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.

News
2:53 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

What Brought Down The Malaysian Airliner?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 6:40 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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The Two-Way
1:34 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Physicists Crush Diamonds With Giant Laser

Physicists put diamonds at the center of this massive laser, to see what would happen.
Matt Swisher Matt Swisher/LLNL

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 9:09 am

Physicists have used the world's most powerful laser to zap diamonds. The results, they say, could tell us more about the cores of giant planets.

"Diamonds have very special properties, besides being very expensive and used for jewelrey etc.," says Raymond Smith, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "It's the hardest substance known to man."

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Science
3:14 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

In A Lab Store Room, An Unsettling Surprise: Lost Vials Of Smallpox

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 4:13 pm

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health made an unpleasant discovery last week as they cleaned out an old laboratory: The lab contained vials of the smallpox virus, previously unknown to authorities. The vials have since been transferred to a secure lab at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

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Space
3:21 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Carbon Observatory To Monitor Greenhouse Gas From Space

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 4:32 am

NASA is preparing to launch a new satellite to observe carbon dioxide from space. The satellite could revolutionize our understanding of where this greenhouse gas comes from and where it goes.

The Two-Way
2:17 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Carbon-Sensing Satellite Prepares For Second Launch

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 will monitor carbon dioxide emissions.
jhoward NASA/JPL

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 12:27 pm

NASA is preparing to launch a satellite capable of monitoring carbon dioxide emissions from space. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will be the first U.S. spacecraft dedicated to seeing the greenhouse gas from orbit, and could pave the way for new technology to enforce future global warming treaties.

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Middle East
2:07 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

World's Chemical Weapons Watchdog Clears Syria

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 6:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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The Two-Way
3:35 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

Dust Clouds Big Bang Signal

The BICEP2 telescope in Antarctica was looking for ripples from the Big Bang.
Robert Schwarz, University of Minnesota

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:25 pm

In March, a team of physicists announced it had found a signal from the very first moments after the Big Bang. But in a paper published Thursday, the researchers expressed considerably more caution and conceded that they could have actually been detecting little more than interstellar dust.

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The Two-Way
1:38 am
Fri June 20, 2014

Scientists Keep A Careful Eye On The World Cup Ball

A close up of the Brazuca ball in NASA's Ames Fluid Mechanics Laboratory. Smoke highlighted by lasers visualizes air flow around the ball.
NASA's Ames Research Center

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 6:45 am

While many millions are enjoying the drama of the World Cup, a handful of scientists are keeping their eyes very closely on the ball.

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Science
2:13 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Bye-Bye To The Home Of A Favorite Internet Conspiracy Theory

The remote HAARP facility in Alaska has 180 antennas that are used to study the ionosphere.
Courtesy of Christopher Fallen

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 7:05 pm

It sure looks suspicious: a remote military compound in the south-central Alaskan wilderness filled with 180 weird-looking antennas.

It's the home of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). Conspiracy theorists have accused the program of doing everything from mind control to global communications jamming.

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The Two-Way
2:38 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

SpaceX Unveils A Sleek New Ride To Orbit

SpaceX's new crew capsule was unveiled yesterday.
SpaceX

Yesterday, entrepreneur Elon Musk sauntered on to stage and unveiled his latest product: not a smart phone, but a spaceship.

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Business
3:24 am
Fri May 30, 2014

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk Reveals New Spacecraft

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 10:36 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's Business News begins with - not kidding - riding a dragon. Last night, the private spaceflight company, SpaceX, unveiled a new capsule called Dragon to take astronauts into orbit. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports that this is part of the company's promise to make spaceflight cheap.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: When Internet entrepreneur, Elon Musk, announced he was starting a space launch company, there were doubters.

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The Two-Way
11:18 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Rumors Of An Intergalactic Explosion Are Greatly Exaggerated

Astronomers thought they saw a big explosion in the nearby Andromeda galaxy.
GALEX, JPL-Caltech/ NASA

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 4:17 pm

Tuesday afternoon, astronomers thought they saw a powerful explosion in the nearby Andromeda galaxy.

