Hi From HI
Dec16

Hi From HI

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. 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  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...

Read More
Aloha!
Dec15

Aloha!

Welcome to Hawai'i for the International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies, better known as Pacifichem. Chemists emerge from the global woodwork every five years for this meeting in Honolulu that is organized by the national chemical societies of countries that line the Pacific Rim. You see a lot of chemists from Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, and Canada here. Quite a few from the U.S. as well--my flight from Chicago to Honolulu was chock-full of familiar faces of chemists. Even a bunch of chemists from Europe are here for Pacifichem, although it seems like they shouldn't be allowed in on the technicality that their home country doesn't have a Pacific coast. But who doesn't want to leave the cold weather and come to Hawai'i, where it was 85 F (almost 30 C) today--it was below 20 F when I left Newscripts headquarters in Washington, D.C. Pacifichem is taking place in the Honolulu Convention Center and in several hotels along the famous Waikiki beach. Fact: There are enough hotel rooms at Waikiki for an estimated 100,000 sunburned tourists to lay their heads. The beach itself is not the most beautiful in Hawai'i--you need to go to the north shore of Oahu for that or one of the other islands, such as Kauai. But this two-mile stretch of beach that runs from just east of downtown Honolulu to the foot of the famed Diamond Head extinct volcano has been a prime destination since Kamehameha the Great put up a thatched hut here  in the 1800s. Fact: The Hawaiian Islands have formed as a tectonic plate drifted over a hot spot in Earth's crust--wherever a fissure opened up, a new volcano sprouted, leading to new islands. The current hot spot is under the "big island" of Hawai'i, where Kilauea has been erupting for years. The process continues: A new island is starting to form on the seafloor south of the big island. But this week, Waikiki will be abuzz with chemistry. Today, the last of the attendees are checking into their hotels and checking out where they have to be tomorrow. Sessions start at 7:30 AM! But before anyone has gotten too serious, many Pacifichemers and other tourists gathered at Waikiki Beach just in time to see the sun evaporate into the ocean. Then they headed out for dinner and fun. It's going to be hard to stay focused on chemistry and not snorkeling, surfing, and the...

Read More