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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology

Episode Date
Episode 90: Dawn and Ken answer listener questions
Ken and Dawn return in today’s podcast to answer more listener questions. Back at the beginning year, Ken and Dawn hosted their first Ask Me Anything episode. In that episode, they promised not to wait another three years and 83 episodes before once again addressing listeners’ questions. A steady stream of new questions have poured in since that first Ask Me Anything episode. Today, Ken and Dawn take turns answering questions about exogenous ketones, daily allowances of protein, healthy fats, black holes, long-duration space flights, decompression sickness, the future of AI, sloppy science, and much, much more. Show notes: [00:04:13] Dawn starts the episode with a listener question for Ken, which is in regards to the Valter Longo interview, episode 64,and the Stuart Phillips interview, episode 84.The listener became confused about protein intake because Longo said that more than 100 grams of protein a day accelerates aging, while Phillips said that the recommended daily allowance for protein is too low. After going online to get some clarification about the right intake of protein, the listener became even confused and asks if Ken could provide some insight and clarity on the issue. [00:08:40] A listener asks Dawn about her research on exogenous ketones. [00:09:44] A listener wonders if Ken has read the 2017 paper titled, “Is Sociopolitical Egalitarianism Related to Bodily and Facial Formidability in Men,”and if so, to share his thoughts on it. [00:11:52] Dawn reads another question addressed to Ken about the utility of a paper out of Harvard that appeared in February.That paper described an observational epidemiological study showing a strong association between the ability to do pushups and cardiovascular events. [00:14:49] A listener says he has read one of Dr. Ford’s papers criticizing the Turing Test, and wonders why he let Dr. Epstein off the hook during episode 89 of Stem-Talkwhen the topic came up. [00:16:02] Dawn asks another question on behalf of a listener who asks about Ken’s comments on the previous AMA episodewhere he expressed some reservations about canola oil. [00:19:27] Dawn follows up by asking Ken which oils he favors. [00:20:13] Another listener asks Ken about his recent appointment to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and wonders what the issues the commission is investigating. [00:20:54] A listener asks Ken about the so called “futurist” types who foreshadow a dark future where AI has a doom-and-gloom effect on humanity at large. The listener asks Ken to expand on his brighter and more hopeful vision of the future where AI and intelligent systems help humanity. [00:22:44] Dawn asks Ken about the data gathered by the European Space Agency (ESA) since the launching of the Gaia mission, which is cataloguing the composition, brightness, positions, and directions of stars in the Milky Way. [00:25:13] Dawn is asked about a paper published in late 2018 in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences that was titled, “Space Radiation Triggers Persistent Stress Response, Increases Senescent Signaling, and Decreases Cell Migration in Mouse Intestine.”The paper suggests that space radiation could pose a risk for the gastrointestinal tracts of astronauts [00:28:47] Ken asks Dawn a question about her involvement in a record-breaking freshwater-cave dive. [00:31:01] A listener, asking another diving questions of Dawn, wonders if there are any biological or genetic factors that might influence individual susceptibility to decompression sickness or the bends. [00:33:04] Dawn is asked for her thoughts on what the research community has learned since Gena Shaw’s 2015 landmark paper, “New Study Suggests Brain Is Connected to the Lymphatic System: What the Discovery Could Mean for Neurology.” [00:36:15] Ken asks Dawn if sleeping position has any effect on the ability of the brain’s lymphatic system to flush out metabolic waist.
Jun 12, 2019
Episode 89: Robert Epstein reflects on his career and the threat big tech poses to privacy and democracy
Our guest today is Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist, professor and journalist who is the former editor of Psychology Today. Robert is currently a co-founder and the senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California. He has had a distinguished career as a scientist and journalist researching and writing about advances in mental health, the behavioral sciences, and, most recently, the invisible influence that technology companies have on consumer and political behavior. Robert is the author of 15 books and has written more than 300 scientific and popular articles. He is the founder of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He became well known early in his career for his work on creativity. Since then, he has conducted research on a diverse range of topics such as adolescent-and-adult competency, arranged marriages, sexual orientation, self-control and voter manipulation. He also has also developed a number of unique online competency tests which are annually taken by more than a million people. Show notes: [00:03:38] Dawn begins the interview asking Robert about growing up in Connecticut. [00:04:57] Dawn asks if Robert skipped a grade in school, given that he graduated from high school at 16. [00:06:16] Robert talks about his interest in computers in the 60’s, and how his high school was one of the first in the country to even have a computer. [00:07:27] Ken asks about what lead Robert to attend Trinity. [00:08:23] Dawn inquires as to whether Robert knew he was going to major in psychology when he first showed up at Trinity, or if he simply ended up gravitating toward the field. [00:10:14] Robert talks about collecting and analyzing the first ever campus-wide sex survey conducted at Trinity. [00:11:40] Robert explains what he did in the two years between obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 1976 and pursing graduate school. [00:13:07] Dawn asks about Robert’s experience at the University of Maryland Baltimore. [00:13:48] Robert tells the interesting story of how he ended up at Harvard, in part, thanks to the behaviorist B.F. Skinner. [00:15:40] Ken asks how Robert managed to be one of the few people who never had to write a dissertation while at Harvard to obtain his doctorate. [00:20:29] Dawn mentions how, at the time, Robert was becoming well known for his work with Skinner.  She points out that many behaviorists at the time were working with chimpanzees and asks why Robert and Skinner were working with pigeons instead. [00:23:49] Dawn mentions that after his work with pigeons, Robert began to study creativity. He explains why he concluded that creativity is an orderly and predictable process that can be learned, rather than something one is simply born with. [00:27:34] Robert talks about how he founded the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies after his time at Harvard, and how he took on the role of executive director despite Skinner’s warning to never go into administrative work. [00:29:56] Ken asks about Robert’s time at the Cambridge Center and if all the papers he wrote during that time had a theme, or if they were just in general social-science communication. [00:31:28] Robert discusses his book “Cognition, Creativity and Behavior” which is a book of selected essays that he published in 1996. He discusses the various topics in the collection, ranging from creativity to parenting to artificial intelligence. [00:33:09] Ken asks why, after ten years at the Cambridge Center, Robert moved to the west coast. [00:35:40] Dawn asks about Robert’s research into arranged marriages and his finding that couples in arranged marriages developed a greater affection for each other than those who married for love. She asks him about his view that people can deliberately learn to love each other. [00:40:02] Robert discusses his time at the University of California San Diego where he gave students extr...
May 21, 2019
Episode 88: Duane Mitchell talks about the uphill battle to treat aggressive brain tumors
Our guest today is Dr. Duane Mitchell, the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He’s also the co-director of the university’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and Director of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program. Duane and Dawn have been friends since their days at Duke University where they served on the Institutional Review Board together. Duane got his medical degree and doctorate at Duke and then joined the faculty, where he spent the next decade before moving to the University of Florida in 2013. Duane and his team at Florida are among the world leaders in the uphill battle to find ways to treat glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that affects about 13,000 Americans annually. It’s the disease that recently took the life of Senator John McCain.  People who are diagnosed with glioblastoma typically live for less than two years. Show notes: [00:03:00] Duane explains the story behind his “quote of the week” tradition, where every Monday morning he share’s a quote with his colleagues in his research group. [00:03:43] Ken asks if it is true that one of Duane’s favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” [00:04:13] Dawn asks if it is true that by the sixth grade Duane had decided he was going to become a doctor. [00:04:52] Duane talks about his decision to attend Rutgers College. [00:05:37] Duane explains how reading Stephen Rosenberg’s book “The Transformed Cell” heavily impacted him during his time at Rutgers. [00:06:43] Dawn mentions that she and Duane met at Duke University, and how this almost didn’t happen because Duane was originally going to attend another university for med school. [00:07:55] Dawn explains that after receiving his MD and Ph.D. from Duke, Duane went on to serve in numerous faculty positions for the next 12 years. During this time, Duane became known as a trailblazer in the application and research of immunotherapy for cancer, particularly brain tumors. Dawn asks Duane for an overview of the role that immunotherapy plays in the treatment of brain tumors. [00:09:30] Duane explains how in 2013 he joined the faculty at the University of Florida and managed to bring his entire team from Duke with him. [00:10:47] Duane has acquired considerable clinical and translational research experience as a principle investigator on seven first-in-human protocols through FDA approved clinical trials. Dawn points out that at Florida, Duane and his team offer unique clinical options for adult and pediatric malignant brain tumor patients. She asks Duane to explain, in depth, the work that he and his do at Florida. [00:12:11] Duane gives an overview of the types of brain tumor and what some of the more common tumor types are. [00:14:09] Dawn asks why Duane chose to specialize in glioblastoma, or GBM, an aggressive form of brain cancer that kills 15,000 Americans eachyear. [00:15:16] Ken asks what characteristics of GBM make those particular types of tumors so difficult to treat. [00:16:17] Duane talks about the standard of care for these malignant brain tumors. [00:18:36] Dawn asks if immunotherapy is a stand-alone approach for treating brain tumors, or if it is administered in conjunction with standard therapy. She goes on to asks if changes to the immune system through radiation or chemotherapy have a negative effect on immunotherapy. [00:21:20] Dawn asks if recent findings about the nervous system’s immune system, and the new-found interconnectedness between the glymphatic system and the lymphatic system impact immunotherapy approaches for brain tumors. [00:23:02] Ken asks how the immune system is naturally equipped to fight cancer. [00:25:36] Dawn explains that the (PD)-1/PD-L1 pathway, otherwise known as Programmed Cell Death, is an immune resistance mechanism that tumor cells exhibit to ...
May 07, 2019
Episode 87: Dom D’Agostino reflects on his 10 years of research into ketogenic nutrition
Dr. Dominic D’Agostino returns to STEM-Talk to give Ken and Dawn an update on his research into ketogenic nutrition. Dom was the guest on episode 14 back in 2016 when ketogenic diets didn’t even show up on a list of the top-10 diets that people Googled. Since then, the search term “ketogenic diet” has risen to the top of the list. In today’s episode, Dom talks about his past 10 years of research into ketogenic diets and what he is learning about the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis. Dom is tenured associate professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.He also is a research scientist here at IHMC.Throughout his career, Dom has been a researcher with a diverse background in neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, nutrition and physiology. Show notes: [00:02:55] Dawn begins the interview mentioning that when she and Ken started hosting STEM-Talk, the ketogenic diet wasn’t on the list of the top-10 most Googled diets of 2015. Today, however, Dawn points that ketogenic diet is number one on the list. She asks Dom if he foresaw sudden mass interest in a ketogenic diet coming. [00:04:12] Ken asks Dom for his thoughts on how the ketogenic diet has went from being very obscure to becoming a household term. [00:06:04] Ken comments on the evolutionary component of the ketogenic diet and how our ancestors must have gone in and out of ketosis based on the availability of food. He also comments on the unique aspect of the ketogenic diet, being that it has an objective measurement, and asks Dom to talk about that. [00:06:59] Dawn comments on the cynicism regarding the ketogenic diet, particularly from nutritionists. She asks Dom to address the criticism and pushback that the ketogenic diet receives from so many nutritionists. [00:10:02] Ken mentions that some fields are resistant to change and new science due to the emotion behind established theories. Dom agrees and then talks about how people, even doctors, are resistant to new data and new science. [00:11:13] Dom talks about the most common misconceptions and overrepresentations of the ketogenic diet. [00:12:54] Ken discusses his dissatisfaction with the term “ketogenic diet” since the word diet implies the mandated consumption of certain food items. He goes on to say that if one is in ketosis, then, by definition, they are doing a ketogenic diet, even though they may be in ketosis because they have been fasting and haven’t eaten anything.  Ken and Dom discuss how knowledge about ketogenic nutrition has changed over time and that it is certainly possible to eat an unhealthy ketogenic diet. [00:15:35] Dom and Ken talk about the results of a recent Megan Roberts paper, “A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice,”that showed a 13% increase in the lifespan of the mice along with remarkably improved healthspan. [00:20:26] Dom shares his thoughts on the potential of exogenous ketones in the context of blood glucose regulation. [00:27:07] Ken asks if Dom has been tracking Virta Health, which was founded by Dr. Jeff Volek who was interviewed in STEM-Talk episode 43. Virta Health has been publishing impressive results of its trials that show  people reversing type-2 diabetes via a well-formulated ketogenic diet. [00:29:13] Ken adds that the reported numbers from Virta show 60% to 70% of their patients going off their insulin medication or greatly reducing their insulin levels. [00:30:55] Dawn asks about Dom’s experience going underwater for 10 days in participation of a NASA NEEMO mission. She asks him to talk about his personal experience as well as his background in hyperbaric physiology. [00:32:08] Dom discusses his group’s work replicating the experimental design of his original oxygen toxicity work in aged and obese rats. [00:33:35] Dawn briefly describes what oxygen toxicity is,
Apr 23, 2019
Episode 86: Matt Johnson talks about the power and future of human-machine teaming
Our guest today is Dr. Matt Johnson, another colleague who works with Ken and Dawn at IHMC. Matt is a research scientist who joined the institute in 2002 after a 20-year career as Naval aviator. He focuses on human-machine teaming as it relates to technologies such as robotics, software agents and autonomous vehicles. These technologies are used in military responses and help first responders with disaster responses. They are used in space and aviation work as well.  He also is part of an IHMC team developing humanoid behaviors and advanced interface concepts that will enable Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot and NASA’s Valkyrie robot to do complex work. Matt was in the news recently for a project he’s doing with the police department here in Pensacola.  He’s leading a team to develop specialized drones that police officers will be able to use in a number of areas ranging from search and rescue operations to disaster response. AI Magazineis running an article in its spring issue that Matt co-wrote with Alonso H. Vera, the chief of the Human Systems Integration Division at NASA Ames Research Center.  Titled,“No AI Is An Island: The Case For Teaming Intelligence,”the article argues that artificial intelligence will only reach its full potential if it has enough teaming intelligence to work well with humans. Show notes: [00:02:52] Matt begins by discussing his upbringing in Long Island, New York, and his unusual family dynamics. [00:03:25] Dawn asks what lead Matt to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and work on undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. [00:03:59] Ken brings up that after obtaining his undergraduate degree, Matt went into the Navy as an aviator, and asks what motivated that transition. [00:04:44] Matt explains how he ended up at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi where he obtained his master’s degree in computer science. [00:05:45] Matt talks about his transition out of the Navy and how he came to live in Pensacola and work at IHMC. [00:07:02] Matt touches on how after a few years at IHMC, he began working on his Ph.D. through Delft University in the Netherlands. [00:10:03] Ken mentions that Matt’s research focuses on making technology more flexible and resilient through human-machine teamwork. He asks Matt to define what he means by human-machine teamwork. [00:11:51] Dawn brings up that Matt’s human-machine teamwork endeavors have led to a number of different projects in various fields, one of which is a partnership with the Pensacola Police Department to develop specialized drones for police use in a number of operations including search and rescue and disaster response. [00:14:05] Matt discusses his ongoing project to help develop humanoid behaviors and advanced interface concepts for robots. [00:15:53] Ken asks Matt to talk about an article Matt has with Alonso Vera of NASA Ames that’s appearing in the spring issue of AI Magazine. [00:17:03] Dawn talks about how machine intelligence is making inroads into our everyday world, citing a few examples such as self-driving cars and digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Dawn asks Matt if he can use self-driving cars as a way to explain the gaps and challenges that intelligent technologies still face. [00:18:52] Matt talks about how humans are still far better at driving cars and that the technology for self-driving cars still has a long way to go before matching the safety record of humans. [00:20:11] Dawn describes how Elon Musk told a group of governors that they should adopt AI legislation before robots go rouge and start roaming the streets killing people. She asks Matt if he agrees with Musk, or if the notion of rouge robots is an over exaggeration. [00:21:23] Ken mentions that it seems natural to think of AI, and technology in general, as a means to compensate for human limitations. He goes on to mention that Matt’s article in AI Magazine warns people to be aware of misconceptions associated with...
Apr 09, 2019
Episode 85: David Geary discusses our shrinking brains, cognitive development  and sex differences
Today’s guest is Dr. David Geary, a cognitive developmental scientist whose wide-ranging interests are particularly focused on evolutionary psychology, sex differences and children’s mathematical development. He is a Curators' Distinguished Professor and a Thomas Jefferson Fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Missouri Columbia. David’s book, “Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences,” has been described as a landmark text that provides a comprehensive evolutionary model to explain sex differences. His research on children’s mathematical development resulted in a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to authoring four books, he has published more than 300 articles and chapters across a diverse range of topics. David has served as a member of the President’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel and was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Board of Directors for the Institute for Education Sciences. Show notes: [00:02:36] Dawn asks about David’s childhood, mentioning that his family moved around quite a bit before settling down in Northern California. [00:03:00] Dawn asks if David’s early struggles in elementary school were due to jumping around from classroom to classroom because of family moves. [00:03:43] David talks about how he first became interested in science. [00:04:15] Ken asks why David decided to go to Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. [00:04:47] David explains how he ended up majoring in developmental psychology. [00:05:18] David recounts the story of how he went from working at an auto parts store to getting his master’s degree in clinical child and school psychology at California State University. [00:06:06] Dawn mentions that before David earned his master’s degree, he went to work as a school psychologist and counselor. She then asks what led him to decide to enter the Ph.D. program as the University of California Riverside. [00:07:05] After finishing his Ph.D., David had a number of university positions before landing at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Ken asks David about the school’s interdisciplinary evolution group, which was a key reason David was interested in the university. [00:08:12] Dawn asks how children’s mathematical development and evolutionary psychology became two of David’s primary research focuses. [00:10:04] David summarizes the factors that determine human intelligence. [00:11:11] David explains why the attempt to define intelligence has always been a controversial issue. [00:11:51] Ken asks about David’s research in the ‘90s that made a distinction between evolved forms of cognition, such as language, and other forms of cognition that are more dependent on schooling, such as reading and arithmetic. [00:14:44] David talks about his interest in Evolutionary Educational Psychology, and how that relates to the insights gleaned from his recent article that argued that there is built-in scaffolding that helps a child’s mind learn to talk, use tools, and play, but that there is nothing of the sort for learning how to read, write, or do math. [00:17:14] David has been investigating children’s mathematical cognition for nearly 25 years, including a 2015 paper on the numerical foundations of young children’s mathematical development.Dawn asks David to share his key takeaways from this research. [00:20:08] David gives an overview of the MU Math Study, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and focuses on mathematical development from preschool all the way through high school. [00:22:32] David discusses his research into human sex differences, and human sexual selection. [00:23:46] Dawn asks about David’s paper that focused on human cognitive sex differences, which illustrated how sexual selection can result in sex differences in the brain...
Mar 26, 2019
Episode 84: Joe Gomes discusses optimizing human performance and resiliency in the NFL and elite warfighters
Today’s guest is Joe Gomes, the former head strength and conditioning coach for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, who today is  IHMC’s new High Performance Director. Joe came to IHMC a little more than a year ago to be part of a new biological team that is searching for innovative ways to extend the capabilities and resilience of high-performing humans who operate in extreme environments. In today’s interview, you’ll hear Joe talk about a number of projects he’s working on, including his work with IHMC’s engineers and NASA to develop an exercise machine for long-duration space missions. Joe was with the Raiders for the 2016 season when Oakland won 12 games and went to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Although Joe has spent most of his career helping professional and amateur athletes, he also spent five years in North Carolina as a senior advisor and performance director for the United States Army Special Operations Command. Show notes: [00:03:43] Ken asks about Joe’s childhood and whether he played a lot of sports growing up. [00:04:14] Joe talks about being drawn to rugby because of the teamwork that’s involved. [00:05:27] Joe describes how he and a friend decided to take some time off from school and travel to Australia. [00:06:41] Joe discusses returning to London to go to back to school and major in sports science and rehabilitation. [00:07:37] Ken mentions that even as a young man Joe was very interested in the science of how the human body worked, and asks Joes how it came about that he started to question some of the basic training techniques offered by coaches. [00:08:40] Joe talks about working with John Allen, a physiotherapist who worked with the British track and field team, where he helped Allen set up a hydrotherapy program to assist injured athletes. He goes on to talk about how he also became involved in a program to screen elite athletes who were potential Olympic medalists. [00:11:36] Joe explains how he became interested in strength and conditioning. [00:12:52] Ken asks how a sports-medicine conference in Las Vegas led to Joe moving from London to Phoenix Arizona. [00:14:47] Joe tells of how he began working with the Argentinian national rugby team back in 2007. [00:16:36] Joe explains how his experience with the Argentinian rugby team helped him better understand that in addition to physical training, instilling a winning mindset is also important to get the best performance from athletes. [00:18:36] Joe talks about his passion for teaching athletes about self-accountability. [00:19:44] Ken asks Joe to talk about his biggest takeaways in terms of optimizing athletes’ performance after working with the Argentinian ruby team. [00:20:43] Joe gives an account of “his own world tour,” where he hopped around working with different national teams and governing bodies for three years after his experience with the Argentinians. [00:22:01] Ken asks for Joe to describe his time running the NFL annual scouting combine, where Joe helped train 35 first-round draft picks in a three-year period while working for EXOS as the director of performance. [00:24:16] Ken comments on how the NFL combine seems quite artificial, focused heavily on explosive power and strength. He notes that much of the training for the combine is designed to stiffen the tendons of the athletes for better power and strength transfer. He goes on to ask if this has resulted in the tendons being stiffer than the muscles are strong, and if there has been a higher injury rate in athletes who have attended the combine training. If so, Ken asks, does it come down to how their team handled them after the combine at the start of training camp. [00:26:54] Joe discusses how he came to work for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg. [00:28:13] Ken explains how impressed he was by the good work Joe was doing in facilitating the performance, and also preserving the health,
Mar 12, 2019
Episode 83: Ken and Dawn host their first Ask Me Anything episode
It has only taken us nearly three years to get around to it, but we’re finally doing our first “Ask Me Anything” episode. It’s hard to believe, but Ken and Dawn sat down to interview their first STEM-Talk guest back in 2016. And during that time, listeners have been emailing us questions. So, in this episode, Dawn and Ken will be asking each other questions that listeners have directed their way. The show turned out to be a lot of fun and the chairman of the double-secret selection committee who chooses all the guests who appear on STEM-talk promises not to wait three years before getting around to do another Ask Me Anything episode. If you want to check out Ken and Dawn's bios before you listen to today’s show, be sure to click on the links above,  which will take you to their profile pages at Also, links to papers mentioned in this episode can be found at the bottom of the show notes. Show notes: [00:02:31] Dawn asks about Ken’s time growing up in Guantanamo while his father was stationed there in the Navy. [00:02:59] Ken points out that Dawn spent part of her time growing up on a farm and asks her what that was like. [00:04:46] Dawn asks Ken about visiting Navy gyms when he was a kid. Ken then talks about how much he enjoyed those times, but that gyms have now become fitness centers. [00:05:43] Ken talks about his pet peeves during his workouts. [00:06:40] A listener writes in to say that he tried a ketogenic diet, but was never able to get over the “keto-flu.” He asks Ken to discuss this phenomenon and whether the ketogenic diet may not be for everyone. [00:07:44] Dawn follows up on the previous question and asks Ken for his thoughts on what constitutes a good diet if someone finds that the ketogenic diet isn’t right for them. [00:08:30] A listener asks Dawn about the APOE genotype, which has been mentioned on STEM-Talk several times. The listener asks about Dawn’s research into the genotype and what that research uncovered in regards to its relation to brain health. [00:11:09] Ken responds to a question about his views on the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet for older and middle-aged individuals, and why he thinks the diet might be considered an anti-aging diet. [00:14:39] A listener asks Ken to explain what the Mediterranean diet actually is, given the nebulous nature of the term. The listener goes on to write that they have never seen any noticeable weight loss benefit for people on the Mediterranean diet, unlike what the listener has seen for people adhered to the ketogenic and Paleo diets. [00:17:16] Dawn asks Ken how he would define the ketogenic diet, given that the Mediterranean diet is so ill-defined. [00:19:58] A listener asks Dawn if she has ever attempted a vegetarian ketogenic diet, given that Dawn is a vegetarian. In answering the question, Dawn mentions that Dom D’Agostino's website lists resources for vegetarians and vegans who want to know more about ketogenic diets. [00:21:08] Dawn asks Ken for his thoughts on people on the ketogenic diet drastically limiting their protein intake. [00:22:57] Ken is asked about his thoughts on exogenous ketones, and he refers to a promising ketone ester developed by Oxford and NIH scientists. [00:24:34] Ken explains what sarcopenia is, and why people should want to avoid it. [00:26:17] Dawn mentions that Ken has said that the maintenance of skeletal muscle is contingent upon the balance between muscle protein synthesis and muscle breakdown. She goes on to ask what some of the factors are that drive this process in one direction or the other. [00:27:11] Ken discusses oxytocin, which is commonly thought of as the ‘trust’ or ‘bonding’ hormone and is important in reproduction.  Dawn asks about the role of oxytocin in the context of the age-related loss of muscle mass and function. [00:28:22] Ken describes what oxytocin is and does. [00:28:50] Dawn comments on how Ken mentioned that Conboy’s group at ...
Feb 19, 2019
Episode 82: Stu Phillips discusses the importance of dietary protein and its role in muscle
Our guest today Dr. Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who is best known for his research into muscle health and the benefits of dietary protein. Stu is the director of the McMaster Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, a state-of-the-art exercise research and training center. It is devoted to studying and improving the health and well-being of older adults as well as people with chronic diseases and disabilities. In addition to his work in the kinesiology department at McMaster, Stu is adjunct professor in the university’s School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Nutrition. He received the New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Ontario Premier's Research Excellence Award, and the Young Investigator Award from Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.  In today’s interview we discuss:  [00:08:19] Dawn introduces the importance of dietary protein and its role in muscle health, and tissue regeneration more generally, which makes it one of the only macro nutrients we need on a daily basis. [00:10:59] A recent study (2017) showed that whole eggs promoted a greater amount of muscle protein synthesis than egg whites, suggesting that there may be benefits to the extra nutrients found in the egg yolk. [00:12:53] Why Stu believes the recommended daily allowance for protein is too low. [00:14:06] The differences between animal and plant-based protein. [00:16:31] The phenomenon of muscle synthesis (anabolism) and catabolism. [00:17:54] Highlights of the recent findings coming out of Kevin Tipton’s group which indicates that the dose-response relationship may depend on the amount of muscle tissue that was recruited during exercise, with the ingestion of 40 g protein further increasing muscle protein. [00:20:43]A 2013 paper from Stu’s group titled, “Dose-dependent responses of myofibrillar protein synthesis with beef ingestion are enhanced with resistance exercise in middle-aged men.” [00:27:52] Stu’s thoughts on the recommendation of pre-sleep protein feeding. [00:37:52] An overview of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, a state-of-the-art, exercise research and training lab at McMaster. [00:43:37] The importance of maintaining healthy functional muscle mass and function as we move into middle and later life. [00:46:56] Stu’s paper,  “Muscle Disuse as a Pivotal Problem in Sarcopenia-Related Muscle Loss and Dysfunction.” [00:50:25] The need to add more protein to our diets as we get older, which is something that Dr. Valter Longo discussed on episode 64 of STEM-Talk. [00:56:24 How fasting affects muscle protein turnover, which were topics covered in episode 7 of STEM-Talk, an interview with Mark Mattson, and episode 79, which was an interview with Satchin Panda, author of the “The Circadian Code.” [00:57:32] Whether a ketogenic diet with sufficient protein would in any way be detrimental to muscle mass. [01:05:47] Stu’s thoughts on a study that was conducted on behalf of the American College of Sports Medicine that found supplementation with HMB failed to enhance body composition to a greater extent than a placebo. Show notes [0:02:51] Stu talks about being born in the UK but growing up in Canada. [00:03:09] Dawn asks about Stu’s passions for all kinds of sports as a kid. [00:03:27] Stu recalls his high school science teacher, who was responsible for getting him interested in biology and chemistry. [00:03:44] Dawn asks what led Stu to choose McMaster University after high school. [00:04:19] Ken brings up that Stu was captain of the Ruby team his senior year, and while it looked as though he was headed to a great season, things didn’t turn out as planned. He asks how that season led to Stu’s decision to focus on nutritional biochemistry. [00:05:16] Stu explains how he ended up at Waterloo University to...
Feb 05, 2019
Episode 81: Charles Brenner discusses NR and the benefits of boosting NAD as we age
Our guest today is Dr. Charles Brenner, the Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa. Charles is one of the world’s leading experts on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, commonly referred to as NAD, which is an essential molecule found in every living cell.  In 2004, he discovered the nicotinamide riboside kinase pathway, which leads to a special form of vitamin B3. We talk to Charles about his research into NAD and why he believes supplementation with NR could help people age better. In addition to his work at the University of Iowa, he is also the chief scientific advisor for ChromaDex, which markets the NR supplement Tru Niagen. Toward the end of our interview, Charles talks about dozens of exciting new papers and studies that are on the horizon. One of those papers - Maternal Nicotinamide Riboside Enhances Postpartum Weight Loss, Juvenile Offspring Development, and Neurogenesis of Adult Offspring- was published in Cell Reports on the same day as our interview with Charles went live. Also in today’s interview, we discuss: [00:06:29] How Charles became the first cancer biology graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University. [00:07:51] Charles’ research into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) during his time on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University. [00:09:15] Charles’ discovery that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a precursor of NAD. [00:19:47] Why Charles doesn’t use the term “anti-aging.” [00:25:52] The importance of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) and its role as the central regulator of reactive oxygen species toxicity. [00:34:56] The circadian rhythms of NAD and the potential benefit of diurnal dosing. [00:38:45] Why skeletal muscle is one of the most sensitive target tissues for the anti-aging effects of NMN. [00:45:42] How the benefits of a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, time restricted eating could be related to NAD. [00:47:02] A recent human trial conducted by the University of Colorado that found Niagen increased NAD+ by 60 percent in healthy middle-aged and older adults after just six weeks. [00:49:19] The optimal dose of NR for humans. Show notes: [00:03:06] Charles talks about growing up as a kid who dreamed about becoming either a comedian or rabbi. [00:03:26] Charles describes his success on the math team in high school and how he also enjoyed playing tennis and running cross-country. [00:03:43] Charles reflects on his decision to attend Wesleyan University. [00:04:09] Although Charles decided to major in ecology, he found out upon arriving at Wesleyan that they did not have an ecology department. [00:05:05] Dawn mentions that after graduating with honors in biology, Charles traveled across the country to work in the Bay Area. She asks him what he did. [00:06:29] Charles talks about when and why he became interested in cancer research, and how he was the first cancer biology graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University. [00:07:51] Dawn asks about the work Charles did from 1996 to 2003 on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) during his time on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University. [00:09:15] Ken brings up Charles’ research at Dartmouth, asking about his discovery that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a precursor of NAD. [00:12:35] NAD is a coenzyme found in all living cells. It serves both as a critical coenzyme for enzymes that fuel reduction-oxidation reactions, carrying electrons from one reaction to another, and as a co-substrate for other enzymes.  Charles gives an overview of the research into NAD and its relationship to overall health and age-related diseases. [00:19:47] Dawn asks Charles why he doesn’t use the term “anti-aging.” [00:20:54] Charles discusses how Verdin and numerous other investigators have reported that NADcontent declines with age in multiple organs, such as pancreas, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle,
Jan 22, 2019
Episode 80: Butler Hine talks about paving the way for robotic space exploration
Our guest today is Dr. Butler Hine, the Flight Project Manager and Chief Technologist for Engineering at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Butler is also a senior research scientist and a colleague of Ken and Dawn at IHMC. Butler is currently the project manager for NASA's Arcus mission, which is an X-ray observatory that has a possible launch date of 2023. The mission will include a high-resolution X-ray grating spectrometer that will study the hot gas that is the dominant component of the normal matter in the Universe, much of which has not yet been directly seen. In today's interview, we discuss: [00:03:57] How Butler became interested in astronomy and started building telescopes as a youth. [00:08:37] How Butler wound up managing the robotics lab at NASA. [00:11:55] The challenges of trying to change the thinking of the science community about ways to adapt technology to science. [00:17:34] Artificial intelligence and data mining. [00:26:59] The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission, also known as LADEE. [00:30:07] The concept of modularity in spacecraft design. [00:41:58] The scientific goals of NASA's Arcus mission, which Butler is currently managing. [00:45:58 The complexity of developing a robotic platform for space or lunar exploration [00:51:24] The future of robotic space exploration. Show notes: [00:02:27] Butler begins the interview talking about moving around a lot as a youth because of his father's career in the Army. [00:03:17] Butler talks about growing up as "classic nerd," and the influence that the Apollo Moon landings had him. [00:03:57] Butler describes how he became interested in astronomy in junior high school started building telescopes. [00:05:49] Dawn asks what the difference is between science and science implementation, something Butler became interested in during graduate school. [00:06:40] Butler discusses going to NASA Ames Research Center for his post-doc work. [00:08:37] Butler talks about how he wound up managing the robotics lab at NASA. [00:09:29] During his time with the robotics lab, Butler worked on performing field-science investigations through remote mobile platforms in an attempt to approximate what a scientist does in the field. Ken asks what the primary challenges were in this work. [00:11:55] Butler describes the difficulty of trying to change the thinking of the science community about ways to adapt technology to science, such as getting people to buy into the usefulness of remote planetary rovers. [00:15:20] Butler talks about virtual-reality techniques for presenting complex information that he and his team at Ames developed, and how he left NASA to create a company to apply those techniques to other areas. [00:17:34] Dawn asks about a program Butler pushed for in the mid-to-late '90s that focused on artificial intelligence and data mining. [00:20:11] Dawn asks about Butler's days at NASA that overlapped with Ken's time at the agency. [00:21:14] Ken asks how Butler become interested in developing low-cost, high-performance spacecraft designs. [00:26:59] Butler talks about becoming the project manager for the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission, otherwise known as LADEE. [00:30:07] Ken asks if Butler thinks that the concept of modularity in spacecraft design is something that will be embraced in future missions. [00:32:16] Dawn asks what the scientific objectives of the LADEE mission were. [00:35:38] Butler talks about how LADEE was not only a science mission, but it also showcased several new technologies. [00:37:35] Butler discusses the trajectory of LADEE from launch to its impact into the backside of the moon. [00:41:58] Butler talks about the scientific goals of NASA's Arcus mission, which he is currently managing. [00:44:30] Ken asks about the new technologies that are driving the Arcus mission.
