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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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 Tue September 23, 2014 8:50 am

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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4:17pm

Wed August 13, 2014
News

After 78 Years, A First: Math Prize Celebrates Work Of A Woman

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 9:14 pm

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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4:45pm

Tue August 5, 2014
The Two-Way

In Quest To Harpoon A Comet, A Spacecraft Stalks Its Prey

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 9:47 am

The Rosetta spacecraft took this image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 August 2014 from a distance of just 145 miles.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Tomorrow morning, a European space probe will arrive at a comet with a tongue-twister of a name: Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Getting there has been proven even trickier than pronouncing it.

The Rosetta spacecraft began its journey way back in March of 2004.

First it swung past Earth to gather speed. Then it catapulted out to Mars, for a boost from that planet's gravity field. Then in 2007, it came back to Earth for another push — then back out to an asteroid, and back to Earth.

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6:36pm

Mon August 4, 2014
The Two-Way

After A Decade, Comet-Chasing Spacecraft Nearly There

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 1:43 am

The Rosetta Spacecraft is within 186 miles of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, less than the distance from New York to Boston.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

It's been a long journey, but it's nearly over. On Wednesday, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft will finally arrive at the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Humans have sent spacecraft hurtling past comets before, but Rosetta is doing something very different. It's sidling up next to 67P to join the big, dirty ice ball on its journey past the sun.

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10:01am

Thu July 31, 2014
The Salt

How To Order Pizza From A Nuclear Command Bunker

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 12:34 pm

Getting a pizza delivered to a remote nuclear missle base is tricky. Unfortunately, the Air Force won't let you use its helicopters.
Dan Gage/USAF

I spent months working with the U.S. Air Force to get access to a remote underground nuclear bunker in Nebraska for our radio series on America's missile forces. There was only one question left to answer before I left.

What did I want for lunch?

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3:32pm

Tue July 29, 2014
National Security

Welcome To The Nuclear Command Bunker

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 12:35 pm

Lt. Raj Bansal and Capt. Joseph Shannon (right) approach Foxtrot-01, a remote nuclear missile base in Nebraska.
Geoffrey Brumfiel NPR

The stretch of Interstate 80 between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Lincoln, Neb., is straight and flat. High plains stretch out on either side.

But scattered along this unremarkable road, the Air Force keeps some of its most powerful weapons — Minuteman III nuclear missiles.

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1:19pm

Mon July 28, 2014
National Security

To Stop Cheating, Nuclear Officers Ditch The Grades

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 9:54 am

First Lt. Patrick Romanofski (center) and 2nd Lt. Andrew Beckner (left) practice the launch of nuclear weapons. Promotions are now more strongly influenced by hands-on performance in this simulator.
R.J. Oriez U.S. Air Force

The young officers at F.E. Warren Air Force Base have an enormous job: to keep 150 nuclear-tipped missiles ready to launch at a moment's notice.

Understandably, they're expected to know exactly what they're doing.

Three times a month, they're tested on the weapons and the codes used to launch them. Anything less than 90 percent is a fail.

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4:27pm

Thu July 17, 2014
News

What Brought Down The Malaysian Airliner?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 8:40 pm

Shortly after news broke that a Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in eastern Ukraine, suspicions began to swirl that the plane had been shot down. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel speaks with Audie Cornish about the feasibility that a missile brought down the airliner.

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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3:34am

Thu July 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Physicists Crush Diamonds With Giant Laser

Originally published on Sun August 3, 2014 8:20 am

Physicists put diamonds at the center of this massive laser, to see what would happen.
Matt Swisher Matt Swisher/LLNL

Physicists have used the world's most powerful laser to zap diamonds. The results, they say, could tell us more about the cores of giant planets.

"Diamonds have very special properties, besides being very expensive and used for jewelrey etc.," says Raymond Smith, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "It's the hardest substance known to man."

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4:40pm

Tue July 8, 2014
Science

In A Lab Store Room, An Unsettling Surprise: Lost Vials Of Smallpox

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 6:13 pm

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery last week as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities. The vials have since been transferred to a secure lab at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

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5:21am

Tue July 1, 2014
Space

Carbon Observatory To Monitor Greenhouse Gas From Space

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 6:32 am

NASA is preparing to launch a new satellite to observe carbon dioxide from space. The satellite could revolutionize our understanding of where this greenhouse gas comes from and where it goes.

4:35pm

Mon June 30, 2014
The Two-Way

Carbon-Sensing Satellite Prepares For Second Launch

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 2:27 pm

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 will monitor carbon dioxide emissions.
jhoward NASA/JPL

NASA is preparing to launch a satellite capable of monitoring carbon dioxide emissions from space. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will be the first U.S. spacecraft dedicated to seeing the greenhouse gas from orbit, and could pave the way for new technology to enforce future global warming treaties.

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4:07pm

Mon June 23, 2014
Middle East

World's Chemical Weapons Watchdog Clears Syria

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 8:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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5:35pm

Fri June 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Dust Clouds Big Bang Signal

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 8:25 pm

The BICEP2 telescope in Antarctica was looking for ripples from the Big Bang.
Robert Schwarz, University of Minnesota

In March, a team of physicists announced it had found a signal from the very first moments after the Big Bang. But in a paper published Thursday, the researchers expressed considerably more caution and conceded that they could have actually been detecting little more than interstellar dust.

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3:38am

Fri June 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Keep A Careful Eye On The World Cup Ball

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 8:45 am

A close up of the Brazuca ball in NASA's Ames Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. Smoke highlighted by lasers visualizes air flow around the ball.
NASA's Ames Research Center

While many millions are enjoying the drama of the World Cup, a handful of scientists are keeping their eyes very closely on the ball.

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