The Internet went wild with speculation about what it could be: Had two superdense neutron stars collided? Did a supermassive star explode?

"When I got up this morning and turned on my phone, I had a lot of emails and my Twitter feed was burning," says Phil Evans, an astronomer at the University of Leicester in Britain.

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The Two-Way
2:24 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Organic Cat Litter Chief Suspect In Nuclear Waste Accident

Workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are still investigating what caused a radioactive release at the site, but organic cat litter may be the culprit.
DOE/WIPP

Originally published on Sat May 24, 2014 1:12 am

In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America's only nuclear dump, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad.

"It was the wrong kitty litter," says James Conca, a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business.

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Science
2:42 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Big Bang's Ripples: Two Scientists Recall Their Big Discovery

The Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey was built in 1959 to make the first phone call via satellite.
NASA

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 6:27 pm

On May 20, 1964, two astronomers working at a New Jersey laboratory turned a giant microwave antenna toward what they thought would be a quiet part of the Milky Way. They weren't searching for anything; they were trying to make adjustments to their instrument before looking at more interesting things in the sky.

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The Two-Way
3:03 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Rocket Wars: Will A Suit By SpaceX Get Off The Ground?

Atlas V (left); Falcon 9 (right)
ULA; SpaceX

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 8:01 am

The two rockets pictured above may look the same, and in many ways they are: Both are launched pointy-end up, and both can carry a satellite into orbit.

But the rocket on the left, known as an Atlas V, costs between $100 million and $300 million more to launch (depending on whom you ask) than the one on the right, the Falcon 9.

So why has the U.S. Air Force just signed a contract to buy dozens of rockets like the Atlas V from a single supplier?

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The Two-Way
1:33 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Mars Rover Takes A Break To Drill A Hole

The rover has drilled a hole in sandstone. It will soon collect samples to learn more about how the rocks formed.
NASA/Caltech/JPL

NASA's Curiosity rover is on an epic trip to a distant mountain, but it took a brief break Wednesday to dip its drill into the Martian soil.

The drilling is taking place at a place called Waypoint Kimberley. The area is a point of convergence for several different types of terrain, says John Grotzinger, the rover's project scientist. The exposed rock and different formations made the way point a good place to "stop and smell the roses," he says.

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The Two-Way
3:24 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Scientists Pinpoint Source Of Antarctic 'Quack'

A minke whale photographed in Antarctica last year. The minke, smallest of the baleen whales, turned out to be the mysterious "bio-duck."
Tony Beck/Barcroft Media Barcroft Media/Landov

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 12:51 pm

For decades, researchers and submarine crews in icy waters off the coast of Antarctica have been picking up a mysterious quacking sound.

The "bio-duck," as its called, has been heard on and off since Cold War patrols picked it up on sonar during the 1960s.

"It goes 'quack, quack, quack, quack,' " says Denise Risch, a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It has this almost mechanical feel to it."

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The Two-Way
2:41 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

New Fossil Takes A Bite Out Of Theory That Sharks Barely Evolved

This mako shark looks like its ancient ancestors, but it's probably evolved to be even more terrifying.
Sam Cahir Barcroft Media/Landov

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 10:59 am

Sharks have looked more or less the same for hundreds of millions of years. But a newly discovered fossil suggests that under the hood, a modern shark is very different from its ancient ancestors.

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The Two-Way
12:12 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Flight 370 Vanished A Month Ago. What Happens Now?

A crewman on a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion searches for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, in the southern Indian Ocean earlier this month.
Kim Christian AP

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 2:21 pm

  • Hear Geoff Brumfiel On Morning Edition

One month ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared during a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. An international search team has spent weeks combing the Indian Ocean for signs of the missing Boeing 777. Here's a summary of where we are with the hunt for the jetliner.

What do we know?

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News
2:45 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Deep-Sea Ping May Lead To Malaysian Jet — But Time's Running Out

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 5:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Earlier today, Australian authorities said they may have a signal from the missing Malaysian airliner that disappeared a month ago on its way to Beijing. A ship far out in the Indian Ocean has picked up a signal that could be from the missing airliner's black boxes. Investigators need those boxes to determine what happened to Malaysian Air Flight 370.

