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.

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The End Of The Space Shuttle Era
1:42 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Shuttle Endeavour Begins Long Voyage To New Home

Workers remove a tree from a median in the middle of Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood, Calif., on Sept. 4 to make room for Endeavour.
Reed Saxon AP

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 4:11 am

Space shuttle Endeavour begins a kind of farewell tour this week. The shuttle will set off on a cross-country trip to its retirement home, flying from Florida to Los Angeles on the back of a modified jumbo jet.

Along the way, the spaceship will stop off in Houston, home of NASA's Mission Control and, weather permitting, fly over NASA centers and various landmarks in cities that include San Francisco and Sacramento.

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Space
2:15 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

After 35 Years, Voyager Nears Edge Of Solar System

In addition to surveying the planets, the Voyager mission also spent time studying the planets' satellites, or moons. This mosaic image, taken in 1989, shows Neptune's largest satellite, Triton. Triton has the coldest surface temperature known anywhere in the solar system.
NASA/JPL

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 2:33 pm

The Voyager 1 spacecraft's 35th anniversary is proving to be unexpectedly exciting, as scientists gathered this week to examine new hints that the spacecraft is on the verge of leaving our solar system.

Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. It blasted off in September 1977, on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. But it also carried a Golden Record filled with music and the sounds of our planet, in case it encountered intelligent life as it moved out toward the stars.

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The Salt
1:19 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Subtracting Calories May Not Add Years To Life

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

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 8:34 am

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.

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Science
1:50 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Web Cartoonist Raises $1 Million For Tesla Museum

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

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 11:12 am

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.

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Animals
12:57 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Swarming Up A Storm: Why Animals School And Flock

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

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 9:06 am

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."

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Environment
9:46 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Feds Conclude Probe Of Polar Bear Scientists

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

Originally published on Mon August 13, 2012 10:46 am

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:11 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

NIH Official Calls For Extension Of Moratorium On Bird Flu Experiments

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:49 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

What Does The Future Hold For Bird Flu Research?

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

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 2:43 pm

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:28 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Bird Flu Researchers To Meet About Research Moratorium

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

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 8:30 am

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.

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Space
1:28 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Fledgling NASA Nonprofit Starts To Liftoff

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 8:24 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.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:08 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Journal Publishes Details On Contagious Bird Flu Created In Lab

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

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 10:40 am

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.

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Dead Stop
10:12 pm
Wed June 6, 2012

How Dorothy Parker Came To Rest In Baltimore

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

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 6:17 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
7:35 am
Thu May 24, 2012

SpaceX Ship Passes Close By International Space Station

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 8:42 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.

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The Two-Way
5:10 am
Tue May 22, 2012

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

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

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 8:09 am

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Space
1:13 am
Fri May 18, 2012

NASA, SpaceX Aim To Launch Private Era In Orbit

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

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 2:49 pm

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.

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Space
3:14 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Tech Entrepreneurs Bet Big On Asteroid Mining

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 3:37 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.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:25 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:42 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Dutch Government Set To Reconsider Restrictions On Bird Flu Study

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

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 8:08 am

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.

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Research News
1:36 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Death Penalty Research Flawed, Expert Panel Says

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 6:17 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.

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The End Of The Space Shuttle Era
3:02 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Shuttle Discovery To Make Final Flight, Atop A 747

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

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 4:12 pm

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:40 am
Tue April 10, 2012

Bird Flu Studies Mired In Export Control Law Limbo

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

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 5:50 am

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.

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Environment
12:54 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:50 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

FDA To Fund Controversial Research Foundation

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

Originally published on Tue April 3, 2012 9:05 pm

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:49 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

Scientific Journals Plan To Publish Contentious Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Fri March 30, 2012 4:12 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.

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Science
1:50 am
Fri March 30, 2012

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:01 pm
Sun March 25, 2012

Bird Flu Studies Getting Another Round Of Scrutiny By Panel

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

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 6:50 am

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.

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Animals
3:08 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Just How Big Are The Eyes Of A Giant Squid?

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

Originally published on Thu March 15, 2012 7:32 pm

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:05 am
Wed March 7, 2012

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:44 am
Wed February 29, 2012

Expert Panel To Give Controversial Bird Flu Research A Second Look

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

Originally published on Wed February 29, 2012 6:34 pm

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.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:25 pm
Fri February 17, 2012

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.

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