“ “Is there any tea on this spaceship?” he asked.”*

– *Douglas Adams (1952-2001), “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (1979)

Alison Flood wrote in The Guardian of 4 Mar 2015:

“…The radio series went on to become the bestselling, much-loved Hitchhiker’s Guide books, but Adams never really meant to be a novelist, said (Neil) Gaiman. Writing novels “was a profession he did reluctantly, had really backed into, or stumbled over. I think perhaps what Douglas was, was a futurologist, or an explainer. One day maybe we’ll realise that the most important job there is, is someone who can explain the world to itself in ways the world can’t forget,” said the writer…

From: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), by Lewis Carroll:

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.”

Lauren Millikan writes at “Curiouser and Curiouser: The Evolution of Wonderland.”:

The joke:  In this instance, the Hatter both points out the ambiguity of the term “more” and draws our attention to the paradox of negative numbers, which describe a quantity “less than nothing.”  Helen Pycior argues that Carroll took “the concept literally, and forced his readers to consider less tea than that contained in an empty cup and fewer hours of study than none. In contrast to such mathematicians as De Morgan, who sought viable analogues of the negative numbers in such concrete objects as financial debts and lines drawn backwards from a zero point, Carroll presented physical situations in which “quantity less than nothing” was nonsensical” (164).”

From Wikipedia:

“More or Less is an investigative BBC Radio 4 programme about the accuracy of numbers and statistics in the public domain. The programme often adresses statistical issues which pertain to topics in the news.

The programme was created in 2001 by Michael Blastland as a one-off series of six programmes presented by Andrew Dilnot. The positive response to the show led to it becoming a regular programme, first with two series a year and since the winter series of 2008–2009, with three.

As well as the thirty minute Radio 4 programme there is also a ten-minute BBC World Service edition that runs throughout the year. Both versions appear in the programme’s podcast stream. The World Service edition either repeats an item from Radio 4 or has original material (usually when the Radio 4 show is off air). The programme is normally broadcast (as at September 2020) 9:02 to 9:30am on Wednesday.

In 2007, Blastland and Dilnot published a related book, The Tiger That Isn’t: Seeing Through a World of Numbers about misuse of statistics.

Guests of the show have included Professor Sir Angus Deaton, Mark Lynas, Hannah Ritchie, and Professor Sir Richard Blundell.

Since October 2007 the show has been presented by Tim Harford.

Awards

• Royal Statistical Society’s 2010 award for statistical excellence in broadcast journalism

• Mensa’s award for promoting intelligence in public life”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000rccm

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