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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.

In December, NASA is scheduled to launch the huge $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is sometimes billed as the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

The new telescope, the largest and most powerful ever put into space, will travel to a lonely spot 1 million miles from Earth, where it will be able to peer out into the farthest reaches of the universe.

After a setting-up period of about six months, NASA will unveil the telescope's first images to the public.

Anyone who has ever accidentally stepped on a dog's tail has probably wondered if dogs can understand the difference between doing something by mistake about doing it on purpose. Now a new study suggests that, at least in some circumstances, dogs do seem to know when their humans have just screwed up.

A potentially dangerous asteroid called Bennu has a 1 in 1,750 chance of hitting Earth between now and the year 2300.

That's according to the most precise calculations of an asteroid's trajectory ever made, and the odds are slightly worse than NASA previously thought.

Still, the researchers studying Bennu say this doesn't keep them up at night.

A pretty little white flower that grows near urban centers of the Pacific Northwest turns out to be a killer.

The bog-dwelling western false asphodel, Triantha occidentalis, was first described in the scientific literature in 1879. But until now, no one realized this sweet-looking plant used its sticky stem to catch and digest insects, according to researchers who note in their study published Monday it's the first new carnivorous plant to be discovered in about 20 years.

Jason Hodin hauls up a rope that's hanging from a dock in the waters off San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest. At the end is a square, sandwich-size Tupperware container, with mesh-covered holes in the sides to let water flow through. Hodin pulls off the lid and peers inside at some crushed bits of shell. He points to some reddish-orange dots.

"See that? That little dot right there in front of my finger?" Hodin says. "That's a juvenile sea star that's about a month old."

High up on Mount Rainier in Washington, there's a stunning view of the other white-capped peaks in the Cascade Range. But Scott Hotaling is looking down toward his feet, studying the snow-covered ground.

"It's happening," he says, gesturing across Paradise Glacier.

Small black flecks suddenly appear on the previously blank expanse of white. The glacier's surface quickly transforms as more and more tiny black creatures emerge. The ice worms have returned, snaking in between ice crystals and shimmering in the sun.

A black hole swallowing a neutron star — a star more massive than our sun but only about the size of a city — has been observed for the first time ever.

Each of these space monsters is among the most extreme and mysterious phenomena in the universe. The new find, described Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, shows how the very fabric of the universe gets roiled when the two come together.

Right now, a couple of planets about as massive as Earth are orbiting a dim star that's just a dozen light-years away from us. Those planets could be cozy enough to potentially support life. But if any one is living there — and if these life forms have the same kinds of technology that humans do — they wouldn't be able to detect Earth yet.

NASA has decided to send two new missions to Venus, our closest planetary neighbor, making it the first time the agency will go to this scorching hot world in more than three decades.

The news has thrilled planetary scientists who have long argued that Venus deserves more attention because it could be a cautionary tale of a pleasant, Earth-like world that somehow went horribly awry.

Jumping spiders, which use their four pairs of big eyes to spot prey so that they can pounce, can spend a lot of the night just hanging around—literally.

The gorilla jumping spider, Evarcha arcuata, frequently hangs by a single thread at night, suspended in mid-air for hours. Researchers suspect these visually-oriented spiders may cope with darkness by switching to a strategy that lets them use vibrations as a warning signal of danger.

Millions upon millions of Brood X cicadas are emerging, and entomologist Marianne Alleyne didn't want to miss it.

"I didn't see it 17 years ago, and I wanted to experience it," says Alleyne. "My brother-in-law actually put it perfectly: 'This is your entomology Woodstock, isn't it?'"

Traces of rare forms of iron and plutonium have been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, after some kind of cataclysm in outer space created this radioactive stuff and sent it raining down on our planet.

An effort to understand the full genetic makeup of more than 70,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes has taken some major steps forward, with scientists unveiling the DNA sequences of 25 species including the Canada lynx, platypus, and zig-zag eel.

Updated April 23, 2021 at 5:24 PM ET

It was 4 o'clock in the morning, well before sunrise, and cold. A light wintry mix of rain and snow was falling. The lousy weather was a relief, as it meant even less of a chance that someone might randomly pass by. The small group of scientists didn't want anyone to see what they were about to do.