Jan 01, 2019
Episode 79: Satchin Panda discusses circadian rhythms and time-restricted eating to improve health and even reverse disease
Dr. Satchin Panda is a professor and researcher at the Salk Institute who has become recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on circadian rhythm. In today’s wide-ranging interview, he discusses how the body’s natural day-night cycle can help us improve our health, get a better night’s sleep and lose weight. He also shares how adopting a lifestyle that is aligned with the body’s natural internal clock can even help us prevent and reverse disease. Satchin also has been generating significant attention for his research into the health benefits of time-restricted eating. He is the author of “The Circadian Code” and in today’s interview he shares how listeners can become involved in a research project he and his colleagues are conducting through a smartphone app called My Circadian Clock. In addition to his work at the Salk Institute, Satchin is also a founding executive member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, San Diego.  Key topics covered in today’s interview include: [00:03:46] How a rapidly evolving modern society disrupts the interconnectedness of our biological rhythms. [00:13:41] How Satchin became interested in circadian rhythms and metabolism. [00:17:11] Satchin’s first mouse study on time-restricting feeding, which so surprised him that he ended up repeating the study three times. [00:21:37] The role of ketosis in time-restricted eating, particularly in regard to weight loss and potential health benefits. [00:25:01] Whether having black coffee signals the beginning of a person’s eating window. [00:27:31] The potential use of caffeine to treat jet lag induced by international time-zone travel. [00:29:31] Satchin’s mouse studies that looked at obesity and type-2 diabetes. [00:30:58] The dangers of shift work and the importance of sleep. [00:45:39] Satchin talks about the importance of darkness when it comes to sleep and our circadian rhythms. [00:48:42] Satchin’s 2017 paper in Aging Research Reviews titled “ Circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy aging.“ [00:51:59] Satchin’s recent paper in Cell Metabolism, “Time-Restricted Feeding Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in Mice Lacking a Circadian Clock.” [01:00:19] The role of diet in people who lost weight during time-restricted feeding. [01:06:30] “My Circadian Clock,”an app Satchin and his lab at Salk Institute have developed. [01:20:02] Satchin discusses how he convinced his mother to try time-restricted eating. [01:25:32] What Satchin’s diet and eating window looks like on a typical day.  Show notes: [00:03:05] Satchin begins the interview talking about being raised in India and his parents’ expectation that he would become a doctor or engineer. [00:03:46] Satchin talks about his book “The Circadian Code,” which is dedicated to his maternal and paternal grandparents. He touches on how a rapidly evolving modern society disrupts the interconnectedness of our biological rhythms. [00:06:14] Satchin shares how when he was a junior in high school, he lost his father in an accident with a truck driver. [00:07:21] Dawn asks Satchin to talk about how going to agricultural school like his father did cemented Satchin’s interest in science. [00:08:44] Dawn asks how Satchin ended up with a research job at a flavor and fragrance manufacturer in India after finishing his master’s degree. [00:10:10] Satchin talks about what led him to Canada and eventually the U.S. [00:11:21] Ken asks Satchin why he decided to pursue at Ph.D. in plant circadian rhythm. [00:13:41] The circadian rhythm field primarily focuses on understanding the timing mechanism in biological systems like plants, fruit flies, mice and humans.  Satchin discusses how he took a different route and became interested in circadian rhythms and metabolism. [00:15:13] Dawn asks what it is like to work at the Salk institute, a place where Nobel laureates such as Francis Crick once ...
Dec 18, 2018
Episode 78: Jeff Phillips talks about physiologic episodes among tactical aircrew
SEO: Jeff Phillips, Naval Medical Research Unit, University of Alabama, F-22 Raptors, hypoxia, oxygen saturation measurement, arterial gas embolism, aircraft oxygen systems, physiologic episodes, Delores Etter Award, Ken Ford,Dawn Kernagis,Jon Clark,IHMC Today’s interview is with IHMC Research Scientist Dr. Jeff Phillips. Jeff joined IHMC a year ago after spending six years as a research psychologist at the Naval Medical Research Unit in Dayton, Ohio. He worked almost exclusively on hypoxia in tactical aviation and was part of team that was instrumental in getting the F-22 Raptors back into operation after a series of hypoxia-related episodes among jet pilots. In 2012, Jeff won the Dolores Etter Award, which the Department of Navy annually awards to its top performing scientists and engineers. Jeff is a University of Alabama graduate who earned his Ph.D. in experimental psychology. At IHMC, he works on research that ranges from physical and cognitive performance in extreme conditions to the role that ketone esters can play in protecting special operators from hypoxia, fatigue and other issues. Because Dawn Kernagis was in London giving a presentation when we conducted our interview with Jeff, IHMC Senior Researcher Jon Clark joined Ken Ford to co-host the episode. In today’s episode, we discuss: [00:15:45] Jeff’s participation on a team that investigated hypoxia-like episodes F-22 pilots in the Air Force were having. [00:17:02] The problems with aircraft oxygen systems (OBOGs) and the related physiologic episodes (PE) that extend beyond the F-22 to virtually all frontline tactical jet aircraft. [00:18:19] The physiological effects of hypoxia on the brain and the associated cognitive and perceptual performance deficits. [00:19:54] The most promising technologies for detecting a hypoxia event. [00:29:10] The challenge of understanding what may be a multifaceted phenomenon like OBOGS-related PE events. [00:32:30] Studies that have shown pure oxygen in the lungs causes the alveolar cells to collapse. [00:37:10] The possibility that increased breathing (hyperventilation) may be occurring in aircrew involved in PE events who develop rapid onset hypoxia-like symptoms. [00:48:36] The role that mindfulness plays in elite performance as well as day-to-day life. Show notes: [00:06:06] Jeff talks about growing up in Sandflat, Alabama. [00:06:57] Jon asks Jeff what he was like as a kid. [00:07:32] Jeff talks about the impact that reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” had on him. [00:08:19] Jeff explains how he headed off to the University of Alabama expecting to become a newspaperman, but ended up switching his major to psychology. [00:09:50] Jon asks Jeff about his mentors at Alabama who encouraged him to purse a doctorate in experimental psychology. [00:11:50] Jeff talks about a paper he helped author on handshaking and how it generated so much attention that he was interviewed by the Associated Press and network news shows. [00:14:16] Jon asks Jeff how he ended up at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola, Florida. [00:15:02] Ken asks Jeff to describe the work he did at the Pensacola lab. [00:15:45] Jeff talks about becoming part of a team that investigated hypoxia-like episodes F-22 pilots in the Air Force were having when the Pensacola lab relocated to Dayton, Ohio. [00:17:02] Ken points out that problems with aircraft oxygen systems (OBOGs) and the related physiologic episodes (PE) extended beyond the F-22 and affected virtually all frontline tactical jet aircraft. Ken asks Jeff to talk about the how the different military services approached the problem. [00:18:19] Ken asks Jeff about the physiological effects of hypoxia on the brain and the associated cognitive and perceptual performance deficits. [00:19:16] Jon asks Jeff about his participation in studies that assessed different oxygen saturation measurement techniqu...
Dec 05, 2018
Episode 77: John Ioannidis discusses why most published research findings are false
Our guest today is Dr. John Ioannidis, a Stanford professor who has been described by “BMJ” as “the scourge of sloppy science.” Atlantic magazine has gone so far as to refer to him as one of the world’s most influential scientists. John is renowned for his 2005 paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” which has been viewed more than 2.5 million times and is the most citied article in the history of the journal PLoS Medicine. He has authored nearly a thousand academic papers and has served on the editorial board of 30 top-tier journals. At Stanford, John is a professor of medicine, of health research and policy, and of biomedical data science in the school of medicine as well as a professor of statistics in the school of humanities and sciences. He is the co-director of the university’s Meta-Research Innovation Center and the former director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center. In today’s wide-ranging interview, John talks about: [00:07:43] What led him to begin questioning the reliability of medical research during his residency at Harvard. [00:12:03] His 2005 paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” [00:26:27] How a major issue facing science is a lack of replication. [00:30:51] Which studies are worse, nutritional studies or drug studies. [00:38:25] If it’s possible to remove sampling biases like the healthy user bias. [00:46:50] The need for scientists to disclose their personal dietary biases as well as their personal diets when publishing research findings. [00:52:40] His recent paper, “Evidence Based Medicine Has Been Hijacked,” which argues that vested interests have transformed clinical medicine into something that resembles finance-based medicine. [00:55:36] The impact that funding pressure is having on the veracity of research being done today. [01:08:42] The need for future research to be designed by scientists without vested interests. [01:14:58] The ways John would fix the system if he had magic wand. [01:18:42] And as a bonus, John reads an excerpt from his latest book. Show notes: [00:02:37] Dawn begins the interview asking John about being born in New York but raised in Athens. [00:03:54] John talks about how his parents were physicians and researchers and how they instilled in him a love for mathematics at an early age. [00:05:26] Dawn asks John about winning the Greek Mathematical Society’s national award when he was 19 years old. [00:06:23] John talks about his decision to go to medical school and to attend Harvard. [00:07:43] Ken mentions that John began questioning the reliability of medical school during his residency at Harvard, and asks John to talk about his interest in an “evidence-based medicine” movement that was gathering momentum at the time. [00:08:47] Dawn asks John about his work with the late Tom Chalmers, who played a major role in the development of randomized controlled trials. [00:09:58] John talks about returning to Greece to take a position at the University of Ioannina. [00:12:03] John talks about his 2005 paper “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” which became the single most-cited and downloaded paper in the history of the journal PLoS Medicine. [00:15:32] Dawn mentions that when the paper came out, it was theoretical model. She asks John to talk about how now there are a number of studies pointing out problems with preclinical research on drug targets. [00:17:34] Dawn asks John about his decision to leave the University of Ioannina to take a position at Stanford University. [00:21:02] Dawn asks John for his thoughts on ways to improve the peer-review process. [00:24:09] John talks about how he and his colleagues have found that most medical information that doctors rely on is flawed. [00:26:27] Dawn points out that a major issue facing science is a lack of replication. She talks about how funding for repeat studies is hard to come by and that ma...
Nov 20, 2018
Episode 76: Dava Newman on getting humans to Mars and creating the next-generation spacesuit
Today’s episode features Dr. Dava Newman, the first female engineer to serve as NASA’s deputy administrator. Dava  is currently the Apollo Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more than 20 years, she has worked passionately to figure out what it will take to put humans on Mars. She is perhaps best known, however, for developing a next-generation spacesuit called the BioSuit, a slim-fitting compression suit that’s designed to make it easier for astronauts to move around on lunar surfaces. Dava joined the faculty at MIT in 1993 and served as NASA’s deputy administrator from 2015 to 2017. She also is on the faculty of the Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology department. As the director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program from 2003 to 2015, she led the institute’s largest multidisciplinary graduate research program with more 1,200 alumni. She is the author of “Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design,” an introductory engineering textbook, and has published more than 300 papers. Links to Dava’s book, papers and bio, as well as videos of the BioSuit, are included at the bottom of the show notes. In today’s interview with Dava, we discuss: [00:03:01] Her memories of watching the Apollo Moon landings as a child. [00:06:36] How Dava made the Notre Dame women’s varsity basketball team as a walk-on. [00:09:49] Her work over the past 20 years to get people on Mars. [00:11:19] Dava’s thinking behind the design of a slim-fitting spacesuit. 00:15:12] The physiological monitoring systems she would like to see incorporated into next-generation spacesuits. [00:26:00] How she thought the call from the White House about the NASA position was a prank. [00:27:06] Dava’s takeaways from her four space missions to measure astronaut performance in microgravity. [00:28:41] Her transition back to MIT after her stint as NASA deputy administrator. [00:38:42] Dava’s advice for today’s young aspiring scientists and engineers, a group she says will become known as the Mars generation. Show notes: [00:02:30] Dawn begins the interview by asking Dava to elaborate on comments she has made about having the best job in the world. [00:03:01] Dawn asks Dava about growing up in Montana during the Apollo years and watching the moon landings on TV. [00:03:43] Dava talks about her years in middle school and high school. [00:04:17] Ken asks Dava about her decision to attend Notre Dame. [00:05:40] Dava talks about how she was often the only women in her science and engineering classes back in the early 1980s. [00:06:36] Dawn asks Dava about making the Notre Dame women’s varsity basketball team as a walk-on. [00:08:30] Dawn asks Dava about her decision to write an introductory aerospace engineering textbook shortly after accepting a faculty position at MIT. [00:09:49] Dava talks about how her goal of getting people to Mars has been a passion of hers for the past 20 years. [00:11:19] Ken points out that Dava is perhaps best known for designing a slim-fitting spacesuit call the BioSuit. Ken asks Dava what motivated her to redesign spacesuits. [00:13:38] Dawn asks Dava what human bio-energetic requirements will look like for lunar surface operations and how they differ from current EVA operations? [00:15:12] Dawn asks Dava about the physiological monitoring systems she would like to see incorporated into next generation spacesuits. [00:17:09] Dava talks about how spacesuit design has faced significant biomedical challenges, particularly for women. [00:21:30] Ken mentions that Dava wrote the proposal for the BioSuit while on a sailing trip during a sabbatical, and follows up by asking her to tell the story of how she and her husband became stranded in the middle of the Pacific. [00:26:00] Dava explains that when she got a call from the White House about becoming the deputy administrator for NASA, she thought the phone call was a prank.
Nov 08, 2018
Episode 75: Rob Mueller: Using the resources of space to build lunar outposts on the Moon and Mars
Today’s guest today is Rob Mueller, one of NASA’s senior technologists who is leading an effort to establish a base station on the Moon, and eventually Mars, as well as other destinations in the solar system. Rob is the senior technologist for the Advanced Projects Development at NASA Kennedy Space Center and a co-founder of Swamp Works, an innovation lab that has brought together NASA engineers, researchers and scientists to work on creating Spaceports across the solar system. As most of our listeners know, NASA has been working toward an eventual mission to Mars. But before venturing to Mars, NASA first plans to build a lunar base on the Moon. In announcing the agency’s decision to return to the Moon, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that this time the agency isn’t interested in just leaving flags and footprints on the lunar surface. “This time when we go, we’re going to go to stay,” he said. As part of this mission, Rob’s work is particularly focused on ways to excavate and mine the resources of space so that astronauts and eventually others will be able to live off the land in space. In today’s interview, Rob talks about his nearly 30-year career with NASA as well as the future of space exploration. Topics we cover include: [00:12:40] In order to survive and thrive in space, we need to be able to build things in space. [00:14:51] Rob’s lab at NASA called Swamp Works. [00:18:44] Swamp Works’ goal of expanding civilization into the solar system. [00:20:33] The Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot project. [00:24:59] How there are billions and billions of times the resources in outer space than here on Earth, and our potential to excavate these materials. [00:30:41] The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. [00:35:29] NASA’s decision to return to the Moon before venturing to Mars. [00:37:33] How new technologies being developed for Spaceflight could eventually have applications on Earth as well. [00:40:29] How to survive and thrive on the Moon and Mars, we will need to be able to build landing pads, habitats and roads. [00:49:03] A partnership Swamp Works has with Astrobotic to develop a micro-rover. [00:51:11] How the regolith of the Moon, Mars and other planets as well as asteroids contain valuable resources. [00:54:12] The future of space exploration. [00:57:16] How Rob responds to people who question the cost and relevance of going to the Moon and beyond. [01:02:13] And if people are a little less likely to take Rob’s phone call given that there’s a Robert Mueller in Washington who’s conducting a Russian investigation. Show notes:  [00:03:26] Rob talks about growing up in Portugal and how Rob ended up with an international background as a kid because of his father’s work. [00:04:00] Dawn asks Rob if it’s true that as a 12-year-old he was a pioneer of surfing in Portugal. {00:04:40] Rob talks about how his interest in advanced technology led him to the states and the University of Miami after graduating from high school. [00:06:48} Rob describes how he graduated from Miami shortly after the Challenger accident and ended up applying for a job at NASA. [00:07:56} Ken points out that it was an O-ring on the Solid Rocket Boosters that failed to maintain a seal that led to the Challenger explosion. Ken asks Rob to talk about how he came to work on the Solid Rocket Boosters when NASA hired him in 1989. [00:10:09] Rob talks about he actually was more interested in robotics than space when he went to work at the Kennedy Space Center. [00:11:02] Dawn asks Rob about his decision to work on an MBA at the Florida Institute of Technology while he was working at NASA. [00:11:45] Dawn follows up with a question about how Rob ended up in the Netherlands studying for a master’s degree in internal space systems engineering. [00:12:40] Dawn points out that Rob has been at NASA for nearly 30 years and that he is often quoted as saying that if we...
Oct 26, 2018
Episode 74: Robert Whitaker: the drug-based paradigm of psychiatric care in the U.S.
Today’s guest is a science journalist and author who has written extensively about the pharmaceutical industry. Robert Whitaker is also the founder of Mad in America, a nonprofit organization that focuses on getting people to rethink psychiatric care in the United States. As you will learn in today’s episode, one in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug. More than 130,000 children under the age of five are taking addictive anti-anxiety drugs prescribed by doctors. Whitaker has spent most of his career focused on changing the current drug-based paradigm of psychiatric care in the U.S. He has written three books about the pharmaceutical industry and the psychiatric profession. He has looked at how drugs used for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are causing a spike in America’s disability numbers. He also has investigated the history of medications prescribed for these disorders, how they are marketed, and why they’ve grown in popularity. Discover magazine named Whitaker’s first book, “Mad in America,” one of the best science books of 2002. His second book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism. His third book, “Psychiatry Under the Influence,” is a textbook used in university classrooms around the country. In today’s interview, we discuss: [00:11:08] When Robert first became disillusioned with the pharmaceutical industry [00:16:53] How Robert’s investigation into schizophrenia in the U.S. led him to write his first book,  “Mad In America.” [00:26:58] Why the U.S. has seen such a sharp increase in the number of disabled, mentally ill people since the advent of psychotropic medications. [00:45:10] How many drugs may have efficacy in clinical trials over the short term, but overwhelming evidence shows over the long term many medications actually increase a person’s risk of becoming chronically ill and functionally impaired. [01:00:43] Robert’s investigation into the FDA’s review of studies that looked at Prozac [01:03:38] Antidepressants and their side effects. [01:08:40] How concerns over ADHD have led to an alarming percentage of children, especially boys, being drugged for exhibiting what once considered normal or at least acceptable behavior. And much more. Show notes:  [00:02:24] Robert talks about growing up in Denver and taking family vacations around the country. [00:03:48] Robert explains how in high school he was so convinced he was going to attend Stanford University that he didn’t bother to apply to another college. [00:05:48] Dawn mentions that Robert graduated with a degree in English literature and after college decided he wanted to lead a life of adventure. Dawn asks him where that career path took him. [00:07:11] Robert talks about abandoning his dream of becoming a novelist and taking a job at a small newspaper in upstate New York. [00:08:51] Dawn points out that Robert eventually went to work for a newspaper in Albany, N.Y., where he became a medical writer. She asks him about the year he spent as a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT. [00:09:50] Ken asks Robert about moving to Boston and becoming director of publications at Harvard Medical School. [00:11:08] Robert talks about co-founding CenterWatch, a publishing company focused on the business of clinical drug trials. He describes how he became disillusioned with the pharmaceutical industry because it seemed to him that clinical trials had become so commercialized that they were corrupting the testing of new drugs. [00:13:44] Ken mentions that during this period, Robert came upon information about abuses of psychiatric patients in research settings. Ken asks Robert to share how he took this information and went to the Boston Globe to propose a newspaper series. [00:16:53] Dawn describes how the work Robert did for this series in the Boston Globe led him to information that schizophrenics in ...
Oct 09, 2018
Episode 73: Michael Okun talks about the complexity and treatment of Parkinson’s disease
Nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year in the U.S. The disease is an incredibly complex disorder that affects more than 10 million people worldwide. Our guest today is Dr. Michael Okun, who is considered the world’s foremost authority on the treatment of Parkinson’s.He is the Adelaide Lackner Professor and Chair of Neurology at the University of Florida Health College of Medicine as well as the co-director of the university’s Fixel Center for Neurological Diseases. The center is known for its interdisciplinary faculty that provides a one-stop, patient-centered clinical research experience that attracts patients from around the world. Since 2006, Michael has been the National Medical Director for the Parkinson’s Foundation and works very closely with a wide range of organizations such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The American Society for Experimental Nuerotherapeutics recently awarded Michael the 2018 Presidential Award.  In 2015, he was recognized during a White House ceremony by the Obama administration as a “Champion for Parkinson’s Disease.” Michael also is an accomplished writer with more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and even a book of poetry. In today’s episode, we discuss: [00:17:56]What Parkinson’s disease is and the wide range of symptoms that can arise as a result of the disease. [00:29:19] How Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed since there is no specific test that can diagnose the disease. [00:32:11] The common risk factors associated with neurodegenerative disease. [00:38:20] The actor Alan Alda’s recent announcement that he has been living with Parkinson’s for more than a year. [00:41:04] A UCSF study that looked at the prevalence of Parkinson’s among veterans who had experienced traumatic brain injury. [00:46:32] Treatments that are available for Parkinson’s. [00:55:57] The cognitive, behavioral and mood effects of deep-brain stimulation. [01:17:11] The potential use of brain prosthetics or orthotics in patients with neurological disease. [01:29:26] Whether Parkinson’s therapy is moving toward local, systemic or a combination of the therapies. [01:31:48] The relationship between metabolism and nutrition and the progression of Parkinson’s disease. And much more.  Show notes: [00:02:53] Michael begins the interview taking about growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, and his love of baseball and collecting baseball cards. [00:03:39] After high school, Michael decided to attend Florida State University and focus on a liberal arts education. Dawn asks Michael if it’s safe to assume he wasn’t thinking about medical school when he started college. [00:04:53] Dawn asks Michael how a history major ultimately decides to become an MD. [00:06:18] Ken asks Michael to elaborate on a funny story about how he ended up going to the University of Florida for medical school. [00:10:10] Michael talks about how went to med school thinking he wanted to be a black-back family practitioner, but became so interested in neurology that he changed his mind. [00:13:06] Ken mentions that during Michael’s time at Florida, he became fascinated by what was going on in the brain of people who had tremors. Ken asks Michael if that is what led him to focus on Parkinson’s disease during his postdoc at Emory? [00:17:56] Even though most people are familiar with images of people like Michael J. Fox and Mohammed Ali who have tremors, most people aren’t aware that Parkinson’s has a wide range of symptoms, which makes it an incredibly complex disease. Michael gives an overview of Parkinson’s and the various symptoms that can arise as result of the disease. [00:22:29] Since Parkinson’s is such a remarkably complex and multi-system disease, Ken asks Michael how he integrates the different clinical disciplines that are required to treat someone with Parkinson’s. [00:29:19] Ken mentions that there is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson’...
Sep 25, 2018
Episode 72: Peter Norvig talks about working at Google, digital privacy, fake news, killer robots and AI’s future
Today’s episode features a timely interview with Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig.  He is also the co-author of “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach,” which is in its third edition and is a leading AI textbook. In today’s interview, we talk to Peter about fake news, trolls, self-driving cars, killer robots, the future of artificial intelligence, and a lot more. We also talk to Peter about digital privacy. Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have been facing heavy criticism recently over the way they handle people’s digital data. In May, Europe began enforcing a new law that restricts how people’s online data is obtained and used. In June, California passed a privacy law that requires tech and information companies to share how they’re collecting people’s data and how they’re sharing that information.  At the moment, Congress is considering a federal privacy law that also covers how personal digital data is handled. Ken and Peter have a history that goes back to their days at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Ken was the center’s associate director at the time and recruited Peter to become the center’s chief of the Computational Sciences Division. In today’s episode, we discuss: How artificial intelligence has changed since the days when Peter first became a practicing AI professional. [00:19:20] How AI research is now increasingly driven by commercial interests rather than government grants. [00:23:39] What deep learning is and what the word “deep” means in this context. [00:27:48] The philosophical questions that surround AI, such as: “What does it mean to be intelligent?” and “Can a machine be conscious?” [00:36:58] Search function and privacy. [00:44:32] Google’s responsibility for the content posted on their platforms. [00:50:06] The problems that arise when tech companies police content. [00:51:17] Peter’s thoughts about a meeting Elon Musk had with U.S. governors where he urged them to adopt AI legislation before “robots start going down the street killing people.” [00:56:18] The meaning of “singularity” and whether Peter believes in it. [01:03:19] Peter’s advice for listeners who are interested in going to work for Google someday. [01:12:10] Show notes: [00:02:15] Dawn begins the interview asking Peter about an interview he did with FORBES magazine where he said, “I don’t care so much whether what we are building is real intelligence. We know how to build real intelligence. My wife and I did it twice, although she did a lot more of the work. We don’t need to duplicate humans, that’s why I focus on creating tools to help us rather than duplicating what we already know how to do. We want humans and machines to partner and do what humans and machines couldn’t do on their own.” Dawn asks Peter to expand on this belief and how it influenced his career. [00:03:23] Dawn asks Peter about growing up in Boston and his habit of writing the local newspaper to complain about innumeracy and the sloppy language in its science stories. [00:04:36] Ken mentions Peter’s father was a math professor and his mother an English literature professor. While in high school, even though teachers suggested a career in journalism, Peter decided to learn programming instead. Peter talks about how he also took a class in linguistics, which led him to start thinking about using computers to process natural language. [00:05:54] Dawn asks Peter about classes he took at Brown University that led him to start thinking about artificial intelligence. [00:07:00] Dawn mentions that Peter went to the University of California Berkeley for his Ph.D. and asks him what motivated him to enroll in the computer science department and research AI. [00:08:03] Dawn asks Peter about the research he did after receiving his Ph.D. and becoming an assistant professor at University of Southern California as a research faculty member.
Sep 11, 2018
Episode 71: Elizabeth Nance talks about using nanotechnology to understand and treat brain diseases
Episode 71: Elizabeth Nance talks about using nanotechnology to understand and treat brain diseases SEO: Elizabeth Nance, Nance Lab, University of Washington, nanotechnology, autism, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, nanoparticles, blood-brain barrier,diffusion,dendrimer-NAC conjugates,Einstein’s brain, chemical engineering,Ken Ford,Dawn Kernagis,IHMC Our guest today has been described by Forbes magazine as one of the “most disruptive, game-changing and innovating young personalities in science.” Dr. Elizabeth Nance is known for her passionate search to find ways to more efficiently connect resources and information across multiple scientific and engineering disciplines. Her research focuses on using nanotechnology to understand the movement of molecules in the brain. She is particularly focused on better ways to treat brain diseases like autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy. Elizabeth is the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington. She also has an adjunct appointment in the school’s radiology department. Elizabeth and her lab, the Nance Lab, recently was awarded a $1.8-million-dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop quantitative, high resolution imaging and analysis platforms to understand nanoparticle behavior, with a specific focus on the brain. In today’s episode, we discuss: The pushback Elizabeth received in college when she tried to apply chemical engineering to neurological diseases. [00:11:33] How Elizabeth developed the first nanoparticles that could penetrate deep within the brain. [00:13:52] The many potential applications of nanoparticle technology in the treatment of neurological disorders, diseases and injuries. [00:17:10] The structure, and unique functions of the blood-brain barrier. [00:28:11] The dendrimer-NAC conjugates, and how they increase intracellular glutathione to reduce injury in the inflamed brain. [00:35:01] How “disease directing engineering” has the potential to allow for the leveraging of common hallmarks of neurological disease to better deliver therapies. [00:40:19] How change in brain metabolism affects targeted therapeutic deliveries to a specific region of the brain. [00:52:14] Show notes: [00:03:31] Elizabeth talks about growing up in North Carolina and how her family goes back nine generations to the original homesteaders of Charlotte. [00:04:06] Dawn mentions that Elizabeth liked to spend a lot of time outdoors as a child and asks her if it is true that she was especially good at climbing trees. [00:05:12] Dawn asks Elizabeth about her hectic schedule in high school, which, in addition to her studies, included soccer, track and volleyball. [00:06:03] Ken asks Elizabeth when she became interested in science. [00:08:22] Dawn mentions how in North Carolina a person has to decide early on if they are a Chapel Hill fan or a North Carolina State fan. Dawn asks if this culture contributed to Elizabeth going to NC State. [00:09:28] Dawn asks Elizabeth about her decision to major in chemical engineering. [00:11:33] Dawn asks Elizabeth to discuss the pushback she received in college when she tried to apply chemical engineering to neurological diseases. [00:13:52] Ken mentions that Elizabeth developed the first nanoparticles that could penetrate deep within the brain. This was a major reason why Forbes named her one of its “30 Under 30 Disruptive Influencers in Science” back in 2015. He asks if she could talk about the work she did in developing that platform and how it changed the way we might think about delivering drugs in the brain. [00:17:10]Ken mentions that there are many potential applications of nanoparticle technology in the treatment of neurological disorders, diseases and injuries. He asks Elizabeth to describe the structure of a nanoparticle in general, and how it can accomplish targeted delivery of a therapeutic.
Aug 28, 2018
Episode 70: David Sabatini on the discovery of mTOR and its role in disease, longevity & healthspan
Peter Attia, who was our very first guest on STEM-Talk, describes David Sabatini’s discovery of mTOR as one of his two favorite science stories. Today, Dr. David Sabatini joins us and gives us a first-hand account of how his research into rapamycin in 1994 as a graduate student led him to the discovery of mTOR, which we now know is a critical regulator of cellular growth. Our interview with David delves into his continuing research into mTOR, which has led to promising opportunities for the development of new treatments for debilitating diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. He also discusses mTOR’s role in healthspan and lifespan. David is a molecular cell biologist who, according to Reuters News Service, is on the short list for a Nobel Prize. David is on the faculty at MIT and heads up the Sabatini Lab at the Whitehead Institute. In today’s episode, we discuss: • Rapamycin, a macrolide antibiotic discovered in the soil of Easter Island • David’s discovery of mTOR while a grad student at Johns Hopkins • mTOR’s role as one of the major growth pathways in the body • mTOR’s role as a nutrient sensor • How mTOR inhibiton has become one of the hottest topics in longevity research • mTOR’s role in diseases, especially its connection to cancer • The role of RAG GTPases as key mTOR mediators • Protein intake and downstream mTOR activation • Research into ketogenic diets effect on longevity and healthspan • Whether David would take rapamycin as a means to enhance his longevity • And much, much more Show notes: [00:03:32] David talks about growing up in New York and having parents who immigrated to the United States from Argentina. [00:04:00] Dawn asks what David was like as a kid. [00:04:59] Dawn asks David about his decision to attend Brown University. [00:05:56] David talks about his decision to become a scientist and the time he spent in the lab of Al Dahlberg [00:06:53] Ken mentions that after his time at Brown, David headed off for Johns Hopkins to work in Sol Snyder’s lab, a professor known particularly for the work he and his colleagues did on the opioid receptor. Ken asks what drew David to Sol’s lab. [00:08:25] David talks about how as graduate student at Johns Hopkins in the M.D./Ph.D. program, he began trying to understand the molecular mechanism of rapamycin, a macrolide antibiotic discovered in the soil of Easter Island. Rapamycin was known as a potent antifungal, immunosuppressive with anti-tumorigenic properties. That research led David to the major discovery in 1994 of the protein to which rapamycin binds, now referred to as the mechanistic target of rapamycin, or mTOR. [00:11:46] Dawn asks David to give a high-level definition and overview of what mTOR does. [00:13:44] Dawn asks why the “m” in mTOR went from standing for “mammalian” to “mechanistic.” [00:14:11] Ken mentions that we now know mTOR is one of the major growth pathways in the body that is responsible for growth in both a positive sense and a pathologic sense. He goes on to mention that mTOR acts as a major switch between catabolism and anabolism, and asks David to explain why both of these processes are essential for survival. [00:16:10] Dawn asks how the two different mTOR protein complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, differ with regards to their activation and downstream function. [00:17:40] Dawn asks David about his decision to join the faculty atMIT and embark on a research-focused career there, starting his own lab at the Whitehead Institute rather than following the clinical path arising from his M.D. [00:20:50] Ken asks about how nutrients and other inputs are sensed and integrated by the mTOR complexes, given how one of the most fascinating aspects about mTORC1 is its role as a nutrient sensor. [00:23:46] Ken asks why both nutrients and growth factors are required to activate mTORC1. [00:25:54] Dawn mentions her interest in the connection of mTOR to aging,
Aug 14, 2018
Episode 69: David LeMay talks about countering inflammation with SPMs
Dr. David LeMay is a sports medicine and rehabilitation physician who is a consultant for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, which won the Stanley Cup this year, their first in the franchise history. Dave is also a neighbor of ours in Pensacola who has a practice called Lifestyle and Performance Medicine that is located just a few blocks from IHMC. Dave and his practice partner provide personalized preventative care that helps people reduce the effects of stress on the body and mind to maximize function and health. In his practice, Dave works with a lot of athletes as well as retired and active military members, particularly people in special-ops, who have inflammation as a result of persistent injuries and traumas. Dave often recommends specialized pro-resolving mediators, also known as SPMs, which help promote the natural termination of the inflammation process and allow a person to avoid anti-inflammatory drugs. We will especially be talking with Dave about this rather new way of treatment in today’s interview. Some other topics we cover in Dave’s interview: Neuroendocrine dysfunction, especially among military veterans. The role of inflammation in concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Dave’s work with the NFL Players Association Trust. The role of specialized pro-resolving mediators in an aging population. The proper dosage of SPMs for subacute inflammation. Dave’s efforts to improve the diets of former NFL players. The key components of keeping athletes healthy through an entire season. The correlation between heath-rate variability and athletic performance. Proper sideline protocols for players who sustain head injuries. Optimal treatment for people who suffer TBI and concussions. Establishing baselines for a person’s neuroendocrine function. The role of DHA and EPA consumption for maintaining optimal brain health. And much, much more. Show notes: [00:04:18] Dave begins the interview talking about growing up in Reno, Nevada, and playing sports non-stop as a kid. [00:4:35] Dawn comments on how Dave’s love of sports lead to some injuries, including a few broken fingers and torn ligaments, and says she understands that this is how Dave first became interested in science. [00:05:31] Dawn asks Dave about his decision to head to California after high school to attend Azusa Pacific University. [00:06:37] Dawn asks what lead Dave back home to attend med school at the University of Reno. [00:07:13] Ken asks Dave at what point he decided to specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation. [00:08:33] Dawn mentions that the University of Texas Health Science Center has one of the best physical medicine and rehab programs in the country. She asks Dave if this was the reason he decided to go there for his residency. [00:09:21] Ken comments on how after Dave’s residency, he stayed in Austin for almost a year. But then Dave moved Pensacola and Ken asks how that came about. [00:11:04] Dawn asks about Dave’s private practice, called Lifestyle and Performance Medicine, which he and his partner opened in 2013 after their time at the Andrews Institute. [00:11:27] Ken points out that veterans, and some active-duty folks, particularly those with special operations backgrounds, comprise about half of Dave’s practice. Ken says he understands Dave has seen a great deal of neuroendocrine dysfunction in this group, and asks Dave for his observations. [00:12:56] Ken mentions that Dave is the medical director for a program that is run through the NFL Players Association Trust. He asks Dave to describe the type of rehab that this program provides the former NFL players. [00:14:54] Dawn comments on the concept of inflammation being a unifying component of many diseases that afflict Western Civilization, and how it is also a major contributor to the magnitude and persistence of diff...
