Geoff Brumfiel

Science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel's reports on physics, space, and all things nuclear can be heard across NPR News programs and on NPR.org.

Brumfiel has carried his microphone into ghost villages created by the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. He's tracked the journey of highly enriched uranium as it was shipped out of Poland. For a story on how animals drink, he crouched for over an hour and tried to convince his neighbor's cat to lap a bowl of milk. He became a full-time correspondent in March of 2013.

Prior to NPR, Geoff was based in London as a senior reporter for Nature Magazine from 2007-2013. There he covered energy, space, climate, and the physical sciences. In addition to reporting, he was a member of the award-winning Nature podcast team. From 2002 – 2007, Brumfiel was Nature Magazine's Washington Correspondent, reporting on Congress, the Bush administration, NASA, and the National Science Foundation, as well as the Departments of Energy and Defense.

He began his journalism career working on the American Physical Society's "Focus" website, which is now part of Physics.

Brumfiel is the 2013 winner of the Association of British Science Writers award for news reporting on the Fukushima nuclear accident.

He graduated from Grinnell College with a BA double degree in physics and English, and earned his Masters in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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1:48pm

Tue July 29, 2014
National Security

Welcome To The Nuclear Command Bunker

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 3:24 pm

Lt. Raj Bansal and Capt. Joseph Shannon (right) approach Foxtrot-01, a remote nuclear missile base in Nebraska.
Geoffrey Brumfiel NPR

The stretch of Interstate 80 between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Lincoln, Neb., is straight and flat. High plains stretch out on either side.

But scattered along this unremarkable road, the Air Force keeps some of its most powerful weapons — Minuteman III nuclear missiles.

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11:19am

Mon July 28, 2014
National Security

To Stop Cheating, Nuclear Officers Ditch The Grades

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 5:40 pm

First Lt. Patrick Romanofski (center) and 2nd Lt. Andrew Beckner (left) practice the launch of nuclear weapons. Promotions are now more strongly influenced by hands-on performance in this simulator.
R.J. Oriez U.S. Air Force

The young officers at F.E. Warren Air Force Base have an enormous job: to keep 150 nuclear-tipped missiles ready to launch at a moment's notice.

Understandably, they're expected to know exactly what they're doing.

Three times a month, they're tested on the weapons and the codes used to launch them. Anything less than 90 percent is a fail.

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2:53pm

Thu July 17, 2014
News

What Brought Down The Malaysian Airliner?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 6:40 pm

Shortly after news broke that a Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in eastern Ukraine, suspicions began to swirl that the plane had been shot down. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel speaks with Audie Cornish about the feasibility that a missile brought down the airliner.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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1:34am

Thu July 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Physicists Crush Diamonds With Giant Laser

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 9:09 am

Physicists put diamonds at the center of this massive laser, to see what would happen.
Matt Swisher Matt Swisher/LLNL

Physicists have used the world's most powerful laser to zap diamonds. The results, they say, could tell us more about the cores of giant planets.

"Diamonds have very special properties, besides being very expensive and used for jewelrey etc.," says Raymond Smith, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "It's the hardest substance known to man."

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3:14pm

Tue July 8, 2014
Science

In A Lab Store Room, An Unsettling Surprise: Lost Vials Of Smallpox

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 4:13 pm

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery last week as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities. The vials have since been transferred to a secure lab at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

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3:21am

Tue July 1, 2014
Space

Carbon Observatory To Monitor Greenhouse Gas From Space

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 4:32 am

NASA is preparing to launch a new satellite to observe carbon dioxide from space. The satellite could revolutionize our understanding of where this greenhouse gas comes from and where it goes.

2:16pm

Mon June 30, 2014
The Two-Way

Carbon-Sensing Satellite Prepares For Second Launch

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 12:27 pm

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 will monitor carbon dioxide emissions.
jhoward NASA/JPL

NASA is preparing to launch a satellite capable of monitoring carbon dioxide emissions from space. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will be the first U.S. spacecraft dedicated to seeing the greenhouse gas from orbit, and could pave the way for new technology to enforce future global warming treaties.

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2:07pm

Mon June 23, 2014
Middle East

World's Chemical Weapons Watchdog Clears Syria

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 6:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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3:35pm

Fri June 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Dust Clouds Big Bang Signal

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:25 pm

The BICEP2 telescope in Antarctica was looking for ripples from the Big Bang.
Robert Schwarz, University of Minnesota

In March, a team of physicists announced it had found a signal from the very first moments after the Big Bang. But in a paper published Thursday, the researchers expressed considerably more caution and conceded that they could have actually been detecting little more than interstellar dust.

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1:38am

Fri June 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Keep A Careful Eye On The World Cup Ball

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:45 am

A close up of the Brazuca ball in NASA's Ames Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. Smoke highlighted by lasers visualizes air flow around the ball.
NASA's Ames Research Center

While many millions are enjoying the drama of the World Cup, a handful of scientists are keeping their eyes very closely on the ball.

