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.

Pages

5:05am

Wed July 29, 2015
All Tech Considered

Beam Me Up? Teleporting Is Real, Even If Trekkie Transport Isn't

Originally published on Wed July 29, 2015 2:02 pm

Star Trek's Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk never even lose pocket change when they use a transporter to get from TV's Starship Enterprise to distant worlds. What gives?
Paramount Television/The Kobal Collection

"I have a hard time saying this with a straight face, but I will: You can teleport a single atom from one place to another," says Chris Monroe, a biophysicist at the University of Maryland.

His lab's setup in a university basement looks nothing like the slick transporters that rearrange atoms and send them someplace else on Star Trek. Instead, a couple million dollars' worth of lasers, mirrors and lenses lay sprawled across a 20-foot table.

Read more

4:24pm

Fri July 24, 2015
The Two-Way

Dark Pluto Bares Its Heart

Originally published on Fri July 24, 2015 5:14 pm

Scientists with NASA's mission to Pluto revealed stunning new images of the dwarf planet on Friday. Researchers say the pictures suggest an icy world complete with glaciers and "snow" that falls through a wispy atmosphere.

Read more

3:42pm

Wed July 15, 2015
The Two-Way

Strange Worlds At The Edge Of Our Solar System Finally Come Into Focus

New details of Pluto's largest moon, Charon, are revealed in this image from New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager.
NASA

Scientists have unveiled the best photos of Pluto and its moons that humanity is likely to see for at least a generation. These images were taken Tuesday by NASA's New Horizons space probe as it hurtled past Pluto at more than 30,000 miles per hour.

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has revealed itself to be an oddball world. It's smaller than our own moon, and it orbits at an angle relative to the plane of the solar system. Because of its size and distance, even the Hubble Space Telescope could only make it out as a brown smudge, billions of miles away.

Read more

2:48pm

Mon July 13, 2015
The Two-Way

Planet Or Not, Icy Pluto To Finally Get Its Day In The Sun

Originally published on Mon July 13, 2015 8:30 pm

Technicians prepped the New Horizons spacecraft on Nov. 4, 2005, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Fired into space in 2006, the probe is scheduled to finally get close to Pluto on Tuesday.
John Raoux AP

Alice Bowman oversees daily operations for NASA's mission to Pluto. Her language is peppered with technical terms — like "astronomical units" and "aim points."

But there's one piece of scientific nomenclature you won't hear coming from Bowman's lips: dwarf planet.

"Pluto is a planet," she says. "And that's the way I will always think of it."

Read more

3:45am

Mon July 6, 2015
The Two-Way

Pluto-Bound Spacecraft Nears Its Quarry

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 7:58 am

NASA's New Horizons mission will be the first ever to visit Pluto and its moons. This artist's conception shows the probe as it passes the dwarf planet.
JHUAPL/SwRI

It has taken nearly a decade and 3 billion miles to get there, but scientists are about to get their first look at Pluto.

The New Horizons spacecraft is closing fast on the tiny world once thought to be at the edge of our solar system. On Tuesday the probe will begin an intensive nine-day scientific study of Pluto and its moons.

Read more

1:37pm

Thu July 2, 2015
The Two-Way

Russian Rocket Poised For Crucial Supply Run To Space Station

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 6:45 pm

On Friday, a Russian Soyuz rocket will send an unmanned cargo ship with more than 3 tons of food, water and fuel for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Russian Federal Space Agency

The stakes are high for a routine cargo mission to the International Space Station, after a string of failures has left the orbiting outpost running somewhat low on supplies.

Read more

1:03pm

Wed June 17, 2015
The Two-Way

NASA Satellites Show World's Thirst For Groundwater

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 6:25 pm

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, used a pair of satellites to measure water use in the world's aquifers.
NASA

New data from NASA's GRACE satellites show that many of the world's biggest aquifers are being sucked dry at a rate far greater than they are being replenished. Although scientists don't know how much water is left, they hope their findings will serve as a "red flag" for regions that may be overusing water.

