The Pulse – Dec. 19 2014

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    Smells have the almost magical quality of being able to transport us back to a specific time and place with one sniff—an olfactory time machine, of sorts. For some, the smell of the beach transports them to their childhood summer days on the shore, while for others, a food smell might whisk them back to their first trip to Europe. Reporter Carolyn Beeler delves into the science behind the time machines that are our noses.

    We might be getting a bit closer to answering one of the oldest questions in planetary science: Where did Earth’s oceans come from? Comets have been thought to be the hydrators of Earth, but a study released last week based on data from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Spacecraft raises some questions about that theory. Dr. Claudia Alexander of NASA joins Maiken to try to answer some of them.

    If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. That’s what our parents always told us, right? Well try as the players might, the Philadelphia 76ers can’t seem to win. And, as Shai Ben-Yaacov reports, the team’s losing streak might be affecting the body chemistry of its young would-be stars.

    Airports, cars, bars, the gym…anywhere there’s a power source, there’s also probably a person trying to charge their phone. As far as portable technologies have come this decade, we are still only as mobile as our batteries allow us to be. So, what if your next gadget charged up not in hours, but in seconds? Reporter Todd Bookman reports on a recent breakthrough with the promise to untether us from the outlet.

    Across the country, the shale boom has given rise to fears about whether oil and gas development might be polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe. This has led some residents to try doing their own field research, in the mode of citizen science. StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Katie Colaneri reports on this tricky blend of science and advocacy.

    Project MERCURRI has been studying how microbes behave on Earth and how they behave in space, in particular on the International Space Station. Many scientists think it’s crucial to understand this in the coming era of long-term manned space flight. On this week’s show, we hear how the project is going, which includes microbes from the offices of WHYY! Gulp.

    Also on the show, high-fat diets for pregnant women, using Legos to study drug addiction, and a conversation with a self-described “outlaw scientist” who played a part in the development of a platform for vaccine development.

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