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2:13pm

Tue June 10, 2014
Science

Bye-Bye To The Home Of A Favorite Internet Conspiracy Theory

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 7:05 pm

The remote HAARP facility in Alaska has 180 antennas that are used to study the ionosphere.
Courtesy of Christopher Fallen

It sure looks suspicious: a remote military compound in the south-central Alaskan wilderness filled with 180 weird-looking antennas.

It's the home of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Conspiracy theorists have accused the program of doing everything from mind control to global communications jamming.

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2:38pm

Fri May 30, 2014
The Two-Way

SpaceX Unveils A Sleek New Ride To Orbit

SpaceX's new crew capsule was unveiled yesterday.
SpaceX

Yesterday, entrepreneur Elon Musk sauntered on to stage and unveiled his latest product: not a smart phone, but a spaceship.

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11:55am

Wed May 28, 2014
The Two-Way

Rumors Of An Intergalactic Explosion Are Greatly Exaggerated

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 4:17 pm

Astronomers thought they saw a big explosion in the nearby Andromeda galaxy.
GALEX, JPL-Caltech/ NASA

Tuesday afternoon, astronomers thought they saw a powerful explosion in the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

The Internet went wild with speculation about what it could be: Had two superdense neutron stars collided? Did a supermassive star explode?

"When I got up this morning and turned on my phone, I had a lot of emails and my Twitter feed was burning," says Phil Evans, an astronomer at the University of Leicester in Britain.

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2:57pm

Fri May 23, 2014
The Two-Way

Organic Cat Litter Chief Suspect In Nuclear Waste Accident

Originally published on Sat May 24, 2014 1:12 am

Workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are still investigating what caused a radioactive release at the site, but organic cat litter may be the culprit.
DOE/WIPP

In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America's only nuclear dump, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad.

"It was the wrong kitty litter," says James Conca, a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business.

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3:09pm

Tue May 20, 2014
Science

Big Bang's Ripples: Two Scientists Recall Their Big Discovery

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 6:27 pm

The Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey was built in 1959 to make the first phone call via satellite.
NASA

On May 20, 1964, two astronomers working at a New Jersey laboratory turned a giant microwave antenna toward what they thought would be a quiet part of the Milky Way. They weren't searching for anything; they were trying to make adjustments to their instrument before looking at more interesting things in the sky.

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3:03am

Mon May 12, 2014
The Two-Way

Rocket Wars: Will A Suit By SpaceX Get Off The Ground?

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 8:01 am

Atlas V (left); Falcon 9 (right)
ULA; SpaceX

The two rockets pictured above may look the same, and in many ways they are: Both are launched pointy-end up, and both can carry a satellite into orbit.

But the rocket on the left, known as an Atlas V, costs between $100 million and $300 million more to launch (depending on whom you ask) than the one on the right, the Falcon 9.

So why has the U.S. Air Force just signed a contract to buy dozens of rockets like the Atlas V from a single supplier?

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1:33pm

Wed April 30, 2014
The Two-Way

Mars Rover Takes A Break To Drill A Hole

The rover has drilled a hole in sandstone. It will soon collect samples to learn more about how the rocks formed.
NASA/Caltech/JPL

NASA's Curiosity rover is on an epic trip to a distant mountain, but it took a brief break Wednesday to dip its drill into the Martian soil.

The drilling is taking place at a place called Waypoint Kimberley. The area is a point of convergence for several different types of terrain, says John Grotzinger, the rover's project scientist. The exposed rock and different formations made the way point a good place to "stop and smell the roses," he says.

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3:24pm

Wed April 23, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Pinpoint Source Of Antarctic 'Quack'

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 12:51 pm

A minke whale photographed in Antarctica last year. The minke, smallest of the baleen whales, turned out to be the mysterious "bio-duck."
Tony Beck/Barcroft Media Barcroft Media/Landov

For decades, researchers and submarine crews in icy waters off the coast of Antarctica have been picking up a mysterious quacking sound.

The "bio-duck," as its called, has been heard on and off since Cold War patrols picked it up on sonar during the 1960s.

"It goes 'quack, quack, quack, quack,' " says Denise Risch, a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It has this almost mechanical feel to it."

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3:05pm

Wed April 16, 2014
The Two-Way

New Fossil Takes A Bite Out Of Theory That Sharks Barely Evolved

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 10:59 am

This mako shark looks like its ancient ancestors, but it's probably evolved to be even more terrifying.
Sam Cahir Barcroft Media/Landov

Sharks have looked more or less the same for hundreds of millions of years. But a newly discovered fossil suggests that under the hood, a modern shark is very different from its ancient ancestors.

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12:12pm

Tue April 8, 2014
The Two-Way

Flight 370 Vanished A Month Ago. What Happens Now?

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 2:21 pm

A crewman on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion searches for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in the southern Indian Ocean earlier this month.
Kim Christian AP
  • Hear Geoff Brumfiel On Morning Edition

One month ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared during a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. An international search team has spent weeks combing the Indian Ocean for signs of the missing Boeing 777. Here's a summary of where we are with the hunt for the jetliner.

What do we know?

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