Read more

3:37am

Fri June 5, 2015
The Two-Way

The Pentagon Wants These Robots To Save The Day

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 7:13 am

NASA's RoboSimian is among the robots taking part in the Defense Department competition. The Space Agency may one day use it to explore caves on other planets.
Dan Goods JPL

On Friday, 24 robots and their masters will be going head-to-head in California for a $2 million prize. The robotics challenge is sponsored by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Those fearing the Pentagon-sponsored prize could signal the dawn of Terminator-style cyborgs needn't worry. "Even though they look like us, and they may look a little bit mean, there's really nothing inside," says Gill Pratt, the program manager running this competition. "What you're really seeing is a puppet."

Read more

7:19pm

Thu June 4, 2015
Environment

Scientists Cast Doubt On An Apparent 'Hiatus' In Global Warming

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 8:31 pm

A fully loaded container ship sails along the coast. Historically, ships have taken most of the sea measurements that go into the estimate of Earth's average surface temperature.
iStockphoto

A team of government scientists has revised its estimate for how much the planet has been warming.

The new results, published in the journal Science, may dispel the idea that Earth has been in the midst of a "global warming hiatus" — a period over the past 20 years where the planet's temperature appears to have risen very little.

Read more

5:32pm

Thu May 28, 2015
Shots - Health News

CDC Investigates Live Anthrax Shipments

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 9:01 pm

A security fence surrounds the main part of the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground, a testing laboratory in the Utah desert. The Army says it mistakenly shipped live anthrax from Dugway to several labs in the U.S. and Korea.
George Frey Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still trying to figure out how the military managed to ship anthrax spores that were apparently live from one of its facilities to more than a dozen labs across the United States.

"We have a team at the [military] lab to determine what may have led to this incident," says CDC spokesman Jason McDonald. In addition, he says, the agency is working with health officials in nine states to make sure the potentially live samples are safely disposed of and the labs affected are decontaminated.

Read more

3:56am

Fri April 24, 2015
Science

After 25 Years, The Hubble Space Telescope Still Wows Humanity

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 4:26 pm

(Left) This is one of two cameras that the telescope originally carried, and it has since been replaced with a more up-to-date version. (Right) Workers study Hubble's 8-foot main mirror. After launch the mirror was found to have a problem, which astronauts corrected in 1993.
SSPL/Getty Images; Hubblesite

Mike Massimino is one of the last people to ever see the Hubble Space Telescope in person.

From inside his orbiting space shuttle, the telescope first appeared on the horizon as a star, says Massimino, who was an astronaut on the final mission to service the space telescope in 2009.

Read more

6:25pm

Sat April 18, 2015
Science

Gazing Into Those Puppy-Dog Eyes May Actually Be Good For You

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Read more

2:45pm

Thu April 16, 2015
Shots - Health News

Scientists Probe Puppy Love

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 5:28 pm

A direct, friendly gaze seems to help cement the bond of affection between people and their pooches.
Dan Perez/Flickr

It's a question that bedevils dog owners the world over: "Is she staring at me because she loves me? Or because she wants another biscuit?"

Read more

3:42am

Wed April 15, 2015
The Salt

The Space Station Gets A Coffee Bar

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 2:14 pm

ESA/NASA

In space, all they have is instant.

"For an instant coffee, it's an excellent instant coffee," says Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply for NASA. Astronauts are allotted up to three freeze-dried cups (pouches, actually) a day, and Kloeris says it's "extremely popular."

But, she adds, "Can it compete with brewed espresso? No."

Read more

4:59am

Tue March 31, 2015
National Security

After Snowden, The NSA Faces Recruitment Challenge

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 10:16 am

Daniel Swann is exactly the type of person the National Security Agency would love to have working for it. The 22-year-old is a fourth-year concurrent bachelor's-master's student at Johns Hopkins University with a bright future in cybersecurity.

And growing up in Annapolis, Md., not far from the NSA's headquarters, Swann thought he might work at the agency, which intercepts phone calls, emails and other so-called "signals intelligence" from U.S. adversaries.

Read more

7:39am

Sat March 28, 2015
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 4:38 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.

Read more

4:24am

Thu March 12, 2015
The Two-Way

Researchers Think There's A Warm Ocean On Enceladus

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 8:07 pm

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

7:06am

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

5:42pm

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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:

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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

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

Transcript

Read more

Pages