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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Shots - Health Blog
10:11 am
Tue October 9, 2012

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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Science
6:52 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Scientist Cleared In Polar Bear Controversy

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

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 6:56 pm

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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Space
2:22 am
Fri September 28, 2012

NASA's Curiosity Finds Water Once Flowed On Mars

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

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 7:29 am

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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Animals
12:27 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Mammalian Surprise: African Mouse Can Regrow Skin

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

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 4:54 pm

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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Shots - Health Blog
4:07 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Government Officials Retire Chimpanzees From Research

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

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 5:47 pm

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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The End Of The Space Shuttle Era
2:42 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Shuttle Endeavour Begins Long Voyage To New Home

Workers remove a tree from a median in the middle of Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood, Calif., on Sept. 4 to make room for Endeavour.
Reed Saxon AP

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:11 am

Space shuttle Endeavour begins a kind of farewell tour this week. The shuttle will set off on a cross-country trip to its retirement home, flying from Florida to Los Angeles on the back of a modified jumbo jet.

Along the way, the spaceship will stop off in Houston, home of NASA's Mission Control and, weather permitting, fly over NASA centers and various landmarks in cities that include San Francisco and Sacramento.

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Space
3:45 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

After 35 Years, Voyager Nears Edge Of Solar System

In addition to surveying the planets, the Voyager mission also spent time studying the planets' satellites, or moons. This mosaic image, taken in 1989, shows Neptune's largest satellite, Triton. Triton has the coldest surface temperature known anywhere in the solar system.
NASA/JPL

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 3:33 pm

The Voyager 1 spacecraft's 35th anniversary is proving to be unexpectedly exciting, as scientists gathered this week to examine new hints that the spacecraft is on the verge of leaving our solar system.

Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. It blasted off in September 1977, on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. But it also carried a Golden Record filled with music and the sounds of our planet, in case it encountered intelligent life as it moved out toward the stars.

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The Salt
2:19 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Subtracting Calories May Not Add Years To Life

A rhesus monkey eats watermelon, provided by zookeepers, at the Kamla Nehru Zoological Gardens in India in May 2012.
Sam Panthaky AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 9:34 am

Scientists have known for decades that lab rats and mice will live far longer than normal if they're fed a super-low-calorie diet, and that's led some people to eat a near-starvation diet in the hopes that it will extend the human life span, too.

But a new study in monkeys suggests they may be disappointed.

The long-awaited results of this study, which started back in 1987, show that rhesus monkeys fed a diet with 30 percent fewer calories than normal did not live unusually long lives.

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Science
2:50 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Web Cartoonist Raises $1 Million For Tesla Museum

Tesla reads in front of the spiral coil of his high-frequency transformer at his lab on Houston Street in New York.
Marc Seifer Archives

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 12:12 pm

The only remaining laboratory of one of the greatest American inventors may soon be purchased so that it can be turned into a museum, thanks to an Internet campaign that raised nearly a million dollars in about a week.

The lab was called Wardenclyffe, and it was built by Nikola Tesla, a wizard of electrical engineering whose power systems lit up the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and harnessed the mighty Niagara Falls.

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Animals
1:57 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Swarming Up A Storm: Why Animals School And Flock

A school of Blue Tang fish swimming together off the Caribbean island of Bonaire. It has long been assumed that the schooling behavior of fish evolved in part to protect animals from being attacked by predators.
David J. Phillip AP

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 10:06 am

By tricking live fish into attacking computer-generated "prey," scientists have learned that animals like birds and fish may indeed have evolved to swarm together to protect themselves from the threat of predators.

"Effectively, what we're doing here is we're getting predatory fish to play a video game," says Iain Couzin, who studies collective animal behavior at Princeton University. "And through playing that game, through seeing which virtual prey items they attack, we can get a very deep understanding of as to how behavioral interactions among prey affect their survival."

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Environment
10:46 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Feds Conclude Probe Of Polar Bear Scientists

A polar bear on fresh ice in the Hudson Bay in November 2007.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 13, 2012 11:46 am

A federal investigation into two researchers who wrote a famous report on drowned polar bears is finally over, according to their lawyer.

But the scientists still haven't been allowed to see a copy of the investigation report or its conclusions, says attorney Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Critics have charged that the two-year investigation was a witch hunt into researchers whose work had political implications.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:11 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

NIH Official Calls For Extension Of Moratorium On Bird Flu Experiments

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said a voluntary halt to bird flu research should stay in effect.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

A voluntary moratorium on certain experiments involving forms of bird flu altered in laboratories should continue until there can be more public discussion of safety concerns, a prominent government official told flu researchers at a meeting in New York City Tuesday.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:49 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

What Does The Future Hold For Bird Flu Research?

A government official in Bali, Indonesia, holds a chicken before administering an injection to cull it as a precautionary measure in April to prevent the spread of bird flu.
Firdia Lisnawati AP

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 3:43 pm

In a hotel ballroom in New York City, a couple hundred flu researchers watched with interest Monday as a government official ran down a list of seven kinds of experiments that could raise special security risks.

