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Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford
Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford
Pushkin Industries

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable lessons, but these Cautionary Tales are for the education of the... more

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Glowing Peril: The Magical Glitter That Poisoned a City

In Goiânia, Brazil, a junk dealer acquires an old medical device from two scrap-metal scavengers. The device itself isn't useful, but it... more

24 Nov 2023 · 35 minutes
George Washington's Beard of Beetles (with The Dollop)

Cautionary Conversation: Just before Christmas 1799, President George Washington was riding around his country estate, Mount Vernon, when it began to... more

17 Nov 2023 · 28 minutes
Laser Versus Parchment: Doomsday for the Disc

William the Conqueror undertook a remarkably modern project. In 1086, he began compiling and storing a detailed record of his... more

10 Nov 2023 · 39 minutes
Cautionary Tales Presents The Dream

On The Dream, host Jane Marie gets to know the life coaches and gurus who claim they know the secret... more

06 Nov 2023 · 45 minutes
Killers of the Flower Moon: Osage Chief Jim Gray In Conversation

Henry Roan has been shot through the back of his head. The local authorities have found his body slumped over... more

27 Oct 2023 · 39 minutes
Oil and Blood: The Osage Murders

Minnie Smith grew sick quite suddenly. She had been young, fit and healthy - and the doctors were baffled when... more

20 Oct 2023 · 41 minutes
DOUBLE BILL: A Monkey For Mayor / A Screw Loose At 17,000 Feet

This week, we've twice the storytelling fun for you: two Cautionary Tales shorts, previously only available to Pushkin+ subscribers. A Monkey... more

13 Oct 2023 · 34 minutes
"7000 horses are being flown across space..." - Cautionary Questions #2

Why are board games so popular in Germany? What’s Tim Harford’s top tip for productivity? And where do all those... more

29 Sep 2023 · 35 minutes
Cautionary Tales Presents: Getting out of Dodge from Revisionist History

The longest running television series of the 20th century was Gunsmoke, a western set in the notorious Dodge City, Kansas.... more

19 Sep 2023 · 44 minutes
A Chorus of Contempt at The Sydney Opera House

1957. Jørn Utzon receives a phone call: he's just won an international competition to design a brand new opera house... more

15 Sep 2023 · 40 minutes
The City That Sold Itself To Wall Street

Cautionary Book Club: When Morgan Stanley offered to lease Chicago's parking meters for the princely sum of $1 billion, the City... more

01 Sep 2023 · 38 minutes
General Ludd's Rage Against the Machines

1812. A band of "Luddites" is laying siege to a textile mill in the North of England, under cover of... more

18 Aug 2023 · 36 minutes
Andy Warhol's Factory of Truth

Cautionary Conversation: Andy Warhol’s assistant, Gerard Malanga, is facing a long prison sentence in Italy. He’s forged several Che Guevara... more

11 Aug 2023 · 36 minutes
Poles Apart: How A Journalist Divided A City

Heroic explorer Frederick Cook has just returned from the very roof of the world, the first man to reach the... more

04 Aug 2023 · 37 minutes
The Father of Space Travel

Cautionary Conversation: Did a Nazi put America on the moon? To celebrate the launch of his mini-series on the V-2... more

28 Jul 2023 · 26 minutes
A Fascination with Failure: Death On The Dancefloor (Classic)

Henry Petroski is one of Tim Harford's favourite fellow nerds. His study of engineering failures has profoundly influenced Tim's own... more

21 Jul 2023 · 42 minutes
When Parakeets Plundered New York

Cautionary Conversation: An invasive parakeet species began spreading in New York City - and the government decided to kill every... more

14 Jul 2023 · 36 minutes
The Coup, the Poet and the Secret to Winning Wimbledon

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss..." Those words -... more

07 Jul 2023 · 35 minutes
The Man Who Played With Hurricanes

Today, the idea of controlling the weather is controversial. Scientists who research geoengineering have even received death threats. But once... more

23 Jun 2023 · 38 minutes
Cautionary Tales Presents: Lost Hills - The Dark Prince

Today, we're sharing an episode of the gripping Pushkin series Lost Hills: The Dark Prince. The brand-new season takes a... more

15 Jun 2023 · 42 minutes
Sonic Poison? The Genesis of Havana Syndrome

CIA agents in Havana complaining of mental fog, dizziness and ear pain in 2016. Children in Miami in 1974, hyperventilating... more

09 Jun 2023 · 37 minutes
Airships, AI and Alan Cumming: Tim Answers Your Questions

Why does economics get a bad rap? How did a small Hungarian airline wreak havoc in the 2000s? What cautionary tales... more

26 May 2023 · 37 minutes
The Man Who Bet His House on a Pop Song - A Eurovision Tale

You can gamble on horses or on the turn of a card - but Daniel Gould made a living betting... more

