Astronomers Discover Three Earth-Like Planets

Extrasolar planets are being discovered by the hundreds, but are any of these newfound worlds really like Earth? A planetary system recently discovered by the Kepler spacecraft will help resolve this question. The system of three planets, each just larger than Earth, orbits a nearby star called EPIC 201367065. The three planets are 1.5-2 times the size of Earth, and the outermost planet orbits on the edge of the so-called “habitable zone,” where the temperature may be just right for liquid water, believed necessary to support life, on the planet’s surface. “We’ve learned in the past year that planets the size and temperature of Earth are common in our Milky Way galaxy,” explains University of Hawaii astronomer Andrew Howard. “We also discovered some Earth-size planets that appear to be made of the same materials as our Earth, mostly rock and iron.” [...]

Feds Asked to Boost Hawaii Macadamia Nut Exports

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Services (FAS) calling on the agency to provide greater visibility to Hawaii macadamia nuts on its export list to foreign markets. Hawaii farmers in the macadamia nut industry generated more than $36 million in revenue in 2013. Growth in this industry would expand business and employment opportunities in rural Hawaii communities. Industry leaders like Troy Keolanui, John Cross, and Richard Schnitzler applauded Congresswoman Gabbard’s efforts to encourage FAS to prioritize macadamia nut exports. “Promoting Hawaiian Macadamia nuts to foreign markets is a big boost to our industry, and we are grateful to Congresswoman Gabbard for again taking the lead to represent the farmers of Hawaii,” said Troy Keolanui, co-owner of the Hilo-based OK Farms. [...]

Honolulu Neighborhood Board applications open

Beginning today, O‘ahu residents can file to run for a seat on their Neighborhood Board. “Serving on your Neighborhood Board presents the opportunity to create real change in your community, build a legacy, and network with other leaders,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “No one knows a neighborhood better than the people who live in it. I was honored to serve on both the Manoa and Kaimuki Neighborhood Boards.” Candidacy is open to O‘ahu residents who will be at least 18 years of age by February 20, 2015. Mailed forms must be postmarked by February 20 and received by February 27, 2015. This is also the deadline to for residents to register to vote in the Neighborhood Board elections. [...]

Thirty Meter Telescope groundbreaking set

A groundbreaking and blessing ceremony for the next-generation Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, launching a multi-national $1.4 billion project near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Although access to the TMT construction site will be limited due to the area’s sensitive environment and harsh physical conditions, the ceremony will be fully accessible via a live-stream webcast. George Takei, noted actor, director and author, known for his role in the television series Star Trek, will present pre-recorded science segments during the live webcast. Dr. Robert Hurt, researcher, science podcaster and lecturer, will host the webcast. [...]

Latest crew set for 8-month simulated Mars mission

The six astronaut-like crew members of the next Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) mission starting October 15 will be isolated in their dome habitat for eight months. This mission is twice as long as any previously completed at the Hawaiʻi site, and second only to Russia’s Mars500 experiment in total duration. Also, for the first time, HI-SEAS will have a female commander. In NASA history, only two women have ever commanded the spaceship: astronauts Eileen Collins in July 1999, and Pamela Melroy in November 2007. For true space flight, the commander role requires previous astronaut experience as well as at least 1,000 hours experience piloting a jet aircraft. For HI-SEAS, Commander Martha Lenio was selected based on feedback from fellow crew members and from instructors of the National Outdoor Leadership Skills course that both NASA and HI-SEAS require of their teams in training. [...]

Energy Excelerator announces latest cohort

The Energy Excelerator selected 17 startups from a pool of high quality applicants to transform Hawaii’s energy system. Fifty percent of the new portfolio startups has principal team members with previous exits. “We are excited to work with a new cohort of startups with a ton of experience in running successful companies,” says Dawn Lippert, Director of the Energy Excelerator. “These are really smart people that have vetted technologies and are eager to partner with our local businesses to help solve some of our most difficult energy challenges.” The Energy Excelerator’s goal is to strategically address Hawaii’s energy challenges across many different sectors. The 2015 cohort consists of startups with innovative solutions for the State’s energy, transportation, water, and agriculture industries. [...]

Microbes touted as key to future agriculture

A local technology commercialization company is working with two mainland biotechnology firms to encourage the adoption of microbial treatments to boost agricultural productivity while reducing water consumption as well as cutting the use of fertilizers and pesticides. “Everything we’ve been taught about farming is incorrect,” declares Vincent Kimura, president of Inovi Green. “Historical and current agricultural processes of crop fertilization and soil tilling are falling out of favor, damaging ecosystems and producing diminishing returns. Environmentally-friendly microbial treatments have evolved to do this work far more effectively.” [...]

Hawaii scientist maps, names ‘Laniakea’ galaxy cluster

An international team of astronomers has defined the contours of the immense supercluster of galaxies containing our own Milky Way. They have named the supercluster “Laniakea,” meaning “immense heaven” in Hawaiian. The team was led by University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer R. Brent Tully, who recently shared the 2014 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2014 Victor Ambartsumian International Prize. The paper explaining this work is the cover story of the September 4 issue of the prestigious journal Nature. [...]

