Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

By Pushkin Industries

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Subscribers: 9142
Reviews: 46

my name=none of your business
 Jul 1, 2022
I f**king love this podcast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

L. Mueller
 Jun 21, 2022
One of my most favorite podcasts! A very captivating, educational and professionally produced podcasts that makes me lose track of time. I highly recommend it!

Podcast Republic User
 Jun 3, 2022

chimyo
 May 19, 2022

Maj
 Mar 17, 2022
This podcast is one of my favorites. The narrative style is completely engrossing, and the stories always teach something new and interesting. I love the way the multiple threads are woven together.

Description

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the grown ups – and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of “The Data Detective”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. New episodes every other Friday.


Episode Date
The Wild Turkeys of Schleswig
2353

There are eight American turkeys painted on the walls of Schleswig's Cathedral of St Peter - which is odd... since the frescoes were created two centuries before Columbus even crossed the Atlantic.   

How did the creatures come to be added to the medieval Biblical scene? Was this proof that the Germans reached the Americas before Columbus? Or do the painted birds tell a different story all together? 

For a full list of sources used in this episode visit Tim Harford.com 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Nov 25, 2022
Cautionary Conversation: The Blitz Spirit and the Blackout Ripper
1971

In a crisis most people respond with decency and solidarity. The bombing of British cities in the Second World War did not cause society to crumble as was expected, but proved instead human resilience. That defiant "Blitz Spirit" is still a source of pride for Britons... but have inconvenient facts about that time been ignored?

Alice Fiennes (co-host of the podcast Bad Women: The Blackout Ripper) explains that the chaos and disruption of the bombing allowed some people to commit awful crimes - and especially a trainee RAF pilot who embarked on a vicious killing spree under cover of darkness.   

Find Bad Women: The Blackout Ripper wherever you get your podcasts. 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Nov 18, 2022
The Inventor Who Almost Ended the World
2207

Thomas Midgley's inventions caused his own death, hastened the deaths of millions of people around the world, and very nearly extinguished all life on land. 

Midgley and his employers didn't set out to poison the air with leaded gasoline or wreck the ozone layer with CFCs - but while these dire consequences were unintended... could they have been anticipated?

For a full list of sources used in this episode visit Tim Harford.com 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Nov 11, 2022
The Halloween Poisoner
2123

Candy laced with cyanide and needles in marshmallows, we've long been warned to be suspicious of the sweet treats handed out by strangers at Halloween. But it seems that most stories of "Halloween sadism" are just that, stories. No child seems to have been  killed by adulterated Halloween candy... well... there is one terrible exception. The poisoned Pixy Stix of Pasadena, TX.

For a full list of sources used in this episode visit Tim Harford.com 

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Oct 28, 2022
Cautionary Conversation: The Conspiracy Theorist Who Changed His Mind
2475

Charlie Veitch was certain that 9/11 was an inside job. The attack on the World Trade Center wasn't the work of Al-Qaeda, but an elaborate conspiracy. He became a darling of so-called "9/11 truthers" - until he actually visited Ground Zero to meet architects, engineers and the relatives of the dead. The trip changed his mind... there was no conspiracy.  

His fellow "truthers" did not take Charlie's conversion well. 

David McRaney (host of You Are Not So Smart and author of How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion and Persuasion) joins Tim Harford to discuss what happened to Charlie Veitch; what it tells us about those who hold strong beliefs even in the face of damning contrary evidence; and why persuasion isn't always the right answer.  

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Oct 21, 2022
Cautionary Tales Presents: Warfare, The Life of Anne Frank
2461

This week, it's an episode from Warfare, a podcast from our friends at History Hit. It's 1942. The year Anne Frank and her family went into hiding during the Second World War. It was there that Anne began keeping a diary that would become one of the most recognisable testimonies of the Jewish war-time experiences. But what do we know of her life before the war? Host James Rogers explores the Franks' lives before the outbreak of war, and why this story is still so relevant today.

