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January, 2005 Vol. 30 No. 1
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January 2005

Research News

UH physicists celebrate scientific collaboration with Chinese premier

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, greeted UH Professor of Physics Stephen Olsen during a celebration of 25 years of collaboration in high energy physics. Olsen and Professor Frederick Harris were among 10 U.S. representatives attending the Joint Committee for Cooperation on High Energy Physics in Beijing Oct. 15. Mānoa's High Energy Physics Group has participated in research at the Beijing Electron Spectrometer detector since 1993.


Oldest Malay manuscript identified in Sumatra

Early Malay manuscript

Scholars from around the world gathered in Jakarta in December to attempt translation of a 700-year-old Malay manuscript rediscoverd by a Mānoa archaeologist and philologist.

Assistant Professor of Indonesian Uli Kozok found the 34-page legal code in a Sumatran village in 2002, where it had been seen but not pursued by a Dutch scholar 61 years earlier.

Recorded in Malay with a few sentences of Sanskrit on bark paper from the paper mulberry tree, the Tanjung Tanah document was radiocarbon dated to the 14th century, making it the oldest known Malay manuscript.

With funding from the U.S. Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, UH and the Yayasan Pernaskahan Nusantara foundation are coordinating translation, publication and preservation of the document. A replica will be placed in the Indonesian national library and the original returned to its home village.


Physician tackles high prescription costs

The high cost of prescription drugs impacts us all. One in three Hawaiʻi residents who take medications regularly put off filling prescriptions, reduce dosages, use mail order or cut back on food and utilities. One in five have no drug coverage. The state spent $62 million on prescription drugs for Medicaid fee-for-service patients in 2000.

Until it is easier for doctors to know the cost of drugs and which less expensive options will work for a particular patient, drug prices and insurance premiums will keep increasing, says Assistant Professor of Family Medicine Chien-Wen Tseng. As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar, she will use her $300,000 grant to design and test cost-efficient prescribing guidelines.

galaxies merging

Galaxies merge in perfect cosmic storm

Like the collision of high-pressure weather fronts, two galaxy clusters smashed together in what astronomers are calling a "perfect cosmic storm" 800 million light-years from Earth.

One of the most powerful events ever witnessed, the collision was second only to the Big Bang in energy output. It was recorded by an international team led by the Institute for Astronomy’s J. Patrick Henry using x-ray emissions captured by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton orbiting observatory and reported in the Nov. 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal.

Creation of the massive cluster supports the theory that the universe was built "from the bottom up" through merging of smaller objects, says Henry. The team will keep watching, but it will take about 7 billion years to achieve relative calm in what is now one of the largest objects in the universe. More from NASA.


Evidence of giant tsunami unearthed

diagram of a landslide in Hawaii caused by tsunami

120,000 years ago, the giant Alika 2 landslide sent 120 cubic miles of material thundering down the western slope of Mauna Loa. Discovery of marine deposits the same age on the adjacent Kohala volcano suggests the landslide triggered a massive tsunami that swept fossil-laden sand up to four miles inland and 1,600 feet in elevation.

An international research group led by Mānoa oceanographer Gary McMurtry found smashed marine shells and coral fragments cemented to chunks of lava and soil by what was once coralline sand at an onshore deposit. Similar species are found on a drowned coral terrace now 1,400 feet below sea level—indicative of a back-reef environment that was quite different from the current shoreline.

Since the Big Island is known to be sinking about an inch per decade, the scientists conclude that a giant tsunami, not uplift of the landmass, is responsible for the upland deposits. More research is planned, but the scientists are racing against another destructive force—unauthorized bulldozing related to rampant development of the area. Read more.


Colorful fish give researchers an eyeful

Humans delight in the bright colors that make reef fish readily visible. The fish-eye view of things is another matter, however. Mānoa Emeritus Professor of Zoology George Losey is among those working to understand the role of fish coloration. He and colleagues recently analyzed fish-eye pigments and measured background colors in various reef habitats.

The average wavelength of light reflecting off the reef is a light blue similar to bands of color on the Pygoplites diacanthus angelfish. Effectively, the fish blend in with the background.

Color patters might even serve as a danger signal. Damselfish scurry in mass behind coral outcrops when predators approach. A UV patch on the dorsal fin of the Dascyllus reticulatus species might alert neighbors without being visible to predators who are unable or too distant to perceive UV wavelengths. Download the article.


UH flower varieties win national honors

tropic fire and lavendar anthuriums

Lavender Lady, an anthurium developed by College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources horticulturalists, won the blue ribbon in the Society of American Florists’ national Outstanding Variety Competition.