Hiki Nō Festival showcases student video stories

The public is invited to view outstanding student-produced video stories on the big screen at PBS Hawaii’s first-ever Hiki Nō Festival. The featured stories, produced last school year, have aired on PBS Hawaii’s student news program, Hiki Nō, and are nominated in this year’s Hiki Nō Awards. Hiki Nō is Hawaii’s first statewide student news network, made up of 86 public, private and charter schools from across the islands. Through the production of video news stories about their schools and communities, students gain valuable workforce and life skills, while teachers engage their students in hands-on, collaborative learning. [...]

Three UH scientists selected for Mars rover teams

NASA has announced the selection of seven science instruments to be included on the Mars 2020 rover. Three scientists from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) — Sarah Fagents, Shiv Sharma and Anupam Misra — will be members on the instrument teams to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet. The new rover will carry sophisticated hardware and instruments to perform geological assessments of the rover’s landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life. [...]

New Partnership Uses Technology to Assist Public with Legal Forms

The Hawaii State Public Library System will provide access to the Self-Help Interactive Forms on their 800 library computers and 250 netbooks statewide. Legal Aid kicked off their first training session for library staff on Wednesday, and will be providing similar trainings across the state to demonstrate how to navigate the new software. The software also includes a new chat feature to enable individuals to ask questions directly to Legal Aid about the self-help forms on its LawHelp website. [...]

Big Island Election Challenged in Hawaii Supreme Court

On August 6, 2014, Governor Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation, in advance of two anticipated storms projected to impact Hawai‘i: Hurricanes Iselle and Julio. The proclamation – valid from August 6 through August 15 – included a statement that “the danger of disaster is of such magnitude to warrant preemptive and protective action in order to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the people.” Facing massive damage from Iselle on August 8, and thousands of Hawai‘i County residents dealing with historic flooding, power outages, property damage, and road closures – some of which continue even now – the Chief Elections Officer determined that the primary would go on as scheduled on August 9. the Chief Elections Officer went on to change the rules of the election (who could vote, where and how) at least two more times over the course of three days. This series of decisions led to the denial of the right to vote for many Hawai‘i County residents. Indeed, Precinct 04-03 had among its lowest voter turnout ever. [...]

How do volcanoes affect the weather and climate?

Topography indisputably influences the weather—that’s why precipitation is so much greater on the windward side of the island. But how much did Hawai‘i’s topography influence Iselle? Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropical storm just as it reached the island, but still managed to make landfall. As it did, the bulk of the storm stalled on the east flank of Mauna Loa, but its weakened upper parts continued moving westward. [...]

Hawaii Herald launches online edition

The Hawai‘i Herald today took a major step forward in its more than thirty­ year ­history with the launch of its online edition. The debut issue is focused on the Primary Election, with a story on the “David vs. Goliath” gubernatorial race between incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie and veteran State Senator David Ige, as well as a Q&A forum on the issues with responding candidates for the major offices. “This is an historic moment for The Hawai‘i Herald, the only Hawaii­-based newspaper dedicated to covering the local Japanese American community,” says Keiichi Tagata, president of parent company Hawaii Hochi, Ltd. “After 34 years of sharing stories in print with loyal readers, mostly in Hawaii, we look forward to sharing the Herald with a wider audience of readers around the world.” [...]

Honolulu happy hour app taps new beacon tech

Happy Hour Pal, a Honolulu-based startup, is the first business to deploy beacon technology into restaurants and bars throughout the state. Happy Hour Pal is a searchable website and free GPS-based mobile app that allows people to save money while dining out, by locating happy hour specials in their area. Integrating beacon technology will make Happy Hour Pal even easier for users to identify nearby happy hour specials, and provide local businesses an effortless opportunity to engage directly with customers and increase awareness and sales during the most powerful internal promotion – happy hour. Happy Hour Pal’s website and mobile app users can search for happy hour specials by food, drink, time, and location, and easily access happy hour menus and daily specials for each business. Users can share information via text message and email, and invite friends to join them for happy hour. Users can also earn points for rewards when they check in to a business on the app. [...]

Third historic volcano found off O‘ahu

University of Hawaii researchers, working with colleagues in California and France, have discovered evidence of a third major shield volcano making up the island of O‘ahu. Previously, geologists believed the island’s current profile is the remnants of two volcanoes, Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau. But extending almost 100 km WNW from Ka‘ena Point, the western tip of the island of O‘ahu, is a large region of shallow bathymetry, called the submarine Ka‘ena Ridge. It is that region that has now been recognized to represent a precursor volcano to the island of O‘ahu, and on whose flanks the Wai‘anae and Ko‘olau Volcanoes later formed. The team included scientists from the University of Hawai‘i–Mānoa, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de L’Environment in France, and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. [...]

Leaf Doctor: UH plant expert launches third app

Fresh from his success with two widely utilized smartphone apps, plant pathologist Scot Nelson has created a new and more technical app, the Leaf Doctor, for a more specialized audience. Nelson, who works at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii, doesn’t anticipate that the Leaf Doctor will have the same broad, popular appeal as his Plant Doctor app. For many of those who will use the Leaf Doctor, though, it is likely to be a professional game-changer. The Leaf Doctor focuses on the finer points of diagnosing plant diseases. [...]

