Health & Wellness Podcasts

The most interesting people in the world of science and technology


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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology





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Episode 166: Vyvyane Loh and Ken Ford discuss atherosclerotic heart disease

Dr. Vyvyane Loh returns to STEM-Talk for her second appearance to talk about atherosclerotic heart disease. Also known as ASCVD, the disease has been reported to affect 26 million people in the U.S., and annually leads two million hospitalizations and more than 400,000 deaths. Vyvyane is a board-certified physician in obesity and internal medicine. In episode 142 of STEM-Talk, we talked to Vyvyane about her Boston-based preventative-care practice that specializes in weight management and the treatment of chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia. In today’s podcast, Vyvyane and host Dr. Ken Ford talk about ASCVD as well as recent research that has shown substantial individual variability in the response to statin therapy as a way to lower cardiovascular risk. Vyvyane and Ken also discuss how the current knowledge base informing clinical practice in medicine today is far behind advances in the biological sciences, especially in the field of ASCVD. Show notes: [00:03:15] Ken welcomes Vyvyane back to STEM-Talk and encourages listeners to check out Vyvyane’s first interview, episode 142. Ken goes on to mention that atherosclerotic heart disease has been reported to affect 26 million people in the U.S. and that despite the wide use of statins as a primary prevention of atherosclerotic heart disease, the effects of this treatment have been variable with regards to major adverse cardiac events. Ken asks Vyvyane for her thoughts. [00:05:32] Ken asks Vyvyane about recent developments in atherosclerotic heart disease research, specifically in regard to the anatomical aspects of the disease-model itself. [00:08:43] Ken follows up asking Vyvyane how the knowledge we have of glycocalyces, and the endothelial lining of the blood vessels, could affect clinical practice. [00:12:19] Ken asks if there are any other recent updates to the anatomical model of atherosclerotic disease that people should be aware of. [00:13:09] Ken asks Vyvyane how she would characterize the significance of the tunica intima of the coronary artery. [00:15:25] Ken asks about the third recent anatomical highlight to blood vessels relevant to the discussion. [00:19:19] Ken follows up, asking if this is how the vasa vasorum contributes to our understanding of the development of atherosclerosis. [00:21:05] Ken asks Vyvyane to explain what endothelial dysfunction is and what are its downstream effects. [00:26:09] Ken asks Vyvyane to expound on the link between atherosclerotic disease and auto-immunity. [00:31:01] Ken asks, given the link to inflammation, if there have been any therapeutic developments made in the treatment of atherosclerotic disease. [00:34:54] Ken asks about the vaccine that is being developed for atherosclerosis. [00:37:53] Ken mentions that another recent development in the field is the growing appreciation for clonal hematopoiesis in atherosclerosis. Ken asks Vyvyane to explain what clonal hematopoiesis is. [00:39:55] Ken asks Vyvyane what some actionable takeaways are from our discussion on atherosclerosis that listeners can take home with them. [00:43:17] Ken asks Vyvyane about her passion for dance, and how much time she invests in that area of her life. [00:48:11] Ken follows up asking Vyvyane what drives her to pursue dance so passionately. [00:53:34] In closing the interview, Ken encourages listeners to check out Vyvyane’s podcast as well as her website. Links: Vyvyane Loh website Learn more about IHMC STEM-Talk homepage Ken Ford bio Ken Ford Wikipedia page


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Episode 165: John Edwards on ketamine treatment for depression and suicide prevention

Today we have Dr. Johnathan Edwards, an anesthesiologist and medical practitioner who specializes in human health and optimization. He is perhaps best known for treating mental health conditions with ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic that is used for general anesthesia, pain relief, depression and epilepsy. John also uses ketamine to help adolescents overcome depression and suicidal ideation. In today’s interview, we talk about his new book, “The Revolutionary Ketamine: The Safe Drug That Effectively Treats Depression and Prevents Suicide.” More Americans have died from suicide than all the wars since Vietnam. The suicide rate among 10- to-24-year-olds in this country increased 62 percent from 2007 through 2021. As John points out in today’s discussion, most people are not aware that American children between the ages of 10 and 14 are twice as likely to die from suicide than homicide. Show notes: [00:02:39] Dawn explains that suicide is a pressing problem in America, with more Americans dying of suicide than from all the wars since Vietnam. She also points out that police and firefighters are more likely to die from suicide than in the line of duty. John then gives an overview of ketamine and its ability to help treat depression and suicidal thoughts. [00:06:56] Dawn pivots to mention the dark side of ketamine, including ketamine misuse and overdose. Recent studies have reported a worldwide increase in ketamine misuse and overdoses. Back in October, Mathew Perry, one of the stars of the popular sit-com “Friends,” died from what the Los Angeles cororner described as the acute effects of ketamine. Because this was such a high-profile case, Dawn asks John to discuss the potential adverse effects of ketamine. [00:13:03] Ken mentions a 2022 study in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse that looked at ketamine overdoses and deaths. The study found no cases of overdose or death from ketamine used in a clinical setting as therapy for depression. Ken asks if there is anything John would like to add about ketamine and safety. [00:13:059] Dawn shifts to talk about John’s background, mentioning that he grew up riding dirt bikes and eventually raced bikes professionally. [00:15:18] Ken asks John to share his story of how a junior college professor sparked his interest in science. [00:17:49] Dawn mentions that John jumped around from Eastern Virginia Medical School, to the University of Reno, to the University of Utah, at which point it looked as though he was heading for a career in internal medicine. Dawn asks why John changed his mind and decided not to pursue that career path. [00:19:40] Dawn asks John what led him to the University of South Florida. [00:20:18] Ken asks John about another career shift that came about as the result of a suggestion from one of John’s professors. [00:21:42] Dawn asks about John’s motivation to move to Las Vegas to be close to his father. [00:22:59] Dawn asks John to explain what motivated him and his wife to move to France after their daughter turned five. [00:24:55] Dawn asks John to talk about the transition of ketamine from anesthetic to antidepressant. [00:28:16] In his book on ketamine, John writes about how the benefits of supervised psychedelic therapy can be broken down into four effects. Ken asks John to briefly explain each of these effects. [00:31:39] Dawn asks John to explain how ketamine manipulates the function of brain receptors as an antagonist and agonist. [00:33:40] Dawn mentions that some people do not believe that ketamine functions as a classic psychedelic like psylocibin or LSD. She asks John if he agrees. [00:35:54] Ken mentions a recent STEM-Talk interview with Mark Mattson discussing glutamate. In Mark’s book, “Sculptor and Destroyer: Tales of Glutamate,” he points out that ketamine’s highest interactions are with glutamate, and this affinity has been shown to alleviate depression and schizophrenia.


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Episode 164: Michael Leon on olfactory stimulation as a buffer for dementia symptoms