Jul 31, 2018
Episode 68: Steve Anton talks about diet, exercise, intermittent fasting and lifestyle interventions to improve health
What’s the best way to eat and the right way to exercise to ensure a healthy lifespan? Our guest today is Dr. Stephen Anton, a psychologist who has spent his career researching how lifestyle factors can influence not only obesity, but also cardiovascular disease and other metabolic conditions. Steve is an associate professor and the chief of the Clinical Research Division in the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research at the University of Florida. In today’s episode, we talk to Steve about his work in developing lifestyle interventions designed to modify people’s eating and exercise behaviors in an effort to improve their healthspan and lifespan. One of Steve’s best-known papers appeared in the Obesity Journal titled “Flipping the Metabolic Switch.” The study looked at intermittent fasting and suggested that the metabolic switch into ketosis represents an evolutionary conserved trigger point that has the potential to improve body composition in overweight individuals. Topics we cover in today’s interview include: The increasing prevalence of metabolic syndrome associated with aging. Why so many hospital health and wellness programs fail. How fasting and intermittent energy restriction promote autophagy. The relationship between muscle quality, body fat and health. How age-related loss of muscle function and mass leads to sarcopenia. Effects, risks and benefits of testosterone supplementation in older men. Optimal exercise methods for long-term health. Therapeutic approaches that potentially can help avert systemic inflammation associated with aging. Steve’s study that looked at the effects of popular diets on weight loss. Controversies surrounded calorie restriction as a strategy to enhance longevity. Show notes: 2:30: Steve talks about growing up in Tampa and playing sports as a kid. 3:53: Dawn asks Steve about his decision to attend Florida State after high school. 4:17: Dawn comments on how Steve bounced between medicine, business, and psychology before finally deciding to major in psychology. She asks if having two parents who were also psychologists played a role in his decision. 5:24: Ken asks about Steven’s experience pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Florida. 6:28: Dawn brings up that Steve became a fellow of behavioral medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. She mentions that Pennington has one of the nation’s premier programs in obesity metabolism and diabetes. She asks if that was the reason he decided on Pennington. 9:33: Dawn asks what prompted Steve to return to the University of Florida. 10:08: Ken asks what is driving the increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome that’s associated with advanced age. 11:19: Dawn brings up how hospitals have tried to promote health and wellness programs for decades, but notes how hospitals are designed to treat people who are sick and injured rather than delivering lifestyle interventions. She asks if Steve can give a summary of what he has learned in looking at ways to deliver interventions. 13:23: Dawn mentions that the traditional treatment and management approaches for type 2 diabetes are relatively ineffective and only reverse the disease in about one percent of the cases. 15:02: Ken mentions that Jeff Volek, STEM-Talk Guest on episode 43, has been a pioneer in researching type 2 diabetes. 16:49: Dawn points out that she and Ken had an in-depth conversation with Dr. Mark Matson about autophagy on episode seven of STEM-Talk. Matson also discussed fasting, and intermittent energy restriction and how it promotes autophagy, which is often described as the body’s innate recycling system. Dawn asks if Steve can elaborate a little on this process. 18:02: Dawn mentions that Steve has written about muscle quality and body composition and the risk of metabolic diseases and functional decline. She asks about the relationship between muscle quality,
Jul 17, 2018
Episode 67: Doug Wallace talks about mitochondria, our human origins and the possibility of mitochondria-targeted therapies
Today’s guest is Dr. Douglas Wallace, the director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is internationally known as the founder of mitochondrial genetics. Mitochondria are tiny structures within cells that produce 90 percent of a person’s energy and play an essential role in health and disease. Dr. Wallace's groundbreaking research in the 1970s defined the genetics of DNA within the mitochondria, as distinct from DNA in a cell's nucleus. His research has shown that mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from the mother and that genetic alterations in the mitochondrial DNA can result in a wide range of metabolic and degenerative diseases. One of Dr. Wallace’s seminal contributions has been to use a mitochondrial DNA variation to reconstruct human origins and the ancient migrations of women. These studies revealed that humans arose in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago, and that women as well as men left Africa about 65,000 years ago to colonize Eurasia. Dr. Wallace was inducted last year into the Italian Academy of Sciences during the academy’s 234th annual meeting in Rome. Founded in 1782, membership in the academy is limited to 40 Italian scientists and 25 foreign members. Over the years, the academy has seen such notable members as Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Louis Pasteur and Rita Levi-Montalcini. Links: Dr. Wallace’s Children's Hospital of Philadelphia bio:  Mitochondrial DNA Variation in Human Radiation and Disease Wallace Cell Perspective 9-26-15 Mitochondrial DNA Mutation Associated with Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy Wallace LHON 11778 Science 1988 A Mitochondrial Bioenergetic Etiology of Disease Wallace JCI Wallace JAMA Psychiatry2017 Association Between Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Variation and Autism Disorders Chalkia_jamapsychiatry_2017 Maternal Inheritance of Human Mitochondrial DNA Giles Maternal Inheritance 1980 Show notes:  3:32: Dawn opens the interview by mentioning that Doug grew up exploring the woods outside his neighborhood in the suburbs of Annapolis, Maryland. Dawn asks if his time outdoors sparked his interest in science when he was young. 4:14: Dawn asks Doug what led him to attend Cornell University after graduating from high school. 5:15: Doug talks about his decision to focus on genetics in school. 6:21: Dawn asks Doug how he selected Yale for his graduate studies. 7:49: Ken mentions that mitochondria can be considered bacterial “power-pack” organelles that generate the majority of a cell’s energy, as well as much else. He goes on to say that mitochondria account for about 30 percent of our bodyweight, and that there are roughly 500 trillion of them. He finally points out that despite all this that they are surprisingly under attended to and asks Doug to give listeners a brief mitochondria 101. 13:37: Ken mentions how he’s glad Doug answered the question of how mitochondria ended up losing 99 percent of their original genes, considering that mitochondria used to be free living bacteria with roughly 1,500 genes. 15:25: Dawn points out that Doug and his colleagues are credited with founding the field of human mitochondrial genetics more than 40 years ago.  She then asks if anyone else was doing similar research when Doug started working on human mitochondrial genetics during his post-doc. 17:55: Following his post-doc at Yale, Doug spent seven years at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dawn asks Doug about his work during this time. 22:01: Dawn mentions that in 1983 Doug became the professor of biochemistry, anthropology and pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta. During this time, he also was chairperson and senior editor of the Mitochondrial DNA Locus-Specific Database for the Human Genome Organization. Dawn asks what that work entailed.
Jul 03, 2018
Episode 66: Peter Neuhaus talks about exoskeletons, robotics, and the development of exercise technologies for space and Earth
In today’s episode, Ken and Dawn interview their colleague Dr. Peter Neuhaus, a senior research scientist here at IHMC. Peter is an engineer well-known for his work on wearable robotic devices. In particular, Peter has focused on lower extremity exoskeleton devices and their applications for mobility assistance for paraplegics and other people with disabilities or partial paralysis. In 2016, Peter lead an IHMC team that won a silver medal in the international Cybathlon, a competition conducted in Zurich in which people with disabilities used advanced assistive devices, including robotic technologies, to compete against each other. In today’s interview, Peter talks about IHMC’s humanoid robotic efforts as well as his work with NASA designing an exercise machine for a human mission to Mars or other missions beyond low earth orbit. Peter also describes the work he is doing with IHMC High-Performance Director Joe Gomes, the former Oakland Raiders strength and conditioning coach. Peter and Joe as well as others at IHMC are designing exercise technologies to extend the resilience of high-performing humans, such as astronauts and elite warfighters. Many of these technologies will eventually be able to be utilized by the general public. Links:  Peter Neuhaus IHMC page:  DARPA Robotics Challenge videos:  Cybathlon videos:  IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine article about Cybathlon:  IHMC newsletter article about Cybathlon:  IHMC newsletter article about DARPA Robotics Challenge:  Show notes: 3:03: Dawn asks Peter about growing up in New York City. 3:33: Ken mentions that after high-school, Peter enrolled at MIT. Ken asks Peter what led him there. 4:04: Ken asks why Peter decided to major in mechanical engineering. 4:35: Dawn asks Peter what led him to travel across the country to attend the University of California, Berkeley for graduate school after he graduated from MIT. 5:10: Dawn asks what it was like for Peter to teach science to 5th- and 6th-graders as well as high-schoolers in Brooklyn after he received his master’s degree from Berkeley. 6:23: Peter talks about how after two years of teaching, he decided his window of opportunity to get a doctorate was shrinking and that it was essentially “now or never,” which led him back to Berkeley. 7:02: Dawn mentions that once Peter finished his doctorate, he went to work for a startup as a mechanical engineer. She asks what sort of work he did there. 7:47: Dawn talks about how a year and a half after getting his doctorate Peter met his future wife, who eventually led him to Pensacola, and in a roundabout way, to IHMC. She asks if he could share how that all came about. 9:22: Ken comments on how since joining IHMC in 2003, Peter has focused on wearable robotics systems and legged robots. Ken further mentions that Peter was one of the lead IHMC researchers participating in the DARPA Learning Locomotion project, where he helped develop quadrupedal locomotion algorithms for the Little Dog robot. Ken asks if Peter could talk about his work on this project? 11:08: Dawn, continuing with the discussion about DARPA projects, mentions that Peter played an important role in both the development of technology and in the management of IHMC’s humanoid robotics effort for the DARPA Robotics Challenge that was held between 2013 and 2015. IHMC placed second and brought home $1 million in prize money. Dawn asks what that experience was like. 12:10: Ken mentions there were three competitions that were part of the robotics challenge, and asks Peter to talk about IHMC’s performance in each of the competitions.
Jun 19, 2018
Episode 65: Dr. Brendan Egan talks about the importance of muscle and his research into exogenous ketones
Dr. Brendan Egan is an Associate Professor of Sport and  Exercise Physiology at Dublin City University who is well known for research that shows resistance training can improve strength, muscle mass, reduce falls in older people, and perhaps even extend lifespans. In addition to being a first-class researcher, Brendan is also a stand-out player in Ireland’s national sport, Gaelic football. His current research is exploring the synergy between nutrition and exercise interventions to optimize performance in athletes and the elderly. Current projects also involve protein hydrolysates in recovery and glycemic management; leucine and n-3 PUFAs in the elderly; and exogenous ketones and athletic performance. Links:  Brendan Egan’s faculty page:!W_VALOCAL_DCU_PORTAL.PROFILE?WPBPRSN=1631629 Brendan Egan’s Researchgate profile Brendan Egan’s TEDx talk: Exercise Metabolism and the Molecular Regulation of Skeletal Muscle Adaptation Metabolism of ketone bodies during exercise and training: Fueling performance: Ketones Enter the Mix: Does Strength-Promoting Exercise Confer Unique Health Benefits? Does Strength-Promoting Exercise Confer Unique Health Benefits? Show notes: 2:46: Dawn opens by mentioning that Brendan was born in Detroit, and that his Irish father moved the family to Ireland when Brendan was 3 years old. Dawn asks if Brendan’s mother was American. 4:09: Dawn comments on how Brendan was very athletic as a child and played Gaelic football, which is Ireland’s national sport, and asks if he could explain how this game is played. 6:02: Ken, following up on the last question, asks what Brendan’s training is like for this sport, and how he manages to fit it into his busy schedule as a professor. 7:41: Dawn asks if it is true that even though Brendan’s best grades were in math and physics, he never considered a career in science while he was in high school. 8:37: Dawn mentions that Brendan ended up at the University of Limerick after graduating, asking what made him decide to attend Limerick as well as what prompted him to major in sports and exercise science. 9:46: Dawn asks about two people, Phil Jakeman and John Kirwan, who played a big role in shaping Brendan’s education at Limerick. 11:58: Dawn comments on how after completing his bachelor’s of science degree, Brendan went to work on his master’s, heading to the UK and attending Loughborough University where he graduated with distinction in sports exercise and nutrition. Dawn asks what made him decide to attend Loughborough, and what stood out about his time there. 13:33: Dawn mentions that Brendan returned to Ireland in 2004 to start his doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. Donal J O'Gorman at Dublin City University. Dawn asks what that experience was like. 15:06: Ken asks what Brendan learned from his research with Dr. O’Gorman, which focused on skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise and, in particular, continuity between acute molecular responses to individual bouts of exercise and the adaptations in skeletal muscle induced by exercise training. 18:30: Dawn asks what took Brendan to Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. 19:51: Brendan talks about his work at Karolinska using animal intravenous cell systems, and his research into transcriptional regulation of skeletal muscle insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes utilizing small non-coding RNA’s. 23:39: Ken mentions that Brendan’s first faculty posit...
Jun 05, 2018
Episode 64: Valter Longo talks about the fasting-mimicking diet and the keys to longevity
Today’s episode features Dr. Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California. Valter is best known for his research on stem cells and aging as well as his fasting-mimicking diet. Often referred to as FMD, the diet is intended to avoid the downsides of fasting while reaping the health benefits of a calorie-restrictive diet. Over a 25-year career, Valter has published numerous papers about the ways specific diets can activate stem cells and promote regeneration and rejuvenation in multiple organs to reduce the risk for diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. He writes about this research and diet in a book that was released earlier this year, “The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease and Optimizer Weight.” The book details an easy-to-follow everyday diet that is combined with short periods of the fasting-mimicking diet. Valter says the diet has the potential to help people live healthier and longer lives. Valter is a native of Genoa, Italy and moved Chicago when he was 16. He received his bachelor’s of science degree at the University of North Texas in 1992 and his Ph.D. at UCLA in 1997. Links: Longevity Center website: Longo’s USC faculty page: “The Longevity Diet”: A periodic diet that mimics fasting promotes multi-system regeneration: Fasting-Mimicking Diet Promotes Ngn3-Driven β-Cell Regeneration: Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging: Prolon FMD website: Show notes: 2:24: Dawn opens the interview by mentioning that Valter was born and raised in Genoa, Italy, the hometown of Christopher Columbus. She asks if reports of him driving his neighbors mad playing Dire Straits, Jimmy Hendricks and Pink Floyd on his electric guitar as a youth are accurate. 2:43: Dawn asks Valter what his parents said when he tried to talk them into letting him go to London to be a rock star when he was 12 years old? 3:10: Valter left home when he was 16 to go visit an aunt in Chicago, but ended up staying in Chicago to go to school and play music. Dawn asks what that was like? 3:49: Dawn comments on how in addition to being exposed to some of the best blues music in the world, Valter also was exposed to some of the unhealthiest food in the world. Valter then talks about what he refers to as “the heart-attack diet.” 4:48: Dawn asks what lead Valter to attend the University of North Texas College of Music. 5:30: Valter joined the Army Reserve to help pay for college and ended up assigned to a battalion of Army tankers. Ken asks Valter what that was like. 6:15: Dawn asks if it’s true that the idea of directing a marching band lead Valter to switch majors as a sophomore. 7:07: Dawn comments on how not many jazz performance majors, who have never taken a biology course, decide to switch their major to biochemistry. She asks Valter what the people in the biochemistry department had to say about that. 8:04: Dawn mentions that when Valter was five years old, he saw his ailing grandfather pass away. She asks him to talk about that experience and the role it played in his decision to study aging. 9:14: Dawn mentions that after switching over to biochemistry and graduating from college in 1992, Valter headed to UCLA, which at the time was one of the world’s leading centers of longevity research. She asks Valter how that opportunity came about. 10:22: Ken brings up Valter’s work at UCLA in the lab of the pathologist, Roy Walford. Valter studied the effects of caloric restriction in the lab and ...
May 22, 2018
Episode 63: Keith Baar talks about collagen synthesis, ketogenic diet, mTORC1 signaling, autophagy, post strength training nutrition, and more…
Dr. Keith Baar joins Ken and Dawn today for the second of his two-part interview for STEM-Talk. Keith is a renowned scientist in the emerging field of molecular exercise physiology who has made fundamental discoveries on how muscles grow bigger, stronger, and more fatigue resistant. He is the head of the Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. In his lab, he leads a team of researchers attempting to develop ways to improve muscle, tendon and ligament function. Part one of our interview, episode 62, covered Keith’s childhood in Canada and his undergrad years at the University of Michigan as well as his time at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a master’s degree in human biophysics. We talked about Keith’s work at the University of Illinois, where he received a doctorate in physiology and biophysics. We also covered Keith’s time in the lab of John Holloszy, who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States, as well as the five years Keith spent at the University of Dundee in Scotland. Episode 63 picks up with Keith explaining his decision to return to the states and join the faculty at the University of California, Davis.  Ken and Dawn then talk to Keith about his most recent research, some of which is looking at how to determine the best way to train, as well as what types of foods compliment training to decrease tendon and ligament injury and accelerate return to play. This work has the potential to improve muscle function not only in athletes, but also improve people’s quality of life as they age. Another key topic covered in part two of our interview is the research Keith is doing on a ketogenic diet and its potential to reduce cancer rates and improve cognition. Keith also provides his thoughts on what optimal workouts and nutrition should look like. Links: Baar’s UC Davis physiology department bio: Baar’s UC Davis biology department bio: Functional Molecular Biology Lab website:  Molecular brakes regulating mTORC1 activation in skeletal muscle paper: Age-related Differences in Dystrophin article: Show notes: 2:54: Dawn begins part 2 of our interview by mentioning that for the past eight years, Keith has been working at the University of California Davis. She asks Keith what prompted him to return to the U.S. from Scotland and join the faculty at UC Davis. 3:37: Dawn points out that Keith’s Functional Molecular Biology Lab conducts research across a range of related topics, including musculoskeletal development and adaptation as well as methods for engineering functional musculoskeletal tissues in vitro. She asks Keith to give a high-level overview of some of that research. 4:16: Dawn comments that some of Keith’s recent work has shown that we can use specific nutrition and training strategies to optimize injury recovery and prevention. She goes on to say that musculoskeletal injuries are among the most common problems that active people have. 8:45: Ken talks about how Keith has noted that tendon stiffness is dependent upon collagen content, and the amount of crosslinks within. He goes on to mention that Keith has developed various training modalities, as well as nutritional protocols, that can increase and decrease tendon stiffness. Ken begins this line of inquiry by asking about the training methods for this purpose. 12:04: Following up on the previous question, Ken asks whether anyone has looked at how blood flow restriction training, which is increasing in popularity, affects tendon stiffness. 13:32: Dawn moves on to asking about nutrition. She mentions that Keith’s lab has done a great deal of...
May 08, 2018
Episode 62: Keith Baar talks about muscle and explains mTOR, PGC-1a, dystrophin, and the benefits of chocolate
Today’s episode is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Keith Baar, the head of the Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. In his capacity as a researcher, Keith has made fundamental discoveries on how muscle grows bigger, stronger, and more fatigue resistant. He is a renowned scientist in the emerging field of molecular exercise physiology, and is leading a team of researchers attempting to develop ways to improve muscle, tendon and ligament function. Part one of our interview features our conversation with Keith about his background and his time time in the lab of John Holloszy, who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States. Episode 63 of STEM-Talk has Dawn and Ken talking to Keith about his most recent research, which is looking at how to determine the best way to train, as well as what types of foods compliment training to decrease tendon and ligament injury and accelerate return to play. This work has the potential to improve muscle function and people’s quality of life, especially as they age. Ken and Dawn also have a conversation with Keith about the research he is doing on a ketogenic diet and its potential to reduce cancer rates and improve cognition. Links: UC Davis physiology department bio: UC Davis biology department bio” Functional Molecular Biology Lab website: Molecular brakes regulating mTORC1 activation in skeletal muscle paper: Age-related Differences in Dystrophin article:  Show notes: 3:14: Dawn opens the interview by mentioning that Keith grew up in Canada, and asks what he was like as a child. 4:02: Dawn asks if Keith was interested in science as a kid. 4:53: Dawn comments that after high school, Keith came to the U.S. to attend the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. She Keith if Michigan was where he first became interested in the science of how muscles work. 7:54: Dawn asks Keith if he played any sports at Michigan. 8:34: Dawn asks what lead Keith to attend the University of California, Berkeley to pursue a master’s degree in human biophysics. 9:39: Dawn mentions that after his time at Berkeley, Keith returned to the Midwest to attend the University of Illinois where he received his doctorate in physiology and biophysics. She asks why he decided on Illinois for his doctoral work. 11:12: Ken mentions that Keith’s Ph.D. work focused on the effect of resistance exercise on specific molecular markers that are related to muscle growth. He goes on to say that Keith identified that mTOR complex 1 was activated in response to resistance exercise and that the activation was proportional to the load across the muscle. He asks Keith to talk about this work and its significance. 16:20: Ken comments how surprising that discovery must have been. 17:33: Ken asks Keith to explain the two basic ways of activating mTORC1 in skeletal muscle. Ken also asks whether these two are merely additive, or if together they elicit a greater muscle protein response than either would independently. 29:49: Dawn mentions that after Illinois, Keith went to work in the lab of John Holloszy at Washington University in St. Louis, a professor of medicine who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States. Dawn asks if is Holloszy is the one who discovered that when people do endurance exercise that their muscles accumulate more mitochondria. 32:24: Ken asks about the role of PGC-1a. 38:43: Ken comments that we know most sports require a combination of strength and endurance for optimal performance, bringing up the topic of concurrent training.
Apr 24, 2018
Episode 61: Chris McCurdy discusses kratom and the opioid crisis
More than 90 Americans a day are dying from opioid abuse. Today’s guest, Dr. Christopher McCurdy, is at the forefront of research designed to help the U.S. deal with this drug overdose crisis. Chris is a medicinal chemist and behavioral pharmacologist at the University of Florida who is internationally known as an expert on kratom, a botanical mixture that has been shown to help people struggling with addiction. He recently became president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, and has spent his career focusing on the design, synthesis and development of drugs to treat pain and drug abuse. Chris earned his bachelor of science degree in pharmacy from Ohio Northern University, and a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy in 1998. He did his postdoctoral work at the University of Minnesota where he focused on opiate chemistry in relation to drug abuse and drug addiction. He joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi in 2001 where much of his research was successful in discovering unique and selective tools for sigma receptors, NPFF receptors and opioid receptors. Dr. McCurdy accepted a post as a professor of medicinal chemistry at Florida in 2017 and became the director of the university’s Translational Drug Development Core.  Links:  Christopher McCurdy UF faculty page: American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists: Translational Drug Development Core:  Suspected Adulteration of Commercial Kratom Products with Hydroxymitragyine: Self-treatment of Opioid Withdrawal Using Kratom: Herbal Medicines for the Management of Opioid Addiction: Show notes:  2:58: Ken opens by asking Chris if he ever dreamed of becoming a professional athlete as a result of growing up in Pittsburg during the hay-day of the Stealers and the Pirates. 3:28: Dawn mentions that Chris’s father was a pharmacist, and his mother, a science teacher. She further mentions that in addition to being interested in sports, that Chris also was interested in science, and she asks what role his parents played in that. 4:45: Dawn mentions that Chris moved to a suburb of Youngstown Ohio just as he was starting high school. Chris talks about playing basketball, being part of a competitive swim team, and his reputation as a fairly straight-laced kid. 5:27: Ken mentions that Chris headed to Ohio Northern University after he graduated from high-school and initially pursued a double major in pharmacy and music. Ken asks what prompted that particular combination. 6:39: Ken talks about how at Ohio Northern, Chris’s first real mentor in science noted his talent for research, and suggested that Chris should head to the University of Georgia for the summer to get acquainted with research. Chris talks about how that eventually led to him attend Georgia for his doctorate. 10:39: Ken asks Chris to talk about his doctoral research into Native American Tobacco. 13:28: Dawn comments on how there weren’t too many post-doc opportunities available at the time he finished his studies at Georgia, but that she understands there is an apparent pattern in his life of being at the right place at the right time. She asks if it was this pattern that lead him to the University of Minnesota. 17:05: Dawn inquires as to what got Chris interested in working on the natural product called Salvinorin A (Magic Mint), and what became of that research. 20:40: Dawn mentions that because of his work on salvia divinorum, Chris was invited by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to give a talk in 2004, which is where he first learned about kratom.
Apr 10, 2018
Episode 60: Marie Jackson talks about the amazing endurance of Roman concrete
Why is it that modern marine concrete structures crumble and corrode within decades, but 2,000-year-old Roman piers and breakwaters endure to this day? Episode 60 of STEM-Talk features Dr. Marie Jackson, a scientist who has spent the past two decades figuring out the answer to that and other questions about the durability of ancient Roman mortars and concretes. Marie is a research associate professor in the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. She is known for her investigations in pyroclastic volcanism, mineralogy, materials science, and archaeological science that are breaking new ground in understanding the durability and specialty properties in ancient Roman mortars and concretes. She is particularly focused on deciphering Roman methods and materials in the hope of producing innovative, environmentally friendly cementitious masonry products and nuclear waste storage materials that would benefit the modern world. She was the lead principal investigator of a drilling project in the summer of 2017 on the Surtsey Volcano, which is on a small isolated island off the coast of Iceland. The volcano is growing the same mineral cements as Roman marine cement and the drilling project is helping provide extraordinary insights into the materials and processes the Romans used. She is particularly focused on deciphering Roman methods and materials in the hope of producing innovative, environmentally friendly cementitious masonry products and nuclear waste storage materials that would benefit the modern world. She was the lead principle investigator of a drilling project in the summer of 2017 on the Surtsey Volcano, which is on a small isolated island off the coast of Iceland. The volcano is growing the same mineral cements as Roman marine cement and the drilling project is helping provide extraordinary insights into the materials and processes the Romans used. After receiving her bachelor of science in earth sciences from the University of California Santa Cruz, Marie traveled overseas and received a doctorate from the Universite de Nantes in France. She returned stateside and received a doctor of philosophy from John Hopkins University as well as a Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences. Marie then went to work as a research geoscientist for the U.S. Geological Survey. After taking time off to raise a family, Marie joined the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, as a project scientist. She stepped into her current position at the University of Utah in 2016. Links: Mechanical resilience and cementitious processes in Imperial Roman architectural mortar: Marie Jackson ResearchGate profile: Surtsey blogspace:  Show notes:  4:06: Dawn begins interview by mentioning Marie’s love of the outdoors as a child and asks her to talk about those days. 4:38: Dawn asks if Marie’s father, who was a geologist, contributed to her love of the outdoors. 5:11: Dawn asks what topics Marie was interested in while in high school. 5:44: Dawn mentions that when Marie went to college, she never envisioned herself as a scientist, but this changed in her junior year, when her interest in earth sciences took root. Dawn asks Marie to elaborate on how that happened. 6:27: Ken asks Marie what role, if any, her family’s ranch played in motivating her interest in geology. 7:22: Dawn mentions that after college Marie worked for a mining company for a few years, which enabled her to save enough money to travel to France, where she worked on a doctorate. She asks if this is how Marie ended up in northern Corsica, in the Italian Alps. 9:39: Ken asks about her transition back to the United States,
Mar 27, 2018
Episode 59: Stephen Cunnane discusses the role of ketones in human evolution and Alzheimer’s
Nearly five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. In 30 years, that number is estimated to be 16 million In today’s episode, Ken and Dawn interview Dr. Stephen Cunnane, a Canadian physiologist whose extensive research into Alzheimer’s disease is showing how ketones can be used as part of a prevention approach that helps delay or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. Cunnane is a metabolic physiologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He is the author of five books, including” Survival of the Fattest: The Key to Human Brain Evolution,” which was published in 2005, and “Human Brain Evolution: Influence of Fresh and Coastal Food Resources,” which was published in 2010. He earned his Ph.D. in Physiology at McGill University in 1980 and did post-doctoral research on nutrition and brain development in Aberdeen, Scotland, London, and Nova Scotia. From 1986 to 2003, he was a faculty member in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto where his research focused on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and human health. He also did research on the relation between ketones and a high-fat ketogenic diet on brain development. In 2003, Dr. Cunnane was awarded a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center on Aging and became a full professor at the University of Sherbrooke. He has published more than 280 peer-reviewed research papers and was elected to the French National Academy of Medicine in 2009. Links: Lower Brain 18F-Fluorodeoxyglucose Uptake: Castellano et al AD dPET J Alz Dis 2015 Brain glucose and acetoacetate metabolism: Nugent et al dPET YE Neurobiol Aging 2014 Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: Cunnane & Crawford J Human Evol 2014 Inverse relationship between brain glucose and ketone metabolism in adults: Courchesne-Loyer et al PET KD JCBFM 2016 A cross-sectional comparison of brain glucose and ketone metabolism in cognitively healthy older adults: Croteau et al. AD MCI CMR Exper Gerontol 2017 A 3-Month Aerobic Training Program Improves Brain Energy Metabolism in Mild Alzheimer’s Disease: Castellano et al. exercise ketones JAD 2017 Show notes: 3:33: Dawn mentions that Stephen was born in London but that his family emigrated to Canada when he was an infant. She asks him about growing up in a suburb of Montreal. 4:02: Ken mentions that he has been told by a reliable source that as soon as Stephen got into high school he spent a lot of time in the chemistry lab, where sometimes created mischief. 4:58: Dawn asks if it is true that Stephen nearly flunked out of college when he first started. 5:16: Dawn comments that Stephen got his PHD in physiology at McGill University which is when his interest in science really caught on and asks how that came about. 5:55: Stephen talks about communicating with Desmond Morris while Stephen was working on his post-doc. 8:03: Dawn asks about Stephen’s post-doctoral research, for which he traveled to Aberdeen London and Nova Scotia; as well as what prompted his interest in nutrition in the brain. 9:01: Dawn mentions that in 1986 Stephen became a faculty member in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. She asks how he ended up teaching nutrition when he didn’t have a degree in nutrition. 10:33: Stephen talks about accepting a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center of Aging and a full professorship at the University of Sherbrooke. 11:57: Ken talks about Stephen’s interest in human evolution how it eventually led him to research the nutritional importance of shore-based foods and omega-3 fatty acid in particular in the development of human’s brains. He asks Stephen to talk about his work leading up to the hypothesis that humans evolved near the water.
Mar 13, 2018
Episode 58: Flora Hammond discusses traumatic brain injuries and how treatments are evolving
Today’s episode features one of the nation’s leading physicians and researchers who has spent years studying and treating traumatic brain injuries. Dr. Flora Hammond is a professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Indiana University School of Medicine. She also is the Chief of Medical Affairs and Medical Director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana. She has been a project director for the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System since 1998. Shortly before we conducted this interview with Dr. Hammond, she and a team of physicians and scientists at Indiana University received a $2.1 million grant to continue research into people who suffer traumatic brain injuries and how these injuries affect the lives of patients as well as their families. Dr. Hammond is a Pensacola, Florida, native who graduated from the Tulane University School of Medicine in 1990 and completed her residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She also completed a brain injury medicine fellowship at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Her research in the area of brain injury includes studying the prediction of outcome, aging with brain injury, causes of and treatments for irritability, and quality of relationships. In 2016 she received the Robert L. Moody Prize, which is the nation’s highest honor reserved for individuals who had made exceptional and sustained contributions to the lives of individuals with brain injuries. Prior to the 2016 Robert L. Moody Prize, Dr. Hammond received local and national awards for her teaching, clinical care and research, including the 2001 Association of Academic Physiatrists Young Academician Award, the 2011 Brain Injury Association of America William Caveness Award, and the 2013 Baylor College of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, Dr. Hammond led the Galveston Brain Injury Conferences which focused on changing the view of brain injury as an incident with limited short-term treatment to a chronic condition that must be proactively managed over the course of life. She co-chairs the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Chronic Brain Injury Task Force, and serves on Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation editorial board. She has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. Links: Flora Hamond faculty profile: "Potential Impact of Amantadine on Aggression" study Show notes: 4:08: Interview begins. 4:38: Dawn says it’s her understanding that Flora dreamed of becoming a physician ever since middle school. Dawn asks what inspired her at such an early age to become a doctor. 5:02: Flora talks about also wanting to become a teacher, but worried that she would have to give up teaching to become a doctor. 5:40: Continuing with Flora’s history, Dawn mentions that after high school Flora traveled to New Orleans to attend Tulane University. Dawn asks if it’s true that Flora’s grandmother was her landlord while she was in college and med school. 6:20: Ken mentions that Flora’s mother was a dietician and that her father was a pathologist. He asks Flora what specifically inspired her to specialize in brain injury rehabilitation and research. 8:36: Dawn comments on how before Flora accepted a positon at Indiana, she was in the Carolinas, and asks about her work there. 9:30: Dawn asks how Flora ended up at the Indiana University School of Medicine. 10:23: Ken mentions that Flora’s lecture at IHMC attracted a lot of interest and a full-house. He follows up by asking Flora what she thinks is driving the interest in brain injuries. 11:34: Dawn talks about how Flora and a team of physicians and scientists at Indiana have spent years studying and treating TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and the effects of TBI on the lives of patients and their fa...
