Episode 145: Ken answers questions about hypersonic flight, sentient AI, ketogenic vs Mediterranean diets, and more

// Nov 30, 2022

It’s time for another Ask Me Anything episode where STEM-Talk cohost Dawn Kernagis asks Ken questions submitted by listeners.

In this episode, Ken and Dawn weigh in on:

—  Whether AI is becoming sentient.

— How women in midlife might protect their bodies from the negative effects of a slowing metabolism.

— A Stanford study that compared a low-carbohydrate diet with a Mediterranean diet.

— Whether fasting helps optimize cognitive performance.

— The future of hypersonic technology.

— And a lot more.

If you have a question after listening to today’s episode or any episode of STEM-Talk, email your question to STEM-Talk Producer Randy Hammer at

Show notes

[00:02:45] Dawn begins the AMA with a question for Ken that was inspired by the Mark Mattson interview, episode 133. Mark talked about skipping breakfast and in his recent book,  “The Intermittent Fasting Revolution,”

Mark points out that bodybuilders often skip breakfast and do their weight training in a fasted state, which has the effect of optimizing both muscle building and cognitive performance. The listener mentions that they feel more cognitively sharp in a fasted state but as soon as they break their fast, they don’t feel as sharp. The listener asks Ken if this is normal.

[00:04:35] A listener asks Ken about a recent news story in which a Russian robot broke a boy’s finger during a chess match. The listener goes on to state that several of their friends have jumped to the conclusion that this is proof robots are becoming sentient beings and asks Ken for his take is on this given Ken’s AI background.

[00:06:02] A listener asks another AI question, this one regarding the Washington Post’s reporting on a Google engineer who was fired over claims he made while at the company that an AI chatbot he had been testing had become sentient. The engineer claimed in an interview with The Guardian that the chatbot, LaMDA, was afraid of being turned off, had read “Les Miserables” and that it had emotions. Google maintains that LaMDA is merely responding to prompts designed for it. The listener asks Ken what would be an appropriate test for gauging AI sentience and what other thoughts Ken has about this story.

[00:08:32] A listener mentions that they have been following the ketogenic diet for 18 months and have lost 40 pounds. Recently they checked their liver enzymes GGT, AST, TSH and found they were elevated above “normal” and their Alpha fetoprotein marker was measured at 10.3. The listener asks Ken what he has learned about the ketogenic diet’s impact on the liver.

[00:09:48] A listener asks about a recent paper regarding a Stanford study that compared low-carbohydrate diets with a Mediterranean diet. The listener mentions that in the Stanford study the diets had three similarities – no non-starchy vegetables, no added sugars and no refined grains. The key difference in the diets was that the low-carb diet avoided legumes, fruits, and whole grains while the Mediterranean diet included them. The study measured glucose control and cardiometabolic risk in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The study found that comparative outcomes did not support a sufficient benefit to justify people avoiding legumes, whole fruits, and whole grains to achieve the metabolic state of ketosis. The listener asks Ken for his thoughts on the study and in his answer, Ken mentions an interview Dr. Ben Scher did with one of the study’s authors, Dr. Lucia Aronica.

[00:14:57] A listener mentions in their question that they found the Mike Griffin and Mark Lewis interviews both fascinating and worrying. The listener’s key concern is that China and Russia are ahead of the U.S. in terms of hypersonic capabilities. The listener goes on to mention that they recently saw “Top Gun Maverick” and asks if it is reasonable that someday we will see jets with human pilots that are capable of flying 10-to-20 times the speed of sound, as depicted in the film; or will these sorts of aircrafts need to be operated by AI or humanoids.

[00:18:17] A listener sends a question that reads, “They say that 50 is the new 30, but after listening to STEM-Talk, I now know that I can expect my metabolism to fall off the “50-cliff” once I meet the chronological milestone of turning 50 years old.”  The listener says it’s her understanding that hormonal changes related to midlife, especially for women, are key drivers of metabolic changes that lead to everything from brain fog to weight gain. The listener would like to know what she and other women can do to ward off the negative effects of aging and a slowing metabolism.

[00:19:53] A listener mentions that in the Satchin Panda interview, Dr. Panda says that black coffee in the morning probably won’t break an overnight fast, but that coffee with cream will. The listener goes on to say that they listened to a Dave Asprey podcast in which he said drinking “Bulletproof Coffee” with two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of brain octane fuel was okay in the morning because it will elevate a person’s blood ketones to 0.7 millimoles per liter within 30 minutes. The listener asks Ken for his thoughts on this advice.

[00:22:33] Dawn closes the AMA with a listener question asking if Dr. Ford has any particular pet peeves that he is willing to share.


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