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
11:14 am
Thu July 2, 2015

Russian Rocket Poised For Crucial Supply Run To Space Station

On Friday, a Russian Soyuz rocket will send an unmanned cargo ship with more than 3 tons of food, water and fuel for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Russian Federal Space Agency

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 11:37 am

The stakes are high for a routine cargo mission to the International Space Station, after a string of failures has left the orbiting outpost running somewhat low on supplies.

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Science
2:15 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

To Keep Up With Earth's Rotation, Clocks Will Tick An Extra Second Tonight

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 5:14 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Space
3:05 am
Mon June 29, 2015

SpaceX Rocket Breaks Up On Liftoff

Originally published on Mon June 29, 2015 4:33 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And in other news, an unmanned supply rocket blasted off yesterday in Florida headed to the International Space Station.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCKET LAUNCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Three, two, one. Mission sequence start and lift off.

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The Two-Way
11:03 am
Wed June 17, 2015

NASA Satellites Show World's Thirst For Groundwater

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, used a pair of satellites to measure water use in the world's aquifers.
NASA

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 4:25 pm

New data from NASA's GRACE satellites show that many of the world's biggest aquifers are being sucked dry at a rate far greater than they are being replenished. Although scientists don't know how much water is left, they hope their findings will serve as a "red flag" for regions that may be overusing water.

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The Two-Way
4:06 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

Solar Sail Unfurls In Space

The new spacecraft, called LightSail, is orbiting Earth. Future versions could travel to the moon and beyond.
The Planetary Society

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 5:34 am

A group of space enthusiasts has successfully launched a solar sail into orbit.

The test could be a first step to cheaper exploration of the solar system, according to Bill Nye, the CEO of the nonprofit Planetary Society, which launched the satellite.

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The Two-Way
1:37 am
Fri June 5, 2015

The Pentagon Wants These Robots To Save The Day

NASA's RoboSimian is among the robots taking part in the Defense Department competition. The Space Agency may one day use it to explore caves on other planets.
Dan Goods JPL

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 5:13 am

On Friday, 24 robots and their masters will be going head-to-head in California for a $2 million prize. The robotics challenge is sponsored by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Those fearing the Pentagon-sponsored prize could signal the dawn of Terminator-style cyborgs needn't worry. "Even though they look like us, and they may look a little bit mean, there's really nothing inside," says Gill Pratt, the program manager running this competition. "What you're really seeing is a puppet."

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Environment
4:47 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

Scientists Cast Doubt On An Apparent 'Hiatus' In Global Warming

A fully loaded container ship sails along the coast. Historically, ships have taken most of the sea measurements that go into the estimate of Earth's average surface temperature.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 6:31 pm

A team of government scientists has revised its estimate for how much the planet has been warming.

The new results, published in the journal Science, may dispel the idea that Earth has been in the midst of a "global warming hiatus" — a period over the past 20 years where the planet's temperature appears to have risen very little.

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Shots - Health News
4:15 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

CDC Investigates Live Anthrax Shipments

A security fence surrounds the main part of the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground, a testing laboratory in the Utah desert. The Army says it mistakenly shipped live anthrax from Dugway to several labs in the U.S. and Korea.
George Frey Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 7:01 pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still trying to figure out how the military managed to ship anthrax spores that were apparently live from one of its facilities to more than a dozen labs across the United States.

"We have a team at the [military] lab to determine what may have led to this incident," says CDC spokesman Jason McDonald. In addition, he says, the agency is working with health officials in nine states to make sure the potentially live samples are safely disposed of and the labs affected are decontaminated.

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Science
1:56 am
Fri April 24, 2015

After 25 Years, The Hubble Space Telescope Still Wows Humanity

(Left) This is one of two cameras that the telescope originally carried, and it has since been replaced with a more up-to-date version. (Right) Workers study Hubble's 8-foot main mirror. After launch the mirror was found to have a problem, which astronauts corrected in 1993.
SSPL/Getty Images; Hubblesite

Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 2:26 pm

Mike Massimino is one of the last people to ever see the Hubble Space Telescope in person.

From inside his orbiting space shuttle, the telescope first appeared on the horizon as a star, says Massimino, who was an astronaut on the final mission to service the space telescope in 2009.

