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


What's in your backyard, in your water, in your food? On this episode, we hunt for the hidden poisons and find them everywhere — even in our medical treatments. In Alabama, residents say an expanding landfill threatens their way of life. Out West, we profile a toxic plant that's killing big game. And a history lesson: a government researcher who intentionally poisoned people to ultimately make out food supply safer.

Do It Yourself

Gene editing is quickly moving from high-tech labs into middle school classrooms and even people's kitchens. Will this finally bring us spicy tomatoes and vanilla basil, or dangerous super bugs? On this episode, we explore all kinds of DIY approaches in health and science. Tinkering with genes, ordering your own medical tests, detoxing from drugs by yourself, creating a gigantic online map for birders. And - your stories of DIY success and failure.

Follow the Money

We follow the money as it drives decisions and changes the game in health and science. How does investment dictate which drugs end up on our shelves? Could diminished funding push climate science out of the US? Can you make a living eating radioactive egg sandwiches? Would you pony up thousands of dollars for an extremely rare pet fish? And, you can cash in too - by spitting in a cup.


Giving birth. Giving support and feeling a fierce love. Being there. Being exhausted. It's all part of being a mom. To mark Mother's Day, we'll reflect on some of the ways humans and other species juggle the never-ending demands that come with mothering. We'll meet scientist moms who balance taking care of kids and applying for research grants. We'll find out how America's OB GYN shortage is affecting women in rural areas. We'll observe the bird who wins the award for worst mother ever, or maybe she's the smartest? Plus, we'll talk about the "mother of all science".

Becoming Visible

Being seen has consequences, some great, some scary. Scientists are stepping out of the lab and speaking up to counter what they say is a worrying anti-science sentiment in the United States. Many are wondering if they've failed to convincingly explain why their work is important, and that is propelling scientists into public conversation. On this episode, we explore what happens when people — and other creatures — step out into the open.

Power Struggle

What should fuel America? Wind? Sun? Cow dung? We're having a power struggle over that - it's political, but it's also about economics. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear are still the undeniable leaders, but solar, wind and hydropower are slowly catching up as renewable alternatives. We'll track the science and innovation driving the growth of renewable power sources and the bottlenecks keeping them from grabbing a bigger share of the energy market.

Going to Extremes

What can we learn from extremes? On this episode, we'll meet athletes who are ready to risk their lives to shed pounds quickly, med students who leave their classrooms to sleep in the freezing rain, anti-vaccine citizens marching in Washington, a bird researcher on a crusade against free-roaming house cats, a little boy so sick with food allergies that even a tiny cracker poses a threat, and a woman who's giving up creating trash for a month – and maybe for life.

What Came Before

Many of us have some baggage when it comes to our health. A bad back. High blood pressure. Heart disease. Cancer. In health insurance speak: "pre-existing conditions." Those two words keep coming up in the heated political tug of war over healthcare. How did this become such a huge issue? On this episode we look at things from the past that are shaping our present, and not just in healthcare. We'll talk about cities built on shaky ground, a forest of old trees that's causing quarrels among neighbors, and we'll discover an intruder in a basement crawl space.

Badass Ladies in Labs

Vera Rubin. Zora Neale Hurston. Eugenie Clark. On this episode, we celebrate women who forged a path for generations of female scientists to come. And, we visit labs run by women and staffed by women, who are doing groundbreaking work. We'll explore the successes of these badass ladies - and talk about the challenges and sexism they've faced. Plus, we meet a female video game designer fighting for more nuanced female characters, and a woman who was told she didn't have a brain for science, but she proved everyone wrong.

Seeking Refuge

Every year, thousands of people come to the U.S. from other countries. Some come as immigrants. Others come to this country under terrible circumstances — they come here seeking refuge from terror, torture, war, and famine. The Trump administration's policies are attempting to slow the flow of immigrants and refugees coming here, and it seems like we're all paying more attention to the experiences of people who come here to start new lives. On this episode, we'll meet people as they interact with the American medical system for the first time, we'll follow doctors who care for refugees here and abroad, and we'll find out about the lives and legal perils of climate migrants.

Back To Top