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.

Pages

2:34pm

Mon March 30, 2015
Joe's Big Idea

Want To Do A Little Astrophysics? This App Detects Cosmic Rays

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 11:40 am

Smart phones contain a silicon chip inside the camera that might be used to detect rare, high energy particles from outer space.
J. Yang/Courtesy of WIPAC

Scientists in California are hoping to use your smart phone to solve a cosmic mystery. They're developing an app to turn your phone into a cosmic ray detector. If enough people install the app, the scientists think they'll be able to figure out once and for all what's producing the very energetic cosmic rays that occasionally hit the Earth.

Read more

7:22am

Wed March 25, 2015
Research News

Safer Anthrax Test Aims To Keep The Bioweapon From Terrorists

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 3:48 pm

Safe and small: The credit-card-sized test for anthrax destroys the deadly bacteria after the test completes.
Courtesy of Sandia Nation

Engineers at Sandia National Laboratory have come up with what they think is a safer diagnostic test for anthrax bacteria — a test that would prevent the "bad guys" from getting their hands on this dangerous pathogen.

Sandia is home to the International Biological Threat Reduction Program. "Our interest is in safety and security of pathogens," says Melissa Finley. Finley isn't a bioweapons expert. She's a veterinarian.

Read more

5:00pm

Thu March 19, 2015
Science

Fossil Collection Calls Berkeley's Clock Tower Home

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 8:19 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Read more

4:00pm

Mon February 16, 2015
Joe's Big Idea

Climate Scientist Tries Arts To Stir Hearts Regarding Earth's Fate

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 12:45 pm

Robert Davies (standing) and the quartet during a performance of "The Crossroads Project." Musicians include (left to right) Robert Waters, Rebecca McFaul, Anne Francis Bayless and Bradley Ottesen.
Andrew McCallister Courtesy of The Crossroads Project

5:28pm

Fri February 6, 2015
Joe's Big Idea

Satellite Set To Stream Daily Images Of Earth From Space

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 2:24 pm

NASA says this "blue marble" image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date.
NASA

There's something majestic, even awe-inspiring about the sight of planet Earth as a blue disc, hanging in the vastness of space.

The three astronauts aboard Apollo 8 were the first to get that view; if all goes well, later this year everyone will be able to get it on a daily basis over the Internet.

The images will come courtesy of a spacecraft called Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). It's a mission with an unusual history.

Read more

4:41pm

Mon January 26, 2015
Animals

On The Ant Highway, There's Never A Backup

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 7:45 pm

A team of Indian physicists has made a mathematical model that purports to explain why ants don't have traffic jams. NPR's Joe Palca explains as part of his series, Joe's Big Idea.

This story originally aired on Morning Edition on January 19, 2015.

Read more

3:34am

Mon January 19, 2015
Joe's Big Idea

Why Ants Handle Traffic Better Than You Do

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 10:52 am

Unless there's a serious pileup, ants in traffic tend to bypass a collision and just keep going. A physicist has found a way to model this behavior with a mathematical equation.
iStockphoto

Could studying ants reveal clues to reducing highway traffic jams? Physicist Apoorva Nagar at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology thinks the answer is yes.

Nagar says he got interested in the topic when he came across a study by German and Indian researchers showing that ants running along a path were able to maintain a steady speed even when there were a large number of ants on the path.

Read more

7:08pm

Sun January 11, 2015
The Two-Way

Ancient Scottish Sea Reptile Not 'Nessie,' But Just As Cute

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 1:21 pm

An artist's rendering of what Dearcmhara shawcrossi probably looked like in dinosaur times.
Todd Marshall/University of Edinburgh

Scientists in Scotland have found a prehistoric behemoth: a previously unknown species of reptile that lived in the oceans during the time of dinosaurs. And before you ask, no, scientists do not believe this new fossil has anything to do with the Loch Ness monster.

Read more

4:49pm

Tue December 30, 2014
Space

Scientists Bring The Sun Down To Earth To Learn How It Works

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 1:13 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Read more

6:39am

Fri December 26, 2014
Research News

Do Fish Have Fingers?

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 2:15 pm

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Read more

Pages