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. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors.

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 forScience 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.

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Science
4:00 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Fossil Collection Calls Berkeley's Clock Tower Home

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 7:19 pm

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Your Health
4:34 am
Mon March 9, 2015

Speeding Up Yeast's Evolution And What It Says About Cancer

Originally published on Mon March 16, 2015 9:10 am

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Joe's Big Idea
3:00 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Climate Scientist Tries Arts To Stir Hearts Regarding Earth's Fate

Robert Davies (standing) and the quartet during a performance of "The Crossroads Project." Musicians include (left to right) Robert Waters, Rebecca McFaul, Anne Francis Bayless and Bradley Ottesen.
Andrew McCallister Courtesy of The Crossroads Project

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 11:45 am

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Joe's Big Idea
5:40 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Satellite Set To Stream Daily Images Of Earth From Space

NASA says this "blue marble" image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date.
NASA

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 1:24 pm

There's something majestic, even awe-inspiring about the sight of planet Earth as a blue disc, hanging in the vastness of space.

The three astronauts aboard Apollo 8 were the first to get that view; if all goes well, later this year everyone will be able to get it on a daily basis over the Internet.

The images will come courtesy of a spacecraft called Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). It's a mission with an unusual history.

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Animals
3:01 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

On The Ant Highway, There's Never A Backup

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 6:45 pm

A team of Indian physicists has made a mathematical model that purports to explain why ants don't have traffic jams. NPR's Joe Palca explains as part of his series, Joe's Big Idea.

This story originally aired on Morning Edition on January 19, 2015.

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Joe's Big Idea
2:34 am
Mon January 19, 2015

Why Ants Handle Traffic Better Than You Do

Unless there's a serious pileup, ants in traffic tend to bypass a collision and just keep going. A physicist has found a way to model this behavior with a mathematical equation.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 11:21 am

Could studying ants reveal clues to reducing highway traffic jams? Physicist Apoorva Nagar at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology thinks the answer is yes.

Nagar says he got interested in the topic when he came across a study by German and Indian researchers showing that ants running along a path were able to maintain a steady speed even when there were a large number of ants on the path.

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The Two-Way
6:08 pm
Sun January 11, 2015

Ancient Scottish Sea Reptile Not 'Nessie,' But Just As Cute

An artist's rendering of what Dearcmhara shawcrossi probably looked like in dinosaur times.
Todd Marshall/University of Edinburgh

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 12:21 pm

Scientists in Scotland have found a prehistoric behemoth: a previously unknown species of reptile that lived in the oceans during the time of dinosaurs. And before you ask, no, scientists do not believe this new fossil has anything to do with the Loch Ness monster.

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Space
3:20 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

Scientists Bring The Sun Down To Earth To Learn How It Works

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 12:13 am

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Joe's Big Idea
4:00 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Could Glitter Help Solve NASA's Giant Telescope Problem?

Larkin Carey, an optical engineer with Ball Aerospace, examines two test mirror segments designed for the James Webb Space Telescope. The mirror for the scope is extremely powerful, but heavy and pricey.
NASA

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 12:16 am

NASA is building a new space telescope with astounding capabilities. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope and will provide unprecedented views of the first galaxies to form in the early universe. It might even offer the first clear glimpse of an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star.

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Space
3:43 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Methane Bursts On Mars Could Hint At Previous Life

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 12:07 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Something intriguing is happening on Mars. Instruments onboard the rover known as Curiosity are seeing bursts of methane entering the Martian atmosphere and then disappearing. NPR's Joe Palca reports.

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