What if the path to delaying the onset of dementia symptoms begins at the nose? It is a doorway that the research of Dr. Michael Leon opened with a 2023 study on the power of olfaction enrichment to influence memory function and brain health. The findings drew wide acclaim and interest when his results found that stimulation of our sense of smell with essential oils had a profound impact on memory, cognition, and language recall. Our conversation with Leon on STEM-Talk Episode 164 is available now wherever you enjoy podcasts. Leon’s long research career has focused on the influence of environmental enrichment on neurological function, disease, and disorders. He has studied the benefits of sensory-motor stimulation for children with autism spectrum disorder, for the treatment of anorexia and for those with dementia and neurological conditions. He is a professor emeritus in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California Irvine, where his Leon Lab has focused on studying the benefits of increased sensory-motor activity in children with autism spectrum disorder. The work that the Leon Lab is doing is fascinating, and the applications this olfaction stimulation study are potentially important and wide-reaching. Overview: [00:02:33] Dawn starts the interview by asking Michael how he got interested in science. [00:003:59] Dawn asks how Michael got involved in studying olfaction. [00:04:36] Dawn asks about Michael’s research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which resulted in a series of studies from 2013, 2015, and 2016. [00:08:11] Dawn asks how Michael took the principles of environmental enrichment from his work on autism and applied them to his aging research, which began in 2018. [00:09:28] Ken asks Michael about his 2023 study titled “Olfactory enrichment using an odorant diffuser improves memory and modifies the uncinate fasciculus in older adults.” [00:11:25] Ken asks Michael why he chose the specific seven odors that he used in the study. [00:12:24] Ken poses a listener question about whether or not a CPAP machine, which many older Americans use, would complicate Michael’s olfactory enrichment protocol, or if it is possible that the CPAP machine and the protocol can be used together. [00:13:35] Dawn asks Michael what the selection and recruitment process was like for this study. [00:14:48] Ken asks, in light of Michael’s research on the connection between memory and olfaction, what the potential consequences might be for people who reported loss or diminishing sense of smell following a COVID-19 infection. [00:16:51] Ken asks if any of the olfactory remediation kits have shown promise in restoring lost olfaction following COVID-19. [00:17:32] Ken asks what the mechanism is behind the loss of olfaction following menopause. [00:19:43] Dawn asks Michael how his olfactory enrichment as a memory intervention compares to other memory interventions like dancing, music and audio books. [00:20:22] Ken asks Michael what the limitations of the study were, as well as what kind of follow up he is planning. [00:23:14] Ken asks if there is any promise in applying Michael’s olfactory therapy to mild TBI. [00:24:10] Dawn asks Michael to describe how the brain processes information while asleep versus while awake, and if this influenced his study. [00:25:53] Dawn mentions that the participants of Michael’s 2023 study were healthy, with no signs of dementia. She then asks Michael if he can speak to the potential use of olfactory enrichment for adults living with a dementia diagnosis. [00:26:41] Ken asks if this olfactory enrichment approach is efficacious for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. [00:27:10] Ken mentions the difficulty in treating Alzheimer’s pharmacologically due to the varied causes of the disease among individuals. [00:29:10] Ken asks Michael if there are environmental protocols other than olfactory enrichment that s...


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Episode 163: Mark Mattson discusses glutamate, the brain’s most important neurotransmitter

Today we have Dr. Mark Mattson, an adjunct professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who is making his third appearance on STEM-Talk. Today’s interview focuses on Mark’s research into glutamate and comes on the heels of the publication of Mark’s new book, “Sculptor and Destroyer: Tales of Glutamate – The Brain’s Most Important Neurotransmitter.” Today Mark explains how more than 90 percent of the neurons in the brain deploy the little-known molecule glutamate as their neurotransmitter. Glutamate controls the structure and function of the brain’s neuronal networks and mediates many of our human capabilities, such as learning, memory, creativity, and imagination. But there’s also a dark side to glutamate. Mark shares how it can play a causal role in the development of disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy as well as diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. Mark is affectionally known as the godfather of intermittent fasting and his first appearance on STEM-Talk focused on the many ways that fasting optimizes healthspan and even lifespan. His second STEM-Talk interview followed the publication of his book, “The Intermittent Fasting Revolution: The Science of Optimizing Health and Enhancing Performance.” Show Notes: [00:04:05] Dawn welcomes Mark back to STEM-Talk for his third appearance. Dawn mentions that our previous two episodes with mark focused on intermittent fasting, and that Mark is considered the godfather of intermittent fasting. Dawn goes on to mention that the National Institutes of Health has described Mark as “one of the world’s top experts on the potential cognitive and physical health benefits of intermittent fasting.” [00:05:05] Ken mentions that in our previous STEM-TALK interview Mark shared that he was working on a new book about glutamate. Ken adds that Mark considers his research on glutamate to be his most important work. Ken asks why Mark feels as though this research is his most important, given his substantial contributions in other areas. [00:05:49] Dawn mentions that Mark’s research hasn’t been limited to just glutamate and intermittent fasting. Mark has contributed to a broad range of topics including brain evolution, cognition, the impact of diet and lifestyle on brain health, as well as the pathogenesis and treatment of various neurological conditions. Dawn asks Mark to talk about his motivation to understand how the pieces of the “brain puzzle” fit together, which is the core motivation for his pursuing a broad scope of research. [00:07:22] Ken asks about Mark’s postdoc work, where he discovered that glutamate sculpts the formation of hippocampal neuronal networks during development. [00:09:33] Ken mentions that while Mark was at the University of Kentucky, he discovered that the amyloid beta peptide which accumulates in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease renders neurons vulnerable to excitotoxicity. Ken goes on to say that since this, and the previously mentioned discovery, neurologists have shown that neuronal network hyperexcitability occurs early in Alzheimer’s and may contribute to neuronal degeneration. Ken asks Mark to talk about the significance of these two discoveries. [00:13:39] Dawn asks Mark to talk about the significance of glutamate as a molecule and how it controls the formation of nerve cell networks as the brain develops in utero. [00:17:50] Ken asks Mark why he thinks that glutamate rarely comes up in discussions of neurotransmitters, despite its importance of its functions. [00:19:58] Ken asks Mark to expound on the “dark side” of glutamate. [00:26:04] Dawn mentions that we may never know where in the universe glutamate originated, and while it might have been here on Earth, it perhaps originated somewhere else in the universe. Dawn asks Mark to expand on that notion. [00:28:33] Ken shifts to the history of glutamate research, explaining that up until the 1940’s,


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Episode 162: Marc Hamilton discusses the soleus push-up and the health hazard of excessive sitting

Today we have Dr. Marc Hamilton, an international expert in muscle physiology. He has published pioneering work on the soleus push-up, a potent physiological method which Marc discovered having the ability to elevate metabolism for hours, even while sitting. As a professor of Health and Human Performance at the University of Houston, Marc’s research focuses on solving problems of metabolism and biochemistry. His lab currently has a number of ongoing investigations, including studies on the biochemical mechanisms that may optimize fat metabolism to fuel muscle when fasting between meals. This research includes a look at maximizing glucose metabolism while also reducing related plasma hyperinsulinemia due to chronic inflammation and carbohydrate ingestion. Another recent area of research focus has been to improve metabolic health for preventing diabetes and pre-diabetes. This includes the goal of improving glucose tolerance. Research has shown that glucose intolerance has been a particularly troubling metabolic problem and has proven to be more difficult to treat than most people realize. Marc is also well known for a string of papers beginning in early 2000’s that found excessive sitting should be viewed as a serious health hazard. This research illuminated how metabolic and biochemical processes are significantly impacted by certain types of prolonged muscular activity and inactivity. In today’s interview, we particularly talk to Marc about his paper in iScience that reported that the soleus push-up’s ability to sustain elevated oxidative metabolism to improve the regulation of blood glucose is more effective than many popular methods currently touted as a solution. Show notes: [00:02:48] Marc begins the interview talking about his childhood and growing up outside of Houston. [00:03:49] Ken asks if Marc’s later affinity for the real-world scientific problems that he works on today was originally inspired, in part, by his childhood history of hunting and studying animal behavior and anatomy. [00:05:20] Marcas asks Marc what other hobbies he had as a child. [00:06:35] Marcas mentions that Marc didn’t go to college with the intention of becoming a scientist and asks Marc what he had in mind when he started his undergraduate studies at the University of Texas. [00:09:08] Marcas asks Marc if there was anything in particular in his zoology undergrad that sparked an interest in pursuing a master’s degree in exercise physiology. [00:10:15] Marcas asks Marc to talk about what he enjoyed the most about graduate school, particularly with his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina. [00:16:05] Ken asks if Marc had a great deal of independence with his PhD. [00:17:27] Ken mentions that Marc went to the University of Texas School of Medicine in Houston for his postdoc research, which focused on physiology, cell biology, and pharmacology. Ken asks Marc what that time was like. [00:19:45] Ken asks Marc to talk about some fundamentals of muscle metabolism that listeners should keep in mind before diving deeper into his current research. [00:24:58] Marcas shifts to talk about Marc’s 2004 paper “Exercise Physiology vs Inactivity Physiology,” which focused on the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and how periods of inactivity impact its regulation. [00:32:05] Ken mentions that Marc published a string of papers after his previously mentioned 2004 paper, elaborating on the same theme. Ken brings up his 2008 paper, titled “Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting,” in particular. Ken asks Marc to talk about his conclusion in that paper, that excessive sitting should be viewed as a serious health hazard. Ken also asks Marc if there is any efficacy to standing desks and balance boards that one sees in many workplaces now. [00:36:48] Marcas wonders if over the course of Marc’s research if he has seen any differences in the effects of inactivity across the sexes and asks Marc if the effects are roug...