You can find more from Warfare at https://podfollow.com/the-world-wars.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Oct 14, 2022
The Online Date That's Too Good to be True
2233

Single and looking for love, Dr Robert Epstein found himself chatting with a slim, attractive brunette online. She seemed perfect... perhaps even too good to be true. 

Dr Epstein is an expert on artificial conversation - so surely he'd be the last person to fall for a computer? Chatbots fool us more often than we think... especially when they replicate our very worst conversational habits.  

To read more on this topic try Brian Christian’s “The Most Human Human”. For a full list of sources go to timharford.com.  

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Oct 07, 2022
A Leap of Faith From the Eiffel Tower
1980

Inventor Franz Reichelt wants to test his novel "parachute suit" from as tall a structure as possible - and the Eiffel Tower seems ideal. Previous trial runs used a mannequin strapped to the chute and have not ended well. Despite this, his plan is to make the Eiffel Tower jump himself. Can he be persuaded to see sense?

Self-experimentation - particularly in the field of medicine - has a long and checkered history. Can we learn anything useful from such unorthodox experiments, or are they reckless acts of egotism and hubris? 

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com.  

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Sep 23, 2022
Cautionary Conversation: Flying on Empty
1926

A meter is longer than a yard. An ounce is heavier than a gram. We harmlessly mix them up sometimes, but a "unit conversion error" when you're filling up the fuel tanks of an airliner can be fatal. Which is exactly what happened to Air Canada Flight 143. 

Tim Harford talks to mathematician and comedian Matt Parker about how the aircraft came to take off without the proper fuel load, how no one noticed until it was too late, and why such errors give us an insight into just how important maths is to keeping our complex world working as it should. 

For more "unit conversion errors"  check out Matt's book Humble Pi.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Sep 09, 2022
Tim Talks Bicycles with Patented
2317

Invented in the mid-1800s, bicycles have had enduring popularity. Across cultures, they have been embraced, promising freedom and mobility at a lower price point. 

Tim joins Dallas Campbell on Patented: History of Inventions, to discuss the history of the bicycle, from the invention story through to bicycle booms, the C5 Sinclair and the rise of dockless bike sharing schemes. 

If you're interested in the stories behind the world's greatest inventions - from the mighty steam train to the humble condom - subscribe to Patented: History of Inventions today.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Sep 02, 2022
"You’re Not Howard Hughes!"
2144

By the 1970s Howard Hughes was the "invisible billionaire”. A business tycoon, a daring aviator and Hollywood Lothario, Hughes had an amazing life story... but hiding away in luxury hotels he wasn't sharing his memories with anyone.

Then the recluse told a respected publishing house - via intermediaries - that he was working on an autobiography. The book would be a blockbuster... only it was all a lie.

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Aug 26, 2022
"Who would you dine with? Scott or Amundsen?" Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Harford in Discussion.
1514

Malcolm Gladwell joins Tim Harford to discuss our recent three-part tale about the race to reach the South Pole. There's talk of imperial decline; the power of the underdog; why getting everything you want is actually a handicap; and limes... lots and lots of limes.   

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Aug 19, 2022
South Pole Race: When the Limeys Get Scurvy
2028

Polar exploration is dangerous... but trudging hundreds of miles in subzero temperatures isn't made any easier if you're suffering from scurvy. The deadly vitamin deficiency destroys the body and will of even the strongest and most determined adventurer - and it seems that scurvy stuck down the ill-fated expedition of Captain Scott. 

But scurvy... in 1912? Hadn't the Royal Navy to which Scott belonged famously cracked the problem of scurvy a century before, with a daily dose of lime juice? How did the 'Limeys' seemingly unlearn that lesson? 

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Aug 12, 2022
The Bowery Boys and the Black Tom Explosion
2729

Cautionary Tales returns next week, but in the meantime enjoy a story of disaster from The Bowery Boys Podcast. 

