Silicon Author

Would you read a book written by a computer? Philip Parker, who has written programs which make this possible discusses the issues with author Tiffany Reisz. Scroll forward to 2:21:50 of this edition of Today.



This edition of Radio 4’s Analysis deals with the notion of a UK with a possible reduced role in Europe. Another strand, not mentioned in the programme, is the effect of this on Scotland’s 2014 referendum. If it were felt that the UK might ease out of Europe, would Europhile Scots be more inclined to a Yes vote?


When driving the rutted road to work, a sense of the big picture can brighten the journey. Recessionary news and political party conferences don’t do it for me. Physicists testing whether our world is real or merely a simulation just about does it.

Physicist Professor Silas Beane and philosopher Dr. Peter Millican chew the fat with Evan Davies. Scroll forward to 2:21:20 here

Should I worry that such chat makes no less sense than the ‘real news’?

Fermat’s Last Theorem

Not many secular mysteries last 358 years. However, Fermat’s Last Theorem, published in 1637 managed to hold until British mathematician Andrew Wiles tightened up his original proof.

This edition of In Our Time talks us through the theory and, just at the end, when you may be wondering what earthly use it might be, mentions some present-day benefits.


Today marks the 10th anniversary of a British person turning to Dignitas for what has become known as ‘assisted suicide’.

No such option is available in the UK and some believe that this needs to change. Of course, many disagree.

The interviewee in this programme (scroll to 1:41:40) describes a situation where her husband, sufficiently ill to be embracing this option, was really too ill to be travelling. Would such a facility in the UK be a humane option?

Tooled up dramatis Dramatis personæ

Present day knife culture is a problem. The notion of a city in which almost everyone was ‘tooled up’ seems difficult to imagine and yet in Shakespeare’s time this was the norm. People went to see plays which featured sword and knife violence and post-theatre nights out often involved binge drinking and violence. In this episode of Shakespeare’s Restless World, Neil McGregor (director of the British Museum and author of A History of the World in 100 Objects) talks us through these edgy times.

The link to ‘A History..’ takes you to all 100 episodes – still available for listening.


Hallucinations aren’t what they used to be. Time was you’d be lauded as a visionary. Less so now.

This programme explores stroboscopically induced hallucinations in addition to those occurring naturally in those with and without mental health issues. Some are visual and some are audio – more often voices than music. Some people have visual hallucinations of written music. Strangely, some of these are non-musicians.

One Man’s War

Having been a concert reviewer for a while now, I was fascinated to come across One Man’s War, describing the wartime concert-going and writings of Lionel Bradley. Employee of the London Library by day, he was a passionate concert-goer and, thanks to his writings, we have some notion of what wartime concert life was like.

Amongst others, Katie Derham talks to Joan Bailey, who worked with Bradley.

In a time when people worry about the future audience for live classical music, it’s interesting to consider people sufficiently passionate to risk the Blitz for the thrill of live performance.

I found this programme especially interesting on two counts:

Digital Human – Series 2 – Episode 3: Memory

Can you remember the name of the London taxi driver who won Mastermind? You can see Fred Housego’s victory here. He claims his short term memory is poor and relies on his wife for this.

This is known as transactive memory. It may be a person or a device. In the case of injury, reliance on devices may be preferable to reliance on other people. In the uninjured, does such reliance weaken memory? Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Chase has a few words to say on this. That job title must raise an occasional eyebrow at Passport Control.

One person’s dependence-inducing device is another’s gateway to research freedom. 15-year old Jack Andraka researched much of the background to his groundbreaking pancreatic cancer detection device on a smartphone en route to school.

Aleks Krotoksi presents the programme here

Issue 2885 of New Scientist (6 Oct) has an 11-page feature on memory, which encourages you to ‘forget everything you thought you knew’.

The End of Men

Hanna Rosin discusses her provocatively titled new book, The End of Men and the Rise of Women.

Immediately after, there is an interview with a woman who is excelling in what was traditionally thought a male domain – professional trumpet playing. Alison Balsom also explains the difference between modern and baroque trumpets.

You can hear these interviews along with an extract from Balsom’s latest album here