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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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5:45am

Tue December 2, 2014
The Two-Way

NASA Prepares To Test New Spacecraft (That You've Likely Never Heard Of)

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 3:43 pm

The Orion capsule is poised to make its first test flight Thursday. If all goes as planned, the unmanned vehicle will orbit Earth twice before splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Kim Shiflett NASA

NASA is about to launch a new spaceship into orbit, and Mallory Loe has never heard of it.

"I mean, technically, NASA doesn't have another spaceship, do they?" she asks incredulously during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

She's hardly the only one who doesn't know about this new spacecraft. In fact, none of a half-dozen tourists NPR interviewed in the museum's lobby was aware of the Orion spaceship.

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5:11am

Thu November 27, 2014
Space

Astronauts Will Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner In Space

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 12:12 pm

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now this - Thanksgiving in space. This year, two American astronauts will be celebrating the holiday aboard the International Space Station. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, Thanksgiving in orbit has its pros and cons.

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2:46pm

Mon November 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Comet Lander's Big Bounce Caught On Camera

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 7:41 pm

The Rosetta spacecraft, which orbits the comet, captured this series of images of the Philae lander bounding off the surface. The precise spot the lander came to a stop remains unknown.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Updated at 3:45PM ET

It was the first ever landing on a comet, and it was perfect.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the journey for the European Space Agency's unmanned Philae lander. After touching down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the lander bounced off the surface and flew a kilometer back up into space.

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4:28pm

Fri November 14, 2014
National Security

Pentagon Plans To Spend Billions Upgrading Nuclear Program

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 6:34 pm

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

4:42pm

Wed November 12, 2014
Space

Successful Comet Landing A Major Step For Space Exploration

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 5:04 pm

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

3:26pm

Tue November 11, 2014
The Two-Way

Comet's Rugged Landscape Makes Landing A Roll Of The Dice

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 4:48 pm

Newly released images taken from just 6 miles above the comet show high plateaus sticking up from its boulder-strewn surface.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

The European Space Agency is about to try to put a probe where none has gone before: on the surface of a comet.

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3:30am

Tue November 11, 2014
The Two-Way

Researchers To Attempt Robotic Landing On Comet's Surface

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 10:12 am

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is about to send a lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
ESA/Rosetta/NavCam

Humans have never landed anything on a comet's surface. That may change tomorrow.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is poised to send out a small probe to land on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta spent 10 years chasing the comet before arriving in August.

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1:48pm

Fri November 7, 2014
The Two-Way

Even After SpaceShipTwo Crash, Many Space Tourists Hold On To Tickets

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 2:56 pm

The unique folding tail section of the Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo may have been a factor in the crash.
Virgin Galactic

The dream of hundreds of space tourists was dealt a blow last Friday when Virgin Galactic's experimental SpaceShipTwo broke up over California's Mojave Desert. The pilot was injured and the co-pilot died in the accident.

But many are still holding on to their tickets.

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3:34pm

Thu November 6, 2014
Shots - Health News

How Boy Bits First Came To Be

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 12:13 pm

A python embryo turns its leg cells into a pair of penises. Researchers now believe that signals from the embryonic gut trigger the development of the penis in many different species.
Patrick Tschopp/Harvard Medical School/Department of Genetics

Evolution has shaped every part of the body, and that includes our private parts. New research published this week sheds light on how the penis evolved and how it forms in different animals.

The research might also one day help illuminate a medical mystery: Birth defects of the penis have risen sharply in recent decades, and nobody is sure why.

Penises weren't necessary when our early ancestors lived in the ocean. A female could lay eggs, and a male could just swim by and excrete some sperm. It would all mix and fertilize in the water.

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10:53am

Mon November 3, 2014
Science

New Clock May End Time As We Know It

Originally published on Tue November 4, 2014 2:51 pm

Strontium atoms floating in the center of this photo are the heart of the world's most precise clock. The clock is so exact that it can detect tiny shifts in the flow of time itself.
Courtesy of the Ye group and Brad Baxley/JILA

"My own personal opinion is that time is a human construct," says Tom O'Brian. O'Brian has thought a lot about this over the years. He is America's official timekeeper at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

To him, days, hours, minutes and seconds are a way for humanity to "put some order in this very fascinating and complex universe around us."

