The Pulse – June 12, 2015


    This week’s show is all about that crazy little thing called love—not to mention lust—and we’re breaking them down to their scientific elements.

    Love is a shared universal experience. All around the world, people talk about it and sing about it. We write about love and watch movies about it. But, we don’t really understand why we feel love. Anthropologist Helen Fisher has been using MRI brain scans to unlock love’s secrets. She’s discovered that the reptilian core of the brain, linked with desire and craving, is activated when people fall in love. Carolyn Beeler goes to meet her.

    We can’t explore Eros without touching on kissing. We wanted to find out why we kiss, and why we can’t help watching others make out. It’s something Hollywood has cashed in on over the decades—like in the iconic kissing scene from Casablanca. Pulse contributor Audrey Quinn uncovers the science behind smooching, and what it tells us about our human connections.

    Without love and lust, our lives would effectively be without music. What would musicians sing about instead…the weather? Popular songs often reference our heartbeats in their lyrics, but some music takes it further, matching the speed of the rhythm to the pace of the heart. Pulse contributor Sharon Glassman explores that connection.

    If you’re feeling lusty, a like-minded person could be just a click or a swipe away on a dating or hook-up app. But these easy connections have been blamed recently for a rise in sexually transmitted diseases. Dan Wohlfeiler is a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who’s been working on STD prevention since the late 1980s. He shares how public health experts can get their safer sex message across in a world of constantly changing technology.

    We also zoom in on the potential fallout from all these amorous adventures. HIV remains a major health concern. But a new protocol—Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or “PrEP”—could help protect lovers from contracting the virus. It’s effective, but controversial. Elana Gordon meets a man on the front lines of this revolutionary development.

    Philadelphia will soon be home to the country’s first sex toy vending machine. It’s called PinkBox, and the machine will sell condoms plus a range of other sexual playthings for the experimental couple or do-it-your-selfer. Todd Bookman goes to take a look.

    We also make a trip to the zoo. It is, afterall, the place where many of us catch our first glimpses of the strange ritual that is mating. But not every species finds making love so easy. Giant pandas find it notoriously tough to procreate, and zoos around the globe go to extraordinary lengths to help get them in the mood. Brandie Smith, Associate Director for Animal Care Sciences at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo steps out of the giant panda enclosure, to share intimate details about how pandas do it.

    And finally, we’re setting the mood for desire, by setting the table. There’s something very seductive about savoring a delicious meal with lover. And there’s something sexy about the food we indulge in. Remember the famous kitchen scene from the film 9½ Weeks, where Kim Basinger and Mickey Rouke raunchily deconstruct the contents of the refrigerator? Taunya English investigates the allure of aphrodisiacs and whether some foods have sexual superpowers.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.