Geoff Brumfiel

Science editor Geoff Brumfiel oversees coverage of everything from butterflies to black holes across NPR News programs and on NPR.org.

Prior to becoming the editor for fundamental research news in April of 2016, Brumfiel worked for three years as a reporter covering physics and space. 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.

Before NPR, Brumfiel 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.

In what could mark an escalation of tensions with the West, commercial satellite images suggest that Russia is moving a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles into Eastern Europe. Russia appears to be preparing to permanently base its Iskander missile system in Kaliningrad, a sliver of territory it controls along the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland. Arms control experts shared fresh satellite imagery with NPR, which they say provides evidence that the Iskander will soon be...

Scientists have pinpointed the ticklish bit of a rat's brain. The results, published in the journal Science , are another step toward understanding the origins of ticklishness, and its purpose in social animals. Although virtually every human being on the planet has been tickled, scientists really don't understand why people are ticklish . The idea that a certain kind of touching could easily lead to laughter is confusing to a neuroscientist, says Shimpei Ishiyama , a postdoctoral research...

A report out this morning from Australian investigators offers a handful of new clues about the greatest aviation mystery of the 21st century: the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 . Based on a fresh satellite analysis and debris found on beaches along the African coast and several small islands, Australian investigators say they now believe the aircraft plunged rapidly into the southern Indian Ocean. The scenario might help answer questions about the plane's final minutes, but...

The news this week. For that reason, we're bringing you this photo of a baby elephant named Jotto cuddled up to an ostrich named Pea. Conservationists with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya came across Pea two years ago today, while they were rescuing a different infant elephant. The trust is well-known for its rescue and rehabilitation program for orphaned elephants. Pea and her brother, Pod, were brought back to its Nairobi nursery to be raised as part of the elephant herd. Pod...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: The Nobel Prize in physics this morning has been awarded to three scientists. They won for their work exploring new phases of matter. Joining us to talk about the winners is NPR's science editor, Geoff Brumfiel. Good morning. GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Good morning. MONTAGNE: Let's start with these researchers. Who are they? BRUMFIEL: They are David Thouless of the University of Washington Seattle, Duncan Haldane...

When it comes to waves, it doesn't get much bigger than the gravitational variety. Einstein predicted that huge events — like black holes merging — create gravitational waves. Unlike most waves we experience, these are distortions in space and time. They roll across the entire universe virtually unimpeded. Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916, but none were spotted until recently. Given their incredible power, why did it take a century to locate them? To find...

Updated at 6:30 a.m. ET A small plane on a daring winter evacuation mission from the South Pole landed safely Wednesday night at Punta Arenas, Chile. The National Science Foundation, which runs the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station , says the Twin Otter rescue aircraft took off from the South Pole with two patients early Wednesday. It arrived at a British base 1,500 miles away shortly after 1 p.m. ET before continuing on to Chile. The South Pole station is staffed year round, but normally...

Scientists announced Wednesday that they have once again detected ripples in space and time from two black holes colliding far away in the universe. The discovery comes just months after the first-ever detection of such "gravitational waves," and it suggests that smaller-sized black holes might be more numerous than many had thought. "It looks like there are going to be more of these black holes out there than we imagined," says David Reitze , the executive director of the Laser...

House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a plan to update a 40-year-old law regulating the safety of chemicals. The bipartisan legislation would update the Toxic Substances Control Act , which became law in 1976. The original act gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require testing and reporting of potentially harmful chemicals. But as NPR's Jon Hamilton reports, the law didn't apply to most chemicals already on the market: "It assumed that thousands of untested...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The National Institutes of Health is overhauling the leadership of its world-renowned Clinical Center, after an independent task force found the center was putting research ahead of patient safety. As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce has reported , the Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., is the largest research hospital in the world. Patients come from across the country seeking its experimental therapies. But a recent independent review found safety problems at two laboratories, including one run by...

Scientists have had a literal breakthrough off the coast of Mexico. After weeks of drilling from an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico, they have reached rocks left over from the day the Earth was hit by a killer asteroid . The cataclysm is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs. "This was probably the most important event in the last 100 million years," says Joanna Morgan , a geophysicist at Imperial College in London and a leader of the expedition. Since the 1980s, researchers have...

A small mammal has sabotaged the world's most powerful scientific instrument. The Large Hadron Collider , a 17-mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, went offline overnight. Engineers investigating the mishap found the charred remains of a furry creature near a gnawed-through power cable. "We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal," says Arnaud Marsollier, head of press for CERN , the...

On Tuesday, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a plan to send interstellar probes to the Alpha Centauri star system. The audacious project would use a giant laser on Earth to accelerate scores of postage-stamp-size spacecraft to nearly the speed of light. They would cross the void in just 20 years — virtually no time on the scale of interstellar travel. The plan for " Breakthrough Starshot " laid out at the news conference looks both ambitious...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ10-AYgro0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-dKXOlsf98 In South Korea on Wednesday, a human champion of the ancient game of "Go" will square off against a computer programmed by Google DeepMind , an AI company owned by the search giant. If the machine can beat the man over a five-day match, then researchers say it will be a milestone for artificial intelligence. Here are the key things to know about the match and what it will mean for the future, both of...