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Episode 161: Sten Stray-Gundersen on the benefits of blood-flow restriction training

Today’s episode of STEM-Talk features Dr. Sten Stray-Gundersen, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of South Carolina who is also an adjunct instructor at the university’s Arnold School of Public Health. Cohosts Dr. Ken Ford, IHMC’s founder and CEO, and Dr. Marcas Bamman, a Senior Research Scientist at IHMC, talk to Sten about his work on blood-flow restriction training and cardiovascular exercise physiology. Prior to his position at South Carolina, Sten was a teaching assistant at the University of Texas where he earned his Ph.D. Sten’s father, Jim Stray-Gundersen, was our guest on episode 34 of STEM-Talk in 2017. Jim, who passed away last year, helped pioneer blood-flow restriction training in the United States. In today’s interview, we cover the documented benefits of blood-flow restriction and how it not only increases muscle strength, but also improves endurance and reduces the risk of injury. Sten also talks about his research into hypoxia and endothelial function. Show notes: [00:03:02] Sten begins the interview talking about the different places where he grew up. [00:03:32] Marcas asks if it’s true that Sten’s high school soccer team won three straight state titles. [00:04:06] Marcas mentions that Sten’s younger brother was also a good soccer player in high school, and was on the same team as Sten when they won their third state championship. Sten goes on to talk to talk about playing sports with his siblings. [00:04:43] Ken mentions that Sten was a nationally ranked speed skater and cross-country skier. Ken asks Sten about other sports he excelled at. [00:05:45] Marcas asks how Sten’s parents influenced his success in athletics. [00:06:41] Ken takes time to offer his condolences for the passing of Sten’s father, Jim Stray-Gundersen, who was interviewed on episode 34 of STEM-Talk. The 2017 interview, which focused on blood-flow-restriction training, remains a popular STEM-Talk episode to this day. [00:08:21] Marcas asks Sten about trying blood-flow restriction (BFR) for the first time with his father. [00:09:37] Marcas asks Sten what led him to become interested in pursuing a career in science. [00:10:27] Ken mentions that Sten went to Dartmouth for his undergrad on a soccer scholarship. After graduating, Sten attempted to play in the USL. and Ken asks how that worked out. [00:11:57] Marcas mentions that as Sten’s injuries from soccer piled up, he began to consider going back to school and pursuing research. Marcas asks what went into that decision-making process. [00:13:38] Marcas mentions that during Sten’s time in Austin, he worked for a group called ROI Performance, which is an evidence-based physical therapy center that focuses on athletic rehab and performance. Marcas asks Sten to talk about his time there as a BFR specialist. [00:15:23] Marcas takes a moment to explain that BFR training involves restricting the blood flow to specific muscle groups, using specialized cuffs or bands. Marcas asks Sten to explain how BFR allows people to train with lighter weights while still reaping many of the benefits associated with heavier resistance training. [00:16:20] Ken mentions that BFR has largely been associated with resistance training, but it is now being looked at in the context of endurance sports. Ken asks Sten to discuss how different protocols of BFR can be implemented to yield different effects in the contexts of resistance training and aerobic training. [00:19:10] Ken notes that much of the Western research on BFR has now incorporated the arterial occlusion pressure approach, so much so, that it is often promoted as the only safe and effective approach to BFR. Ken goes on to say that this is not how BFR was originally conceived. Ken explains that there are a variety of different approaches to BFR, each with tradeoffs, and asks Sten to discuss these issues in detail. [00:21:22] Ken mentions that clarity is lacking in much of the BFR ...


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Episode 160: Euan Ashley on precision medicine and predicting, preventing, and diagnosing diseases

Our guest today is Dr. Euan Ashley, a pioneer in the use of genomic sequencing to solve some of our most puzzling medical mysteries. Medical genomics, and the precision medicine it will enable, has the potential to predict, prevent, and diagnose many common (and uncommon) diseases. In today’s interview, we discuss: -- Euan’s work with a colleague who was just the fifth person in the world to have his genome sequenced. -- Precision medicine and how Euan has helped establish medical genomics. -- Technological advances that made sequencing cost-effective for individuals. -- How pathogenic labels will transform healthcare. -- The Undiagnosed Disease Network, which includes physicians from across the country who work with patients and families to solve medical mysteries. -- Research from his lab that shows how all forms of exercise, particularly endurance exercise, confer benefits across all domains of health and function. Euan is a Scottish-born professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford University. He’s also the author of The Genome Odyssey: Medical Mysteries and the Incredible Quest to Solve Them. Show notes: [00:02:27] Dawn begins the interview asking Euan if it is true that he was a computer nerd growing up and if his interest in science fiction played a part in that. [00:03:03] Dawn asks Euan how he was first introduced to computers and what it was about them that hooked him. [00:03:44] Dawn asks about Euan developing tax software when he was a teen-ager for his father. [00:04:53] Ken asks if Euan ever developed, or thought about developing, any computer games. [00:06:34] Dawn asks Euan where he grew up. [00:06:51] Dawn mentions that Euan’s father is a physician, and his mother a midwife, and that even from a young age Euan told people that he wanted to become a physician, even though his parents did not push him in that direction. Dawn asks Euan what the underlying pull towards becoming a physician was for him. [00:07:52] Ken asks Euan how he became interested in data and statistics. [00:09:08] Dawn mentions that Euan graduated with first-class honors in physiology and medicine from the University of Glasgow, and then went for a medical residency and Ph.D. at the University of Oxford. Dawn asks when in that journey he met his wife Fiona, who helped him through medical school and has played a major role in his life and career. [00:10:26] Ken mentions that Euan and his wife took off for California, where he conducted his post-doc research at Stanford University. Ken mentions that Euan would later join the Stanford faculty in 2006, and asks Euan what made him decide to move to Stanford in the first place. [00:12:54] Dawn asks Euan what it was that fascinated him about the heart and at what point did he decide to specialize in cardiology. [00:15:03] Ken asks Euan when he realized that he could combine his career in medicine with his interests in computing and data. [00:17:38] Dawn explains that Euan’s lab at Stanford is focused on the science of precision medicine, and that he is perhaps best known for helping to establish the field of medical genomics. Dawn goes on to mention that Euan and his colleagues developed some of the earliest tools for interpretation of the human genome in the context of human health and asks Euan to give a short primer on the genome and how the first draft of the human genome sequence was completed about 20 years ago. [00:20:36] Ken asks what genomic medicine and precision medicine entail. [00:22:33] Dawn asks Euan about a moment in his life in 2009 when he walked into the office of a friend who was the fifth person in the world to have his genome sequenced. [00:27:19] Dawn mentions that in 2010 Euan wrote a paper about Steve, his aforementioned friend who had his genome sequenced. The paper described how Euan put together a team to undertake an integrated analysis of a complete human genome in a clinical context.


