Joe Palca

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. In addition to his science reporting, Palca occasionally fills in as guest host on Talk of the Nation Science Friday.

Palca began his journalism career in television in 1982, working as a health producer for the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. In 1986, he left television for a seven-year stint as a print journalist, first as the Washington news editor for Nature, and then as a senior correspondent for Science Magazine.

In October 2009, Palca took a six-month leave from NPR to become science writer in residence at the Huntington Library and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Palca has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Chemical Society James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize, and the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing.

With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (Wiley, 2011).

He comes to journalism from a science background, having received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz where he worked on human sleep physiology.

Palca lives in Washington, D.C, with his wife and two sons.

 

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2:23pm

Wed September 3, 2014
Goats and Soda

A $1 Microscope Folds From Paper With A Drop Of Glue

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 10:13 am

All folded up and ready to magnify: The Foldscope weighs less than two nickels, is small enough to fit in your back pocket and offers more than 2,000-fold magnification.
TED/YouTube

We have pocket watches, pocket cameras and now — with smartphones — pocket computers.

So why shouldn't doctors and scientists around the world have pocket microscopes?

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1:27am

Wed August 27, 2014
Shots - Health News

Build A Toothbrush, Change The World. Or Not

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 8:08 am

The MD Brush has an unusual grip that automatically angles the brush head at 45 degrees.
Meredith Rizzo NPR

Some people dream of climbing Mount Everest or riding a bicycle across the country. Mike Davidson's dream has been to create the perfect toothbrush, and now he thinks he's done it.

The saga of this brush tells a lot about the passion and persistence to take an idea and turn it into a product.

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1:27am

Mon August 11, 2014
Shots - Health News

Where We Learn That Artificial Eyes Really Aren't Round At All

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 1:49 pm

A prosthetic eye is a work of art custom-crafted for an individual.
Rebecca Davis NPR

Almost every time reporters go out on assignment, they run across something unexpected that they just can't fit into the story they're working on.

When science correspondent Joe Palca and producer Rebecca Davis were in Boston reporting on a boy with a rare form of cancer, they found themselves in the office of Jahrling Ocular Prosthetics, a business dedicated to making artificial eyes.

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2:33pm

Thu August 7, 2014
Joe's Big Idea

Transformer Paper Turns Itself Into A Robot. Cool!

Originally published on Thu August 7, 2014 5:43 pm

This little guy changes from flat sheet of paper to critter in about four minutes.
Seth Kroll/Wyss Institute

Every so often, a scientific paper just begs for a sexy headline.

Consider this study in the current issue of Science: "A Method for Building Self-folding Machines." A bit bland, you'll no doubt agree. A Real-Life, Origami-Inspired Transformer is how the journal's public affairs department referred to it. Now that's more like it.

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6:35am

Sat July 26, 2014
Space

Close Encounters Of The Radio Kind? Mystery Bursts Baffle Astronomers

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 6:50 am

Scientists say a brief burst of radio activity has been detected at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. This new report resembles previous activity detected in Australia, which has scientist debating possible causes, including solar flares, blitzars, or something even more mysterious.
Brian Negin iStockphoto

Astronomers have a mystery on their hands. Two large radio telescopes, on opposite sides of the planet, have detected very brief, very powerful bursts of radio waves.

Right now, astronomers have no idea what's causing these bursts or where they're coming from. And nothing has been ruled out at the moment — not even the kind of outrageous claims you'd expect to see in tabloid headlines.

Australian Recordings Inspire Curiosity And Doubt

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