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.

Last week, craving sweets, Colin Purrington remembered the Twinkies.

He'd purchased them back in 2012 for sentimental reasons when he heard that Hostess Brands was going bankrupt and Twinkies might disappear forever.

"When there's no desserts in the house, you get desperate," says Purrington, who went down to the basement and retrieved the old box of snack cakes, fully intending to enjoy several.

Mike Brown has been using the Hubble Space Telescope pretty consistently for most of the past three decades since it launched in 1990. But recently he had an experience with Hubble that he never had before.

With the annual flu season about to start, it's still unclear exactly how influenza virus will interact with the coronavirus if a person has both viruses.

Water on Earth is omnipresent and essential for life as we know it, and yet scientists remain a bit baffled about where all of this water came from: Was it present when the planet formed, or did the planet form dry and only later get its water from impacts with water-rich objects such as comets?

The first genetically altered squid has scientists excited about a potential new way to study marine critters that are so weird, they've sometimes been compared to alien life forms.

In 2018, paleontologist Julia Clarke was visiting a colleague named David Rubilar-Rogers at Chile's National Museum of Natural History. He showed her a mysterious fossil that he'd collected years earlier in Antarctica. He and his co-workers called it "The Thing."

"It was weird enough that they decided to collect it, even though it wasn't clear what it was. It definitely wasn't bone, but it was strikingly unusual," recalls Clarke, who works at the University of Texas at Austin.

Sea otter populations are rebounding in the eastern North Pacific. There, they devour huge quantities of shellfish and other marine critters that people like to eat, too. But any commercial losses to fisheries are far outweighed by economic benefits associated with the otters, according to a new study.

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The Trump administration has issued new guidelines in a small first step towards reopening the country. These guidelines should make it easier for essential workers to stay on the job. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce is here. Hi, Nell.

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Scientists who use math and computers to simulate the course of epidemics are taking on the new coronavirus to try to predict how this global outbreak might evolve and how best to tackle it.

But some say more could be done to take advantage of these modeling tools and the researchers' findings.

Scientists can get very excited about what they study, and that means they can be pretty jazzed when what they study gets turned into one of the official emojis of the world and enters our shared visual language.

But sometimes that enthusiasm is tempered by more complex feelings, which is the case with some of the latest emojis that are about to hit our smartphones.

Consider the "rock" emoji.

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Shepherds in Christmas Nativity scenes that were painted, carved or sculpted hundreds of years ago sometimes have throats with large, abnormal growths.

These are realistic depictions of goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by iodine deficiency. The condition was common in those days in northern Italy, where the soil and water are depleted of iodine.

Patrick Boyle recalls that by the time he got his Ph.D. in biology in 2012, he had worked with just a few other people and managed to manufacture six genes, the basic units of heredity.

"Today, we are synthesizing more than 10,000 genes every month," he says, showing off a lab at a Boston biotech company called Ginkgo Bioworks.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will aggressively reduce the use of animals in toxicity testing, with a goal of eliminating all routine safety tests on mammals by 2035.

Chemicals such as pesticides typically get tested for safety on animals like mice and rats. Researchers have long been trying to instead increase the use of alternative safety tests that rely on lab-grown cells or computer modeling. The EPA's administer, Andrew Wheeler, has now set some specific deadlines to try to speed up that transition.

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Ocean-dwelling sharks often like to hang out in areas that also get frequented by industrial fishing ships, which puts them at grave risk of being caught either for food or as bycatch.

That's according to a new study in the journal Nature that mapped the activity of 23 shark species and fishing vessels around the globe.

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On April 1, scientists will officially restart their search for gravitational waves after a year spent making improvements to massive twin detectors. Discoveries should soon start rolling in, and when they do, there's a good chance the news will be translated into a Native American language called Blackfoot, or Siksika.

Salt has existed for millions of years. The Salt Institute has existed for just over a century. And now it has dissolved.

Tiny bits of blue pigment found in the teeth of a medieval skeleton reveal that more than 850 years ago, this seemingly ordinary woman was very likely involved in the production of lavishly illustrated sacred texts.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET, Friday

The vote to redefine the kilogram was, as expected, unanimous, with representatives from more than 50 countries saying "yes" or "oui" at the historic meeting in Versailles, France.

Bill Phillips, a Nobel laureate from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland, told the assembled delegates that basing the kilogram's official definition on a hunk of metal held in a vault was "a situation that is clearly intolerable."

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It is Nobel Prize week. So far, Nobels have been handed out for physics and medicine, and today is chemistry. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners in Stockholm.

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Insects and birds might have an innate drive to migrate at certain times and in certain directions, but a new study suggests that large mammals such as moose and bighorn sheep have to learn to do it.

In fact, it takes decades for cultural knowledge about migration to build up before populations can effectively move across the land to find the best food, according to a report in the journal Science.

The asteroid impact that ended the age of the dinosaurs also released so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that the planet warmed up by about 5 degrees Celsius — and the hot spell persisted for roughly 100,000 years.

That's according to a new study in the journal Science that offers a cautionary tale about how Earth's climate will react to the carbon dioxide that's being pumped into the atmosphere now by the burning of fossil fuels.

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In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology.

The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon.

The end of the year is a time of holiday gift giving, and finding just the right gift can sometimes feel like an impossible task. But folks at an animal eyeball lab say that a gift they've just received, partly thanks to NPR, has made this the "best Christmas ever."

It's a massive whale eye, probably from a blue whale, and the story of how it ended up at the lab starts in the 1960s.

Narwhals — the unicorns of the sea — show a weird fear response after being entangled in nets. Scientists say this unusual reaction to human-induced stress might restrict blood flow to the brain and leave the whales addled.

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