The Thought Show

The Thought Show

United Kingdom

A look at the numbers behind the news; the true story about what’s making a buzz on social media and a compact guide to the way we live.


Transgender in the US Military, India’s Midnight Selfies and Eavesdropping  

President Trump recently announced that the US Government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military." This provoked criticism from Congressman Mark Pocan who said that there were 15,000 transgender people serving in the military today. That number was widely reported – but is it true? A visual protest accompanied by a viral hashtag has sparked a new twist in the fight for women's rights in India. It began with one woman driving in her car late at night, and has resulted in the country's ruling party facing embarrassment and possible damage to their reputation. On trains, in cafes, offices and in the street, we cannot help overhearing conversations not intended for our ears. Catherine Carr explores why we eavesdrop, and whether it is a harmless habit or a dangerous invasion of privacy. (image: US Joint Service Honor Guard, Washington DC. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Raising Other People's Children  

Raising children is demanding. It takes time, money and devotion. So, why would anyone want to raise another person's child? Can mothers who adopt or foster have the same connection to their children as a birth mother would? We explore what it means to be a parent. Mathematician Matt Parker on the unsung prime numbers such as the Mersenne 49 - the largest ever found. Whistleblowers from inside YouTube's voluntary Trusted Flagger scheme, which helps identify potential child groomers, tell us that the company are failing to respond to the vast majority of reports from them and the public. An unsolved murder of a young man in Washington DC last year has sparked widespread conspiracy theories online. But these aren't just any kind of conspiracy theories – they are linked to people in positions of power. Why has one murder led to such a huge response online? (image credit: Shutterstock/family)

More Boys than Girls in Sweden?  

Last year it was reported that there could soon be up to 123 boys aged 16 to 17 for every 100 girls the same age in Sweden. This disparity was thought to be caused by an influx of teenage boys claiming asylum in the country. We look at whether age testing of asylum seekers has had an impact and skewed the sex ratio in Sweden. China's Livestreaming: The Super Fan: BBC Trending brings you the second half of a strange love story involving one of China's most well-known live streamers, and a fan who pays to watch her live stream every single day. Last week we introduced you to Lele Tao, a well-known live streamer in China. This week we meet Shage, who is a devoted fan of Lele's and witness their first ever face-to-face interaction. Every country in the world has at least one Sign Language. Each is a complete communication system with its own grammar, lexicon and structure and has evolved over centuries, just like their verbal counterparts. Although many have legal status under disability legislation, only four have been given the status of a recognised official language. But not everyone who is deaf uses sign language, and not everyone who uses sign language is deaf. Some deaf rights campaigners say that Sign language is a signifier of belonging to a Deaf community, with a rich cultural legacy. But does the choice to use hearing aids and cochlear implants to help use verbal language really mean a rejection of deaf culture and a deaf identity? (image: teenagers enjoying themselves outdoors. Credit: Shutterstock)

A Genius of Maths  

The only woman to win the maths world’s biggest prize has died at the age of 40. As the only female winner of the Fields Medal – the maths equivalent to the Nobel Prize – Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani inspired a generation of female mathematicians. We look at her life and her legacy. The first of two special reports reveals a unique Chinese love story involving one of China's most well-known live streamers, and a fan who watches her on a screen every single day. Live streaming is big business in China, with half of the online Chinese community using livestreaming apps in 2016. And why do some people crave the limelight? Jordan Dunbar undergoes an experiment to find out what the limelight does to our bodies, to get a chemical answer. (Photo: Front pages of Iranian newspapers on 16 July 2017, bearing portraits of the top female mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani. Credit: Atta Kenare/Getty Images)

Calling the Shots at Wimbledon  

We discover how every shot at the Wimbledon tennis championships is counted, analysed and makes its way to our phones, desktops and TV screens. How useful is this information for players and their coaches? The statistics prove and disprove some of the received wisdom of the game. New Chinese regulations have resulted in a crackdown on online videos. Chinese censors have banned around 84 categories of material including prostitution, drug addiction, and extra marital affairs, and the classification of homosexuality as an 'abnormal' sexual activity has caused anger online. What drives women – and men – to choose to be childless, especially as they often face suspicion, abuse even, for being selfish or materialistic. Women, in particular, who decide not to have children can experience the full force of this near-universal stigma. Mary-Ann Ochota reports. (image: Venus Williams plays a backhand during the Ladies Singles at Wimbledon. Credit: Getty Images)

