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.

Pages

8:03pm

Tue May 19, 2015
Science

Earth's First Snake Likely Evolved On Land, Not In Water

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 12:09 pm

The most recent common ancestor of all today's snakes likely lived 120 million years ago. Scientists believe it used needle-like hooked teeth to grab rodent-like creatures that it then swallowed whole.
Julius Csotonyi/BMC Evolutionary Biology

Some scientists have speculated that snakes first evolved in water and that their long, slithery bodies were streamlined for swimming. But a new analysis suggests that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes actually lived on land.

This ancestral protosnake probably was a nocturnal hunter that slithered across the forest floor about 120 million years ago. And it likely had tiny hind limbs, left over from an even earlier ancestor, says Allison Hsiang, a researcher at Yale University.

Read more

7:32pm

Tue May 12, 2015
The Two-Way

How Bird Beaks Got Their Start As Dinosaur Snouts

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 12:01 pm

The skull of a chicken embryo (left) has a recognizable beak. But when scientists block the expression of two particular genes, the embryo develops a rounded "snout" (center) that looks something like an alligator's skull (right).
Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar

Scientists say they have reversed a bit of bird evolution in the lab and re-created a dinosaurlike snout in developing chickens.

"In this work, we can clearly see a comeback of the characteristics which we see in some of the first birds," says Arhat Abzhanov, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.

Read more

3:25am

Mon May 11, 2015
Science

Two Guys In Paris Aim To Charm The World Into Climate Action

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 2:51 pm

ADP Co-chairs Daniel Reifsnyder (left) and Ahmed Djoghlaf (center) say their negotiation work is difficult but worth it. "We only have one planet, you know," Reifsnyder says. "We have to protect it."
Courtesy of IISD/ENB

Here's a job that sounds perfect for either a superhero or a glutton for punishment: Get nearly 200 countries to finally agree to take serious action on climate change.

Two men have taken on this challenge. They're leading some international negotiations that will wrap up later this year in Paris at a major United Nations conference on climate change.

Read more

5:45pm

Wed May 6, 2015
Shots - Health News

Missing Link Microbes May Help Explain How Single Cells Became Us

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 7:55 pm

Loki's Castle, the field of deep sea vents between Norway and Greenland, is home to sediments containing DNA from the newly discovered archaea.
R.B. Pedersen/Centre for Geobiology, Bergen, Norway

Scientists have discovered a group of microbes at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean that could provide new clues to how life went from being simple to complex.

Read more

4:22am

Mon April 6, 2015
Science

When Did Humans Start Shaping Earth's Fate? An Epoch Debate

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 11:35 am

Humans have had such a huge impact on the Earth that some geologists think the human era should be enshrined in the official timeline of our planet.

They want to give the age of humans a formal name, just as scientists use terms like the Jurassic or the Cretaceous to talk about the age of dinosaurs.

But some researchers think that formally establishing an "Anthropocene" — as many call it — as part of the geologic time scale would be a big mistake.

Read more

5:02am

Fri March 27, 2015
The Two-Way

NASA To Study A Twin In Space And His Brother On Earth

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 3:58 pm

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is seen inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on March 4 in Star City, Russia. Kelly, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian Federal Space Agency, are scheduled for launch Friday aboard a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
NASA/Bill Ingalls

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A Russian rocket has carried a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station, where they will live for a full year, twice as long as people usually stay.

No American has remained in space longer than 215 days. Only a few people have ever gone on space trips lasting a year or more — the longest was 437 days — and they're all Russian cosmonauts. The last year-plus stay in space occurred nearly two decades ago.

Read more

2:01pm

Wed March 25, 2015
The Two-Way

Scientists Discover A New Form Of Ice — It's Square

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 8:00 pm

Water molecules between two layers of graphene arranged themselves in a lattice of squares — unlike any other known form of ice.
NPG Press via YouTube

Scientists recently observed a form of ice that's never been seen before, after sandwiching water between two layers of an unusual two-dimensional material called graphene.

Read more

7:11am

Sat March 21, 2015
Science

Why Some Mushrooms Glow In The Dark

Originally published on Wed May 6, 2015 3:29 pm

N. gardneri mushrooms grow at the base of young babassu palms in Brazil. A bland tan by day, the fungi emit an eerie green light by night.
Michele P. Verderane/IP-USP

A team of scientists recently created some fake, glowing mushrooms and scattered them in a Brazilian forest in hopes of solving an ancient mystery: Why do some fungi emit light?

Read more

3:17am

Tue March 17, 2015
Science

Are Humans Really Headed To Mars Anytime Soon?

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 9:15 am

Mars, anyone? Six researchers from the Mars Society sport their best space duds during this 2014 simulation of the conditions that explorers of the Red Planet might face. (From left) Ian Silversides, Anastasiya Stepanova, Alexandre Mangeot and Claude-Michel Laroche.
Micke Sebastien Paris Match via Getty Images

With recent news headlines proclaiming that dozens of people have been selected as finalists for a Martian astronaut corps, it might seem like a trip to this alien world might finally be close at hand.

But let's have a little reality check. What are the chances that we really will see people on the Red Planet in the next couple of decades?

Read more

3:46pm

Thu March 12, 2015
The Two-Way

Moon River? No, It's An Ocean On One Of Jupiter's Moons!

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 4:41 pm

The moon Ganymede (right) orbits the giant planet Jupiter in this artist's rendering. Scientists say a saline ocean lurks under the moon's icy crust.
NASA/ESA

NASA says the biggest moon in our solar system has a salty ocean below its surface.

Researchers had suspected since the 1970s that a moon of Jupiter called Ganymede had an ocean. Now they've confirmed it, scientists announced in a teleconference held by the space agency.

Read more

Pages