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November, 2003 Vol. 28 No. 3
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Research Highlights

Empty nest distress stronger in Guam

Compared to women on the U.S. mainland, women of various ethnic groups, ages and income levels on Guam experience greater psychological distress when their last offspring leaves home.

UH Hilo sociologist Thomas Pinhey, who reported the findings in Pacific Studies, thinks larger families and predominantly Catholic values may help explain the difference.


Drought reduces ocean's carbon dioxide capacity

graph showing average rainfall anomalies

Five years of reduced rainfall in the North Pacific is resulting in saltier ocean water. Higher salinity reduces the ocean's capacity to relieve the atmosphere of CO2, a greenhouse gas, in a process called carbon dioxide sink.

School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology researcher John Dore and colleagues reported the unexpected results in the Aug. 14 issue of Nature. It is the latest significant finding from 15 years of Hawai'i Ocean Time-series observations at Station ALOHA, located in open ocean about 100 kilometers north of O'ahu.

Read more: Nature | SOEST Press Release | SOEST Hawai'i Ocean Time-series


Infrasound data adds to space shuttle investigation

infrasonic graph

A sound wave recording network used to detect clandestine nuclear tests contributed to investigation of the February 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster. While the human ear easily distinguishes the sonic boom of reentry, it can't detect acoustic bursts related to small changes in a shuttle's trajectory. Sensitive microphones scattered across western North America created an acoustic record, however.

Manoa's Milton Garces, of the Hawai'i Infrasound Laboratory, is one of the researchers analyzing the data. Their observations helped rule out lightning strikes or meteorite impacts. Columbia's violent disassembly was accompanied by an unexpected series of bursts over Texas, but the infrasound patterns prior to that were typical, indicating that the shuttle's flight dynamics were stable until the final moments. The infrasound network also eavesdrops on volcanoes, detects bolide meteors and listens to severe weather and large surf.

Read more: UH Press Release | Hawai'i Infrasound Laboratory


Particle findings question physics theory

In August 2003, Manoa physicist Thomas Browder announced observations by the international Belle collaboration that could challenge the 30-year-old Standard Model of elementary particles.

Browder reported that the decay of subatomic particles called B mesons produces a distinctive amount of the difference between matter and antimatter known as CP violation. The findings could indicate the presence of new physics processes. Experiments involving more than a dozen UH researchers and graduate students continue at the KEKB accelerator in Japan.

Read more: UH Press Release | Physics research at UH Manoa | KEKB


Hox genes related to evolutionary development of squid

squid hatchlings

Animals from flies to humans share a set of genes that organize the body into discreet regions along an axis from head to tail.

In the Hawaiian bobtail squid, however, these Hox genes have been re-deployed to spur the development of arm-like tentacles, a light organ, ink glands and a jet propulsion system.

UH scientists Patricia Lee, Mark Martindale and Heinz Gert de Couet reported the genes' role in these unlikely descendants of 'opihi-like ancestors in Nature. They are exploring the molecular mechanisms that cause common genes to trigger the evolution of novel morphological structures.

Read more: Nature | UH Press Release


UH-developed film could improve night vision

A new nickel-cobalt film developed by a Manoa researcher could revolutionize infrared electrooptic devices, improving the night vision cameras used in military and civilian applications. Shiv Sharma, a researcher in the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, received the R. F. Bunshah Award from the International Conference on Metallurgical Coatings and Thin Films for his paper on the film.

Read more: UH Press Release | Shiv Sharma


Orphan star clusters discovered

Images from the Keck Telescope atop Mauna Kea and the Hubble Space Telescope have yielded evidence of hundreds of globular clusters, systems of up to a million stars compacted together by gravity, in what was previously thought to be empty space.

UH Hilo astronomer Michael West was the leader of an international team that reported the finding to the International Astronomical Union in July 2003. The dense sphere-shaped groupings are almost a billion times fainter than the unaided human eye can see. The clusters were orphaned, perhaps pulled loose by the gravity of a passing galaxy or spilled by a collision of galaxies. Some might eventually be adopted if they stray close enough to be captured by the gravitational pull of other galaxies.

Read more: UH Hilo Press Release


Riverbank filtration considered for drinking water on the Ganges

In Europe, horizontal and vertical wells on riverbanks use soils and sand in the aquifer to filter out impurities present in surface water. Manoa Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chittaranjan Ray has written extensively on the method, called riverbank filtration, and its ability to remove suspended and dissolved chemicals and pathogens from water destined for drinking.

Ray is spending the 2003-04 school year on the Ganges Plains under a Fulbright grant, examining the geologic and hydrologic potential for using riverbank filtration to produce drinking water for large cities in Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Closer to home, Ray investigates potential contamination of Hawai'i's ground water and leaching behavior of agricultural chemicals used here. He received an American Society of Agricultural Engineers award in July 2003 for his monograph Pesticides in Domestic Wells, published with support from UH's Water Resources Research Center.

