NPR: 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.

Pages

3:19am

Thu August 30, 2012
The Salt

Subtracting Calories May Not Add Years To Life

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:34 am

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

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.

Read more

3:50am

Fri August 24, 2012
Science

Web Cartoonist Raises $1 Million For Tesla Museum

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 1:12 pm

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

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.

Read more

2:57am

Fri August 17, 2012
Animals

Swarming Up A Storm: Why Animals School And Flock

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 11:06 am

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

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."

Read more

11:46am

Mon August 13, 2012
Environment

Feds Conclude Probe Of Polar Bear Scientists

Originally published on Mon August 13, 2012 12:46 pm

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

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.

Read more

3:22pm

Tue July 31, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

NIH Official Calls For Extension Of Moratorium On Bird Flu Experiments

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 5:11 pm

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.

Read more

3:49pm

Mon July 30, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

What Does The Future Hold For Bird Flu Research?

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 4:43 pm

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

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.

Read more

5:28am

Tue July 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Bird Flu Researchers To Meet About Research Moratorium

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 10:30 am

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

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.

Read more

3:28am

Tue July 3, 2012
Space

Fledgling NASA Nonprofit Starts To Liftoff

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 10:24 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.

Read more

3:34pm

Thu June 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Journal Publishes Details On Contagious Bird Flu Created In Lab

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 12:40 pm

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

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.

Read more

12:12am

Thu June 7, 2012
Dead Stop

How Dorothy Parker Came To Rest In Baltimore

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 8:17 pm

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

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.

Read more

9:35am

Thu May 24, 2012
The Two-Way

SpaceX Ship Passes Close By International Space Station

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 10:42 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.

Read more

7:19am

Tue May 22, 2012
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 10:09 am

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

3:13am

Fri May 18, 2012
Space

NASA, SpaceX Aim To Launch Private Era In Orbit

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 4:49 pm

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

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.

Read more

5:14pm

Tue April 24, 2012
Space

Tech Entrepreneurs Bet Big On Asteroid Mining

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 5:37 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.

Read more

2:25pm

Tue April 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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.

Read more

2:42pm

Fri April 20, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Dutch Government Set To Reconsider Restrictions On Bird Flu Study

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 10:08 am

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

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.

Read more

3:36am

Thu April 19, 2012
Research News

Death Penalty Research Flawed, Expert Panel Says

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 8:17 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.

Read more

5:02pm

Mon April 16, 2012
The End Of The Space Shuttle Era

Shuttle Discovery To Make Final Flight, Atop A 747

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 6:12 pm

The space shuttle Discovery is loaded onto the back of a modified 747 at Kennedy Space Center on April 15. The plane will ferry the shuttle to Washington, D.C., on April 17, where it will be permanently installed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Kim Shiflett NASA

On Tuesday morning, space shuttle Discovery will become the first of NASA's three shuttles — plus a shuttle prototype — to travel to its new retirement home.

NASA flew its last shuttle flight in July. Since then, it's been prepping the spaceships to become museum displays. And even though the shuttles are headed to places like Los Angeles and New York rather than the space station, figuring out how to get them there has still been a major undertaking.

Read more

3:40am

Tue April 10, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Bird Flu Studies Mired In Export Control Law Limbo

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 7:50 am

An electron microscope view of the bird flu virus.
PR Newswire

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

Read more

2:54pm

Thu April 5, 2012
Environment

Feds Interview New Witnesses In Polar Bear Probe

Two polar bears spar on the shoreline of the Hudson Bay in November 2007.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Federal agents interviewed new witnesses this week in an ongoing investigation of government scientists that's been called "polar bear-gate," according to the scientists' lawyer.

The controversial probe, now entering its third year, is looking into allegations of scientific misconduct related to a 2006 report by wildlife researchers Charles Monnett and Jeffrey Gleason, who described seeing dead polar bears floating in Arctic waters.

Read more

3:50pm

Tue April 3, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

FDA To Fund Controversial Research Foundation

Originally published on Tue April 3, 2012 11:05 pm

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says there is a desperate need to have the Reagan-Udall Foundation up and running.
Win McNamee Getty Images

A nonprofit foundation set up to support scientific research of interest to the Food and Drug Administration is finally starting to take off after years of struggling financially — and it's about to get some long-promised funding from the FDA.

