Geoff Brumfiel

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.

From April of 2016 to September of 2018, Brumfiel served as an editor overseeing basic research and climate science. Prior to that, he worked for three years as a reporter covering physics and space for the network. 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. From 2002 – 2007, Brumfiel was Nature Magazine's Washington Correspondent.

Brumfiel is the 2013 winner of the Association of British Science Writers award for news reporting on the Fukushima nuclear accident.

This week, NASA and the commercial company SpaceX are set to launch two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in a new capsule. This is the first launch by NASA of astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, but it's happening in the middle of a pandemic.

Here are some of the ways that the coronavirus will, and won't, change the plans for the space agency's latest launch.

Astronauts have been quarantining since before it was cool.

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If you want to visit the Great Pyramids or the Great Wall or the Taj Mahal, forget it.

Egypt, China and India are just a few of the dozens of countries that have imposed strict travel restrictions to keep visitors, and the coronavirus, out. An analysis by NPR based on data from the International Air Transport Association found that more than three-quarters of the world's nations and territories have suspended travel from at least one other place.

Over the past week, President Trump and his team have repeatedly claimed to have intelligence showing that the new coronavirus accidentally escaped from a lab in China.

Virus researchers say there is virtually no chance that the new coronavirus was released as result of a laboratory accident in China or anywhere else.

The assessment, made by more than half-a-dozen scientists familiar with lab accidents and how research on coronaviruses is conducted, casts doubt on recent claims that a mistake may have unleashed the coronavirus on the world.

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President Trump is ready to reopen America - at least parts of it where the coronavirus appears to be less of a problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

It's a strange and tragic pattern in some cases of COVID-19: The patient struggles through the first week of illness, and perhaps even begins to feel a little better.

Then suddenly they crash.

The new coronavirus is killing hundreds each day and swamping hospitals around the world. But catching the disease does not mean you will end up in the ICU.

"There are many patients that are fine and that are at home," says Michelle Ng Gong, the chief of critical care medicine at the Montefiore Health System in New York City. Those who don't need a hospital make up "I would dare say, in fact, the vast majority of people," she says.

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Who should get tested for the coronavirus? The federal government advises that only certain groups should receive tests. But as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, experts say testing must be far broader before the pandemic is under control.

Stay inside, don't meet with friends, don't go to work — these are the messages coming from public health officials at every level of government. But increasingly, experts say they believe those stark warnings must be augmented with another message:

If you think you might be sick, even a little sick, get tested for coronavirus.

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People infected with the coronavirus can spread it easily, even if they're not yet experiencing severe symptoms of the disease, according to virologists watching the pandemic unfold in Europe.

Walmart announced Tuesday that it is ending sales of some kinds of ammunition at its stores. The move came in the wake of two deadly shootings at Walmart stores in recent months, including one in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people.

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.

House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a plan to update a 40-year-old law regulating the safety of chemicals.

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.

"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.

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.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

A new analysis of data from Fukushima suggests children exposed to the March 2011 nuclear accident may be developing thyroid cancer at an elevated rate.

But independent experts say that the study, published in the journal Epidemiology, has numerous shortcomings and does not prove a link between the accident and cancer.

Learning to make sounds by listening to others is a skill that helps make us human.

But research now suggests a species of monkey may have evolved similar abilities.

Marmosets have the capacity to learn calls from their parents, according to research published Thursday in the journal Science. The results mean that studying marmosets might provide insights into developmental disorders found in humans. It also suggests that vocal learning may be more widespread than many researchers thought.

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.

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?"

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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Here are some updates on the global spread of Ebola.

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In the past, the U.S. military has been able to respond quickly to natural disasters. But as NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, the current outbreak in West Africa poses special challenges.

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