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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Science
5:02 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 6:17 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
10:25 am
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 Tue September 23, 2014 5:50 am

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
1:20 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 7:24 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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Goats and Soda
4:03 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 10:33 am

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
1:24 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 6:00 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
9:16 am
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 12:18 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
1:19 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

A Milestone Marked In Disposal Of Syria's Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 4:38 pm

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

The Two-Way
11:19 am
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 4:46 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
1:57 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 6:14 pm

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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The Two-Way
1:45 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 6:47 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
3:36 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 Mon August 4, 2014 10:43 pm

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
7:01 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 9:34 am

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
12:28 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 9:35 am

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
10:19 am
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 6:54 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
1:27 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

What Brought Down The Malaysian Airliner?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 5:40 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
12:34 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 Sun August 3, 2014 5:20 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
2:14 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 3:13 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
2:21 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Carbon Observatory To Monitor Greenhouse Gas From Space

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 3:32 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
1:17 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 11:27 am

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
1:07 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

World's Chemical Weapons Watchdog Clears Syria

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 5:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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