Close on its heels was Tropic Fire, another CTAHR creation. The red anthurium received the second place red ribbon.


Pest management team honored for fly work

oriental fly

Hawaiʻi’s successful fight against the fruit fly could allow the agriculture industry to expand production by as much as $45 million a year, improve locally grown produce and increase the potential for new export crops.

The Hawaiʻi Fruit Fly Area-Wide Pest Management core team has applied a range of techniques—from prompt burial of rotting fruit to more effective use of lures and poison baits to release of sterile mates—to tackle the melon fly and Oriental, Mediterranean and Malaysian fruit flies.

The program earned the Entomological Society of America’s Integrated Pest Management Award and the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2004 Secretary’s Honor Award, with special honors for Mānoa entomologist Ronald Mau.


Flash unit can turn green waste to carbon and cash

carbon researcher Michael Antal Jr.

The Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute introduced the world's first commercial-scale flash carbonization unit at Mānoa in July 2004. The technology produces high quality charcoal from biomass, including agricultural byproducts and yard trimmings.

When fully operational, Mānoa's unit will turn campus green waste into gold—generating as much as $100,000 from sale of the charcoal, says Michael Antal Jr., HNEI's Coral Industries Professor of Renewable Energy Resources.


Student researchers win international honors in ethnobiology

The Society for Economic Botany recognized two Mānoa doctoral students in August 2004 during the biennial International Congress for Ethnobiology in England. Anthropology candidate Heather McMillen’s award will support her field work in Africa (see Mālamalama September 2004). Botany candidate My Lien Nguyen received the prize for best oral paper for "Some Like it Hot...and Sour: The Ethnobiological Evolution of Canh Chua Cá Loc in Vietnamese Migrations."


Historic kimono included in national brochure

Japanese kimono

Navy Commodore Matthew Perry’s second expedition to Japan in 1854 opened Japan’s ports to American trade. Among the gifts his ship brought back was a kimono destined for a place in both the Maānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources’ Historic Costume Collection and a brochure developed by the Costume Society of America.

A descendant of a Perry crewman gave the woman’s kosode (short-sleeved kimono) from Yokohama to the Marders family, which donated the robe to UH. Silk with gold-wrapped threads, it features shochikubai, a combination of plum, pine and bamboo known as saikan no sanʻyu, the three friends of the cold season. In Confucian symbolism, the plum represents courage, bamboo, resilience and pine, long life—virtues to pursue when facing the afflictions of life.


Mapping to improve coastal management decisions

The Hawaiʻi Coastal Geology Group in UH Mānoa’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, will map historical patterns of erosion on the Windward Oʻahu coast. The maps will help characterize future erosion hazards, establishing a scientific basis for beach management policies, says principal investigator Charles "Chip" Fletcher.

The group hopes to establish a one-stop data source for shoreline management. Its work on Maui resulted in a new setback policy. The Windward Oʻahu mapping is being funded by a $100,000 grant from the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation.


Testing the Chinese market for Hawaiian goods

gift basket of Hawaiian goods

Does "made in Hawaiʻi" have cachet in the People’s Republic of China? Will gift baskets packed in koa sell in a country that associates round wooden bowls with beggars? Such questions are important in any attempt to market Hawaiʻi products across the Pacific. Mānoa economists Linda Cox and Catherine Chan-Halbrendt engaged Chinese agricultural students to test consumers’ price and packaging preferences at trade shows in China.

While most of those surveyed preferred the less expensive basket, both "made in Hawaiʻi" and koa bowl packaging increased the perceived value of the gift baskets. The project was one of several faculty research initiatives funded by the university’s Center for International Business Education and Research.


UH creates major impact in Hawaiʻi economy

The UH system’s $1.4 billion in education-related expenditures in 2003 generated nearly $2 billion in local business sales, $1.2 billion in employee earnings and $132 million in state tax revenues.

According to the new UH Economic Research Organization report, UH represented 3.1 percent of the state’s economy. Its 35,800 jobs represented 4.6 percent of the state’s total. Each dollar of state general funds invested in the UH system generated an additional $2.09 in education-related expenditures and $4.35 in total business sales. Find out more.


Domestic Preparedness grant benefits research, security

$300,000 from the federal Office for Domestic Preparedness Homeland Security Grant Program will boost research in Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources while providing the state with the means to identify chemicals in environmental samples. The funds are being used to purchase chromatograph-mass spectrometer equipment for the Environmental Biochemistry Laboratory headed by Qing Li, professor of molecular biosciences and bioengineering.


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