It's July 30th 1916, just after 2am, and a massive explosion rips apart the munitions depot on Black Tom, an island off Jersey City. Tons of debris and jagged shrapnel pepper neighboring Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Thousands of windows across New York are shattered, and millions of residents are awoken wondering what had just happened. Was it an accident or German sabotage? 

The Bowery Boys is show about the people and events that have shaped the history of New York City, and really, shaped America.

Listen to more episodes of The Bowery Boys at https://www.boweryboyshistory.com/bowery-boys-first/bowery-boys-podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Aug 05, 2022
South Pole Race: “Mummy, is Amundsen a good man?”
2133

Roald Amundsen beat Captain Scott to the South Pole. The Norwegian - using dog sleds and skis - made it look easy... fun, even. He was heading home to safety, while the British party - hauling sleds by hand - were struggling to survive out on the ice.

In this case, to the victor went a spoiled reputation. The British grumbled that Amundsen had somehow cheated, or had at least behaved in an underhand manner. These stinging accusations would haunt the adventurer until the day he died in the polar wastes.

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Jul 29, 2022
South Pole Race: David and Goliath on Ice
2000

1910: Two men are racing to be the first to reach the South Pole. Captain Robert Falcon Scott heads a well-financed, technologically-advanced expedition - aiming to reach the pole in the "proper" and heroic way... on foot. Roald Amundsen's effort is more modest, relying on cheap sled dogs to carry him to victory. 

Scott - for all his money, for all his fancy equipment, for all his backing from the mighty Royal Navy - is doomed to failure in the icy wastes of Antarctica. Why?

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Jul 15, 2022
Chicago When It Sizzles
2302

July 1995: A deadly heatwave gripped Chicago - bridges buckled; the power grids failed; and the morgue ran out of space - but some neighbourhoods saw more deaths than others.

Sociologist Eric Klinenberg wanted to know why. So he headed to the hardest hit districts and found that social isolation and loneliness played an unsettling role in their heavy deaths tolls.   

Does the Chicago heatwave teach us that in dealing with climate change we need to consider not just physical infrastructure, but social infrastructure too?  

Eric Klinenberg's classic text on the topic is called Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. For a full list of other sources go to timharford.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Jul 01, 2022
The French Knight’s Guide to Corporate Culture
2176

France 1346: The army of King Philip VI is Europe's pre-eminent killing machine. It's accustomed to crushing any force stupid enough to oppose it, and now fully expects to annihilate a motley band of English invaders in a field near the village of Crecy.   

Except as night falls, it is Philip's army that lies broken and bleeding in the mud. What went wrong? The French knights, it seems, had failed to update their corporate culture.   

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Jun 17, 2022
Frankenstein Versus the Volcano
2099

When Mount Tambora erupted it spewed ash across the globe; blotting out the sun; poisoning crops; and bringing starvation, illness and death to millions. It may also have helped inspire great scientific and cultural advances - including the horror masterpiece Frankenstein. How well do we adapt to catastrophe and what are the limits of our ability to weather even the worst circumstances? 

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Jun 03, 2022
Bless the Coal-black Hearts of the Broadway Critics
2037

When Billy Joel agreed to let dance legend Twyla Tharp turn his songs into a Broadway musical it seemed like a surefire hit. But in previews, Movin’ Out was panned by the critics. It was soon headed for Broadway and was set to be an expensive and embarrassing failure.So how could Twyla turn things around and avert disaster before opening night?

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

May 20, 2022
Monkey for Mayor from This Day in Esoteric Political History
1726

What happens when a monkey gets elected mayor? Well, not really a monkey, but a monkey mascot for a town’s football games. Tim Harford joins This Day in Esoteric Political History to discuss a weird moment from UK history in 2002, when the northeastern English town of Hartlepool was gearing up for a mayoral election and ended up voting in…the local football club’s monkey mascot to run their government. They discuss how H’Angus the Monkey got elected, and how the man inside the suit, Stuart Drummond, went on to be a very effective administrator.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

May 13, 2022
When the Autopilot Switched Off
1986

An airline captain thought he was giving his children a harmless thrill by letting them "fly" his packed airplane - the young cockpit visitors weren't really in control... the autopilot was doing the real flying. Until it wasn't. 

