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.

4:27pm

Thu July 17, 2014
News

What Brought Down The Malaysian Airliner?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 8:40 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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3:34am

Thu July 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Physicists Crush Diamonds With Giant Laser

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 11:09 am

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

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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4:40pm

Tue July 8, 2014
Science

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

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 6:13 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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5:09am

Tue July 1, 2014
Space

Carbon Observatory To Monitor Greenhouse Gas From Space

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 6:32 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.

4:07pm

Mon June 23, 2014
Middle East

World's Chemical Weapons Watchdog Clears Syria

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 8:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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5:35pm

Fri June 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Dust Clouds Big Bang Signal

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 8:25 pm

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

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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3:38am

Fri June 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Keep A Careful Eye On The World Cup Ball

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 8:45 am

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

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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4:00pm

Tue June 10, 2014
Science

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

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:05 pm

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

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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4:38pm

Fri May 30, 2014
The Two-Way

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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1:18pm

Wed May 28, 2014
The Two-Way

Rumors Of An Intergalactic Explosion Are Greatly Exaggerated

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 6:17 pm

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

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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4:43pm

Fri May 23, 2014
The Two-Way

Organic Cat Litter Chief Suspect In Nuclear Waste Accident

Originally published on Sat May 24, 2014 3:12 am

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

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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4:57pm

Tue May 20, 2014
Science

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

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 8:27 pm

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

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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5:03am

Mon May 12, 2014
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 10:01 am

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

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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5:24pm

Wed April 23, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Pinpoint Source Of Antarctic 'Quack'

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 2:51 pm

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

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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5:05pm

Wed April 16, 2014
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 12:59 pm

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

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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2:00pm

Tue April 8, 2014
The Two-Way

Flight 370 Vanished A Month Ago. What Happens Now?

Originally published on Tue April 8, 2014 4:21 pm

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
  • 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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4:23pm

Mon April 7, 2014
News

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

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 7:29 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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4:37pm

Mon March 31, 2014
News

Is The Latest Climate Report Too Much Of A Downer?

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 12:08 pm

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

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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5:55pm

Tue March 25, 2014
The Two-Way

Can A 250-Year-Old Mathematical Theorem Find A Missing Plane?

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 9:28 am

This statistical map guided searchers to an Air France flight that disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.
C. Keller/Metron

Searchers are feeling overwhelmed by the task of locating the wreckage of missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

"We're not searching for a needle in a haystack — we're still trying to define where the haystack is," Australian Air Marshal Mark Binskin said Tuesday. The current search zone stretches across many thousands of square miles of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia.

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4:24pm

Mon March 24, 2014
News

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

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 6:46 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.

10:28am

Sat March 22, 2014
Parallels

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

Originally published on Sat March 22, 2014 11:18 am

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

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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5:06am

Thu March 20, 2014
Science

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

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 11:19 am

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

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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4:44am

Tue March 18, 2014
Space

Ripples In Space Could Point To The Universe's Beginnings

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 5:24 am

Physicists say they've discovered a faint signal from just moments after the universe began. If confirmed, it could revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos. But not everyone is convinced.

4:30pm

Mon March 17, 2014
News

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

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 6:33 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.

11:41am

Wed March 12, 2014
National Security

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

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 11:10 pm

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

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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5:41pm

Mon March 10, 2014
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 7:40 am

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

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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4:22pm

Mon March 10, 2014
Space

Earthbound Tensions Don't Reach Russian-American Space Partnership

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 5:20 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.