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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4:13pm

Thu July 2, 2015
Science

Checking DNA Against Elephants Hints At How Mammoths Got Woolly

Originally published on Fri July 3, 2015 7:55 am

Mammoths had a distinctive version of a gene known to play a role in sensing outside temperature, moderating the biology of fat and regulating hair growth. That bit of DNA likely helped mammoths thrive in cold weather, scientists say.
Courtesy of Giant Screen Films, 2012 D3D Ice Age, LLC/Penn State University

Scientists say they've found a bit of DNA in woolly mammoths that could help explain how these huge beasts were so well-adapted to live in the cold of the last ice age.

Woolly mammoths had long shaggy fur, small tails and ears to minimize frostbite, and a lot of fat to help stay warm as they roamed the tundra more than 12,000 years ago.

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5:41pm

Mon June 29, 2015
Environment

U.N. Holds Climate Talks In New York Ahead Of Paris Meeting

Originally published on Mon June 29, 2015 6:32 pm

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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3:55pm

Thu June 25, 2015
The Two-Way

Study Reveals What Happens During A 'Glacial Earthquake'

Originally published on Fri June 26, 2015 7:35 am

One of the 20 GPS sensors deployed on Greenland's Helheim Glacier to track its movement.
Alistair Everett/Swansea University

When giant icebergs break off of huge, fast-moving glaciers, they essentially push back on those rivers of ice and temporarily reverse the flow.

That's according to a new study of "glacial earthquakes," an unusual kind of temblor discovered just over a decade ago.

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1:13pm

Wed June 24, 2015
The Two-Way

How The Turtle Got Its Shell

Originally published on Wed June 24, 2015 8:01 pm

An illustration of Pappochelys, based on its 240-million-year-old fossilized remains. This ancestor to today's turtle was about 8 inches long.
Rainer Schoch/Nature

The fossilized remains of a bizarre-looking reptile are giving scientists new insights into how turtles got their distinctive shells.

Some 240 million years ago, this early turtle-like creature lived in a large lake, in a fairly warm, subtropical climate. But it didn't have the kind of shell modern turtles have, says Hans-Dieter Sues, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

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3:03pm

Mon June 15, 2015
Science

Instead Of Replacing Missing Body Parts, Moon Jellies Recycle

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 6:39 pm

Upon injury, juvenile jellyfish reorganize their bodies to regain symmetry.
Courtesy Michael Abrams, Ty Basinger, and Christopher Frick, California Institute of Technology/PNAS

Moon jellies have an unusual self-repair strategy, scientists have learned. If one of these young jellies loses some limbs, it simply rearranges what's left until its body is once again symmetrical.

"We were not expecting to see that," says Michael Abrams, a graduate student in biology at the California Institute of Technology.

All creatures have tricks to heal themselves. If you get a cut, your skin will form a scar. And some sea creatures, like starfish and sea cucumbers, can regenerate lost body parts.

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4:07pm

Wed June 10, 2015
The Two-Way

Saturn's Dark And Mysterious Outer Ring Is Even Bigger Than Expected

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 8:19 pm

An artist's conception of how Saturn's immense Phoebe ring might appear to eyes sensitive to infrared wavelengths.
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Saturn is famous for its lovely rings, but this gas giant has another ring that people normally don't see — and some new observations with an infrared telescope show that this mysterious ring is even bigger than scientists thought.

The first hint that Saturn had this secret ring came back in 1671, when the Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini looked through a telescope and discovered the moon now known as Iapetus.

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2:02pm

Thu June 4, 2015
Shots - Health News

How Many Viruses Have Infected You?

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 4:12 pm

A cheap new lab test can use just a drop of blood to reveal the different kinds of viruses you've been exposed to over your lifetime.

The test suggests that, on average, people have been infected with about ten different types of known virus families, including influenzas, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, according to a report published Thursday in Science.

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3:34am

Mon June 1, 2015
Science

Editing The Climate Talkers: Punctuation's Effect On Earth's Fate

Originally published on Wed June 3, 2015 2:39 pm

Gustav Dejert Ikon Images/Getty Images

In Bonn, Germany, hundreds of people have gathered to work on a draft version of a major United Nations agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions that are changing the Earth's climate.

And when I found out that climate change negotiations basically all boil down to writing and editing a document, I was intrigued.

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4:26pm

Tue May 26, 2015
All Tech Considered

Higher-Tech Fake Eggs Offer Better Clues To Wild-Bird Behavior

Originally published on Tue May 26, 2015 8:39 pm

One of these things is not like the other: A 3-D printed model of a beige cowbird egg stands out from its robin's egg nest mates, though their shape and heft are similar.
Ana Lopez/Courtesy of Mark Hauber

Since the 1960s, biologists have made fake eggs for some studies of bird behavior. But Mark Hauber of Hunter College in New York says this kind of scientific handicraft is not exactly his forte.

"I'm a terrible craftsperson," he admits.

That's why Hauber is pioneering the use of 3-D printing technology to quickly produce made-to-order fake eggs, taking a bit of old-school science into the 21st century.

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2:10pm

Thu May 21, 2015
Shots - Health News

You And Yeast Have More In Common Than You Might Think

Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 4:02 pm

This fungus among us — baker's yeast, aka Saccharomyces cerevisiae — is useful for more than just making bread.
iStockphoto

Rip open a little package of baker's yeast from the supermarket, peer inside, and you'll see your distant cousin.

That's because we share a common ancestor with yeast, and a new study in the journal Science suggest that we also share hundreds of genes that haven't really changed in a billion years.

Edward Marcotte, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin, knew that humans and yeast have thousands of similar genes. But, he wondered, how similar are they?

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