Do safety features actually lull us into a false sense of security - tempting us to take greater risks than we otherwise would?

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

May 06, 2022
Cautionary Tales Presents: World's Greatest Con
4350

We'll be back with another story of human error next week, but today we're sharing another podcast you might like. On World's Greatest Con, Brian Brushwood talks about the most audacious con jobs, swindles, and heists in history. In this episode of World's Greatest Con, Brian tells the story of how a game show producer was tempted into upping the ante on his own program by feeding answers to the contestants. Those contestants become rich, famous, and admired...until the scheme is discovered and all they are left with is shame.

You can hear more episodes by searching for World's Greatest Con wherever you get podcasts.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 29, 2022
Photographing Fairies
2227

Sherlock Holmes is known for approaching all mysteries with cool logic - and yet when his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle saw photographs taken by two young girls purporting to show real life fairies at play... he unwisely declared them genuine.

How did Elsie and Frances fool so many people with their photography... and why did they keep the hoax going for decades?

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 22, 2022
Tim Joins ‘No Such Thing As A Fish'
3438

‘No Such Thing as a Fish’ is one of Tim Harford’s favorite podcasts and he was recently invited on as a guest. So here’s a chance to listen to the host of Cautionary Tales chat vital vitamins, stinging schemes, and the practice of pyrography.

Listen to more episodes from No Such Thing as a Fish wherever you get podcasts.

Cautionary Tales will return with the story the greatest photographic hoax in history next Friday.

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 15, 2022
The False Dawn of the Electric Car
2227

Sir Clive Sinclair was a computer whizz and business mogul to rival Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. He was a visionary who could do no wrong... until he tried to launch an electric vehicle.

The C5 “electrically assisted pedal cycle" doesn't seem so outlandish to us now... but 1985 just wasn't ready for the "aerodynamic bathtub" on wheels. Sir Clive was ridiculed and his business ruined. How did it all go so wrong?

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 08, 2022
The Balloons That Ate Cleveland (A Cautionary Tales Short)
1135

When Disneyland released one million helium balloons to set a new world record, Cleveland, Ohio looked on in envy. Could it top the Magic Kingdom? What did citizens hope to gain from getting into the record books... and at what cost?

This is a special Cautionary Tales Short - a bitesize warning for history. To hear FOUR more Cautionary Tales Shorts (plus other exclusive and ad-free Pushkin content) join Pushkin+ in Apple Podcasts or at https://www.pushkin.fm/plus/ .

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mar 25, 2022
Death on the Dance Floor
2204

With its splendid modern architecture, the Hyatt Regency was the place to be seen in Kansas City in 1981. Beneath space-age walkways, guests drank, laughed and danced... not realizing that the 60 tons of of glass, concrete and steel hanging above their heads was about to come crashing down.

One hundred and fourteen people died. But why? Was it cheap materials? Shoddy construction? Or a tiny error that seemed so insignificant that no one paid it any attention?

For a full list of sources go to timharford.com

If you’d like to keep up with the most recent news from this and other Pushkin podcasts be sure to sign up for our email list at Pushkin.fm.

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mar 25, 2022
Cautionary Tales Returns Every Other Friday from March 25th
184

The greatest mistakes, disasters and fiascos of the past aren't just gripping stories... they're also warnings from which we all can learn.

Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford returns EVERY OTHER FRIDAY FROM MARCH 25th to chronicle the defeats of mighty armies, the destruction of business empires and the deadly eruptions of fearsome volcanoes. And from amongst the wrecked lives and wrecked egos, Tim finds the simple lessons we can apply in our daily lives.

Tim's also created some special Cautionary Tales Shorts, available exclusively to Pushkin+ subscribers. To hear them, sign up for Pushkin+ on the show page in Apple Podcasts or at pushkin.fm/plus. 