12 May 2023 · 31 minutes
The Dark Money Behind Mother's Day

Anna Marie Jarvis wanted a national holiday to honor the dedication and sacrifice of America's mothers. She wasn't the first... more

28 Apr 2023 · 39 minutes
The True Scandal of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound

It could cure any 'female ailment' - even cancer - said the adverts. But Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was,... more

14 Apr 2023 · 37 minutes
What if Terrorists Could Weaponize Covid?

Cautionary Conversation: In 1990, a small extremist group launched a nerve gas attack on passengers riding the Tokyo subway. Thousands... more

07 Apr 2023 · 38 minutes
The Vigilante and the Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers are meant to stop aircrafts from flying into one another... and if they fail, computer systems are... more

31 Mar 2023 · 34 minutes
America's Mata Hari? The Double Life of Esther Reed

Cautionary Conversation: When a small-town detective gets a tip about a missing woman, he believes he's uncovered a highly-trained chameleon:... more

24 Mar 2023 · 36 minutes
Office Hell: the Demise of the Playful Workspace

In the early 90s, cutting-edge advertising agency Chiat/Day announced a radical plan, aimed at giving the company a jolt of... more

17 Mar 2023 · 38 minutes
La La Land: Galileo’s Warning (Classic)

With the 95th Academy Awards just around the corner, Tim Harford looks back at a basic lesson. Galileo tried to... more

10 Mar 2023 · 30 minutes
The Scientist and the Swindler

Cautionary Conversation: Celebrated physicist Professor Paul Frampton was on his way to Brussels to meet the love of his life,... more

03 Mar 2023 · 37 minutes
The Hero Who Rode His Segway Off a Cliff

Steve Jobs called It “the most amazing piece of technology since the PC.” According to Jeff Bezos It was not... more

17 Feb 2023 · 35 minutes
The Mummy's Curse (Classic)

A hundred years ago, the Tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun was officially opened - despite the widely held belief that... more

10 Feb 2023 · 37 minutes
The Final Illusion of the Great Lafayette

Golden sparks are raining down on the Great Lafayette’s famous vaudeville show, “The Lion’s Bride”. They look like they’re part... more

03 Feb 2023 · 36 minutes
LIVE: The Myth of the Million Dollar Tulip Bulb

Recorded before an audience at the Bristol Festival of Economics (11/17/2022) The Dutch went so potty over tulip bulbs in the... more

20 Jan 2023 · 38 minutes
DOUBLE BILL: When a Plague Struck World of Warcraft/Blood on the Tracks

As a special New Year treat we're presenting two Cautionary Tales Shorts - which have previously only been available to... more

06 Jan 2023 · 34 minutes
"Snow Crashing Into The Metaverse" from Imaginary Worlds

This week, we’re sharing an episode of Imaginary Worlds. For the last 30 years, the real world has been catching... more

03 Jan 2023 · 29 minutes
The Company That Cancelled Christmas

More than 100,000 families - many of them amongst the poorest in Britain - put money aside for Christmas gifts... more

09 Dec 2022 · 35 minutes
The Wild Turkeys of Schleswig

There are eight American turkeys painted on the walls of Schleswig's Cathedral of St Peter - which is odd... since... more

25 Nov 2022 · 39 minutes
Cautionary Conversation: The Blitz Spirit and the Blackout Ripper

In a crisis most people respond with decency and solidarity. The bombing of British cities in the Second World War... more

18 Nov 2022 · 32 minutes
The Inventor Who Almost Ended the World

Thomas Midgley's inventions caused his own death, hastened the deaths of millions of people around the world, and very nearly... more

11 Nov 2022 · 36 minutes
The Halloween Poisoner

Candy laced with cyanide and needles in marshmallows, we've long been warned to be suspicious of the sweet treats handed... more

28 Oct 2022 · 35 minutes
Cautionary Conversation: The Conspiracy Theorist Who Changed His Mind

Charlie Veitch was certain that 9/11 was an inside job. The attack on the World Trade Center wasn't the work... more

21 Oct 2022 · 41 minutes
Cautionary Tales Presents: Warfare, The Life of Anne Frank

This week, it's an episode from Warfare, a podcast from our friends at History Hit. It's 1942. The year Anne... more

14 Oct 2022 · 41 minutes
The Online Date That's Too Good to be True

Single and looking for love, Dr Robert Epstein found himself chatting with a slim, attractive brunette online. She seemed perfect...... more

07 Oct 2022 · 37 minutes
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... more

23 Sep 2022 · 33 minutes
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,... more

09 Sep 2022 · 32 minutes
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... more

02 Sep 2022 · 38 minutes
"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... more

26 Aug 2022 · 35 minutes
"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... more

19 Aug 2022 · 25 minutes
Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford
"You’re Not Howard Hughes!"
Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

Listen now on

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By the 1970s Howard Hughes was the "invisible billionaire”. A business tycoon, a daring aviator and Hollywood Lothario, Hughes had an amazing... more