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Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

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. iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries. 

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Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano

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/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

30mins

20 Dec 2019

Rank #1

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The Spreadsheet of Life and Death

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. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

23mins

26 Jun 2020

Rank #2

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Martin Luther King Jr, the Jewelry Genius, and the Art of Public Speaking

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.Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

35mins

26 Feb 2021

Rank #3

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The Data Detective

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.) Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

33mins

2 Feb 2021

Rank #4

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How To End A Pandemic

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. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

24mins

17 Jul 2020

Rank #5

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You Have Reached Your Destination

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/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

32mins

27 Dec 2019

Rank #6

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How Britain Invented, Then Ignored, Blitzkrieg

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?Read more about Tim's work at http://timharford.com/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

36mins

13 Dec 2019

Rank #7

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BONUS: Storks, Smoking and the Power of Doubt

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. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

10mins

16 Sep 2020

Rank #8

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La La Land: Galileo's Warning

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/ Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

30mins

22 Nov 2019

Rank #9

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Fire at The Beverly Hills Supper Club

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. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.comSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

20mins

12 Jun 2020

Rank #10