Nell Greenfieldboyce

Nell Greenfieldboyce is a NPR science correspondent.

With reporting focused on general science, NASA, and the intersection between technology and society, Greenfieldboyce has been on the science desk's technology beat since she joined NPR in 2005.

In that time Greenfieldboyce has reported on topics including the narwhals in Greenland, the ending of the space shuttle program, and the reasons why independent truckers don't want electronic tracking in their cabs.

Much of Greenfieldboyce's reporting reflects an interest in discovering how applied science and technology connects with people and culture. She has worked on stories spanning issues such as pet cloning, gene therapy, ballistics, and federal regulation of new technology.

Prior to NPR, Greenfieldboyce spent a decade working in print, mostly magazines including U.S. News & World Report and New Scientist.

A graduate of Johns Hopkins, earning her Bachelor's of Arts degree in social sciences and a Master's of Arts degree in science writing, Greenfieldboyce taught science writing for four years at the university. She was honored for her talents with the Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award for Young Science Journalists.

Pages

2:30am

Thu January 9, 2014
Science

There She Blew! Volcanic Evidence Of The World's First Map

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 8:21 am

A reproduction of the mural from a room in Catalhoyuk, a Neolithic settlement in Turkey.
Sarah Murray Flickr

A new study of volcanic rocks suggests that an ancient mural may indeed depict an erupting volcano, adding new weight to a theory that this image is a contender for the world's oldest known landscape painting or map.

Read more

1:26am

Tue December 31, 2013
Space

Bon Voyage, Voyager: Old Friends Take Stock

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 7:37 am

NASA/JPL-Caltech

For the scientists who have emotionally traveled with NASA's Voyager mission for decades, 2013 will be remembered as the year they knew Voyager 1 had finally become the first explorer from Earth to enter the mysterious realm of interstellar space.

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, both blasted off in 1977, more than 35 years ago. Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, then Saturn — and then on toward the unknown region that lies between stars.

Read more

1:46am

Mon December 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Screening Newborns For Disease Can Leave Families In Limbo

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 2:24 pm

Vera Wojtesta was one of 300 babies flagged by New York's newborn screening program as at risk of having life-threatening Krabbe disease.
Ben Shutts Courtesy of the Wojtesta family

For Matthew and Brianne Wojtesta, it all started about a week after the birth of their daughter Vera. Matthew was picking up his son from kindergarten when he got a phone call.

It was their pediatrician, with some shocking news. Vera had been flagged by New York's newborn screening program as possibly having a potentially deadly disease, and would need to go see a neurologist the next day.

Read more

10:03pm

Tue December 3, 2013
Science

Polar Bear Researcher Gets $100,000 In Settlement With Feds

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 12:19 pm

Threatened Arctic polar bears have become controversial icons of climate change.
Gerald Hoberman Getty Images

A scientist whose observations of drowned polar bears raised alarms about climate change has received $100,000 to settle a whistle-blower complaint against an agency of the Department of the Interior.

Under the settlement, wildlife researcher Charles Monnett retired from his job at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Nov. 15, and the agency agreed to remove a letter of reprimand that officials had placed in his file.

Read more

12:44pm

Thu November 14, 2013
Shots - Health News

Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:49 am

The plate on the left contains about equal numbers of colonies of two different bacteria. After the bacteria compete and evolve, the lighter ones have taken the lead in the plate on the right.
Courtesy of Michael Wiser

Evolution is relentless process that seems to keep going and going, even when creatures live in a stable, unchanging world.

That's the latest surprise from a unique experiment that's been underway for more than a quarter-century.

Read more

12:02pm

Thu November 14, 2013
Animals

Old Dogs, New Data: Canines May Have Been Domesticated In Europe

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:34 pm

A dog burial in Greene County, Ill. This fossil dates back to about 8,500 years ago.
Courtesy of Del Baston, Center for American Archaeology

Scientists have used some new tricks and old dogs to show that thousands of years ago, wolves may have first become man's best friend in Europe.

Researchers extracted DNA from ancient wolf or dog fossils and compared it with DNA from modern dog breeds and wolves. Until recently, labs didn't have the kind of genetic tools they'd need to work with such old dog DNA and do this kind of detailed comparison.