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mar 11, 2022
The Mummy’s Curse
2211

Disturbing the remains of the Egyptian pharaohs is known to incur a deadly curse, so why did a team of archeologists still risk inciting the wrath of King Tutankhamun by entering his burial chamber? And how many of them met a premature end for their impudence?

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Oct 29, 2021
The Truth About Hansel and Gretel
2208

Was the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel - the story of a woodcutter’s children abandoned in the woods and left at the mercy of a witch - in fact, early true crime? A hit book - The Truth About Hansel and Gretel - said that historical records pointed to the story being based on fact. Are we too quick to dismiss the truth behind tall stories? Or are we always falling for tales that are too good to be true?

The first of two special Halloween editions of Cautionary Tales. Next up... The Mummy's Curse.

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

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Oct 22, 2021
Do NOT Pass GO!
2100

Lizzie J. Magie (played by Helena Bonham Carter) should be celebrated as the inventor of what would become Monopoly - but her role in creating the smash hit board game was cynically ignored, even though she had a patent.

Discrimination has marred the careers of many inventors and shut others out from the innovation economy entirely. Could crediting forgotten figures such as Lizzie Magie help address continuing disparities in the patenting of new inventions?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

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May 28, 2021
Wrong Tools Cost Lives
2029

The British Government promised to create a "world-beating" system to track deadly Covid 19 infections - but it included an outdated version of the off-the-shelf spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel. The result was disastrous.

When under pressure or lacking in expertise we can all be tempted to use a tool unsuitable for the job in hand. But whether fitting shelves or trying to halt a pandemic, we need to accept that cutting corners comes at a cost.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

May 21, 2021
Fritterin’ Away Genius
2201

Claude Shannon was brilliant. He was the Einstein of computer science... only he loved "fritterin' away" his time building machines to play chess, solve Rubik's cubes and beat the house at roulette.

If Shannon had worked more diligently - instead of juggling, riding a unicycle and abandoning project after project - would he have made an even greater contribution to human knowledge? Maybe... and maybe not. Are restlessness and "fritterin'" important parts of a rich and creative life?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

May 14, 2021
The Fan Who Infected a Movie Star
1904

German measles is a minor illness for most people - but for unborn children it can be devastating. In 1943 - when the link was only just becoming clear - a young US marine decided to break rubella quarantine to meet the movie star Gene Tierney (played by Mircea Monroe). The marine was sick... and Gene was pregnant.

The appalling consequences of that meeting tell us much about how our thoughtlessness can harm those around us - but the kind of tragedy that befell Tierney and her daughter can be averted if we appeal to the better parts of human nature.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

May 07, 2021
Whistleblower on the 28th Floor
1906

Financial expert Ray Dirks (played by Jeffrey Wright) exposed one of the biggest corporate crimes of all time - and yet he was the one who ended up in front of the Supreme Court.

Whistleblowers often face intimidation from those they bring to justice, but also face hostility from their co-workers, new employers, the authorities and even the public. Why are we suspicious of "tattletales" and what can we do to make vital whistleblowing easier?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 30, 2021
Masterly Inactivity Versus Micromanaging
1928

Lady Sale (played by Helena Bonham Carter) was part of a bloody and ignominious British retreat from Afghanistan in 1842. The arrogant colonial invaders had thought intervening in Afghan affairs and dominating the country would be easy - they were wrong. Lady Sale was among the lucky few to escape with her life.

Wiser heads later recommended "masterly inactivity" as a better course of action. In politics, parenting and even medicine - avoiding the temptation to act is a sadly neglected art form.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 23, 2021
Demonizing Dungeons & Dragons
2219

When James Dallas Egbert III was reported missing from his college dorm - one of America's most flamboyant private detectives was summoned to solve the case. "Dallas" had many of the same problems that most teenagers face - but P.I. William Dear stoked fears that he might have fallen under the evil spell of a mysterious and sinister game.... Dungeons & Dragons.