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Science
3:39 pm
Sat April 18, 2015

Gazing Into Those Puppy-Dog Eyes May Actually Be Good For You

Originally published on Sat April 18, 2015 4:25 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
12:56 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Scientists Probe Puppy Love

A direct, friendly gaze seems to help cement the bond of affection between people and their pooches.
Dan Perez/Flickr

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 3:28 pm

It's a question that bedevils dog owners the world over: "Is she staring at me because she loves me? Or because she wants another biscuit?"

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The Salt
1:42 am
Wed April 15, 2015

The Space Station Gets A Coffee Bar

ESA/NASA

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 12:14 pm

In space, all they have is instant.

"For an instant coffee, it's an excellent instant coffee," says Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply for NASA. Astronauts are allotted up to three freeze-dried cups (pouches, actually) a day, and Kloeris says it's "extremely popular."

But, she adds, "Can it compete with brewed espresso? No."

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National Security
2:59 am
Tue March 31, 2015

After Snowden, The NSA Faces Recruitment Challenge

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 8:16 am

Daniel Swann is exactly the type of person the National Security Agency would love to have working for it. The 22-year-old is a fourth-year concurrent bachelor's-master's student at Johns Hopkins University with a bright future in cybersecurity.

And growing up in Annapolis, Md., not far from the NSA's headquarters, Swann thought he might work at the agency, which intercepts phone calls, emails and other so-called "signals intelligence" from U.S. adversaries.

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The Two-Way
3:04 am
Thu March 12, 2015

Researchers Think There's A Warm Ocean On Enceladus

A new analysis suggests that Enceladus' ocean is being heated from the bottom up. That could explain plumes of ice seen at its south pole.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 6:07 pm

Saturn's moon Enceladus is a mystery. From Earth it looks tiny and cold, and yet it's not a dead hunk of rock. Passing spacecraft see trenches and ridges, similar to Earth's, and in 2005 NASA's Cassini mission spotted ice geysers streaming from its south pole.

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Science
2:41 pm
Tue March 10, 2015

As Climate Wars Heat Up, Some Skeptics Are Targets

Climate skeptic Willie Soon has argued in the past that too much ice is bad for polar bears. An investigation into Soon's funding found he took money from the fossil fuel industry and did not always disclose that source.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 5:57 pm

Scientists who warn that the earth's climate is changing have been subjected to hacking, investigations, and even court action in recent years. That ire usually comes from conservative groups and climate skeptics seeking to discredit the research findings.

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The Two-Way
1:49 am
Fri March 6, 2015

NASA Probe Reaches Orbit Around Dwarf Planet

Astronomers have known about Ceres for centuries, but they don't really know what to make of it.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 10:38 am

Updated at 9:45 a.m. ET.

This morning, a plucky NASA spacecraft has entered the orbit of one of the oddest little worlds in our solar system.

Ceres is round like a planet, but really small. Its total surface would cover just a third of the United States.

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Shots - Health News
2:59 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Gerbils Likely Pushed Plague To Europe in Middle Ages

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 7:43 am

Gerbils are a beloved classroom pet, but they might also be deadly killers. A study now claims that gerbils helped bring bubonic plague to Medieval Europe and contributed to the deaths of millions.

Plague is caused by bacteria (Yersinia pestis) found in rodents, and the fleas that live on rodents. The rodent that's usually Suspect Zero is the rat.

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Science
1:52 am
Tue February 24, 2015

'Weird' Fern Shows The Power Of Interspecies Sex

Botanists say this plant is the fern equivalent of a human-lemur love child.
Harry Roskam

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 7:48 am

The love between two ferns knows few bounds, it appears. A DNA analysis of a hybrid fern shows that its parents are two different species separated by nearly 60 million years of evolution.

"A 60 million year divergence is approximately equivalent to a human mating with a lemur," says Carl Rothfels, a fern researcher at the University of British Columbia, who headed the study. The hybrid is a record, he says.

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Science
5:32 am
Sun February 15, 2015

Navy Funds A Small Robot Army To Study The Arctic

To put their probes into the Arctic Ice, researchers hitched a ride on a South Korean icebreaker.
Courtesy of Craig M. Lee/University of Washington

Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 10:49 am

Earlier this month the U.S. Navy's research office rented out a conference center in Washington, D.C., to show off some of its hottest new technology.

On display was an electromagnetic gun, and drones that could swarm around an enemy ship. But it wasn't all James Bond-style gadgets.

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The Two-Way
4:25 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Charles Townes, Laser Pioneer, Black Hole Discoverer, Dies At 99

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes was single-minded about a lot of things, colleagues say. And also a very nice guy.
Julian Wasser The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Originally published on Sat January 31, 2015 7:51 am

Charles Townes, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his part in the invention of the laser died Tuesday at 99.

