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.

If you could change the way a monkey or an ape's brain is wired, that animal would be capable of producing perfectly intelligible speech. That's the conclusion of a study that closely tracked the movements of a monkey's mouth and throat with X-rays, to understand the full potential of its vocal tract . Researchers then used that information to create a computer model of what it would sound like if the monkey were able to say phrases such as "happy holidays." The finding calls into question...

The surprise find of smallpox DNA in a child mummy from the 17th century could help scientists start to trace the mysterious history of this notorious virus. Smallpox currently only exists in secure freezers, after a global vaccination campaign eradicated the virus in the late 1970s. But much about this killer remains unknown, including its origins. Now scientists have the oldest complete set of smallpox genes, after they went hunting for viral DNA in a sample of skin from a mummified young...

President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, announcing his decision in a statement Thursday. As attorney general, Pruitt has made no secret of his disdain for the EPA. His official biography calls him "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." He has repeatedly challenged the agency's rules in court, and he has even sued the EPA for an allegedly cozy "sue and settle" relationship with...

When a robotic probe finally lands on a watery world like Jupiter's moon Europa , what do scientists have to see to definitively say whether the place has any life? That's the question retired astronaut John Grunsfeld posed to some colleagues at NASA when he was in charge of the agency's science missions. "We looked at him with blank faces," recalls Jim Green , head of NASA's planetary sciences division. "What do we need to build to really find life? What are the instruments, what are the...

Around the corner from the famous Diamond District in New York City, David Weinstein sorts through some envelopes on his cluttered desk. All of them are full of diamonds. "I deal with diamonds all day long, for three decades," says Weinstein, executive director of the International Gemological Institute , a commercial testing laboratory. "To me, diamonds aren't anything spectacular. It's hard to get me to say, 'Wow!' " But lately he has been impressed by certain diamonds — those created in...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: If you're looking for a way to stay young, you might want to try living out the rest of your life in the dark, frigid waters of the Arctic. You will also need to become a Greenland shark. Scientists have discovered this species can live for about 400 years and maybe even longer, as we hear in this encore report from NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce. NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: The first time Julius Nielsen ever saw...

The good news for those worried that the U.S. will lose its leadership role in confronting climate change: President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday , "I have an open mind to it. ... I do have an open mind." At a meeting Tuesday with New York Times journalists and executives, Trump said he thinks "there is some connectivity" in terms of human activity causing climate change. However, he went on to say that "it depends on how much" connectivity. "It also depends on how much it's going to cost...

A rusty-brown rock found on a beach by a fossil hunter might contain a bit of preserved dinosaur brain. If so, it would be the first time scientists have ever found fossilized brain tissue from a dinosaur. The fossil comes from a species closely related to Iguanodon , a large herbivore that lived about 130 million years ago. A collector named Jamie Hiscocks found it in 2004, near Bexhill in the United Kingdom. "He picked it up and noticed that it was slightly unusual in its shape and its...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N0FY-fe_hA When scientists recently announced that they had discovered a new planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centuri, they also released an artist's conception of the planet. The picture of a craggy canyon, illuminated by a reddish-orange sunset, looked like an image that could have been taken on Mars by one of NASA's rovers. But the alien scene was actually completely made-up. It's part of an ever-increasing gallery of images depicting...

On Election Day this November, about 1 in 4 Americans will vote using a device that never lets the voter see a copy of his or her vote on paper. The idea of relying on such machines has troubled some security experts for years. And this year the stakes may be even higher, because one candidate is charging that the election is rigged , and government officials have warned that state election systems have been targeted by foreign hackers with ties to Russia. Five states exclusively use voting...

On Friday, the Rosetta spacecraft will smack into the icy surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and go silent. Scientists with the historic mission are wondering how they'll feel as the orbiter makes its death-dive toward the comet that has been its traveling companion for more than two years. "There's mixed emotions here," says Matt Taylor of the European Space Agency, who is the project scientist for Rosetta. "You know, people have invested their lives and their mentality, I think,...

Scientists have seen what might be plumes of water vapor erupting out of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, suggesting that its subsurface ocean could be probed without having to drill through miles of ice. That's according to new findings from images captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope that were released Monday and that will be published this week in The Astrophysical Journal . Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system because it's thought to have a vast...

A mysterious glowing "blob" in outer space has puzzled astronomers for more than 15 years. Now, a team of researchers says it has uncovered the secret behind the blob's eerie light. The blob was first spotted back in the late 1990s by Chuck Steidel , an astronomer at Caltech, and some colleagues. They were observing a bunch of galaxies in the distant reaches of the universe, he recalls, "but we also saw these big blotchy things." At first, they thought they had somehow accidentally screwed up...

