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.

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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.

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4:08pm

Thu January 3, 2013
Shots - Health News

You Can't See It, But You'll Be A Different Person In 10 Years

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 9:06 am

iStockphoto.com

No matter how old people are, they seem to believe that who they are today is essentially who they'll be tomorrow.

That's according to fresh research that suggests that people generally fail to appreciate how much their personality and values will change in the years ahead — even though they recognize that they have changed in the past.

Daniel Gilbert, a psychology researcher at Harvard University who did this study with two colleagues, says that he's no exception to this rule.

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1:30am

Mon December 31, 2012
Shots - Health News

Research Moratoriums And Recipes For Superbugs: Bird Flu In 2012

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 3:46 am

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., use eggs to see if the Asian strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus has entered the U.S. in this photo from 2006.
Andy Manis AP

For scientists who study a dangerous form of bird flu, 2012 is ending as it began — with uncertainty about what the future holds for their research, but a hope that some contentious issues will soon be resolved.

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11:44am

Wed December 19, 2012
Shots - Health News

NIH Moving To Revamp Funding Process For Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 1:32 pm

A health official culls chickens on a poultry farm in a village on the outskirts of Katmandu, Nepal. Chickens suspected of being infected with H5N1 bird flu were found in the area in October.
Prakash Mathema AFP/Getty Images

Flu researchers may be close to ending an unusual moratorium on some controversial scientific work that has lasted almost a year.

That's because officials at the National Institutes of Health say they will be moving swiftly to finalize a new process for deciding whether or not to fund proposed experiments that could potentially create more dangerous forms of the bird flu virus H5N1.

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1:18am

Tue December 18, 2012
Shots - Health News

NIH Revisits Debate On Controversial Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 6:14 am

A prefectural officer carries a chicken on a poultry farm on Oct. 15 on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, where chickens suspected of being infected with bird flu were found.
Prakash Mathema AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health in Maryland is holding a second day of talks about whether and how to continue funding some controversial scientific experiments.

Back in January, virologists agreed to temporarily stop research that was creating new forms of bird flu because critics argued that the work was too dangerous. NIH officials are now seeking input from scientists and the public about how to proceed.

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3:26pm

Fri December 14, 2012
Space

50 Years After First Interplanetary Probe, NASA Looks To Future

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 8:27 am

The Mariner 2 probe at an assembly facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Aug. 29, 1962.
NASA/JPL/Caltech

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1962, reporters gathered for a press briefing at NASA headquarters and heard an unearthly sound: radio signals being beamed back by a spacecraft flying within 22,000 miles of Venus.

The Mariner 2 mission to Venus was the first time any spacecraft had ever gone to another planet.

These days, vivid photographs showing scenes from all around the solar system are so ubiquitous that people might easily forget how mysterious our planetary neighbors used to be.

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12:49am

Fri December 7, 2012
Space

Is Another Moon Mission Written In The Stars?

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 6:23 am

Apollo 17 was the sixth and final Apollo mission to the moon. Here, lunar module pilot Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, Cmdr. Eugene Cernan and command module pilot Ron Evans pose in the lunar vehicle.
NASA

On Dec. 7, 1972, NASA launched its final human mission to the moon. Forty years later, Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan says he'd love to give up his claim to fame as "the last man on the moon."

"I'd like to be able to shake the hand of that young man or young woman who replaces me in that category," Cernan told NPR. "But unfortunately, the way things have gone and the way things are looking for the future, at least the near-term future, that won't happen in my lifetime. And that truly is disappointing."

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3:04am

Fri November 30, 2012
Research News

Victory Or Defeat? Emotions Aren't All In The Face

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 6:20 pm

Can You Tell Emotion From Faces Alone? A new study suggests that when people evaluated just facial expressions — without cues from the rest of the body — they couldn't tell if the face was showing a positive or negative emotion. Enlarge this photo to see the answers.
Hillel Aviezer The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Photos of athletes in their moment of victory or defeat usually show faces contorted with intense emotion. But a new study suggests that people actually don't use those kinds of extreme facial expressions to judge how a person is feeling.

Instead, surprisingly, people rely on body cues.

Hillel Aviezer, a psychology researcher at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, wanted to see how accurately people can read intense, real-world facial expressions — instead of the standardized, posed images of facial expressions that are usually used in lab tests.

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2:13pm

Fri November 23, 2012
Science

Experiments That Keep Going And Going And Going

Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 8:00 pm

William Beal, standing at center, started a long-term study on seed germination in 1879. He buried 20 bottles with seeds in them for later researchers to unearth and plant.
Michigan State University

A biologist who has been watching a dozen bottles of bacteria evolve for nearly a quarter of a century is hoping he can find someone to keep his lab experiment going long after he dies.

Meanwhile, just by coincidence, a botanist who works across campus is carefully tending an experiment that started before he was born, all the way back in 1879.

These two researchers, both at Michigan State University in East Lansing, represent different sides of an unusual phenomenon in science: experiments that outlive the people who started them.

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3:58am

Thu November 22, 2012
The Salt

Ingredients For A Homestyle Thanksgiving, 200 Miles Above The Earth

Originally published on Thu November 22, 2012 4:20 pm

Space food.
courtesy NASA

For Thanksgiving, NASA's space food experts always try to make sure astronauts get to enjoy traditional holiday fare, even if its not exactly home cooking. And being so far from home, astronauts can get pretty attached to their comfort foods.

This year, Kevin Ford, the commander of Expedition 34 and currently working at the International Space Station, says he has the ingredients to make one favorite Thanksgiving dish the NASA nutritionists may not have anticipated: Candied yams with marshmallows.