The official noted that one item on the list was any experiment that could make an infectious agent more transmissible, or contagious. "It wouldn't take long for this audience to come up with an example of that," he noted wryly.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:28 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Bird Flu Researchers To Meet About Research Moratorium

Chickens are under quarantine in Tepatitlan, Jalisco State, Mexico. The Mexican government declared a national animal health emergency July 2 in the face of an aggressive bird flu epidemic that has infected nearly 1.7 million poultry.
Hector Guerrero AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 9:30 am

Top influenza researchers around the world published a statement back in January saying they would temporarily hold off on any work with contagious, lab-altered forms of a particularly worrisome form of bird flu.

The unusual voluntary moratorium was supposed to last only 60 days, but it's been more than six months. And scientists don't agree on what should happen next.

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Space
2:28 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Fledgling NASA Nonprofit Starts To Liftoff

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 9:24 am

A new nonprofit organization that's supposed to take charge of expanding scientific research on the International Space Station has had a rocky first year but now is starting to show what it can do.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space just signed one agreement with a company not traditionally linked to research in space: the sporting goods company Cobra Puma Golf.

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Research News
4:14 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Bird Flu Research Illustrates Dual-Use Issues

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 6:47 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in other news, a scientific journal has finally published the details of how to make mutant forms of bird flu. These viruses were created last year by a lab that's trying to stay one step ahead of a possible flu pandemic, so that the world can get ready. The work, though, is highly controversial. Critics say the man-made viruses pose serious risks: the germs could escape, or be used as a bio weapon.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:08 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Journal Publishes Details On Contagious Bird Flu Created In Lab

Vietnam has contained the fatal bird flu cases that raged in the late 2000s, but it is still struggling with new cases of the virulent disease. Here, a poultry trader loads live chickens onto his motorbike on March 16 at a market outside Hanoi.
Hoang Dinh Ham AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 11:40 am

Anyone and everyone can now look in the journal Science and read about how to make lab-altered bird flu viruses that have been at the center of a controversy that's raged for months.

But in the eyes of some critics, the details of these experiments are effectively the recipe for a dangerous flu pandemic.

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Dead Stop
11:12 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

How Dorothy Parker Came To Rest In Baltimore

Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke (center left) and NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks lower the ashes of writer Dorothy Parker into her final resting place at the NAACP headquarters in 1988.
Carlos Rosario AP

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 7:17 pm

The writer, poet and critic Dorothy Parker was technically not a native New Yorker; she was born at her family's beach cottage in New Jersey. But she always considered New York City to be her beloved hometown. It's where she grew up, where she struggled during her early days as a writer, where she became famous, and where she died of a heart attack at the age of 73.

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The Two-Way
8:35 am
Thu May 24, 2012

SpaceX Ship Passes Close By International Space Station

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 9:42 am

Astronauts on board the international space station got a chance earlier today to see the private unmanned Dragon spaceship that was launched on Tuesday by SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, who is living on the station, was talking to Houston's Mission Control when he suddenly reported that he had spotted Dragon. "I'm looking at Dragon right now," he said.

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The Two-Way
6:10 am
Tue May 22, 2012

'Picture Perfect Launch' For Private Rocket Headed To Space Station

The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifted off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday.
John Raoux AP

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 9:09 am

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Space
2:13 am
Fri May 18, 2012

NASA, SpaceX Aim To Launch Private Era In Orbit

NASA and SpaceX partnered closely to make the mission to the International Space Station possible. Above, the SpaceX control room.
SpaceX

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 3:49 pm

A private spaceship owned by a company called SpaceX is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida early Saturday morning.

If all goes well, the unmanned capsule will rocket up on a mission to deliver food and other supplies to the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to visit the outpost.

The highly anticipated mission could mark the beginning of what some say could be a new era in spaceflight, with private companies operating taxi services that could start taking people to orbit in just a few years.

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Space
4:14 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Tech Entrepreneurs Bet Big On Asteroid Mining

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 4:37 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, a group of entrepreneurs unveiled a new company that aims to mine precious metals and other resources from asteroids. The idea of exploiting the natural resources on asteroids has been around for more than a century, and this is not the first company to lay out such grand plans.

But as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, this one does have the financial backing of some big names in high tech.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:25 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Bird Flu Scientist Has Applied For Permit To Export Research

The Dutch scientist at the center of the controversy over recent bird flu experiments says that his team applied for government permission today to submit a paper describing their research to a science journal.

The Dutch government has asserted that the studies, which describe how to make bird flu virus more contagious, fall under regulations that control the export of weapons technology.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:25 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Dutch Government Set To Reconsider Restrictions On Bird Flu Study

Chickens were killed in Hong Kong last December in an effort to halt the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.
Aaron Tam AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 9:08 am

A Dutch virologist is considering his full range of legal options if his government refuses to lift the restrictions it has put on his controversial bird flu research, and matters could quickly come to a head after a meeting next Monday that will be attended by U. S. observers.

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Research News
2:36 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Death Penalty Research Flawed, Expert Panel Says

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 7:17 am

Proponents of the death penalty often argue that the threat of being executed acts as a deterrent that prevents people from committing murder. But those who oppose capital punishment challenge that claim. And some researchers argue that state-sanctioned execution might actually increase homicide rates.

Now, a panel of independent experts convened by the prestigious National Research Council has taken a look at this question and decided that the available research offers no useful information for policymakers.

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