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.

Genetic mutations are the driving force of evolution, and now scientists have managed to study the effect of mutations in exquisite detail by watching what happens as they pop up in single cells.

Only about one percent of mutations were bad enough to kill off the cell, according to a report published Thursday in Science. Most of the time, these small changes in its DNA appeared to have no effect at all.

Everyone from NASA to the cast of The Big Bang Theory is reacting Wednesday to the death of acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, known for his work on understanding the nature of black holes.

In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology.

The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon.

A rocket more powerful than any other flying today is scheduled to blast off Tuesday for the first time, if all goes well.

Even very young babies can tell the difference between someone who's helpful and someone who's mean — and lab studies show that babies consistently prefer the helpers.

But one of humans' closest relatives — the bonobo — makes a different choice, preferring to cozy up to the meanies.

That's according to experiments described Thursday in the journal Current Biology, by scientists who wanted to explore the evolutionary origins of humans' unusually cooperative behavior.

The end of the year is a time of holiday gift giving, and finding just the right gift can sometimes feel like an impossible task. But folks at an animal eyeball lab say that a gift they've just received, partly thanks to NPR, has made this the "best Christmas ever."

It's a massive whale eye, probably from a blue whale, and the story of how it ended up at the lab starts in the 1960s.

Scientists could soon resume controversial experiments on germs with the potential to cause pandemics, as government officials have decided to finally lift an unusual three-year moratorium on federal funding for the work.

The research involves three viruses — influenza, SARS, and MERS — that could kill millions if they mutated in a way that let the germs spread quickly among people.

President Trump has formally told NASA to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon.

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," he said.

Standing at the president's side as he signed "Space Policy Directive 1" on Monday was Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, one of the last two humans to ever walk on the moon, in a mission that took place 45 years ago this week.

Narwhals — the unicorns of the sea — show a weird fear response after being entangled in nets. Scientists say this unusual reaction to human-induced stress might restrict blood flow to the brain and leave the whales addled.

Scientists have just discovered a supermassive black hole that existed surprisingly early in the history of the universe, and the puzzling find is shedding new light on when the first stars blinked on.

Astronomers spotted the black hole, the most distant ever found, sitting inside a bright object so far away that the light had been traveling for 13 billion years before reaching Earth.

The ever-widening use of artificial lights is making the nighttime Earth glow increasingly brighter, with the amount of global light growing about 2 percent each year.

That worries advocates for the protection of dark skies, who say that artificial night glow can affect wildlife like migrating birds and keeps people from connecting to the stars. What's more, they say, all that wasted light sent out into space is effectively wasted money.

Scientists believe they may have new insights into why passenger pigeons went extinct, after analyzing DNA from the toes of birds that have been carefully preserved in museums for over a century.

The Great Pyramid of Giza has been probed with the tools of modern particle physics by scientists who say they have discovered a huge, secret space hidden within its ancient walls.

It is located above a tall, cathedral-like room known as the Grand Gallery, and this newly found space is comparable in size — about 100 feet long, according to a report in the journal Nature.

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Astronomers have spotted some kind of outer space rock that's the first visitor from outside of our solar system that they've ever observed.

The discovery has set off a mad scramble to point telescopes at this fast-moving object to try to learn as much as possible before it zips out of sight.

Having police officers wear little cameras seems to have no discernible impact on citizen complaints or officers' use of force, at least in the nation's capital.

That's the conclusion of a study performed as Washington, D.C., rolled out its huge camera program. The city has one of the largest forces in the country, with some 2,600 officers now wearing cameras on their collars or shirts.

In a small, windowless room at Johns Hopkins University, pigtail macaques jump around in cages. The braver ones reach out between the metal bars to accept pieces of apricot with their long fingers.

In one cage, a monkey hangs back in the corner. At first it looks like he's all alone in there, until veterinarian Bob Adams points out, "No, he's got a friend." Another monkey is clinging to his back, almost hidden.

For the first time, scientists have caught two neutron stars in the act of colliding, revealing that these strange smashups are the source of heavy elements such as gold and platinum.

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Today, three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a new way to image biological molecules. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce has more on the winners.

Updated at 8 a.m. ET Friday

Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricanes ever recorded, and its wind speeds remain about 150 miles per hour, with stronger gusts. As this monster churns through the Caribbean and heads toward Florida, here is the lowdown.

How dangerous is it?

President Trump's pick for the next leader of NASA is a fighter pilot who wants Americans to return to the moon but doesn't believe that humans are causing climate change.

The day of the long-awaited coast-to-coast solar eclipse has arrived — and if history is any guide, it's likely that somebody's eyes are going to get hurt.

Anyone who gets to see the total solar eclipse on August 21 will be lucky — and humanity is lucky to live on a planet that even has this kind of celestial event.

Mercury and Venus, after all, don't even have moons. Mars has a couple, but they're too small to completely blot out the sun. Gas giants like Jupiter do have big moons, but they don't have solid surfaces where you could stand and enjoy an eclipse.

And, even with solid land and a moon, Earth only gets its gorgeous total solar eclipses because of a cosmic coincidence.

To see this month's total solar eclipse, the first one to be visible from the contiguous United States in nearly 40 years, all Donald Liebenberg will have to do is open his front door and step outside.

"It's a really special treat to be able to have one in my driveway," says Liebenberg, who has trekked to Turkey, Zambia, China and Pukapuka, a remote island in the Pacific, to see past eclipses.

You might think that, after thousands of years of observing total solar eclipses, science-minded folks would have exhausted what can be learned from this awesome natural spectacle.

You would be wrong.

When Ralph Chou was about 12 years old, he took all the right precautions to watch his first solar eclipse.

"I did other stupid things, but when it came to looking at that eclipse, I was being very careful," says Chou, a professor emeritus of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo, who's a leading authority on eye damage from eclipse viewing.

Groups that represent industries from farming to fracking are supporting a legislative push to rewrite how government handles science when drawing up regulations.

And the whole effort has scientists worried.

Consider, for example, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, which passed the House in the spring and now is with the Senate. Just how "honest" it is depends on whom you ask.

There is a little room at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that is filled with the eyeballs of animals — everything from the duck-billed platypus to the two-toed sloth to the boa constrictor.

The Apollo 11 command module, which took the first moonwalkers to lunar orbit and back in 1969, is undergoing a painstaking restoration, in preparation for an unusual national tour later this year.

A study published Thursday shows how a bird flu virus that's sickening and killing people in China could mutate to potentially become more contagious.

Just three changes could be enough to do the trick, scientists report in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

And the news comes just as federal officials are getting ready to lift a moratorium on controversial lab experiments that would deliberately create flu viruses with mutations like these.