Heart History, Disease Seasonality, Beatboxing. Nov 9, 2018, Part 2 | WBEZ
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Science Friday

Heart History, Disease Seasonality, Beatboxing. Nov 9, 2018, Part 2

The case presented a medical mystery. A man had entered his doctor’s office complaining of chest pain, so his doctors ordered an angiogram, an X-ray of the arteries of his heart. His condition was serious: a complete blockage of one of his coronary arteries, and a severe dysfunction of his left ventricle. The doctor realized his patient had been having a heart attack for more than 24 hours. On the face of it, nothing would seem unusual about the case. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., claiming more than 600,000 lives a year. But this case was different. This man had none of the risk factors. He wasn’t diabetic, or a smoker, and had no hypertension. Even more confounding: He was only 30 years old. He was, however, of South Asian descent—a group that suffers a disproportionate risk of heart problems with no obvious cause, according to cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar. Jauhar writes about that, and the daring and sometimes tragic treatments that revolutionized how we fix the heart, in his new book Heart: A History. He joins guest host Flora Lichtman to talk about it.

You’ve heard of flu season, of course (consider this your friendly reminder to get a flu shot!). But a surprising number of other illnesses also have a seasonal component, peaking at certain times of the year. Chickenpox outbreaks peak each spring, for instance, while polio historically tended to surge in the summer. Micaela Martinez, an environmental health researcher at Columbia University, believes that all infectious diseases may have some seasonal aspect to them. She collected information on almost 70 different human diseases from African sleeping sickness to Zika and looked at factors that could connect each to the calendar. In some cases, the seasonality of the disease is due to weather, while in other cases more complex interactions of host, vector, and human behavior come into play. 

Beatboxers can create the sound of snare drums, bass lines, high hats and other beats all at once. And while it’s entertaining to listen to, what’s the science behind those beats? Scientists scanned beatboxers in a MRI machine to figure out how these musicians manipulate their vocal tracts to keep the beat. They found that beatboxers may use parts of their vocal tract in a way different way than is used when speaking. In fact, some of the sounds were unlike any found in human language. Linguist Reed Blaylock and beatboxer Devon Guinn break down how beatboxers coordinate their lips, tongue and throat to create a beat and how this compares to human speech.

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