Joe Palca

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors.

Palca began his journalism career in television in 1982, working as a health producer for the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. In 1986, he left television for a seven-year stint as a print journalist, first as the Washington news editor for Nature, and then as a senior correspondent forScience Magazine.

In October 2009, Palca took a six-month leave from NPR to become science writer in residence at the Huntington Library and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Palca has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Chemical Society James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize, and the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing.

With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (Wiley, 2011).

He comes to journalism from a science background, having received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz where he worked on human sleep physiology.

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3:37am

Tue May 6, 2014
Shots - Health News

Chemist Turns Software Developer After Son's Cancer Diagnosis

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 1:34 pm

Noah Shaw, now 5, shows off his Texas roots at a recent birthday party.
Courtesy of Bryan Shaw

A scientist's ambitious plan to create an early detection system for eye cancer using people's home cameras is coming along.

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6:56am

Mon May 5, 2014
Science

Eyewire: A Computer Game to Map the Eye

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 2:22 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's get an update, now, about something we heard a year ago in the series Joe's Big Idea. It's a computer game designed by a scientist to help map all the connections of nerve cells in the eye. Now, that scientist says the game is working, as we learn from NPR's Joe Palca.

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5:11am

Thu May 1, 2014
Business

50 Years Of BASIC

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 5:00 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's Joe Palca is in our studios and he's brought along a piece of paper. Joe, what's it say?

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: It says, let X equal seven plus eight divided by three.

INSKEEP: It sounds like kind of a mathematical equation there.

PALCA: It's actually a line of computer code and it was part of the first very short program ever run in a language called BASIC.

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4:02pm

Thu March 6, 2014
Science

The Scientist Who Makes Stars On Earth

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 9:34 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

On the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, scientists are doing something astonishing. They're creating a white dwarf star - not a whole star but enough of one to study in minute detail. As part of his series, "Joe's Big Idea," NPR's Joe Palca introduces us to the astronomer behind this exotic project and explains why he's determined to learn all he can about this interesting stellar object.

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4:35pm

Wed March 5, 2014
Shots - Health News

To Clean Drinking Water, All You Need Is A Stick

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 3:25 pm

Current water-filtering technology is costly, but MIT scientists are testing a simpler and cheaper method that uses wood from white pine trees.
Wikimedia Commons

Removing all the dangerous bacteria from drinking water would have enormous health benefits for people around the world.

The technologies exist for doing that, but there's a problem: cost.

Now a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology thinks he's on to a much less expensive way to clean up water.

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6:32pm

Fri February 14, 2014
Joe's Big Idea

NASA's On Alert For Big Scary Asteroids. What About Smaller Ones?

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 7:58 pm

2:33pm

Mon February 3, 2014
Shots - Health News

Inexpensive Aquarium Bubbler Saves Preemies' Lives

A nurse attaches the low-cost breathing machine (far left) to an infant at The Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.
Jocelyn Brown Rice University

There's only one thing better than having a good idea, and that's having a good idea that really works.

Earlier this year, I reported on some students at Rice University who had designed a low-cost medical device to help premature infants breathe.

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5:04am

Fri January 31, 2014
Research News

Scientists Come Close To Finding True Magnetic Monopole

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 10:55 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Scientists may have filled in a gap in one the fundamental theories of physics. We've always been told that magnets have two poles, north and south. But theory suggests there should be something called a magnetic monopole, a magnet that has either a north pole or a south pole but not both of them. So far no one has found this elusive magnetic monopole.

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6:26pm

Tue January 21, 2014
Science

After Hibernation, Rosetta Seeks Its Stone

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 2:58 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is back in business. For the past 31 months, the spacecraft has effectively been asleep. Most of its instruments were shut off to save energy, including the radio for communicating with Earth. Mission managers can now start preparing Rosetta for a rendezvous with a comet later this year. NPR's Joe Palca has more.

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5:17am

Wed January 15, 2014
Science

Peter Stone Can't Get Enough Of Robots Playing Soccer

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 5:21 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And later this year, billions of people around the world will become obsessed by sounds like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

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