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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4:44am

Tue March 18, 2014
Space

Space Thief Or Hero? One Man's Quest To Reawaken An Old Friend

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 7:56 pm

Early days: NASA's International Sun-Earth Explorer C (also known as ISEE-3 and ICE) was undergoing testing and evaluation inside the Goddard Space Flight Center's dynamic test chamber when this photo was snapped in 1976.
NASA

More than 30 years ago, Robert Farquhar stole a spacecraft.

Now he's trying to give it back.

The green satellite, covered with solar panels, is hurtling back toward the general vicinity of Earth, after nearly three decades of traveling in a large, looping orbit around the sun.

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3:27am

Mon February 24, 2014
Science

At 4.4 Billion Years Old, Oz Crystals Confirmed As World's Oldest

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 2:06 pm

The colors of the zircon crystals range from transparent to deep red.
Courtesy of University of Wisconsin

Scientists have used a powerful new technique to prove that some tiny crystals found in Western Australia are indeed the oldest known materials formed on Earth.

Back in 2001, scientists reported that one of the zircon crystals was about 4.4 billion years old — so old that not everyone believed it.

"There have been challenges, because nothing in science goes without being questioned. It always has to be proven," says John Valley, a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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4:04pm

Wed February 19, 2014
The Two-Way

If Yellowstone Could Talk, It Might Squeak. Blame The Helium

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 8:02 pm

Sunset on the Firehole River, Yellowstone National Park.
Bill Young Flickr

A huge amount of ancient helium is rising up from the rocks beneath Yellowstone National Park — about enough to fill up a Goodyear blimp every week.

The gas comes from a vast store of helium that's accumulated in the Earth's crust for hundreds of millions of years, scientists report in the journal Nature this week.

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3:30pm

Tue February 4, 2014
Shots - Health News

Drugmakers And NIH Band Together To Speed Up Research

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
NIH

The National Institutes of Health is teaming up with major drug companies in a new effort to identify disease-related molecules and biological processes that could lead to future medicines.

The public-private partnership is called AMP, for the "Accelerating Medicines Partnership," and it will focus first on Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and two autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

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2:59am

Wed January 29, 2014
Shots - Health News

Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 11:11 am

Graduate student Jennifer Klunk of McMaster University examines a tooth used to decode the genome of the ancient plague.
Courtesy of McMaster University

Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.

They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.

This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it's usually called the Justinian plague. The emperor actually got sick himself but recovered. He was one of the lucky ones.

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3:33am

Mon January 27, 2014
Science

Grand Canyon May Be Older (And Younger) Than You Think

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 11:31 am

The eastern Grand Canyon was about half-carved (to the level of the red cliffs above the hiker) from 15 million to 25 million years ago, an analysis published Sunday suggests. But the inner gorge was likely scooped out by the Colorado River in just the past 6 million years.
Laura Crossey University of New Mexico

In recent years geologists have hotly debated the age of the Grand Canyon. Some think it's young (just 6 million years old), while others argue that it dates back 70 million years — to the days of dinosaurs.

Now one group says the Grand Canyon is neither young nor old. Instead, these geologists say, it's both.

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4:30pm

Thu January 16, 2014
The Two-Way

In Search For Habitable Planets, Why Stop At 'Earth-Like'?

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 12:19 pm

Kepler-22b, seen in this artist's rendering, is a planet a bit larger than Earth that orbits in the habitable zone of its star. Some researchers think there might be "superhabitable" worlds that may not resemble Earth.
NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

In their hunt for potentially habitable planets around distant stars, scientists have been so focused on finding Earth-like planets that they're ignoring the possibility that other kinds of planets might be even friendlier to life, a new report says.

So-called superhabitable worlds wouldn't necessarily look like Earth but would nonetheless have conditions that are more suitable for life to emerge and evolve, according to the study published this month in the journal Astrobiology.

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3:38am

Thu January 9, 2014
Science

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

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 10:21 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.

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4:23pm

Thu January 2, 2014
Space

On Planet GJ1214 B, Expect Exotic Cloud Cover

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 6:18 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In recent years, scientists have discovered around a thousand planets orbiting other distant stars, including some called super-Earths. These planets are bigger than our rocky hole but smaller than any of our solar system's gas giants. Not much is known about these mysterious worlds.

NPR is Nell Greenfieldboyce reports on new evidence that one super-Earth is shrouded in clouds.

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3:26am

Tue December 31, 2013
Space

Bon Voyage, Voyager: Old Friends Take Stock

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 9:37 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.

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3:46am

Mon December 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Screening Newborns For Disease Can Leave Families In Limbo

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 4:24 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.

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12:03am

Wed December 4, 2013
Science

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

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 2:19 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.

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2:44pm

Thu November 14, 2013
Shots - Health News

Bacterial Competition In Lab Shows Evolution Never Stops

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 10:49 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.

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2:35pm

Thu November 14, 2013
Animals

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

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 8:34 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.

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3:01am

Tue November 5, 2013
Space

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

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 11:36 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.

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