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.

Why people yawn is a mystery. But yawning starts in the womb.

Past studies have used ultrasound images to show fetuses yawning, but some scientists have argued that real yawns were getting confused with fetuses simply opening their mouths.

So Nadja Reissland, a researcher at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, used a more detailed ultrasound technique to get images of fetal faces that could distinguish a true yawn from just an open mouth.

Scientists say an Asian elephant at a South Korean zoo can imitate human speech, saying five Korean words that are readily understood by people who speak the language.

The male elephant, named Koshik, invented an unusual method of sound production that involves putting his trunk in his mouth and manipulating his vocal tract.

"This is not the kind of sound that Asian elephants normally make, and it's a dead-on match of the speech of his trainers," says Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna in Austria.

Here's your chance to weigh in on mutant forms of bird flu that have been in the news — the U.S. government wants to know just how scary you think these new viruses are.

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

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What was supposed to be a 60-day moratorium on certain experiments involving lab-altered bird flu has now lasted more than eight months. And there's no clear end in sight.

Researchers still disagree on how to best manage the risks posed by mutant forms of highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu. The altered viruses are contagious between ferrets, which are the lab stand-in for humans. The fear is that these germs could potentially cause a deadly flu pandemic in people if they ever escaped the lab.

Scientists have discovered that a mouse found in Africa can lose large patches of skin and then grow it back without scarring, perhaps as a way of escaping the clutches of a predator.

The finding challenges the conventional view that mammals have an extremely limited ability to replace injured body parts. There are lizards that can regrow lost tails, salamanders that can replace amputated legs, and fish that can generate new fins, but humans and other mammals generally patch up wounds with scar tissue.

One hundred ten chimpanzees will retire from biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health announced today. The move comes as some groups are pushing for a ban on all medical chimp research.

The NIH has been reviewing its chimp research since December. That's when a report from the Institute of Medicine said that there was almost no scientific need for doing biomedical research on chimps.

Space shuttle Endeavour begins a kind of farewell tour this week. The shuttle will set off on a cross-country trip to its retirement home, flying from Florida to Los Angeles on the back of a modified jumbo jet.

Along the way, the spaceship will stop off in Houston, home of NASA's Mission Control and, weather permitting, fly over NASA centers and various landmarks in cities that include San Francisco and Sacramento.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft's 35th anniversary is proving to be unexpectedly exciting, as scientists gathered this week to examine new hints that the spacecraft is on the verge of leaving our solar system.

Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. It blasted off in September 1977, on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. But it also carried a Golden Record filled with music and the sounds of our planet, in case it encountered intelligent life as it moved out toward the stars.

Scientists have known for decades that lab rats and mice will live far longer than normal if they're fed a super-low-calorie diet, and that's led some people to eat a near-starvation diet in the hopes that it will extend the human life span, too.

But a new study in monkeys suggests they may be disappointed.

The long-awaited results of this study, which started back in 1987, show that rhesus monkeys fed a diet with 30 percent fewer calories than normal did not live unusually long lives.

The only remaining laboratory of one of the greatest American inventors may soon be purchased so that it can be turned into a museum, thanks to an Internet campaign that raised nearly a million dollars in about a week.

The lab was called Wardenclyffe, and it was built by Nikola Tesla, a wizard of electrical engineering whose power systems lit up the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and harnessed the mighty Niagara Falls.

A voluntary moratorium on certain experiments involving forms of bird flu altered in laboratories should continue until there can be more public discussion of safety concerns, a prominent government official told flu researchers at a meeting in New York City Tuesday.

In a hotel ballroom in New York City, a couple hundred flu researchers watched with interest Monday as a government official ran down a list of seven kinds of experiments that could raise special security risks.

The official noted that one item on the list was any experiment that could make an infectious agent more transmissible, or contagious. "It wouldn't take long for this audience to come up with an example of that," he noted wryly.

Top influenza researchers around the world published a statement back in January saying they would temporarily hold off on any work with contagious, lab-altered forms of a particularly worrisome form of bird flu.

The unusual voluntary moratorium was supposed to last only 60 days, but it's been more than six months. And scientists don't agree on what should happen next.