Read more: UH Press Release | UH Manoa College of Engineering


Sonar signatures are fishy

UH scientists are examining sonar as a non-lethal method for assessing populations of endangered and depleted fish around Hawai'i.

The swim bladders of snappers ('ehu, onaga and 'opakapaka) and other bottom fish species are unique in size and shape. The bladders appear to create unique echoes, researchers from the Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory and Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology reported in Deep-Sea Research.

Read more: Deep-Sea Research


Cool cows, better feed improve farm profits

illustration of cows with a fan on them

Fans blow cooling mists across football players on the sidelines at hot fall games. The same principle helps dairy cows perform better.

Milk cows are temperate-climate creatures, and heat stress can cut milk production by up to 25 percent. Too wet of an environment can lead to udder infections, however. After a decade of experiments, Manoa dairy specialist C. N. Lee has hit on a combination of sprinklers, foggers, misters, drenchers and lots of fans to keep milkers happy and productive.

Meanwhile, a trio of UH researchers suggests a way to improve Hawai'i's share of the beef market. Ranchers export most cattle to the mainland for finishing on grain, which is more digestible than the sugarcane, california grass and guinea grass used as feed in Hawai'i.

Investment in a process that converts the grasses to more digestible energy-enhanced roughage would allow ranchers to finish cows at home at competitive prices, according to a study by Hilo's Sabry Shehata and Manoa's Linda Cox and Mike DuPonte.

Read more: Agriculture colleges at UH Manoa and UH Hilo


Directory tackles Taiwan situation

For a thorough understanding of the Taiwan political situation, check out the Taiwan Cross-Strait Directory online at the Asia-Pacific Digital Library hosted by Kapi'olani Community College.

The directory, managed by UH political scientist Vincent Pollard, provides up-to-date summaries and annotated links on political, historical, military, investment and international aspects of Taipei-Beijing relations. It earned a "very useful" rating from the e-journal Asian Studies WWW Monitor.

The directory's transnational advisory board includes UH alumni Wenjing Wang (BA '98, MLIS '00 Manoa) and Daojiong Zha (MA '92, PhD '95 Manoa). Another alum, Loretta Pang (BA '63, MA '67, MEd '70, PhD '98 Manoa), has led the parent Asia Pacific Digital Institute since 2000.


Newest plant book is a guide to Hawai'i weeds

ginger blossoms

Don't be fooled by the carpets of yellow and lavender blossoms, bright purple berries and red pods nor plants with local-sounding common names like white ginger and kahili tree.

The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources' latest plant guide is a catalog of 150 trees, shrubs, vines, herbs and grasses that threaten economic endeavors, human health and the Hawai'i ecosystem. Weeds of Hawai'i's Pastures and Natural Areas provides descriptions and color photos to identify these plants and recommendations on how to manage or eliminate them.

For more information, e-mail the CTAHR publications office at or use this downloadable order form (PDF).


Waimanalo Stream reveals good intentions gone wrong

Trees along Waimanalo Stream were removed so fallen branches couldn't cause flooding. The resulting increase in sunlight stimulated the growth of channel-clogging vegetation, creating a more serious flood threat. Yet the grasses also create a wetland, trapping sediments that would otherwise wash into the ocean.

Manoa water researcher Edward Laws reports on the divergent impact of human activity on the stream system in the April 2003 issue of Pacific Science.

Once the home of 800 taro lo'i, sweet potato, breadfruit and mountain apple, Waimanalo Stream and its tributaries emptied into inland fishponds and wetlands. Traditional farming gave way to livestock ranching after Europeans arrived. For a time, water was diverted into irrigation ditches to support sugarcane. After the 1940s, the land was broken up into nurseries and livestock and truck farms, still a significant area activity.

With increasing urbanization along the highway, portions of the streams were channelized and paved to avert flooding, and the development of runways and construction of a golf course drained the lower wetland and lagoon. Laws' research on nutrients and sediments in the water system may contribute to more informed decisions about future activities.

Read more: Pacific Science Journal | Ed Laws


Researcher measures brain hemisphericity

brain researcher Bruce Morton

Right- and left-brained students enter college in equal numbers. As they progress into graduate programs, however, they tend to sort themselves along discipline lines.

In a study of more than 1,000 UH students and faculty, Professor Emeritus Bruce Morton found that astronomers and architects tend to be right-brain, big-picture individuals while particle physicists and microbiologists are more apt to be left-brain individuals.

Morton's results, reported in the August issue of Brain and Cognition, were obtained using a "best hand test," which asks subjects to mark the center of 20 lines with each hand and answer a few questions. The results must be used in combination with other assessment methods to accurately predict individual hemisphericity, but Morton is investigating MRI readings as a single, reliable neuroanatomical indicator.

Read more: UH Press Release