The Pulse – September 26, 2014

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    Usually, when we talk about climate change, we’re talking about things that might or might not happen 50 or 100 years from now. But this week, Carolyn Beeler brings us the story of climate change landing right on the doorstep of a Delaware farmer in the form of salt leeching through his soil. A modern-day conundrum that could prove devastating to his livelihood.

    Stress is bad for us—study after study has shown the terrible impact it has on our physical and mental health. But a new business named Halcyon Floats in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia wants to offer an escape. Clients can float, meditate and relax in “escape pod” tanks—each filled with 10 inches of water and 850 pounds of Epson salt, which renders a soaker completely buoyant. There’s no light, there¹s no sound, and the water is kept to skin temperature, so clients don’t receive any sensory input. Host Maiken Scott spent 90 minutes on the inside and tells us about her experience.

    Some musicians describe the bass as the scaffolding of modern music—a superstructure that supports the melody. These deep lower notes are the foundation of music, yet, it’s almost impossible to name a tune by hearing it’s bass line alone. What’s going on there? If we can’t recognize it right away and whistle along, why is it even in there? Does our ear hear it differently? Reporter Todd Bookman takes us deep inside the inner ear.

    No matter what the “it” song was when you were a kid, chances are—even if you haven’t heard it in a long, long time—you still know all of the words…right? Music and memory are deeply linked in the brain, and music therapists find that, for the elderly, music from earlier times not only helps people socialize and relax, but it can also help those with dementia “orient” their minds to the present by connecting with who they were in the past. Producer Laura Benshoff took a field trip to one of these classes to find out more.

    This week was a big one for the Red Planet. Nearly simultaneously, American and Indian missions arrived in Mars’ orbit to conduct various scientific experiments. NASA mission planner Joe Guinn sat down to tell us about the U.S. mission, which will focus on the planet’s uppermost atmosphere, where it will look for water droplets and clues as to the planet’s mysterious past.

    Science seems like something that happens in the sterilized laboratories of universities and chemical companies, but it doesn’t have to be that distant from our everyday lives. Pulse contributor Dr. Bethany Brookshire is currently blogging about something she’s calling “cookie science.” She’s embarked on a series of scientific experiments in her own kitchen, and she joins us to share the results of her tasty experiments.

    Maps have more uses than simply getting you from Point A to Point B.  For some researchers, they are an effective tool to find answers and solutions to big questions. This week, we take a look at groups using mapping technology to improve their communities—like helping city officials decide where to open a new health clinic, or suggesting that the local food-stamp office should be located under the same roof as the neighborhood day care center. Reporter Taunya English met up with a mapmaker who tracks the city’s flooding problems to see how maps can help.

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