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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3:14pm

Thu April 18, 2013
Space

Kepler Telescope Spots 3 New Planets In The 'Goldilocks Zone'

Originally published on Thu April 18, 2013 10:26 pm

The small squares superimposed on this image of the Milky Way galaxy show where in the sky the Kepler telescope is hunting for Earth-like planets. Kepler, which launched in 2009, has identified more than 100 planets.
NASA

Astronomers have found three planets orbiting far-off stars that are close to Earth-sized and in the "habitable zone": a distance from their suns that makes the planets' surfaces neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.

One of the three planets orbits a star with the prosaic name Kepler-69.

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5:51am

Thu March 28, 2013
Science

Why A Hoosier State Scientist Is Stuck On Oysters

Originally published on Sat March 30, 2013 12:53 pm

Jonathan Wilker holds up a group of oysters from a tank in his lab at Purdue University.
Rebecca Davis NPR

How do oysters attach themselves to rocks? They need a glue, but a glue that can set in a watery environment. In this installment of "Joe's Big Idea," NPR's Joe Palca reports that glue could lead to medical advances.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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3:39am

Tue March 5, 2013
Joe's Big Idea

Wanna Play? Computer Gamers Help Push Frontier Of Brain Research

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 3:39 pm

This image represents a chunk, or "cube," of brain. Each different color represents a different neuron, and the goal of the EyeWire game is to figure out how these tangled neurons connect to each other. Players look at a slice from this cube and try to identify the boundaries of each cell. It isn't easy, and it takes practice. You can try it for yourself at eyewire.org.
EyeWire

People can get pretty addicted to computer games. By some estimates, residents of planet Earth spend 3 billion hours per week playing them. Now some scientists are hoping to make use of all that human capital and harness it for a good cause.

Right now I'm at the novice level of a game called EyeWire, trying to color in a nerve cell in a cartoon drawing of a slice of tissue. EyeWire is designed to solve a real science problem — it aims to chart the billions of nerve connections in the brain.

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10:58am

Wed February 27, 2013
The Salt

Cheesecake Factory, IBM Team Up To Crack The Code Of Customer Bliss

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 11:17 am

A new outpost for The Cheesecake Factory in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
PR Newswire

Consider the following entirely fictitious but totally plausible scenario:

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6:12am

Fri February 15, 2013
Research News

Scientists Look To The Internet To Raise Research Funds

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 8:39 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Scientists have made an important discovery, and not really a scientific one. They've learned they can raise money for their research simply by going on the Internet and asking people for support. We heard yesterday how that worked for one researcher. Still, scientists have no idea why this approach is working or how much money they can raise this way. Here's NPR's Joe Palca with the next installment of his project Joe's Big Idea.

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8:40am

Thu February 14, 2013
Shots - Health News

Scientists Pass The Hat For Research Funding

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 1:28 pm

Car commercial? Nope. Jessica Richman, Zachary Apte (center) and William Ludington are looking to the crowd for money to fund uBiome, which will sequence the genetic code of microbes that live on and inside humans.
Courtesy of uBiome

When the X-ray was invented, people clamored to get one. Not for any medical reason, but just to see what was typically hidden inside their bodies.

Something like that seems to be happening with DNA sequencing technology. First it was companies offering to sequence people's genomes. Now it's learning all about your microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living on and in your body.

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6:28am

Thu February 14, 2013
Science

Scientist Gets Research Donations From Crowd Funding

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 11:44 am

Vimeo

What do you do when you're a scientist and you have no job and no money for your research? If you're Ethan Perlstein, you try crowd funding. He raised $25,000 to investigate where the drug methamphetamine is stored in the brain.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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10:04am

Thu January 24, 2013
The Salt

Small Meals, Big Payoff: Keeping Hunger And Calories In Check

Don't eat me all at once.
April Fulton NPR

When presented with a tempting buffet of French food, not overeating can be a challenge. But a new study by researchers in Lyon suggests there are strategies that will help people resist temptation.

People trying to keep off excess weight are frequently told that it's better to eat small amounts of food frequently during the day, rather than the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner. The idea is that more frequent eating will stave off hunger pangs that may lead to overeating.

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3:04pm

Wed January 2, 2013
Shots - Health News

Drug Fulfills Promise Of Research Into Cystic Fibrosis Gene

Originally published on Wed January 2, 2013 7:53 pm

Kalydeco is one of the first drugs that is effective at combating the root causes of a genetic disease.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The promise of genetic medicine is beginning to be fulfilled, but it's been a long, hard slog.

Take the story of Kalydeco. It's designed to treat people with a lung disease called cystic fibrosis. While not quite a cure, the drug is extremely effective for some CF patients.

But the success of Kalydeco has been more than two decades in the making.

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5:08am

Tue January 1, 2013
Around the Nation

Hillary Clinton Expected To Make A Full Recovery

Originally published on Tue January 1, 2013 9:44 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Most of the time your health is a private matter between you and your doctor. But when you're Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it is hard not to provide some information.

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