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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7:39am

Sat March 28, 2015
The Two-Way

A Day's A Day The World Around — But Shorter On Saturn

Originally published on Sat March 28, 2015 2:56 pm

Saturn has a rocky surface, but it's deep beneath the clouds. That makes it hard to tell exactly how long the day is.
NASA

Researchers have answered a question that has been nagging them for years: Exactly how long is a day on the planet Saturn? The result (10 hours and 32 minutes or so) was published this week in the journal Nature, and could teach scientists more about the giant, ringed planet.

A day is simply how long it takes a planet to spin all the way around. On Earth, one rotation takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds — though earthlings round up to 24 hours even.

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4:24am

Thu March 12, 2015
The Two-Way

Researchers Think There's A Warm Ocean On Enceladus

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 11:01 am

A new analysis suggests that Enceladus' ocean is being heated from the bottom up. That could explain plumes of ice seen at its south pole.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Saturn's moon Enceladus is a mystery. From Earth it looks tiny and cold, and yet it's not a dead hunk of rock. Passing spacecraft see trenches and ridges, similar to Earth's, and in 2005 NASA's Cassini mission spotted ice geysers streaming from its south pole.

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5:07pm

Tue March 10, 2015
Science

As Climate Wars Heat Up, Some Skeptics Are Targets

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 7:57 pm

Climate skeptic Willie Soon has argued in the past that too much ice is bad for polar bears. An investigation into Soon's funding found he took money from the fossil fuel industry and did not always disclose that source.
iStockphoto

Scientists who warn that the earth's climate is changing have been subjected to hacking, investigations, and even court action in recent years. That ire usually comes from conservative groups and climate skeptics seeking to discredit the research findings.

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4:13am

Fri March 6, 2015
The Two-Way

NASA Probe Reaches Orbit Around Dwarf Planet

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 12:38 pm

Astronomers have known about Ceres for centuries, but they don't really know what to make of it.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Updated at 9:45 a.m. ET.

This morning, a plucky NASA spacecraft has entered the orbit of one of the oddest little worlds in our solar system.

Ceres is round like a planet, but really small. Its total surface would cover just a third of the United States.

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4:59pm

Tue February 24, 2015
Shots - Health News

Gerbils Likely Pushed Plague To Europe in Middle Ages

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 9:43 am

Gerbils are a beloved classroom pet, but they might also be deadly killers. A study now claims that gerbils helped bring bubonic plague to Medieval Europe and contributed to the deaths of millions.

Plague is caused by bacteria (Yersinia pestis) found in rodents, and the fleas that live on rodents. The rodent that's usually Suspect Zero is the rat.

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3:52am

Tue February 24, 2015
Science

'Weird' Fern Shows The Power Of Interspecies Sex

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 9:48 am

Botanists say this plant is the fern equivalent of a human-lemur love child.
Harry Roskam

The love between two ferns knows few bounds, it appears. A DNA analysis of a hybrid fern shows that its parents are two different species separated by nearly 60 million years of evolution.

"A 60 million year divergence is approximately equivalent to a human mating with a lemur," says Carl Rothfels, a fern researcher at the University of British Columbia, who headed the study. The hybrid is a record, he says.

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7:27am

Sun February 15, 2015
Science

Navy Funds A Small Robot Army To Study The Arctic

Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 12:49 pm

To put their probes into the Arctic Ice, researchers hitched a ride on a South Korean icebreaker.
Courtesy of Craig M. Lee/University of Washington

Earlier this month the U.S. Navy's research office rented out a conference center in Washington, D.C., to show off some of its hottest new technology.

On display was an electromagnetic gun, and drones that could swarm around an enemy ship. But it wasn't all James Bond-style gadgets.

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6:25pm

Wed January 28, 2015
The Two-Way

Charles Townes, Laser Pioneer, Black Hole Discoverer, Dies At 99

Originally published on Sat January 31, 2015 9:51 am

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes was single-minded about a lot of things, colleagues say. And also a very nice guy.
Julian Wasser The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Charles Townes, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his part in the invention of the laser died Tuesday at 99.

Townes is best remembered for thinking up the basic principles of the laser while sitting on a park bench. Later in life he advised the U.S. government and helped uncover the secrets of our Milky Way galaxy.

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3:38am

Thu January 22, 2015
The Two-Way

X-Rays Open Secrets Of Ancient Scrolls

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 7:41 pm

The ancient scrolls look and feel more like blocks of charcoal. A new technique gives a peek inside.
Salvatore Laporta AP

Researchers in Europe have managed to read from an ancient scroll buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The feat is all the more remarkable because the scroll was never opened.

The Vesuvius eruption famously destroyed Pompeii. But it also devastated the nearby town of Herculaneum. A villa there contained a library stacked with papyrus scrolls, and the hot gas and ash preserved them.

Sort of.

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5:14pm

Thu January 15, 2015
NPR Ed

Do Fictional Geniuses Hold Back Real Women?

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 8:39 am

Geniuses in movies aren't always played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but they are almost always men.
Weinstein Co./Studiocanal/Kobal Collection

The "Lone Genius" character is hot right now in television and movies. Sometimes the genius is real (think Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game), and sometimes he's fictional (think Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock). But one thing is almost always certain: He's a guy.

Now one researcher says that gender stereotype in art may have a real impact on women in academia.

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6:29pm

Thu January 8, 2015
All Tech Considered

Look Out, This Poker-Playing Computer Is Unbeatable

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 9:20 pm

Dealer Omar Abu-Eid adjusts a stack of chips before the first day of the World Series of Poker's main event in Las Vegas last July. Humans still reign in most versions of poker. Whew.
John Locher AP

Researchers have developed a computer program they say can beat any human on the planet at a particular variant of Texas Hold'em poker.

The scientists aren't planning to clean up with their powerful poker bot. Instead, they hope it can help computers become better decision-makers in the face of uncertainty. The work is published Thursday in the journal Science.

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5:57pm

Mon January 5, 2015
The Two-Way

SpaceX Plans A Perfect Landing

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 8:09 am

The massive first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is designed to return to earth.
SpaceX

Update at 6:46 a.m. ET. Launch Scrubbed:

Early on Tuesday, SpaceX scrubbed a scheduled launch, citing technical problems. The next possible attempt is Friday at 5:09 ET, NASA said.

Our Original Post Continues:

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6:57pm

Thu December 11, 2014
Shots - Health News

Birds Of A Feather Aren't Necessarily Related

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:25 pm

The updated avian tree shows how many different kinds of birds evolved quickly after a mass extinction 66 million years ago.
AAAS/Carla Schaffer

What do a pigeon and a flamingo have in common? Quite a bit, according to a reordering of the evolutionary tree of birds.

One of a series of studies published Thursday in Science is the latest step toward understanding the origins of the roughly 10,000 bird species that populate our planet.

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4:57am

Mon December 8, 2014
The Two-Way

Oh, Snap! NASA Promises Best Photo Yet Of Faraway Pluto

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 10:22 am

NASA/ESA/M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

Humanity has snapped detailed portraits of planets and moons throughout our solar system. But there's one missing from the album: Pluto.

Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, it has remained stubbornly hard to photograph. The Hubble Space Telescope has taken the best pictures, and frankly, they stink.

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4:42pm

Wed December 3, 2014
Space

NASA To Test Orion Spacecraft For Long Future Missions

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 10:34 am

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