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3:09pm

Fri October 31, 2014
The Two-Way

1 Dead After Commercial Spaceship Crashes During Test Flight

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 5:28 pm

The commercial space ship, pictured here in an earlier test flight, crashed in the California desert.
Mark Greenberg Virgin Galactic

In what could be a major setback for commercial space tourism, a manned spaceship has crashed in California's Mojave Desert.

The Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two was on a test flight this morning, with two pilots aboard. Minutes after its rocket fired, the company announced on Twitter that spacecraft experienced an "anomaly."

Capt. Tom Ellison of Kern County Fire Department said that Spaceship Two had a malfunction shortly after it separated from White Knight Two, the rocket that gives Spaceship Two a lift up to 45,000 feet.

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4:27pm

Mon October 27, 2014
Shots - Health News

Ancient Viruses Lurk In Frozen Caribou Poo

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 8:58 am

Caribous doing their business in mountain ice have left a viral record hundreds of years old.
Courtesy of Brian Moorman

A careful examination of frozen caribou poop has turned up two never-before-seen viruses.

The viruses are hundreds of years old: One of them probably infected plants the caribous ate. The other may have infected insects that buzzed around the animals.

The findings prove viruses can survive for surprisingly long periods of time in a cold environment, according to Eric Delwart, a researcher at Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco.

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5:03am

Fri October 24, 2014
The Two-Way

European Scientists Conclude That Distant Comet Smells Terrible

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 12:35 pm

The Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko smells of rotten eggs, drunk people and horses.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we've all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

"It stinks," says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

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2:49pm

Wed October 22, 2014
Shots - Health News

A 45,000-Year-Old Leg Bone Reveals The Oldest Human Genome Yet

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 12:32 pm

Researcher Svante Pääbo, was able to extract a complete genome from this ancient human leg bone.
Bence Viola Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Researchers have successfully decoded the genes of a 45,000-year-old man from Siberia. The results offer clues about early human life outside of Africa as well as how humans interacted with Neanderthals and other groups around at the time.

The complete set of genes is the oldest genome of its kind, according to Svante Pääbo, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "It's almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced."

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4:59pm

Tue October 7, 2014
All Tech Considered

LED Lights Shine In Nobel Prize; Now How About Your Home?

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 5:43 pm

iStockphoto

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three Japanese-born researchers for their work on the blue light-emitting diode, or LED.

And there's never been a better time to put their Nobel-prize winning discovery right in your own home. LED light bulbs, which use blue LEDs, are coming of age, and the price is dropping fast. You can pick them up for less than $10 each.

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5:18pm

Fri October 3, 2014
Shots - Health News

A Simple Question Can Stop Ebola: How Do You Feel?

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 10:08 am

A Red Cross worker delivers bedding to a unit at The Ivy Apartments in Dallas, where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus had been staying.
Mike Stone Reuters/Landov

Dr. David Kuhar landed in Dallas on Tuesday night.

Kuhar is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's top expert on Ebola, and the agency dispatched him as soon as they received confirmation that a man had carried the disease from Liberia.

Today, his 10-person team is on the front lines of an effort to keep that single case from turning into an outbreak.

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5:22pm

Thu October 2, 2014
Health

Health Officials Watch Those Who Had Contact With Dallas Ebola Patient

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 6:15 pm

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

8:02am

Sat September 27, 2014
Science

India Zooms To Mars Much More Cheaply, But With Trade-Offs

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 9:17 am

A member of the Indian security force keeps watch over a launch vehicle carrying the Mars Orbiter probe at the Indian Space Research Organization facility, in Sriharikota, in 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

Earlier this week, two spacecraft arrived at the planet Mars. One came from India, the other from the U.S. Both are now in orbit and collecting data. But the Indian probe is conducting its mission at a tiny fraction of the cost of its NASA counterpart.

"Some of the publicly available numbers are in the $74 million to $75 million range," says Amaresh Kollipara, a managing partner of Earth 2 Orbit, a company that pairs private satellite providers with the Indian space agency.

