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
2:46 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Comet Lander's Big Bounce Caught On Camera

The Rosetta spacecraft, which orbits the comet, captured this series of images of the Philae lander bounding off the surface. The precise spot the lander came to a stop remains unknown.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 7:41 pm

Updated at 3:45PM ET

It was the first ever landing on a comet, and it was perfect.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of the journey for the European Space Agency's unmanned Philae lander. After touching down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the lander bounced off the surface and flew a kilometer back up into space.

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National Security
4:28 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Pentagon Plans To Spend Billions Upgrading Nuclear Program

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 6:34 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Two-Way
3:26 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Comet's Rugged Landscape Makes Landing A Roll Of The Dice

Newly released images taken from just 6 miles above the comet show high plateaus sticking up from its boulder-strewn surface.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 4:48 pm

The European Space Agency is about to try to put a probe where none has gone before: on the surface of a comet.

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The Two-Way
3:30 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Researchers To Attempt Robotic Landing On Comet's Surface

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is about to send a lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
ESA/Rosetta/NavCam

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 10:12 am

Humans have never landed anything on a comet's surface. That may change tomorrow.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is poised to send out a small probe to land on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta spent 10 years chasing the comet before arriving in August.

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The Two-Way
1:48 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 2:56 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
3:34 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 12:13 pm

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
10:53 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 2:51 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
3:27 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 5:28 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
4:27 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 8:58 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
4:53 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 12:35 pm

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
2:49 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 12:32 pm

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
4:20 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

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

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 5:43 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
5:18 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 10:08 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
8:20 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 9:17 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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The Two-Way
1:48 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Massive Volcanic Eruption Is Making Iceland Grow

A plane flies over the Bardarbunga volcano as it spews lava and smoke in southeast Iceland on Sept. 14. The Bardarbunga volcano system has been rocked by hundreds of tremors a day since mid-August, prompting fears the volcano could explode.
Bernard Meric AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 1:29 pm

The tiny, island nation of Iceland is in the middle of a growth spurt. For the past month, the country's Bardarbunga volcano has been churning out lava at a prodigious rate. And the eruption shows no signs of abating.

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The Two-Way
4:37 am
Fri September 19, 2014

How NASA's New Spaceships Stack Up

The new capsules are being built by Boeing and SpaceX. They look similar, but there are differences.
SpaceX, The Boeing Company

Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 10:24 pm

Earlier this week NASA announced that two private companies will build spaceships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA hopes that both models will eventually be used by space tourists to get into orbit. Which got us wondering, which one would we rather fly in?

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Global Health
4:19 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Ebola Outbreak Presents Special Challenges For U.S. Military

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 5:33 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Goats and Soda
7:03 am
Sat September 13, 2014

What The U.S. Has Given To Fight Ebola, From Thermometers To Soap

The U.S. is providing supplies to combat Ebola. But people are needed as well.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 1:33 pm

Over the past month, the U.S. has begun to ramp up aid to Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. U.S. contributions could soon top $250 million dollars, according to the White House National Security Council.

You might wonder what kind of aid is being provided. So did we. Here's a sampling, drawn from information provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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Goats and Soda
4:39 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Can The U.S. Military Turn The Tide In The Ebola Outbreak?

US soldiers have intervened in during natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But a disease outbreak is more complicated.
SSgt. Chad Chisholm U.S. Dept. of Defense

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 9:00 am

As the body count in Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak continues to rise, some say the time has come for the U.S. military to step in.

"The U.S. Military is uniquely poised to help with this disease," says Timothy Flanigan, an infectious disease researcher at Brown University who's volunteering in Liberia, the country hardest hit by Ebola. "We've trained for it, we've got the logistics, we've got the support and we have the matériel."

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The Two-Way
7:31 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Russian Space Experiment On Gecko Sex Goes Awry

A Russian capsule that housed a gecko space-sex experiment. The geckos all died.
ROSCOSMOS

Space is a dangerous place. That message resonated again on Monday, when the Russian Federal Space Agency — Roscosmos — announced that a team of experimental geckos tasked with copulating while in orbit did not survive their journey.

"All geckos, unfortunately, died," the space agency said in a terse statement.

Roscosmos is launching an investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the geckos' deaths, but the mission seemed star-crossed from the start.

