistants like Alexa and Siri making frequent appearances in our daily lives. So, should we look forward to a future of AI best friends or fear the technology becoming too intelligent. Tim Harford talks to Janelle Shane, author of the book ‘You Look Like a Thing and I Love you’ about her experiments with AI and why the technology is really more akin to an earthworm than a high-functioning ‘death bot’.
A lot has changed since our last episode covering the numbers behind the coronavirus - for a start it now has a name, Covid-19. This week news has broken that deaths are 20 per cent higher than thought, and the number of cases has increased by a third. Tim Harford talks to Dr Nathalie MacDermott, a clinical lecturer at King’s College London about what we know – and what we still don’t.
Covid-19 stats, spreading jam far and wide, cooking with AI, and James Wong on vegetables
We all know that you should never smile at a crocodile, but rumour has it that alligators are great perambulators – at least that’s what a booklet about Florida’s wildlife claimed. Tim Harford speaks to John Hutchinson, Professor of evolutionary bio-mechanics to see whether he could outrun one of these reportedly rapid retiles. Also – our editor thinks he could outrun a hippo, is he right? (…probably not).
Tracking terror suspects

Tracking terror suspects

2020-02-0700:28:093

Costing counter-terrorism, interrogating tomatoes, the UK's reading age, politics and GDP
WS More or Less: Coronavirus

WS More or Less: Coronavirus

2020-02-0101:06:313

The WHO have declared a ‘Global Health Emergency’ as health officials are urgently trying to contain the spread of a new coronavirus in China and beyond; but not all the information you read is correct. We fact-check a particularly hyperbolic claim about its spread that’s been doing the rounds on social media.
Fact checking claims about coronavirus and whether more guns equal fewer homicides.
Anxiety around sleep is widespread. Many of us feel we don’t get enough. An army of experts has sprung up to help, and this week we test some of the claims from one of the most prominent among them: Professor Matthew Walker. He plays ball and answers some of the criticisms of his bestselling book Why We Sleep.
Netflix and Chill

Netflix and Chill

2020-01-2400:28:287

The list of ways campaigners say we need to change our behaviour in response to climate change seems to grow every week. Now, streaming video is in the frame. We test the claim that watching 30 minutes of Netflix has the same carbon footprint as driving four miles. We hear scepticism about a report that sepsis is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide. Author Bill Bryson stops by with a question about guns – and gets quizzed about a number in his new book. And, how much sleep do we really need? Find out if we need more or less.
The fugitive former Nissan boss, Carlos Ghosn, has raised questions about justice in Japan. The government in Tokyo has defended its system, where 99% of prosecutions lead to conviction. Prof Colin Jones, from Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, explains what's behind this seemingly shocking statistic. And a listener asks if it’s true Canada’s is roughly the same. Toronto lawyer Kim Schofield sets them straight.
Weighing the Cost of Brexit

Weighing the Cost of Brexit

2020-01-1700:16:582

Is it possible to calculate the cost of Brexit? Gemma Tetlow from the Institute for Government helps us weigh the arguments. How much does luck play into Liverpool FC's amazing season? And, crucially, how fast is an alligator?
Have a billion animals died in Australia’s fires? And which ones are likely to survive?
Tim Harford on animal deaths in Australia's fires, how many Labour voters went Conservative and are UK carbon emissions really down 40%. Plus: have we really entered a new decade?
C-sections and sharks

C-sections and sharks

2020-01-0400:08:592

How many women in China give birth in hospitals, and whether it was true that 50% of births there are delivered by caesarean section. Oh, and we also mention guts and bacteria… Sharks kill 12 humans a year but humans kill 11,417 sharks an hour. That’s the statistic used in a Facebook meme that’s doing the rounds. Is it true?
We talk about the age of some of the frontrunners in the Democrat nomination race and President Donald Trump and the health risks they face. Also, More or Less listeners were surprised by a claim they read on the BBC website recently: “Pets are estimated to be consuming up to 20 percent of all meat globally.” So we – of course – investigated and will explain all.
The Simpsons and maths

The Simpsons and maths

2019-12-2000:36:335

We explore the maths secrets of The Simpsons on their 30th anniversary.
Koalas

Koalas

2019-12-1300:08:594

As bushfires rage in Australia, the plight of the koala made front-page news around the world. There were warnings that fires wiped out 80% of the marsupial's habitat and that koalas are facing extinction. We check the claims with the help of National Geographic's Natasha Daly and Dr Christine Hosking of the University of Queensland. (A Koala receives treatment at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie after its rescue from a bushfire. Credit: Safeed Khan/Getty Images)
Election Special (2/2)

Election Special (2/2)

2019-12-1000:27:585

Labour's spending plans, Conservatives claims on homelessness, the SNP's education record
Tree Planting Pledges

Tree Planting Pledges

2019-12-0600:08:585

The UK General Election is fast approaching, top of the agenda are the political parties green ambitions and one particular initiative is garnering a lot of attention, tree planting. The Labour Party has the most ambitious target – a whopping 2 billion trees planted by 2040. How much land would this take, how does it stack up against other party pledges and what difference will it make? Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Lizzy McNeill
Election Special 1/2

Election Special 1/2

2019-12-0300:27:505

50,000 nurses? 40 new hospitals? Big corporate tax rises? Childcare promises? Election pledges might sound good, but do they stand up to scrutiny? In the run up to the General Election on 12th December, Tim Harford takes his scalpel of truth to the inflamed appendix of misinformation. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Neal Razzell
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Comments (16)

stephen murray

do the salaries comparisons allow for cash payments? and wouldn't HMRC be a better source of data than ONS for "official" incomes?

Sep 21st
Reply

Owen Thurgate

Well, I have to say the research on this one wasn't really up to the usual More or Less high standards. Speaking as a professional forester I can safely say a novice planter could easily plant 300 seedlings in a day and a motivated experienced person would comfortably reach a 1000. Additionally, seedling trees from a nursery cost a matter of cents/pence per tree a far cry from the costs you quoted. Together these figures make the project entirely feasible, requiring only 700,000 people to plant 500 trees each or 1.4 million to plant 250 trees each, not far of the rate for a novice. The costs for that number of two year old seedlings in the UK probably in the region of £55m, possibly less in Eithiopia.

Aug 27th
Reply

Hans Dampf

"Nucular"? Really?

Jul 7th
Reply

Martin Crook

glad to hear that the scientist is an advocate of the nonlinear Theory model of radiation risk. something the nuclear industry has been lobbying hard to discredit

Jun 22nd
Reply

Michael Jiggens

No need to worry then, let's just get fat and ill.

Mar 2nd
Reply

Michael Jiggens

Ah good, no need to worry then... Let's just carry on as we are, business as usual. It's difficult to convey sarcasm in the comments section, but I tried.

Mar 2nd
Reply

Adam Borwne

tried searching for Economics with Subtitles on castbox but it returned no results. anyone know if it's going to be added?

Aug 29th
Reply

Ilona Pinter

could you look at the stats on undocumented migrants in the UK? as far as I know there are only estimates at the moment (eg LSE study, compas research) but no official statistics. it's unclear what stats the government relies on this. they don't accept the estimates but don't seem to offer any alternatives.

Jun 22nd
Reply

R Knox

excellent podcast, really brings stats to life!

Apr 26th
Reply

Gabriele Gnozza

lettori. .zampata. .stai. ?

Jan 12th
Reply (5)

Gabriele Gnozza

Non uso matrimonio le. ..docce. cielo. .l'allarme. ?maniche x che Ciao. Rino nell'opinione

Jan 12th
Reply
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