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News
2:37 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Is The Latest Climate Report Too Much Of A Downer?

According to a new report, unless more is done to combat climate change, extreme weather like the drought now gripping California will only grow more common.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 10:08 am

Reading through the latest report from the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it's hard not to feel despondent about the state of the world.

The report's colorful charts and tables tell of droughts and fires; depleted fisheries and strained cropland; a world in which heat-related disease is on the rise and freshwater is growing scarce.

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News
2:33 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Missing Jet May Be Thought Lost At Sea, But The Search Carries On

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 4:46 pm

The Malaysian prime minister announced that the missing airliner was likely lost in the Indian Ocean. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel discusses how this was determined and where the search will go from here.

Parallels
8:02 am
Sat March 22, 2014

Russia-U.S. Tensions Could Stall Syrian Chemical Weapons Removal

The Russian ship Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great), seen here docked in the Cypriot port of Limassol in February, is part of the team involved in escorting shipments of Syria's chemical weapons material for destruction.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 9:18 am

As U.S.-Russian relations sour, some observers fear the plan to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal might stall.

This past week, the removal of chemicals from Syria reached the halfway mark. Without pressure from both superpowers, however, some believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will begin to drag his feet.

"I think what you're likely to see is that the Assad regime will comply just enough, at a slower pace, as it consolidates its hold over the country militarily," says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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Science
2:31 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Einstein's Lost Theory Discovered ... And It's Wrong

It's OK, kids. Even Albert Einstein sometimes made math mistakes.
Harris & Ewing Library of Congress

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 9:19 am

Earlier this week, physicists announced they'd seen evidence of ripples in the fabric of space and time from just moments after the Big Bang. Such ripples were predicted almost a century ago by Albert Einstein.

Einstein's theory of relativity is arguably the 20th century's greatest idea. But not everything he did was right: Some newly uncovered work from the brilliant physicist was wrong. Really, really wrong.

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News
2:05 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Out Of Antarctica, A 'Grand Slam' That Leads Back To The Big Bang

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 4:33 pm

Physicists using data from an Antarctica telescope say they've observed evidence of primordial gravity waves — in other words, echoes of the Big Bang. If real, this may be a big advance for physics.

National Security
9:41 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Ex-Missile Crew Members Say Cheating Is Part Of The Culture

Former missile officer Edward Warren says he and others felt enormous pressure to cheat.
Courtesy of Edward Warren

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 9:10 pm

Edward Warren was shocked when he learned that the airmen in charge of the nation's nuclear-tipped missiles regularly cheated on tests.

In 2009, Warren was fresh out of the Air Force's Reserve Officers' Training Corps. He had just finished training to become a missile launch officer when he was pulled aside.

"One of my instructors said, 'Hey, just so you know, there is cheating that goes on at the missile bases,' " Warren recalls. "I was repulsed. I thought, 'This can't be, this is terrible.' "

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The Two-Way
3:23 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Despite Diplomatic Tensions, U.S.-Russia Space Ties Persist

Russian personnel are the first to meet space station crew members when they return to earth.
Bill Ingalls NASA

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 5:40 am

Update 1:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday:

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying a U.S.-Russian crew has landed safely in Kazakhstan, according to NASA. American Mike Hopkins and Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy had spent 166 days in space. Russian space officials had considered delaying the landing because of heavy snowfall and strong winds but decided to go ahead with the original plan.

Original Post:

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Space
2:22 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Earthbound Tensions Don't Reach Russian-American Space Partnership

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 3:20 pm

U.S. astronaut Mike Hopkins is expected to land in Kazakhstan, and despite diplomatic tensions the Russians plan to pick him up. It's another sign that U.S. and Russia remain tied at the hip in space.

Business
3:35 am
Thu February 20, 2014

U.S. Government To Back Loans For Nuclear Power

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 5:38 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The first nuclear reactors to be built in decades are getting a helping hand from the government. Today, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is in Georgia to mark billions in assistance towards the construction of two new nuclear units in the state.

NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports that building reactors is still an expensive proposition.

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