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.

When Greg Burel tells people he's in charge of some secret government warehouses, he often gets asked if they're like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark , where the Ark of the Covenant gets packed away in a crate and hidden forever. "Well, no, not really," says Burel, director of a program called the Strategic National Stockpile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thousands of lives might someday depend on this stockpile, which holds all kinds of medical supplies...

The luminous glow of light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of people in North America from seeing the Milky Way in the night sky. That's according to a new atlas of artificial night sky brightness that found our home galaxy is now hidden from more than one-third of humanity. While there are countries where the majority of people still live under pristine, ink-black sky conditions — places such as Chad, Central African Republic and Madagascar — more than 99 percent of the people living in...

An elderly woman died and more than two dozen people were treated for possible rabies exposure after her family failed to realize that a nighttime encounter with a bat put her at risk of rabies. Last August, the woman awoke in her Wyoming home and felt a bat on her neck. She swatted it away and washed her hands. Her husband captured the bat with gloved hands and released it outside. The woman didn't seem to have any bite wounds, so the couple didn't call a doctor, according to an account of...

Male orb-weaving spiders get devoured by the females they mate with, but a newly published study shows that at least the poor guys get to choose the lovely lady who will cannibalize them. Usually in nature, it's the females who survey the males and make their selection. But when biologist Eric Yip was working at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, he and some colleagues wondered if that held true for Cyrtophora citricola , a kind of orb-weaving spider native to the Mediterranean....

Flowers generate weak electric fields, and a new study shows that bumblebees can actually sense those electric fields using the tiny hairs on their fuzzy little bodies. "The bumblebees can feel that hair bend and use that feeling to tell the difference between flowers," says Gregory Sutton , a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. People used to think that perceiving natural electric fields was something that animals only did in water....

You can't help but notice that Scott Pitnick has a big tattoo. It's a sperm with a long tail that winds down his right arm. People sometimes stare. "And when I tell them what it is, they either are very interested or they pivot on their heel and walk away," says Pitnick, an evolutionary biologist at Syracuse University. "All eye contact ceases." Some people just don't like talking about sperm. But not him. He's spent his career trying to unravel the mystery of giant sperm. The sperm are made...

Over 150 pregnant women in the United States appear to have been infected with Zika virus. That's in addition to more than 120 women affected by Zika in U.S. territories, mainly Puerto Rico. Those are the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which has been keeping track of all pregnant women in the U.S. and its territories who have lab tests suggestive of Zika virus infections. So far, officials say they are aware of fewer than a dozen pregnancies...

Inside a lab near Washington, D.C., there is a stack of stainless steel that weighs a million pounds. It's part of a unique machine that was built in 1965 and just refurbished for the first time. And in the world of metrology , the science of measurement, this giant is a source of national pride. "It's famous in its own right because it is the largest such machine in the world," says Rick Seifarth of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. The one next biggest...

Scientists have found a microbe that does something textbooks say is impossible: It's a complex cell that survives without mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses inside eukaryotic cells , the type of complicated cell that makes up people, other critters and plants and fungi. All eukaryotic cells contain a nucleus and little organelles — and one of the most famous was the mitochondrion. "They were considered to be absolutely indispensable components of the eukaryotic cell and the...

NASA announced Tuesday the discovery of an unprecedented number of planets beyond our solar system — astronomers have confirmed the existence of 1,284 new worlds orbiting distant stars. These planets beyond our solar system — exoplanets — were discovered with the help of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope , which launched in 2009. "When NASA decided to build and launch the Kepler Space Telescope, we did not know if exoplanets — especially small, rocky exoplanets — were common or rare in the galaxy...

A trio of newly discovered Earth-sized planets looks ideally suited to search for signs that these alien worlds might be able to support life. The planets orbit close to an unusually small, reddish star that's about one-eighth the size of our sun and is far cooler, researchers report in the journal Nature . All three planets have one side that's always facing the star, and one side that's always facing away. That means one side is frigid and one side is scorching hot — but the regions in...

The largest research hospital in the world, the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., needs reform so that patient safety is always the priority — and never subservient to the demands of science. That's the conclusion of a sweeping review by a task force of independent experts convened by the NIH. The team has made a slew of recommendations, including the creation of an outside hospital board to oversee the clinical center and a new central office to coordinate...

The National Institutes of Health has suspended work in two facilities that manufacture products given to people who are enrolled in research studies, saying the facilities haven't complied with safety standards designed to protect already-sick people from inappropriate risks. "There is no evidence that any patients have been harmed, but a rigorous clinical review will be undertaken," the NIH said in a statement provided to NPR Tuesday. "NIH will not enroll new patients in affected trials...