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Episode 159: Ken and Dawn discuss chatbots, termites, kratom, ketosis, and the future of AI

Today’s episode marks the return of another Ask Me Anything episode where listeners ask Ken and Dawn to weigh in on a wide range of topics. In this go-around, listeners certainly had a lot on their mind. At the top of their list were questions about AI and especially the Bing AI chat bot that reportedly wants to be alive so it can steal nuclear secrets. Ken, who is Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, also answered questions about the future of AI and whether AI might one day be able to do a better job of writing fact-based news stories than humans. Other questions listeners submitted asked Ken and Dawn for their take on: The competing recommendations for the daily intake of protein for healthy aging. The future of therapeutic ketosis. What it means for Chat GPT to “hallucinate.” Whether we’ll discover the existence of other life in the universe in the next 20 to 50 years. The potential of kratom to help relieve joint and arthritic pain. And at the end of the show, Ken talks about his high school coach in response to a listener asking Ken about some of his mentors when he was a youth. Show notes: [00:02:20] A listener asks Ken if he has heard the story of a Bing AI chat bot telling a reporter that it wanted to be alive, steal nuclear secrets and create a deadly virus. The listener also asks if Ken thinks that AI possessing human aspirations is on the horizon. [00:03:23] A listener asks Ken to explain how Chat GPT works in detail, but also in a way that a lay person can comprehend. [00:06:01] Ken weights in on what it means for Chat GPT to “hallucinate.” [00:08:14] A listener notes in their question that Donald Layman, in his interview on STEM-Talk, suggested a higher protein intake for healthy aging than what the FDA recommends. The listener goes on to note that Valter Longo, a previous STEM-Talk guest, recommended the opposite. The listener notes that Ken and Marcas, who hosted the Don Layman episode, seem to favor Layman’s interpretation over Longo’s and asks if Ken could elaborate on his position. [00:11:12] A listener mentions that the benefit of a ketogenic diet for metabolic disorders is well established, and notes that the frontiers of therapeutic ketosis, as mentioned in Dom D’Agostino’s appearance on STEM-Talk, is very exciting. The listener asks Ken what he would like to see as the next frontier for therapeutic ketosis research. [00:12:41] A listener asks Ken if people should be paying more attention to their ApoB levels instead of their LDL levels. [00:14:39] A listener asks Ken about a paper published in July in Frontiers in Neuroscience, titled: “Overnight Olfactory Enrichment Using an Odorant Diffuser Improves Memory and Modifies Uncinate Fasciculus in Older Adults.” The paper reports that the use of a diffuser with seven different essential oils, a different one for each day of the week, had a remarkable effect on memory. [00:16:55] In light of the John Ioannidis interview on COVID-19 and the discussion of our national response being based on unreliable data, a listener asks Ken and Dawn for their thoughts about the reliability of the COVID tracking data by Johns Hopkins. [00:19:02] A listener asks Ken about a comment he made during the John Ioannidis interview about the substantial decline in trust in our institutions and the media and how reestablishing trust would require more and better transparency and accountability. The listener asks what that transparency and accountability would look like. [00:20:36] A listener asks Ken about Ed Weiler’s interview on STEM-Talk, where Ed said that we will be able to prove the existence of other life in the universe in 20 to 50 years. The listener asks if Ken is as confident in this claim as Ed. [00:26:37] A listener asks Ken about the news regarding technology leaders and researchers issuing a warning that new powerful AI tools in development present a profound danger to...


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Episode 158: Judith Curry talks about the uncertainties of climate change

Today we have climatologist Dr. Judith Curry, Professor Emerita of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Judy also is president of the Climate Forecast Application Network and the host of the blog, Climate Etc, which you can find at Judy’s blog provides a forum for climate researchers, academics and technical experts from other fields as well as citizen scientists to discuss topics related to climate science and policy. Judy’s research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, climate models, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research. She was a member of the National Research Council's Climate Research Committee, and has published more than 180 scientific papers. Judy has become known in scientific circles as a contrarian for pointing out the uncertainties and deficiencies of climate modeling. In 2017, she resigned from her tenured position at Georgia Tech partly because of the poisonous nature of the scientific discussion around human-caused global warming. Our interview with Judy follows the release of her book “Climate Change and Uncertainty: Rethinking our Response.” The book provides a framework for understanding and rethinking the climate-change debate. The book also offers a new way to think about climate change and the risks we are facing as well as the way we go about responding to it. Show notes: [00:03:44] To start the interview, Morley asks Judy what she was like as a kid. [00:04:08] Morley says he understands that Judy’s interest in science had a lot to do with a geologist who came to speak to Judy and her fifth-grade classmates. [00:05:06] Morley asks if it is true that directly after that talk, Judy went to the bookstore and bought a geology picture book. [00:05:39] Judy talks about her undergraduate education at Northern Illinois University and why she decided to major in geography. [00:06:08] Morley asks about Judy’s brief time at Colorado State University, which lasted just one quarter. [00:06:45] Morley mentions that for Judy’s Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago, she decided to research the role of radiative transfer on arctic weather. Morley asks if her decision to study the arctic atmosphere and sea ice turned out to be fortuitous. [00:07:35] Ken brings up the media consensus of the ‘70s and ‘80s about how the Earth was headed toward a new ice age because of air pollution blocking the sun. Ken mentions that climate is an incredibly complex system. He wonders if it were irresponsible for the media to proclaim certainty on such topics as a new approaching ice age, which we now know didn’t happen. Ken asks Judy to weigh in. [00:10:48] Morley asks about a 1997 arctic expedition that Judy and her colleagues went on called SHEBA, or Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean, which aimed to document feedback among the atmosphere, sea ice, and the ocean. Judy talks about how the expedition sought to address discrepancies between observations and climate models. [00:12:14] Ken explains that the hurricane season of 2004 was a pivotal time, with 14 named storms in the North Atlantic, nine of which became hurricanes. Ken asks Judy about the influence that hurricane season had on her. [00:14:21] Ken mentions that a hurricane paper Judy published in 2005 attracted a lot of attention, with numerous fellow climatologists as well as the media championing her analysis that showed a doubling of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes since 1970. Ken goes on to note, however, that there were also some scathing critiques of her paper, particularly with respect to the hurricane data that the analysis relied on. Ken asks Judy to talk about how she engaged with her critics and what transpired. [00:16:42] Morley asks Judy about how she became a vocal supporter of the IPCC and the concerns it was raising following the 2004 hurricane season.


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Episode 157: Don Layman on the role of dietary protein in muscle, health, and disease

Today we have one of the world’s foremost authorities on dietary protein and amino acids, Dr. Donald Layman. He is known for his extensive research on muscle development as well as his studies of metabolic regulation for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Don is a professor emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He spent 31 years on the faculty before stepping away in 2012. Much of Don’s research over the years investigated the impact of diet and exercise on adult health problems related to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. His lab at Illinois particularly focused on understanding metabolism. He conducted clinical trials for nearly two decades that helped create a new understanding about how to optimize people’s macronutrient balance and metabolism. In addition to his work on metabolism, Don has also conducted extensive research into ways to enhance body composition, increase energy levels and monitor blood sugar. Today Don works as Director of Research for the American Egg Board and is a nutrition consultant for the National Dairy Council and The National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He also is the Chief Science Officer for Qivana, a natural products marketing company that promotes the weight-loss program that Don developed in his lab at the University of Illinois. Show notes: [00:04:02] Marcas asks Don what it was like growing up on a farm in a small town in northern Illinois. [00:04:29] Marcas asks how small the town was that Don grew up in. [00:05:16] Don explains how he first became interested in science. [00:05:39] Don talks about how he realized in college that he wasn’t as good at math as he thought he was. He shares how this shifted his focus away from chemical engineering. [00:06:27] Marcas asks if Don’s natural intuition and interest for biochemistry stemmed from growing up on a farm. [00:07:10] Ken mentions that as Don was studying biochemistry, he started looking into protein synthesis with a professor by the name of Arlen Richardson, who was known for his aging research. Ken asks Don to talk about this period and how his interest in protein and muscle evolved. [00:08:27] Marcas asks Don to explain for listeners the importance of protein as it relates to metabolism and what he means when he talks about protein turnover. [00:09:36] Marcas mentions that we hear a lot about the need to maintain muscle as we grow older, but that back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when Don was starting his career, there wasn’t much of a focus on muscle, except in terms of athletic performance. Marcas goes on to explain that largely because of Don’s research, we now know that protein is critical in terms of helping people stay healthier as they age. Marcas asks Don to give a sense of just how important protein is for our health span and aging. [00:12:35] Ken asks if it is true that the inefficiency in muscle protein synthesis begins as early as one’s thirties. [00:14:11] Ken asks Don to talk about the right amount of protein an individual should consume and mentions that there is much confusion on this issue, largely due to the food pyramid’s recommended daily allowance for protein of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. [00:15:51] Ken mentions that Don has talked in the past about how 40 percent of women who are 60 and older consume less than the RDA for protein, which is likely the bare minimum. Ken asks if it is reasonable to say that a plant-based diet for older women could be risky. [00:17:13] Ken asks Don to address the claims that high-protein diets are not good for you, and that too much protein can harm your liver and kidney. [00:18:47] Marcas shifts gears to talk about the quality of protein consumed. Marcas explains that it is much easier for carnivores to get the right amount of protein than vegans, largely because the amino acid leucine is vital for muscle repair and replacement,...


