## You're reading: Posts Tagged: More or Less

### Are there More or Less stars than grains of beach sand?

This week’s episode of More or Less on the BBC World Service answered a question that involved estimating big numbers: Are there more stars than grains of beach sand?

This claim was famously made by Carl Sagan in the seminal programme Cosmos.

The cosmos is rich beyond measure. The number of stars in the universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the planet Earth.

More or Less come to a fairly standard answer, that Sagan was correct. This sort of problem, which involves approximating unknowable numbers based on a series of estimates, is called a Fermi problem. I’ve written about Fermi problems here before. The More or Less approach to answering this raised a question from a reader of this blog.

Alright, actually Paul is one of the writers of this blog, rather than a reader. Even so, are his concerns warranted?

### Podcasts for a university mathematics student

Yesterday, I was asked by Mariana Farinha for podcasts I would recommend to a college student of Mathematics. I assume this is college in the American sense, i.e. university. Though targetting an audience is usually a broad business, so with a suitable margin of error I replied with a few, retweeted the request and a few others replied. Here are the suggestions. What would you recommend? Leave a comment!

### A History of Britain in Numbers

Somehow all three of us missed this before it started: “Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, brings to life the numbers that highlight the patterns and trends that have transformed Britain”. A History of Britain in Numbers is a series of ten 15 minute programmes broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It looks like someone at the BBC has decided to extend the very popular A History of the World in 100 Objects format to a family of series A History of X in Y.

Dilnot was the first presenter of the long-running series More or Less, an Aperiodical favourite.

Listen: A History of Britain in Numbers at BBC Radio 4, or the Omnibus programme containing the first five episodes, or the podcast of the whole series.

You’ll almost definitely also like More or Less.

### More Or Less integer sequence solution revealed (spoilers!)

Radio 4 maths police More or Less took time off from calling out journalists and deputy prime ministers for their misuse of statistics this series to sneak a hidden maths puzzle into their show. The first five episodes were “brought to us by” the numbers, respectively, 1, 49, 100, 784 and 1444. Listeners were invited to work out what number would bring us the final episode.

### Integer sequence puzzle in More or Less

More or Less, the BBC’s maths and statistics radio show, has been sneakily doing a puzzle on us for the last few weeks. The episodes in the series so far have each been ‘brought to you’, Sesame Street-style, by a different number. But what will the final episode be? Can you crack the integer code and solve the puzzle?

The puzzle was announced in the programme broadcast on the 27th of September; you can listen to it on the Radio 4 site or as a podcast (the puzzle bit is at 27:05). If you think you’ve solved the riddle, email More or Less through their website.

The episodes so far have been brought to you by the numbers 1, 49, 100, 784 and 1444. (It’s not in the OEIS; we’ve checked). You can find out if you’re right when the final episode in the series goes out, on BBC Radio 4 at 4.30pm on Friday 4th October.

More or Less official website

More or Less in the BBC News Magazine

More or Less podcast

Contact More or Less

### Formula for BMI has an ‘ill-founded definition’

Have you ever calculated your BMI and been given a reading of ‘overweight’, when you clearly aren’t? Or maybe you’ve been training hard in the gym but your BMI has increased?

Many of us, including GPs and fitness instructors, use BMI as an indicator of whether we are ‘fit and healthy’ and reliably use it to adjust our lifestyle. However, mathematician Nick Trefethen, Professor of Numerical Analysis at Oxford University, has proposed that the formula is poorly defined and has proposed an alternative.

He claims that the BMI formula, which is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters, is an ill-founded definition of body size, and isn’t a useful measure.

### Not mentioned on The Aperiodical last year

Here’s a quick round-up of some news stories from the tail end of 2012 that we characteristically failed to write up!