The Pulse – October 3, 2014

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    Chances are, in all your visits to the doctor, you’ve been helped, at least once, by a physician assistant, or PA. As new patients stream into mainstream healthcare on the back of the implementation of Obamacare, this relatively new profession is taking off. New training programs are popping up left and right, and nationally, the number of PAs has more than doubled in the last decade to over 100,000. Elana Gordon reports on the role of the physician assistant and how it has been changing and expanding.

    Have you ever wondered if osteopaths are real doctors? If you have, says Ken Veit, dean of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, you aren’t alone. DOs are fully licensed physicians, just like MDs. They have all the attributes of an normal doctor, but their emphasis is on the musculoskeletal system. But the point is, they, too, are in demand. Pulse host Maiken Scott talks with Veit about his work in a field growing increasingly more competitive.

    Random question: how many emails are in your inbox? 50? 100? 1,000? 10,000? Add to that all of your Instagram and flickr photos, Facebook posts, tweets, documents and now you’re talking about a lot of data. So, a follow-up question: where do you think all of that stuff lives? It’s called “The Cloud,” but it’s a much less fluffy, quiet, peaceful place than the name would indicate. The reality is, the Cloud is a massive network of loud, hot data centers scattered across the country, and it takes more than two percent of the nations power to keep them going. Reporter Zack Seward visited with some researchers who are experimenting with one way to make the whole thing more energy efficient by putting waste back to work.

    Opera in Philadelphia is currently getting an infusion of innovation and technology with the help of engineer Youngmoo Kim. He’s on a yearlong sabbatical from Drexel University, where he runs the Excite Center, to help Opera Philadelphia enliven an ancient musical art form by bringing more technology and audience participation into opera productions. He joins host Maiken Scott to talk about his mission, its challenges, and the future of an art form he loves.

    This month, in Philadelphia, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University opens “Chocolate: The Exhibition,” which documents the huge economic and cultural reach of the chocolate industry and also explores how chocolate comes to be. One aspect of that is an important interaction between the cocoa plant and insects, which scientists are still working to fully understand. We sent senior reporter Taunya English to the museum to find out more.

    Every day, about eight million people travel by plane. Up in the stratosphere, hurtling along in a metal tube, those people will do some pretty strange things. Like spend 10 bucks on a beer, watch back-to-back episodes of the latest ABC sitcom, or buy something—anything—from SkyMall. With the help of reporter Steven Jackson, we look at one of aviation’s most enigmatic behaviors: drinking tomato juice. The thick savory drink isn’t so popular at sea level, but for many airplane passengers, it’s their first choice. What is that all about? There’s actually a scientific explanation.

    In this week’s installment of Patient Files—your stories of illness, healing and recovery—we meet 13-year-old Alyse Nichols and her grandmother Debra Dantzler of West Philadelphia. Danztler has diabetes, but her illness has brought her closer to her granddaughter. Producer Jeanette Woods captured a slice of their special relationship.

    Recently, several of our WHYY colleagues joined 9,000 or so others and rode their bikes 100 miles—from Cherry Hill to Ocean City, New Jersey—as part of a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The organization has been doing these long distance bike rides for more than 30 years to raise money for a cause. NewsWorks Tonight Producer Shai Ben-Yaacov was among the thousands of cyclists to make the journey, and he sent us an audio postcard.

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