A new nonprofit organization that's supposed to take charge of expanding scientific research on the International Space Station has had a rocky first year but now is starting to show what it can do.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space just signed one agreement with a company not traditionally linked to research in space: the sporting goods company Cobra Puma Golf.

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And in other news, a scientific journal has finally published the details of how to make mutant forms of bird flu. These viruses were created last year by a lab that's trying to stay one step ahead of a possible flu pandemic, so that the world can get ready. The work, though, is highly controversial. Critics say the man-made viruses pose serious risks: the germs could escape, or be used as a bio weapon.

Anyone and everyone can now look in the journal Science and read about how to make lab-altered bird flu viruses that have been at the center of a controversy that's raged for months.

But in the eyes of some critics, the details of these experiments are effectively the recipe for a dangerous flu pandemic.

The writer, poet and critic Dorothy Parker was technically not a native New Yorker; she was born at her family's beach cottage in New Jersey. But she always considered New York City to be her beloved hometown. It's where she grew up, where she struggled during her early days as a writer, where she became famous, and where she died of a heart attack at the age of 73.

Astronauts on board the international space station got a chance earlier today to see the private unmanned Dragon spaceship that was launched on Tuesday by SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit, who is living on the station, was talking to Houston's Mission Control when he suddenly reported that he had spotted Dragon. "I'm looking at Dragon right now," he said.

A private spaceship owned by a company called SpaceX is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida early Saturday morning.

If all goes well, the unmanned capsule will rocket up on a mission to deliver food and other supplies to the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to visit the outpost.

The highly anticipated mission could mark the beginning of what some say could be a new era in spaceflight, with private companies operating taxi services that could start taking people to orbit in just a few years.

Today, a scientific journal published a study that some people thought might never be made public at all.

The paper describes experiments that suggest just a few genetic changes could potentially make a bird flu virus capable of becoming contagious in humans, and causing a dangerous pandemic.

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Today, a group of entrepreneurs unveiled a new company that aims to mine precious metals and other resources from asteroids. The idea of exploiting the natural resources on asteroids has been around for more than a century, and this is not the first company to lay out such grand plans.

But as NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, this one does have the financial backing of some big names in high tech.

The Dutch scientist at the center of the controversy over recent bird flu experiments says that his team applied for government permission today to submit a paper describing their research to a science journal.

The Dutch government has asserted that the studies, which describe how to make bird flu virus more contagious, fall under regulations that control the export of weapons technology.

Proponents of the death penalty often argue that the threat of being executed acts as a deterrent that prevents people from committing murder. But those who oppose capital punishment challenge that claim. And some researchers argue that state-sanctioned execution might actually increase homicide rates.

Now, a panel of independent experts convened by the prestigious National Research Council has taken a look at this question and decided that the available research offers no useful information for policymakers.

On Tuesday morning, space shuttle Discovery will become the first of NASA's three shuttles — plus a shuttle prototype — to travel to its new retirement home.

NASA flew its last shuttle flight in July. Since then, it's been prepping the spaceships to become museum displays. And even though the shuttles are headed to places like Los Angeles and New York rather than the space station, figuring out how to get them there has still been a major undertaking.

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

A nonprofit foundation set up to support scientific research of interest to the Food and Drug Administration is finally starting to take off after years of struggling financially — and it's about to get some long-promised funding from the FDA.

But some critics worry that this foundation, which will also raise money from private sources including industry, could provide a way for the food and medical industries to sway FDA decisions.

In June of 2009, a committee met at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to do a routine safety review of proposed research projects.

One of those projects involved genetically modifying flu viruses. And during the review, the committee brought up the idea of "dual-use" research. "Dual use" means legitimate scientific work that's intended to advance science or medicine, but that also might be misused with the intent to do harm.

Giant and colossal squids can be more than 40 feet long, if you measure all the way out to the tip of their two long feeding tentacles. But it's their eyes that are truly huge — the size of basketballs.

Now, scientists say these squids may have the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom because they need to detect a major predator, the sperm whale, as it moves toward them through the underwater darkness.

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