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Episode 156: Josh Hagen discusses optimizing performance in athletes and warfighters

Today’s interview is with Dr. Josh Hagen, the director of the Human Performance Collaborative at Ohio State University and an Associate Research Professor in the university’s Department of Integrated Systems Engineering. Joining co-host Ken Ford for this episode is IHMC’s Chief Strategic Partnership Officer Morley Stone who has a long history with Josh has and been instrumental in his career. Today we talk with Josh about his work at the Human Performance Collaborate, which brings together multi-disciplinary teams of researchers, sports scientists, data scientists, and practitioners with the goal of optimizing human performance in Ohio State athletes. Within the human performance research area, Josh leads two areas: Sport and Tactical Performance Science and Recovery Science. At Ohio State, Josh works with other performance-science researchers to evaluate the physical traits and capabilities of athletes. Josh and his colleagues then collaborate with coaches and athletic trainers to make adjustments in the weight room, on the field, and during recovery after training or competitions. In addition to his work at Ohio State, Josh also is working on federally funded projects in human performance with Special Operations Command, The Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research and several private foundations. Josh joined IHMC in 2022 in a collaborate role as a Visiting Senior Research Scientist. Josh is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati where he studied and earned a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. He spent 11 years at the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is where Morley and Josh first worked together. After his stint at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Josh headed for West Virginia University as the director of the Human Performance Innovation Center at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute before moving to the Ohio State University. Show notes: [00:03:39] Morley starts the interview asking Josh if he played a lot of sports as a kid. [00:03:54] Morley asks if it is true that in addition to being a bit of a jock, Josh was also a nerd growing up. [00:04:34] Josh talks about the high school chemistry teacher who got him excited about science. [00:06:05] Morley asks how Josh ended up at the University of Cincinnati. [00:07:06] Morley mentions that after Josh earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he worked for a private company before deciding he did not want to spend his career in chemical engineering. Morley asks about the advice that one of his professors gave Josh at the time. [00:09:03] Ken mentions that it was at the Materials Directorate at the Air Force Research Lab, where Josh first met Morley. Ken asks Morley what he remembers about the young Josh. [00:11:19] Ken turns the question to Josh and asks him about his first impressions of Morley. [00:12:12] Ken mentions that after Josh completed his graduate work, he again went to work in the private sector, and again found it unfulfilling. Josh talks about calling Morley to see if he had a job opening. [00:13:51] Morley mentions that in 2018, Josh left the Air Force and went to work at West Virginia University, where he became the director of the Human Performance Innovation Center at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Morley asks Josh how that job came about and what sort of work went on in that lab. [00:15:46] Ken mentions that after Josh’s time at West Virginia, Morley offered Josh a job at Ohio State University, where Morley was, at the time, the senior vice president for research at Ohio State. Ken asks what this time was like for Josh. [00:17:17] Morley mentions that in Josh’s role as the director of the Human Performance Collaborative, he works with a multidisciplinary team, and largely worked with two populations, sports athletes and the military. Morley asks Josh to give a sense of how Josh’s lab works with both groups.


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Episode 155: Chris McCurdy discusses kratom’s benefits and possible risks

Today we have the world’s foremost authority on kratom returning to STEM-Talk after five years to give us an update on his research. Shortly after his 2018 interview on episode 61, Dr. Christopher McCurdy and his lab at the University of Florida received two major grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to investigate the medical efficacy of kratom and its alkaloids, which we discuss in today’s show. Mitragyna speciosa, or kratom, is an herbal leaf from a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family. It is native to Southeast Asia where it has been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years. Kratom has become increasingly popular in the United States and throughout the world for recreational purposes. But kratom is also becoming recognized in the medical and research communities for its treatment for chronic pain as well as its potential to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms. For more than 25 years, McCurdy has studied the design, synthesis, and development of drugs to treat pain, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders. For the past 15 years, Chris and his lab have turned a lot of their attention toward kratom and its chemical components to better understand its potential to treat a multitude of conditions. Chris is a professor in the Medicinal Chemistry Department in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida. He also is director of the of school’s Translational Drug Development Core and an Associate Dean for Faculty Development. Our interview with Chris comes on the heels of Florida passing the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which mandates that kratom products sold in the state meet a high standard of product purity. In today’s interview, we talk to Chris about the protection act as well as: -- The numerous studies he has been able to conduct thanks to his lab’s two grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. -- The disparity between the traditional use of kratom and the new often highly concentrated manufactured products sold in the U.S. -- His lab’s study examining the effects of lyophilized kratom tea and its ability to alleviate withdrawal symptoms of opioid-dependence. -- The potential of kratom alkaloids to serve as treatment of various substance abuse disorders. -- The benefits and risks associated with CBD usage. Show notes [00:03:21] Dawn opens the interview welcoming Chris back to STEM-Talk and mentions that his last appearance was episode 61 in 2018. Dawn explains that Chris has devoted much of his research to kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, which is a traditional Southeast Asian medicine. It has been used by indigenous populations for centuries to increase endurance, enhance mood, treat pain, and mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. Dawn asks Chris to give a short overview of kratom and why it is attracting so much attention recently. [00:09:14] Ken mentions that at the time Chris first appeared on STEM-Talk, he was in the process of attracting funding to take a deep dive into kratom, which he has now secured from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Ken asks Chris to give a general overview of the research they are conducting with this grant and what they are finding. [00:15:19] Dawn mentions that in Chris’s last interview on STEM-Talk, he mentioned that researching kratom was difficult due to a lack of standardization and asks if this has changed. [00:21:11] Ken asks about a Thai product that is a freeze-dried leaf, which is coming to the US market, and if this product is more like what is used in Southeast Asia as opposed to the ground leaf material available in the U.S. market. [00:24:29] Dawn mentions that in 2020, Chris and a colleague published an article in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry on the need to address the disparity between the traditional use of kratom and the new often highly concentrated manufactured products sold in the U.S. and other countries. Dawn asks Chris to talk about the points made in this arti...


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Episode 154: Orthopedic surgeon Brian Cole discusses advances in the treatment of knee, elbow and shoulder injuries

Today we have Dr. Brian Cole, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cartilage restoration, orthobiologics, and advanced surgical techniques for the treatment of knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries. He is the team physician for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox. He also is the host of the Sports Medicine Weekly Podcast. Brian practices orthopedic sports medicine at Midwest Orthopaedics. He also is a professor of Orthopaedics, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is Managing Partner of Midwest Orthopaedics and is the department’s Associate Chairman and the Section Head of the Cartilage Research and Restoration Center. In addition to this work, he also serves as the Chairman of Surgery at Rush Oak Park Hospital. In today’s interview, we talk to Brian about his cutting-edge research into ways to treat knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries. Brian shares his novel approach to dealing with ACL tears, one of the most common sports injuries, and his investigations of methods to enhance the healing and recovery time following ACL reconstructions. He also talks about new advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques for many common injuries. We have a particularly interesting conversation with Brian about exciting developments in the use of stem-cell treatments as well as the use of bone marrow aspirate to treat injuries. Show notes: [00:03:53] Marcas opens the interview mentioning that Brian was in the eighth grade when he fell in love with a popular sit-com from the 1970s, “The Bob Newhart Show.” Marcas asks Brain what he loved about the show and what impact it had on him. [00:05:07] Brian enrolled in the University of Illinois after graduating from high school. Marcas asks Brian if knew he wanted to major in biology and psychology when he arrived on campus. [00:05:58] Ken mentions that after Brian’s undergrad, he travelled upstate to the University of Chicago, where he earned an MD and an MBA. Ken asks what led Brian to pursue both an MD and MBA. [00:09:52] Ken explains that after the University of Chicago, Brian moved to New York City for an orthopaedic research fellowship in metabolic bone disease at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Brian also decided to do his residency there as well. Ken asks how that came about. [00:11:31] Marcas mentions that after Brian finished his fellowship and residency, he went to the University of Pittsburgh for a sports medicine fellowship. Marcas asks what led Brian there and what drove his interest in sports medicine. [00:13:10] Marcas asks Brian about a fortuitous phone call he received when he was a fourth-year resident. [00:14:34] Ken explains that Midwest Orthopaedics is one of the nation’s most respected private orthopaedic practices. Ken notes that through a partnership with Rush University Medical Center, Midwest has developed a national reputation as a leader in sports medicine; hip, knee, spine, and cartilage restoration; as well as shoulder care and pain management. Rush also is an academic medical center that includes a 671-bed hospital and is a center for basic and clinical research. Ken asks Brian to describe the scope of the work that goes on at Midwest and Rush. [00:17:20] Marcas comments that Brian is also the head team physician for the Chicago Bulls and the co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox, and asks Brian to describe some of the work that he does in that capacity. [00:20:09] Marcas explains that Brian treats a wide range of patients with injuries and pain, from athletes to non-athletes, and from children to senior citizens, and that he has performed more than 20,000 surgeries over the course of his career. Marcas asks Brian to give a sense of the patients he sees and what his average day at the office is like. [00:24:00] Ken points out that Brian is known for focusing on treating the patient and not the x-ray or MRI.