Feb 27, 2018
Episode 57: Lauren Jackson discusses radiation exposure, including the effects of a nuclear strike
Today’s interview features Dr. Lauren Jackson, a nationally known expert in the field of tumor and normal-tissue radiobiology. She is especially recognized for her expertise in medical countermeasure development for acute radiation sickness and delayed effects of acute radiation exposure. Lauren is the deputy director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences within the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Lauren, who also goes by Isabel, received her bachelors in science in microbiology from North Carolina State University in 2006, and her PhD in pathology from Duke University in 2012. She currently is a principal or collaborating investigator on a number of industry and federally sponsored contracts and research grants. She has published extensively on the characterization and refinement of animal models of radiation-induced normal tissue injury that recapitulate the response in humans. Models developed in Lauren’s laboratory have gone on to receive FDA concurrence as appropriate for use in medical countermeasure screens. Lauren is a senior associate editor for Advances in Radiation Oncology, a journal of the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology, and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for several peer-reviewed journals. She also is the author of several book chapters on normal tissue tolerance to radiation, mechanisms of injury, and potential therapeutic interventions. Links: Jackson’s University of Maryland web page: Radiation Emergency Medical Management website: Centers for Disease Control website: BARDA website: NIAID website: Show notes: 5:06: Dawn begins interview by asking Lauren about her childhood and if it’s true that she was one of those children who was always asking questions? 5:39: Lauren talks about how she was more interested in history and the humanities in high school and wanted nothing to do with science. 5:59: Dawn asks Lauren about her decision to attend the University of Georgia to major in journalism and political science. 6:28: Ken comments on how even though Lauren was just 18 at the time, she was one of two students picked to represent the University of Georgia at the Center for the Presidency in Washington, D.C. Lauren then talks about how thanks to that experience, she decided journalism and political science weren’t the right majors for her. 7:38: Dawn points out that when Lauren first went to college, she took the minimum number of science classes.  Lauren goes on to talk about how after spending time in D.C., she ended up applying to North Carolina State University and switching her major to microbiology. 8:52: While at N.C. State, Lauren worked for Dr. Hosni Hassan, an expert on Oxidative Stress. Dawn asks Lauren about the focus of her research with Dr. Hassan. 9:58 Dawn talks about how when Lauren was an undergrad at N.C. State, she became interested in tumors and cancer treatment, and found a professor down the road at Duke University who was doing interesting work in that area. Dawn asks Lauren if that’s why she ended up going to Duke for her doctorate. 10:52 Dawn asks Lauren to elaborate on how her background in journalism and political science connected her towards the path of radiation countermeasure research.  11:42 Dawn points out that as a graduate student at Duke, Lauren took part in projects that looked at radiation injury. Dawn asks Lauren to give an overview of what sort of work was involved in the projects.  12:46 Ken asks Lauren to explain the difference between clinical radiation exposure and radiation that someone would experience as a consequence of a nuclear attack. 13:59: Ken shifts the conversation to human space flight,
Feb 13, 2018
Episode 56: Jon Clark talks about NASA, supersonic jumps from the edge of space, and humans in extreme environments
Today’s episode is the second of a two-part interview with IHMC Senior Scientist Dr. Jonathan Clark, a six-time Space Shuttle crew surgeon who has served in numerous roles for both NASA and the Navy. Part one of our interview, episode 55, ended with Jon talking about the tragic death of his wife, astronaut Laurel Clark. She died along with six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. February marks the 15th anniversary of the disaster. Today’s episode picks up with Jon talking about becoming part of a NASA team that investigated the Columbia disaster. Ken and Dawn also talk to Jon about the extensive research he has been doing on the neurologic effects of extreme environments, and also about the instrumental work he has been doing in developing new protocols to benefit future aviators and astronauts. Jon received his Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University, and medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is board certified in neurology and aerospace medicine. Jon headed the Spatial Orientation Systems Department at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola. He also held other top positions in the Navy and qualified as a Naval flight officer, Naval flight surgeon, Navy diver and Special Forces freefall parachutist. Jon's service as a Space Shuttle crew surgeon was part of an eight-year tenure at NASA, where he was also chief of the Medical Operations Branch and an FAA senior aviation medical examiner for the NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. He additionally served as a Department of Defense Space Shuttle Support flight surgeon covering two shuttle missions. In addition to his new role as a senior research scientist at IHMC, Jon is an associate professor of Neurology and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and teaches operation space medicine at Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine. He also is the space medicine advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he teaches at the Aerospace Medicine Residency. Links: Jon Clark’s NASA bio: Jon Clark You Tube Channel: Jon Clark Red Bull Stratos page: Part one of Jon Clark STEM-Talk interview: Show Notes: 4:07: Ken comments that Jon was part of the NASA team that studied every detail of the Columbia disaster. When the team’s report came out, Jon said, “You have to find ways to turn badness into goodness. You have to. It’s the only way you get through this.” Ken then asks Jon to talk about some of the lessons NASA learned. 7:27: Dawn says that on October 14, 2012, Jon was part of a team that successfully accomplished the highest stratospheric free fall jump from 128,100 feet. Dawn asks Jon how he became involved in this record-breaking jump. 9:37: Dawn asks Jon what his support team looked like for the jump. 11:15: Ken asks Jon what kind of preparation he and the team went through for the jump, and how long the preparatory period was. 12:46: Dawn asks Jon what the medical concerns for the jump were. 16:54 Dawn comments that when Jon discusses the medical team, he talks a lot about continuous physiological monitoring in the research world. She then asks Jon what kind of monitoring he was doing before, during, and after the jump. 22:58: Dawn asks Jon to discuss research he has done around neurological issues, specifically when it comes to space exposure. 23:31: Ken comments that intermittent artificial gravity has been discussed over the years, as a way to potentially mitigate some of the medical risk factors associated with long durati...
Jan 30, 2018
Episode 55: Jon Clark looks back at his Naval and NASA careers and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Today’s episode is the first of two-part interview with IHMC Senior Scientist Dr. Jonathan Clark, a six-time Space Shuttle crew surgeon who has served in numerous roles for both NASA and the Navy. In a wide-ranging conversation with Ken and Dawn, Jon talks about his 26-year career in the Navy, his extensive research on the neurologic effects of extreme environments on humans, and the tragic death of his wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, who died along with six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Jon received his Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University, and medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is board certified in neurology and aerospace medicine. Jon headed the Spatial Orientation Systems Department at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola. He also held other top positions in the Navy and qualified as a Naval flight officer, Naval flight surgeon, Navy diver and Special Forces freefall parachutist. Jon's service as a Space Shuttle crew surgeon was part of an eight-year tenure at NASA, where he was also chief of the Medical Operations Branch and an FAA senior aviation medical examiner for the NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. He additionally served as a Department of Defense Space Shuttle Support flight surgeon covering two shuttle missions. In addition to his new role as a senior research scientist at IHMC, Jon is an associate professor of Neurology and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and teaches operation space medicine at Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine. He also is the space medicine advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he teaches at the Aerospace Medicine Residency. Links: Jon Clark's NASA bio: Jon Clark's YouTube channel: Show Notes: 4:32: Ken and Dawn welcome Jon to the show. 4:47: Dawn comments that Jon was the son of an army officer, and as a result, he grew up all over the world. Dawn then asks Jon what it was like to move so frequently to different army bases as a youth. 5:24: Dawn says that Jon is known as a fairly frugal person and asks him to tell the story of a piece of burnt toast in Germany that contributed to his frugality. 6:39: Ken asks Jon to share the story of how he learned how to fly planes in Germany as a teen-ager. 9:43: Dawn comments that Jon had aquariums in his bedroom as a child. She then asks Jon what drew him to marine biology. 13:53: Dawn asks why Jon chose Texas A&M for college after leaving Germany. 15:36: Jon talks about how he was accepted into medical school during his senior year of college, and how he was disappointed that the Navy sent him to flight school instead. 18:46: Ken says that after flight school, Jon ended up going to medical school after all. Ken asks Jon to talk about what happened. 20:09: Dawn asks Jon what it was like transitioning from being an officer in the Navy to a student in medical school. 21:24: Dawn comments that Jon was three years into his neurosurgery residency when his plans shifted. She asks Jon what happened. 24:52: Dawn says that Jon spent 26 years on active duty with the Navy, qualifying as a Naval Flight Officer, Naval Flight Surgeon, Navy Diver, U.S. Army Parachutist, and Special Forces Military Free Fall Parachutist. She asks Jon if it is fair to say that he has an appetite to try new things. 26:35: Ken comments that he and Jon met in Bruce Dunn’s lab at the University of West Florida in the late 1980s while Jon was in Pensacola working at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute. Ken says that he recalls Jon working with Bruce on electrophysiology studies.
Jan 16, 2018
Episode 54: Brianna Stubbs talks about ketone esters and their application in sport
Late in 2017, a San Francisco startup company brought one of the commercial ketone esters to market. Today’s episode features an interview with a scientist and world-class athlete who has spent the past year helping develop and rollout HVMN Ketone, an FDA-approved drink that promises increased athletic ability as well as heightened focus and energy. Dr. Brianna Stubbs earned her PhD in biochemical physiology from Oxford University in 2016 where she researched the effects of ketone drinks on elite athletes. During Brianna’s collegiate athletic career, she won two gold medals while representing Great Britain at the World Rowing Championships. She first made international news when as a 12-year-old she became the youngest person ever to row across the British Channel. Brianna graduated from Oxford’s Pembroke College with a BA in preclinical sciences with the idea of becoming an MD.  But after spending a year working as a research assistant helping to investigate the effect of exogenous ketones on human performance, she decided instead to pursue her doctorate in biochemical physiology and investigate how ketone compounds might be applied in a sporting and healthcare setting in the future. While at Oxford, she worked alongside Dr. Kieran Clarke to develop a novel ketone monoester that has been shown to improve exercise performance in endurance athletes. She also was a member of the Great Britain Rowing Team and in 2016 become the World Champion in the lightweight guadruple sculls. Brianna’s time at Oxford gave her a unique opportunity to combine her scientific interest in sports physiology and metabolism while also competing at an international level. Brianna moved to the United States in June of 2017 to work at HVMN and help bring the company’s ketone ester to market. Links: HVMN website: Mark Mattson STEM-Talk: Wikipedia: Mice and ketones cognition:!po=10.1064 Owen and Cahill: Oxford ketone study: Glycogen re-synthesi and ketones: Ketones, glycogen and mTOR: Caryn Zinn: Ketone esters vs ketone salts: Acetoacetate paper:   HVMN online fasting community: Show notes: 3:52: Ken and Dawn welcome Brianna to the show. 4:07: Dawn congratulates Brianna on bringing one of the first ketone esters to the commercial market, and asks Brianna to provide some background that led to the ketone ester launch. 5:31: Ken comments that the HBMN ester has been approved by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. He then asks her to expand on what this means in terms of human use and to expand on the value of the GRAS status. 6:31: Dawn asks Brianna what sparked her interest in science. 7:18: Ken comments that he heard Brianna was seven years old when she ran her first race, and that she ran so hard, she made herself sick. He asks if this is true. 8:16: Ken says that Brianna’s father was the one who got her interested in rowing, and when she was six years old, he signed her up for the first rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean. Ken asks if it’s true that he had never rowed before. 10:21: Dawn comments that Brianna used to run and row with her father as he trained for these races, and then when she was 12 years old she rowed across the English Channel, becoming the youngest person to ever do so. Dawn asks how this came about. 11:59: Dawn asks what Brianna’s mother was doing while she and he...
Jan 02, 2018
Episode 53: Brian Caulfield on wearable technologies and the potential of electrical muscle stimulation
Today’s interview is with Dr. Brian Caulfield, the dean of physiotherapy at the University College Dublin, where he also is one of the directors of Ireland’s largest research center, the INSIGHT Center for Data Analytics. Brian is especially known for the work he is doing with wearable and mobile sensing technologies and how their use is opening new avenues for human performance evaluation and enhancement in areas like elite sports to rehabilitation medicine to gerontology. He also is a leader in the use of electrical muscle stimulation, also known as EMS, which is being used in health and sports. Brian also is the principal investigator in Ireland’s industry-led Connected Health Technology Center and is the overall project coordinator for the Connected Health Early Stage Researcher Support System, which is Europe’s first networked Connected Health PhD training program. Brian graduated with a bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy, a master’s in Medical Science, and a PhD in Medicine from the University College of Dublin. He has co-authored more than 180 research publications and six patents. He also has supervised more than 30 master’s of science graduate research and PhD projects to completion. Brian was the recent recipient of the prestigious 2017 University College Dublin Innovation Award, which recognized his work in the development of a connected health ecosystem in Ireland. Links: Electrical stimulation counteracts muscle decline in seniors Show notes: 3:52: Brian talks about growing up in Dublin and how he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete rather than a scientist. 4:35: Brian explains that as a kid he started noticing on TV how a couple of therapists would run onto the soccer field whenever a player was injured. That’s what first gave him the idea of going into physical therapy. 6:08: After receiving his physical therapy degree from the University College of Dublin, Brian tells the story of how he was about to leave for a job in Chicago when the director of the university lab offered Brian a job as a research assistant, which led him to stay in school and pursue a master’s degree. 8:02: Dawn asks Brian what it was like as a 21-year-old to work in a lab side by side with biomedical engineers and scientists on a project that looked at how reflex excitability is modulated throughout the different phases of the walking cycle in stroke patients when compared to patients who have a healthy gait. 11:45: Ken asks Brian what it was like to work in the United States after receiving his master’s degree. 13:30: Dawn asks Brian about returning to Dublin to work on a doctorate and his decision to focus his research on ankle sprains, which is one of the most common non-contact injuries suffered across all sports. 18:04: Brian talks about the limitations of studying athletes in the laboratory and how accelerometers made it possible to do research in the field. 20:57: Dawn asks Brian to expand on how his collaboration with biomedical engineers and computer scientists enabled them to develop wearable accelerometers and sensors to measure human movement. 23:34: Ken asks how this technology, which was developed to improve athletic performance, led to other technologies that were applied to accessing older adults who are at risk of falls. 27:24: Dawn points out that it was this research that led Brian to be named the University College Dublin's site director for the Insight Center, which is one of Europe's largest data analytics research organizations with more than 450 researchers. Dawn asks Brian to talk about Insight and its structure and purpose. 29:26: Dawn talks about how much fun it was using inertial measurement units, known as IMUs, during an undersea mission with NASA to assess the technology’s future use in looking at astronaut ve...
Dec 19, 2017
Episode 52: Nina Teicholz on saturated fat, U.S. dietary guidelines, and the shortcomings of nutrition science
Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz joined Ken and Dawn remotely from a studio in New York City in mid-September for a fascinating discussion about the history and pitfalls of nutrition science. Teicholz is the author of the international bestseller, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.” The Economist named it the number one science book of 2014 and the Journal of Clinical Nutrition wrote, “This book should be read by every scientist and every nutritional science professional.” Nina began her journalism career as a reporter for National Public Radio. She went on to write for many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The Economist. She attended Yale University and Stanford University where she studied biology and majored in American Studies. She has a master’s degree from Oxford University and served as associate director of the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University. “The Big Fat Surprise” is credited with upending the conventional wisdom on dietary fat. It challenged the very core of America’s nutrition policy by explaining the politics, personalities, and history of how we came to believe that dietary fat is bad for health.  Her book was the first mainstream publication to make the full argument for why saturated fats – the kind found in dairy, meat and eggs – belong in a healthy diet. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mother Jones, the Library Journal and Kirkus Review named “The Big Fat Surprise” one of the best books of 2014. The Economist described Nina’s book as a “nutrition thriller.” Links: -- Nina Teicholz blog -- Amazon: “Big Fat Surprise” -- BMJ: “The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific?” -- “A Review of the Dietary Guidelines by the National Academy of Medicine” -- STEM-Talk with Gary Taubes -- “Statistical Review of US Macronutrient Consumption date, 1965-2011” -- “What if Bad Fat is Actually Good for You?” Show notes: 4:10: Interview begins with Nina talking about how her father, an engineer who also enjoyed computer science, sparked her interest in science. 5:41: Dawn asks Nina if she would share the story about her failed fruit-fly experiment in high school. 8:07: Nina talks about how an assignment to do a story on trans fats led her to become friends with journalist Gary Taubes, the author of “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” whom Dawn and Ken interviewed on episode 37 of STEM-Talk. 11:40: Dawn talks about an article Nina wrote for Men’s Health Magazine titled, “What If Bad Fat Is Actually Good for You?” It’s the article where Nina first laid out her case that saturated fats may not be bad for people’s health and might actually be good for people. Dawn asks Nina if she got pushback on that article. 14:07: Dawn asks about a paper Nina published in BMJ titled, “The Scientific Report Guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: Is It Scientific?”  Dawn asks Nina to describe what happened when 180 scientists wrote a letter asking BMJ to retract the paper. 19:52: Dawn comments about how the pushback to the article seemed to violate the very process that science is supposed to follow. 21:30: Ken comments about the orchestrated effort to make Nina look bad, which leads Nina to highlight the support she received from BMJ and its editor Fiona Godlee. 22:55: Nina talks about the difficulty a journalist faces when challenging the work of scientists from institutions like Harvard and Yale. 24:16: Ken mentions how we’re seeing more and more dogma dressed up as science, which that leads to a discussion between Ken, Dawn and Nina about the shortcomings of nutrition science. 30:32: Dawn comments that Nina has been quoted as saying that institutionalized science is an oxymoron, and once institutions started adopting the principle that saturated fat caused heart disease,...
Dec 05, 2017
Episode 51: Roger Smith talks about bears, raptors, and life as a field biologist
Today’s episode features field biologist Roger Smith, the founder and chair of the Teton Raptor Center, a rehabilitation facility in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that annually cares for more than 130 injured birds. Roger and his wife, Margaret Creel, who also is a field biologist, established the Teton Raptor Center in 1997 as a facility committed to rehabilitating birds of prey. Both Ken and Dawn have visited the center, which has an education outreach program that reached nearly 37,000 people in 2016. “For our listeners who have never been to the Teton Raptor Center, I can honestly say that a visit to the center and the Grand Teton National Park would be well worth your time,” says Ken at the end of episode 51. Roger has spent his entire professional career in the natural sciences and environmental education. After high school, he headed off to the University of Montana and started his life as a field biologist researching grizzly bears in northwestern Montana in 1977. He continued to study grizzly and black bears in Alaska, Maine and Colorado before completing his secondary science degree in 1984. After teaching high school science in Montana, he moved to Jackson Hole in 1985 and joined the resident faculty at the Teton Science School. At the school, he designed and implemented a field-oriented natural science curriculum for adults and children. In 1987, he joined the field staff at the National Outdoor Leadership School and led courses in Wyoming, Texas, Mexico and Kenya. In 1994, Roger completed his Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming. Roger’s research has focused on raptors and ravens of the Grand Teton National Park. His research and papers have been published in a number of peer-reviewed professional journals. In 1994, he helped initiate and manage the professional residency in environmental education program at the Teton Science School, and was on the faculty there until 1999. He managed all aspects of independent research, including grant and proposal writing. Roger founded the Teton Raptor Center in 1996 and became the Resident Naturalist at 3Creek Ranch in 2002. Links: Teton Raptor Center: Raptor Center video: Roger's IHMC Ocala lecture: Show Notes: 4:26: Ken and Dawn welcome Roger to the show. 4:40: Dawn asks Roger where he grew up and what kind of childhood he had. 6:56: Dawn discusses how Roger went to the University of Montana to study wildlife biology and as a freshman volunteered for a grizzly bear project, where he spent time in the wild analyzing grizzly bear scat. 8:54: Ken recalls a story Roger told him about him working on a black-bear project in 1979, which involved trapping and tagging bears in northern Maine. Ken comments on how this was an interesting time to be in the Maine woods as a young person. Ken then asks Roger if there are any adventures he would like to share from his time in northern Maine. 12:46: Ken comments on how bears are also found in the Tetons and throughout the Yellowstone ecosystem. He discusses how we often see warning signs posted to alert hikers and campers in areas where bears have been active. Ken then asks Roger if we have seen changes in activity in recent times, and if so, what drives those changes. 15:15: Ken discusses how he read a story about a grizzly bear breaking into someone’s garage to eat an elk carcass. 16:22: Dawn says that the grizzly bear is a reclusive animal and asks Roger what we know about its lifecycle. 18:07: Dawn comments that bears are opportunistic omnivores, eating a lot of berries and plants. She then asks Roger to discuss a grizzly’s diet. 20:18: Ken asks Roger to discuss bear hibernation and how it is different than other hibernators. 24:43: Ken discusses his amazement with the management of waste and kidney function,
Nov 21, 2017
Episode 50: Ken Ford talks about ketosis, optimizing exercise, and the future direction of science, technology, and culture
Today’s episode features the second of Dawn Kernagis’ two-part interview with her STEM-Talk co-host and IHMC Director Ken Ford. This episode marks a milestone for STEM-Talk. It’s our 50th episode and follows Ken’s formal induction into the Florida Inventor’s Hall of Fame. In part one of Dawn’s interview, listeners learned about Ken’s childhood and his years as a rock and roll promoter back in the ‘70s. Ken even shared an interesting story about how he went from being a philosophy major to a computer scientist. He also talked about his work in AI and the creation of IHMC and the pioneering work underway at the institute. If you missed episode 49, be sure to check it out. Part two of Ken’s interview focuses more on his research and personal experience with the ketogenic diet, ketone esters, exercise and ways to extend health span and perhaps longevity. Dawn and Ken also discuss the nature of technical progress As listeners learned in part one, Ken has a varied background. He is a co-founder of IHMC, which has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics. He also is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and six books. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Tulane University. He is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the IEEE Computer Society, and the National Association of Scholars. In 2012, Tulane University named Ford its Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Science and Engineering. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence named Dr. Ford the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award. Also in 2015, Dr. Ford was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In January 1997, Dr. Ford was asked by NASA to develop and direct its new Center of Excellence in Information Technology at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where he also served as Associate Center Director. In July 1999, Dr. Ford was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. That same year, Ford returned to private life in Florida and to IHMC. In October 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Ford to serve on the National Science Board (NSB). In 2005, Dr. Ford was appointed and sworn in as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. In 2007, he became a member of the NASA Advisory Council and on October 16, 2008, Dr. Ford was named as chairman – a capacity in which he served until October 201l. In August 2010, Dr. Ford was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal – the highest honor the agency confers. In February 2012, Dr. Ford was named to a two-year term on the Defense Science Board and in 2013, he became a member of the Advanced Technology Board which supports the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Links: IHMC website: Ken Ford web page: Florida Inventors Hall of Fame website: Outside magazine story on Ken Ford and ketogenic diet: Blood Flow Restriction Device. 15% discount code: IHMC BhB Ketone Ester Powerdot Muscle Stimulator Papers: Suppression of Oxidative Stress by b-Hydroxybutyrate, an Endogenous Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor Ketone Bodies as Signaling Metabolites Ketogenic Diet Reduces Midlife Mortality and Improves Memory in Aging Mice http://www.ihmc.
Nov 07, 2017
Episode 49: Ken Ford talks about AI, its critics, and research at IHMC
On the eve of Ken Ford’s induction into the Florida Inventor’s Hall of Fame, co-host Dawn Kernagis convinced IHMC’s director and CEO that it was the perfect time to have the chairman of STEM-Talk’s double secret selection committee take a turn as a guest on the podcast. Today’s show features part one of Dawn’s two-part interview with her STEM-Talk co-host Ken Ford. Listeners will learn about Ken’s childhood and background; his early work in computer science and research into AI; as well as the creation of IHMC, which, as our regular listeners know, is a “not-for-profit research lab pioneering groundbreaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.” In this episode, Ken will share some of the pioneering work underway at IHMC. Dawn also asks Ken about highly vocal critics of AI such as Elon Musk. Episode 50, the second part of Dawn’s interview with Ken, will transition to a conversation about Ken and IHMC’s research into human performance. Their conversation will cover exercise, the ketogenic diet and ketone esters with the goal of extending health span and perhaps longevity. In terms of background, Dr. Ken Ford is a co-founder of IHMC, which has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics. Ken is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and six books. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Tulane University. He is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the IEEE Computer Society, and the National Association of Scholars. In 2012, Tulane University named Ford its Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Science and Engineering. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence named Dr. Ford the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award. Also in 2015, Dr. Ford was elected as  a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In January 1997, Dr. Ford was asked by NASA to develop and direct its new Center of Excellence in Information Technology at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where he also served as Associate Center Director. In July 1999, Dr. Ford was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. That same year, Ford returned to private life in Florida and to IHMC. In October 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Ford to serve on the National Science Board (NSB). In 2005, Dr. Ford was appointed and sworn in as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. In 2007, he became a member of the NASA Advisory Council and on October 16, 2008, Dr. Ford was named as chairman – a capacity in which he served until October 201l. In August 2010, Dr. Ford was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal – the highest honor the agency confers. In February 2012, Dr. Ford was named to a two-year term on the Defense Science Board and in 2013, he became a member of the Advanced Technology Board which supports the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Links: IHMC website: Ken Ford web page: Florida Inventors Hall of Fame website: Outside magazine story on Ken Ford and ketogenic diet: Cognitive Orthoses PDF Bulletin Atomic Scientists 2014 Show notes: 6:41: Dawn welcomes Ken to the show. 7:04: Dawn asks Ken to talk about his childhood 8:12: Dawn points out that Ken moved around a lot because his father was in the Navy and asks him what that was like. 8:20: Dawn mentions that Ken lived in Guantanamo, also known as GITMO. She asks him what it was like to live there as a young child. 8:56: Dawn talks about how when Ken started high school,
Oct 24, 2017
Episode 48: Dr Tommy Wood, part 2, discusses insulin resistance and the role of diet in athletic performance
Today’s episode features the second of our two-part interview with Dr. Tommy Wood, a U.K. trained MD/PhD who now lives in the U.S. Part one covered Tommy’ background and education and what led him spend most of his academic career studying multiple sclerosis and ways to treat babies with brain injuries. Part two of our interview focuses on Tommy’s other passions: nutritional approaches to sports performance and metabolic disease. But before we get into Tommy’s background, we want to take a moment to thank our listeners for helping STEM-Talk win first place in the science category of the 12th Annual People’s Choice Podcast Awards. The international competition featured more than 2,000 nominees in 20 categories. STEM-Talk also was a runner-up in the People’s Choice Award, the grand prize of the competition. As we mentioned earlier, Tommy is U.K. trained MD/PhD who received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge before attending medical school at the University of Oxford. He recently completed a PhD in physiology and neonatal brain metabolism at the University of Washington. He is now a senior fellow at the university researching neonatal brain injury. In part one of his STEM-Talk interview, Tommy also talked about how he is the incoming president of the Physicians for Ancestral Health, an international organization of physicians, healthcare professionals and medical students that specializes in ancestral health principles for the prevention and treatment of illness. Tommy’s interest sports performance stems from his background as an experienced rowing, endurance, and strength coach who combines evolutionary principles with modern biochemical techniques to optimize performance. He primarily performs this work with Nourish Balance Thrive, a functional medicine clinic based in California that works largely with athletes, where he is the chief medical officer. Links: Physicians for Ancestral Health - Physicians for Ancestral Health – Nourish Balance Thrive – NBT automated performance analysis: Primal Endurance podcast (ketogenic diets, athletic longevity, etc.): 2) High Intensity Health podcast (ketogenic diets and gut health): Show notes: 3:37: The interview resumes. 3:43: Ken discusses how many, perhaps even most, adults are now insulin resistant to some degree, which negatively impacts many aspects of both health and performance, and is associated with most modern chronic diseases. Ken then asks Tommy if there are any underlying processes that he can see that tie these diseases together. 7:27: Ken comments on how in 1927 they had the sensible practice of starting a diabetic patient on a low-carb diet, which is still not current practice now in many places. 8:04: Tommy discusses how it is good to have symptom control with diabetes. Ken and Tommy discuss the many advantages of donating blood. 10:16: Ken asks Tommy if he has any issues giving blood in the United States given that he is from the UK which experienced mad-cow disease. 11:40: Ken asks Tommy if he checks his athletes’ ferritin levels and tries and keep them in a certain range, and if so, if he has a preferred range. 12:17: Dawn discusses how in addition to Tommy’s academic work at the University of Washington, he is also very active as the Chief Scientific Officer of Nourish Balance Thrive (NBT), an online company using advanced biochemical testing to optimize performance in athletes. Dawn asks Tommy to discuss Nourish Balance Thrive, and how the company works to optimize the health and performance of athletes. 14:41: Ken comments on how Tommy has a relatively homogeneous population if he is focused on endurance athlete...
Oct 10, 2017
Episode 47: Dr. Tommy Wood talks about neonatal brain injuries and optimizing human performance
Dr. Tommy Wood is a U.K. trained MD/PhD who now lives in the U.S. He has spent most of his academic career studying ways to treat babies with brain injuries, but has also published papers on multiple sclerosis, as well as nutritional approaches to sports performance and metabolic disease. Today’s conversation is the first of a two-part interview we did with Tommy. Part two will upload to iTunes on Oct. 10. Tommy received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge before attending medical school at the University of Oxford. He recently completed a PhD in physiology and neonatal brain metabolism at the University of Washington. He is now a Senior Fellow at the university researching neonatal brain injury. He also is the incoming president of the Physicians for Ancestral Health, an international organization of physicians, healthcare professionals and medical students that specializes in ancestral health principles for the prevention and treatment of illness. Tommy is also an experienced rowing, endurance, and strength coach who combines evolutionary principles with modern biochemical techniques to optimize performance. He primarily performs this work with Nourish Balance Thrive, a functional medicine clinic based in California that works largely with athletes, where he is the Chief Medical Officer. Links: Physicians for Ancestral Health - Nourish Balance Thrive - NBT automated performance analysis: Primal Endurance podcast (ketogenic diets, athletic longevity etc): 2) High Intensity Health podcast (ketogenic diets and  gut health): Show notes:  03:30: Ken and Dawn welcome Tommy to the show. 03:48: Tommy talks about growing up in the U.K. and also spending time in Iceland, Germany and France. 04:43: Ken asks Tommy if he was more interested in science or sports as a youth. 05:48: Tommy talks about his time the captain of a rowing club and how he became interested in ultra-endurance sports and Crossfit training. 07:33: Dawn points out that Tommy follows a Paleo style diet, but understands that wasn’t the case when he was on a rowing team at Cambridge. She asks Tommy what caused him to change his diet. 09:51: Tommy worked as junior doctor in central London for two years after medical school before moving to Norway to get a PhD in physiology and neuroscience at the University of Oslo.  Dawn asks Tommy what motivated him to change his field of work? 11:39: Dawn asks Tommy why he has devoted so much of his research looking into multiple sclerosis. 13:23: Dawn mentions that Tommy is the incoming president of Physicians for Ancestral Health and asks him how he came involved with the organization. 15:40: Physicians for Ancestral Health work to identify natural dietary, nutritional and environmental interventions that complement standard medical therapies. Dawn asks Tommy to describe examples of natural interventions. 17:11: Tommy’s PhD focused on the physiology of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in newborn babies using a rat model. Kens asks Tommy to talk about the disease and how it is studied in the lab. 19:25: Dawn points out that the current treatment for infants with brain injuries is therapeutic hypothermia. Dawns asks Tommy to talk about the treatment and how it works. 23:00: STEM-Talk blurb. 23:24: Considering that hypothermia was already standard of care by the time Tommy started his PhD, Ken asks what made Tommy want to focus on studying hypothermia further during his PhD. 24:45: Dawns asks Tommy how he would research the optimization of hypothermia treatment in humans? 28:29: Ken asks Tommy how he became a senior fellow in the Pediatrics Department at the University of Washington.
Sep 26, 2017
Episode 46: NASA’s Chris McKay talks about the search for life in our solar system and travel to Mars
Today’s guest on STEM-Talk is Dr. Chris McKay, a leading astrobiologist and planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of the NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Chris’s interview covers a diverse range of topics ranging from the origins of life to the possibility of manned missions to Mars. For the past 30 years, Chris has been advancing our understanding of planetary science. He graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 1975 with a degree in physics and earned a doctorate in astrogeophysics at the University of Colorado in 1982. He was a co-investigator on the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the current Mars Science Laboratory mission. His research at NASA has focused on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He also has been heavily involved in NASA’s Mars missions including the current Mars rover — Curiosity.  In addition, Chris has thought deeply about the human exploration of Mars. He has spent considerable time studying polar and desert environments to better understand how humans might survive in Mars-like environments. His research has taken him to the Antarctic Dry Valleys, the Atacama Desert, the Arctic, and the Namib Desert. In 2015, the Desert Research Institute named Chris the Nevada Medalist, which is the highest scientific honor in the state. Links: STEM-Talk Episode 33, interview with NASA’s Natalie Batalha - Chris McKay’s NASA profile page - Show Notes 3:53: Ken and Dawn welcome Chris to the show. 4:05: Dawn asks Chris if it is true that the television series Star Trek inspired him to take up science and start studying planets as a kid. 4:34: Dawn comments on how Apollo happened almost 50 years ago when Chris was a teenager and asks him where he was for Apollo 11 and what it meant to him. 5:24: Ken asks Chris how he learned about Florida Atlantic University, as it was a relatively new university at the time, and asks Chris why he chose it. 6:54: Dawn asks Chris if he was thinking about becoming an astronaut when he decided to major in physics. 7:27: Ken asks Chris what it was like to be a summer intern in the Planetary Biology program at the NASA Ames Research Center around 1980. 8:52: Dawn asks Chris how he chose the University of Colorado, where he earned a PhD in astrogeophysics. 10:42: Dawn asks Chris to discuss his transition from mechanical engineering to astrogeophysics. 12:11: Ken discusses how Chris ended up back at NASA Ames as an astrobiologist and planetary scientist after graduate school. 13:53: Dawn comments how Chris’s research is taking him to extreme places, and asks him to explain what extremophiles are and what their relevance is in the search for life beyond Earth. 17:26: Dawn comments on her experiences searching for extremophiles while working on cave diving projects. 18:12: Dawn asks Chris what his most recent search experience for extremophiles on our planet was. 19:49: Dawn asks Chris what he takes to be the most exciting extremophile discovery out of all of the work he has done. 22:40: Dawn asks Chris to talk about his favorite and least favorite aspects of field research. 24:06: Ken asks Chris to define some terms related to the search for life beyond Earth. Specifically,  whether we have a definition for life itself and if not, what exactly we are searching for when we say we are searching for life. He also asks Chris to talk about alien life and how it differs from life on Earth. 26:21: Ken asks Chris how tough it would be to recognize alien life if it is based on fundamentally different chemistry than life on Earth. 29:16: Ken asks Chris where NASA’s secret alien life storage room is. 31:03: Ken asks Chris what the scientific importance of discovering life in another world is.