Is Steph Curry Cheap,  and Fake Football News  

The American basketballer Stephen Curry has just signed the biggest contract in NBA history for $200 million over 5 years but amazingly, according to fellow superstar player Lebron James, he’s probably being underpaid. We look at the economics of superstar sports salaries. Rumours in football and the fake news generated by these rumours are nothing new, but we’ll be looking at the way these stories impact clubs, players and fans. And what’s in a kiss? Charlotte McDonald examines the biochemistry, psychology, anthropology and history of kissing. Where does it come from and is it innately human? (Image: NBA Finals: Game Four, Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Making Penalty Shoot-outs Fairer  

UEFA, European football's governing body, is currently trialling a new system for penalty shoot-outs that is based on mathematical research. Currently 60% of penalty shoot-outs are won by the team going first, so can this unfairness be overcome? The death of a teenager in India at the hands of a mob led to an online campaign, which within days sparked a trending hashtag and worldwide street protests. We pick apart the #NotInMyName campaign. And when many people struggle to maintain one relationship, why do some people enter into multiple simultaneous marriages? Lucy Ash speaks to polygamists around the world to find out why they were drawn to these complex relationships and what impact they have on the people involved. (Photo: Various numbers. Credit: Shutterstock)

Deadly Tower Block Fires, Fake Victim Images and Returning Home  

Grenfell Tower, a residential block in London, made headlines around the world when at least 79 people died there in a fire while many are still missing. But how unusual are such lethal fires? Are tower blocks really dangerous? Or are they safer than houses? We investigate some of the fake victim images which appear online in the wake of deadly attacks and disasters. Who are the victims and perpetrators, and why are these images circulated? Why do foreign migrants yearn to go home and what happens when they do? Some have had no choice, but others are influenced by nostalgia for their early lives. When they go back, can the old country live up to their hopes and dreams? Shivaani Kohok hears emotional tales from those returning to Jamaica, Sierra Leone, India and Ghana. (image:Smoke rises from the 24 story Grenfell Tower in West London. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty images)

Post UK Election Special, Quilting Wars, Exams – the Best Test?  

The results of the UK general election are in – but what do they mean? Did more young people vote than expected? How many extra votes would the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have needed to become Prime Minister? Would planned boundary changes have made a difference? Tim Harford and team give the latest analysis. Quilting – it’s an innocent-sounding traditional art, and one with a rich social and political history. But it’s not immune to America’s fractious political climate, as a conflict has erupted online amongst those within the quilting world. And all over the world this summer young people are sitting exams which will have a big impact on their future. However, is this one-size-fits-all approach to assessment really a good judge of ability and understanding? Or do exam results only tell us about a candidate’s ability to memorise material and perform under stressful exam conditions? Caroline Bayley investigates. (Image: young voters arriving at a polling station in Glasgow to vote in the General Election. Credit Andy Buchanan/Getty Images)

Are African Football Players More Likely to Die on the Field?  

Cheick Tiote, the much loved former Newcastle United player collapsed and died while training with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises earlier this month. His death and that of other black footballers have caused some commentators to ask if cardiac arrest – one of the most common causes of death on the field – is a greater risk factor for people of African heritage. The conflict in Venezuela has now moved beyond the country’s borders – both on and offline. It involves Venezuelan exiles publicly shaming people living abroad who are connected to the government. We hear from those who are targeted and targeting. Also, offensive messages on social media have resulted in some students having their admissions revoked from one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Why do some people deliberately inflict pain on themselves as a way of managing how they feel? Catherine Carr explores the impact self-harming has on those who do it and those close to them, and she hears from people who have recovered by finding alternative coping strategies. (Photo: Cheick Tiote of Newcastle United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St James Park Credit: Getty Images)