Read more

1:01am

Tue November 5, 2013
Space

Galaxy Quest: Just How Many Earth-Like Planets Are Out There?

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 9:36 am

This is an artist's illustration of Kepler-62f, a planet in the "habitable zone" of a star that is slightly smaller and cooler than ours. Kepler-62f is roughly 40 percent larger than Earth.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

A team of planet hunters estimates that about 22 percent of the sun-like stars in our galaxy may have planets about the size of Earth that are bathed in similar amounts of sunlight — and potentially habitable.

That's the conclusion of a new analysis of observations taken by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009 to hunt for potentially habitable Earth-like planets around other stars.

Read more

1:19am

Fri November 1, 2013
Animals

The Tail's The Tell: Dog Wags Can Mean Friend Or Foe

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 9:41 am

Friend Or Foe? Scientists say dogs react differently to the direction of another dog's tail wag.
Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Dogs can pick up emotional cues from another dog by watching the direction of its wagging tail, a new study suggests.

In a series of lab experiments, dogs got anxious when they saw an image of a dog wagging its tail to its left side. But when they saw a dog wagging its tail to its right side, they stayed relaxed.

Read more

3:52pm

Wed October 9, 2013
Shots - Health News

Why Scientists Held Back Details On A Unique Botulinum Toxin

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 1:51 pm

The botulism toxin comes from Clostridium botulinum bacteria, seen here in a colorized micrograph.
James Cavallini Science Source

Scientists have discovered the first new form of botulinum toxin in over 40 years, but they're taking the unusual step of keeping key details about it secret.

That's because botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known. It causes botulism, and the newly identified form of it can't be neutralized by any available treatment.

Read more

2:27pm

Tue October 8, 2013
The Two-Way

Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into 'Caretaker Status'

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 2:44 am

The Chalet (right) is the U.S. Antarctic Program's administrations and operations center at McMurdo Station.
Reed Scherer National Science Foundation

Earlier this week we told you that scientists who do research in Antarctica have been on pins and needles, worried that the government shutdown would effectively cancel all of their planned field work this year.

Well, those scientists just got the news they didn't want to hear.

Read more

3:56pm

Mon October 7, 2013
The Government Shutdown

Even Antarctica Feels Effects Of The Government Shutdown

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 4:50 pm

A helicopter is unloaded from an LC-130 in Antarctica last December. Researchers on this mission were studying the Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest-receding glaciers on the continent.
August Allen National Science Foundation

It looks like even Antarctica isn't far away enough to avoid getting caught up in the government shutdown.

That's because it's currently springtime there, and scientists who study this remote, rugged continent are poised to take advantage of the few months when there's enough daylight and it's warm enough to work. Advance teams have already started working to get things set up and ready for the researchers, who usually begin heading south right about now.

Read more

3:24pm

Fri October 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Want To Read Others' Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 7:33 am

Would time spent with Anton Chekov, famed for his subtle, flawed characters, make you a better judge of human nature?
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Your ability to "read" the thoughts and feelings of others could be affected by the kind of fiction you read.

That's the conclusion of a study in the journal Science that gave tests of social perception to people who were randomly assigned to read excerpts from literary fiction, popular fiction or nonfiction.

Read more

3:17am

Thu October 3, 2013
Shots - Health News

From Therapy Dogs To New Patients, Federal Shutdown Hits NIH

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 11:00 am

The Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
National Institutes of Health

Abbey Whetzel has a 12-year-old son named Sam who has been at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Maryland for over a month. He has leukemia that is no longer treatable. And in this difficult time, one source of joy has been the therapy dogs that come to visit the sick kids.

"They can only come once a week, but it's the highlight of Sam's week," says Whetzel. But this week, she says, her son got some bad news. "They came and stopped in, and told Sam that the therapy dog wouldn't be coming because of the government shutdown."

Read more

3:12pm

Thu March 28, 2013
Shots - Health News

Sand From Fracking Could Pose Lung Disease Risk To Workers

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 11:50 am

A worker stands on top of a storage bin on July 27, 2011, at a drilling operation in Claysville, Pa. The dust is from powder mixed with water for hydraulic fracturing.
Keith Srakocic AP

When workplace safety expert Eric Esswein got a chance to see fracking in action not too long ago, what he noticed was all the dust.