The global panic about the dangers the role-playing game posed to impressionable young minds may seem quaint 40 years on - but again and again we show how fearful we are of creative endeavours we don't quite understand.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Apr 16, 2021
Number Fever: How Pepsi Nearly Went Pop
2102

Pepsi twice ended up in court after promotions went disastrously wrong. Other big companies have fallen into the same trap - promising customers rewards so generous that to fulfil the promise might mean corporate bankruptcy.

Businesses and customers alike are sometimes blinded by the big numbers in such PR stunts - but it's usually the customers, not the businesses, who end up losing out.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Apr 09, 2021
The Curse of Knowledge Meets The Valley of Death
2016

Why were soldiers on horseback told to ride straight into a valley full of enemy cannon? The disastrous "Charge of the Light Brigade" is usually blamed on blundering generals. But the confusing orders issued on that awful day in 1854 reveal a common human trait - we often wrongly assume that everyone knows what we know and can easily comprehend our meaning.

Starring Helena Bonham Carter as Florence Nightingale.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Apr 02, 2021
The Dunning Kruger Hijack (and Other Criminally Stupid Acts)
1992

The hijackers of flight 961 wanted its pilot to fly them to Australia - and wouldn't listen to his pleas that there simply wasn't enough fuel for the mammoth trip. What would cause them to totally disregard the advice of an expert when the stakes were so very high? The Dunning Kruger effect.

But being too stupid to recognise the limits of your knowledge isn't confined to such prize idiots - it's something we are all guilty of at times and has huge implications for society.

Starring Jeffrey Wright (Hunger Games, Westworld, and the Bond films) as Ethiopian Airlines captain Leul Abate.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Mar 26, 2021
Catching a KiIler Doctor
2020

Family doctor Harold Shipman got away with murdering his patients for decades. He was one of the most prolific serial killers in history - but his hundreds of crimes largely went unnoticed despite a vast paper trail of death certificates he himself had signed.

Why do we sometimes fail to see awful things happening right under our noses? And how can the systems that maintain quality control in cookie factories be employed to prevent another doctor like Shipman killing with impunity?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Mar 19, 2021
The Art Forger, the Nazi, and "The Pope"
2116

"The Pope" was a revered Dutch art expert - and yet he fell for a not very convincing forgery of a "lost" Vermeer masterpiece. The forger had duped other art connoisseurs too - including the high ranking Nazi Hermann Göring. But perhaps Han van Meegeren's biggest con was to convince the Dutch public that he was a cheeky resistance hero.

We assume knowledge and intelligence can protect us from being duped - but often they are not enough to save us from the fraudster's greatest ally - our own wishful thinking.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Mar 12, 2021
Florence Nightingale and Her Geeks Declare War on Death
2160

Victorian nurse Florence Nightingale (played by her distant cousin Helena Bonham Carter) is a hero of modern medicine - but her greatest contribution to combating disease and death resulted from the vivid graphs she made to back her public health campaigns.

Her charts convinced the great and the good that deaths due to filth and poor sanitation could be averted - saving countless lives. But did Nightingale open Pandora's Box, showing that graphs persuade, whether or not they depict reality?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Mar 05, 2021
Martin Luther King Jr, the Jewelry Genius, and the Art of Public Speaking
2124

One speechmaker inspired millions with his words, the other utterly destroyed his own multi-million-dollar business with just a few phrases.

Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr (played by Jeffrey Wright of Westworld, The Hunger Games, and the James Bond films) and jewelry store owner Gerald Ratner offer starkly contrasting stories on when you should stick to the script and when you should take a risk.

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Feb 26, 2021
Bonus: Why We Believe What Isn't True (with Axios Today)
848

We're no stranger to stories about misinformation or deliberate disinformation. We live in a world where now more than ever, you have to be skeptical. That skepticism can be healthy, but it also can be used to cast more doubt and misinformation on data and statistics that are very real. Tim Harford talks to Niala Boodhoo, from the news podcast Axios Today, about why people believe things that aren't true.