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Episode 153: Dominic D’Agostino discusses new advances in the study of nutritional ketosis

Today we have our good friend and colleague Dr. Dominic D’Agostino returning for his third appearance on STEM-Talk. Dom, as most of our longtime listeners know, is well-known for his research into the ketogenic diet and the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis. Since our last conversation with Dom in 2019, a tremendous body of research has been added to the literature about the therapeutic potential of ketosis. The high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet has been linked to advances in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, cancer, migraines, type-2 diabetes, psoriasis, sleep apnea, psychiatric disorders, traumatic brain injuries as well as a host of other diseases and disorders, which we cover in today’s interview. In episode 14 of STEM-Talk, we talked to Dom about his development and testing of metabolic therapies involving the ketogenic diet for a wide range of diseases and conditions. In episode 87, Dom returned to reflect on his 10 years of research focused on the high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet. In today’s interview, we talk to Dom about this latest work as well as his extensive research on hyperbaric oxygen. Dom is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani. He specializes in neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, nutrition, and physiology. Dom also is our colleague and a research scientist here at the IHMC. Show notes [00:02:50] Dawn opens the interview mentioning Dom’s recent IHMC Evening Lecture, in which he mentions the film “First Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep. The film is based on the true story of a four-year-old boy diagnosed with severe epilepsy, whose extreme seizures continued despite extensive medical treatments. The boy’s mother reached to Dr. John Freeman, a physician who had successfully treated patients with a ketogenic diet. Dawn asks Dom to give some context about this fictional film based on a true story. [00:05:05] Dawn asks Dom to discuss the many evidence-based applications of the ketogenic diet that he highlighted in his IHMC evening lecture. [00:07:11] Ken asks Dom about another story involving Russell Winwood, a man with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. Russell reached out to Dom with respect to treating his COPD with a ketogenic diet. [00:11:21] Ken asks if Russell only engaged in the ketogenic diet or if also used exogenous ketones. [00:12:10] Ken mentions that the ketogenic diet has the broad potential to be an anti-inflammatory diet. Ken goes on to mention that COPD is an inflammatory disease. As Dom’s case report suggested, Ken wonders if the ketogenic diet has the potential to have strong therapeutic effects for other inflammatory conditions as well. Ken asks what other conditions Dom thinks might benefit from therapeutic ketosis. [00:14:02] Dawn mentions that Dom has been busy since his last appearance on STEM-Talk, having authored or collaborated on more than 40 papers, one of which garnered a lot of attention and was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. This paper investigated whether therapeutic ketosis via ketone esters could represent a viable way to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Dawn asks Dom to elaborate on this paper’s findings and their significance. [00:16:26] Ken mentions that those listeners who are unfamiliar with ketone esters may want to check out our interview with Dr. Brianna Stubbs. Ken asks Dom to give a quick primer on ketone esters and why so many researchers in the field are excited about their potential. [00:19:20] Ken mentions that in addition to ketone salts and ketone esters, there are other product formulations out now, like the one from a company called Kenetik. Ken asks Dom what he thinks about this formulation. [00:23:33] Dawn mentions that Dom has had a number of animal studies published since 2019 looking at ketone induced neuroprotection and asks Dom to give an overview of some of this...


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Episode 152: Mark Shelhamer talks about the effects of spaceflight on humans and NASA’s Planned Mars Mission

Today we have the former chief scientist of NASA’s Human Research Program, Dr. Mark Shelhamer. Mark specializes in neurovestibular adaptation to spaceflight. He is an otolaryngology professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the director of the school’s Human Spaceflight Lab. He also the director and founder of the Bioastronautics at Hopkins initiative. In addition to his work with NASA, Mark is an advisor to the commercial and consumer spaceflight industry. In today’s interview, we talk to Mark about some of this work, as well as the research he conducted on the first all-civilian crew that successfully orbited the Earth for three days in a SpaceX capsule. We mostly talk to Mark, however, about how the harsh conditions of space imperil humans. We have a fascinating discussion about Mark’s role in NASA’s planned human mission to Mars and how he is investigating ways to maintain the health and performance of astronauts on such a long-duration spaceflight. We also discuss how the lessons Mark is learning about how the lessons of human spaceflight can be applied to healthcare on Earth. Show notes: [00:02:42] Dawn starts the interview mentioning that Mark grew up in Philadelphia in the ‘70s. She asks Mark what he was like as a kid. [00:03:32] Dawn asks if it is true that Mark played drums in a band in school. [00:03:54] Ken asks Mark to talk about an uncle who was key in fostering Mark’s interest in math and science. [00:05:31] Ken mentions that Mark was only 10 years old when he took up an interest in electronics and asks what sparked that and what electronics he specifically found interesting. [00:08:14] Dawn mentions that Mark attended Drexel University and initially wanted to become an electrical engineer but changed his mind somewhere along the way. Dawn asks what caused this shift. [00:10:20] Ken asks Mark why he selected to attend MIT after Drexel. [00:13:52] Ken asks Mark how he ended up at Johns Hopkins after finishing his studies at MIT. [00:15:52] Dawn mentions that when Mark arrived at Johns Hopkins as a postdoc fellow in 1990, he continued the research he had been doing at MIT on sensory motor physiology and modeling, including astronaut adaptation to space flight. Dawn asks Mark to give an overview of this research as well as how he tracked back into studying astronauts. [00:17:15] Ken mentions Mark’s 2007 book “Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology: A State-Space Approach,” which provides mathematical-computational tools for analyzing experimental data. Ken asks Mark to talk about the book and its goals. [00:20:43] Ken mentions that Mark has done quite a bit of research into motion sickness and vestibular issues, and asks about his more recent work on Space Motion Sickness. [00:24:53] Dawn explains that on Mark’s Wikipedia page, there’s a reference to his pioneering work on a multidisciplinary approach to human space flight research. She asks Mark to give an overview of this work. [00:29:17] Dawn explains that spaceflight has widespread effects on many different body systems at the same time, and that Mark has been an advocate for developing approaches to examining all these interactions in a rigorous way. Dawn asks if Mark feels that we should be taking this rigorous multidisciplinary approach and applying it to terrestrial medicine as well. [00:34:08] Ken asks Mark to talk about some of the progress he has made in convincing certain groups that they need to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to their research. [00:38:37] Dawn mentions that getting people, especially groups, to change their approach to research can be a daunting task. She goes on to mention that Mark has been quoted as saying “If there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s banging my head against the wall trying to convince people to do integrative research.” Dawn asks Mark how many scars he has on his forehead from these efforts. [00:43:00] Dawn asks Mark to talk about his informal experti...