Samba, Strings and the Story of HIV  

Can medical statistics be transformed into music? That was the challenge set by epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani for composer Tony Haynes. The result was Song of Contagion to be performed this month by his Grand Union Orchestra with steel pans, saxophones and singers telling the story of diseases including Zika and AIDs. What Is 4Chan? How an anonymous social network spawned some of the biggest and most recognisable online political movements. We look at the origins, the people who use it and where it’s going. And why do we talk to ourselves? Matthew Sweet hears how it can calm us down, help us organise our thoughts, and in the case of Sarah Outen, who spent four and a half years rowing, cycling and kayaking around the planet, he hears how it saved her life on more than one occasion. (Photo: Detail close up of French Horn musical instrument, part of the Brass family of instruments. Credit: Shutterstock)

Have 65% of Future Jobs Not Yet Been Invented?  

Our entire education system is faulty, some experts claim, as it fails to prepare children for a future world of work in which 65 % of jobs have not yet been invented. We set off on a round-the-world sleuthing trip to trace this statistic that has been causing headaches for students, teachers and politicians alike. Travelling without male consent: we unpick the case of Dina Ali, the 24-year-old Saudi national whose story triggered a viral hashtag challenging Saudi Arabia’s 'guardianship' rules, which give male guardians control over women. Where is Dina now? And why was the hashtag she inspired so significant? Why take on a role where lots of people hate you for doing it? Dotun Adebayo talks to people whose daily life can include verbal and even physical abuse. They include an 18 year old referee in Manchester and electricity workers in Lagos in Nigeria who are regularly beaten up as they disconnect disgruntled customers. And the plus side of doing a thankless job from a debt collector in Jamaica and death row lawyers in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. (Photo: Classmates taking part in peer learning. Credit: Shutterstock)

Uganda’s refugees  

Has Uganda been accepting more refugees on a daily basis than some European countries manage in an entire year? That is the claim from the Norwegian Refugee Council – and it is a claim we put to the test. Civil war and famine in South Sudan have forced millions to leave their homes, and this has had a colossal impact on neighbouring Uganda. We speak to Gopolang Makou, a researcher at Africa Check who has some startling figures to share. Kony2012 was a social media campaign which led to a US-backed manhunt for an African warlord. 5 years on the hunt’s been called off and Joseph Kony is still on the run. We look back at a turning point in online activism. Also, the Buddhist priest mixing traditional chants with techno beats in an effort to attract younger people to his temple in Japan. Some people are numbers people – and some are not. One meltdown moment in the classroom is often all it takes to put people off maths for life. But, when you lose the ability to interrogate numbers, it makes it easier to be fooled by fancy figures. Timandra Harkness asks why people are intimidated by numbers. Image: Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp

An Urban Maze  

Some parts of towns are hard to navigate and seem like an urban maze. Navigation expert Dr Ruth Dalton explains to Jordan Dunbar that it’s to do with “intelligibility”, as they go on a tour of the Barbican Estate in London, a famous example of Brutalist architecture, which people struggle to find their way around. The technique for finding your way out of a maze is also revealed. The so-called Islamic State group is using a new tactic to market itself. Typically associated with videos showing killings and destruction, supporters of the terrorist group are now using cartoons aimed at children and adults in order to recruit followers. And why are we creatures of habit? Doing everyday tasks without thinking frees our brains for more complicated decision making, but what happens when we form habits beyond our control, and how do we form good habits rather than bad ones? Shiulie Ghosh investigates. (Photo: 'Floating' gardens in the Barbican Estate, Credit: Roger Jackson/Getty Images)

The UK’s Foreign Secretary gets a fact check  

The UK‘s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn get a fact check for claims they’ve made since the General Election was called. How much does the UK pay to belong to the EU, how many French people are there in Britain and what’s happening to living standards? Tim Harford checks the statistics. Why are some global companies and fashion brands now using the Muslim headscarf to promote their products and what impact is that having on female Muslims? Does society discriminate against short people and if so, why? Is it worse for men than for women? Felicity Evans, who at 5 foot (152 cm) tall is shorter than average, investigates. (Photo: Foreign secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Credit: Getty Images)

