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In this week's More or Less we look at one of the most famous measures of our social networking, the idea of six degrees of separation. The phrase was coined by an American academic, Stanley Milgra...m, after experiments in which he asked people to pass a letter only to others with whom they were on first name terms, with the aim of getting it, eventually, to a named person they did not know and living in another city. The average number of times it was passed on, he said, was six. Hence "six degrees of separation". The idea that we are connected like this, to everyone everywhere, is seductive. Films have been made about it, there are games based on it, mathematics has begun to propose theories for why it should be true. But is it? In More or Less we revisit the original research, examine the theory, and run our own completely unscientific experiment. -- And in an age of evidence based policy where what counts is what works, we also examine the way evidence is used in policy making, beginning with an example from the world of education, and the trials used to determine the best method of teaching children to read. Much evidence for policy is statistical. We try something new, compare it with what went before and measure the difference. Or at least we should, if we can. But do we?
Metadata describing this Open University audio programme
Series: More or less
Episode 4
First transmission date: 2006-07-13
Published: 2006
Rights Statement: Rights owned or controlled by The Open University
Restrictions on use: This material can be used in accordance with The Open University conditions of use. A link to the conditions can be found at the bottom of all OU Digital Archive web pages.
Duration: 00:24:19
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Producer: Michael Blastland
Presenter: Andrew Dilnot
Contributors: Stephen Conricode; A. W Dilnot; Nick Gibb; Ushā Gosvāmī; Judith Klinefeld; Barry Sherman; Ben Styles; Alan Whitehead; Dominic Wyse
Publisher: BBC Open University
Subject terms: Mathematical statistics; Social sciences--Statistical methods
Production number: AUDA084B
Available to public: no