A year of The Pulse, and the science of food

WHYY’s The Pulse celebrates its first birthday this week, in a celebration topped off by a live broadcast on Thursday. On Friday at noon, join a live Twitter chat with members of The Pulse taking your questions and comments on a year of stories about health, science and innovation. RSVP for the live event here. Join the Twitter chat at noon on Friday, Dec. 5, by using #PulseChat

All week on NewsWorks, we’re taking a look back at the best of the first year of The Pulse. Today, enjoy a smorgasbord of stories about the science of food and see how science is delicious. 

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1. Why do we drink tomato juice on planes?

Ever get the urge to drink a glass of tomato juice on a flight? There’s a scientific explanation why — and it’s not just the vodka.

This story hit the spot with readers, who made it the most-clicked story in the history of NewsWorks! We’ll drink to that. 

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2. Where East Coast bananas go to ripen

It’s America’s most popular fruit, and we’ve all been there: waiting on a greenish banana to reach its sweet, yellow zenith. But for one of the nation’s largest banana wholesalers, ripening is an exact science. We take you to the climate-controlled ripening room at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market for a glimpse at the process of ripening about 35,000 boxes of bananas a week. 

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3. The Pumpkin Spice Latte war

Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, also known as “PSL,” is the Seattle-based chain’s most successful seasonal offering, with more than 200 million sold since its launch in 2003. (To some, it is the very definition of “basic,” a term that if you haven’t heard of, you are likely guilty of being.)

We’ll check back next Thanksgiving to see if PSL has peaked, or if our love affair with latte still rages.

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4. What does the perfect cup of coffee sound like?

Do you have a Pavlovian response to the sound of grinding coffee beans?

If you answered “yes,” you aren’t alone. According to an online survey conducted last year by the National Coffee Association, 83 percent of Americans drink coffee to the tune of 587 million cups a day. That’s a lot of Joe, and a lot of grinding and steaming milk and percolating.

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5. The complex science of chocolate

Chocolate is big business, but there have been surprisingly few studies on which insects actually help cocoa flowers become fruit.  We take a visit to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University and the Hershey Company to get some answers. 

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