The Pulse

The Pulse


Go on a sonic adventure into unexpected corners of the health and science world each week with host Maiken Scott. Created by WHYY in Philadelphia, the NPR member station that brought you Fresh Air with Terry Gross.More from The Pulse »

Most Recent Episodes

The Science of the Cinema

Now for our feature presentation: we're going to explore the science of movie magic as seen on the big screen and behind the scenes. We'll take you back in time to hear the innovative explorations of sound in "Fantasia", talk to Brad Pitt...kind of, explore old gold vaults full of film, and get bonked on the head, twice, for the sake of science. Please silence your cell phones and enjoy the show.

What You Don't Know Can Kill You

From a pain in the leg, to death without much warning, we explore how an issue that kills 60,000 Americans each year often goes unnoticed. Then, we meet a human creation that may come back to bite us in the end: a hybrid of a dog and a wolf.

Birds and the Bees

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it — copulate, that is. We step into the facinating kingdom of animal sex with biologist Carin Bondar on this animal themed episode. Step into the operating room for cat plastic surgery, meet a pup with a purple mohawk, and go under the sea to hear a sound that scientists hope will save sea turtles. It's going to be a wild ride.

The Trolley Problem

Would you buy a car that's programmed to potentially kill you? No way, right? But, as driverless cars are beginning to hit the road, how would you want them to behave in no-win situations, where no matter what you do, somebody will die? Should they be programmed to kill the smallest number of people possible, even if that includes you — the vehicle's owner? It's not a pretty question. We debate it with an artificial intelligence ethics expert, using a thought experiment called "The Trolley Problem." Also on the show: We stare into strangers' eyes for four minutes to see if we feel closer to them afterwards. We talk to a researcher who says he has found a pesky mosquito's Achilles heel. And we get a sense of how tinnitus sounds as music.

Natural History Museums

Come with us as we step inside a time capsule of life on earth — the natural history museum. On this special episode recorded in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, we explore natural history museums around the country — we visit one museum that is questioning what "natural" history really means, we explore a forest that is a museum of its own, and we dive into the dilemma surrounding those old-school dioramas that we all love. General admission tickets are free, just please don't touch the specimen!

Tell Me Where It Hurts

In the world of medicine, it can be hard to find the root of a problem. On this episode, we delve into the long, complicated history of the pain scale. Are emoji faces or numbers enough to convey how you feel? Plus, we explore what medical schools are doing to prevent student suicides from rising. On a scale of 0-10, this episode will cause you no pain at all.

Hidden Reasons, Unseen Worlds

Some blockbuster medicines could have an asterisk on the label that says: "Tested on middle-age white guys, but we're hoping it helps you too." That's because African-Americans and other minorities are underrepresented in clinical trials. We delve into a long, difficult history of distrust. Then we head to the zoo to chat with The Atlantic's science writer Ed Yong – he likes elephants and pandas just fine, but what he's really excited about is the invisible zoo inhabiting every inch of the animals' bodies. And after that, we meet clowns in a children's hospital in Kenya who think that clowns are the saddest of us all.

Rebirth of the Library

This week, we listen back to a show that takes you from pages to pixels, through stories in the stacks, all to get a better idea about what the next chapter has in store for libraries, librarians and the books they hold dear. On this edition of The Pulse, we go to the library to find out how these old-school institutions are reinventing themselves to stay relevant in the modern age. But make sure to keep the volume is the library after all.

Fire And Ice

We're going to take you from the hottest of the hot, to the coldest of the cold on this episode. We explore how cold can save lives, and we take a trip to the coldest tundra on Earth. Then we heat things up again to figure out the science of sweat, plus what climate change will mean for the summer Olympics. Get ready to feel a chill deep in your bones despite the hot summer heat.

By The Numbers

Health and wealth are intrinsically tied together, but how can people fix the things that are making them unhealthy if they don't have the money to change their ways? We delve into the world of health and science by the numbers — a $1,000 pill for a deadly disease, a 750-pound safe full of marijuana, and survivor number three of a rare "brain-eating" amoeba. Plus, a dark family story stemming from a controversial lobotomy, and fates that are considered worse than death itself.

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