Townes is best remembered for thinking up the basic principles of the laser while sitting on a park bench. Later in life he advised the U.S. government and helped uncover the secrets of our Milky Way galaxy.

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The Two-Way
1:38 am
Thu January 22, 2015

X-Rays Open Secrets Of Ancient Scrolls

The ancient scrolls look and feel more like blocks of charcoal. A new technique gives a peek inside.
Salvatore Laporta AP

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 5:41 pm

Researchers in Europe have managed to read from an ancient scroll buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The feat is all the more remarkable because the scroll was never opened.

The Vesuvius eruption famously destroyed Pompeii. But it also devastated the nearby town of Herculaneum. A villa there contained a library stacked with papyrus scrolls, and the hot gas and ash preserved them.

Sort of.

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The Two-Way
2:26 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Scientists Say The NFL's 'Deflate-Gate' Isn't All Hot Air

A deflated football would have been easier for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) to grip in Sunday's rain.
Charles Krupa AP

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 12:21 pm

The New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl.

But there is a flat, squishy cloud over the Patriots' 45-7 victory against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday: The NFL is looking into allegations that the Patriots deflated the football to give themselves an advantage.

Two scientists say that "deflate-gate" isn't entirely hot air.

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NPR Ed
3:42 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Do Fictional Geniuses Hold Back Real Women?

Geniuses in movies aren't always played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but they are almost always men.
Weinstein Co./Studiocanal/Kobal Collection

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 6:39 am

The "Lone Genius" character is hot right now in television and movies. Sometimes the genius is real (think Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game), and sometimes he's fictional (think Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock). But one thing is almost always certain: He's a guy.

Now one researcher says that gender stereotype in art may have a real impact on women in academia.

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All Tech Considered
4:21 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Look Out, This Poker-Playing Computer Is Unbeatable

Dealer Omar Abu-Eid adjusts a stack of chips before the first day of the World Series of Poker's main event in Las Vegas last July. Humans still reign in most versions of poker. Whew.
John Locher AP

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 7:20 pm

Researchers have developed a computer program they say can beat any human on the planet at a particular variant of Texas Hold'em poker.

The scientists aren't planning to clean up with their powerful poker bot. Instead, they hope it can help computers become better decision-makers in the face of uncertainty. The work is published Thursday in the journal Science.

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The Two-Way
3:57 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

SpaceX Plans A Perfect Landing

The massive first stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is designed to return to earth.
SpaceX

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 6:09 am

Update at 6:46 a.m. ET. Launch Scrubbed:

Early on Tuesday, SpaceX scrubbed a scheduled launch, citing technical problems. The next possible attempt is Friday at 5:09 ET, NASA said.

Our Original Post Continues:

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Shots - Health News
4:39 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Birds Of A Feather Aren't Necessarily Related

The updated avian tree shows how many different kinds of birds evolved quickly after a mass extinction 66 million years ago.
AAAS/Carla Schaffer

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 3:25 pm

What do a pigeon and a flamingo have in common? Quite a bit, according to a reordering of the evolutionary tree of birds.

One of a series of studies published Thursday in Science is the latest step toward understanding the origins of the roughly 10,000 bird species that populate our planet.

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The Two-Way
2:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Oh, Snap! NASA Promises Best Photo Yet Of Faraway Pluto

NASA/ESA/M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 8:22 am

Humanity has snapped detailed portraits of planets and moons throughout our solar system. But there's one missing from the album: Pluto.

Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, it has remained stubbornly hard to photograph. The Hubble Space Telescope has taken the best pictures, and frankly, they stink.

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Space
2:42 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

NASA To Test Orion Spacecraft For Long Future Missions

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 8:34 am

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

Transcript

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The Two-Way
4:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

NASA Prepares To Test New Spacecraft (That You've Likely Never Heard Of)

The Orion capsule is poised to make its first test flight Thursday. If all goes as planned, the unmanned vehicle will orbit Earth twice before splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Kim Shiflett NASA

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 1:43 pm

NASA is about to launch a new spaceship into orbit, and Mallory Loe has never heard of it.

"I mean, technically, NASA doesn't have another spaceship, do they?" she asks incredulously during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

She's hardly the only one who doesn't know about this new spacecraft. In fact, none of a half-dozen tourists NPR interviewed in the museum's lobby was aware of the Orion spaceship.

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The Two-Way
12:46 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 5:41 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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