Episode 16: Joan Vernikos discusses the effects of gravity on humans in space and on earth.

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Jul 19 2016 68 mins   36
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 https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=YouTube.com%2FDrJoanVernikos. You can also check out her web site at www.joanvernikos.com 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 ...