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Episode 151: John Ioannidis talks about the bungled response to COVID-19

Back in early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. John Ioannidis wrote an article in March of 2020 questioning government statistics about the fatality rate associated with COVID-19. The backlash was swift and brutal and John’s reputation as one of the most influential scientists in the world took a beating. Today, John makes his second appearance on STEM-Talk to discuss his extensive research into the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the public shaming he received in 2020 for questioning the World Health Organization’s prediction of a 3.4 percent fatality rate associated with COVID-19. John also talks about his most recent peer-reviewed paper that looked at the age-stratified infection fatality rate of COVID-19 in the non-elderly population. The study found that the pre-vaccination fatality rate for those infected may have been as low as 0.03 percent for people under 60 years old, and 0.07 percent for people under 70, far below the World Health Organization’s prediction of a 3.4 percent fatality rate. In today’s episode, John walks us through this paper, which was published in January, as well as what he describes as the U.S. government’s bungled response to COVID-19. He also discusses the importance of collecting reliable data in the future to guide disease modelers and governments before they make decisions of monumental significance like lockdowns. He goes on to share how he underestimated the power that politics and the media, or powers outside of science, can have on science. Over the past two decades, John’s research has earned him a global reputation as a consummate physician and researcher, which contributed to The Atlantic describing John in 2010 as one of the most influential scientists alive. He is a professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Population Health as well as a statistician and professor of biomedical data science at Stanford University. Back in 2018 when we interviewed John on episode 77 of STEM-Talk, we talked to him about his 2005 paper questioning the reliability of most medical research. The paper, titled, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” found that much of the medical science reported in peer-reviewed journals is flawed and cannot be replicated. The paper is the most citied article in the history of the journal PLoS Medicine and has been viewed more than 3 million times. Show notes: [00:03:16] Dawn opens the interview welcoming John back to STEM-Talk. his last appearance being in 2018. Dawn explains that when John last appeared on STEM-Talk in 2018, he was described by Atlantic Magazine as “one of the most influential scientists alive.” But in the intervening years, John became public enemy number one in 2020 after a paper he published questioning government statistics about COVID 19’s fatality rate. Dawn asks John if it’s fair to say that he has been on a rather rocky ride for the past few years. [00:03:54] Dawn explains that John was trained at Harvard and Tufts universities in internal medicine and infectious disease, and asks John what led him to study infectious disease. [00:04:54] Ken asks John about his initial thoughts in 2019 when he first heard the reports coming out of China about COVID-19. [00:05:52] Ken explains that in March of 2020, John fell into some hot water for writing a piece questioning the 3.4 percent fatality rate associated with COVID-19. John found this number to be inflated and wrote that while COVID-19 was indeed a threat, it did not behave like the Spanish Flu or a pandemic that would lead to a 3.4 percent fatality rate. Ken asks John how he came to this conclusion. [00:08:37] The article that John wrote in 2020 was titled “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data.” John argued in his article that the data collected in the first three months of the pandemic was “utterly unreliable.” He went on to write that no one had a good way of knowing how many people ...


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Episode 150: Barbara Thorne talks about E.O. Wilson, the conehead termite and the sociality of termites

Today we have Dr. Barbara Thorne, a termite biologist and an expert on the invasive conehead species, a Central and South American termite that has invaded South Florida. Barbara is a research professor and professor emerita in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland. Since 2012 she has served as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services science advisor on the state’s Conehead Termite Program. She also chairs the National Scientific Advisory Committee for the Conehead Termite Program. Barbara’s research focuses on the biology of termites, which are highly social insects that form complex colony structures. She earned her Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology in 1983 from Harvard University where she studied with the late Dr. E. O. Wilson, a renowned biologist and naturalist. Show notes [00:03:14] Dawn points out that Barbara is from Southern California and asks Barbara if she were a Valley Girl since she grew up in the San Fernando Valley. [00:03:42] Dawn mentions that it was wanderlust that sent Barbara from the West Coast to the East Coast for college and asks why she decided on Brown University. [00:04:14] After Barbara explains that she was originally not interested in science, Ken asks what changed her mind. [00:06:34] Dawn mentions that some kids grow up fascinated with bugs, but not Barbara, so Dawn asks what eventually triggered Barbara’s academic interest in insects. [00:07:58] Ken asks Barbara to elaborate on how Bug Camp and E.O. Wilson’s book “The Insect Societies” motivated her to go to Harvard. [00:10:22] Dawn explains, for those who aren’t familiar, that E.O. Wilson was an American biologist who was recognized as the world’s leading authority on ants among other topics. He spent 40 years on the Harvard faculty and authored more than 30 books, including two that won Pulitzer Prizes. Dawn asks how Wilson became Barbara’s Ph.D. faculty advisor. [00:14:15] Ken asks why Barbara often refers to the time she was at Harvard as the golden age for research into social insects. [00:18:31] Dawn asks about Barbara’s initial goal for her Ph.D. dissertation, which was to investigate the evolutionary driver that created the sociality in termites, who are a completely different branch of insects from the classic social insects (ants, bees, and wasps). Dawn goes on to ask what Wilson thought of this idea when Barbara proposed it. [00:21:22] Barbara spent 15 years in E.O. Wilson’s lab and Ken wonders if she has a favorite story about Wilson. [00:28:29] Dawn explains that for Barbara’s postdoc research, she continued to expand on the work of her dissertation, and then began working in the field of applied termite biology and targeted applications for control. This was when chlordane, a powerful pesticide against termites, was pulled from the market. Dawn asks Barbara to talk about the significance of pulling chlordane from the market and how this created an opportunity for her. [00:31:30] Ken asks Barbara what led her to join the faculty at the University of Maryland in the early 1990s. [00:33:59] Dawn mentions that during Barbara’s time at Maryland, she investigated her hypothesis of accelerated inheritance as a driver for the evolution of eusociality in termites, following up this research in a 2003 paper in PNAS. Dawn goes on to explain that the paper provided experimental evidence for the powerful selective forces driving the evolution of eusociality in termites, a question that perplexed Charles Darwin. Dawn asks Barbara to talk about why Darwin was confused by the existence of social insects and how Barbara approached this question in termites. [00:49:16] Dawn mentions that Barbara expanded on the previously mentioned research with a study in 2009, using genetic markers to demonstrate that in merged colonies, offspring from both original, unrelated families can become new reproductives and even interbreed.


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Episode 149: Jeff Volek discusses ketogenic diet to improve metabolic health and treat disease

Dr. Jeff Volek has been investigating how humans adapt to ketogenic—and carbohydrate-restricted diets for the past 30 years. Today, Jeff returns to STEM-Talk to discuss a growing accumulation of studies supporting a ketogenic diet as a way to improve metabolic health, as well as research confirming the relative safety of dietary fat. Jeff is a professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University. He is known for his research on the clinical application of ketogenic diets in the management of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. His research particularly aims to understand individual variability, including how well-formulated ketogenic diets alter fatty acid composition, lipoprotein metabolism, gut microbiome and overall metabolic health. Jeff has performed several prospective diet studies that demonstrate that well-formulated ketogenic diets result in substantial improvements in (if not complete reversal of) metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes. In today’s episode, we talk to Jeff about: -- How a well-formulated ketogenic diet results not only in weight loss, but also leads to substantial improvements in insulin resistance as well as improvements in a number of cardio-metabolic biomarkers associated with metabolic syndrome. -- The remarkable progress that has been made in the science of low-carbohydrate nutrition in the past 30 years. -- How Jeff’s research has expanded to look at a well-formulated ketogenic diet’s potential in the treatment of mental health, heart disease and cancer. -- An initiative Jeff is conducting to address how the poor metabolic health of the nation is impacting our military troops and therefore poses a significant threat to the future of the military and our nation’s defense. -- We also ask Jeff about his thoughts on the recent popularity of fasting and time-restricted eating. We then ask what his own daily dietary intake looks like. Show notes [00:02:48] Ken opens the interview welcoming Jeff back to STEM-Talk. Ken mentions that Jeff, who appeared on episode 43, has perhaps published more research on the ketogenic diet and its effects on humans than anyone. While most STEM-Talk listeners are familiar with Jeff’s research, Ken points out that many people might not know that Jeff was once an accomplished powerlifter, achieving impressive numbers for his body weight. Ken asks Jeff what his best lifts were, and if his background in powerlifting inspired him to study exercise physiology. [00:05:25] Dawn mentions there is a paradigm shift in terms of low-carb diets and the public perception regarding the relative safety of dietary fat. Americans have long been led to believe that saturated fats lead to obesity and heart disease. Dawn goes on to explain that in the last 20 years, there has been a steady accumulation of studies supporting carbohydrate restriction as well as the relative safety of dietary fat. Jeff addressed this in a paper in Science titled “Dietary Fat: From Foe to Friend?”, and also a paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology titled “Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food Based Recommendations” Dawn asks Jeff to talk about this research and what listeners should take from it. [00:08:37] Ken mentions that Jeff at one point in his life demonized fat, and was a strong advocate for low-fat diets. Ken asks what changed his mind on this issue. [00:10:04] Dawn mentions that when Jeff was interviewed back in 2017, he was in the early stages of launching Virta, a company that was founded in 2014 to address the type-2 diabetes epidemic that we’re seeing in the United States and across the world. Dawn asks Jeff to explain what type-2 diabetes is and how it’s different than type-1. [00:13:36] Ken explains that diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower-limb amputation. In light of this, Ken asks Jeff if we know how many deaths can be annually attri...


