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Foresight The week ahead

Thursday 7 November

Material World

Quentin Cooper speaks to chronobiologists studying the human body clock and sleeping patterns. Armed with information about the human genome and recent data on the genetics of the fruit fly, boffins know a great deal more about what accounts for 'owl' and 'lark' behaviour. In fact, once fully understood, this science could bring us a drug to reset the body clock, making jet lag a thing of the past.

BBC Radio 4, 4.30pm


Red, Amber, Green

On 5 November 1927, the good people of Wolverhampton lucky enough to own a car were taken aback by a new phenomenon.

No, not aliens and some kind of weird Quatermass trip, readers, but the first set of automatic traffic lights in the UK.

The upper classes said they were an infringement of freedom and by the 1950s rising congestion and resentment led MPs to change the law, allowing drivers to set off at amber. Doh, guess what? The number of collisions rose dramatically and the law was changed back - sharpish. The shortest change in Britain today is ten seconds across Oxford Street in London. Tune in and celebrate the 75th anniversary. Alas, space forbids your correspondent a diatribe on how Ken Livingstone's fiddling with the phasing of lights in London has contributed to chaos in the capital.

BBC Radio 4, 3.45pm


Britain's Best Buildings

This week the magnificent Blenheim Palace which nestles serenely amid the delightful and picturesque surroundings of the Oxfordshire countryside. Ooh, sorry I came over all florid and Mills & Boon there for a moment.

Anyhow, its construction was blighted by bitter rows over design and cost. One of the players in this story was an ambitious and aggressive playwright who attempted to pass himself off as an architect. What? An architect as the villain of the piece? Incredible.

BBC2, 8pm



Millions of people around the world live in fear that their homes will be destroyed by floods, fire, cyclones or earthquakes. Quentin Cooper asks what science and engineering can offer people who live in some of the most hazardous places on earth. He meets engineers at the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology who believe that improved resistance to extreme weather is based on basic and sound engineering principles rather than high tech solutions.

BBC Radio 4, 9pm

New Book

Utta Drivel

Alan Pinkett is an ICE member and has written a comic novel called Utta Drivel. The jacket describes the book as 'an audaciously satirical work in which the author's wit will make you laugh out loud'.

Alan tells us that the book is not specifically about civil engineering, although the industry is mentioned in a positive light, and a civil engineering consultancy is the business of one of the main characters. How about that then?

The opening paragraph reads: 'A naked woman was standing on her front doorstep. It's come to something when you have to go outside for your after-sex fag.' So beware, those of an Anne Widdicomesque moral perspective may find their scruples challenged.

£7.99 www. upfrontpublishing. com ISBN 1-84426-005-4

If you know of events, exhibitions, books, programmes or websites that ought to be included in Foresight, contact Karl Thompson, tel (020) 7505 6682, e-mail karl. thompson@ construct. emap. com

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