The Pulse – April 3, 2015

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    Electronic cigarettes are a booming business with a growing customer base. Some see them as a great hope for smokers who want to quit, others worry they will get a new generation of Americans hooked on nicotine. A year ago, the government announced a proposal to regulate them, but public health officials are only just now beginning to untangle some basic questions about them. Reporter Taunya English takes a look at the complicated issues surrounding “vaping.” And while we’re on the topic of nicotine-delivery devices, we get an update on the proposed use of graphic photos on tobacco cigarette packaging from Dan Romer of the Annenberg Center for Public Policy.

    Last year on the show, we met Temple University biologist Erik Cordes, as he embarked on a mission to the bottom of the gulf of Mexico to study corals affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He and his team took a close look at the toxicity of the dispersants deployed in the aftermath of the spill in hopes of mitigating the disaster, but as is often the case with oil spills, it turns out the damage may just have been exacerbated by the clean-up. He joins us to discuss his findings.

    Last week, NASA formalized plans for a rendezvous between an unmanned spacecraft and an asteroid. The program has two goals: First, to test a solar electric propulsion system that will be necessary for a future trip to Mars. Second, to help prevent mankind’s extinction by asteroid. Do those priorities seem out of order? We sent reporter Todd Bookman to find out how a new space telescope (not funded by NASA), might just save us from the next mass-extinction event.

    Have you ever tried to find out how much a medical procedure is going to cost before actually getting it? In an attempt to create some transparency around the pricing of medical procedures, last month we launched a new initiative called WHYY PriceCheck in partnership with the organization Clear Health Costs. Elana Gordon joins us for a glimpse of what we’re learning about the surprising cost of a colonoscopy.

    In this week’s installment of our series Patient Files, we didn’t have to look far for a harrowing tale of recovery. WHYY Vice President of News, Chris Satullo almost lost his vision in one of his eyes, and he recounts the challenge of spending two weeks face down in hopes of keeping his vision. Spoiler alert, this story involves March Madness and pancakes.

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