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More or Less - Summer 2015

Tim Harford presents BBC Radio 4's surprising and refreshing guide to statistics in the news.

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Bar chart made of beans Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Doreen Salcher | Dreamstime.com
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.

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.

Alzheimers, psychology and football

Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: © Dave Bredeson | Dreamstime.com Tim Harford and the team go behind the numbers to investigate claims that 1 in 3 people born in the UK this year could get Alzheimers.

How reliable is the science in psychology? The Reproducibility of Psychological Science project reported recently and it made grim reading. Having replicated 100 psychological studies published in three psychology journals, only thirty six had significant results compared to 97% first time around. So is there a problem with psychological science and, if so, what should be done to fix it?

He is one of the most charismatic mathematicians but also shy and enigmatic: Cambridge Professor John Conway has been described as a genius whose most famous innovation is the cellular automaton, Conway's Game of Life (not the board game!). Tim talks to Siobhan Roberts about the man and his life.

Is it more difficult to play against ten men? Arsene Wenger has said it, Sam Allerdyce and Steve Bruce have said it too – it’s more difficult to play against ten men.  It’s an oft quoted footballing cliché, but is there any truth in it?

Decimation - Tim used it in it colloquial sense last week to mean devastated rather than cut by ten percent – many listeners said this was unforgivable. Is it? We ask Oliver Kamm.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Migrants, worm wars and football More or Less investigates the migrant 'crisis', deworming projects and football predictions. Read more
Diabetes, burglaries and rail fares More or Less investigates diabetes, burglary investigations, men who pay for sex, rail fare increases and the... Read more
Chinese market crash, e-cigarettes and runners More or Less investigates the Chinese market crash, e-cigarettes, engineering and how sprinters run so fast. Read more
Work, sugar and queues More or Less investigates sugar, housing, queuing and the deaths of people 'fit for work'. Read more
Population, voters and housing More or Less investigates population density, voters, housing, banks and bananas. Read more
Unions, rugby and oceans More or Less investigates trade unions, rugby players, ocean populations and national statistics. Read more
Alzheimers, psychology and football More or Less investigates Alzheimers, psychology, mathematics, football and the language of decimation. Read more