The yams are thermostablized and come in a plastic pouch.

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3:03pm

Wed November 21, 2012
Shots - Health News

When Fetuses Yawn In The Womb

Could that be a yawn? An ultrasound scan catches an opened-mouth fetus.
Courtesy of A Little Insight 3D 4D Ultrasound.

Why people yawn is a mystery. But yawning starts in the womb.

Past studies have used ultrasound images to show fetuses yawning, but some scientists have argued that real yawns were getting confused with fetuses simply opening their mouths.

So Nadja Reissland, a researcher at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, used a more detailed ultrasound technique to get images of fetal faces that could distinguish a true yawn from just an open mouth.

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6:00pm

Thu November 1, 2012
Animals

Move Over, Parrot: Elephant Mimics Trainer At Zoo

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 9:43 am

Koshi, an elephant, makes sounds that imitate Korean words.
Stoeger, et. al. Current Biology

Scientists say an Asian elephant at a South Korean zoo can imitate human speech, saying five Korean words that are readily understood by people who speak the language.

The male elephant, named Koshik, invented an unusual method of sound production that involves putting his trunk in his mouth and manipulating his vocal tract.

"This is not the kind of sound that Asian elephants normally make, and it's a dead-on match of the speech of his trainers," says Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna in Austria.

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11:38am

Tue October 16, 2012
Shots - Health News

Feds Seek Comments On Bird Flu Safety Fears

An electron microscope view of the bird flu virus.
PR Newswire

Here's your chance to weigh in on mutant forms of bird flu that have been in the news — the U.S. government wants to know just how scary you think these new viruses are.

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3:31pm

Wed October 10, 2012
Science

Two Americans Share Nobel Prize In Chemistry

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 4:57 pm

Two Americans have won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Koblika were awarded the prize for their work on protein receptors that tell cells what's going on around the human body. Their research has allowed drug makers to develop medication with fewer side effects. The pair with share the $1.2 million award.

2:32am

Wed October 10, 2012
Research News

Nobel In Chemistry Is Shared By Two Americans

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:12 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

All this week, we've been reporting on the winners of this year's Nobel Prizes. And today in Stockholm, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. The chair of the Nobel Prize committee for chemistry described the importance of the discovery by giving the assembled reporters a little scare.

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9:11am

Tue October 9, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Debate Heats Up About Contentious Bird Flu Research

When a case of the potentially lethal H5N1 bird flu was found in British poultry in 2007, Dutch farmers were told to keep their poultry away from wild birds by closing off outdoor areas with wire mesh.
Ed Oudenaarden AFP/Getty Images

What was supposed to be a 60-day moratorium on certain experiments involving lab-altered bird flu has now lasted more than eight months. And there's no clear end in sight.

Researchers still disagree on how to best manage the risks posed by mutant forms of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu. The altered viruses are contagious between ferrets, which are the lab stand-in for humans. The fear is that these germs could potentially cause a deadly flu pandemic in people if they ever escaped the lab.

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5:52pm

Fri September 28, 2012
Science

Scientist Cleared In Polar Bear Controversy

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 5:56 pm

Polar bears in the Beaufort Sea in northern Alaska. Scientist Charles Monnett caused a stir with a 2006 report on polar bears that were drowning, apparently owing to a lack of ice.
Steve Amstrup Fish and Wildlife Service

A long, controversial investigation of a polar bear scientist has ended with his government employer saying it does not look like he engaged in any scientific misconduct.

Charles Monnett is a wildlife researcher with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the Department of the Interior. He and a colleague, Jeffrey Gleason, wrote an influential 2006 report describing apparently drowned polar bears floating in the Arctic, which they saw during a routine aerial survey of whales.

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1:22am

Fri September 28, 2012
Space

NASA's Curiosity Finds Water Once Flowed On Mars

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 6:29 am

NASA says it has found proof that water shaped the rocks on the left, in a photograph taken by the Mars rover Curiosity (left). For comparison, the agency released an image of rocks from Earth (right).
NASA

NASA's newest Mars rover, Curiosity, has snapped photos of rocky outcroppings that jut out from the alien soil, and scientists say they look like the remnants of an ancient stream bed where water once flowed on the surface of the red planet.

The exposed rocks look like broken slabs of concrete sidewalk, about four inches thick, and are made of rounded bits of gravel in a sandy matrix. The rock has eroded a little bit, and some of the smooth pebbles — about the size of M&M candies — have fallen down into a little pile.

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11:27am

Wed September 26, 2012
Animals

Mammalian Surprise: African Mouse Can Regrow Skin

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 3:54 pm

The African spiny mouse has the ability to regrow large patches of skin and hair without scarring.
Ashley W. Seifert Nature

Scientists have discovered that a mouse found in Africa can lose large patches of skin and then grow it back without scarring, perhaps as a way of escaping the clutches of a predator.

The finding challenges the conventional view that mammals have an extremely limited ability to replace injured body parts. There are lizards that can regrow lost tails, salamanders that can replace amputated legs, and fish that can generate new fins, but humans and other mammals generally patch up wounds with scar tissue.

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3:07pm

Fri September 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Government Officials Retire Chimpanzees From Research

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 4:47 pm

Federally funded chimps at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana will retire to either a lab in Texas or a chimp sanctuary in Louisiana.
Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States

One hundred ten chimpanzees will retire from biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health announced today. The move comes as some groups are pushing for a ban on all medical chimp research.

The NIH has been reviewing its chimp research since December. That's when a report from the Institute of Medicine said that there was almost no scientific need for doing biomedical research on chimps.

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