Check out Axios Today, where Niala delivers the news every weekday - in just 10 minutes.


Subscribe to Axios Today wherever you get your podcasts.

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Feb 12, 2021
The Data Detective
2047

Cautionary Tales' host Tim Harford has a new book - The Data Detective - setting out ten commandments for understanding the numbers, charts, graphs and statistics that bombard us every day. In this free extract, Tim explains his extra "golden" rule that allows us to observe all his other commandments - be curious. Enjoy.

Cautionary Tales returns February 26.

The Data Detective (Riverhead Books) is published in the US and Canada on February 2. The same book is available elsewhere under the title How to Make the World Add Up.

(Audio excerpted courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio from The Data Detective by Tim Harford, narrated by the author.)

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Feb 02, 2021
BONUS: Storks, Smoking and the Power of Doubt
614

It's easy to mock statistics or cast doubt on them... but we do so at our peril. Undermining our trust in facts and figures can cause great harm, and even death. We should guard against it.

Tim Harford looks at how the seeds of doubt are planted in this mini-episode of Cautionary Tales to celebrate the release of his latest book.

“How To Make The World Add Up” is out now in much of the world, while listeners in US/Canada can pre-order it under the title "The Data Detective" - ahead of its release in early 2021.

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Sep 16, 2020
How To End A Pandemic
1505

The eradication of smallpox is one of humanity's great achievements - but the battle against the virus was fought by the most unlikely of alliances. How did the breakthrough happen - and can we guarantee that the world is still safe from smallpox?

This episode owes a debt to Stephen Coss’s book The Fever of 1721, Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped From the Beginning, and to an article about Dark Winter written by Tara O’Toole, Michael Mair and Tomas Inglesby.

For a full list of our sources please see the shownotes at http://timharford.com/

Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.

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Jul 17, 2020
That Turn To Pascagoula
1456

For years, people had warned that New Orleans was vulnerable - but when a hurricane came close to destroying the city, the reaction was muted. Some people took the near miss as a warning - others, as confirmation that there was nothing to worry about.

So why do we struggle to prepare for disasters? And why don't we draw the obvious lessons from clear warnings?

Sources for this episode include Amanda Ripley's The Unthinkable, The Ostrich Paradox by Howard Kunreuther and Robert Meyer, Margaret Heffernan's Willful Blindness, and Predictable Surprises by Max Bazerman and Michael Watkins. For a full list of sources see http://timharford.com/

Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.

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Jul 10, 2020
The Village of Heroes
1318

It looked like any ordinary roll of cloth, but it brought the dreaded plague to the village of Eyam. First it killed the tailor, then resident after resident succumbed. To stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring towns the people of Eyam agreed to isolate themselves and let the plague run its deadly course. This terrible act of sacrifice is still remembered centuries later - but what does it tell us about how far people will go to save the lives of strangers?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.

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Jul 03, 2020
The Spreadsheet of Life and Death
1444

Clive had a deadly form of cancer, but fortunately there was a new drug to treat it. Imagine his anger when he was told the treatment was too expensive. He’d entered a world where unique human lives are given a value in a mathematical formula. So how much should we spend to extend or save a life? And are some lives worth more than others?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.

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Jun 26, 2020
A Tsunami of Misery
1267

A monstrous wave and then a nuclear disaster forced Mikio and Hamako Watanabe from their home. But being saved from the potential dangers of a radiation leak destroyed their lives in a different way. Why do we overlook the fact that taking action against an urgent danger can also cause longer term ills?

WARNING: This episode discusses death by suicide. If you are suffering emotional distress or having suicidal thoughts, support is available - for example, from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.

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Jun 19, 2020
Fire at The Beverly Hills Supper Club
1260

Flames are spreading through a Cincinnati hotel. The staff know it, the fire department is coming, and the people in the packed cabaret bar have been told to evacuate… and yet they hesitate to leave. Why don’t we react to some warnings until it’s too late?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

Tim's latest books 'Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy' and 'The Next Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy' are available now.