Sep 12, 2017
Episode 45: David Spiegel talks about the science of hypnosis and the many ways it can help people
Today’s interview features one of the nation’s foremost hypnotists who is also the associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University Medical School. In this episode, Dr. David Spiegel talks about how hypnosis can help people not only quit smoking and lose weight, but also relieve chronic pain and reduce people’s dependency on medications. David earned his Bachelor’s at Yale College and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1971. His mother and father were psychiatrists and his father started practicing hypnosis just before World War II. David now has more than 45 years of clinical and research experience studying psycho-oncology, stress and health, pain control and hypnosis. In addition to his role as the Willson Professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford, he is also the director of the Center on Stress and Health and the medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. David has published 12 books, including one with his father. He has written more than 380 scientific journal articles and 167 book chapters on topics ranging from hypnosis to psychosocial oncology to trauma to psychotherapy. Last year David was featured in Time magazine about the therapeutic uses of hypnosis. In terms of the nation’s escalating opiate problem, David has gone on record saying that hypnosis can and should be used instead of painkillers in many cases. “There are things we could be doing that are a lot safer, cheaper and more effective,” said David, “but we’re not because as a society we have the prejudice that hypnosis is voodoo and pharmacology is science.” David’s research has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Dana Foundation for Brain Sciences. David is the past president of the American College of Psychiatrists and the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Links:  David Spiegel Stanford profile page "Group Therapy for Cancer Patients" -- "Living Beyond Limits" -- Show Notes     3:42: Ken and Dawn welcome David to the show. 3:56: Dawn comments on how both of David’s parents were psychiatrists, and how his father started practicing hypnosis just before WWII. She then asks David if it was always his plan to follow in his parents’ footsteps. 4:53: Dawn discusses how David got his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and then decided to attend Harvard Medical School. She asks David why he decided to specialize in hypnosis. 7:26: After graduating from medical school, David made news for refusing pain medication after his operation. Ken asks David to describe what he did. 8:51: Dawn asks David to give an overview of hypnosis. 11:48: David talks about how hypnosis and mindfulness are similar and different. 13:48: Ken asks David if people who are easily hypnotized are also more likely to be able to successfully practice meditation or mindfulness. 14:44: Dawn discusses how she has colleagues that are interested in studying mindfulness for conditions such as PTSD or pain management, but they have had trouble finding funding on these topics. She then asks David who typically funds the work that he does. 15:31: Dawn comments on how David has written about how hypnosis is the oldest western conception of psychotherapies and asks him to give a short historical tour of hypnosis. 20:35: Dawn discusses how David has had more than 40 years of clinical and research experience studying hypnosis, psycho oncology, pain control, psychoneuroendocrinology, and the use of hypnosis in the treatment of PTSD. Specifically,
Aug 29, 2017
Episode 44: Jerry Pratt discusses the evolution and future of humanoid robots and bipedal walking
Today’s podcast features Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis interviewing their colleague, Dr. Jerry Pratt, a senior research scientist at IHMC who heads up the institute’s robotics group. In 2015, Jerry led an IHMC team that placed second out of 23 teams from around the world in the first-ever DARPA Robotics Challenge. IHMC also placed first in the competition which featured humanoid robots that primarily walked bipedally and first among all U.S. teams. Jerry is a graduate of MIT, where he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science in 2000. As a graduate student at MIT, Jerry built his first robot which was also one of the first bipedal robots that could compliantly walk over rough terrain. As you will learn in today’s interview, it was called “Spring Turkey” and is on display in MIT’s Boston museum. The second robot he built as a graduate student was called “Spring Flamingo,” and is on display in the lobby of IHMC’s Fred Levin Center in Pensacola. After graduation, Jerry and some MIT colleagues founded a small company called Yobotics, which specialized in powered prosthetics, biomimetic robots, simulation software and robotic consulting. He joined IHMC in 2002 and has become a well-known expert in bipedal walking. His algorithms are used in various robots around the world. Recent work on fast-running robots has resulted in ostrich-inspired running models and robot prototypes that are currently believed to be the fastest running robots in the world. Jerry has six U.S. patents and was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. He lives in Pensacola with his wife Megan and their two children. He and he wife founded a science museum called the Pensacola MESS Hall, which stands for math, engineering, science, and stuff. The MESS Hall is a hands-on science museum for all ages that just celebrated it's five-year anniversary. Show notes: 4:37: Ken and Dawn welcome Jerry to the show 4:54: Dawn asks Jerry to talk about the time he once stole a science book from school. 5:45: Dawn asks Jerry to discuss his first invention, the knockout keyless door lock, that he came up with for his tree fort when he was a teen. 6:21: Dawn asks Jerry if he recalls his first computer program he wrote on the Commodore 64. 6:47: Ken comments on how in addition to writing computer programs, Jerry had an interest in electronics, particularly Heathkits. 7:08: Dawn discusses how Jerry played a lot of sports as a kid, going on to run varsity track and cross country at MIT. 7:46: Dawn asks Jerry if it was as an undergrad or a graduate student that he first became interested in robotics. 8:20: Ken discusses the first two robots Jerry put together: Spring Turkey then Spring Flamingo. He then asks Jerry to talk about the machines and how he came up with the names. 9:16: Dawn comments on how a few of Jerry’s colleagues have mentioned that much of our understanding of dynamic walking is still based on some of the original work Jerry did at MIT, and she then asks Jerry to talk about that work. 10:03: Ken asks Jerry to talk about how he and his wife, Megan Benson, met. 10:54: Ken asks Jerry to discuss the experience of co-founding Yobotics, which specialized in powered prosthetics, biomimetic robots, simulation software, and robot consulting, with his colleagues at MIT. 11:36: Dawn discusses the growth of robotics at IHMC since Jerry joined the team. She then asks Jerry to give a summary on the types of robots that he and his colleagues have been working on over the last 14 years at IHMC. 13:55: Dawn asks Jerry to talk about the books he often reads on organizational culture and teambuilding. 15:08: Dawn comments on how she has heard that Jerry is one of the worst motivational speakers ever and asks if it is true. 15:28: Ken comments on all of the work that Jerry and the IHMC team put into the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where they placed second in the world and first among th...
Aug 15, 2017
Episode 43: Jeff Volek explains the power of ketogenic diets to reverse type 2 diabetes
Today’s episode features an important interview with Dr. Jeff Volek, a researcher who has spent the past 20 years studying how humans adapt to carbohydrate-restricted diets.  His most recent work, which is one of the key topics of today’s interview, has focused on the science of ketones and ketogenic diets and their use as a therapeutic tool to manage insulin resistance. In 2014, Volek became a founder and the chief science officer of Virta Health, an online specialty medical clinic dedicated to reversing diabetes, a chronic disease that has become a worldwide epidemic. The company’s ambitious goal is to reverse type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. Earlier this year, The JMIR Diabetes Journal published a study coordinated by Volek and Virta that showed people with type 2 diabetes can be taught to sustain adequate carbohydrate restriction to achieve nutritional ketosis, thereby improving glycemic control, decreasing medication use, and allowing clinically relevant weight loss. These improvements happened after just 10 weeks on the program that Virta designed for people. In addition to his role at Virta, Volek is a registered dietitian and full professor in the department of human sciences at Ohio State University. He is a co-author of “The New Atkins for a New You,” which came out 2010 and spent 16 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. The book is an updated, easier-to-use version of Dr. Robert Atkins’ original 1972 book, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.” Volek has co-authored four other books, including “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” and “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.” Both books are co-authored with and delve somewhat deeper than “The New Atkins” did into the science and application of low-carb diets. Volek received his bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Michigan State University in 1991. He went on to earn a master’s in exercise physiology and a PhD in kinesiology and nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. He has given more than 200 lectures about his research at scientific and industry conferences in a dozen countries. In addition to his five books, he also has published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Although numerous studies have confirmed the validity and safety of low-carb and ketogenic diets, Volek and others who support carbohydrate restriction are often criticized for being so one-sided that their work comes across as more advocacy than science. But in “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living,” Volek writes: “What is the proper response when three decades of debate about carbohydrate restriction have been largely one-sided and driven more by cultural bias than science? Someone needs to stand up and represent the alternate view and science.” As Volek explains in episode 42 of STEM-Talk, this has become his mission. Links: “New Atkins for a New You” -- “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living”-- “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance” -- New York Times article: JMIR DIABETES paper: Show notes: 3:016: Ken and Dawn welcome Jeff to the show. 3:32: Dawn asks Jeff when and how he first became interested in science. 5:24: When Jeff was studying to be a dietitian, he was looking at a low-fat, high-carb diet. But when he began to work with diabetics, something did not seem right. Dawn asks Jeff if that is what led him to begin studying low-carb diets. 6:39: Ken comments on how diabetes is perhaps the greatest healthcare challenge we face as a society, which drives costs to more than $300 billion a year. 7:59: Dawn asks Jeff about the effectiveness of traditional treatment and management ...
Aug 01, 2017
Episode 42: Tom Jones discusses defending Earth against the threat of asteroids
Frequent STEM-Talk listeners will more than likely recognize today’s guest, veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, who joins us today to talk about the threat of near-Earth asteroids. Tom occasionally helps co-host STEM-Talk. But for episode 42, regular co-hosts Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis turn the microphone around to interview Tom about his days as an astronaut, planetary defense and asteroids. It’s a topic, as you will hear, that Tom is quite passionate about.  He also has a great deal of expertise in the field. Before he became an astronaut, Tom earned a doctorate in planetary science from the University of Arizona in 1988. He’s also a graduate of the United States Airforce Academy. His research interests range from the remote sensing of asteroids to meteorite spectroscopy to applications of space resources. He became an astronaut in 1991 and received the NASA Space Flight Medal in 1994, 1996, and 2001. He also received the NASA Exceptional Service Award in 1997 and again in 2000. In 1995, he received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. Tom logged 52 days in space, including three space walks totaling more than 19 hours. He is the author of several books, including Sky Walking: An Astronauts Memoir, which the Wall Street Journal named as one of the five best books about space. His latest book is Ask the Astronaut: A Galaxy of Astonishing Answers to Your Questions about Space. Below are links to Tom’s books as wells the STEM-Talk interview with Pascal Lee, which Ken refers to while interviewing Tom. Links: Pascal Lee interview: New Yorker article: TFPD Report: Tom Jones books: “Sky Walking” - “Ask the Astronaut” - “Complete Idiots Guide to NASA” - “Planetology” - Show notes: 3:36: Ken and Dawn welcome Tom to the show. 4:11: Ken comments on the interesting path that Tom has travelled throughout his life and asks Tom to give a synopsis of his path of reinvention. 6:56: Dawn asks Tom to talk about the goals and highlights of the four shuttle missions he went on. 3:39: Dawn welcomes Tom as a guest on STEM-Talk. 9:23: Dawn comments on how Tom no longer flies in space, but he and some of his colleagues are now involved in another space mission that could save the Earth or a large part of it from destruction. Dawn then asks Tom how he became interested in planetary defense from asteroids. 11:30: Ken asks Tom to explain the differences between asteroids, comets, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites. 13:37: Ken asks Tom how he would define a near-earth asteroid. 14:06: Dawn asks Tom how frequently asteroids strike the Earth. 16:27: Dawn asks Tom how likely she is to die in an asteroid catastrophe, statistically speaking. 18:27: Dawn discusses an article on planetary defense titled, Vermin of the Sky, published in The New Yorker in February of 2011. She comments on how Ken is quoted in the article as saying, “The very short perspective we have as humans makes the threat of asteroids seem smaller than it is. People of all sorts find it easier to kick the can down the road and hope for a mystical solution.” 20:04: Ken comments on how in the same article Clark Chapman notes that “Unlike Hurricane Katrina, we can do something about an asteroid, the question is whether we would rather be wrong in overprotecting or wrong in under protecting”. Ken then points out that one can imagine a near societal collapse should it be announced that, with high confidence, an asteroid was on a collision course with Earth, and that as a society we have no means to deflect it. Humans, Ken adds, would come to envy the dinosaurs who had no time to ruminate about their fate.
Jul 18, 2017
Episode 41: Dr. David Diamond talks about the role of fat, cholesterol, and statin drugs in heart disease
Dr. David Diamond is a University of South Florida professor in the departments of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology and director of the USF Neuroscience Collaborative. He is well known for research that looks at the effects of stress on brain, memory and synaptic plasticity. A primary research project over the past few decades has been the study of treatments for combat veterans and civilians with PTSD. Although his academic specialty is neuroscience, recently he has been closely examining the role of fat and cholesterol in heart disease. He began looking into lipids after test results showed his triglycerides were through the roof.  He also launched a critical look into the effectiveness of statins, a class of drugs doctors frequently prescribe to help people lower cholesterol levels in their blood. Dr. Diamond’s findings contradicted the low-fat, high-carb diet that he, as well as many Americans, had been advised to follow. This led him to explore ways for people to optimize their diet for cardiovascular health. He eventually created a graduate and undergraduate seminar entitled, “Myths and Deception in Medical Research.” A lecture he gave at the university entitled “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic” is now a YouTube video with nearly 200,000 views. The lecture focused on how “flawed and deceptive science demonized saturated fats and created the myth that a low-fat, plant-based diet is good for your health.” Dr. Diamond received his B.S. in biology from the University of California, Irvine in the 1980. He continued his post-graduate work at the university and earned a Ph.D. in biology with a specialization in behavioral neuroscience. From 1986 to 1997, Dr. Diamond was an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology in the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. He then moved to University of South Florida and since 2003 has been a professor in the departments of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology. In addition to directing USF’s Neuroscience Collaborative, Dr. Diamond also is the director of the university’s Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His research projects at the university have ranged from “The Effects of Stress on Brain, Memory and Synaptic Plasticity” to “The Cognitive and Neurobiological Perspectives on Why Parents Lose Awareness of Children in Cars.” Dr. Diamond has served on federal government study sections and committees evaluating research on the neurobiology of stress and memory and has more than 100 publications, reviews, and book chapters on the brain and memory. He is a fellow in the American Institute of Stress and in 2015 he received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Science from the Riga Diabetes and Obesity World Congress. In 2015, Diamond also received the University of South Florida International Travel Award. Links: USF lecture: “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic” IHMC lecture: “An Update on Demonization and Deception in Research of Saturday Fat, Cholesterol and Heart Disease -- Show notes: 4:31: Ken and Dawn welcome David to the show. 4:42: Dawn comments on how David has always been interested in science and even wanted to be a physician as a child. She also asks him about majoring in biology and receiving his PhD from the University of California, Irvine. 5:41: Dawn asks David about his varied research topics at the University of South Florida, including cognitive and neurobiological perspectives on why parents lose awareness of children in cars. 7:00: Ken asks David what led him to research cardiovascular disease and statins, since he has such an extensive background in memory and PTSD research. 7:46: Dawn mentions David’s lecture he gave at the University South Florida entitled,
Jul 04, 2017
Episode 40: Allan Savory talks about the global importance of restoring the earth’s grasslands
Joining us for this special edition of STEM-Talk is Robb Wolf, who will co-host today’s show with Ken Ford, STEM-Talk’s regular co-host and chairman of the Double-Secret Selection Committee which selects all the STEM-Talk guests. Wolf is the New York Times best-selling author of “The Paleo Solution” and “Wired to Eat.” He’s also a friend of today’s guest, Alan Savory, a world-renowned ecologist who advocates for the restoration of the earth’s grasslands. “I’ve known Allan for years as a passionate advocate for restoring the health of the earth, especially grasslands. So when Ken invited me to join him and co-host the podcast with Allan, I jumped at the chance,” said Wolf, who is filling in for regular STEM-Talk co-host Dawn Kernagis. Grasslands take up a third of the earth’s land surface. And, as you will learn in today’s podcast, they are in serious trouble. Seventy percent of grasslands have been degraded by global trends ranging from deforestation to droughts to agricultural and livestock practices. As more and more of earth’s fertile land rapidly turns into deserts, Savory travels the world promoting holistic management as a way to reverse thousands of years of human-caused desertification. Savory is an ecologist, international consultant and the president of the Savory Institute, which promotes large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands. Desertification, which Savory says is just a fancy word for land that’s turning to desert, directly affects more than 250 million people worldwide and has placed another billion people at risk, according to the United Nations. Savory was born in Southern Rhodesia, which is now the nation of Zimbabwe, and went to college in South Africa where he majored in zoology and biology. He went to work as a research biologist and game ranger in what was then known as Northern Rhodesia, but is now the nation of Zambia. Later in his career, he became a farmer and game rancher in Zimbabwe. As a game ranger in the 1960s, Allen made a significant breakthrough in understanding what was causing the degradation of the world’s grassland ecosystems and became a consultant who worked with groups on four continents to develop sustainable solutions. Most of his time as a game ranger was spent in the country’s savannas and grasslands among antelopes, elephants and lions. It was then that Allan started to notice that the healthiest grasslands were those in which large herds of wild grazers stayed bunched together and were constantly on the move because of predators that hunted in packs. It was this insight that led Savory to develop what he refers to as a “holistic management framework,” a planning process that mimics nature as a means to heal the environment. Once an opponent of livestock, he grew to believe that increasing the number of livestock on grasslands rather than fencing them off for conservation was the way to stop desertification. But when civil war broke in Rhodesia in the ‘60s, Allan ended up leading an elite military squad to fight communist guerrillas. In the latter days of the civil war, Allan became a member of Parliament and the leader of the opposition to the ruling party. He was exiled in 1979 as a result of his opposition to the ruling party and immigrated to the United States. In 1992, Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield, formed the non-profit Africa Centre for Holistic Management and donated a ranch that serves as learning site for people all over Africa. He and Butterfield then co-founded the Savory Institute in 2009, whose mission is to promote restoration of the world’s grasslands through holistic management. The couple lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have co-authored books together, including “Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment,” which came out last year. In 2003, Allen received Australia’s International Banksia Award for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a g...
Jun 20, 2017
Episode 39: Suzana Herculano provides a new understanding of how our brains became remarkable
Prior to Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel’s research, scientists assumed that the brains of all mammals were built in the same way and that the overall brain mass as compared to body mass was the critical determinant of cognitive ability. It was to resolve these conundrums about brain mass, body mass, and intelligence that Herculano-Houzel turned to chainsaws, butchers’ knives, and kitchen blenders to concoct what she refers to as brain soup. As STEM-Talk co-hosts Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis point out during their interview with Herculano-Houzel, epsisode 39 of the podcast turned out to be not only an enlightening conversation, but also one of the most fun STEM-Talk interviews to date. Herculano-Houzel is a Brazilian neuroscientist who devised a way to count the number of neurons in human and animal brains. She writes about this in her book, The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable. Her method of counting the neurons of human and other animals' brains allowed her to study the relation between the cerebral cortex and the thickness and number of cortical folds in the brain. She is currently an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences in Vanderbilt University’s psychological sciences department and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. She grew up in Brazil and received her undergraduate degree in biology at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, to get her masters in neuroscience, and completed her Ph.D. in visual neurophysiology at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing her doctorate, Herculano-Houzel returned to Rio and went to work for the Museum of Life where she designed children’s activities. In 2002 she returned to her alma mater and began researching how human brains compared to other animals. In 2004, she devised a way of reducing brains to liquid as a means to count the number of neurons in them. It is technically known as the “isotropic fractionator.” In 2004 she won the Jose Reis Prize of Science, and in 2010 she received the James S. McDonell Foundation’s  Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition.  She is also the author of a biweekly newspaper column on the neuroscience of everyday life for Folha de São Paulo, the major newspaper in Brazil. Going into its 11th year, the column has appeared more than 270 times since 2006.  In addition to “The Human Advantage,” Herculano-Houzel is also the author of six books in Portuguese that focus on the neuroscience of everyday life. She also has a popular blog called “The Neuroscientist on Call,” which she describes as not-so-random thoughts about brains, the universe and everything. She lives in Nashville, TN, with her husband, son and two dogs. Links you may be interested in: “The Human Advantage”: The Neuroscientist on Call blog: Show notes: 5:32: Suzana talks about growing up in Rio and how she became interested in science. 7:07: Ken asks Suzana about her work at Rio’s Museum of Life. 12:55: Dawn asks Suzana when she firsts became interested in neuroscience. 16:00: Dawn follows up with a question about the composition of cells in the brain. 29:21: Suzana talks about how the brain represents just 2% of the average human mass, yet requires 25%of person’s energy. 33:14: Dawn tells Suzana she’s curious about Suzana’s method of counting neurons and asks her to talk about how she came up with the idea of brain soup. 38:58: Break 39:24: Dawn reads a portion of a book review that described how Suzana turned to chainsaws, butcher knifes and blenders to concoct brain soup and asks her to elaborate. 42:03: Suzana talks about some of the difficulty she had in locating brains for her research. 53:07: Suzana shares some of the lessons she’s learned from analyzing the brains of more than 100 species.
Jun 06, 2017
Episode 38: Dr. Mark Lupo discusses thyroid nodules and cancer
Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States, especially among women. In Florida, thyroid cancer trails only melanoma skin cancer as the state’s fastest rising cancer. Today’s guest on episode 38 of STEM-Talk has made it his mission to not only treat thyroid cancer, but also raise awareness about the disease. Dr. Mark Lupo is founder and medical director of the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of Florida which is based in Sarasota. A graduate of Duke University, he went on to earn his medical degree at the University of Florida where he worked with the world-famous thyroid expert, Dr. Ernie Mazzaferri. Dr. Lupo also did his internship and residency in internal medicine at Florida and then won a fellowship in endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition at the University of California San Diego and the Scripps Clinic. Dr. Lupo’s research and practice are particularly focused on thyroid nodules, which are abnormal growths of thyroid cells that form a lump within the thyroid gland. Although the vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign, a small proportion do contain thyroid cancer. His practice is centered on diagnosing and treating thyroid cancer at the earliest stage and helping people avoid unnecessary surgeries. He also is very involved in teaching neck ultrasound, thyroid cancer and general thyroid disease to other physicians at the national level.  He has published book chapters and several articles on thyroid disease and thyroid ultrasound.  In addition to his work as the medical director of the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of Florida, he also is a clinical assistant professor on the faculty of the Florida State University College of Medicine. Dr. Lupo also was named the 2017 recipient of the Jack Baskin Endocrine Teaching Award, which is annually presented by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.  You can learn more about the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of Florida by visiting Show notes: 3:21: Ken and Dawn welcome Mark to the show and ask him what led him to study medicine at Duke. 4:52: Dawn asks Mark how he ended up choosing endocrinology with a particular interest in thyroid nodules and cancer as a specialty. 6:40: Dawn asks Mark how he found the time to go on incredible adventures, such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as he worked to establish a practice. 8:40: Mark provides an overview of the thyroid. 9:46: Dawn asks Mark to clarify about whether a thyroid nodule is the same thing as a goiter. 10:25: Ken comments on how thyroid nodules and cancer seem to be epidemic and how there has been an increase of instances in the United States. He asks Mark if there is a greater incidence of disease or if there is just better detection or a combination of both. 14:33: Dawn asks if we know why thyroid nodules and cancer seems more prevalent in women. 15:01: Dawn inquires about the survival rate for those diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and whether or not it has changed over the years. 17:45: Dawn comments on how she has been looking forward to this interview as a result of a thyroid scare she had in graduate school where there was an inconclusive biopsy. She asks Mark how common it is to have an inconclusive finding and unclear results about a sample. 20:52: Ken comments on his personal experience with thyroid nodules that led to surgery and a positive outcome, and how he met Mark early in this experience after hearing him on a podcast discussing fine needle aspiration. After hearing this podcast, Ken concluded that he most likely needed this procedure. Ken asks Mark to talk about this. 23:37: Dawn asks Mark how often the thyroid nodules are discovered incidentally. 27:34: Dawn asks if there are certain characteristics you can see by ultrasound that give you an idea as to whether you are looking at a benign or malignant nodule. 29:53: Dawn asks what the histological differences are between a benign ...
May 23, 2017
Episode 37: Gary Taubes discusses low-carb diets and sheds light on the hazards of sugar
The front pages of Gary Taubes’ new book on sugar feature a blurb excerpted from the magazine Scientific American: “Taubes is a science journalist’s science journalist who researches topics to the point of obsession – actually, well beyond that point – and never dumbs things down for readers.” Gary’s most recent obsession is documented in “The Case Against Sugar,” a book that argues that increased consumption of sugar over the past 30 to 40 years has led to a diabetes epidemic not only in the United States, but an epidemic that’s now spreading around the world. Episode 37 of STEM-Talk features a more than two-hour conversation with Gary about his latest research as well as a look back at other nutrition and science topics that have dominated Gary’s journalistic investigations since the 1980s. Gary first burst onto the national scene in 2002 with an article in the New York Times Magazine titled, “What If’s It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” Gary made the point that Robert Atkins and his high-fat, low-carb diet had a better history and scientific record of helping people lose weight than the low-fat diet that was and remains the centerpiece of the nation’s health policy and food pyramid. The article had an immediate impact. As Michael Pollan pointed out in the introduction of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” in the fall of 2002 bread “abruptly disappeared overnight from the American dinner table.” Virtually overnight, wrote Pollan, Americans changed the way they eat. Gary did not set out to become a science journalist. He graduated from Harvard College in 1977 with an S.B. degree in applied physics and went on to earn an M.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University. But while at Stanford, he realized he wasn’t that passionate about becoming an aeronautical engineer and decided to enroll in the Columbia School of Journalism to become an investigative reporter. In the ‘80s, Gary became fascinated with flawed science and started writing a series of magazine articles about bad science. That eventually led to a pair of books: “Nobel Dreams” in 1987 and “Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion” in 1993. After “Bad Science,” Gary turned to nutrition reporting and that resulted in the 2002 article in the New York Times Magazine. He followed up on his research for the article with two books: “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in 2007; and “Why We Get Fat” in 2010. Both books detailed how refined carbohydrates are largely responsible for America’s rising obesity rate and a primary cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases of the Western diet. His new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” takes this argument a step further and shows how the explosion of sugar consumption and sugar-rich products in the United States has led to a global diabetes epidemic. Dan Barber, author of “The Third Plate,” wrote in a New York Times review of Gary’s book, “Comparing the dangers of inhaling cigarettes with chowing down on candy bars may sound like a false equivalence, but Gary Taubes’s “The Case Against Sugar” will persuade you otherwise. Here is a book on sugar that sugarcoats nothing. The stuff kills.” Below are links to Gary’s books: “The Case Against Sugar” “Good Calories, Bad Calories” “Why We Get Fat” “Bad Science” “Nobel Dreams” Show notes: 4:41: Ken and Dawn welcome Gary to the show and ask him to talk about how a Harvard physics major ended up going to journalism school to become an investigative reporter. 12:53: Dawn asks Gary to tell the story behind his 2002 article in The New York Times Magazine, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” 21:13: Gary shares how his work for “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” led to additional research and the book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”
May 09, 2017
Episode 36: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter Discusses His Life in Rock ‘n’ Roll and the U.S. Intelligence Community
In a rare departure from interviews with scientists and engineers, STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Director Ken Ford interview Jeffrey “Skunk” Baxter about his life as a musician and founding member of Steely Dan, and how he went on to become a defense consultant on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The two fields seem completely different, but Baxter explains the similarities between them and talks about how improvising in jazz is a skill that can carry over into defense analytics and tactics. Baxter’s bio includes playing with a number of well-known bands, such as Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers. As a studio musician for 35 years, Baxter recorded with Donna Summer, Dolly Parton, Ringo Starr and Rod Stewart. He was a record producer for Carl Wilson, the Beach Boys and Stray Cats. He also composed music for movies and television. He has achieved a certain renown in Washington as an advisor and consultant for multiple agencies and defense technology companies. He chaired a Congressional Advisory Board on missile defense and was a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute. Baxter also holds a unique affiliation with IHMC as “senior thinker and raconteur.” He and Ken go way back—to Ken’s own days in the rock ‘n’ roll business, which the two discuss in the interview. Baxter’s IHMC bio is available at More information on him is at or In 2009, Baxter gave an IHMC lecture entitled “The Revolution in Intelligence.” 2:12: Dawn reads a five-star iTunes review. 3:04: Dawn reads Baxter’s bio and introduces Jeff and Ken. 4:38: Baxter talks about musicians who influenced him growing up, from Beethoven and Chopin to Thelonious Monk and Ella Fitzgerald. 5:05: Baxter was five years old when his mother gave him a great gift: “She taught me to read.” 6:04: Baxter read a lot of military history because of his father, who spent five years in active duty and 20 years in the reserves. 7:00: Baxter describes his beginnings as a musician. 8:00: His love of the complexity and improvisational nature of jazz helped prepare him for work in the intelligence community. 10:25: Ken asks Baxter to talk about his days in the ‘70s as a founding member of Steely Dan. 11:15: Baxter shares his insights about studio recordings. 12:27: Baxter notes that a long time ago Ken was very involved in rock ‘n’ roll as an agent who booked and managed bands. 15:30: Baxter talks about Steely Dan and the unsung hero of the band, Roger Nichols, who was the engineer. 17:30: Baxter describes his transition from Steely Dan to The Doobie Brothers. 21:11: Ken comments that the evolution of The Doobie Brothers was remarkable. He asks Baxter about bringing Mike McDonald to the band. 23:20: Dawn asks about Baxter’s transition from full-time rock musician to advisor on missile defense. 23:30: Baxter quips: “A radar is just an electric guitar on steroids.” 25:35: Writing a paper on converting the Aegis system to do theater missile defense on a mobile platform led Baxter to a position as a missile defense consultant on the Senate Armed Services Committee. 26:28: Baxter describes D.C. as “a whole new world to me” filled with “unbelievably talented, smart patriotic men and women.” 27:25: How Baxter used Beethoven, Bach, Jimmy Hendrix and Pink Floyd to teach radar at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. 28:50: Edward Teller, the Hungarian-American theoretical physicist, was also a concert pianist. Baxter talks about how he began to realize that more and more physicists he met were also musicians. 29:48: Dawn asks how Baxter was received by the defense community in D.C., given his rock band background. 31:33: Baxter talks about his first ‘brutal” press conference on missile defense (not considered back then by the press as a worthy endea...
Apr 25, 2017
Episode 35: Stuart McGill explains the mechanics of back pain and the secrets to a healthy spine
Back pain has become the world’s leading cause of disability. Stuart McGill has been at the forefront of non-surgical approaches to addressing back pain for many years. His 2015 book "Back Mechanic: The Secrets to a Healthy Spine Your Doctor Isn't Telling You" is a wonderfully accessible account of his methods and perspectives. McGill spent 30 years as a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His laboratory has become a renowned destination for everyday people as well as Olympic and professional athletes from around the world who are struggling with back pain. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and 3 textbooks that address issues such as lumbar spine function and injury mechanisms, patient assessment, corrective exercise prescription, and performance training. McGill also consults for many medical management groups, governments, corporations, legal firms, and elite sports teams. He has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Volvo Bioengineering Award for Low Back Pain Research. He released his landmark text, “Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation,” in 2002. It changed the way coaches, bodybuilders, athletes and non-athletes approached core training. His new book, “Back Mechanic,” is written for a lay audience and addresses common misperceptions about back pain. It also provides a step-by-step guide of the McGill Method to fix back pain. is a web site also geared for a lay audience and is dedicated to providing access to evidence-based information and products that assist in preventing and rehabilitating back pain. Products featured on the website have been tested in McGill's lab at the University of Waterloo. McGill and his staff have also produced a video, “The Ultimate Back: Enhancing Performance,” that synthesizes McGill's approaches for avoiding back injury and enhancing athletic and physical performance. It is available for purchase on Vimeo. 4:23: Stuart talks about how he was more interested in becoming a plumber than a scientist until his high school football coach asked him to return to school and earn his high school degree. That led him to college where he met professors who got him excited about mathematics and physics, and eventually the study of spine biomechanics. 7:00: Ken asks Stuart to describe the remarkable research atmosphere Stuart was able to create at the University of Waterloo. 8:08: Stuart explains that he did not go to medical school, but that he learned he had a unique talent of assessing and relating to people with back pain. 11:00: Ken shares his experience of back pain and traveling to Canada to visit Stuart as a patient, which prompts Stuart to describe his process of assessing people. 14:53: Dawn asks Stuart to talk about his motivation for writing “The Back Mechanic.” 19:53: Although back pain is the world’s leading cause of disability, Dawn asks Stuart why back pain is underappreciated by so many people in the medical community. 22:04: Stuart explains some of the most mechanisms for back injury and ways to prevent them. 26:22: Ken asks Stuart to talk about a study he did several years ago on firefighters with the Pensacola Fire Department. 30:36: Stuart talks about how heavy weightlifting will probably shorten the careers of modern golfers like Rory Mcllroy, and how the great golfers of old who had wonderful long careers – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player – weren't weightlifters. 33:53: Stuart talks about the great strikers in mixed martial arts and the UFC are the leaner ones who can unleash muscle. The same is true of the great sprinters, the great golfers, and the great home run hitters, who are the ones who can create a very brief muscle power pulse, and let it go. 34:33: Dawn asks Stuart about reports that the rate of back surgery in the U.S. is five times higher than in other developed countries.
Apr 11, 2017
Episode 34: Jim Stray-Gundersen explains how blood flow restriction training builds muscle and improves performance
Blood-flow-restriction training is a topic of growing interest. But as IHMC director and STEM-Talk co-host Dr. Ken Ford points out, there’s also a great deal of misinformation about the training. Episode 34 of STEM-Talk addresses some of that misinformation with our interview of Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen, who helped pioneer blood flow restriction training and leads the Live Hi/Train Low program for the US Athletic Trust. Since receiving his board certification in general surgery in 1985, Jim has focused his work and research on maximizing human performance, health and resilience. He pioneered the Hi-Low training protocol and played a key role in the development of the anti-doping test, SAFE, which stands for Safe And Fair Events. It is considered the most aggressive blood-profiling test in the fight against doping. He has worked with numerous Olympians in various sports and has an ongoing relationship with world renowned long-distance runner Alberto Salazar, who also is a coach and director of the NIKE Oregon Project. Jeff has been an official physician and consultant of the United States, Norwegian and Canadian Olympic teams. He is an official member of 15 world championships. Jim completed post-doctoral fellowships in cardiovascular physiology and human nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He received appointments as an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and physiology. He spent 20 years on the faculty of UTSW and helped build and direct two human-performance centers at St. Paul and Baylor University hospitals. He has served on international medical committees that include the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, International Biathlon Committee, International Ski Federation and the International Skating Union. Jim also is the sports science advisor for the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), and continues to lead human performance and altitude camps for Olympic athletes, masters athletes, as well as Navy SEALs. He runs The SG Performance Medicine Center and Sport Technologies for Maximal Athletic Performance, overall fitness, weight loss, and recovery in Frisco, Texas, and now the new center in Park City, Utah, located inside The Center of Excellence USSA Building. As if that isn’t enough, he also is the chief medical officer of B STRONG (, a Utah -based company he co-founded in an effort to make blood flow restriction safe, effective, and affordable for the general public. B STRONG is a patent-pending exercise method based on blood-flow restriction exercise. During the interview, Jim refers to several studies and articles. Below is a link to those studies and papers, and two suppliers of blood flow restriction gear. Be sure to also check out the US Athletic Trust, an organization that supports American Olympic hopefuls, that Jim talks about toward the end of the podcast. Studies: -- Rapid increase in plasma growth hormone after low-intensity resistance exercise with vascular occlusion -- Effects of resistance exercise combined with moderate vascular occlusion on muscular function in humans -- Repetitive restriction of muscle blood flow enhances mTOR signaling pathways in a rat model -- Use and safety of KAATSU training: Results of a national survey -- Blood flow-restricted exercise in space -- Proliferation of myogenic stem cells in human skeletal muscle in response to low-load resistance training with blood flow restriction -- Blood flow-restricted strength training displays high functional and biological efficacy in women: a within-subject comparison with high-load strength training -- Applications of vascular occlusion diminish disuse atrophy of knee extensor muscles Gear: Kaatsu Global, to get 15% discount use discount code: IHMC Go B Strong, to get 15% discount use discount code: IHMC Show notes: :30: Dawn welcomes Ken, who talks about how he has been using blood flow restriction training f...