"I have taken a lot of pictures because I've been up here for a long time," NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said during a recent press conference from the International Space Station. "I've definitely taken some good ones and some memorable ones." When he returns to earth Tuesday evening, Kelly will have spent 340 days aboard the ISS. While that's not quite a year, it's still a record for an American astronaut, and one of the longest-lasting spaceflights ever. Kelly is not the only member of his...

"I have taken a lot of pictures because I've been up here for a long time," NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said during a recent press conference from the International Space Station. "I've definitely taken some good ones and some memorable ones." When he returns to Earth on Tuesday evening, Kelly will have spent 340 days aboard the ISS. While that's not quite a year, it's still a record for an American astronaut, and one of the longest-lasting spaceflights ever. Kelly is not the only member of...

A new study suggests that sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate and that the problem will continue well into this century. "Sea level rise in the 20th century was truly extraordinary by historical standards," says Bob Kopp , an associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University, and who is lead author on the study , which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Sea levels rose by roughly 5½ inches in the past hundred years, Kopp...

"Raise your hand if you have ever determined your location on the planet using the stars," Lt. Daniel Stayton tells his class at the U.S. Naval Academy . A young officer halfheartedly puts up her hand. Another wavers. The rest of the class of 20 midshipmen sits stone-faced. This is the challenge facing the U.S. Navy as it tries to bring back celestial navigation . The Navy stopped training its service members to navigate by the stars about a decade ago, focusing instead on electronic...

On Thursday, researchers announced the discovery of gravitational waves --wrinkles in the very fabric of space-time. But behind the headlines and news conferences were decades of hard work, hundreds of scientists and more than a billion dollars in taxpayer funds. "It's profoundly satisfying that it came out the way that we intended, we'd hoped, we'd dreamed," says Kip Thorne , a gravitational theorist at Caltech who co-founded the project. The idea of gravitational waves started 100 years ago...

Far from our galaxy, in the vast darkness of space, two massive black holes merged into a single, larger hole. And now researchers say they have detected rumblings from that cataclysmic collision as ripples in the very fabric of space-time itself. The discovery comes a century after Albert Einstein first predicted such ripples should exist. "It's a really big event," says Saul Teukolsky , a theoretical astrophysicist at Cornell University. "This is probably the most exciting episode of my...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-dKXOlsf98 A computer has bested humanity at one of the most complex strategy games ever devised. Researchers at Google have developed a program that can excel at the game of "go," which originated in China and is considered a tougher problem for a machine than other strategy games such as chess. The program has defeated the European champion of the game. Now its developers say the same technology may be used to conquer problems in everything from medicine to...

This week, NASA is set to reach a milestone on one of its most ambitious projects. If all goes to plan, workers will finish assembling the huge mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope — an $8 billion successor to the famous Hubble telescope. "So far, everything — knock on wood — is going quite well," says Bill Ochs, the telescope's project manager at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The massive mirror is being built in a facility that's essentially a giant, ultra-clean gymnasium. NPR...

Researchers have looked in the stomach of an ancient ice mummy and found the remains of the bacteria that lived in his gut. The results, published in the journal Science , suggest that the community of microbes living on and in humans has existed for millennia. Roughly 5,300 years ago, this particular man was hiking across the Oetztal Alps between what's now Italy and Austria when somebody shot him in the back with an arrow. The remains of the fellow, who came to be called Oetzi the Iceman ,...

North Korea was celebratory in its claims that it detonated its first hydrogen bomb on Wednesday. "Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts [North Korea] fully proved that the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb," the country's official news agency reported . But the White House, along with many others, isn't buying it. "The initial analysis is...

Just over a decade ago, Iran had a multi-faceted research program to develop a nuclear warhead that would fit on top of a ballistic missile. That's the bottom line of a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The coordinated program ended in 2003, but some sporadic work continued until 2009, the new report says. The report is the strongest statement yet from the nuclear watchdog agency on Iran's past weapons work. Iran is now in the process of scaling back its current,...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Big news this week in commercial space travel. And to tell us all about it, NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel is here. Hey, Geoff. GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: Hey there. SHAPIRO: What exactly happened this week? BRUMFIEL: So yesterday afternoon, a rocket built by this company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, took off from a field in Texas. The rocket traveled more than three times...

Climate change isn't just something to worry about here on Earth. New research published today shows that Mars has undergone a dramatic climate shift in the past that has rendered much of the planet inhospitable to life. About 3.8 billion years ago, Mars was a reasonably pleasant place. It had a thick atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide that kept it warm. Rivers trickled into lakes across its surface. Some researchers think there might even have been an ocean. "It seems to have been a much...

Our world is made of matter. "Everything you see and feel — your laptop, your desk, your chair — they are all ordinary matter," says Aihong Tang , a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory. But matter has a counterpart called antimatter. Each kind of fundamental particle of matter has an antimatter nemesis lurking in the shadows. And true to science-fiction stereotype, if matter and antimatter ever meet, they annihilate in a flash of light. If you've never run into "antimatter" outside...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcxBOQTOb2Q On Thursday morning, Patricia was a relatively small Category 1 hurricane. By Friday afternoon, it was the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Is climate change to blame for this record-breaking storm's ferocious rise? The answer is complex, and shows why it's so hard to tie a single weather event to global warming. Between Thursday and Friday, Patricia underwent what hurricane researchers call " rapid intensification ," a...

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