The Pulse – May 15, 2015

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    Remember the HAL 9000 from the sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey? Though it seemed like pure wild imagination that a computer could see things and recognize them (and in HAL’s case, harbor deep paranoia about what it saw), “computer vision” is a technology rapidly gaining traction. As part of our series “Bit By Bit: How data is shaping our health,” reporter Todd Bookman gets a sneak peak at a “smart” plate.

    First responders arriving at the scene of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia Tuesday night encountered chaotic and terrifying scenes—passengers emerging battered and bloody from twisted wreckage and mangled bodies trapped under the train’s wreckage. Such horror often has a lasting impact on the mental health of first responders, fortunately the understanding of how to help them heal has grown quickly since the 9/11 terror attacks. We’re joined by a nationally known expert on the impact of traumatic experiences to discuss how to handle people when they’re in a fragile state of mind.

    One of the big lessons of Superstorm Sandy was that man-made dunes can protect homes. After the storm, the state pushed to fill gaps in an existing dune system but homeowners continue to push back. Almost 400 owners of beachfront properties have not granted permission to the state, leaving a giant hole in beach fortifications in northern Ocean County, New Jersey. Reporter Carolyn Beeler visited one town where long-time hold-outs have capitulated, and another where they’re still standing their ground.

    Did you see a lot of beards in your Facebook and Twitter feeds recently accompanied by a rather unpleasant suggestion that many beards have “poop” in them? Disgusting as it may be, this story makes a great case study for the life cycle of science reporting gone bad, and Bethany Brookshire of Science News joins us to explain why.

    Cooking classes, community gardens, walking groups…these are typically the kind of wellness activities that mayors of towns and cities champion. They make for great photo opps, and perhaps they even make a town a little healthier. But making constituents talk about their own deaths…that’s another matter altogether. Elana Gordon brings us the story of Gloucester Township, New Jersey, where the mayor is steering the conversation to a place some aren’t comfortable with.

    Also on the show, we head to the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia in the pursuit of a strange-smelling bread that combines history and science in every bite, a Phillies talent scout discovers the color of his femur in the worst way possible, and we look back at a watershed moment for science teachers everywhere.

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