Geoff Brumfiel

Science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel's reports on physics, space, and all things nuclear can be heard across NPR News programs and on NPR.org.

Brumfiel has carried his microphone into ghost villages created by the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. He's tracked the journey of highly enriched uranium as it was shipped out of Poland. For a story on how animals drink, he crouched for over an hour and tried to convince his neighbor's cat to lap a bowl of milk. He became a full-time correspondent in March of 2013.

Prior to NPR, Geoff was based in London as a senior reporter for Nature Magazine from 2007-2013. There he covered energy, space, climate, and the physical sciences. In addition to reporting, he was a member of the award-winning Nature podcast team. From 2002 – 2007, Brumfiel was Nature Magazine's Washington Correspondent, reporting on Congress, the Bush administration, NASA, and the National Science Foundation, as well as the Departments of Energy and Defense.

He began his journalism career working on the American Physical Society's "Focus" website, which is now part of Physics.

Brumfiel is the 2013 winner of the Association of British Science Writers award for news reporting on the Fukushima nuclear accident.

He graduated from Grinnell College with a BA double degree in physics and English, and earned his Masters in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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The Two-Way
12:48 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Even After SpaceShipTwo Crash, Many Space Tourists Hold On To Tickets

The unique folding tail section of the Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo may have been a factor in the crash.
Virgin Galactic

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 1:56 pm

The dream of hundreds of space tourists was dealt a blow last Friday when Virgin Galactic's experimental SpaceShipTwo broke up over California's Mojave Desert. The pilot was injured and the co-pilot died in the accident.

But many are still holding on to their tickets.

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Shots - Health News
2:34 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

How Boy Bits First Came To Be

A python embryo turns its leg cells into a pair of penises. Researchers now believe that signals from the embryonic gut trigger the development of the penis in many different species.
Patrick Tschopp/Harvard Medical School/Department of Genetics

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 11:13 am

Evolution has shaped every part of the body, and that includes our private parts. New research published this week sheds light on how the penis evolved and how it forms in different animals.

The research might also one day help illuminate a medical mystery: Birth defects of the penis have risen sharply in recent decades, and nobody is sure why.

Penises weren't necessary when our early ancestors lived in the ocean. A female could lay eggs, and a male could just swim by and excrete some sperm. It would all mix and fertilize in the water.

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Science
9:53 am
Mon November 3, 2014

New Clock May End Time As We Know It

Strontium atoms floating in the center of this photo are the heart of the world's most precise clock. The clock is so exact that it can detect tiny shifts in the flow of time itself.
Courtesy of the Ye group and Brad Baxley/JILA

Originally published on Tue November 4, 2014 1:51 pm

"My own personal opinion is that time is a human construct," says Tom O'Brian. O'Brian has thought a lot about this over the years. He is America's official timekeeper at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

To him, days, hours, minutes and seconds are a way for humanity to "put some order in this very fascinating and complex universe around us."

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The Two-Way
2:09 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

1 Dead After Commercial Spaceship Crashes During Test Flight

The commercial space ship, pictured here in an earlier test flight, crashed in the California desert.
Mark Greenberg Virgin Galactic

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 4:28 pm

In what could be a major setback for commercial space tourism, a manned spaceship has crashed in California's Mojave Desert.

The Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two was on a test flight this morning, with two pilots aboard. Minutes after its rocket fired, the company announced on Twitter that spacecraft experienced an "anomaly."

Capt. Tom Ellison of Kern County Fire Department said that Spaceship Two had a malfunction shortly after it separated from White Knight Two, the rocket that gives Spaceship Two a lift up to 45,000 feet.

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Shots - Health News
3:27 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Ancient Viruses Lurk In Frozen Caribou Poo

Caribous doing their business in mountain ice have left a viral record hundreds of years old.
Courtesy of Brian Moorman

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 7:58 am

A careful examination of frozen caribou poop has turned up two never-before-seen viruses.

The viruses are hundreds of years old: One of them probably infected plants the caribous ate. The other may have infected insects that buzzed around the animals.

The findings prove viruses can survive for surprisingly long periods of time in a cold environment, according to Eric Delwart, a researcher at Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco.

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The Two-Way
4:03 am
Fri October 24, 2014

European Scientists Conclude That Distant Comet Smells Terrible

The Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko smells of rotten eggs, drunk people and horses.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 11:35 am

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we've all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

"It stinks," says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

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Shots - Health News
1:49 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

A 45,000-Year-Old Leg Bone Reveals The Oldest Human Genome Yet

Researcher Svante Pääbo, was able to extract a complete genome from this ancient human leg bone.
Bence Viola Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 11:32 am

Researchers have successfully decoded the genes of a 45,000-year-old man from Siberia. The results offer clues about early human life outside of Africa as well as how humans interacted with Neanderthals and other groups around at the time.

The complete set of genes is the oldest genome of its kind, according to Svante Pääbo, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "It's almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced."

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All Tech Considered
3:59 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

LED Lights Shine In Nobel Prize; Now How About Your Home?

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 4:43 pm

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three Japanese-born researchers for their work on the blue light-emitting diode, or LED.

And there's never been a better time to put their Nobel-prize winning discovery right in your own home. LED light bulbs, which use blue LEDs, are coming of age, and the price is dropping fast. You can pick them up for less than $10 each.

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Shots - Health News
4:18 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

A Simple Question Can Stop Ebola: How Do You Feel?

A Red Cross worker delivers bedding to a unit at The Ivy Apartments in Dallas, where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus had been staying.
Mike Stone Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 9:08 am

Dr. David Kuhar landed in Dallas on Tuesday night.

Kuhar is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's top expert on Ebola, and the agency dispatched him as soon as they received confirmation that a man had carried the disease from Liberia.

Today, his 10-person team is on the front lines of an effort to keep that single case from turning into an outbreak.

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Science
7:02 am
Sat September 27, 2014

India Zooms To Mars Much More Cheaply, But With Trade-Offs

A member of the Indian security force keeps watch over a launch vehicle carrying the Mars Orbiter probe at the Indian Space Research Organization facility, in Sriharikota, in 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 28, 2014 8:17 am

Earlier this week, two spacecraft arrived at the planet Mars. One came from India, the other from the U.S. Both are now in orbit and collecting data. But the Indian probe is conducting its mission at a tiny fraction of the cost of its NASA counterpart.

"Some of the publicly available numbers are in the $74 million to $75 million range," says Amaresh Kollipara, a managing partner of Earth 2 Orbit, a company that pairs private satellite providers with the Indian space agency.

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