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1:39pm

Mon September 22, 2014
The Two-Way

Massive Volcanic Eruption Is Making Iceland Grow

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 1:29 pm

A plane flies over the Bardarbunga volcano as it spews lava and smoke in southeast Iceland on Sept. 14. The Bardarbunga volcano system has been rocked by hundreds of tremors a day since mid-August, prompting fears the volcano could explode.
Bernard Meric AFP/Getty Images

The tiny, island nation of Iceland is in the middle of a growth spurt. For the past month, the country's Bardarbunga volcano has been churning out lava at a prodigious rate. And the eruption shows no signs of abating.

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4:20am

Fri September 19, 2014
The Two-Way

How NASA's New Spaceships Stack Up

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 10:24 pm

The new capsules are being built by Boeing and SpaceX. They look similar, but there are differences.
SpaceX, The Boeing Company

Earlier this week NASA announced that two private companies will build spaceships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA hopes that both models will eventually be used by space tourists to get into orbit. Which got us wondering, which one would we rather fly in?

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4:19pm

Tue September 16, 2014
Global Health

Ebola Outbreak Presents Special Challenges For U.S. Military

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 5:33 pm

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

7:03am

Sat September 13, 2014
Goats and Soda

What The U.S. Has Given To Fight Ebola, From Thermometers To Soap

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 1:33 pm

The U.S. is providing supplies to combat Ebola. But people are needed as well.
John Moore Getty Images

Over the past month, the U.S. has begun to ramp up aid to Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. U.S. contributions could soon top $250 million dollars, according to the White House National Security Council.

You might wonder what kind of aid is being provided. So did we. Here's a sampling, drawn from information provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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4:35pm

Thu September 11, 2014
Goats and Soda

Can The U.S. Military Turn The Tide In The Ebola Outbreak?

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 9:00 am

US soldiers have intervened in during natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But a disease outbreak is more complicated.
SSgt. Chad Chisholm U.S. Dept. of Defense

As the body count in Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak continues to rise, some say the time has come for the U.S. military to step in.

"The U.S. Military is uniquely poised to help with this disease," says Timothy Flanigan, an infectious disease researcher at Brown University who's volunteering in Liberia, the country hardest hit by Ebola. "We've trained for it, we've got the logistics, we've got the support and we have the matériel."

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7:31pm

Tue September 2, 2014
The Two-Way

Russian Space Experiment On Gecko Sex Goes Awry

A Russian capsule that housed a gecko space-sex experiment. The geckos all died.
ROSCOSMOS

Space is a dangerous place. That message resonated again on Monday, when the Russian Federal Space Agency — Roscosmos — announced that a team of experimental geckos tasked with copulating while in orbit did not survive their journey.

"All geckos, unfortunately, died," the space agency said in a terse statement.

Roscosmos is launching an investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the geckos' deaths, but the mission seemed star-crossed from the start.

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12:12pm

Fri August 22, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Searching For Alien Air Pollution

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 3:18 pm

In this artist's conception, the atmosphere of an Earthlike planet displays a brownish haze — the result of widespread pollution.
Christine Pulliam Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Air pollution is clogging the skies of our planet. Now one scientist thinks Earth may be just one of many polluted worlds — and that searching for extraterrestrial smog may actually be a good way to search for alien intelligence.

"People refer to 'little green men,' but ETs that are detected by this method should not be labeled as green," says Avi Loeb, an astronomer at Harvard University.

The idea of finding alien polluters may be a bit of a long shot, but Loeb says it's possible.

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4:19pm

Tue August 19, 2014
Middle East

A Milestone Marked In Disposal Of Syria's Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 7:38 pm

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

2:19pm

Thu August 14, 2014
The Two-Way

Do Not Fear This Giant Robot Swarm

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 7:46 am

These 1024 "kilobots" can shuffle into any shape their creator desires. Each robot is a little bigger than a quarter, standing on three little metal legs that vibrate to make it move.
Courtesy of Michael Rubenstein

Harvard roboticist Mike Rubenstein thought he was being clever when he came up with the name for the 1,024 little robots he built. He's into computers, so he thought of kilobytes and named them kilobots.

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