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

2:05am

Fri February 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Questions About Bird Flu Research Swirl Around Private WHO Meeting

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 9:37 am

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

A closed-door meeting to discuss controversial bird flu research is drawing to a close at the World Health Organization in Geneva, and the WHO plans to publicly report on what happened once it's officially over.

Read more

10:49am

Thu February 16, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

The 'WHO's Who' Of Virologists Meet To Talk Bird Flu In Geneva

Virologists and other scientists are meeting at the World Health Organization's Geneva headquarters to talk about the bird flu.
Pierre Virot WHO

A closed-door summit on controversial bird flu research starts today, and the newly released guest list reveals that the event will be dominated by virologists.

Read more

4:52pm

Wed February 15, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Scientists Debate How To Conduct Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 4:58 pm

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

Scientists working with bird flu recently called a 60-day halt on some controversial experiments, and the unusual move has been compared to a famous moratorium on genetic engineering in the 1970s.

But key scientists involved in that event disagree on whether history is repeating itself.

"I see an amazing similarity," says Nobel Prize winner Paul Berg, of Stanford University.

Read more

11:01pm

Sun February 12, 2012
Health

Scientists Take Cautious Tack On Bird Flu Research

Originally published on Mon February 13, 2012 10:24 am

A government veterinarian worker sprays anti-bird flu disinfectant over birds and fowls at Medan city market in North Sumatra province. Indonesia reported its second human death from bird flu this year in late January.
AFP/Getty Images

Last month, scientists around the world agreed to temporarily halt certain genetic experiments with bird flu viruses. More than three weeks of that 60-day moratorium have already passed. And the scientific community is in the midst of a fierce debate about what needs to happen next.

The suspension of the research came in response to fears that researchers had created dangerous new germs that could cause a devastating pandemic in people if they ever escaped the lab or fell into the wrong hands.

Read more

8:42am

Thu February 9, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

International Meeting On Controversial Bird Flu Research Draws Near

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

The World Health Organization has just one week left to prepare for a highly anticipated meeting on controversial bird flu research. One official says that 22 invitations have gone out and the WHO is still waiting to hear back from some of the invitees.

Recent experiments involving the H5N1 bird flu virus have caused a furor in the science community, and the WHO was urged to convene an international discussion.

Read more

11:01pm

Tue January 31, 2012
Science

New Silica Rules Languish In Regulatory Black Hole

Originally published on Wed February 1, 2012 6:50 am

Controlling dust from activities like this was on the minds of those in the Department of Labor in the 1930s, as silicosis, a lung disease, was taking a toll on American workers. Above, a worker jackhammers into rock in Lassen National Forest in California in 1934, preparing to shoot explosives.
U.S. Forest Service Oregon State University Libraries

Any job that involves breaking up rock or concrete or brick can potentially expose workers to dangerous silica dust, and last year it looked like the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was about to put stricter controls in place to limit this health hazard.

Read more

1:08pm

Fri January 20, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Researchers Agree To Temporary Halt For Bird Flu Experiments

Originally published on Mon January 23, 2012 2:41 pm

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

Scientists have said that they are voluntarily putting some controversial bird flu research on hold.

The move to suspend the work for 60 days comes in response to critics who say their work is dangerous.

People rarely get sick with bird flu, caused by the H5N1 virus, and when they do, they're generally not contagious.

Read more

11:01pm

Sun January 15, 2012
Research News

Labs Size Up New Guidelines For Rodent Cages

The standard rat cage used in the U.S. (right) has 140 square inches of floor space. One interpretation of the new guidelines says this cage wouldn't be big enough to hold a male rat, a female rat and their babies. Instead, labs would have to house the rat family in a larger cage, like the 210-square-inch one on the left.
Courtesy of Joseph Thulin Biomedical Resource Center, Medical College of Wisconsin

Scientists do experiments with millions of rats and mice each year, to study everything from heart disease to cancer to diabetes. Recently, some new recommendations about how to house female lab rodents and their babies caused an uproar, with experts at major research institutions now saying they're unsure of what they'll have to do to keep their government funding.

Read more

4:54am

Sun December 25, 2011
Science

Trees In Trouble: Grim Future For Frankincense

Frankincense comes from the Boswellia sacra tree, which grows mainly in the Horn of Africa. The number of trees that produce the fragrant resin could decline by 90 percent in the next 50 years.
scott.zona flickr

The original Christmas presents were gold, frankincense and myrrh. That's what wise men brought to the baby Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Frankincense is still used today — for perfumes, incense and traditional medicines — but a new study suggests that its future looks grim.

Read more

12:11pm

Fri December 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Critics Say Obama's Efforts To Protect Science Are Slow and Weak

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 10:00 am

Did politics trump science when it came to Plan B?
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Critics cried foul when Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, saying that teenage girls can't buy the emergency contraceptive plan B without a prescription. Their complaint: That the move went against the Obama administration's stated goal of protecting science from the taint of politics.

Read more

1:36pm

Tue December 20, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

U.S. Says Details Of Flu Experiments Should Stay Secret

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 9:35 am

H5N1 avian flu viruses (seen in gold) grow inside canine kidney cells (seen in green).
Cynthia Goldsmith CDC

A committee that advises the government says that details of two controversial experiments on bird flu virus should not be made public, because of fears that the work could provide a recipe for a bioweapon.

The government-funded experiments were done by researchers who wanted to understand if bird flu virus might change in the future to cause a pandemic in people. By tweaking genes, they made the deadly bird flu virus more contagious between lab animals.

Read more

10:05am

Thu December 15, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Biomedical Research Using Chimps Should Be Curtailed

Updated 1:30 p.m.: The National Institutes of Health accepts the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine report on chimpanzee research, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a statement. "We will not issue any new awards for research involving chimpanzees until processes for implementing the recommendations are in place," he said.

Read more

1:58pm

Tue December 13, 2011
Research News

No 'God Particle' Yet, But Scientists Say Stay Tuned

This image, from a sensor at the particle accelerator at CERN, is an example of the data signature a Higgs particle might generate. Researchers will spend into 2012 sifting through data in an attempt to find the Higgs.
CERN

Physicists have a grand theory that describes how tiny particles interact to form all the stuff we see in the universe — everything from planets to toasters to human beings.

But there is one particle predicted by this theory that has never been detected in experiments. It's called the Higgs boson. Scientists are dying to know if it really exists — and now researchers are closer to finding out than ever before.

Read more

1:48pm

Thu December 8, 2011
Animals

Cagebreak! Rats Will Work To Free A Trapped Pal

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 9:35 am

Science/AAAS

Calling someone a "rat" is no compliment, but a new study shows that rats actually are empathetic and will altruistically lend a helping paw to a cage mate who is stuck in a trap.

Not only will rats frantically work to free their trapped cage mate; they will do so even when there's a tempting little pile of chocolate chips nearby, the study reveals. Instead of leaving their pal in the trap and selfishly gobbling the candy all by themselves, rats will free their cage mate and share the chocolate.

Read more

4:39pm

Mon December 5, 2011
Space

Found: Earth-Like Planet That Might Be Right For Life

This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It is the first planet that NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed to orbit in a star's habitable zone — the region around a star where liquid water, a requirement for life on Earth, could persist.
NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Scientists have discovered a planet not too much bigger than Earth that's circling a distant star that's much like our own Sun. What's more, this planet is in the so-called "Goldilocks zone" around that star — a region that's not too hot and not too cold. That's the kind of place that could be home to liquid water and maybe even life.

The planet, known as Kepler-22b, is the first near-Earth-sized planet to be found smack dab in the middle of the habitable zone of a twin to our Sun.

Read more

Pages