But some critics worry that this foundation, which will also raise money from private sources including industry, could provide a way for the food and medical industries to sway FDA decisions.

Read more

5:49pm

Fri March 30, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Scientific Journals Plan To Publish Contentious Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 6:12 pm

A government advisory committee has reconsidered its advice to keep certain details of bird flu experiments secret.

Revised versions of manuscripts that describe two recent studies can be openly published, the committee now says. The decision could help end a contentious debate that has raged within the scientific community for months.

In response, the editors of two journals immediately said they planned to publish the research soon.

Read more

3:50am

Fri March 30, 2012
Science

Policy On High-Risk Biological Research Tightened

The Obama administration has announced a new policy to handle the risks posed by legitimate biological research that could, in the wrong hands, threaten the public.

The move comes in response to a huge debate over recent experiments on bird flu virus that got funding from the National Institutes of Health. Critics say the work created mutant viruses that could potentially be dangerous for people, or give terrorists a road map for making a bioweapon.

Read more

12:01am

Mon March 26, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Bird Flu Studies Getting Another Round Of Scrutiny By Panel

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 8:50 am

Health Department officials cull birds and put them in sacks after bird flu virus was detected in Bhubaneswar, India.
Biswaranjan Rout AP

In June of 2009, a committee met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to do a routine safety review of proposed research projects.

One of those projects involved genetically modifying flu viruses. And during the review, the committee brought up the idea of "dual-use" research. "Dual use" means legitimate scientific work that's intended to advance science or medicine, but that also might be misused with the intent to do harm.

Read more

5:08pm

Thu March 15, 2012
Animals

Just How Big Are The Eyes Of A Giant Squid?

Originally published on Thu March 15, 2012 9:32 pm

This giant squid was caught about 10 miles off the shores of Oahu, Hawaii, in 1981. The pupil of its eye measured more than 3.5 inches across.
Current Biology

Giant and colossal squids can be more than 40 feet long, if you measure all the way out to the tip of their two long feeding tentacles. But it's their eyes that are truly huge — the size of basketballs.

Now, scientists say these squids may have the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom because they need to detect a major predator, the sperm whale, as it moves toward them through the underwater darkness.

Read more

11:05am

Wed March 7, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

FDA Scientists Feel A Little Better About Where They Work

A survey of scientists at the Food and Drug Administration finds they're feeling more optimistic about the integrity of decisions made at headquarters (seen here) and elsewhere in the agency.
FDA

Scientists who work for the Food and Drug Administration are feeling more optimistic about the future of their agency than they did back in 2006, according to a survey just out from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But they still report concerns about outside pressures on the FDA's decisions and policies.

Read more

12:44pm

Wed February 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Expert Panel To Give Controversial Bird Flu Research A Second Look

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 8:34 pm

An health official wearing protective gear culls a bird at a poultry farm after a naturally occurring bird flu virus was detected near Agartala, India, in January.
Sushanta Das AP

Two controversial studies on bird flu will once again be reviewed by an expert committee that advises the government on what to do with biological research that could pose potential dangers.

The move is just the latest development in a fierce ongoing debate about genetically altered flu viruses created in laboratories at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read more

3:25pm

Fri February 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

WHO Panel Supports Publication Of Bird Flu Details, Eventually

The full details of two controversial experiments on bird flu should be published openly, says a panel convened by the World Health Organization.

But information about the studies should remain secret a while longer so that there's time to address public concerns, the group recommends. The experiments should stay on hold, too.

Read more

3:05am

Fri February 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Questions About Bird Flu Research Swirl Around Private WHO Meeting

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 10:37 am

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

A closed-door meeting to discuss controversial bird flu research is drawing to a close at the World Health Organization in Geneva, and the WHO plans to publicly report on what happened once it's officially over.

Read more

11:49am

Thu February 16, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

The 'WHO's Who' Of Virologists Meet To Talk Bird Flu In Geneva

Virologists and other scientists are meeting at the World Health Organization's Geneva headquarters to talk about the bird flu.
Pierre Virot WHO

A closed-door summit on controversial bird flu research starts today, and the newly released guest list reveals that the event will be dominated by virologists.

Read more

Pages