Mar 28, 2017
Episode 33: Dr. Natalie Batalha talks about exoplanets and the possibility of life in our Milky Way and beyond
Dr. Natalie Batalha’s STEM-Talk interview was so contagious that Dawn Kernagis said it made her dream of returning to school to get a second graduate degree in astronomy. “Hearing Natalie talk about her research had all of us in the STEM-Talk studio buzzing,” said Dawn, the podcast’s co-host. Natalie is an astrophysicist and the project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. She sat down with Dawn and veteran astronaut and IHMC senior research scientist Tom Jones for episode 33 of STEM-Talk. As one of the original co-investigators of the Kepler Mission, Natalie has been a leader in using the telescope to discover exoplanets, which are planets that orbit stars other than our own sun. Natalie has been involved in the Kepler Mission since the proposal stage and has helped identify more than 150,000 stars that are monitored by the telescope. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from The University of California Berkeley, and a doctoral degree in astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz. She taught physics and astronomy for 10 years at San Jose State University before joining the Space Sciences Division of the NASA Ames Research Center, which is located in California’s Silicon Valley. In 2011, Natalie received a NASA Public Service Medal for her vision in communicating Kepler’s science to the public, and also for her outstanding leadership in coordinating the Kepler science team. That same year Natalie also headed up the analysis that led to the discovery of Kepler 10b, the first confirmed rocky planet outside our solar system. She joined the leadership team of a new NASA initiative in 2015, which is dedicated to the search for evidence of life beyond our solar system. Called the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, the program brings together teams from multiple disciplines to understand the diversity of worlds, and which of those exoplanets are most likely to harbor life. As if Dawn and the STEM-Talk gang weren't excited enough after talking to Natalie about the search for life beyond our solar system, NASA announced about a month after our interview with Natalie that its Spitzer Space Telescope had revealed the first known system of seven Earth-sized planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water. According to a NASA press release in February, the discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone. 0:30: Dawn welcomes Ken Ford, IHMC founder and director as well as the chairman of the Double Secret Selection Committee that chooses guests who appear on STEM-Talk. Dawn and Ken then talk about Natalie’s background as an astrophysicist. 4:35: Dawn welcomes her co-host for this episode of STEM-Talk, Tom Jones, and they begin the interview by asking Natalie how she became interested in astronomy. 8:03: Natalie talks about how as an undergrad at Berkeley she met a post-doctoral researcher from Brazil who later became her husband. As a result, she ended up doing her post-doctoral work in Rio de Janeiro. 15:47: Dawn asks Natalie to describe the history of the Kepler mission. 19:00: Tom asks Natalie to describe the difficulty of trying to detect a distant planet. 21:34: Natalie describes how long the Kepler telescope has been in space and provides a summary of its findings. 25:30: Natalie talks about lava worlds, which have oceans larger than the Pacific Ocean, but they’re made of lava, which is why scientists call them lava worlds. 27:30: Dawn asks Natalie about the discovery of Kepler 10b,
Mar 14, 2017
Episode 32: Dr. Claire Fraser explains how our gut microbes improve our health, prevent disease and even play a role in our mental health
Women who are pregnant often talk how careful they are about what they eat and drink. They’re careful, points out Dr. Claire Fraser, because they’re feeding their baby. “Well, we should all think about diet in the same way that pregnant women do,” says Fraser. “Everything we put into our mouths, we’re either feeding or not feeding our gut microbes … And it’s important we keep our gut microbes happy.” Fraser is a pioneer and global leader in genomic medicine, a branch of molecular biology that focuses on the genome. In episode 32 of STEM-Talk, Fraser sits down with host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC founder Ken Ford to explain why we should all pay more attention to our guts, which is the home of more than 100 trillion bacteria. An endowed professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Fraser is a founder and director of Maryland’s Institute for Genome Sciences. From 1998 to 2007, she was the director of the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, and led teams that sequenced the genomes of several microbial organisms, including important human and animal pathogens. In 1995, she became the first person to map the complete genetic code of a free-living organism, Haemophilus Influenza, the bacterium that causes lower respiratory tract infections and meningitis in infants and young children. This discovery forever changed microbiology and launched a new field of study, microbial genomics. During this time, she and her team also sequenced the bacteria behind syphilis and Lyme disease, and eventually the first plant genome and the first human-pathogenic parasite. She even helped identify the source of a deadly 2001 anthrax attack in one of the biggest investigations conducted by U.S. law enforcement. Research into the benefits of gut bacteria has exploded around the world in the past decade.  In this STEM-Talk episode, Fraser explains the role these microbes play in improving health, preventing disease, and keeping us mentally sharp. She even shares how her diet has changed since she started studying the gut microbiome. Fraser also talks about working with the FBI during the 2001 antrhax attacks and her early work in microbiology that led to the first mapping of a free-living organism’s complete genetic code. Her recent lecture at IHMC, titled “The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease,” can be viewed at If you’re interested in learning more about the gut microbiome, Fraser in her lecture recommended “The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health” by Stanford University scientists Justin and Erica Sonnenburg. 1:36: Dawn reads the five-star iTunes review titled “Intellectually Stimulating.” 2:28: Dawn and Ken provide a summary of Claire’s background and research, pointing out that she has authored more than 320 scientific publications, edited three books, and has served on committees of the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and National Institutes of Health. 4:13: Dawn welcomes Claire to STEM-Talk. 4:27: Claire talks about growing up in a suburb of Boston and taking her first biology course as a freshman in high school, which set her on a path toward a career in science. 5:37: Dawn asks Claire what led her to study microbiology. 6:53: Ken points out that there are more microbes on a person’s hand than there are people in the world. He asks Claire to give listeners a short intro into “Microbiome 101.” 9:34: Claire talks about the role of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), a strain of bacteria that is part of many popular probiotic products and has a reputation as a helpful microbe. 12:00: Ken asks Claire to expand upon the potential of probiotics and their usage in human beings. 14:56: Dawn points out that Claire is internationally known for her role in genome sequencing and asks what led Claire to establish the Institute of Genomics at Maryland.
Feb 28, 2017
Episode 31: Dr. Michael Turner, who coined the phrase ‘dark energy,’ talks about the deepest issues in cosmology
Dr. Michael Turner makes a “big bang” in the world of theoretical cosmology. Translation: He’s an expert on the universe—what it’s made of, what’s in its future, and how it came to be. Turner is the Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. From 2003 until 2006, was Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences for the National Science Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, and he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Michael Turner and Vera Rubben, who recently passed away. Turner is most well-known for having coined the phrase “dark energy” in 1998, which he calls “very, very mysterious stuff.” Thought to comprise 70 percent of the universe, dark energy is responsible for both the expansion of the universe and the increasing speed at which that expansion is occurring. Another five percent of the universe is atoms, and the remaining twenty-five percent is “dark matter”—what Turner calls “the cosmic infrastructure of the universe.” The universe, he adds, has largely “been a battle between the two dark titans: dark energy and dark matter.” “He [Turner] is able to explain the deepest issues in cosmology with a rare clarity and elegance,” says IHMC Director Ken Ford. “His research focuses on the earliest moments of creation.” With Chicago cosmologist Rocky Kolb, Turner co-wrote the well-known book “The Early Universe.” More information on Turner can be found here: and here: Turner’s 2011 IHMC lecture, “The Dark Side of the Universe,” can be viewed here: . Turner was also a guest on STEM-Talk for an earlier episode for his interview on the discovery of gravitational waves. Turner is interviewed by regular STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and guest host Tom Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut and senior research scientist at IHMC. 00:37: Ken calls Dr. Michael Turner “exactly the right guy to talk to about dark energy and dark matter. After all, he coined the phrase dark energy. He is able to explain deepest issues in cosmology with a rare clarity and elegance.” 1:04: Ken pays tribute to Vera Rubin, who passed away on Christmas Day. She confirmed the existence of dark matter and transformed modern physics and astronomy. 2:24: Ken asks for feedback on STEM-Talk and reads 5-star iTunes review from BobRXUF: “With all of the garbage we are bombarded with, listening to STEM-Talk reminds me that there is higher intelligence, the hope for mankind.” 3:35: Dawn and Ken introduce Michael and talk about his background. 4:17: Dawn and Tom welcome Michael to STEM-Talk. 4:39: Tom asks Michael to give listeners the big picture about the structure of our universe and explain how we stumbled upon the phenomenon called dark matter and dark energy? 5:14: Michael explains that a half of one percent of the universe is in the form of stars. The other 99.5 percent is dark. 6:29: Michael talks about how dark matter matter provides the cosmic infrastructure of the universe. 7:45: “Our universe,” says Michael, “has really been a battle between the two dark titans: dark energy and dark matter.” 9:49: Michael explains that’s it’s the stars that give off energy and it’s the atoms we’re made of. “We’re the tip of the iceberg. We’re the special stuff.” 10:52: “Michael talks about producing dark matter particles at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. 11:25: Tom asks Michael what was the original evidence for dark matter and dark energy and who were the people who made that discovery? 13:20: Michael describes how Vera Rubin, a scientist working at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington,
Feb 14, 2017
Episode 30: Art De Vany Talks About Hollywood Economics, the Paleo Way, and the Role of Fitness and Diet in Aging
Dr. Art De Vany is an American economist known for his work on the Hollywood film industry. He is perhaps best known, however, as the grandfather of the paleo diet, a high-protein, high-fiber way of eating similar to the way our hunter-gather ancestors ate during the Stone Age. Born in 1937, he has had a varied career that began right out of high school when he signed a baseball contract with the Hollywood Stars, a minor-league affiliate of the Pittsburg Pirates. Even though he could “run like a deer” and “hit the ball out of sight,” his poor eyesight ended his baseball career and led him the UCLA where earned a doctorate in economics. He spent most of his academic career studying Hollywood and the film industry. His research has ranged from “Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry” to “Quality Revaluations and the Breakdown of Statistical Herding in the Dynamics of Box Office Revenues.” De Vany turns 80 in August and has spent the past 40 years living the paleo way. He outlined his diet and fitness philosophy in “The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us About Weight Loss, Fitness and Aging.” He is working on a new book that’s tentatively titled “Renewing Cycles: Healing the Wounds of Aging Through Improved Cellular Defense and Systemic Signaling.” De Vany gave a lecture at IHMC in Pensacola last December where he talked about the New Evolution Diet” as well as his upcoming book on aging. In Episode 30 of STEM-Talk, host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Founder Ken Ford have a wide-ranging conversation with De Vany that covers his statistical study of home-run hitting to the dynamics of box-office revenues to the role that exercise and diet play in aging. 0:15: Dawn welcomes Ken, who talks briefly about Art’s background. 1:32: Dawn announces the winning iTunes review. 2:05: Dawn and Ken give an overview of Art’s career and research. 3:12: – Dawn welcomes Art to the show. 3:50: Art talks about his youth and how he started weightlifting as a teen-ager. 5:23: He signs with the Pittsburg Pirates and talks about playing in segregated baseball parks in the South, which was something he had never experienced before. 7:40: Ken and Art compare the lean physiques of great sluggers active in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s such as Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Carl Yastrzemski with today’s much larger home run hitters. 10:37: Art recalls how debates with one of his professors at UCLA about central planning versus decentralized control systems led him into economics. 13:10: Dawn asks Art to talk about his research into the economics of Hollywood. 16:17: Art explains the impact of movies like “The Titanic,” which can generate 10 percent of all the box-office revenues during a year that will see 600 to 700 movies that are released. 17:06: Dawn asks Art to share his fondest scientific and professional memories. 18:11: In 1979, Art’s newborn son is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and leads to Art’s interest and research into metabolism. 20:20: Dawn asks Art to describe the most profound power laws he has discovered in his pursuit to counter the aging process. 22:26: Ken shares his thoughts about “The New Evolution Diet,” which he describes as beautifully built on Art’s personal interest in evolution and his professional interest in complex stochastic systems. 25:26: Art explains how the book grew out of his realization that insulin controls the pathways that drive growth and obesity as well as shutting down the protective pathways. 26:45: Art describes genes as Bayesian forecasters arising from non-genetic influences on genetic expression. 28:17: Ken inquires about Art’s time at the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences, which Art describes as a dream place for him.
Jan 31, 2017
Episode 29: Leonard Wong Discusses a Culture of Dishonesty in the Army
Dr. Leonard Wong, a research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College, led an important study titled: “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession.”  The study, which was published in 2015 generated much discussion as well as some consternation and reflection. In this episode, Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC’s Director Ken Ford talk with Wong about his study and its implications. Wong also lectured about his study at IHMC in Pensacola last September: Wong’s research focuses on the human and organizational dimensions of the military and includes topics such as leadership development in the military profession. He is a retired Army Officer and taught leadership at West Point. He is also an analyst for the Chief of Staff in the Army. Wong’s research has led him Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Vietnam. He has testified before Congress and has been featured widely in the media, including the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New York Times, PBS, NPR, 60 Minutes and CNN. Wong is a professional engineer and holds a Bachelor’s from the U.S. Military Academy. He also has a Master’s and a Ph.D. in business administration from Texas Tech University. 1:43: Ken reads five-star iTunes review from “CC Rider,” which is entitled “Intelligent Podcast: What a Relief:” “What a pleasure to hear intelligent, articulate people discussing worthwhile topics.” 2:17: Dawn describes Wong’s bio. 3:18: Dawn welcomes Wong and Ken. 3:42: Wong describes his role at the U.S. Army War College, as well as the College’s structure. When Army leaders arrive at the War College, they’ve generally been in the Army for twenty years. They’re at the point of thinking strategically about leadership and their roles. 5:27: Wong’s research into this topic started over a decade ago, with the question of how to build more time into the schedule of junior offices to facilitate innovation. Wong and his colleagues discovered an overwhelming amount of requirements, which were stifling Innovation. In the back of his mind, Wong concluded: ‘If we require more than they can possibly do, what are we reporting?’ 6:36: Wong, in conversation with his colleague Steve Gerras, once asked him what he was doing on his computer. He was supposedly doing mandatory training, but not really. He said, ‘I know, I’m just saying I did it.’ Wong realized then ‘how casually we approach lying, but we don’t call it lying.’ 7:15: The theory of Wong’s subsequent study came from a book entitled “Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It,” by Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel (, along with what David Messick called ethical fading. The methodology was to use focus groups from various ranks throughout the Army, including staff officers at the Pentagon. 8:12: Dawn mentions that Wong’s study had a precedent: In 1970, the U.S. Army War College published a study showing that lying in the Army was pervasive. Digitization, the audit culture, and downsizing have made it worse today. 8:43: Wong says, “The Army is like a compulsive hoarder. It collects requirements, and it never gives any up. We always add more. We keep adding to the pile. Technology has made a huge influence on this.” Now, with email and Internet, we can ask people to provide digital signatures, and do various online trainings. 9:42: Wong characterizes another part of the problem: “The Army has had a giant emphasis on being a profession. It’s a good thing, but it’s made us believe that we are better than we are. We forget that we are humans. We forget that we are talking about people who can fall to the same temptations, go the same route, as an ordinary human.” 10:35: Ken asks about Wong’s description of people in the Army being so overwhelmed that they have to prioritize. 10:50: Wong says,
Jan 17, 2017
Episode 28: Mike Gernhardt Discusses the Overlapping Challenges of Working Undersea and in Space
Mike Gernhardt’s career epitomizes the scientific overlap between the depths of the ocean and space. Prior to his career as a NASA astronaut, Gernhardt was a professional diver and engineer on subsea oil field construction and repair projects around the world. As a child, Gernhardt vacationed in Florida, where he developed a love of the ocean. Like many children, Gernhardt dreamed of becoming an astronaut. However, unlike most kids, he stuck with his dream and began taking steps to pursue it in high school when, in his own words, he “had already put together that working in space and in the sea were similar.” Gernhardt received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Vanderbilt University, followed by his Master’s and Ph.D.—both in Bioengineering—from the University of Pennsylvania. At the University of Pennsylvania, he worked with his life-long mentor C.J. Lambertson, who is considered to be one of the godfathers of diving medicine. Under Lambertson, Gernhardt received unparalleled field work experience, testing real-time the decompression tables that he’d developed and  still constitute the commercial diving standard. In 1992, Gernhardt was selected to be an astronaut at NASA, where he completed four space flights and space walks. He also started a company called Oceaneering Space Systems, where he transferred his subsea robotics experience to NASA. Gernhardt stated, “There’s really a lot of synergy between working underwater and working in space, and the design of the task for human and robot compatibility.” Gernhardt has received numerous awards and honors, including the highly coveted NASA Distinguished Service Medal. To view his bios: ; In this episode, STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis, an esteemed diver and undersea expert herself, and co-host Tom Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut, engage in a thought-provoking conversation. 1:35: Ken reads a 5-star iTunes review from Paula Olivet: “I wish this podcast aired everyday.” This show takes science as a personal, academic and professional venture, which it entirely is. It’s not all pipettes and mice. It’s ambition, and unquenchable thirst for answers. Even when I think the episode subject matter is not for me, I still find myself completely enthralled.” 2:32: Dawn recounts Gernhardt’s educational and professional background: He hold a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Vanderbilt University and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a professional deep sea diver and engineer on projects around world. He was a manager and Vice President of Special Projects for Oceaneering International, and established Oceaneering Space Systems to transfer subsea technology and operational experience to the international space program. 3:05: Ken adds: “His impact on the agency and how we do human space flight is really extensive.” 4:02: Dawn welcomes Mike and Tom to the episode. 4:31: Gernhardt explains his initial interest in diving: “As a four or five-year old I was always going fishing with my dad in Florida. At nine or ten, I was doing scuba diving on a family vacation. I got certified at age 12 and became a dive instructor at 18.” For the first couple of summers after college, he worked as a scuba instructor and boat captain at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Then he got into commercial diving, where he noted the limitations in decompression tables. 5:38: These limitations inspired him to study the physiology and biophysics of diving. In college, he studied physics and math, and was a pre-med major. When he graduated, he wasn’t ready to commit to graduate or medical school, so he worked as a commercial diver. 6:40: Describing his commercial diving experience, he says: “Unlike the more sheltered college environment, here it was like: What can you do in the water at the end of the hose?
Jan 03, 2017
Episode 27: Robb Wolf Discusses the Paleo Diet, Ketosis, Exercise, Nicotine … and Much More!
For fitness and Paleo Diet aficionados—and perhaps regular STEM-talk listeners—Robb Wolf is the type of esteemed guest who needs no introduction. Many people already know him by his best-selling book, “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet,” ( or his top-ranked podcast by that same name. ( But what some people may not know is that Wolf also started the world’s first cross-fit affiliate gym; that he’s raising his young daughters on a paleo diet—which may account for their mouths having a similar phenotypical expression as hunters and gatherers; and that nicotine—yes, nicotine—can actually be good for you (just not delivered by cigarette) in some contexts. STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Founder Ken Ford talk to Wolf about these and other fascinating insights in this episode. Wolf hailed from a relatively unhealthy family, which pushed him towards discovering good health on his own terms. A keen interest and aptitude in science (he was a biochemistry major at California State University-Chico) set Wolf on the path of evolutionary medicine. He began thinking seriously about pre-agricultural diets in response to his mother’s poor reaction to her consumption of grains, legumes, and dairy. Since that time, Wolf has become an expert, researcher, and self-experimenter of the Paleo Diet. His expertise has led him to become a review editor for Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism; co-founder of The Performance Menu, a nutrition and athletic training journal; and co-owner of NorCal, one of Men’s Health magazine’s top thirty gyms in America. He is also a consultant for the Naval Special Warfare Resiliency Program. Wolf recently gave a lecture entitled “Darwinian Medicine: Maybe There IS Something to This Evolution Thing” at IHMC: 2:10: Dawn reads iTunes review entitled “No Bro Science Here” from someone nicknamed “Leafy Sweets:” “Science-based interviews with experts, post-docs and department/lab heads on relevant topics. No Bro Science here!  Interesting discussions relevant to one’s well-being and interests.” 3:46: Dawn welcomes Robb and Ken. 4:10: “I was raised by two well-meaning, but quite ill parents. Both of them smoked, neither of them exercised, both of them developed Type-2 Diabetes pretty early in their lives, and I’m not really sure why…but somewhere along the line I suspected that if I ate better and exercised, that I could maybe have a better outcome.” 5:00: “They really kind of acquiesced all their health to the medical establishment, and I went just as opposite that vector as you can possibly imagine.” 5:30: “I had a pretty good interest in science in general… I got into an organic chemistry class (in high school) and loved it like I had never loved anything before, and actually discovered that I had an aptitude for spinning molecules in my head and thinking about bonding and stuff like that.” 6:55: After his degree in biochemistry, Wolf considered medical school, but he had some personal health problems. That’s when, “The evolutionary approach to health/medicine got on my radar.” 7:28: Plus, he says, “Academia seemed to move at glacial speeds.” “Around 2000-2001, I found this weird thing called Cross-fit. I opened a gym, and it happened to be the first cross-fit affiliate in the world, and I opened a second one (the fourth in the world) … That was kind of the medicine that I wanted to practice. I got to talk to people about sleep, food exercise; and build community.” 9:15: Wolf describes his entry into evolutionary medicine: He was vegan, he was not sleeping and he had moved to Seattle, into a tiny basement where he didn’t see the sun for several months. He had a lot of gastro-intestinal problems, as did his mother, whose rheumatologist told her she was allergic to grains, legumes and dairy. 10:47: Around 1998, Wolf learned about the Paleo Diet through the work of Arthur D...
Dec 20, 2016
Episode 26: Richard Moon discusses deep-sea and high-altitude medicine
Dr. Richard Moon had an unusual inspiration to practicing medicine: a television show, in black and white, entitled, “Medicine in the ‘60s.” He remembers being blown away by watching live surgeries performed on the show. This eventually led him to a career in the operating room—not as a surgeon, but an anesthesiologist. Like many STEM-Talk guests, Moon wears many hats. In addition to being a physician, he is a renowned researcher in the hyperbaric and diving medicine. He is currently a professor of anesthesiology and medicine at Duke University, and the Medical Director of Duke’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology. In this episode, Host Dawn Kernagis, herself a rising research scientist in undersea medicine, as well as a highly experienced diver—earlier this year, she was inducted to the Women Divers Hall of Fame—talks with Moon, one of her mentors. Dawn met Moon when she participated in one of his research projects as a diver, and she went to him with research ideas as a potential research intern. She eventually became one of his graduate students at Duke University. In this lively and informative mentor-mentee discussion, Dawn and Moon talk about the history of hyperbaric medicine, including the establishment of Duke’s world-renowned Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology. They talk about medical conditions that can occur in deep sea diving, such as high pressure nervous syndrome and immersion pulmonary edema, as well as high-altitude sickness. Moon shares insights about his experiments in both high altitude and deep sea medicine, as well as his own expedition in climbing Mount Everest. Check out Moon’s home page at Duke: ; as well as his lecture at IHMC last January: “From the Ocean Depths to the Mountain Tops: How Do Humans Adapt?” 00:15: Dawn introduces Ken and describes Moon as a world-renowned physician and researcher who works in hyperbaric and diving medicine. 00:40: Dawn says she was “very lucky to have Dr. Moon as a mentor.” She participated in his research projects, as a diver. She then went to him with research ideas, and he accepted her as a graduate student, and he’s been a mentor and colleague ever since. 1:45: Ken reads a five-star iTunes review from “GTG2010” called “Exploding Kid:” “Dear STEM-Talk, I like your show. The super telescope looking at asteroids is cool. I like it so much I’m going to explode. Love, Griffin, age 6.” 2:38: Dawn runs through Moon’s bio. He holds an M.D. and a C.M. from McGill University in Canada, and a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, as well as the American Board of Internal Medicine. He has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed publications. 3:48: Dawn welcomes Moon to the podcast. 4:06: Moon describes what sparked his interest in medicine when he was in high school. He watched a television show, in black and white, called “Medicine in the ‘60s.” “It showed operations. It was mind-blowing, so I decided that I had to go into medicine.” 4:49: In medical school, Moon’s first interest was in pulmonary medicine—simply because in the first-year lecture series on organ systems, the one on the pulmonary system was the best. Yet, he felt compelled to do something different and took a couple of years off to study biomedical engineering. 6:20: Moon went to Duke University with a fellowship in pulmonary medicine as well as an opportunity to undergo scientific training in diving physiology. One of his mentors, Enrico Camporesi, encouraged him to go into anesthesiology. 7:20: “Eventually he [Camporesi] won me over. That’s where I am today.” 7:46: Moon’s interest in diving physiology initially came from the television program “Sea Hunt.
Dec 06, 2016
Episode 25: James Briscione discusses the art & science of food & flavor
James Briscione’s stellar cooking career began humbly: As a teenager, he washed dishes at a now defunct restaurant (named Jubilee) on Pensacola Beach. He quickly rose through the ranks, at age 24 becoming the chef de cuisine at the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the South, and later the sous chef at the prestigious New York City restaurant Daniel. Today Briscione, who lives in New York City, is a top-tier chef, author of three books on cooking, director of culinary development at the Institute of Culinary Education, and a three-time champion on the Food Network’s cooking competition series Chopped. So what is he doing on STEM-Talk, you might ask? Briscione is also versed in the science of cooking and flavor. He partnered with IBM in creating the “Chef Watson” project. This computer-based program generates hundreds of novel flavor combinations based on the compatibility of chemical compounds in food. In this episode, Briscione talks with IHMC Director Ken Ford and IHMC Chef Blake Rushing about the art and science of food, and Briscione’s career as a chef. Briscione’s three books include: “Just Married and Cooking” (with his wife Brooke Parkhurst):; “Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson”(; and “The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better.” ( He also has his own, new television show on the Food Network called “Cooking with Dad.” Briscione, his ideas on cooking and his own culinary creations have been featured in the New York Times, NPR, the New Yorker, Time Magazine and hundreds of other media outlets throughout the world. Briscione’s recent talk at IHMC, entitled “Who teaches the cooks to cook?” can be viewed at Dive into this delicious interview—an entertaining and informative conversation between three foodies. 00:32: Ken introduces Blake Rushing as the guest co-host of this episode of STEM-Talk. Rushing is IHMC’s chef, as well as the owner of Union Public House in Pensacola. 1:00: Ken introduces James Briscione as, “Working in the boundary spaces between the science of food, science and taste and even AI systems, such as Chef Watson.” 1:49: Dawn reads 5-Star iTunes review from “Beautronical:” “I am continually enthralled by the variety and depth of ideas presented here. Also, it is rare that one finds great minds matched by great voices. Given the ketogenic bent of certain interviewers, perhaps mellifluous is the wrong term, but I’ll use it nonetheless.” 4:42: Ken introduces himself and Blake Rushing as hosts of the interview; and then welcomes James to the interview. 5:05: James says he remembers the food made by his Italian grandmother. Among them: chicken cacciatore (although the mushy carrots bugged him.) The “greatest mashed potatoes… Sunday red sauce; sausage and meatballs loaded down with pecorino cheese.” 6:55: “True learning doesn’t often happen until you’re in the kitchen every day,” Briscione tells his students. He didn’t go to culinary school, but has been in the kitchen since he was 16. 8:15: At 16, he was a bus boy washing dishes for two restaurants: fine dining upstairs and casual beach dining downstairs. 9:33: As a teenager and at the beginning of college, Briscione thought, ‘There’s no way I am going to spend the rest of my life in a kitchen.’ He was working on a degree in sports medicine in Birmingham, and worked summers at the restaurant [in Pensacola]. After his second summer, something clicked: he changed his course of study from sports medicine to nutrition. 11:00: James knocked on the back door of Bottega Cafe [in Birmingham] and said, ‘I want to work here.’ He got a job as pizza maker with a wood-fired oven. He remembers stretching the dough and putting the toppings on it, then handing it off to the next guy.
Nov 22, 2016
Episode 24: Doug McGuff talks about resistance training, myokines, strength and health
One could say that Dr. Doug McGuff is one of the pioneers of BMX motocross bike racing in Texas. He built the state’s first race track, having gotten hooked on the sport as a teenager in the 1970s. The sport also triggered a deeper interest in fitness. As McGuff tried strengthen his core for bike racing, he discovered Arthur Jones’ Nautilus training technique and bartered janitorial services for a Nautilus gym membership. McGuff’s interest and aptitude for studying the body led him to pursue medicine at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He specialized in emergency medicine, was chief resident of emergency medicine at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, and a staff physician at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Hospital in Ohio. McGuff is currently an ER physician with Blue Ridge Emergency Physicians in Seneca, South Carolina. The other side of McGuff’s career is dedicated to fitness, or as he says—helping people never have to go to the ER. Realizing a lifetime dream, he opened up his own fitness facility in 1997 called Ultimate Exercise. The gym is dedicated to the type of high-intensity fitness training using the Super Slow protocol. In this episode of STEM-Talk, McGuff talks about why this type of exercise is better for the body, safer, and able to prevent age-related conditions such as sarcopenia. McGuff is the author of three books: “Body by Science: A Research-Based Program for Strength Training, Body-building and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week,” (co-authored with John Little), “The Primal Prescription: Surviving the “Sick Care” Sinkhole,” (co-authored with economist Robert Murphy), and “BMX Training: A Scientific Approach.” He is also featured in several YouTube videos on high-intensity training. His recent IHMC lecture, entitled “Strength Training for Health and Longevity,” is available at 2:03: Dawn reads an an iTunes 5-star review from “Guy who likes Chipotle,” which is entitled “Interesting and just complex enough.” “STEM-Talk does an amazing job of delivering high-level information on a variety of topics, without making it too complex to understand.” 4:21: Dawn introduces Doug and Ken. 4:47: McGuff says that as a young teen, shortly after getting interested in BMX bike racing, he started working out with his brother’s weights, which was transformational. “It is still the closest thing to magic or a miracle that I’ve ever experienced in my life.” 6:44: Also as a teen, Doug McGuff bartered janitorial services for a membership to a Nautilus gym, where he found a copy of a book by Nautilus founder Arthur Jones  ( about training principles. “It was the first book I ever read cover to cover. To say that book changed the course of my life would be a massive understatement.” 8:13: During the summer of 1994, McGuff met Arthur Jones, who greatly influenced his thoughts on exercise resistance training. 12:00: McGuff went into ER medicine because “It was rare to find something that I felt that I had intrinsic talent in. I felt like I functioned very well in that environment.” His career has focused on two things: taking care of people who fall down and get hurt; and trying to prevent it from happening in the first place. 13:00: McGuff talks about being a pioneer of BMX in Texas, as he built the first track there and went back to racing in the late 90s and won the state championship. He also trained some world champion level BMX racers. 14:30: Now he characterizes himself as “a practicing physician so busy with the chronically sick and massively debilitated; the chasm between day to day life and actually thinking about prevention is such a wide chasm that it’s hard to imagine.” 15:00: “I would love to see the day where the commercial says, ‘Ask your doctor if diet and exercise are right for you….
Nov 08, 2016
Episode 23: Michael Griffin discusses his tenure as NASA administrator and the challenges of space exploration
On March 11, 2005, President George W. Bush announced his intention to nominate Griffin to serve as the 11th Administrator of NASA. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 13, 2005 and served until January 20, 2009. Griffin knew NASA well. He had been NASA’s associate administrator for exploration in the early 1990s, as well as its chief engineer. Griffin holds seven academic degrees—a BA in physics from Johns Hopkins University, a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, and a handful of Master’s degrees. He previously served as deputy for technology at the strategic defense initiative organization (SDIO) in the Pentagon.  Griffin’s career has also included academic and corporate positions. He was an eminent scholar and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and space department head at the Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins. Griffin was also president and chief operating officer at In-Q-Tel, a private, nonprofit enterprise funded by the Central Intelligence Agency to identify and invest in companies developing cutting-edge technologies that serve national security interests. Griffin held leadership positions in as well as the Orbital Sciences Corp and technical positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Computer Sciences Corporation. Time magazine named Griffin one of its 100 most influential people in 2008. In his spare time, Griffin enjoys flying and is a certified flight instructor. He’s also a voracious reader and an avid golfer. On August 14, 2012, the Schafer Corporation announced that Griffin would assume the role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at the company. Griffin has also been a guest lecturer at IHMC in Pensacola, where in 2009, he delivered a lecture entitled “What the Hubble Space Telescope Teaches Us About Ourselves:” In this episode, STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis monitors an interview conducted by co-hosts Ken Ford and Tom Jones, both of whom have a long-standing professional relationship with Griffin. 1:09: Ford calls Mike Griffin “a remarkable fellow.” Griffin’s work has spanned academia, government and industry. He holds six graduate degrees and was working on his seventh when President George W. Bush selected him to serve as the eleventh NASA administrator. 2:35: Dawn reads a five-star iTunes review from “Meatballs Mom” entitled “Thumbs up.” “I downloaded this in order to feel intellectually superior to my peers. It’s totally working.” 3:00: Dawn describes Griffin’s career and educational accomplishments. 5:13: Dawn introduces Mike Griffin, along with hosts Ford and Jones. 6:03: Griffin’ interest in science was sparked by the first book, called “A Child’s Book of Stars,” that his mother gave him for Christmas in 1954, when he was five years old. 7:50: “I was already fully committed to a career in math and science and space long before I got to high school,” Griffin recalls, also noting an influential physics teacher in high school who encouraged him on that path. 8:25: “My career has gone back and forth between and among DOD space, civil space, robotic scientific space craft and missions and human space flight.” 8:50: Griffin notes that one of the highlights of his career was being chief engineer for the first space intercept mission accomplished against a booster in powered flight as part of early missile defense program under President Ronald Reagan. 12:08: “Possibly the coolest job that I’ve ever had,” Griffin says, was as President of In-Q-Tel, which he loosely categorizes as the CIA’s venture capital company. “The CIA didn’t have access to the hi-tech of Silicon Valley, so the non-profit was chartered by Congress to allow that access. It was an extraordinarily eye-opening and exciting adventure,” he says, adding that they helped create Google Earth. 14:22: Griffin had an early hunch that he would w...
