Hi From HI

Credit: Steve Ritter/C&EN

The first day of Pacifichem is in the books. The meeting is big, with more than 12,000 attendees (with their spouses, friends, and family along, the total number of people in town for Pacifichem is considerably more). The meeting includes some 235 symposia, 1,ooo technical sessions, and more than 13,000 oral presentations and posters. After a flurry of technical talks today, the final event was the opening ceremony, which featured chants and dances from native Hawaiians–a couple of photos are shown. Pacifichem has brought together people of many different cultures to a place with a big cultural history.

Credit: Steve Ritter/C&EN

As I mentioned yesterday, even on an island with a limited size, meeting attendees can find a lot to do–besides making a presentation or sitting in on one. There’s getting the sand between your toes on the beach. Snorkeling or diving to check out the fish, corals, and maybe a sea turtle. Surfing and body boarding. Taking a hike to the top of Diamond Head crater. Visiting Pearl Harbor and other landmarks.

For example, there’s the statue of King Kamehameha (shown), an imposing

Credit: Pacifichem program

 figure that faces Iolani Palace in Honolulu. The palace is perhaps more recognizable now as the “headquarters” of Hawai’i Five-0. Book’em Danno. In reality, it was a palace of the last two monarchs of Hawai’i, and for a time it was the state capitol. Now it houses the state supreme court.

The statue has an interesting history. The original was commissioned from an American sculptor living in Italy and completed in 1880. But it was lost at sea. With the insurance money, a new statue was cast, and that is the one posing in front of the building. The original was later recovered from the waters of the Falkland Islands, and it also ended up in Hawai’i. It now sits in front of the old town hall in the town of Kapa’au on the big island of Hawai’i, near where Kamehameha was born.

Pearl Harbor in particular is on my mind just a week after Dec. 7, when 69 years ago the Japanese attacked the U.S. forces on Hawai’i. Times have changed. Honolulu is now a top tourist destination for the Japanese, who are welcomed with leis and open arms. Being here makes you think about World War II and how far humanity has come that two former enemies can exist peacably together. Besides WWII, the Vietnam War and the Cold War worked themselves out too. The conflict in the Korean Pennisula is still unfolding, as are the Middle East wars. What will become of them, only time will tell. These wars were all battles of ideological wills. Science, like that on display this week at Pacifichem, has helped and continues to help make a difference in transcending conflict.

Author: Steve Ritter

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