The future is just nano seconds away

LUDDITES could do worse than lend an ear to one of radio’s great institutions, from this Wednesday. Over the next five weeks, pioneering nanotechnologist Lord Alec Broers takes the podium for Radio 4’s annual Reith Lectures (8pm, Wednesdays; repeated 10.15pm, Saturdays).

Currently president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and chairman of the House of Lords science and technology committee, Lord Broers’s pioneering of the scanning electron microscope ushered in the sometimes controversial science of nanotechnology.

He argues that what happens with nano - and any other technology - is entirely up to us, and it’s about time we sat up and took notice. "We cannot leave technology to the technologists," he argues. "We must all embrace it." The first of his five lectures bears the suitably no-holds-barred title Technology Will Determine the Future of the Human Race.

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A far-seeing prophet of some of that technology was Jules Verne, who died a century ago last month. In Following Phileas (as in Phileas Fogg, Verne’s gentleman adventurer), running Monday to Friday (3.45pm, Radio 4), Pen Hadow (below) traces the footsteps of some of Verne’s best-known characters and meets their factual modern counterparts. Also Monday to Friday, (Book at Bedtime, 10.45pm, Radio 4) Nigel Anthony reads 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Voyages extraordinaires of a rather different sort were the speciality of Para Handy. The first of the wayward West Highland puffer captain’s adventures appeared in the Glasgow Evening News 100 years ago, a matter of weeks before Verne’s death. On tomorrow’s Reel Blend (1.05pm, Radio Scotland), Robbie Shepherd speaks to the grand-daughter of Para Handy’s creator, Neil Munro.

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