The Pulse – May 8, 2015

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    A group of students at Columbia University in New York are creating projects detailed in a series of 16th century French manuscripts called the “Book of Secrets.” It’s not a mason manual or a book about witchcraft, though, it’s actually a kind of recipe book for craftsmen of the Renaissance period. As they create everything from fake coral to hour-glass sand, the students are learning about history, art, science, and the “secrets” of a world we seldom reach out and try to touch. Host Maiken Scott joins them in the lab.

    Undergrad engineers at the University of Pennsylvania are working on the next generation of artificial limbs—but they’re using some unorthodox “tools.” Specifically, they’re experimenting with different ways to control the insect’s legs after they’ve been amputated. Think voice commands and brain waves. It’s the type of technology shaping the next generation of human prostheses, and it’s giving students the chance to channel their inner Frankenstein. Todd Bookman reports.

    What would life be like if coffee didn’t jumpstart our brains every morning? That’s what we tasked our “Lab Rat,” Zack Seward with looking into this week. He accepted the challenge with aplomb, giving up all caffeine for a work week, and reporting back on the effects. Couldn’t he just drink decaf all week? Turns out…no. We invited Reanimator Coffee’s head of roasting into our studio to tell us why and to administer a decaf taste test.

    In this week’s installment of our series Patient Files, your stories of illness, healing and recovery, we hear from seven year old, Brian Sadowski about a very unusual medical experience for a kid his age—a tangle of abnormal blood vessels that ruptured in his brain, and Brian suffered a stroke while swimming one day. He tells us what the experience was like..

    Also on this week’s show: Have you ever tried to find out how much a medical procedure is going to cost before actually getting it? That’s the question that guides our “PriceCheck” initiative. Reporter Elana Gordon has been tracking the progress of this listener-generated reporting project, and joins us for an update. Plus, a conversation with an FDA inspector on the work of keeping our food and medicines free of pathogens, and a story about a very special Eagle Scout whose connection to technology helped him connect to nature.

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