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The Two-Way
12:15 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Scientists Searching For Alien Air Pollution

In this artist's conception, the atmosphere of an Earthlike planet displays a brownish haze — the result of widespread pollution.
Christine Pulliam Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 3:18 pm

Air pollution is clogging the skies of our planet. Now one scientist thinks Earth may be just one of many polluted worlds — and that searching for extraterrestrial smog may actually be a good way to search for alien intelligence.

"People refer to 'little green men,' but ETs that are detected by this method should not be labeled as green," says Avi Loeb, an astronomer at Harvard University.

The idea of finding alien polluters may be a bit of a long shot, but Loeb says it's possible.

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Middle East
4:19 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

A Milestone Marked In Disposal Of Syria's Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 7:38 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Two-Way
2:19 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Do Not Fear This Giant Robot Swarm

These 1024 "kilobots" can shuffle into any shape their creator desires. Each robot is a little bigger than a quarter, standing on three little metal legs that vibrate to make it move.
Courtesy of Michael Rubenstein

Originally published on Fri August 15, 2014 7:46 am

Harvard roboticist Mike Rubenstein thought he was being clever when he came up with the name for the 1,024 little robots he built. He's into computers, so he thought of kilobytes and named them kilobots.

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News
4:23 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

After 78 Years, A First: Math Prize Celebrates Work Of A Woman

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 9:14 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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The Two-Way
5:09 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

In Quest To Harpoon A Comet, A Spacecraft Stalks Its Prey

The Rosetta spacecraft took this image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 4 August 2014 from a distance of just 145 miles.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 9:47 am

Tomorrow morning, a European space probe will arrive at a comet with a tongue-twister of a name: Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Getting there has been proven even trickier than pronouncing it.

The Rosetta spacecraft began its journey way back in March of 2004.

First it swung past Earth to gather speed. Then it catapulted out to Mars, for a boost from that planet's gravity field. Then in 2007, it came back to Earth for another push — then back out to an asteroid, and back to Earth.

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The Two-Way
6:36 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

After A Decade, Comet-Chasing Spacecraft Nearly There

The Rosetta Spacecraft is within 186 miles of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, less than the distance from New York to Boston.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 1:43 am

It's been a long journey, but it's nearly over. On Wednesday, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft will finally arrive at the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Humans have sent spacecraft hurtling past comets before, but Rosetta is doing something very different. It's sidling up next to 67P to join the big, dirty ice ball on its journey past the sun.

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The Salt
10:01 am
Thu July 31, 2014

How To Order Pizza From A Nuclear Command Bunker

Getting a pizza delivered to a remote nuclear missle base is tricky. Unfortunately, the Air Force won't let you use its helicopters.
Dan Gage/USAF

Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 12:34 pm

I spent months working with the U.S. Air Force to get access to a remote underground nuclear bunker in Nebraska for our radio series on America's missile forces. There was only one question left to answer before I left.

What did I want for lunch?

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National Security
3:32 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Welcome To The Nuclear Command Bunker

Lt. Raj Bansal and Capt. Joseph Shannon (right) approach Foxtrot-01, a remote nuclear missile base in Nebraska.
Geoffrey Brumfiel NPR

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 12:35 pm

The stretch of Interstate 80 between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Lincoln, Neb., is straight and flat. High plains stretch out on either side.

But scattered along this unremarkable road, the Air Force keeps some of its most powerful weapons — Minuteman III nuclear missiles.

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National Security
1:19 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

To Stop Cheating, Nuclear Officers Ditch The Grades

First Lt. Patrick Romanofski (center) and 2nd Lt. Andrew Beckner (left) practice the launch of nuclear weapons. Promotions are now more strongly influenced by hands-on performance in this simulator.
R.J. Oriez U.S. Air Force

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 9:54 am

The young officers at F.E. Warren Air Force Base have an enormous job: to keep 150 nuclear-tipped missiles ready to launch at a moment's notice.

Understandably, they're expected to know exactly what they're doing.

Three times a month, they're tested on the weapons and the codes used to launch them. Anything less than 90 percent is a fail.

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News
4:27 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

What Brought Down The Malaysian Airliner?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 8:40 pm

Shortly after news broke that a Malaysia Airlines flight crashed in eastern Ukraine, suspicions began to swirl that the plane had been shot down. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel speaks with Audie Cornish about the feasibility that a missile brought down the airliner.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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