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Jun 12, 2020
Cautionary Tales Presents: TED Talk Daily
1091

In this special episode of Cautionary Tales, we feature Cautionary Tales host Tim Harford's TED Talk Daily from 2018. What can we learn from the world's most enduringly creative people? They "slow-motion multitask," actively juggling multiple projects and moving between topics as the mood strikes -- without feeling hurried. Tim Harford shares how innovators like Einstein, Darwin, Twyla Tharp and Michael Crichton found their inspiration and productivity through cross-training their minds.

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Jan 31, 2020
You Have Reached Your Destination
1979

We may mock our ancestors for seeking the advice of oracles, soothsayers and psychics, but today we rely heavily on computer programs and math formulas to help us navigate our world. If we continue to follow them unthinkingly, should we be surprised when we end up in unexpected and dangerous places?

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Dec 27, 2019
Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano
1832

It was the biggest concert of Keith Jarrett's career - but the pianist was in for a shock when he entered Koln's opera house. The only piano at the venue was a broken-down wreck. Should he risk humiliation and play anyway or simply walk out? The collaboration between pop superstar David Bowie and arch disruptor Brian Eno offers a lesson that staying in your comfort zone isn't always the best option.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Dec 20, 2019
How Britain Invented, Then Ignored, Blitzkrieg
2178

In 1917, a brilliant British officer developed a way to use an emerging military technology: the tank. The British army promptly squandered the idea – but the Germans did not. Blitzkrieg, the devastating advance of German tanks across Europe in 1940, was invented by the British.

This is a common story: Sony invented the forerunner of the iPod, Xerox the personal computer, and Kodak the digital camera. In each case they failed to capitalize on the idea. Why?

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Dec 13, 2019
Buried by the Wall Street Crash
2161

Both of the world’s greatest economists, Irving Fisher and John Maynard Keynes, thought they could see into the future and make a killing on the stock market - and then both were wiped out by the Wall Street Crash. One died a pauper, the other millionaire. What does it take to bounce back from ruin? Oh... and UFOs.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Dec 06, 2019
The Deadly Airship Race
2265

A British Lord wanted to build the best airship in the world - and so he had two rival design teams battle it out to win the juicy government contract. Competition is supposed to bring the best out of people, but run in the wrong way it can cause people (and the things they produce) to fall apart in the most horrifying ways.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Nov 29, 2019
La La Land: Galileo's Warning
1862

Galileo tried to teach us that adding more and more layers to a system intended to avert disaster often makes catastrophe all the more likely to happen. His basic lesson has been ignored in nuclear power plants, financial markets and at the Oscars... all resulting in chaos.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Nov 22, 2019
The Rogue Dressed as a Captain
1996

One crisp morning in Berlin, in 1906, a small group of soldiers were led on an extraordinary heist by a man they believed to be a Captain. So how did an ageing nobody in a fake uniform trick them into aiding him in the crime of the century? Some say we humans will obey orders from anyone who dresses the part... but the real reason why we fall for tricksters time and again is far more interesting. Fraudsters and charlatans reel us in slowly by using psychology against us.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Nov 15, 2019
DANGER: Rocks Ahead!
2112

Torrey Canyon was one of the biggest and best ships in the world - but its captain and crew still needlessly steered it towards a deadly reef known as The Seven Stones. This course seemed like utter madness, but the thinking that resulted in such a risky manoeuvre is something we are all prone to do when we fixate on a goal and a plan to get us there.

Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/

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Nov 15, 2019
Introducing: Cautionary Tales
177

Coming November 15 from Tim Harford and Pushkin Industries, Cautionary Tales relates a true story of a time when something did not go according to plan. Some of these true stories are tragic, some are comic, but like the great fables and parables, each of them has a moral. Equipped with the latest research from psychology, economics and the social sciences, Harford explains why things went so awry – and teaches us lessons that we won’t forget.

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Oct 22, 2019