The Pulse – Nov. 14, 2014

    Listen

    President Obama’s carbon reduction agreement with China this week was criticized by Republican leaders including Mitch McConnell, who say it puts too much onus on the United States and doesn’t demand enough from China. With Republicans in control of Congress and climate change now playing a major role in both domestic and foreign policy, Carolyn Beeler takes a look at the Republican party’s stance on climate change in the long run up to the 2016 presidential election.

    They’re called “cool red giants,” and they are the most distant stars in our galaxy. How far away are they? Well, you need 18 zeroes behind the number of miles they are away from Earth. But John Bochansky, a professor of physics at Rider University near Trenton, New Jersey found them anyway! Together with his team, he discovered two cool red giants, and he joins Maiken to discuss how these discoveries could impact our understanding of the Milky Way.

    People diagnosed with a serious illness often say that they don’t remember what their doctor said, how they said it, or many of the actual details of the conversation. The truth of the matter is that doctors struggle with these conversations, too. So, for about two decades, Dr. Bob Arnold of the University of Pittsburgh has been honing in on ways to help doctors become better communicators. Elana Gordon attended one of his training sessions in an attempt to understand where the disconnect happens.

    In the post-Astroturf era, artificial turf fields have come a long way. They look like grass, and they feel like the natural stuff, too. You can even wear cleats on the stuff. But some are starting to wonder if the downside of fake grass isn’t greater than its benefits. Injuries, staph infections, and heat exhaustion have landed these fields in the news in recent years, and now some local officials are wondering if there could be a cancer connection to playing sports on these bright-green expanses. Laura Benshoff goes in search of some answers.

    Villanova University recently opened a new interactive classroom called the Cave comprised of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling video screens. Picture field trips to the bottom of the ocean or a tour of the human brain. We sent Todd Bookman to explore this new immersive learning experience.

    New research takes a radically different approach to cancer, describing it as a sort of “safe mode” for our cells when being attacked by an outside threat. That’s the theory of physicist Paul Davies who was recruited by the National Institutes of Health to study a subject that physicists seldom attempt to tackle, and what he found is both fascinating and controversial. He joins Maiken to discuss his unique ideas about battling the Big C.

    Also on this week’s show, landing spacecraft on distant comets, the genetic differences between domesticated house cats and their wild ancestors, and the story of Leslie Handler’s battle with tongue cancer.

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

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.