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Hydrophobicity – Intelligent agents

First broadcast:
Thursday 29 November 2007

Hydrophobicity –
Or fear of water. Birds, insects and even humans have developed ways to repel water. But what happens when it happens to large areas of soil? Sue Nelson finds out what makes a surface waterproof and why hydrophobic soil in some parts of the country contributed to the effects of this year’s summer floods. Sue talks to Stefan Doerr from the University of Wales in Swansea and GlenMcHale from Nottingham Trent University about water and getting wet and why soil that shrugs off water can cause flooding, loss of fertility and massive soil erosion.

Intelligent agents
A new breed of intelligent agents could soon be saving our cities and negotiating crucial deals on the Stock Exchange. But this is no army of James Bonds – Sue talks to Nick Jennings from the University of Southampton and Steve Osborn from Lostwax about a new generation of computer robots who can make their own decisions and even outperform humans. They can negotiate, co operate and even cheat on the money markets and could soon be helping to coordinate rapid responses to major disasters like earthquakes or terrorist attacks.

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