Finding a new planet that orbits a distant star isn't such a big deal anymore — astronomers have discovered around 2,000. But no one knows if any of these planets has a moon. That might change this year, if a moon-hunting project goes as planned. David Kipping , an astronomer at Columbia University, says his team will use some new techniques and one of the fastest supercomputers in the world to survey around 1,000 planets. He expects the search to be detailed enough to catch even some pretty...

Scientists have discovered a supermassive black hole that may be the biggest ever spotted — and its location in a ho-hum group of galaxies suggests that cosmic monsters like this one might be more common than astronomers previously thought. The newly discovered black hole is about 17 billion times more massive than our sun. Another black hole is currently listed in the Guinness World Records as the heaviest, because it may be as much as 21 billion solar masses. But the measurement of that...

The Department of Labor is issuing a long-awaited and controversial rule Thursday aimed at better protecting workers from inhaling silica dust. The new rule dramatically reduces the allowed exposure limits for workers in a slew of industries, from construction to manufacturing to fracking. About 2.3 million people in the U. S. are exposed to fine grains of silica on the job; inhaling the dust is one of the oldest known workplace hazards. Silica, which is basically sand, scars the lungs,...

As scientists struggle to understand the threat posed by Zika virus, there's another viral infection that's a known danger in pregnancy and that harms 100,000 babies a year, even though it has been preventable with a vaccine since 1969. The disease is rubella , or German measles. Like Zika, the rubella virus often causes either a mild rash or no symptoms at all. When women get rubella while pregnant, however, there can be devastating consequences for the fetus, including deafness, heart...

Anyone can follow the pregnancy of a monkey infected with Zika virus in real time, thanks to an experiment in data sharing that's unusual for biology. Researchers in Wisconsin injected Zika virus into a pregnant rhesus macaque monkey on Monday, to start exploring how this virus can affect the brain of a developing fetus. Over the course of the coming weeks, the team will be posting the infected monkey's ultrasounds and blood tests, as well as other data such as the amount of virus in the...

One of the best ways to understand Zika virus might be to deliberately inject it into volunteers. That idea may sound a little crazy, but it's not unprecedented. And some researchers are hoping the approach could help speed up the search for an effective Zika vaccine. Right now, a bunch of labs are pursuing different ways of making a vaccine against Zika, mostly because of the concern that the virus might be linked to the birth defect called microcephaly . At the Vaccine Research Center at...

Tiny eggs have started hatching this week at the San Diego Zoo, and scientists there are celebrating the arrival of baby tree lobsters. It's all part of a conservation effort for the Lord Howe Island stick insect . The huge, black, shiny creature, also known as a tree lobster, is a superstar of the entomological world, because its history is such a strange saga of passion and commitment. "It's a very emotional story about an animal that most people don't get emotional about," says Paige...

When Carolyn Coyne 's lab at the University of Pittsburgh recently tried to order a sample of Zika virus from a major laboratory supplier, they were told it was out of stock. "They are actually back-ordered until July for the virus," Coyne says. "At least that's what we were told." She ended up obtaining Zika from another source, and it arrived at her lab Tuesday. She's just one of a growing number of lab researchers who are racing to investigate Zika virus in the wake of reports that it may...

Mice were much healthier and lived about 25 percent longer when scientists killed off a certain kind of cell that accumulates in the body with age. What's more, the mice didn't seem to suffer any ill effects from losing their so-called senescent cells. These are cells that have stopped dividing, though not necessarily because the cells themselves are old. "It's a normal cell that experienced an unusual amount of stress, and it decided to stop dividing," says Jan van Deursen , who studies...

Ancient Babylonian astronomers tracked the motion of Jupiter using a technique that historians had thought was invented some 1,400 years later, in Europe. That's according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science by Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin. He has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, but instead of studying the stars, Ossendrijver spends his days poring over crumbling clay tablets, covered with the tiny scrawls of long-dead Babylonian priests. The Babylonians...

Some octopuses intimidate their neighbors by turning black, standing tall and looming over them threateningly, like an eight-armed Dracula. That's according to a study published Thursday that helps show that octopuses aren't loners, contrary to what scientists long thought; some of the invertebrates have an exciting social life. The study, in the journal Current Biology , focuses on one species, known as Octopus tetricus — the gloomy octopus — which gathers to munch on tasty scallops in the...

The state of New Jersey has been trying to help jurors better assess the reliability of eyewitness testimony, but a recent study suggests that the effort may be having unintended consequences. That's because a new set of instructions read to jurors by a judge seems to make them skeptical of all eyewitness testimony — even testimony that should be considered reasonably reliable. Back in 2012, New Jersey's Supreme Court did something groundbreaking. It said that in cases that involve eyewitness...

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