Copyrighted image Credit: © Doreen Salcher |
More or Less was an idea born of the sense that numbers were the principal language of public argument. And yet there were few places where it was thought necessary to step back and think - in the way we often step back to think about language - about the way we use figures: what they really measure, what kind of truth, if any, they capture.

Yet no politician, no economist, and in recent years no doctor, teacher, chief constable or any number of others, has been able to make a case or answer one without regaling you with numbers.

Open the pages of any newspaper and you will see risks of this, targets for that, new spending and new cuts, arguments about productivity, performance indicators, measurements, statistics and quantification of every kind.

And so was born More or Less, initially with six programmes on BBC Radio 4 and now a permanent part of the schedule with two series annually, one in the summer, one in winter.

Since January 2005 it has been produced in association with The Open University.

Coming up in this new series:

  • What does it mean to be homeless at Christmas? More or Less explores the statistics from Shelter and other charities.
  • It's been reported that there's a global wine shortage. Tim Harford fact-checks the claim.
  • Mathemagical mind-reading: Jolyon Jenkins, presenter of Radio 4’s Maths and Magic programme, reveals the maths behind a classic mind-reading card trick.
  • It's said that the four Christmas football fixtures are crucial. But do the numbers back this up?

More Or Less is on BBC Radio 4 on Fridays at 4.30pm, with a repeat on Sundays at 8.00pm; on iPlayer; by podcast - or dip into the archive.