NASA sent a robotic spacecraft from Florida out to an asteroid Thursday, but that's not the only asteroid mission the space agency has in the works. Officials also want to study a different asteroid with the help of astronauts. And it looks like the next president, plus Congress, will have to decide whether this human mission to a flying rock should ever get off the ground. The idea of visiting an asteroid goes back to 2010, when President Obama went to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to lay...

Most populations of humpback whales no longer need endangered species protections, according to a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The U.S. government listed all humpback whales as endangered back in 1970, after commercial whaling had drastically reduced their numbers. But now, officials say they have divided humpback whales into 14 distinct populations. And after a scientific review, they say that nine of those populations have recovered enough that they no longer need to...

Lizards are expected to be hard hit by climate change — and a new study suggests it might be even worse for some lizards than scientists thought. Lizards are sensitive to global warming because they regulate their body temperature using the environment. They bask in the sun, and cool off in the shade. It's been predicted that about 40 percent of the world's lizard populations will die off by the year 2080, which means roughly 20 percent of lizard species will go extinct. That prediction was...

When you praise a dog, it's listening not just to the words you say but also how you say them. That might not be huge news to dog owners. But now scientists have explored this phenomenon by using an imaging machine to peek inside the brains of 13 dogs as they listened to their trainer's voice. The reward pathway in the dogs' brains lit up when they heard both praising words and an approving intonation — but not when they heard random words spoken in a praising tone or praise words spoken in a...

A potentially habitable planet about the size of Earth is orbiting the star that is nearest our solar system, according to scientists who describe the find Wednesday in the journal Nature . The newly discovered planet orbits Proxima Centauri , a red dwarf star that's just 4.25 light-years from Earth — about 25 trillion miles away. The star is too faint to be seen with the naked eye and is close to a much brighter and more famous pair of stars called Alpha Centauri A and B. Researchers...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5A6ehNcrmw "The wave" has been a popular diversion among spectators at stadium sporting events since at least the early 1980s, and over the years this pastime has caught the attention of physicists. Illes Farkas , with the statistical and biological physics group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, first began pondering the phenomenon in 2001. "It was summer," he recalls. "It was really hot," and some kind of sports competition was in town. He saw...

Sharks can live to be at least 272 years old in the Arctic seas, and scientists say one recently caught shark may have lived as long as 512 years. That's according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science that says Greenland sharks can live longer than any other known animal advanced enough to have a backbone. Until now, the record-holder for the oldest vertebrate was the bowhead whale, known to have lived up to 211 years. The Greenland shark, a massive carnivore that can be more...

Teens are driving unsupervised too late at night, a recent study suggests, and expanding restrictions on their nighttime driving to include the hours before midnight could save lives. Ruth Shults , an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, says that getting a driver's license is an exciting rite of passage for teens. "But we also know that it can be a dangerous time for them," she says, because motor vehicle crashes kill more teens than anything else....

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR .

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is such a crazy, turbulent storm that it creates sound waves that travel hundreds of miles up and actually heat the planet's upper atmosphere. That's the conclusion of scientists who found a striking hotspot right above the Great Red Spot . They describe their finding Wednesday in the journal Nature . The Great Red Spot is a vast storm about 10,000 miles wide — around 1.5 times the size of Earth. "It's the largest storm in the solar system," says James O'Donoghue , a...

An African bird called the Greater honeyguide is famous for leading people to honey, and a new study shows that the birds listen for certain human calls to figure out who wants to play follow-the-leader. The finding underscores the unique relationship that exists between humans and this wild bird. "They're definitely not domesticated, and they're in no way coerced," says Claire Spottiswoode of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. "And they're not taught in any conventional way...

The way clouds cover the Earth may be changing because of global warming, according to a study published Monday that used satellite data to track cloud patterns across about two decades, starting in the 1980s. Clouds in the mid-latitudes shifted toward the poles during that period, as the subtropical dry zones expanded and the highest cloud-tops got higher. These changes are predicted by most climate models of global warming, even though those models disagree on a lot of other things related...

The exploration of our outer solar system is about to hit a real slump. NASA is celebrating Juno 's arrival at Jupiter, but in less than two years, Juno will be gone — it's slated to plunge into the gas giant and burn up. The Cassini spacecraft, now orbiting Saturn, will meet the same fate next year. "It'll be the first time since the 1970s that there will be no NASA presence in the outer planets," says Casey Dreier , director of space policy at The Planetary Society. "For the first time in...

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....

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