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.

A careful examination of frozen caribou poop has turned up two never-before-seen viruses.

The viruses are hundreds of years old: One of them probably infected plants the caribous ate. The other may have infected insects that buzzed around the animals.

The findings prove viruses can survive for surprisingly long periods of time in a cold environment, according to Eric Delwart, a researcher at Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco.

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we've all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

"It stinks," says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

Researchers have successfully decoded the genes of a 45,000-year-old man from Siberia. The results offer clues about early human life outside of Africa as well as how humans interacted with Neanderthals and other groups around at the time.

The complete set of genes is the oldest genome of its kind, according to Svante Pääbo, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "It's almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced."

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three Japanese-born researchers for their work on the blue light-emitting diode, or LED.

And there's never been a better time to put their Nobel-prize winning discovery right in your own home. LED light bulbs, which use blue LEDs, are coming of age, and the price is dropping fast. You can pick them up for less than $10 each.

Dr. David Kuhar landed in Dallas on Tuesday night.

Kuhar is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's top expert on Ebola, and the agency dispatched him as soon as they received confirmation that a man had carried the disease from Liberia.

Today, his 10-person team is on the front lines of an effort to keep that single case from turning into an outbreak.

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.

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.

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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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:

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."

Space is a dangerous place. That message resonated again on Monday, when the Russian Federal Space Agency — Roscosmos — announced that a team of experimental geckos tasked with copulating while in orbit did not survive their journey.

"All geckos, unfortunately, died," the space agency said in a terse statement.

Roscosmos is launching an investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the geckos' deaths, but the mission seemed star-crossed from the start.

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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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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Transcript

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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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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Transcript

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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."

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.

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.

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

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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.

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

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.

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

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