Episode 54: Light Rail (Aug. 26, 2009)

After the headlines, Ted Peck from DBEDT tells us about the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit. Then, Scott Wilson and Peter Vincent from AIA Honolulu join us to discuss “light rail” as an alternative to the city’s elevated rail transit plan.

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Stories Discussed:

  • Environmentalists have long denounced plastic as a long-lasting pollutant that doesn’t break down. A new study indicates that plastic does decompose, at least in the ocean. But that’s not a good thing, either. Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University in Japan, said, “Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable. We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.”
  • The Maui High Performance Computing Center doubled its computing power last week thanks to “Mana.” “Mana” is the name of a new, giant, parallel processing machine brought on line to replace its two-year-old predecessor, “Jaws.” The specifications for “Mana” are impressive. It’s based on Dell hardware incorporating over 1,100 nodes, each containing a pair of 2.8 GHz processors and 24GB of RAM. It has access to nearly 400 terabytes of data storage.
  • A fleet of six double-hulled canoes will set sail from French Polynesia for Hawaii next year in the ancient wake of one of the world’s greatest migrations. The 2,500 mile journey from the traditional heart of eastern Polynesia on Raiatea island aims to do more than recreate history. The project involves 16-member crews from six Polynesian islands, including New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, and Tahiti.
  • Scientists are eager to explore and understand the structure and chemistry deep within our planet, and researchers here in Hawaii are on the cutting edge of using “geoneutrinos” to essentially look down into the Earth as we already do scanning deep space. First detected in a Japanese mine in 2005, “geoneutrinos” originate from the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and potassium in the Earth’s crust and mantle. Scientists have largely focused their study on deep mines on land, but UH researchers are developing a mobile, submersible deep-ocean detector.
  • Finally, a quick heads up on an upcoming opportunity to engage with the Centers for Disease Control on plans to initiate a fall vaccination program against the novel H1N1 pandemic influenza virus. The CDC has scheduled “public engagement web dialogues” where members of the public can join a two-day online conversation to discuss various aspects of vaccination.

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