The Death Rate of White Americans  

Throughout the 20th Century the developed world saw mortality rates fall but one group who may no longer be benefitting are middle-aged white Americans. This is according to research from the eminent economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton. But the work has been criticised for statistical problems and for not focusing enough on black Americans. Tim Harford attempts to explain what is really going on. We examine the disturbing rise of fake celebrity social media accounts targeting children. This comes in the wake of a case currently going through the courts in Australia, where a man who allegedly impersonated Justin Bieber online has more than 900 charges of child sex offences against him. We talk to parents of children who have been targeted, and to law enforcement professionals concerned by this growing trend. The average English-speaker knows about 25,000 words which can be combined into an infinite number of sentences. Many people believe that, whatever language you speak, the words you know have a profound influence on the way you think, though this is a controversial theory among linguists, as Lane Greene explains. (Photo: Harmonica playing steel workers perched on a girder on the 22nd storey of the Murray Hill building, New York. Credit: General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

The Ignorance Test  

Following the death of Professor Hans Rosling - perhaps best described as a kind of international development myth buster – we rebroadcast one of his interviews for More Or Less. He asked presenter Ruth Alexander three questions from his Ignorance Test, part of his project to investigate what people know and don’t know about key-aspects of global development. Most people do badly. How do you fare? Has there been a rise in anti-Donald Trump fake news since he became President of the United States? We’re familiar with accusations that right-wing fake news is being shared online, but what about fake news from the left? Also, what lures people to delve beneath the earth, peering into the dark recesses that exist underground? Simon Cox hears from the urban explorers trying to find the hidden layers of cities that exist deep beneath our feet, and from a caver who sees his pastime as “mountaineering underground”. (Photo: Hans Rosling, Statistician, Founder of Gapminder speaks about the impact of growing global population on resources at the ReSource 2012 conference Credit: Matthew Lloyd)

Could North Korea Wipe out 90% of Americans?  

A single nuclear weapon could destroy America’s entire electrical grid, claims a former head of the CIA. The explosion would send out an electromagnetic pulse – resulting in famine, societal collapse and what one newspaper has called a “Dark Apocalypse”. But are hungry squirrels a greater threat to the electrical grid than North Korean weapons? A group of anonymous keyboard warriors who claim they helped Donald Trump win his presidency in the “Great Meme War” have moved their fight to Europe and are trying to help elect a right wing leader for France. Conversations in secret online messaging forums reveal a systematic effort to sway opinion but is it working? Also, the power of applause and why we humans like to clap. (Photo: The launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 Credit: Getty Images)

Will One in Four People Develop a Mental Health Problem?  

The claim that “one in four” of us will suffer from a mental health problem is popular amongst campaigners, politicians and the media. But where is this figure from and what’s the evidence for it? A paranoid conspiracy theory questioning the reality of the shooting dead of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 has acquired a new, disturbing power in America. Rumours that the killings were staged by actors have been pushed by alternative media mogul Alex Jones. His online news site Infowars has millions of listeners and viewers. One grieving father, Lenny Pozner, tells how he has led the online fightback. Also, from ancient Greece to Instagram – has the six-pack become the ultimate sign of success for today’s young man? (Photo: Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal during morning rush hour Credit: Getty Images)

Baby Boxes – are they really saving infant’s lives?  

Since Finland started giving families simple cardboard boxes for their new born babies to sleep in 75 years ago, cot death has fallen and child health has improved. Governments and individuals across the world have adopted them and companies have sprung up selling them. But can a cardboard box on its own really have such a huge effect? Elizabeth Cassin and Charlotte McDonald have been finding out. Thousands of videos aimed at children are posted on YouTube that initially look like some of their favourite cartoon series, but closer inspection reveals weird and often disturbing content that is potentially unsuitable for young children. Who is making this content and Is the onus on parents to take responsibility for their children’s viewing or should the host platform, YouTube, be doing more? And why do millions of people round the world practice yoga and how has it become so popular over time? Valley Fontaine hears from the director of a 98-year-old yoga institute in India, an instructor who teaches yoga for you and your dog, the founders of a yoga festival in the UK, and the 2016 women’s yoga champion. (Photo: A Box of baby essentials. Credit: Getty Images)

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