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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The Two-Way
3:27 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into 'Caretaker Status'

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

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 3:44 am

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.

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The Government Shutdown
4:56 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Even Antarctica Feels Effects Of The Government Shutdown

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

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 5:50 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
4:24 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Want To Read Others' Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction

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

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 8:33 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
4:17 am
Thu October 3, 2013

From Therapy Dogs To New Patients, Federal Shutdown Hits NIH

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

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 12:00 pm

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."

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Shots - Health News
4:12 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Sand From Fracking Could Pose Lung Disease Risk To Workers

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

Originally published on Mon April 1, 2013 12:50 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
6:16 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Feds Set New Rules For Controversial Bird Flu Research

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

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 6:25 am

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.

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Space
2:35 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Close Shave: Asteroid To Buzz Earth Next Week

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

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 3:36 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:31 am
Thu February 7, 2013

Silica Rule Changes Delayed While Workers Face Health Risks

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

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 2:07 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:35 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Scientists Put An End To Moratorium On Bird Flu Research

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

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 7:53 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:39 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Rules Would Retire Most Research Chimps

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

Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 2:56 pm

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.

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Animals
2:36 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Figuring How to Pay For (Chimp) Retirement

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

Originally published on Fri January 18, 2013 9:06 pm

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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Shots - Health News
5:08 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

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

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 10:06 am

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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Shots - Health News
2:30 am
Mon December 31, 2012

Research Moratoriums And Recipes For Superbugs: Bird Flu In 2012

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

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 4:46 am

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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Shots - Health News
12:44 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

NIH Moving To Revamp Funding Process For Bird Flu Research

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

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 2:32 pm

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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Shots - Health News
2:18 am
Tue December 18, 2012

NIH Revisits Debate On Controversial Bird Flu Research

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

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 7:14 am

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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Space
4:26 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

50 Years After First Interplanetary Probe, NASA Looks To Future

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

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 9:27 am

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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Space
1:49 am
Fri December 7, 2012

Is Another Moon Mission Written In The Stars?

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

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

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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Research News
4:04 am
Fri November 30, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 7:20 pm

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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Science
3:13 pm
Fri November 23, 2012

Experiments That Keep Going And Going And Going

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

Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 9:00 pm

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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The Salt
4:58 am
Thu November 22, 2012

Ingredients For A Homestyle Thanksgiving, 200 Miles Above The Earth

Space food.
courtesy NASA

Originally published on Thu November 22, 2012 5:20 pm

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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Shots - Health News
4:03 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

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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Animals
7:00 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Move Over, Parrot: Elephant Mimics Trainer At Zoo

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

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 10:43 am

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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Shots - Health News
12:38 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

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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Science
4:31 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Two Americans Share Nobel Prize In Chemistry

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:57 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Research News
3:32 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Nobel In Chemistry Is Shared By Two Americans

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:12 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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