52 episodes

Listen to full episodes of WHYY’s health, science and innovation program, The Pulse.

The Pulse WHYY

    • Science
    • 4.6 • 206 Ratings

Listen to full episodes of WHYY’s health, science and innovation program, The Pulse.

    Criminology Under the Microscope

    Criminology Under the Microscope

    It’s one of the first questions we hear on detective shows after a heinous crime has occurred: “What’s the motive?” For hundreds of years, criminologists, politicians, and law enforcement have been asking a bigger version of that question: What causes crime? What makes criminals — criminals?

    People have turned to everything from appearance to biology and environment for answers, and they’ve tried to use science to address this question.

    On this episode, we look at science, crime, and the sometimes ill-fated attempt to use one to address or explain the other. We hear stories about the use of plastic surgery to prevent people in prison from reoffending, a recent case involving the “warrior gene defense” — and whether there’s anything to it — and the origins and evolution of criminology.

    Also heard on this week’s episode:


    We talk with science journalist Douglas Starr about how the field of criminology came to be, and the rise of junk science used to solve crimes — including some still in use today. Starr’s book is “The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science.”
    Earlier this year, a case about genetic predisposition made its way to the New Mexico Supreme Court: The defense argued that their client was genetically predisposed toward his actions. Reporters Sojourner Ahébée and Alan Yu investigate this DNA defense — what scientists are saying about it, and why some are worried it’s a dangerous road to take.
    You’ve heard of math prodigies, and musical prodigies — how about criminology prodigies? That’s the reputation Eric Schubert got when, as a high school student, local police enlisted him to help solve a cold case using genealogy. Now in college, Schubert is helping people across the country hunt down relatives, and investigators solve crimes. He explains how he uses distant family connections and public databases to puzzle together genetic mysteries.

    • 49 min
    The Lessons of 9/11

    The Lessons of 9/11

    The passing of 20 years since the 9/11 terror attacks has meant that some of the wounds cut by that day have closed — others have not. Thousands of families lost loved ones in the attacks, and their grief became part of a national tragedy. Many more have since gotten sick or even died from illnesses related to exposure to dust and debris. The attacks changed how we think about the long-lasting impact of environmental hazards, what we know about grief and trauma, and how we build. On this episode, we explore some of the lasting effects of the 9/11 attacks, and what we’ve learned from them.

    Also heard on this week’s episode:


    When we think of who suffered the greatest health effects of 9/11, most of us think of first responders — the brave police officers, firemen, and volunteers who risked their lives rushing into Ground Zero. In the years since, many of those first responders have become sick and died from illnesses related to the toxic dust and debris. Stories of their heroism and sacrifice helped fuel the creation of a victims’ compensation fund to help with medical costs. But as it turns out, first responders weren’t the only ones affected — scores of others in Lower Manhattan have also suffered consequences, ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases. Alan Yu reports on their fight for recognition — and access to government help.
    Trauma can change our bodies and minds, and those changes can even be passed on to the next generation. Columbia University neuroscientist Bianca Jones Marlin is trying to figure out what is passed on, and how.
    Journalist Tim Lambert’s professional life became intertwined with the story of Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers and crew attempted to take back control. His family owned part of the land where Flight 93 crashed before it became a national memorial. He joins us to discuss his connection to the land and to the family members of Flight 93, and how they have grieved over the years. Lambert and NPR reporter Scott Detrow have produced an audio documentary for the 20th anniversary called Sacred Ground.

    • 1 hr
    The Evolving Nature of Work

    The Evolving Nature of Work

    Sometimes, work can feel like Groundhog Day — different variations of the same thing, day after day. Same commute, same hours, same people, same conversations, same cubicle, same complaints. But then, everything changed because of COVID-19.

    The pandemic disrupted the way we do our jobs, whether you work at a cubicle, a diner, or a hospital. Many workers were laid off. Others started working from home instead of the office. Some realized they hated their jobs and quit. People learned new skills and found new passions. We started doing things differently, thinking differently — and it has had an impact on our work culture overall.

    On this Labor Day edition of The Pulse, we look into the evolving nature of work. We dig into some of the big changes that are happening right now, and ask what might follow over the next few years. We hear about the challenges of staying focused on the job and the case for a four-day workweek.

    Also heard on this week’s episode:


    Staying focused can be hard in the best of times — but thanks to our omnipresent devices, it can feel downright impossible when we’re at work. We talk with psychologist Larry Rosen about the neuroscience of distraction, and strategies we can try to fight against it.