Study: Shorter men may live longer

Short height and long life have a direct connection in Japanese men, according to new research based on the Kuakini Honolulu Heart Program (HHP) and the Kuakini Honolulu-Asia Aging Study (HAAS). “We split people into two groups – those who were 5-foot-2 and shorter, and 5-4 and taller,” said Dr. Bradley Willcox, one of the investigators for the study and a UH Mānoa Professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s (JABSOM’s) Department of Geriatric Medicine. “The folks that were 5-2 and shorter lived the longest. The range was seen all the way across from being 5-foot tall to 6-foot tall. The taller you got, the shorter you lived.” Researchers at the Kuakini Medical Center, JABSOM and U.S. Veterans Affairs worked on the study, which was recently published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed medical journal. The researchers showed that shorter men were more likely to have a protective form of the longevity gene, FOXO3, leading to smaller body size during early development and a longer lifespan. Shorter men were also more likely to have lower blood insulin levels and less cancer. [...]

Deep origins to the behavior of our volcanoes

Kīlauea volcano, on the Big Island of Hawaii, typically has effusive eruptions, where magma flows to create ropy pāhoehoe lava. But Kīlauea sometimes erupts more violently, showering scoria and blocks over much of the surface of the island. To explain the variability in Kīlauea’s eruption styles, a research team analyzed 25 eruptions that have taken place over the past 600 years. Their research shows that the ultimate fate of a magma at Kīlauea — that is if the eruption will be effusive or explosive — is strongly influenced by the variability in composition of the deep magma. In short, more gas-rich magmas produces more explosive eruptions. “Gas-rich magmas are ‘predisposed’ to rise quickly through the Earth’s mantle and crust and erupt powerfully,” Houghton explained. [...]

Bike Commuting Celebrated on Thursday

This year’s “BikeUHM,” the annual appreciation and promotional event for those who cycle and who are thinking of cycling to UH Mānoa, coincides with the University’s Earth Day Festival on Thursday, April 24. “BikeUHM 2014: Earth Cycles” will be held along Legacy Path (near Dole Street) from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. To further enhance the cycling experience at UH Mānoa, the University has implemented Sharrow lanes (shared by both motorists and bicyclists) and free bike parking in any of the more than 150 racks positioned around campus. Coming soon is the installation of a secure, enclosed bike shelter in the Lower Campus Parking Structure and bike-share stations on campus, as recommended in a recent feasibility study for bike-sharing in Honolulu. [...]

Windward District’s Science Fair Marks 28th Year

More than 200 students from 31 Windward Oahu schools will present over 160 projects at the annual Windward District’s Science and Engineering Fair. Setup begins today at Windward Community College, with judging tomorrow morning and displays open to the public in the afternoon. Winners will be announced on Saturday. This year marks the event’s 28th year, and the three-day program is organized by vice principals from schools spanning from Waimanalo to Sunset Beach. In addition to the competition, it offers sixth- through tenth-graders several breakout sessions and presentations by college professors as a way to inspire Hawaii’s future scientists. [...]

Sheet metal roses return for Valentine’s Day

The annual “Forever Rose” sale by the Sheet Metal and Plastics Program at HCC started as a bet over 15 years ago. “An apprenticeship student challenged me to make a rose out of sheet metal,” recalls Danny Aiu, Associate Professor of the program. “That night with a strip of sheet metal I molded a rose with my hands. Today, our students apply their skills by operating a plasma cutter, chemicals and other tools used in the trade to create each rose one by one.” [...]

Hawaii lab finds dramatic shift in Pacific ecosystem

The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) has enabled scientists to determine that a long-term shift in nitrogen content in the Pacific Ocean has occurred as a result of climate change. Researchers observed overall nitrogen fixation in the North Pacific Ocean has increased by about 20 percent since the mid 1800s and this long-term change appears to be continuing today, according to a study published recently in the journal, Nature. Using chemical information locked in organic skeletal layers, the team used these ancient deep corals as detailed recorders of changes at the base of the open Pacific food web over the last 1,000 years. This represents the first detailed biogeochemical records for the planet’s largest contiguous ecosystem. This type of sample is only available using deep-diving submersibles, such as those operated by HURL. [...]

‘Voice of the Sea’ TV series debuts in January

A new television show highlighting ocean and coastal scientists and cultural experts from Hawaii and the Pacific will debut on January 5, 2014. “Voice of the Sea” will be broadcast on on KVFE (Channel 5 and 1005) on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. The show is hosted by Dr. Kanesa Duncan Seraphin, world paddleboard champion, shark researcher, and science education expert. Dr. Seraphin, director of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Center of Excellence in Marine Science Education and associate professor at the Curriculum Research & Development Group in the College of Education at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, has traveled across the Pacific to bring stories of relevance to Hawaii. Each half-hour episode profiles local science and cultural celebrities and presents thought-provoking information in an exciting, original, reality-based way. [...]