Being a Friend of More or Less 23 September 20
More or Less is public service broadcasting at its best, and I feel privileged to have been associated with the programme since its first series in 2001.
The Wastage of Pencil Sharpening 29 May 20
How much of the lead in a pencil do we actually use? The answer is that we waste almost all of it.
False Positives go mainstream 24 April 20
The idea of false positives has always been of peripheral interest to the general public. Covid 19 has changed that.
The Risk of Floods 24 March 20
When reports say 'This is a once in 100 year flood' what does that mean?
Estimating the spread of the Coronavirus 18 January 20
When we hear forecasts in the news, the numbers imply a confidence that is rarely justified.
The Upside Down Swimming Calculation 17 October 19
A dad and his son managed to get the right answer by making two mistakes that cancelled each other out.
Are New Zealanders innately Nice? 15 July 19
When I play the Greed game with teenagers, the selfishness of some of them usually means everyone misses out. But there was one exception.
The Button That Blows Out Candles 17 April 19
Here's the story of the old man who told me about the button that blows out candles.
Inching towards a metric world 18 September 18
Most of the English-speaking world adopted metric measurements decades ago. Yet imperial language lives on.
The Lazy Student Formula 5 June 18
If you haven't got the time or inclination to revise all the topics on your course.
How To Lie With Statistics 22 January 18
Edexcel recently boasted 99.2% accuracy in their exam grading. Sounds impressive. But it isn't.
From Kilo to Bronto 11 August 17
When I was a child, Big Data was measured in Kilos. Now they're arguing about what to call numbers that are an octillion times bigger.
Taking The Last Chocolate Biscuit 3 July 17
There's one chocolate biscuit left on the plate and there are other guests who might want it. How guilty should you feel about taking it?
Two Significant Figures 7 February 17
Most seventeen year olds have very limited mental maths skills. Should we care?
How Fibonacci can help on your holiday to France 1 August 16
To convert miles to kilometres, don't worry about fiddly conversions, just memorise Fibonacci.
The Maths of Red Noses 6 March 15
There are nine noses to collect for the full Comic Relief set. But how many do you have to buy before you've got the lot?
How Donald Duck created an Urban Myth 19 December 14
From architecture to credit cards, myths about the beauty of the golden rectangle are hard to dispel. It's Donald Duck's fault.
Trams, taxes and cliff edges 3 July 14
The new Edinburgh tram has a strange connection to stamp duty
When the Birthday Coincidence Goes Wrong 29 November 13
The birthday coincidence is a lovely way to demonstrate how probability can be surprising. Except when it goes wrong.
The Big Bass Jackpot 1 September 13
An arcade experience that made me realise the appeal of gambling
The Mobius Loop Rollercoaster 3 June 13
Blackpool's Grand National rollercoaster is described as a Mobius Loop, yet you never go upside down. How?
King Richard III 10 May 13
Fifteen 'descendants' of Richard III want a say in where he is buried. What about the rest of us?
How much does it cost to cross the road? 15 March 13
Innocently pressing the button at a pedestrian crossing brings several cars to a halt. What's it cost in wasted petrol?
The Lincoln Index 25 February 13
The Lincoln Index is nothing to do with predicting Oscar winners, but is in fact a neat way of estimating how mistakes there are in a book after proof-reading it.
Introducing…ZEQUALS 18 February 13
The government wants ten year old children to be able to do long division calculations such as 8384 / 27. That might take a less able ten year old almost half a lesson to work out. Much better to have a way of coming up with a good estimate of the right answer – which is where Zequals comes in.