62 episodes

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. 

Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford Pushkin

    • History
    • 4.7 • 3.7K Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

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. 

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    A Leap of Faith From the Eiffel Tower

    A Leap of Faith From the Eiffel Tower

    Inventor Franz Reichelt wants to test his novel "parachute suit" from as tall a structure as possible - and the Eiffel Tower seems ideal. Previous trial runs used a mannequin strapped to the chute and have not ended well. Despite this, his plan is to make the Eiffel Tower jump himself. Can he be persuaded to see sense?

    Self-experimentation - particularly in the field of medicine - has a long and checkered history. Can we learn anything useful from such unorthodox experiments, or are they reckless acts of egotism and hubris? 

    For a full list of sources go to timharford.com.  
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 33 min
    Cautionary Conversation: Flying on Empty

    Cautionary Conversation: Flying on Empty

    A meter is longer than a yard. An ounce is heavier than a gram. We harmlessly mix them up sometimes, but a "unit conversion error" when you're filling up the fuel tanks of an airliner can be fatal. Which is exactly what happened to Air Canada Flight 143. 

    Tim Harford talks to mathematician and comedian Matt Parker about how the aircraft came to take off without the proper fuel load, how no one noticed until it was too late, and why such errors give us an insight into just how important maths is to keeping our complex world working as it should. 

    For more "unit conversion errors"  check out Matt's book Humble Pi.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 32 min
    Tim Talks Bicycles with Patented

    Tim Talks Bicycles with Patented

    Invented in the mid-1800s, bicycles have had enduring popularity. Across cultures, they have been embraced, promising freedom and mobility at a lower price point. 

    Tim joins Dallas Campbell on Patented: History of Inventions, to discuss the history of the bicycle, from the invention story through to bicycle booms, the C5 Sinclair and the rise of dockless bike sharing schemes. 

    If you're interested in the stories behind the world's greatest inventions - from the mighty steam train to the humble condom - subscribe to Patented: History of Inventions today.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 38 min
    "You’re Not Howard Hughes!"

    "You’re Not Howard Hughes!"

    By the 1970s Howard Hughes was the "invisible billionaire”. A business tycoon, a daring aviator and Hollywood Lothario, Hughes had an amazing life story... but hiding away in luxury hotels he wasn't sharing his memories with anyone.

    Then the recluse told a respected publishing house - via intermediaries - that he was working on an autobiography. The book would be a blockbuster... only it was all a lie.

    For a full list of sources go to timharford.com
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 35 min
    "Who would you dine with Scott or Amundsen?" Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Harford in Discussion.

    "Who would you dine with Scott or Amundsen?" Malcolm Gladwell and Tim Harford in Discussion.

    Malcolm Gladwell joins Tim Harford to discuss our recent three-part tale about the race to reach the South Pole. There's talk of imperial decline; the power of the underdog; why getting everything you want is actually a handicap; and limes... lots and lots of limes.   
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 25 min
    South Pole Race: When the Limeys Get Scurvy

    South Pole Race: When the Limeys Get Scurvy

    Polar exploration is dangerous... but trudging hundreds of miles in subzero temperatures isn't made any easier if you're suffering from scurvy. The deadly vitamin deficiency destroys the body and will of even the strongest and most determined adventurer - and it seems that scurvy stuck down the ill-fated expedition of Captain Scott. 

    But scurvy... in 1912? Hadn't the Royal Navy to which Scott belonged famously cracked the problem of scurvy a century before, with a daily dose of lime juice? How did the 'Limeys' seemingly unlearn that lesson? 

    For a full list of sources go to timharford.com
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
3.7K Ratings

3.7K Ratings

wingzy ,

Top Notch Material

i always learn something new whenever i listen to this podcast. Keep up the good work!

sjjdnehdi ,

So many adds…

Show can be good, but you’ll nearly have to listen to as many adds as content.

Casey Marie's Music ,

FANTASTIC

I heard about this podcast on another podcast I listen to. It’s incredible and I am so glad I found it. Truly interesting stories, well written, detailed and perfectly described so the story is simple to follow.

Love love love this podcast

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