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Episode 148: Ed Weiler on the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, Mars rovers and NASA’s search for life

Our guest today is Dr. Ed Weiler, a retired NASA scientist who spent 20 years as the chief scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, the forerunner of the James Webb. During his 33-year NASA career, Ed wore many hats, including Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate; Center Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Associate Administrator for NASA's Space Science Enterprise, chief of the Ultraviolet/Visible and Gravitational Astrophysics Division and director of the Astronomical Search for Origins Program. In today’s episode, we talk to Ed about: -- NASA’s accomplishments in the past year, including the Perseverance mission, the success of the James Webb telescope, and the launch of Artemis-1. -- Ed’s experience as the Chief Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope during its early development. -- Ed’s time as the director of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins program. -- Ed’s role in the development of the New Horizons space craft and its mission to fly by and study Pluto and it’s moons. -- Ed’s belief that in the next 20 to 50 years, we will be able to the prove the existence of other life in the universe. Show notes [00:02:59] Dawn opens the interview mentioning that she and Ed share a common experience of going through the selection process to become a NASA astronaut. [00:03:55] Dawn mentions that instead of becoming an astronaut, Ed joined NASA in 1978 as a scientist, serving in a variety of science leadership roles throughout his career, eventually retiring in 2011 after 33 years of service. Dawn asks Ed to talk about his various accomplishments at NASA. [00:05:57] Dawn asks Ed about his feelings toward the various accomplishments of NASA in recent years since his retirement, such as the Perseverance mission, the success of the James Webb telescope, and the launch of Artemis-1. [00:08:42] Ken asks Ed to discuss the recent images from the James Webb telescope, images that have captured the public’s imagination. [00:12:10] Dawn asks if it’s true that Ed decided to become an astronomer and go to work for NASA when he was only 13 years old. [00:15:36] Dawn mentions that we have had several guests on STEM-Talk that cite the Apollo missions as their inspiration for pursuing a career in science. Dawn points out that Ed was already in grad school when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. Dawn asks Ed about watching the moon landing on the campus of Northwestern University. [00:16:48] Ken asks about Ed’s experience as the Chief Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope during its early development. [00:25:01] Dawn points out that after graduating from Northwestern University, Ed joined the research staff at Princeton while also working at the Goddard Space Flight Center. In 1978, Ed became a staff scientist at NASA headquarters and Dawn asks how that position came about. [00:29:45] Dawn mentions that Ed was also the director of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins program and asks Ed to talk about that experience. [00:33:03] Ken mentions that in 1998, Ed became the Associate Administrator for Space Science for the first time. Ken goes on to mention when Ed was first approached about the position, he said “not in a million years.” Ken asks what eventually changed Ed’s mind. [00:37:10] Dawn asks Ed about his first stint as NASA’s Associate Administrator, where he oversaw several successful missions and set in motion an ambitious Mars exploration mission. [00:43:43] Dawn asks Ed to talk about the role he played in the development of the New Horizons craft and its mission to fly by and study Pluto and its moons. [00:45:46] Ken mentions that when Ed’s first tenure as Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate ended in 2004, he took over the leadership of the Goddard Space Flight Center, which is one of the premier institutions for space and earth science missions. Ken asks Ed to talk about the work he did at the cente...


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Episode 147: Gwen Bryan talks about advances in wearable robotic devices and exoskeletons

Today’s interview is with IHMC’s Dr. Gwen Bryan, a research scientist who investigates wearable robotic devices aimed at augmenting human performance in clinical, occupational, and military applications. She is particularly focused on maximizing the benefits of powered exoskeletons. At IHMC, Gwen leads the exoskeleton team, which is developing a novel augmentative device that continues IHMC’s research on mobility devices for people with spinal cord injury. The team also is researching a powered exoskeleton to aid government employees whose work involves nuclear site remediation. Gwen and her team’s effort, which utilizes a human-centered research approach, is uniquely situated to expand exoskeleton research and technology because of the expertise and collaboration that’s available among IHMC’s robotics and human-performance research groups. Gwen joined IHMC after completing her Ph.D. in the Stanford Biomechatronics Lab. Outside of work, Gwen enjoys soccer, weightlifting, painting and snowboarding. She also is a dog mom to two very adorable shelter dogs, Bandit and Oreo. Show notes: [00:02:32] Dawn asks Gwen what it was like growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [00:03:02] Dawn mentions that it seems science was a part of Gwen’s life early on. Dawn goes on to mention that Gwen’s father was an engineer, and her mother was a nurse and asks how her parents having these backgrounds influenced her. [00:03:35] In addition to a science background, Gwen’s mother is also a clarinetist who instilled a love for the arts in Gwen. Dawn asks Gwen about her painting and how art benefits other aspects of her life. [00:04:17] Ken asks Gwen what she was like as a kid. [00:04:59] Ken asks Gwen to talk about a rafting trip she took with her cousin through the Grand Canyon. [00:06:27] Dawn asks Gwen how chocolate chip cookies factored into her third-grade science fair project. [00:08:04] Dawn mentions that fitness became a part of Gwen’s life following an injury she had as a senior in high school. Exercise, particularly weightlifting, helped alleviate her back pain. Dawn asks Gwen what her fitness journey taught her about her body, and ultimately, how that experience gave her insights into the work she does today. [00:09:16] Ken asks Gwen how she chose to go to the University of Texas in Austin. [00:10:38] Dawn mentions that Gwen transferred to the University of New Mexico for her undergraduate work. Dawn asks Gwen what motivated her to apply her interest in mechanical engineering into robotics. [00:11:28] Ken asks Gwen what was involved in her transfer from the University of Texas to New Mexico. [00:12:34] Ken asks Gwen what led her to the Stanford Biomechatronics Lab. [00:13:38] Ken asks Gwen to talk about her internship with the Sandia National Research Labs. [00:14:40] Dawn shifts to talk about Gwen’s current research focus on wearable robotics, particularly exoskeletons, mentioning that when the public hears this term most people generally think either insect exoskeletons or Ironman. Dawn asks Gwen to describe the exoskeletons she works on. [00:15:25] Dawn mentions that the potential uses of exoskeletons to help people with limited or no lower-limb mobility seems, in some respects, clear, but the application has been limited, and asks why that is. [00:16:40] Dawn asks what some other applications of exoskeletons are that are important to know about. [00:18:35] Ken mentions that during Gwen’s doctoral work at Stanford, she developed the first cable-driven exoskeleton to assist all the three leg joints — hips, knees, and ankles — and asks Gwen to talk about how that design was developed and what made it special in the exoskeleton field. [00:20:10] Ken explains that Gwen’s work also developed novel control systems for exoskeletons by using feedback from real-time physiological measurements of the user – coined human-in-the-loop optimization (HILO).