More than a billion biological specimens are thought to be stashed away in museums and universities and other places across the United States — everything from dead fish floating in glass jars to dried plants pressed between paper to vials of microbes chilling in a freezer.

Until recently, it's been hard to for researchers to locate all the potentially useful stuff scattered around in storage, even though caretakers say these treasures are like time machines that offer an unrivaled opportunity to understand global change.

Octopuses have alternating periods of "quiet" and "active" sleep that make their rest similar to that of mammals, despite being separated by more than 500 million years of evolution.

During their active periods of sleep, octopuses' skin color changes and their bodies twitch, according to a report in the journal iScience, and they might even have short dreams.

NASA is counting down to what should be the final major test of the massive rocket it is building to put the first woman and the next man on the moon.

Updated at 5:40 p.m.

A panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given its blessing to a new one-shot vaccine for COVID-19.

An ancient, well-preserved tree that was alive the last time the Earth's magnetic poles flipped has helped scientists pin down more precise timing of that event, which occurred about 42,000 years ago.

Tattoo artists in Europe are fighting a new ban on two commonly-used green and blue pigments, saying that losing these ink ingredients would be a disaster for their industry and their art.

A horn made from a conch shell over 17,000 years ago has blasted out musical notes for the first time in millennia.

Archaeologists originally found the seashell in 1931, in a French cave that contains prehistoric wall paintings. They speculated that the cave's past occupants had used the shell as a ceremonial cup for shared drinks, and that a hole in its tip was just accidental damage.

The oldest ice on Earth probably is hiding somewhere in Antarctica, because this frozen continent holds ice that's hundreds of thousands and even millions of years old. Scientists are hoping to find it.

But even the scientists hunting for old ice aren't sure how long the very oldest ice might have stuck around, says John Higgins, a geochemist at Princeton University.

When Linsey Marr looks back at the beginning of 2020, what strikes her is how few people in the world really understood how viruses can travel through the air.

"In the past year, we've come farther in understanding airborne transmission, or at least kind of beyond just the few experts who study it, than we have in decades," says Marr. "Frankly, I thought it would take us another 30 years to get to where we are now."

Look up at the night sky and, if you're away from city lights, you'll see stars. The space between those bright points of light is, of course, filled with inky blackness.

Some astronomers have wondered about that all that dark space — about how dark it really is.

A NASA spacecraft sent out to collect a sample of rock and dust from an asteroid has nabbed so much that it's created an unexpected problem.

Rocks are jammed in the device in a way that's keeping a Mylar flap open, creating a gap that's letting some of the collected pebbles and dust drift out into space.

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

A NASA spacecraft successfully touched down on a skyscraper-sized asteroid 200 million miles away, in order to collect a small amount of rock and dust that can then be returned to Earth.

The probe, called OSIRIS-REx, is about as big as a 15-passenger van, and it was aiming for a specific spot inside a boulder-strewn crater. The maneuver was tricky and fraught with peril, as the spacecraft had to reach a safe area that's only the size of a few parking spaces.

Last week, craving sweets, Colin Purrington remembered the Twinkies.

He'd purchased them back in 2012 for sentimental reasons when he heard that Hostess Brands was going bankrupt and Twinkies might disappear forever.

"When there's no desserts in the house, you get desperate," says Purrington, who went down to the basement and retrieved the old box of snack cakes, fully intending to enjoy several.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded this year to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on "genetic scissors" that can cut DNA at a precise location, allowing scientists to make specific changes to specific genes.

Giant flares and eruptions from the sun can cause space weather, and stormy space weather can interfere with everything from satellites to the electrical grid to airplane communications. Now, though, there's good news for people who monitor the phenomenon — the sun has passed from one of its 11-year activity cycles into another, and scientists predict that the new cycle should be just about as calm as the last.

Scientists say they've detected a gas in the clouds of Venus that, on Earth, is produced by microbial life.

The researchers have racked their brains trying to understand why this toxic gas, phosphine, is there in such quantities, but they can't think of any geologic or chemical explanation.

The mystery raises the astonishing possibility that Venus, the planet that comes closest to Earth as it whizzes around the sun, might have some kind of life flourishing more than 30 miles up in its yellow, hazy clouds.

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