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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5:15am

Mon July 21, 2014
Shots - Health News

Big Data Peeps At Your Medical Records To Find Drug Problems

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 2:43 pm

Katherine Streeter for NPR

No one likes it when a new drug in people's medicine cabinets turns out to have problems — just remember the Vioxx debacle a decade ago, when the painkiller was removed from the market over concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.

To do a better job of spotting unforeseen risks and side effects, the Food and Drug Administration is trying something new — and there's a decent chance that it involves your medical records.

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3:28am

Thu July 10, 2014
Space

The Little Spacecraft That Couldn't

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 3:03 pm

Early days: NASA's International Sun-Earth Explorer C (also known as ISEE-3 and ICE) was undergoing testing and evaluation inside the Goddard Space Flight Center's dynamic test chamber when this photo was snapped in 1976.
NASA

An audacious quest to reconnect with a vintage NASA spacecraft has suffered a serious setback and is now pretty much over.

The satellite launched in 1978 and has been in a long, looping orbit around the sun for about three decades. Earlier this year, NPR told you about an effort to get in touch with this venerable piece of NASA hardware and send it on one more adventure.

But there are no guarantees when you try to recapture the past.

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8:30pm

Tue July 8, 2014
The Two-Way

As Engines Sputter To Life, Vintage Spacecraft Turns Toward Moon

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 9:56 am

With a comet fly-by and a solar orbit behind it, ISEE-3 has now revved its engines for a swing past the moon.
Mark Maxwell Courtesy ISEE-3 Reboot Project

A gung-ho group of space enthusiasts has started the process of putting a vintage NASA spacecraft on a new flight path, so that this venerable piece of hardware will be able to do useful science once again.

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2:03pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Science

A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists

Originally published on Sat July 12, 2014 12:39 pm

A 6-foot-long electric eel is basically a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod, researchers say. The long tail is packed with special cells that pump electricity without shocking the fish.
Mark Newman Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

The electric eel's powerful ability to deliver deadly shocks — up to 600 volts — makes it the most famous electric fish, but hundreds of other species produce weaker electric fields. Now, a new genetic study of electric fish has revealed the surprising way they got electrified.

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2:03pm

Thu June 19, 2014
Science

How To Become A Neanderthal: Chew Before Thinking

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 10:54 am

By comparing "Skull 17" from the Sima de los Huesos site with many others found in the same cave, researchers were able to discern the common facial features of the era.
Javier Trueba Madrid Scientific Films

Scientists have long puzzled over the origin and evolution of our closest relative, the Neanderthal. Now, researchers say Neanderthals seem to have developed their distinctive jaws and other facial features first, before they evolved to have big brains.

That's according to an analysis of 17 skulls, all taken from one excavation site in a mountain cave in Atapuerca, Spain, known as the Sima de los Huesos — the "pit of bones."

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3:25am

Wed June 18, 2014
Science

Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat?

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 8:29 am

DNA from these crab plovers, collected in Djibouti, Africa, should help scientists figure out how the unusual species fits into the family tree, says the Smithsonian's Helen James.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Behind the scenes at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, there's a vast, warehouse-like room that's filled with metal cabinets painted a drab institutional green. Inside the cabinets are more than a half-million birds — and these birds are not drab. Their colorful feathers make them seem to almost glow.

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3:59pm

Thu May 22, 2014
Science

Big Flightless Birds Come From High-Flying Ancestors

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 8:06 pm

The egg definitely came before the chicken in this case — the skeleton is from a modern adult kiwi, the egg from its much bigger, long-extinct cousin, Aepyornis maximus.
Kyle Davis and Paul Scofield Canterbury Museum

Big, flightless birds like the ostrich, the emu and the rhea are scattered around the Southern Hemisphere because their ancestors once flew around the world, a new study suggests.

That's a surprise, because it means birds in Australia, Africa and South America independently evolved in ways that made them all lose the ability to fly.

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12:18pm

Thu May 15, 2014
Science

Why This Octopus Isn't Stuck-Up

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:18 pm

Octopus arms keep from getting all tangled up in part because some kind of chemical in octopus skin prevents the tentacles' suckers from grabbing on.

That was the surprise discovery of scientists who were trying to understand how octopuses manage to move all their weird appendages without getting tied in knots.

Unlike humans, octopuses don't have a constant awareness of their arms' locations. It's kind of like the eight arms have minds of their own. And as an octopus arm travels through the water, its neighboring arms are constantly in reach.

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4:02pm

Mon May 12, 2014
Environment

'Past The Point Of No Return:' An Antarctic Ice Sheet's Slow Collapse

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 10:04 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Antarctica is covered with the biggest mass of ice on earth. The part of the ice sheath that's over West Antarctica is thought to be especially vulnerable to climate change. Scientists now say a slow collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is both underway and irreversible. And as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, this could eventually raise sea levels more than 10 feet.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: For decades, scientists have worried about the West Antarctic ice sheet.

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2:18pm

Wed May 7, 2014
Shots - Health News

Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:59 am

Being able to insert the two man-made letters into DNA, alongside the usual four-letter alphabet, could teach old cells new tricks and lead to better drugs, researchers say.
courtesy of Synthorx

For the first time, scientists have expanded life's genetic alphabet, by inserting two unnatural, man-made "letters" into a bacterium's DNA, and by showing that the cell's machinery can copy them.

The advance means that scientists have a new tool for exploring how life encodes information, which could help them understand life's origins.

What's more, this is a step towards giving living cells new abilities, like being able to make more and better medicines, cheaper and faster.

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