Oct 25, 2016
Episode 22: Dr. Kerry Emanuel Discusses Hurricane Prediction and Projection
Hurricanes are a leading source of insured losses, and a major cause of human and economics loss in the world. But from an insider’s view, they are also breathtakingly beautiful. Dr. Kerry Emanuel, a leading hurricane expert, compares flying into the eye of a hurricane to being inside a white Coliseum, thirty to forty miles wide, with walls resembling “a cascade of ice crystals.” That’s just one of the fascinating tidbits from this episode of STEM-Talk, with Dr. Emanuel, whom Time Magazine named as one of the 100 most influential people in 2006. The following year, Dr. Emanuel was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is a professor of meteorology at MIT, where he also completed his Ph.D. When he returned to teach there, he taught a course in meteorology of the tropics, and discovered that the existing theory of hurricanes was partly wrong. He’s spent the better part of his career disproving that theory and coming up with better theories of hurricane development and progression. Dr. Emanuel is also a book author of “What We Know About Climate Change,”<> and “Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes.”<> His recent lecture at IHMC is entitled “Hurricane Risk: Past, Present and Future”: STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis interviews Dr. Emanuel about his career, the future of climate change and its impact on hurricane development, and the future of hurricane projection and prediction. 1:11: Ken Ford mentions that he met Kerry in 2005-06 when Ford was on the National Science Board’s Hurricane Task Force, which he co-chaired with Kelvin Droegemeier (also a previous STEM-Talk guest: That NSF report was entitled “Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative: 2:24: Ken reads a 5-star review from “Wheelsuker”: “I’m not always curious, but when I am, I love STEM-Talk, and the deeply learned folks at IHMC. Subjects range from human physiology to the exploration of space, with thoughtful and probing questions that simultaneously teach and entertain. Highly recommended subscription.” 4:53: Dawn introduces Kerry Emanuel. 5:05: Kerry says his older brother told him that as a toddler, Kerry would get excited about thunder storms at home in Ohio. 6:08: His academic interest in science, and weather, developed in high school: “I started reading more professional meteorology books in high school; I got interested in physics and math. By the time I went to MIT [as an undergraduate], I realized you could put those things together.” 6:33: Kerry describes his academic journey: “I was an undergraduate at MIT, and I also did my Ph.D. there in 1978. Then I went and taught at UCLA and was there for three years. I came back to MIT, and I’ve been there ever since.” 7:00: At MIT, he taught about hurricanes in a course called meteorology of the tropics. “Not only did I not understand the existing theory [about hurricanes], but the existing theory had to be wrong, so I had to go about setting it right.” 7:35: The existing theory didn’t pay any attention to transfer of energy from ocean to the atmosphere. “Ironically, earlier scientists thought that was the guiding principle.” He picked up where they left off. 9:43: “Hurricanes cannot arise out of small fluctuations in atmosphere like a thunderstorm or winter storm. Hurricanes are generated by a pretty big push.” He describes it as a giant engine that takes heat out of the ocean and transfers it to the atmosphere whenever water evaporates. 10:54: “The tropical atmosphere has a different temperature than the tropical ocean. What we don’t understand is how they [hurricanes] get started.” 11:30: In the Atlantic, African-Easterly waves flow from East to West. When they move out over the ocean,
Oct 11, 2016
Episode 21: Yorick Wilks Discusses the History and Future of Natural Language Processing
In this episode of STEM-Talk, we talk to one of our own senior research scientists, Dr. Yorick Wilks, renowned for his work in natural language processing. Wilks is also a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield in England, and senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute at Balliol College. A “war baby” born in London in the midst of the Second World War, Yorick was sent away to school due to the bombings. He excelled and went to Cambridge, where he studied with Margaret Masterman, a protégé of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Yorick first came to America—L.A. in the 1960s—on a one-year Air Force Research Grant. Yeas later, he moved to Stanford University’s AI Lab, where he worked with John McCarthy, one of the founders of Artificial Intelligence. Yorick’s research interests have been vast and rich, including machine translation, translating, understanding and extracting meaning from language, belief representation and human and machine communication. He has authored 14 books and many more papers, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including, in 2008, the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) Lifetime Achievement Award. Yorick also speaks several languages, including Swahili and Japanese. Yorick is a senior research scientist at IHMC’s Ocala, Florida facility where he was interviewed for this podcast. STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Associate Director and senior research scientist Bonnie Dorr—who is also a leading expert in natural language processing—conduct this rich interview, full of both historical insight and wisdom about the future of AI.  Yorick also spends much of his time in Oxford, England, where he lives with his wife and two beloved dogs, an Italian greyhound and a German Sheppard. 1:07: Ken mentions that Yorick was an easy selection by “a unanimous vote by the double secret selection committee.” He calls Yorick a pioneering researcher, mentor and a raconteur of the first order. 1:31: Ken continues: “Yorick was on the ground floor when AI and the Internet were in nascent stages of development.” 2:30: Dawn reads an iTunes 5-star review of STEM-Talk from “Love the ocean”: “I just listened to Joan Vernikos’ STEM-Talk, and I am convinced that I am on my way to living a healthier life from the changes I’ve made incorporating what she said in her talk. What an inspiration she is, and how proud I am to have met her at NASA, where I currently work, and know that even after her NASA days, she continues to research and publish. STEM-Talk truly finds those brilliant and interesting people and encourages in-depth discussions. Continuous five-stars.” 4:30: Dawn welcomes Yorick and Bonnie. 4:58: Yorick describes upbringing: “I was a war baby, from a poor, working class family.” His parents worked in aircraft factories and sent him to school outside of London because of the bombings. 5:48: He got a scholarship to a good school; and another scholarship to attend Cambridge. “In some ways, I escaped my upbringing completely.” 6:00: Yorick won a school prize at age 16, and asked for Aristotle’s Metaphysics. That marked his first interest in philosophy. At Cambridge, he studied math and physics; he changed to philosophy after a year. 6:50: He considers himself in “apostolic succession from Wittgenstein” via Margaret Masterman, his philosophy tutor at college. “She wasn’t good at teaching; but she was a genius, a guru.” 7:56: Wittgenstein didn’t like women in his classes; he didn’t like ugly people, Yorick says. “But she hung in there, and Wittgenstein was the biggest influence in her life.” 8:22: Wittgenstein thought understanding the world meant understanding language…But he wasn’t anti-science at all. He was an engineer by background. He thought how we saw the world was determined by language. 9:10: Masterman thought she was carrying out a Wittgenstein philosophy, but with new technology (computers.)
Sep 27, 2016
Episode 20: Dr. Alessio Fasano discusses the gut microbiome and how it affects our health
When Alessio Fasano entered medical school at the University of Naples (Italy) School of Medicine, his goal was to eliminate childhood diarrhea. Working with a mentor who’d studied the physiology of the gut, Fasano decided to focus on the microorganisms that cause diarrhea. That opened up his world to specialize in overall gut health, and Fasano became a leading expert in celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. Following medical school, Fasano spent three years at the Center for Vaccine Development in Baltimore, and later returned to the U.S. to pursue his career. Today the world-renowned gastroenterologist is chair of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment. He is also the director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. Fasano was the lead researcher of a seminal 2003 study showing that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder characterized by gluten-induced damage to the small intestine. His book Gluten Freedom has been hailed as “the groundbreaking roadmap to a gluten-free lifestyle.” He is also the author of “A Clinical Guide to Gluten-Related Disorders.” His lectures at IHMC “The Gut is Not Like Las Vegas,” (November 2014) and “People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone: People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone” have gotten over 70,000 views on YouTube. Fasano has been featured widely in media, such as NPR, CNN and Bloomberg News. In this episode of STEM-Talk, Fasano talks about his early life as a curious boy in Italy, with a scientist grandfather as his first mentor, the impassioned trajectory of his career, and the underlying importance of gut health in determining our overall health. 00:56: Dawn describes Fasano as “a leading light in the study of the microbiome.” Fifteen years ago, Fasano and his colleagues discovered the pathophysiology of celiac disease and role of the protein zonulin in causing it. 1:10: Ford cites growing evidence that the microbiome content of the intestinal tract influences our metabolism, stress tolerance, immune response, memory and cognitive performance. 2:56: Ford reads five-star iTunes review of STEM-Talk entitled “cognitive satiety:” “Never have all the lobes of your brain been so satisfied. Every episode is fascinating and beautifully orchestrated. The content is interesting and diverse. There’s no room for boredom. The double secret selection committee does a superb job of keeping the listeners educated, engaged and more intelligent with every minute. And the hosts have a linguistic seduction that you wish it would never end. I could listen to STEM-Talk for hours. Thank you, and please keep the talks coming.” 3:51: Dawn introduces Fasano as a world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist and research scientist. He specializes in treating people with celiac disease, wheat and gluten sensitivities, as well as infants and children with difficult to treat gastro-intestinal problems. 5:15: Dawn welcomes Alessio and Ken to the interview. 5:37: Fasano talks about his childhood in Italy. He was raised largely by his grandfather, a retired physicist who had once worked in Enrico Fermi’s lab. During World War II, Fasano’s grandfather refused to move to Germany as Mussolini had requested, so he ended up teaching high school science. 6:26: “I remember vividly being with him in his lab. [That] sparked an interest in physics and science.” 7:03: Fasano’s initial focus in medical school was eliminating childhood diarrhea— “not a glamorous field to get into.” At that time, five million people died annually from diarrhea, 80 percent of them children. 9:08: On his medical school mentor’s suggestion, Fasano went to the Center for Vaccine development in Baltimore to study micro-organisms in the gut.
Sep 13, 2016
Episode 19: Dr. Dawn Kernagis talks about life undersea during NASA’s NEEMO-21 Mission
For this special episode of STEM-Talk, IHMC Research Scientist and STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis sits on the other side of the microphone. This summer, Dawn was one of six divers selected for NASA’s NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) 21 mission, and we were able to talk to her live from the Aquarius Reef Base, located 62 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During the 16-day mission, Dawn and her colleagues performed field research designed to test operations and equipment for future space exploration. In particular, the international crew of aquanauts performed research both inside and outside the habitat. During simulated spacewalks carried out underwater, they evaluated tools and mission operation techniques that could be used in future space missions. Inside the habitat, the crew's objectives include testing a DNA sequencer, a medical telemetry device, and HoloLens operational performance for human spaceflight cargo transfer. In many ways, the NEEMO mission crystalizes Dawn’s career. Her research expertise has been focused on human performance, risk mitigation and resilience in extreme environments—namely undersea and in space. In addition to her accomplishments as a scientist, Dawn is also a long-standing diver, and this year was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. Conducting the interview is IHMC Senior Research Scientist and former NASA astronaut Tom Jones. Dawn shares aspects of her daily life in the undersea habitat, from eating freeze dried food to watching thousands of fish from the galley window every night before bed. She also delves into the research that she conducted, which included testing a mini DNA sequencer and deep water dives to collect samples of several coral species and weighted walks on the ocean floor to simulate space walks. STEM-Talk’s Billy Howell and Jason Conrad, key players in the production of each episode, also join the impromptu conversation with “fanboy” questions for Dawn. Dawn kept a blog about her experience, which you can read at: 2:00: Dawn discussed her experience as manager for the world record-breaking diving exploration project Wakulla Springs. 2:24: On her induction, last April, into the Women Divers Hall of Fame, she said, “It was cool to be sitting with women I have looked up to since I was a little girl.” 3:23: Dawn described certain challenges faced by people working in extreme environments such as Navy divers, deep sea divers and astronauts: decompression sickness, oxygen toxicity and nitrogen narcosis. 5:02: Ken Ford read a 5-star iTunes review (which are piling up): “The best podcast. It is as if the double secret selection committee has hacked my Google search. Keep up the great work, team.” 5:37: Tom Jones explained that the NEEMO mission, now in its 15th year, is an analog to deep space expedition. 6:09: Dawn said her voice sounded high because of the increase in air density in her undersea habitat. 7:14: Dawn explained that for the in-water work, they gear up and jump out of the habitat in hard hat diving supplies. “There is constant communication with the habitat,” she says. 9:30: “It makes such a difference to have a great team.” 9:50: “The nice thing is we have support divers who bring supplies up and down on a daily basis. It is not as isolated as space expeditions.” 10:50: Dawn described some of the physiological effects of being at a pressure of 3 atmospheres and 62 feet deep: “I can’t whistle; I have a high voice; we can feel swells pick up overhead—the pressure changes, so our ears are constantly popping. We’re hungry all the time.” 12:12: They performed simulated space walks to identify different species of coral for the Florida International University marine sciences team. 13:25: They used geology sample tools and water-resistant iPads. 14:20: They tested medical telemetry equipment (like min...
Aug 30, 2016
Episode 18: Dr. Colin Champ talks about how the right nutrition and exercise can help treat cancer
As STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis points out in this interview, guest Colin Champ looks like he could be featured on the television show “The Bachelor.” But the striking young doctor (who alas, is in a serious relationship) is a radiation oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center. Dr. Champ is also deeply invested in researching how exercise and nutrition can help treat and prevent cancer. In his very popular book entitled, “Misguided Medicine: The Truth Behind Ill-Advised Medical Recommendations and How to Take Health Back into Your Hands,” Champ tackles several popularly-held myths regarding health such as the perils of salt and meat intake. Take a look at: On Dr. Champ’s web site, The Caveman Doctor,, he also challenges conventional wisdom and governmental guidelines on nutrition. Dr. Champ received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and his bachelor’s in chemical engineering from MIT. He grew up, in his own words, in the “blue-collar, steel town” of Pittsburgh, in a mixed lineage family of Austrians, Irish and Southern Italians. At an early age, he excelled at both sports and science. Dr. Champ’s lecture at IHMC, “Augmenting Cancer Therapy with Diet,” can be found at: He also regularly writes for Health Wire: In this STEM-Talk episode, Dawn and IHMC Director and CEO Ken Ford talk with Dr. Champ. 3:33: Dawn introduces Dr. Champ as a radiation oncologist focused on breast cancer, cancers of the central nervous system, clinical nutrition/exercise relating to cancer treatment/prevention. He is board certified in both radiation oncology and integrative medicine. 5:00: Champ discusses his upbringing outside of Pittsburgh. “My family structure greatly influenced my life…. My grandfather was the son of Austrian immigrants. My grandmother was Southern Italian. My dad’s side was also Southern Italian and Irish. My grandfather ran the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroad accounting with no college education. He built most of his house and was always into health/fitness. He had an organic garden and left a strong imprint on me.” 6:15: Champ’s mother was “a good cop,” and very loving. His father pushed him to work hard, and there were three cornerstones to Champ’s upbringing: sports, health and academics. “Certainly sports played a huge role in my upbringing. I was involved in sports. I played basketball until I hated it.” 7:00: Science was also pushed heavily in the household. “I was good at science and math at a young age.” 7:50: Champ’s father wanted him to go to the Air Force Academy. Champ realized it wasn’t for him and went to MIT instead. 8:55: “From there it was just kind of a springboard of science and really questioning things.” That led him to medical school. 11:20: Champ discusses what drew him to radiation oncology: “I get to see patients everyday. I don’t think in any other field of medicine that you see people so often. It allows you to forge relationships with people. Providing cancer patients with hope is rewarding.” He added that the science of it (for example, working with giant linear accelerators) is a fun aspect of the job. 15:00: Champ says the low-fat diet is a medical myth that makes certain false promises: to make you skinny, prevent diabetes and cancer, and stop your arteries from clogging. Other myths include the need to decrease your salt intake; exercise by running marathons; and stay out of the sun (which has a lot of health benefits). And, “a little stress is not bad for you—it causes body to fight free radicals as innate antioxidant mechanism.” 17:15: Champ discusses the fallacies of the American dietary guidelines. 20:15: Instead, one way to approach diet is by asking questions such as: If you were to not eat anything for the next five days,
Aug 16, 2016
Episode 17: Dr. Pascal Lee talks about preparing for the exploration of Mars & its moons
Dr. Pascal Lee is not the first Renaissance man to be interview on STEM-Talk, but his impressive biography merits that moniker. “An artist, helicopter pilot, polar researcher, planetary scientist, and a pioneer in thinking about possible human futures in space,” as described by IHMC Director Ken Ford, Lee has an impressive list of accomplishments to his name. He is co-founder and chairman of the Mars Institute, director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center, and senior planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. Born in Hong Kong, he was sent to boarding school in Paris as a child, and later graduated from the University of Paris with a degree in geology and geophysics. During his year of civil service after college, he lived with 31 other men in Antarctica—a formative experience that gave him a thirst for field work and hands-on exploration. As Lee himself says in this interview, “Forever in my life there will be before and after Antarctica.” Lee went on to study astronomy and space science at Cornell University, where he was also Carl Sagan’s teacher’s assistant. He then did a post-doc at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, where he has been ever since. He continues to search for “new life” in the universe, with a particular interest in preparing for future exploration of Mars. This summer marks Lee’s twentieth summer field trip on Devon Island, the largest uninhabited earth with geological evidence similar to what Lee suspects would be found on Mars. Lee is also the author of a children’s book, called Mission: Mars, about what it would take for humans to travel to the planet. He is also currently working on a book for adults addressing similar questions. Several of Lee’s lectures are available on YouTube, or at his page on the SETI website: His personal web site is In this episode, STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC senior research scientist Tom Jones, also a veteran NASA astronaut, interview Lee. 00:49: Ken Ford describes Lee’s accomplishments, adding, “Pascal and I share a passion for the moons of Mars—especially Phobos.” 2:10: Ford reads a 5-star iTunes review from “podcast file”: “The STEM-Talk podcast is a must listen. I appreciate how the format of a podcast stays focused and on topic. It is packed with outstanding content that lives up to its name. I truly found useful information and perspectives that impacts how I understand and see the world.” 3:57: Lee describes his upbringing in a Hong Kong that was booming. His father was ethnically Chinese, and his mother was French. As a child, he was sent to boarding school in France—without yet knowing how to speak French. “I started a new life at age eight. I stayed there for fifteen years.” 5:10: He always loved space travel. “I thought that was really inspiring and exciting. It wasn’t just the travel itself. [It was also the fact that there was] more to the universe than what we had on earth. Mars came into the picture a little later, as a teenager. That’s when I got serious about becoming a scientist.” 6:05: Carl Sagan’s book Cosmic Connection “really changed my life at the time…. From that day on, I decided that the planetary sciences were what I wanted to do. The rest was easy because once you have a goal and a focus, it makes a lot of decisions for you.” 6:38: Lee studied science and physics at the University of Paris. He spent his obligatory year of national service in Antarctica. 7:30: “On my way South [to Antarctica], I posted a letter to one graduate school—where Carl Sagan taught. In the middle of winter, I get this Telex from Cornell that I’d gotten in.” 8:28: Lee says his 402 days at a station in Antarctica “was an other-worldly experience. We were 31 people. All men. Forever in my life there will be before and after Antarctica.” 9:48: He went on his first helicopter ride off the coast of Antarctic...
Aug 02, 2016
Episode 16: Joan Vernikos discusses the effects of gravity on humans in space and on earth.
If you want to feel like an astronaut, lie in bed all day. That may seem counter-intuitive, but the body experiences the two scenarios in a similar way. The absence of gravity in space mimics the affects of lying down flat—and not using gravity to our physiological advantage. Gravity expert Joan Vernikos talked about this and other insights on how gravity affects us, in this episode of STEM-Talk, hosted by Dawn Kernagis and Tom Jones. Vernikos spoke to them right before her IHMC lecture in Pensacola, entitled, “Gravity is Our Friend” Vernikos’ first mentor in life was her father, who at 17 years of age, left his native Greece for France, determined to study medicine, which he did. His specialization in infectious diseases took him to Egypt, where Joan and her sister were educated at English boarding schools. Her sister became a physician, while Joan “chickened out,” becoming a pharmacologist instead. After entering academia, she was recruited to NASA, where she became the director of the Life Sciences Division. Since retiring from NASA 16 years ago, Vernikos says that she’s had “a lot more time to think.” She is the author of the provocatively-titled book, “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals,” which was published in 2011. Her forthcoming book, “Designed to Move,” is about how sedentary lifestyles contribute to poor health and early death; and how movement that challenges gravity can dramatically improve life and longevity. A dynamic speaker, Dr. Vernikos has given dozens of lectures, some of which can be found at You can also check out her web site at 00:47: Ken Ford describes Vernikos as a pioneer in how living in a micro-gravity environment adversely affects astronauts, compared to the benefits of gravity for those of us on earth. “Living in space is like accelerated aging,” she says—which might be instructive for thinking about preventing and treating age-related conditions such as sarcopenia and osteoporosis. 2:01: IHMC Director Ken Ford reads a 5-star iTunes review from “Fellow Musician”: “Unlike the majority of podcasts I find, STEM-Talk is a long format show with extremely in-depth discussions. I can’t believe how much serious information was packed into the first few episodes. A plus.” 2:25: Dawn gives a brief bio of Vernikos, as the former director of life sciences at NASA, who pioneered research in how living in a micro gravity environment adversely affects the health of astronauts. She also studied the effects of microgravity on the physiology of astronauts in space and aging on earth. 3:37: Vernikos talks about the influence of her physician-father, her first mentor. “I learned by apprenticeship, which is the best way to learn.” 5:05: “What I learned from father, which is fundamental to my approach, is that you listen, you ask questions, and you diagnose …. He would discuss cases at the dinner table; he would ask us, what would we do in that case. That was a fantastic preparation that served me well.” 6:24: In Egypt, which was then a British protectorate, Vernikos went to an all-girls’ English school, with other girls of 27 different nationalities. She studied pharmacy at the University of Alexandria, and then pharmacology in the U.K. 8:00: Vernikos talks about a Greek woman physician who was also a mentor. This woman developed the first drugs that lower blood pressure. “She was very unusual…headstrong…attractive…She insisted we go to the hairdresser every week.” 10:23: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. 10:50: Vernikos describes her jump from academia to NASA. She was teaching pharmacology at Ohio State, and the physiology chair there was hired at NASA to start a ...
Jul 19, 2016
Episode 15: Brian Shul talks about piloting the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane
Brian Shul speaks softly and carries a big stick. The American war hero every bit worthy of Roosevelt’s words flew 212 missions in the Vietnam War before his nearly fatal crash. With his body severely burned, Shul was in so much pain that he wanted to die. Then one day, lying in his hospital bed, he heard children playing soccer and the voice of Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” on the radio. Suddenly, Shul, at 25-years-old, realized he had a lot to live for. He set himself on a determined road of recovery that would span 15 reconstructive surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy. Shul eventually turned his amazing story of survival into his greatest strength, and he went on to be one of fewer than 100 people to pilot the SR-71 Blackbird, a U.S. spy plane largely operational during the Cold War and thereafter. Shul and flight engineer Walter Watson flew multiple missions in which they escaped missiles over enemy territory including the Soviet Union and Libya, gathering footage and information that would help the U.S. win the Cold War. Unlike other STEM-Talk guests, Shul is neither engineer nor scientist, but he piloted and knew intimately of one of the greatest feats of both. The plane went 3,400 feet per second, which is faster than most bullets and is the speed of traveling between LA and D.C. in an hour and four minutes. For more information on Brian Shul, visit his Wiki page: Also, check out the YouTube video of his IHMC lecture, “From Butterflies to Blackbirds,” which has had more than 180,000 viewers: Shul is also the author of Sled Driver: The World’s Fastest Jet: and The Untouchables: Here is a link to Shul’s recently opened photo gallery in Marysville, California: 00:35: Dawn introduces herself and Ken Ford. 00:51: Ford says the SR-71 was the “remarkable product” of a sustained United States investment in STEM. 2:23: Ford reads an iTunes 5-star review of STEM-Talk from PTL Stan: “I love these interviews with the people who are leading these fields. Good science with amazingly friendly interviews by the experts themselves. The quality is amazingly good, and the subjects move right along with my thinking. Thank you, IHMC.” 2:54: Dawn describes Shul’s background. He became an airshow demonstration pilot and taught at the Air Force’s Top Gun School. He retired from the Air Force in 1990. 3:58: Shul was born in Quantico, Va. His father, who had spent 32 years in the Marine Corp, encouraged Shul to join the Air Force because of his strong interest in flying. 5:30: Shul describes the “moment of peace” before his plane crashed during the Vietnam War. “The inevitability of impacting the earth became quite clear…. For a very brief moment, you could actually see your life flash before your eyes. In a nanosecond, I could see the funeral; I could see my parents standing at graveside. And then of course the crash and the fire brought you back to reality.” 6:43: Shul describes his blind escape from the burning plane: “The heat of the fire and the reality that I had not died and was still alive became apparent to me with the pain of the fire.” 7:40: Shul describes his will to live, despite periods of deep depression and wanting to die. 10:32: ‘I’m the product of a lot of people who helped me along the way, from therapists, to surgeons, to nurses, to doctors, to Air Force flight surgeons. There were a lot of people who had a lot to do with getting Brian Shul out of a hospital bed back into the cockpit.” 13:00: “I was in awe of my own body that wanted to heal itself…. You had to want to do your therapy, and it’s not an easy thing to want when it’s just going to hurt the whole time you’re doing it.” 14:15: Shul describes his tenure of teaching at the Air Force Top Gun school.
Jul 05, 2016
Episode 14: Dominic D’Agostino discusses the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis
Dominic D’Agostino looks like a bodybuilder. But that doesn’t mean that he eats a diet typical for that sport; on the contrary, the research scientist—and amateur athlete—can go an entire day without eating and says his performance—both in the lab and in the gym—improves because of it. D’Agostino is perhaps rare in the world of science in that he practices what he preaches. As associate professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of South Florida, and a visiting research scientist at IHMC, D’Agostino develops and tests metabolic therapies for a range of diseases and conditions for which the ketogenic diet is the cornerstone. The low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat ketogenic diet is what he also follows for health and greater mental clarity. The ketogenic diet for decades has been used, albeit perhaps sparingly in the clinic, to treat epileptic seizures. D’Agostino is working on the development of exogenous ketones in the form of ketone esters for cancer and neurological disorders as well. For more information on D'Agostino and his research, visit: or His IHMC bio is at; and his IHMC talk "Metabolic Therapies: Therapeutic Implications and Practical Application": D’Agostino is a long-time friend and colleague to STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis, and the two engage in a rich, cutting-edge conversation with knowledgeable input from IHMC Director Ken Ford in this episode. 00:37: Dawn introduces D’Agostino, who goes by ‘Dom,’ and Ken Ford as co-host. 2:14: Ford reads an iTunes five-star review of STEM-Talk from “A Sweet 81,” which is entitled BAM: “Amazing podcast. It’s like candy for the brain. That is, if candy was good for your brain. So it’s like ketones for your brain.” 2:48: Dawn describes Dom’s research: He develops and tests metabolic therapies for CNS oxygen toxicity, epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, brain and metastatic cancer. Main research focus past five years: understanding why the ketogenic diet and ketone esters are anticonvulsant and protective to the brain. 4:15: Dom says his interest in science started in high school: He was a football player and wanted to improve his athletic performance. His honors biology teacher got on him to study hard. “I saw biology and science as a way to understand my own biology and physiology to maximize my performance.” 5:23: During his Ph.D. program in neuroscience and physiology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, his mentor urged him to be an independent thinker. He describes being “thrown into the fire” when he was asked to apply basic science research to medical situations. He specifically looked at how the brain responded to hypoxia. 7:12: He did a post-doc with Jay Dean and also became a recreational diver. “Dean was the only person studying cellular and molecular mechanisms of extreme environments.” 8:36: Of Dean, he said, “The tools he created are filling gaps in the understanding of dive physiology.” 10:19: Nutritional ketosis is important for the metabolic management of diseases, especially seizures. 10:45: Nutritional ketosis works similarly to fasting: you liberate free fatty acids from the adipose tissue and break down stored glycogen levels in the liver. Once the glycogen levels reach a certain level, you start accelerating the oxidation of fatty acids in liver. 11:11: Dom explains how ketosis works: the heart (and muscles) prefers fatty acids over glucose, but they don’t readily cross the blood-brain barrier. So brain energy metabolism will transition from glucose to a fuel source called ketone bodies, which is a by-product of accelerated fat oxidation in the liver. These represent water soluble fat molecules that readily cross the BBB; they help preserve,
Jun 21, 2016
Episode 13: Kelvin Droegemeier talks about the past, present and future of weather prediction
When Kelvin Droegemeier watched the Wizard of Oz as a child, the tornado scenes scared him so much that he didn’t want to look. Today, the esteemed meteorologist watches storms for a living—with a particular interest in tornados. From his upbringing in central Kansas—where he grew up marveling at weather and storms—to his undergraduate internship with the National Severe Storms Lab, Droegemeier was primed for a brilliant career in meteorology. Droegemeier is currently the vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma, where he is also Regents Professor of meteorology; Weathernews Chair Emeritus; and Roger and Sherry Teigen Presidential Professor. He is also the vice-chairman of the national science board at the National Science Foundation. In 1989, he co-founded CAPS, the Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms. This center pioneered storm scale numerical weather prediction with data simulation, which ushered in a whole new science of studying the weather. Droegemeier talks with STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Tom Jones about the past, present and future of weather prediction, both in the U.S. and globally. For more information on Droegemeier, check out his home page at the University of Oklahoma: as well as his biography at the National Science Board: Here is also the report that came out of that, entitled “Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative: 00:47: Ken Ford describes Droegemeier as a pioneer in understanding thunderstorm dynamics and predictability, computational fluid dynamics, aviation weather, modeling and predicting of extreme weather, among other areas. 1:13: Dawn says: “Kelvin has greatly shaped the scientific landscape in meteorology and storm prediction and tracking. His work has no doubt saved many lives.” 2:00: Ford was co-chairman on the National Science Board Task Force on Hurricanes, Science and Engineering in 2005-06. “Living in Pensacola and having just experienced Hurricane Ivan, and then Hurricane Katrina, I was highly motivated to work on this problem…. Around here we’ve come to fear hurricanes with Russian names like Ivan and Katrina.” 3:20: Ford reads iTunes review from “ARFO6C”: “Brilliant, just brilliant.” 4:37: “Growing up in central Kansas, I was exposed to interesting weather year-round. I remember as a child being fascinated by the power and the grandeur of the atmosphere, and how quickly the weather could change.” 7:00: Droegemeier is especially interested in spring storms and wind. “To me, the perfect day is 60 degrees, low clouds, winds at 40 mph…. [There is something] so wonderful and powerful about the wind.”. 11:06: As a child, Droegemeier was interested in science, but it wasn’t until his undergraduate work study job at the National Severe Storms Lab, where an advisor suggested graduate school, that his academic interest in weather was sparked. 12:35: He went to graduate school at the University of Illinois to work with a person who was a pioneer in using super computers to make 3D models of thunderstorms. They looked at storms’ rotation, or the pathways to understanding how tornados form. 13:50: He describes “seminal changes in the last 20-30 years in meteorology, driven by high-performance computing.” 15:04: Twenty years ago, the first national network of Doppler weather radar also emerged. This allowed sensing the directional movement of precipitation particles. 17:30: He says the data simulation models have “dramatically improved over the last two decades. We are able to predict up to 72 hours more precisely than what we were able to do twenty years ago [predicting] up to 36 hours.” 18:00: CAPS is one of the first 11 science/technology centers funded by the NSF. It was selected out of 323 applicants. The premise was the following question: ‘Could ...
