Techno Odyssey

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01Cables20130731

In a new series, the poet Paul Farley re-imagines technology we rely on but take for granted, taking the listener on unexpected journeys into technological environments.

Story

From subsea fibre optics to heart valve surgery to cash in transit Paul makes us think again about the less seen but vital places and systems that make our world tick. Within these places, often hidden in plain sight, he meets the people who tend them and listens to the humming, buzzing and hissing reality of their technological lives. In each programme he writes a poem, as a response to each environment.

1. Deepwater Light

We all use the internet, but where exactly is it? Is it the cloud, is it wireless, is it satellite? First and foremost it's fibre optic cables that criss-cross the globe over land and especially under sea, joining up the continents. Paul slows down the lightspeed journey of an email, imagining it travelling from New York to London circling wrecks and deep sea abysses, pleasure beaches and roundabouts. Along the way he hears from the lighthouse keepers that maintain the connections, the cable layers on the high seas and the engineers who decode the light back into information.

2. Cashflow

We expect an ATM to immediately serve up our cash, but how did that note get there? Where was it last week and where will it be tomorrow or the next day? Paul follows the life cycle of a ten pound note from its birthplace on the Bank of England's printing press, gains rare access to one of the cash processing centres hidden from sight in our cities which warehouse hundreds of millions of pounds. He follows the money as it's distributed to ATMs and retailers, to our pocket and back again until the note is withdrawn from circulation and is turned into the most valuable compost in the world.

3. Opening the Valve

In an odyssey of a different kind, Paul follows the journey of a heart valve from its manufacturers in Milan to a patient in the UK. One in twenty of us will suffer from valve complications in later life and that figure is rising as the population ages. Paul explores the technology behind artificial heart valves and the sophisticated surgery involved when they are replaced. It's exactly 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci devised the first prosthetic heart valve, also in Milan, and Paul reflects on the story of this miraculous piece of technology which can give people a second life.

Produced by Neil McCarthy.

02Cash20130807

A new series where the poet Paul Farley re-imagines technology we rely on but take for granted, taking the listener on unexpected journeys into technological environments.

From subsea fibre optics to artificial heart valves to cash in transit Paul makes us think again about the less seen but vital spaces and systems that make our world tick. In each programme he writes a poem, as a response to each environment.

2. Cash

We expect an ATM to immediately serve up our cash, but how did that note get there? Where was it last week and where will it be tomorrow or the next day? In this Techno Odyssey, Paul goes through the hole in the wall and follows the secret journey of a ten pound note as it passes through the hands of the cash industry. The guide in his poem is the God of Money. He gains rare access to one of the capital's cash processing centres, hidden in plain sight, which warehouses hundreds of millions of pounds and keeps money moving around society. He follows the money: from its birthplace on the Bank of England's printing press, through our pockets to the streets to the counting house and back again until the note is withdrawn from circulation and is turned into the most valuable compost in the world.

Reader Paul Hilton

Produced by Neil McCarthy

Sound Design by Phil Cannell

Contributors, in order of appearance: Andy Phillips NCR, Andy Cruikshank G4S; Victoria Cleland, Head of Notes, Bank of England.

03 LASTCardiac20130814

A new series where the poet Paul Farley re-imagines technology we rely on but take for granted, taking the listener on unexpected journeys into technological environments.

From subsea internet cables to heart valve surgery to cash in transit Paul makes us think again about the less seen but vital places and systems that make our world tick. In each programme he writes a poem, as a response to each environment.

3. Cardiac

In an odyssey of a different kind, Paul follows the journey of a heart valve from its manufacturers in Milan to a patient in a UK hospital. One in twenty of us will suffer from valve complications in later life and that figure is rising as the population ages. From the perspective of one of the women working on the mechanical valve production lines, Paul's sonnets explore the life story of the valves and wrap around recordings of their assembly and the sophisticated surgery involved in their replacement. It's exactly 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci devised the first prosthetic heart valve, also in Milan. As well as telling the story of this miraculous mechanical object which can give people a second life Paul also reflects on the greatest piece of technology of all: the heart itself.

Reader Aisling Loftus

Produced by Neil McCarthy

Sound Design Phil Channell

Featuring, Roberto Casula and his team at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

Umberto Pasquali, Gianni Rolando, Sorin Group, Milan.