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.

Scientists can get very excited about what they study, and that means they can be pretty jazzed when what they study gets turned into one of the official emojis of the world and enters our shared visual language.

But sometimes that enthusiasm is tempered by more complex feelings, which is the case with some of the latest emojis that are about to hit our smartphones.

Consider the "rock" emoji.

U.S. officials are weighing the benefits and risks of proposed experiments that might make a dangerous pathogen even worse — but the details of that review, and the exact nature of the experiments, aren't being released to the public.

Later this week, officials are to hold a meeting in Bethesda, Md., to debate how much information to openly share about this kind of controversial work and how much to reveal about the reasoning behind decisions to pursue or forgo it.

Some wolf puppies are unexpectedly willing to play fetch, according to scientists who saw young wolves retrieve a ball thrown by a stranger and bring it back at that person's urging.

This behavior wouldn't be surprising in a dog. But wolves are thought to be less responsive to human cues because they haven't gone through thousands of years of domestication.

Special fibers that change color when they are under strain have helped scientists come up with some simple rules that can predict how a knot will perform in the real world.

India's space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they've not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world's fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or "sky vehicle" in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit Earth on a weeklong spaceflight.

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Shepherds in Christmas Nativity scenes that were painted, carved or sculpted hundreds of years ago sometimes have throats with large, abnormal growths.

These are realistic depictions of goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by iodine deficiency. The condition was common in those days in northern Italy, where the soil and water are depleted of iodine.

The Department of Labor's workplace safety agency is getting ready to take new action to reduce workers' exposure to dangerous silica dust that can irreparably damage the lungs.

Every day, 20 to 30 trucks roll into a factory in Minnesota. They're filled with quartz — some of it like a powder, and some of it like sparkling little pebbles, in big white sacks.

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Ublester Rodriguez could not have anticipated that his life would be profoundly changed by kitchen and bathroom countertops.

He says that he grew up poor, in a small Mexican town, and came to the United States when he was 14. He spoke no English, but he immediately got a job.

"In the beginning I was working in a Chinese restaurant, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It was all day, so I never had time to go to school," he recalls. "I was a dishwasher."

Lawmakers in Congress are calling on the Department of Labor to do more to protect workers who may be unsafely cutting "engineered stone" used for countertops.

The material contains high levels of the mineral silica, and breathing in silica dust is dangerous. While silica is found in natural stones, like granite, engineered stone made of quartz can be more than 90% silica.

Artificial stone used to make kitchen and bathroom countertops has been linked to cases of death and irreversible lung injury in workers who cut, grind and polish this increasingly popular material.

The fear is that thousands of workers in the United States who create countertops out of what's known as "engineered stone" may be inhaling dangerous amounts of lung-damaging silica dust, because engineered stone is mostly made of the mineral silica.

Patrick Boyle recalls that by the time he got his Ph.D. in biology in 2012, he had worked with just a few other people and managed to manufacture six genes, the basic units of heredity.

"Today, we are synthesizing more than 10,000 genes every month," he says, showing off a lab at a Boston biotech company called Ginkgo Bioworks.

Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds.

That's according to a new estimate published in the journal Science by researchers who brought together a variety of information that has been collected on 529 bird species since 1970.

The next generation of doctors will start their careers at a time when physicians are feeling pressure to limit prescriptions for opioid painkillers.

Yet every day, they'll face patients who are hurting from injuries, surgical procedures or disease. Around 20% of adults in the U.S. live with chronic pain.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will aggressively reduce the use of animals in toxicity testing, with a goal of eliminating all routine safety tests on mammals by 2035.

Chemicals such as pesticides typically get tested for safety on animals like mice and rats. Researchers have long been trying to instead increase the use of alternative safety tests that rely on lab-grown cells or computer modeling. The EPA's administer, Andrew Wheeler, has now set some specific deadlines to try to speed up that transition.

A few years ago, TV celebrity Rachel Maddow was at Rockefeller University to hand out a prize that's given each year to a prominent female scientist. As Maddow entered the auditorium, someone overheard her say, "What is up with the dude wall?"

She was referring to a wall covered with portraits of scientists from the university who have won either a Nobel Prize or the Lasker Award, a major medical prize.

The nation's foremost public health agency shies away from discussing the important link in this country between suicide and access to guns.

That's according to documents obtained by NPR that suggest the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instead relies on vague language and messages about suicide that effectively downplay and obscure the risk posed by firearms.

Guns in the United States kill more people through suicide than homicide.

Science has some bad news for the bearded: young children think you're really, really unattractive.

A new study suggests that, until they reach puberty, kids are strongly anti-beard — although children with bearded fathers did feel more warmly toward facial hair.

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Ocean-dwelling sharks often like to hang out in areas that also get frequented by industrial fishing ships, which puts them at grave risk of being caught either for food or as bycatch.

That's according to a new study in the journal Nature that mapped the activity of 23 shark species and fishing vessels around the globe.

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When a rocket carrying the first module of the International Space Station blasted off from Kazakhstan in November of 1998, NASA officials said the station would serve as an orbiting home for astronauts and cosmonauts for at least 15 years.

Mike Morrison hardly looks like a revolutionary. He's wearing a dark suit and has short hair. But we're about to enter a world of conformity that hasn't changed in decades — maybe even a century. And in there, his vision seems radical.

"We are about to walk into a room full of 100 scientific posters, where researchers are trying to display their findings on a big poster board," says Morrison, a doctoral student in psychology at Michigan State University.

At the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., there's a room filled with burbling aquariums. A lot of them have lids weighed down with big rocks.

"Octopuses are notorious for being able to, kind of, escape out of their enclosures," says Bret Grasse, whose official title at MBL is "manager of cephalopod operations" — cephalopods being squid, cuttlefish and octopuses.

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The brains of dead pigs have been somewhat revived by scientists hours after the animals were killed in a slaughterhouse.

The Yale University research team is careful to say that none of the brains regained the kind of organized electrical activity associated with consciousness or awareness. Still, the experiment described Wednesday in the journal Nature showed that a surprising amount of cellular function was either preserved or restored.

Salt has existed for millions of years. The Salt Institute has existed for just over a century. And now it has dissolved.

Mosquitoes searching for a meal of blood use a variety of clues to track down humans, including our body heat and the carbon dioxide in our breath. Now, research shows that a certain olfactory receptor in their antennae also serves as a detector of humans, responding to smelly chemicals in our sweat.

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