More or Less: Behind the Stats

More or Less: Behind the Stats

United Kingdom

Tim Harford and the More or Less team try to make sense of the statistics which surround us. From BBC Radio 4


Are you related to Edward III - and Danny Dyer?  

What are the odds of being related to a medieval king? and how many cows for a fiver?

WS More or Less: Good news on renewables?  

Renewable capacity has surpassed that of coal–is this good news? Plus an asteroid update.

Pensioners aren't poor anymore  

High-rolling pensioners? predicting Norovirus, air pollution deaths and lost or found?

WS More or Less: Avoiding Asteroids  

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

Is dementia the number one killer?  

Is dementia on the rise? Plus immigration, incomplete contacts and chocolate muffins

WS More or Less: Liberia’s Rape Statistic Debunked  

Sexual violence was widespread in Liberia’s brutal and bloody year civil war. But were three quarters of women in the country raped? We tell the story behind the number and reveal how well-meaning efforts to expose what happened have fuelled myths and miss-leading statistics that continue to be propagated to this day, including by the UN. We speak to Amelia Hoover Green from Drexel University, Dara Cohen from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, researcher Phyllis Kimba and Aisha Dukule from the think tank Center For Liberia's Future in Monrovia. (Photo: Liberian women and children wait for rice rations in overcrowded Monrovia, June 2003. Credit: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

US election, stray cats and puzzles  

Who voted in the US elections? Plus are there nine million stray cats in the UK?

WS More or Less: Ice Cream versus aid  

Does the world really spend three times as much on ice cream than on humanitarian aid?

Trump tells the Truth  

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

Child Marriage and Dangerous Algorithms  

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

WS More or Less: Escobar’s Cocaine Death  

How many people die for every kilo of cocaine? More Or Less investigates.

WS More or Less: The Sustainable Development Goals – are there just too many?  

It’s 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 a massive 169 targets on subjects like disease, education and governance. But some people like Bjorn Lomborg are saying that there’s just too many and they are too broad, and left like that will never achieve anything. Is he right – and is there a better way to make the world better and stop some countries lagging behind? Wesley Stephenson and Charlotte McDonald find out.

WS More or Less: Who Won the US Presidential Debate?  

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

WS More or Less: Trump’s crime claims  

This week Donald Trump claimed that there are some inner city areas in the US which are suffering from the worst crime rates ever. They are so dangerous, he says, that Afghanistan is safer than many of these areas. But could this be true? We take a look at crime in the US and assess whether you can compare it to a conflict zone such as Afghanistan. (Image: Chicago - Neighbourhood residents watch as police investigate a homicide scene. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

WS More or Less: Wedding gift economics  

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

WS More or Less: Drug deaths in the Philippines  

Over the last two months the Government in the Philippines has been encouraging the police to clampdown on the illegal drug trade. The new President, Rodrigo Duterte, went as far as saying that citizens could shoot and kill drug dealers who resisted arrest, and the killings of drug suspects were lawful if the police acted in self-defence. The press have been reporting numbers of how many people have been killed during the crackdown – but how much trust can we put in these figures? Lottery wins We interview Adam Kucharski, author of The Perfect Bet, to find out if maths can give you an edge to playing the lottery or gambling.

WS More or Less: Menstrual Syncing  

It is a commonly held belief that if women spend enough time together, their bodies start to communicate through chemical signals, known as pheromones. Eventually the women’s bodies will start to menstruate at the same time. But where does this idea come from? And is it really true? We look at the evidence and wonder – could it be down to chance?

Irish Passports  

Britons entitled to Irish passports After the Brexit vote in June, so many Britons applied for Irish passports that Ireland’s foreign minister had to ask them to stop – pointing out that the UK remains, for now, in the EU. If some of the figures that have been quoted are correct, the Irish passport service may find itself completely inundated in future. But does one in four Britons really have Irish heritage? We reveal the dubious history of that number and attempt to estimate the number of Britons who are actually entitled to dual nationality with Ireland. Do women’s periods sync? It is a commonly held belief that if women spend time together, their bodies start to sync and they will have their periods at the same time. But where does this idea come from? And is it really true? We look at the evidence and wonder – could it be down to chance? Numbers in music Marcus du Sautoy takes us on a journey through some of his favourite musical pieces, pointing out the interesting mathematical patterns hidden in the compositions. Dangerous algorithms Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist and activist, has written a new book, “Weapons of Math Destruction.” She is concerned about the proliferation of certain kinds of algorithms – that help make important decisions, but that could be based on unfair statistics with hidden biases. She explains how to look out for them, and what we can do to protect ourselves. Desk of Good News – organ donations We look at the trends for organ donations and transplants.

Death Penalty abolition  

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

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