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

3:19am

Fri November 1, 2013
Animals

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

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 11:41 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

5:52pm

Wed October 9, 2013
Shots - Health News

Why Scientists Held Back Details On A Unique Botulinum Toxin

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 3:51 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

4:27pm

Tue October 8, 2013
The Two-Way

Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into 'Caretaker Status'

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 4:44 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

5:51pm

Mon October 7, 2013
The Government Shutdown

Even Antarctica Feels Effects Of The Government Shutdown

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 6:50 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

5:04pm

Fri October 4, 2013
Shots - Health News

Want To Read Others' Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 9:33 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

5:35am

Thu October 3, 2013
Shots - Health News

From Therapy Dogs To New Patients, Federal Shutdown Hits NIH

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 1:00 pm

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

5:12pm

Thu March 28, 2013
Shots - Health News

Sand From Fracking Could Pose Lung Disease Risk To Workers

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 1:50 pm

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

7:16pm

Thu February 21, 2013
Shots - Health News

Feds Set New Rules For Controversial Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 7:25 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

3:35am

Fri February 8, 2013
Space

Close Shave: Asteroid To Buzz Earth Next Week

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 4:36 pm

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

3:31am

Thu February 7, 2013
Shots - Health News

Silica Rule Changes Delayed While Workers Face Health Risks

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 3:07 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

3:35pm

Wed January 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Scientists Put An End To Moratorium On Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 8:53 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

3:39am

Wed January 23, 2013
Shots - Health News

Rules Would Retire Most Research Chimps

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 3:56 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

3:36am

Fri January 18, 2013
Animals

Figuring How to Pay For (Chimp) Retirement

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 10:06 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

6:17pm

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 11:06 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.

Read more

3:30am

Mon December 31, 2012
Shots - Health News

Research Moratoriums And Recipes For Superbugs: Bird Flu In 2012

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 5:46 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.

Read more

Pages