The Pulse – June 27, 2014

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    We all hate discussing death…even doctors avoid it, focusing instead on treatment option after treatment option. Because of this, many fatally ill people receive treatments they don’t want, reducing the quality of life in the time they have left. One company has made a rather unusual, successful business responding to this gap in U.S. healthcare but, as Elana Gordon reports, who pays for this service might make people uneasy. And if you’re still having a hard time discussing death, how about playing a game about it? Philadelphia design firm The Action Mill is using a card game to spark difficult conversations about death that don’t lose focus on living. We drop in on a heated game in progress.

    Beach bound this weekend? How do you choose which beach to spend your precious summer Saturdays and Sundays on? Closest? Quietest? Craziest? Best surf? How about the one with the warmest water? For many, the latter is a key, but in the early summer, Mid-Atlantic ocean temperatures can be all over the road, freezing at one spot but comfortable at another just miles away. We enlisted Rutgers University professor Josh Kohut to explain this sometimes bracing phenomenon.

    The presence or absence of certain beetles can tell scientists a lot about the health of an ecosystem. This is an example of something researchers call “indicator species”—living proof that a local environment is thriving, or not. On this week’s installment of Citizen Science, reporter Kimberly Haas goes into the field with an entomologist who wants your help searching for a hard-to-spot beetle called Elaphrus.

    Two hospitals in Philadelphia now offer a three-dimensional test for everyone who comes in for a routine mammogram. That’s a new approach to breast-cancer screening, and a change that most hospitals have not made, but, as Taunya English reports, doctors at Penn Medicine and Einstein are big believers in this new technology.

    The sounds of coffee beans being ground, milk being steamed, and the coffee maker gurgling away make many coffee drinkers’ mouths water. But there’s another, far less recognizable sound that plays an even more fundamental role in the flavor of your next cup of joe. Sounds kind of like Rice Krispies. Reporter Christopher Intagliata explains.

    In his recently released book “Proof: The Science of Booze,” Wired magazine editor Adam Rogers details the chains of events (both chemical and historical) that led to the whiskey sour, pinot noir, or microbrewed beer you’re about to raise to your lips. Rogers says ethanol relies on 150 million years of evolution, 10,000 years of human ingenuity, and 2,000 of human technology: “Everything that makes us human is wrapped up in that glass that’s in front of you on that coaster,” he says emphatically. He sits down with host Maiken Scott to talk booze.

    This week marks International HIV Testing Day with testing-related activities going on all over the region. We recently met up with French virologist and Nobel Prize-winner Françoise Barré-Sinoussi who is credited with discovering the HIV virus to discuss her role in identifying the root of the horrible disease.

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