It was coming off big machines used to haul around huge loads of sand. The sand is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas extraction. After workers drill down into rock, they create fractures in that rock by pumping in a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The sand keeps the cracks propped open so that oil and gas are released.

Read more

5:16pm

Thu February 21, 2013
Shots - Health News

Feds Set New Rules For Controversial Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 5:25 am

Health officials around the world are on constant lookout for the deadly bird flu. Here a worker collects chickens on a farm in Kathamndu, Nepal, where the virus was suspected of infecting poultry last October.
Prakas Mathema AFP/Getty Images

Government-funded scientists here in the U.S. are a step closer to being able to resume some controversial experiments with lab-altered bird flu viruses.

Read more

1:35am

Fri February 8, 2013
Space

Close Shave: Asteroid To Buzz Earth Next Week

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 2:36 pm

NASA video shows the small asteroid 2012 DA14 on its path as it passes by Earth on Feb. 15." href="/post/close-shave-asteroid-buzz-earth-next-week" class="noexit lightbox">
This computer image from a NASA video shows the small asteroid 2012 DA14 on its path as it passes by Earth on Feb. 15.
NASA

An asteroid the size of an office building will zoom close by Earth next week, but it's not on a collision course, NASA says.

Still, some people think this near-miss should serve as a wake-up call.

"It's a warning shot across our bow that we are flying around the solar system in a shooting gallery," says Ed Lu, a former astronaut and head of the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting humanity from asteroids.

The asteroid known as 2012 DA14 was first spotted last year by astronomers in Spain. It's thought to be about 150 feet across and made of rock.

Read more

1:31am

Thu February 7, 2013
Shots - Health News

Silica Rule Changes Delayed While Workers Face Health Risks

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 1:07 pm

A worker makes a cut in the side of a sandstone block at the Cleveland Quarries facility in Vermilion, Ohio, earlier this month. The legal limit on the amount of silica that workers can inhale was set decades ago.
Ty Wright Bloomberg via Getty Images

One of the oldest known workplace dangers is breathing in tiny bits of silica, which is basically sand. Even the ancient Greeks knew that stone cutters got sick from breathing in dust. And today, nearly 2 million American workers are exposed to silica dust in jobs ranging from construction to manufacturing.

Read more

1:35pm

Wed January 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Scientists Put An End To Moratorium On Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 6:53 pm

Health workers in Nepal culled chickens and destroyed eggs following an outbreak of bird flu in Kathmandu in October 2012.
Prakash Mathema AFP/Getty Images

Controversial experiments on bird flu could resume within weeks because leading influenza researchers around the world have finally called a halt to an unusual moratorium that has lasted more than a year.

The voluntary pause in the research started back in January 2012. Scientists had genetically altered the bird flu virus H5N1, changing it in ways that allowed it to spread through the coughs and sneezes of ferrets — the lab stand-in for people.

Read more

1:39am

Wed January 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Rules Would Retire Most Research Chimps

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 1:56 pm

Two chimps groom each other at the Save the Chimps facility in Florida. The National Institutes of Health owns about 360 chimpanzees that aren't yet retired and that are living at research facilities; new guidelines say most of its chimps should be retired.
Save the Chimps

The National Institutes of Health should retire most of its chimps that are currently living in research facilities, according to a working group put together by the NIH to look at the future need for biomedical research on chimps.

The group did recommend keeping a small number of chimps in reserve in case they are needed for studies later on. But it also laid out a detailed description of the kind of living conditions that would be needed for those chimps, and said any proposed research should go through a review committee that includes members of the public.

Read more

1:36am

Fri January 18, 2013
Animals

Figuring How to Pay For (Chimp) Retirement

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 8:06 pm

Hannah and Marty eat watermelon snacks at the Save the Chimps sanctuary.
Save the Chimps

Retirees flock to Florida — and the Sunshine State even has a retirement home for chimpanzees.

There, chimps live in small groups on a dozen man-made islands. Each 3-acre grassy island has palm trees and climbing structures, and is surrounded by a moat.

This is Save the Chimps, the world's biggest sanctuary for chimps formerly used in research experiments or the entertainment industry, or as pets. The chimps living here — 266 of them — range in age from 6 years old to over 50. And as sanctuary Director Jen Feuerstein drives around in a golf cart, she recognizes each one.

Read more

Pages