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.




Sat April 9, 2011

Fears About Radiation Bigger Than Actual Risk

Radiation is a scary thing. It is invisible and its effects on the human body are not completely understood. But many people overestimate the risk of radiation exposure, especially when it comes to nuclear power. NPR's Joe Palca in Tokyo has been thinking a lot about the public's perception of radiation.


Tue April 5, 2011


Fri March 25, 2011

Texas Find Turns Back Clock On Settlers In America

Originally published on Fri March 25, 2011 11:55 am

Stone artifacts dating back 15,500 years suggest humans may have arrived 2,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Courtesy of Michael R. Waters

A newly excavated site in central Texas contains evidence that the first human settlers in the Lone Star state arrived more than 15,000 years ago. That's more than 2,000 years earlier than scientists originally thought.

The discovery should help end a controversy about whether a culture known as Clovis was the first to settle in the Americas. The site is on Buttermilk Creek, north of Austin, and there are plenty of good reasons why our ancient ancestors would have camped here.

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Tue March 15, 2011
Japan In Crisis

Spent Fuel Rods Explained

Some of the problems afflicting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant appear to be related to one or more of the spent fuel storage pools at the plant. In Japan on Tuesday, a fire broke out in the No. 4 reactor building near an area where spent fuel is stored. The material is still highly radioactive, and all nuclear power plants have facilities to deal with this material.

First, some background on how nuclear reactors work.

The fuel in a nuclear reactor contains material that can undergo something called nuclear fission.

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Mon March 14, 2011

Japan Nuclear Impact

Renee Montagne talks to NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca about how the Japan earthquake and tsunami have affected nuclear reactors, and what officials are doing to mitigate the impact.