28 episodes

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life 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” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries. 

Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford Pushkin Industries

    • History
    • 4.8 • 609 Ratings

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life 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” and “The Undercover Economist”) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They'll delight you, scare you, but also make you wiser. iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries. 

    Demonizing Dungeons & Dragons

    Demonizing Dungeons & Dragons

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

    Number Fever: How Pepsi Nearly Went Pop

    Number Fever: How Pepsi Nearly Went Pop

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

    The Curse of Knowledge Meets The Valley of Death

    The Curse of Knowledge Meets The Valley of Death

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

    The Dunning Kruger Hijack (and Other Criminally Stupid Acts)

    The Dunning Kruger Hijack (and Other Criminally Stupid Acts)

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

    Catching a Killer Doctor

    Catching a Killer Doctor

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

    The Art Forger, the Nazi, and "The Pope"

    The Art Forger, the Nazi, and "The Pope"

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

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
609 Ratings

609 Ratings

Disappointed9294756 ,

Bad ad

Love the podcast, but this new Wendy’s ad is so jarring, it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the podcast - get a new sponsor or tone it down!

desri ,

Dialing for dollars

Amazing podcast, very well written. Entertains and engages. Every episode a winner although - exercise caution. Things do not end well for everyone at all.

Season 2 episode 7. The UK Hoover promo reminds me very of Harold Ramis as Moe Green, in Dialing for Dollars on SCTV season 1 episode 7, c1977-8

Moe was the station accountant also tasked with hosting the fictional cash giveaway show. Watching him sweat like the Pepsi executives must have in this story is quite a laugh.

Anpl7 ,

Ads too intrusive

I have heard every episode but the loud ads have spoiled it for me. I listen to podcasts to relax and these ads are jarring. Too bad because the stories are fabulous.

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