    • 47 min
    The Magic of Energy

    The Magic of Energy

    Energy fuels our lives in ways that seem almost magical. It can transform darkness into light, cold into warmth, water into ice. Of course, it’s science — not magic — but like magic, there are rules that must be followed. One of the fundamental laws of physics is that energy can never be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another. On this episode, we explore what these rules mean for our quest to create new power sources, and for life on earth.

    We hear stories about what makes batteries a feat of engineering — and sometimes its Achilles’ heel. We also hear about the ongoing quest to create “fusion energy,” and the roadblocks standing in the way.

    Also heard on this week’s episode:


    Esther Takeuchi — one of the world’s top energy storage scientists — explains the science behind medical batteries. Takeuchi holds a joint appointment at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
    Clifford Johnson, a professor in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Southern California, explains the framework that defines and limits our quest for energy sources. Check out his graphic novel about science called The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe.

    • 49 min
    The Pulse Presents: Half Vaxxed — The Rise and Fall of Philly Fighting COVID

    The Pulse Presents: Half Vaxxed — The Rise and Fall of Philly Fighting COVID

    The first episode looks at the promise of the nimble, young startup that pledged to vaccinate Philadelphia.

    • 25 min
    Kids and Mental Health

    Kids and Mental Health

    We’ve heard it again and again — kids are resilient. But they’re also sensitive, with social and emotional needs every bit as complex as adults’. They’re still figuring out how the world works, and they depend on structure and stability — along with love and support — to feel safe and confident as they learn to navigate the world. Which is why the pandemic and the lockdowns have been especially tough for many kids, taking a major toll on their mental health.

    On this episode, we look at kids and mental health, asking how they’ve made it through the past year-and-a-half, and what lessons they’ve learned.

    We hear stories about dealing with the grief of losing loved ones, how virtual school is affecting kids’ social development, and why we’re seeing a rising suicide rate among Black children.

    Also heard on this week’s episode:


    Kids don’t just learn academic skills in school— it’s a place for them to develop social skills and a sense of how the world works. Reporter Jad Sleiman explores how remote learning could be affecting kids’ social development.
    WHYY student reporters Trinity Hunt and Mya Blackwood get the lowdown on why 70% of teens aren’t getting enough sleep.
    We talk with psychologist Teresa Hsu-Walklet about how the pandemic has affected children’s mental health. Hsu-Walklet is the Assistant Director for pediatric behavioral health at the Montefiore Medical Group in the Bronx, in New York City.
    This episode was produced in collaboration with students from WHYY’s Pathways to Media Careers, Youth Employment Program. Our student reporters were Mya Blackwood, Trinity Hunt, Ana Mercado, and Jacob Smollen. Special thanks to WHYY Media Lab instructor Gabriel Perez Setright and youth employment specialist Colleen Cassidy.

    • 49 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
206 Ratings

206 Ratings

Louiseshia ,

Could Two Science Shows Be Tied?

The Pulse is now my favorite science podcast. Radio Lab is next. Funny, I majored in English and taught it. However when it came time to declare majors, I chose between biology and English. So this podcast is helping fulfill my need tone up on science information. Finding the Pulse this year, I’ve listened to many of the shows in the archives.
The Pulse reporters really dig out their information, and I’ve learned amazing new things. I love to listen to Miken Scott’s voice as she has a delightful sense of humor and down to earth way of speaking.

Serenaeosully ,

❤️LOVE The Pulse!❤️

This show is incredible! I’ve learned so much from the many different episodes. I’ve lea her about experiments, animals, movements and psychical phenomena I never knew about before. I love how each episode is broken into little “mini stories” made by different reporters, though they’re all connected by a theme. Everyone does a wonderful job— this podcast has really enriched my life!

Snow Biscuit ,

Good info but the vocal fry...

Edit 10/23/20: Please LABEL your reruns as such! Today’s episode is a rerun, and it would have been so simple to state in the show notes, “This episode originally aired 3/13/20.”

I like that each episode is a number of mini-topics reported by different people under one theme. I don’t like the vocal fry of several reporters; one is so bad I find myself not paying any attention to the content because all I can think about is how irritating her voice is. When your job is speaking, your voice should be pleasant, and if it’s not, sign up for a class with a voice coach! The Pulse would get five stars if I didn’t have to listen to people who sound like Lurch on The Addams Family.

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