Jun 07, 2016
Episode 12: Dale Bredesen discusses the metabolic factors underlying Alzheimer’s Disease
‘Would you rather remember: the latest episode of Friends, or how to speak?’ asks Dr. Dale Bredesen, a nationally-recognized expert on neurodegenerative diseases. We don’t have to think about the answer to that question. In fact, we are biologically programmed to preserve speech and forget the television show. But physiological changes occur as we age, which begin to affect our ability to speak, walk, and remember names and faces. The most extreme and recognizable form of this is Alzheimer’s Disease, which Dr. Bredesen states is the third leading cause of death in the United States. He has come up with a novel therapeutic approach that first investigates the underlying metabolic changes leading to the disease. Bredesen’s approach, called MEND (metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration) helped a 65-year-old woman recover her functional memory, after her first physician had written her off as bound to the same demise of her mother, who suffered and died from Alzheimer’s Disease. Bredesen shares these and other insights in this episode of STEM-Talk, where he and host Dawn Kernagis engage in a rich and thought-provoking conversation about the future of treating neurodegenerative and other diseases. Bredesen has been on the faculty at UCSF, UCSD. Currently, he divides his time between UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, of which he is founder and CEO: For a close-up look at Dr. Bredesen’s work, check out his papers in the Journal Aging: ; As well as is his paper on ApoE4 in the Journal Neuroscience: 00:55: Dawn introduces Dr. Bredesen as a nationally-recognized expert on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. 1:17: Ford explains that Bredesen’s research has found that AD stems from an imbalance in nerve cell signaling. In the normal brain, specific signals foster memory making, while balancing signals support memory breaking. In AD, the balance of these opposing signals is disturbed. Nerve connections are suppressed, and memories are lost. 1:47: Dawn adds that Bredesen’s findings, which support the view that AD is a metabolically driven, neurodegenerative process, are contrary to the popular belief that the disease is derived from an accumulation of plaques in the brain. 2:50: Ford reads Mark Riff’s 5-star iTunes review: “Fantastic line-up. And what a wealth of cutting edge information. Just having access to these incredible minds is unbelievable. Can’t wait to see what’s coming up.” 3:15: Dawn describes Bredesen’s background: college at Caltech, medical school at Duke University, Chief resident in neurology at UCSF, where he was also a post-doc in Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner’s laboratory. 4:02: Bredesen describes how he got into research, first as an undergrad at CalTech. He went to medical school to understand how diseases affect the brain, and specifically alter learning and memory. 4:47: “The whole molecular neuroscience revolution of the 1980s and 1990s has really offered us the novel tools to understand these diseases,” adding that until now, treating and reversing neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s and Lou Gehrig’s has been the greatest area of biomedical failure. “This is exciting time where we are starting to develop therapies.” 5:52: The development of large data sets and systems biology is having a major impact on illnesses. People would formerly spend their whole career on one mechanism, but now we’re realizing disease is multi-factorial. 7:05: AD is a network imbalance that is very analogous to osteoporosis. Signals contribute to osteoblastic activity, which is laying down the bones. Other signals contribute to osteoclastic activity, or taking up the bones. For most of our lives, these signals are “beautifully balanced,
May 24, 2016
Episode 11: Kirk Parsley discusses why good sleep is more important than nutrition and exercise
If we could only sell people on the importance of sleep as successfully as we sell them on the pleasures of sex, we’d have a much healthier—and happier bunch. This is one of sleep expert Kirk Parsley’s messages. Parsley calls sleep “the greatest elixir,” and places its importance above that of both exercise and nutrition. Yet, this simple physiological need is hard to satisfy in a society that glorifies business and overworking—and loves its electronics, which don’t exactly prepare the body for sleep. Parsley discusses these and other issues with STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis. He talks about how his background as a Navy SEAL led him to a career in medicine, focused on sleep. He also explains why sleep is important—and how you can get more of it. Parsley served as the Naval Special Warfare’s expert on sleep medicine, and has been a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine since 2006. He is also the inventor of the Sleep Cocktail, a supplement designed for the sleep optimization of Navy SEALs: A much sought-after sleep expert, this podcast marks Parsley’s 100th podcast interview. You can find more information on him at his web site: You can find his TED talk at 4:10: Dawn welcomes Kirk. 5:00: Kirk joined the Navy SEALs after high school and stayed for nearly seven years. “I quickly realized that was a young, single man’s job, and I was becoming neither.” 6:09: Kirk volunteered at the San Diego Sports Medicine Center to qualify for physical therapy school, but found the field too limited, so he shadowed doctors and decided to pursue medicine. 7:00: He attended the military’s medical school. “They were going to pay me to go to medical school instead of the other way around…” 9:58: The SEALs came to him for medical advice. “The most palatable way for me to talk about it in the military was through sleep. They didn’t really want me talking about testosterone. Adrenal fatigue is sort of a pseudo-scientific term. So inadvertently I became a sleep guy.” 10:40: “I don’t think there’s any area of your life that isn’t significantly impacted by sleep. Good quality sleep is probably the most important elixir there is.” He places it above both nutrition and exercise. 11:35: Sleep is a hard sell, with the advent of factory jobs and the idea that time is money. 13:55: “My message is the more you sleep, the more work you get done.” 14:58: “The big problem with sleep is …. Once you fall asleep until you wake up, you don’t really have any objective experience of that.” 15:50: Polysomnographs reveal that some people wake up 300 times a night, but say they slept fine. 16:13: You don’t need the same amount of sleep every day. Seven and a half hours is the average amount of sleep we aim for to enhance the immune system. 17:05: Kirk compares proper sleep to taking your daily vitamin. “You can’t really tell the true benefits of proper sleep until you’ve done it for a month or so.” 17:40: Wearable tech gadgets such as Fitbit and Jawbone measure how much you move during sleep and equate that with sleep quantity. “The truth is you could stare at your ceiling, never move, and never sleep, and it would say you got this awesome night of sleep.” 19:00: Some devices also measure heart rate variability; others, placed under your pillow or on your nightstand, record your respiratory rate. Some iPhone apps capture snoring. 19:40: Polysomnographs are the gold standard for determining how much somebody sleeps. 20:00: Everyone has a different sleep metric: mood, athletic performance, project completion rate/satisfaction. 21:12: Sleep deprivation leads to anxiety, which is already a big problem for entrepreneurs and other professionals. 21:20: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technol...
May 10, 2016
Episode 10: Barry Barish discusses gravitational waves, LIGO, and the scientists who made it happen
In many respects, Barry Barish is the quintessential scientist: soft-spoken and modest, he is also completely dedicated to the pursuit of pure science. Barish is currently the Linde professor of physics at Caltech. He’s a leading expert on gravitational waves, and his leadership and advocacy to the National Science Foundation about the need for LIGO (laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory) played a key role in convincing the NSF to fund it. Barish was the principal investigator of LIGO in 1994, before becoming its director in 1997. The pay-off of Barish’s effort and the NSF decision was huge: Last February, Barish and other scientists announced to the world that they had detected gravitational waves four months before, marking the first ever direct detection since Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916. The proof came via a chirping sound—played below in this interview—which was the sound-wave translation of the merger of two black holes more than a billion light years away. Barish talks to STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and co-host and IHMC Director Ken Ford about the history of Einstein’s theory and the science that later ensued to set up this significant discovery. He also talks about the scientists who made it happen. Barish gave an IHMC lecture in 2009 entitled “Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony: Sounds from the Distant Universe” Here is a link to the LIGO press conference on the gravitational waves detection: 1:36: Audio of “the chirp” signaling the detection of a gravity wave emanating from two black holes merging one billion light years away. 2:57: Ford reads a five-star iTunes review from CCPABC: “Love the science-based discussions, which also includes the interviewers, who also know and understand science, a rarity amongst podcast hosts. Love the funny comments along the way. For example, “Stay curious my friends.” And “Walk into a Walmart to see epigenetics at work.” Outlines (show notes) are also helpful for those of us who want to listen to specific sections again for better understanding.” 3:37: Dawn recaps Barish’s career, calling him a “leading light in several areas of physics.” 4:04: In October 2002, Barish was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve on the National Science Board of the NSF. Ford was also on the board. “We immediately connected and worked on the NSB for six years,” Ford said. 5:15: Barish discusses his upbringing and initial interest in science. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, to parents who had not gone to college, Barish said, “I was probably a scientist before I knew it.” The first science question he asked his father was why ice cubes float on water. His father’s answer didn’t satisfy him. “His answers never satisfied me, which I think is kind of the scientific mind.” 6:36: Ford, Kernagis and Barish recall one of their first scientific questions on why the sky is blue. 7:20: Barish grew up around Hollywood, California. “The furthest horizon I could see was Caltech, and that is where I thought I would go to college.” He went to Berkeley instead because he could start mid-year there, and he immediately fell in love with it — and a young girl. 8:55: Barish started as an engineering student, but he liked neither his surveying course nor his engineering drafting course. “By default, I ended up in physics. It’s where I belonged because physics has been great for me.” 11:15: In 1905, Einstein discovered: E=mc^2; and the theory of special relativity: “These solved some long-standing problems in physics in no time at all.” 11:42: In 1915, Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity, which was an extension of the theory of special relativity that added accelerations instead of just velocities. 13:30: In Newton’s theory of gravity, there’s instantaneous action at a distance: When the apple falls, you see it immediately. When something happens in space (a star collapse...
May 03, 2016
Episode 9: Rusty Schweickart discusses asteroids and planetary defense
Rusty Schweickart remembers when getting a man on the moon was at the top of the national agenda. JFK’s single minded decision to do that, according to Schweickart, “was perhaps the gutsiest, goal-setting episode in human history.” And Schweickart was part of that—as the pilot of the first manned test of the lunar module, the lander portion of the spacecraft-- during the Apollo 9 Mission in 1969. Schweickart also performed the first space-based test of the portable life support system and spacesuit that was used by the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon. He was later the backup commander of the first Skylab mission in 1973, the first U.S. orbital space station. He served as Director of User Affairs at NASA’s Office of Applications, transferring NASA technology to the private sector. Most recently, he co-founded the B612 Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to defending the earth from an asteroid impact. In this episode, Schweickart talks with veteran astronaut Tom Jones, also an IHMC senior scientist, about the potential threat of asteroids, the value of space-based asteroid-finding telescopes; and his contributions to getting the U.S. to the Moon in 1969. Jones and Schweickart also discuss the importance of conveying the hazard posed by asteroids to the general public. The second annual “Asteroid Day” is on June 30th. For more information: For more specific information about asteroid hazards, check out: You can find more information on Rusty at his Wikipedia page: Schweickart has given several lectures, including his IHMC lecture, “Deflecting an Asteroid:” 1:18: Schweickart and Jones are both experts in planetary defense against asteroids. When IHMC Director (and STEM-talk co-host) Ken Ford chaired the NASA Advisory Council, Schweickart and Jones co-chaired a council task force for planetary defense. Schweickart also co-founded the B612 foundation, dedicated to the discovery and deflection of asteroids. 2:00: Ford and Jones served as strategic advisors to the B612 Foundation, and its current CEO, former astronaut Ed Lu, will later be interviewed on STEM-Talk. 2:18: Ford said the “sky is falling” syndrome may explain why this issue is not a political or public priority. It’s hard to get political leaders very excited about a potentially cataclysmic event that is certain to happen in the long run, but very unlikely in any given year. 3:23: Ford reads a 5-star iTunes review of STEM-Talk from “Ian”: “I liked the personal aspects of the interviews, and the science is explained at a good level: easy to follow, but not dumbed down.” 3:58: Schweickart talks about the Chelyabinsk asteroid that fell over Russia on Feb. 15, 2013. “It was a pretty good wakeup call. The official attention was relatively narrow and off-base, but the reality is that we have a lot of material now; in addition to that, there’s been some very good analysis showing that we learned a lot from the Chelyabinsk impact.” 6:00: Schweickart discusses the B612 Foundation’s Sentinel Mission, which will be an infrared space telescope orbiting the Sun interior to the orbit of Earth for the purpose of mapping the trajectories of asteroids that may pose a future danger to Earth. “Fundraising for a space telescope has never been done before; it’s a pioneering effort that we got involved in, principally because NASA had not been doing much. We took it on as a private initiative since the government seemed to be lagging a bit.” 8:27: Schweickart explains the importance of space-based telescopes. “Infrared is a very important aspect of these space telescopes that are being proposed. In space, an infrared sensor gives you an advantage. An asteroid is a hot object; it therefore glows in the infrared; the rest of the sky is extremely cold,
Apr 26, 2016
Episode 8: Greg Smith discusses the herpes virus
Roughly 80 percent of the U.S. population is infected with the herpes virus. While the virus is very easy to get, it remains dormant in many people, who never even know they have it. This is partly because it effectively evades the immune system, taking up refuge in the central nervous system. Dr. Greg Smith is a herpes expert. He is a professor in the microbiology-immunology department at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, Smith did a post-doc at Princeton University. His research on herpes looks at novel targets for antivirals and engineering recombinant viral particles as effective gene delivery vehicles. In this episode, Smith talks with STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis about his educational and research path to becoming a herpes expert. He also touches on polio as an example of an earlier virus that was largely defeated, and how that was different than herpes. Finally, Smith touches on the development of viral vectors and vaccines to win against the more severe forms of herpes that some people are genetically predisposed to get. For a list of Smith’s publications, check out his bio page at web site of Northwestern University: :47: Smith’s lab studies the molecular mechanisms that propagate and are responsible for the spreading of Herpes. 2:47: Ken Ford reads 5-star iTunes review of STEM-Talk, from “I prefer DOS IHMC”: ‘Fantastic lineup and well-assembled, informative conversations on fascinating topics. Keep ‘em coming.” 4:18: Smith’s interest in research began in elementary school, when his father bought him an Apple II computer for Christmas—and told him to program his own games. Programming “really helped me think in a logical, progressive way,” Smith said. 5:46: In college, Smith discovered that “molecular biology was a way to get at the programming that underlies life.” 6:12: In graduate school, Smith studied microbes, which he describes as “essentially the best human biologists; if you study them, you are studying yourself.” 7:56: Smith was not interested in viruses initially because they seemed like simple entities. He didn’t want to study just one protein. 8:56: Smith worked with Lynn Enquist at Princeton University, a “bacteriologist-big thinker,” Smith says, who got him thinking: “How do larger, more complex viruses get into our nervous system? That got me started on the path that I’m still on today.” 9:16: Viruses are extremely diverse entities in biology; they are more diverse than the rest of life put together. Any organism is infected by many viruses, which are “small nanomachines that are genetically derived.” 10:43: Smith describes what a virus looks like: a shell made up of a thin layer of protein. 12:00: Smith wanted to study something with a lot of diversity/complexity. With that comes very interesting biology. All viruses have two things in mind: They want to make more copies of themselves, and they want to disseminate those copies all over place. Herpes, because of its larger genetic content and physical size, allows it to do a lot of interesting things to achieve those goals. 13:00: Polio is a small neuro-invasive virus. You ingest it and it replicates in your gut. It can get into your blood, and nerves/spinal chord. This can cause polio myelitis, which was rampant in the 1950s. 14:18: Herpes is evolved to get into nervous system. That is how it survives. It’s extremely good at it. 15:00: Most people know about herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1, which causes cold sores. But it actually goes into the central nerve system (CNS) and sets up shop. It does not express proteins, so essentially lies dormant there. “The immune system doesn’t know it’s there. So now you’ve got it there for the rest of your life.” 17:25: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition,
Apr 19, 2016
Episode 7: Mark Mattson talks about benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting—alternating days in which you fast or eat only a few hundred calories a day—may have significant long-term health benefits, according to some researchers. Mark Mattson is a leading expert on intermittent fasting, and one of its proponents on a personal level as well. As a neurosciences professor at Johns Hopkins University, and chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Mattson is particularly interested in how fasting can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Intermittent fasting might play a role in preventing or postponing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, which fifty percent of Americans living into their eighties are predicted to get. In this episode, Mattson talks with IHMC Director Ken Ford and IHMC visiting research scientist Dominic D’Agostino about the benefits of fasting and the physiological mechanisms behind those benefits. Mattson is a prolific scientific researcher, and you can find links to some of his work at Mattson ARR 2015 ; Mattson Cell Metabolism 2012 ; and Mattson Sci Amer 2015. Mattson recently delivered an excellent lecture at IHMC on intermittent fasting and optimizing cognitive performance: You can also find his TED talk at For more information on Mattson’s career and research, check out his Wikipedia page: 1:30: Ford says, “Intermittent fasting has become very popular and Mark Mattson is, in our view, the premier authority on this matter.” 2:30: Ford reads iTunes five-star review from “Carl”: “Really smart, really interesting people being interviewed by the same. IHMC is a fascinating place, and attracts like-minded people.” 3:57: Mattson’s interest in science began in ninth grade, when he wrote an essay on cryopreservation. 4:29: He got interested in aging during his Ph.D., while studying developmental neurobiology and cell death. 6:37: Mattson spent eleven years at the University of Kentucky at the Sanders Brown Center on Aging. 7:20: Mattson explains the basic rationale behind intermittent fasting: If you challenge yourself/cells bio-energetically through exercise or fasting, nerve cells respond adaptively—and pathways are activated that increase neuronal resistance to stress and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. 8:10: Mattson conducted studies in which he subjected animals to alternative day fasting, with a 10-25 percent calorie-restricted diet on the days in which they ate. “If you repeat that when animals are young, they live 30 percent longer.” The animals’ nerve cells were more resistant to degeneration. 10:10: Mattson explains the “5:2” study: There were one hundred women in two groups: one group ate 25 percent fewer calories daily; the other group ate only 500 calories/day for two days. 10:57: The take-home message: “Women on the 5:2 diet lost more body fat, retained more lean muscle mass, and had an improvement in glucose regulation. This is consistent with what we know about fasting in terms of general energy metabolism.” 12:08: Fasting for 12 or more hours causes fatty acids to go into the blood stream/liver and are converted into ketones, which are a good alternative energy source for cells. 13:00: Mattson describes how fasting may benefit the brain. 14:20: Mattson talks about three types of fasting regimens: the 5:2 diet; alternate day fasting (500-600 calories on “fasting” days); and time-restricted feeding, where you limit time window that you take in calories to six to eight hours. 16:58: Mattson explains the following dietary “myths”: breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it’s necessary to eat three meals a day; it’s healthier to eat mini meals throughout the day than one or two big meals. “Largely this isn’t based on any good science that we can find.” 17:44: Fasting can elevate ketones to high levels—eve...
Apr 12, 2016
Episode 6: Michael Turner discusses LIGO & the detection of gravitational waves
Michael Turner is best known for having coined the term “dark energy” in 1998. A theoretical cosmologist at the University of Chicago, Turner has dedicated his career to researching the Big Bang, dark energy and dark matter. He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on gravitational waves—back in 1978—and nearly four decades later—had a bird’s eye view of their recent detection. Turner was assistant director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the development of LIGO, which stands for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. This large-scale physics experiment and observatory, which was led by researchers at MIT and CalTech, discovered, on September 15th, 2015, the existence of gravitational waves via a chirping noise signaling the merger of two black holes over a billion light-years away. The scientists announced their discovery on February 11th, 2016. In this episode, Turner interprets this momentous finding, and talks about some of the big player scientists who worked on LIGO. And some of the behind the scenes activities involved in a “big science” project such as LIGO. Talking with STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis, Turner also shares his early development as a scientist and an important mentorship that shaped his career. Turner has been a popular presence at IHMC as a guest lecturer. His IHMC talks have over 20,000 YouTube views. He is also co-author, with Edward Kolb, of The Early Universe: 1:18: IHMC CEO Ken Ford explains what gravitational waves are. 4:29: Five-star reviews of STEM-Talk on iTunes are starting to roll in. Ken Ford reads one from ‘Bobalapoet’: “The individuals interviewed are articulate, knowledgeable and able to clearly convey information about their fields. The interviewers and the institute are to be congratulated for putting this series together for my and others’ enjoyment.” 6:18: Turner talks about his childhood interest in science. “I was always a curious kid,” he said. He tinkered with electronics and became a ham radio operator, talking to people all over the world. “I almost electrocuted myself several times.” 7:21: “I like to say that I went to best schools that money could buy, in the 1960s, which was public schools in California.” Turner describes various high school chemistry experiments and “creating UFOS over LA.” He loved math, physics, and chemistry. 8:58: Turner discovers that physics is his real passion, and “math was but a tool.” 9:05: Turner’s high school physics teacher took Turner and friends to Monday night lectures at CalTech. “It just opened up this world of stuff that was going on at the forefront of science,” adding that’s when he fell in love with what would become his undergraduate alma mater. 11:00: For his Ph.D., Turner went to Stanford on the advice of Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. 11:36: Turner went to the University of Chicago in 1978 as an Enrico Fermi fellow. Initially his plan was to return to California as soon as possible, but “I’ve been happily in Chicago ever since.” 12:09: David Schramm, an astrophysicist and Big Bang theory expert, brought Turner to Chicago and mentored him until Schramm’s tragic death from a plane crash in 1997. The two met at CalTech, in the gym, where Schramm was assistant wrestling coach. 14:45: “Dave curved the path of my career from astrophysics and gravitational waves to early universe cosmology.” 16:41: “[Dave’s] toughness and his enthusiasm for science are things that I take with me to this day.” 17:00: “[Dave] really changed the face of cosmology and astronomy at the University of Chicago.” 17:25: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.  17:58: Turner discusses his passion for bicycling.
Apr 05, 2016
Episode 5: Margaret Leinen discusses health of the oceans
Margaret Leinen is a big name in oceanography. She’s the director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute and vice chancellor of marine sciences at Scripps. She was previously assistant direct of the National Science Foundation, where she worked with IHMC CEO and Director Ken Ford, who calls her “one of the most effective and most pleasant assistant directors of NSF.” Leinen’s interest in science started early: In high school, she became interested in geology and the history of the earth. When she discovered oceanography in college, she never looked back. In this episode, Leinen talks about her first dive in the Pacific, where she stumbled onto a huge hydrothermal vent system teeming with worms, clams and other colorful life forms. She also addresses current and future threats to the ocean, a non profit she established to look into mitigating the effects of climate change, and the overall resilience of the oceans. Host Dawn Kernagis, whose own interest in becoming a scientist—started with her childhood fascination with the ocean—conducts this interview. 3:00: In 2000, NSF director Rita Colwell asked Leinen to come to D.C. to talk to her about working at NSF to coordinate environmental science, engineering and education across entire foundation. 5:32. Leinen says a theme of her career has been cross disciplinary coordination. “I think it takes an optimist, and that’s me, I’m definitely a glass is half full kind of person.” 6:28: “People want to be able to cross boundaries, and most of the time they think that they do, but organizations put obstacles in front of them. My job is to find out what the obstacles are and then embrace them.” 9:10: Leinen talks about her role as director of Scripps, the oldest institute for oceanography, which just celebrated its 114th birthday. 10:00: Scripps has programs with University of California-San Diego medical and pharmacy schools. The oceans influence human health—and “Not just safety of seafood, red tides, or harmful algal blooms.” 10:24: “When you take a big breath of that wonderful salt air, you’re also inhaling thousands of viruses and bacteria from the ocean.” That may be harmful, or it may confer immunity. 11:57: We’ve gone beyond detecting climate change and attributing it to what is natural or human-induced; and we are now interested in how it impacts humans, the land and oceans—and how we must adapt.” 12:34: Understanding all these threads is “deeply inter-disciplinary.” 13:34: Leinen talks about the non-profit she started, the Climate Response Fund, to research “climate engineering,” or mitigating climate change. 17:15: The Climate Response Fund was a group of scientists and policy experts working with the public, governmental groups, non-profits and scientific groups. “It was a facilitator of discussions.” 18:00: In the U.S., research agencies have been reluctant to fund research in climate engineering, both because of the lack of a good policy framework as well as the potential pubic response. European groups have also struggled. 20:58: Leinen describes her early interest in geology as a high school student. Later, in college, “I just got seduced by oceanography.” 23:05: Leinen talks about the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), which looked at the carbon cycle in the ocean: “The ocean’s role in really the thing that keep the planet alive.” 24:13: The Equitorial Pacific extends across half the planet. “It’s very, very productive,” but that depends on whether it’s an El Nino time or not. 25:05: During normal (non El Nino) times, there is “An upwelling of deep waters,” and the breakdown of organic material by microbes. “During an El Nino this is limited, [the ocean] is not as biologically productive.” 26:50: JGOFS involved nine different two-month long cruises from the U.S. team, with 70 major scientists and their respective teams. There were other teams from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Chile.
Mar 29, 2016
Episode 4: Harrison Schmitt discusses being the first scientist on the moon
In this episode, we talk with Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, the first and only scientist to land on the moon. Schmitt was part of the Apollo 17 Mission in 1972, the last Apollo mission. The geologist turned NASA Astronaut, turned U.S. senator, talks about first seeing the advertisement, in 1964, for scientists interested in space missions. “When I saw that on the bulletin board, I hesitated about ten seconds,” he said. Called “Dr. Rock” by his colleagues in the Apollo program, Schmitt recounts walking, falling and singing on the moon; and his discovery of orange ash, probably of volcanic in origin at Shorty Crater. Schmitt says returning to the moon is a gateway to Mars, and that private investors may have a stake in funding future space exploration. Schmitt recently lectured at IHMC; view his lecture on youtube.  Check out his book, "Return to the Moon," on Amazon. STEM-Talk’s host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Tom Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut himself, talk to Schmitt. 3:53: Historic audio tape of Schmitt throwing geologist’s hammer on the moon. 5:11: Historic audio tape of Schmitt and Gene Cernan singing on the moon. 6:00: Historic audio tape of Schmitt discovering orange soil on the moon. 7:12:  Jack excitedly reports from the Moon that he could see 'orange soil' on the rim of Shorty Crater in the Taurus-Littrow Valley. When the samples were returned to Earth, they were shown to consist of millions of very small brown-orange glass spheres. These are now thought to represent pyroclastic volcanic activity ("fire fountains") that occurred about 3.5 billion years ago. 9:39: Schmitt’s parents inspired his interest in science from an early age. His father was an economic geologist who studied ore deposits, and his mother had an interest in botany and ornithology. 12:57: Schmitt’s thoughts on his selection as the first and only science to go to the moon. 15:31: Schmitt describes right before take-off, monitoring gauges in cabin; “becoming competitive with flight controllers” in Houston. 19:12: Schmitt says thoughts of mortality did not go through his mind pre-launch. What was he thinking? “You don’t want to recycle. That means another month of training.” 20:41: Schmitt describes first impressions of the moon: “spectacular mountains.” 22:27: Marvels at the mountains on either side: 1,600-2,100 meters above surface, which is higher than the depth of the Grand Canyon. Also notes tracks of boulders rolling down mountain. 24:30: Apollo 17 flight controllers used to call Dr. Schmitt “Dr. Rock.” 25:31: Schmitt spent his free time reading operations manual to be “the best lunar module pilot.” 27:11: Historic audio footage of Schmitt saying “dad-gummit” on the moon. 28:57: Schmitt says the Apollo A7LB spacesuit was a remarkable development. Water-cooled underwear allowed the team to control body temperature long enough for explorations. 30:38: Schmitt discusses samples from Apollo 17 mission: “The samples are the gift that keeps on giving.” 32:56: Apollo 17’s most important result: “an understanding of the early history of the earth.” 33:44: Earth’s early history was “extraordinarily violent.” Complex molecular evolution that led to life was taking place. 34:33: Schmitt believes that the moon was formed (by accretion) near earth’s orbit — not by a Mars-sized object impacting the Earth. 36:09: The orange volcanic ash found on the moon makes it unlikely that the moon was formed by a giant impact. Schmitt calls it the most important finding from Apollo 17. 38:29: Commercial break: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. 39:00: Jack answers the question, “why return to the Moon?” To mine it as a reservoir of isotopic helium. And,
Mar 22, 2016
Episode 3: Rhonda Patrick discusses why your genes influence what you should eat
Before Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick “stumbled into research”—at the renowned Salk Institute—the Southern California native was a biochemistry major and a passionate surfer. She’s still an avid surfer, but of her college major, Patrick said, “I wasn’t feeling connected to synthesizing peptides in the lab, so I decided that I wanted to try out biology.” After earning her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego, Patrick worked at the Salk Institute’s aging laboratory, where she became fascinated with watching how much the lifespan of nematode worms could fluctuate depending on the experiments done on them. Hooked on aging research, she pursued that thread all the way to the laboratory of renowned scientist Dr. Bruce Ames, who developed the Triage Theory of Aging, which focuses on the long-term damage of micro-nutrient deficiencies. Patrick is currently working with Ames as a post-doc at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Hospital. Together, they are looking at strategies to reverse the aging process. She also received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Tennessee, where she worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Patrick lectured at IHMC in Ocala in December. She also has her own podcast show, called “Found My Fitness,” at: STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Ken Ford talked with Patrick about her research and development as a young scientist who is now at the forefront of the longevity field. :35: Dawn introduces Rhonda Patrick as “an American biochemist, cell biologist, science communicator and podcaster.” Patrick is currently studying the effects of micro-nutrient inadequacies on metabolism, inflammation, DNA damage and aging. 4:23: Patrick discusses her appreciation for her graduate school mentor. “I got a lot of micro-management,” she said, adding that she acquired the tools she would need to answer interesting biological questions regarding cancer metabolism, apoptosis, and nutrition. 6:00: Nutrigenomics, Patrick said, is a “complex interaction between the nutrients, micro-nutrients, macro-nutrients (fat) and certain genes that we have.” 6:43: As humans, Patrick said, “We all have the same genes, but alternative forms of these genes for unknown reasons. A single nucleotide change in the DNA sequence of a gene can alter the gene function.” 7:13: Certain polymorphisms, or genetic variants, probably emerged because of environmentally-induced genetic stressors, Patrick said. For example, soil high in selenium may have caused people to develop a polymorphism that inhibits the absorption of selenium because they get so much of it naturally. 8:11: Even if the polymorphism changes the gene in a negative way, you can often find a benefit, Patrick said. “That’s probably why it’s survived.” 8:42: Commercial break: STEM-Talk is an educational service of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. 9:25: Hundreds of genes interact with micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients that we take in. For example, half the population has a polymorphism that changes the way your body metabolizes folate and folic acid, the oxidized form of folate. 11:05: Folate helps us make methyl groups, which are used for various biological functions. The MTHFR gene helps with that process, so people with a genetic polymorphism need to take a methyl folate 5 supplement. 12:00: The TRPM6 gene is a transporter of magnesium, an essential micronutrient required in over 300 enzymes in body. Some of its functions include making/using ATP; repairing DNA damage; establishing new neuronal connections in the brain. 12:27: People with a genetic polymorphism cannot transport magnesium in/out of cells,
Mar 15, 2016
Episode 2: Br. Guy Consolmagno: The Vatican Astronomer
Guy Consolmagno is not your typical scientist. The director of Vatican Observatory is also a Jesuit Brother, astronomer extraordinaire, MIT graduate, former Peace Corp volunteer and self-described science fiction geek. The second-generation Italian-American, born in Detroit, now divides his time between the Vatican Observatory in Italy and the Mount Graham International Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. In 2014, Brother Guy received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society for his unique position as a scientist and man of faith, and he believes firmly that the scientific and spiritual inquiry are more complementary than conflictual. Consolmagno is the author of several books about astronomy, and science and faith, including most recently, “Would You Baptize an Extra-terrestrial?” He also authored “God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion,” and gave a lecture at IHMC on that topic. That lecture can be found on YouTube at In another IHMC lecture, Brother Guy discusses “Discarded Worlds: Astronomical Ideas that Were Almost Correct”: Brother Guy writes for a blog called the Catholic Astronomer, which can be found at STEM-Talk co-host Tom Jones, a former NASA astronaut who shares Brother Guy’s love of astronomy—as well as the same MIT thesis advisor, John Lewis—interviews Brother Guy about his life-long journey to understand the universe and the role of faith in that pursuit. Introducing this podcast episode is host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC CEO Ken Ford. 1:15: The Vatican Observatory is in a town outside of Rome called Castel Gandolfo, which is also the Pope’s summer residence. Ford and his wife Nancy first met Brother Guy there a few years ago. 3:52: A day in the life of Brother Guy in Rome: after his 6 a.m. wake-up call, he works until the Italian coffee break at 10 a.m., then goes back to work until the big meal of the day at 1:30 p.m., which is followed by an afternoon siesta. In late afternoon, he spends an hour of prayer walking in the gardens, followed by Mass. Then he works again until 9 or 10 p.m., responding to emails from America. 4:44: “It’s a full day, but it’s almost like getting two days of work in,” Brother Guys says of his daily routine. “It’s exhilarating because it reminds me of all the different worlds I get to live in.” 5:07: A “Sputnik kid,” Brother Guy was in kindergarten when the Soviets launched the first satellite into the earth’s orbit. He was a high school senior when NASA astronauts landed on the moon. “How could you not be crazy about astronomy and science?” 6:18: Brother Guy followed his best friend to MIT for college. “I discovered MIT had weekend movies, and pinball machines, and the world’s largest collection of science fiction, and I knew I had to go there.” 6:55: At MIT, he studied geology, quickly discovering meteorites. “From then on meteorites were where my heart was. I never looked back.” 7:36: Astronomy reminded Brother Guy about “bigger things than what’s for lunch”; and also our human intellectual capacity to puzzle about these things. 7:52: Since the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church has backed the study of astronomy at universities, Brother Guys says. “In those days, understanding how universe works was a way of understanding how the creator works.” 9:01: In 1891, Pope Leo XIII established the Vatican Observatory to show that the church supported science. This came during a politically-charged atmosphere of anti-clericalism in France and Italy, based in part on the church’s opposition to the fashionable science of eugenics. 9:45: “You can’t do science without faith,” Brother Guy says. This means that you must have a positive world view to sustain scientific inquiry—in other words, “not think people are inherently evil.” 10:34: Not every religion can support science.
Mar 08, 2016
Episode 1: Peter Attia on how to live longer and better
Dr. Peter Attia, the guest for this episode of STEM-Talk, is a modern-day “Renaissance man,” says IHMC CEO Ken Ford. That term gets tossed around a lot, but in Attia’s case, it’s true. He is a top-notch physician, a former McKinsey consultant, and an ultra endurance athlete—who once swam twenty-something miles to Catalina Island, off the coast of California. During the podcast show, Attia talks about his academic journey, from studying math and engineering, to then pursuing clinical medicine and developing research interests in longevity. The birth of Attia’s daughter marked his interest in quantity of life—as well as quality of life. Attia discusses his eight “drivers of longevity,” all of which depart from the concept of preventing the onset of chronic disease. These include optimal nutrition, exercise, sleep habits, hormone optimization, stress management, sense of purpose/social connections, medications, and avoidance of harmful behaviors. Check out Peter Attia’s blog “The Eating Academy,” at You can also check out his TED talk “Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem? STEM-Talk’s host Dawn Kernagis and Ken Ford chats with Peter Attia. 3:25: In college, Attia volunteered at a children’s hospital, which inspired his interest in medicine. 4:08: Ford notes that math and engineering provide a useful background for medicine. Attia later notes that his early academic background in both these subjects “still colors how I look at the world.” 4:32: Attia’s advice to college students who are aspiring physicians: “I think you should study anything that you are not going to learn in medical school.” 5:25: Two things drive significant change in a person’s life: “abject misery and profound inspiration.” The former drove Attia out of clinical medicine. 6:27: The birth of Attia’s daughter spurred his interest in longevity. 7:05: Commercial break: 8:32: Centenarians get diseases 20-30 years later than most people. 9:20: Longevity is first and foremost about delaying the onset of chronic disease. 10:13: Animal literature shows that caloric restriction increases longevity; so do drugs that prevent mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). 11:52: Eight things improve longevity and quality of life: food, exercise, sleep patterns, management of chronic stress, hormone optimization, medications, sense of purpose/social support network, avoidance of harmful behaviors. 12:28: Accidental death is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.; 80 percent of these are auto accidents, accidental poisoning and falls. 13:09:  Ford and Attia agree that trade-offs sometimes exist between interventions likely to increase lifespan and those aimed at aimed at increasing healthspan. 15:50: People who consume fewer calories are likely to have a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer; they may also have more deficient immune systems and greater susceptibility to catastrophes like falls. 16:10: Caloric restriction creates an environment of cell signaling, cell growth, and nutrient sensing that slows down aging. 16:36: One of the greatest challenges in studying longevity is the inability to accurately measure biologic signals such as mTOR activity. 17:08: Attia characterizes protein optimization: “We want to see IGF-1 levels lower; AMP kinase more active; Ras less active.” 18:36: “Three things I walk through life wanting to keep at a minimum,” Attia says: How to minimize mean level glucose, variability of glucose, and insulin AUC (area under the curve). 19:24: Attia eats 125-150 grams of specific carbs per day, at times when he can maximally dispose of it. He also wears a continue glucose monitor that measures glucose every five minutes. 20:47:  Ford and Attia discuss the benefits of a ketogenic diets and the implications for IGF-1, mTOR, insulin,
Mar 01, 2016