Episodes
A scary government graph this week showed what would happen if coronavirus cases doubled every seven days. But is that what’s happening? There’s much confusion about how many Covid test results are false positives - we explain all. Plus, do coffee and pregnancy mix? And the Queen, Mao, and Gandhi go head to head: who is on the most stamps and coins?
Published 09/23/20
Tim Harford speaks to Israeli researcher, Tomer Hertz, about how the mathematical magic of pool testing could help countries to ramp up their Covid-19 testing capacity.
Published 09/19/20
Amid reports of problems with coronavirus testing across the UK, we interrogate the numbers on laboratory capacity. Does the government’s Operation Moonshot plan for mass testing make statistical sense? Has the UK been taking more refugees from outside the European Union than any EU country? We explore the connection between socio-economic status and Covid deaths. And we do the maths on a mascara brand’s bold claim about emboldening your eyelashes.
Published 09/16/20
A jump in the number of UK Covid-19 cases reported by the government has led to fears coronavirus is now spreading quickly again. What do the numbers tell us about how worried we should be? Plus a guide to balancing life’s risks in the time of coronavirus, the government’s targets on test and trace, and a suspicious statistic about the speed of jelly-fish.
Published 09/09/20
As children return to school in England and Wales, we hear about what we know and what we don’t when it comes to Covid-19 risks in school settings. What do the numbers tell us about how well test and trace is working? Will reopening universities really kill 50,000 people? Are the UK’s figures on economic growth as bad as they look? And is maths real? When someone goes viral asking maths questions on social media, More or Less finds answers.
Published 09/02/20
Donald Trump says allowing the emergency use of blood plasma therapy for coronavirus patients will save “countless lives” and is “proven to reduce mortality by 35%”. We look at the evidence. Amid talk of coronavirus being back on the rise in the UK, what does the data show? Could screening for breast cancer from the age of 40 save lives? And can it really be true than one in five women in 18th century London made a living selling sex?
Published 08/26/20
We unpick the A-level algoshambles, discover why 1.3 million Covid tests disappeared from the government's statistics last week, and for reasons that may become clear, we examine the chance of being hit by a bus. Plus, what does poker teach us about the role of randomness in our lives?
Published 08/19/20
Autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenko claims to have won a landslide in the country’s presidential elections. But how can we know what really happened? Tim Harford delves into the numbers behind the widely-questioned election result, with Dr Brian Klaas and political analyst Artyom Shraibman.
Published 08/15/20
Covid-19 cases are rising in the UK - is it a sign of a second wave of the virus? We’re picking apart the data and asking how concerned we should be both now and as autumn approaches. Scotland is undercounting Covid deaths, England is overcounting them: we’ll ask why and whether the problems will be fixed. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver claims over a quarter of all the fruit and veg kids eat is in the form of pizza, can this be true? Plus, as some people are blaming obesity for the severity of...
Published 08/12/20
One More or Less listener has heard that if all the ice in Antarctica melted, global sea levels would rise by 70 metres. But it would take 361 billion tonnes of ice to raise the world's sea levels by just 1 millimetre. So how much ice is in Antarctica? And in the coming years, what impact might temperature changes have on whether it remains frozen? (Gentoo penguins on top of an iceberg at King George Island, Antarctica January 2020. Credit: Alessandro Dahan/ Getty Images)
Published 08/08/20
Do we have enough data to know what’s happening on the continent? We talk to Dr Justin Maeda from the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Ghanaian public health researcher Nana Kofi Quakyi about tracking Africa’s outbreak. Producer: Jo Casserly Picture: Volunteers wait to feed local people during the weekly feeding scheme at the Heritage Baptist Church in Melville on the 118 day of lockdown due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2020. Credit: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Published 08/01/20
Tim Harford speaks to Steven Johnson about William Farr and the birth of epidemiology in the 1800s.
Published 07/25/20
Tim Harford talks to statistician Ola Rosling about his research into misconceptions about Covid-19. And an update on the epidemic in the US.
Published 07/18/20
Unlike its Nordic neighbours, Sweden never imposed a lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus. Tim Harford speaks to statistician Ola Rosling to find out what the results have been. Presenter: Tim Harford Producer: Jo Casserly Picture: A woman wearing a face mask stands at a bus stop featuring a sign reminding passengers to maintain a minimum social distance between each other to reduce the risk of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the pandemic COVID-19 disease, in...
Published 07/11/20
Are cases really rising in the US or are they just testing more? Tim digs into the data.
Published 07/04/20
The UK has suffered one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus anywhere in the world. We’ve been tracking and analysing the numbers for the last 14 weeks, and in the last programme of this More or Less series, we look back through the events of March 2020 to ask why things went so wrong - was it bad decision-making, bad advice, or bad luck?
Published 07/01/20
The steroid Dexamethasone has been hailed a “major breakthrough” in the treatment of Covid-19. But what does the data say? Plus, why haven’t mass protests led to a second wave?
Published 06/27/20
As lockdown eases, why hasn't there been a spike in infections? We get a first look at the evidence for the much-trumpeted Covid-19 treatment, Dexamethasone. Stephanie Flanders tells us what’s happening to the UK economy. Keir Starmer says child poverty is up; Boris Johnson says it’s down, who's right? Plus which children are getting a solid home-school experience, and who is missing out?
Published 06/24/20
Some countries are requiring new arrivals to self-isolate, a policy designed to stop infection spreading from areas of high prevalence to low prevalence. Tim Harford and Ruth Alexander find out which countries have the highest rate of Covid-19 infection. Plus, is it really true that the coronavirus mostly kills people who would die soon anyway?
Published 06/20/20
The UK has introduced new rules requiring all people arriving in the country to self-isolate for 14 days. But given the severity of the UK’s outbreak can there be many places more infectious? Is it true that Covid-19 mostly kills people who would die soon anyway? The first figures are out showing how England’s Test and Trace programme is performing, but they contain a mystery we’re keen to resolve. And we play with some mathematical puzzles, courtesy of statistician Jen Rogers.
Published 06/17/20
At the start of March the government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said that the UK’s coronavirus outbreak was four weeks behind the epidemic in Italy. This ability to watch other countries deal with the disease ahead of us potentially influenced the decisions we made about which actions to take and when, including lockdown. So was he right?
Published 06/10/20
What difference does a metre make? The World Health Organisation recommends that people keep at least 1 metre apart from each other to stop the spread of Covid-19, but different countries have adopted different standards. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying six feet apart - that’s just short of 2 metres; in the UK, the rule is 2 metres. But all this has a big impact on the way businesses and societies get back to work. Tim Harford investigates the...
Published 06/06/20
As lockdowns begin to lift the government is relying on testing and contact tracing programmes to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections. But how accurate are the swab tests used to diagnose the disease? The UK Statistics Authority has criticised the government for the way it reports testing figures, saying it’s not surprising that these numbers “are so widely criticised and often mistrusted.” We take a look at how the government achieved its target of developing a daily testing...
Published 06/03/20
More than 35,000 people in the UK have now officially died from Covid-19, but what does the data show about whether this wave of the epidemic is waning? We ask who respects lockdown, who breaks it, and why? Our listeners are astounded by how many people allegedly flew into the UK in the first three months of the year - we’re on the story. We look at the performance of the Scottish health system on testing. And some pub-quiz joy involving a pencil.
Published 05/27/20
A listener asks if there can really only be 60 harvests left in Earth's soil. Are we heading for an agricultural Armageddon? Plus we meet the parrots who are the first animals, outside humans and great apes, to be shown to understand probability. (image: Kea parrots in New Zealand)
Published 05/23/20