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UH Hilo Interim Chancellor's Blog

2011 Nobel Laureate speaks at UH Hilo

Brian P. Schmidt was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae. 

Ka’iu Kimura (left), interim director at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Don Straney (center), chancellor at UH Hilo, chat with 2011 Nobel Laureate in Physics Brian P. Schmidt before Dr. Schmidt spoke on campus to an audience of over 600. Photo by William Ing.

Brian P. Schmidt, one of three scientists awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, spoke to an overflow crowd of more than 600 people at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo last night.

Schmidt, along with two fellow researchers, was awarded the prize for the discovery that the Universe is accelerating as it expands.

Schmidt is in Hilo as part of his work with the Gemini Observatory. The lecture was co-sponsored by Gemini Observatory, UH Hilo, and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Media Release from the Official Website of the Nobel Prize:

4 October 2011

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2011 with one half to

Saul Perlmutter
The Supernova Cosmology Project
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California,
Berkeley, CA, USA

and the other half jointly to

Brian P. Schmidt
The High-z Supernova Search Team
Australian National University,
Weston Creek, Australia


Adam G. Riess
The High-z Supernova Search Team
Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute,
Baltimore, MD, USA

“for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae”

Written in the stars

“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice…”

What will be the final destiny of the Universe? Probably it will end in ice, if we are to believe this year’s Nobel Laureates in Physics. They have studied several dozen exploding stars, called supernovae, and discovered that the Universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate. The discovery came as a complete surprise even to the Laureates themselves.

In 1998, cosmology was shaken at its foundations as two research teams presented their findings. Headed by Saul Perlmutter, one of the teams had set to work in 1988. Brian Schmidt headed another team, launched at the end of 1994, where Adam Riess was to play a crucial role.

The research teams raced to map the Universe by locating the most distant supernovae. More sophisticated telescopes on the ground and in space, as well as more powerful computers and new digital imaging sensors (CCD, Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009), opened the possibility in the 1990s to add more pieces to the cosmological puzzle.

The teams used a particular kind of supernova, called type Ia supernova. It is an explosion of an old compact star that is as heavy as the Sun but as small as the Earth. A single such supernova can emit as much light as a whole galaxy. All in all, the two research teams found over 50 distant supernovae whose light was weaker than expected – this was a sign that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating. The potential pitfalls had been numerous, and the scientists found reassurance in the fact that both groups had reached the same astonishing conclusion.

For almost a century, the Universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the Universe will end in ice.

The acceleration is thought to be driven by dark energy, but what that dark energy is remains an enigma – perhaps the greatest in physics today. What is known is that dark energy constitutes about three quarters of the Universe. Therefore the findings of the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics have helped to unveil a Universe that to a large extent is unknown to science. And everything is possible again.

Column by the Chancellor in UH Hilo’s Newsletter: Ka Lono Hanakahi, October 2011

Message from University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
Ka Lono Hanakahi, UH Hilo’s Faculty and Staff Newsletter 
October 2011 

Upgrades to UH Hilo’s technology infrastructure

One of the goals stated in our Draft Strategic Plan is to upgrade University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s technology infrastructure including computer laboratories and classrooms, wireless broadband across all areas of the campus, and new technologies to better support student learning, teaching effectiveness, and research.

I am pleased to report that over the summer we have been upgrading our wireless system resulting in an overall increase in coverage across the campus to 85%. This includes an increase to wireless coverage in Mookini Library from 40% at the end of last semester to now 100% coverage on all three floors. Speeds of up to 50Mbps per second are capable for library users; this means that students will now be able to download and play videos and multimedia at significantly increased speeds.

Improvements will continue to be made to the campus-wide wireless broadband during the fall semester resulting in upgrades to 300 access points on campus: 62 in the library, 42 in student housing, 40 in the University Classroom Building (UCB), 19 in Kanaka‘ole Hall (already completed), and the remainder will be used for upgrading access points on campus and expanding wireless broadband coverage in areas where it is not adequate. We hope to have the majority of this work completed by the end of September.

We did experience a few teething problems with the campus wireless system, including those in student housing, during the week of registration and first week of classes due to higher than expected usage. The issue is now resolved.

We also are upgrading key physical technology infrastructure. Later this semester in the library, a newly designed student production and presentation room will be available on the third floor. This room will include a 9-foot screen, 4000 lumen HD projector, dual mounted LED monitors, and a Polycom 7500HD telepresence system. This facility will allow students to develop necessary job skills by assisting them in creating, practicing, and presenting class presentations.

Currently in process at the library are technology enhancements to five student group study rooms. The library classroom also is being upgraded with two fixed 70-inch monitors and a Polycom 7500HD telepresence System. This will allow library faculty to facilitate student learning with students from other UH campuses and campuses throughout the world.

Elsewhere on campus, we’ve upgraded two education classrooms with Smart technology and Podcasting systems so students can attend classes remotely. Two classrooms in Athletics used by Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences were upgraded to multimedia smart classrooms. By the end of the fall semester, five Marine Science classes will be upgraded to multimedia smart classrooms. All classrooms in UCB, Kanakaʻole Hall, Sciences and Technology, Athletics, and Marine Science buildings will eventually be equipped with the following standard equipment:
• A multimedia teaching console
• A computer with a screen (computer 1)
• A projector control switch (to change projection source)
• A microscopic imaging capable document camera
• A laptop VGA and audio connections (computer 2)
• A DVD/VHS player (video source)
• An audio amplifier with speakers (MP3 input)
• A 3D ready projector mounted on the ceiling
• A wired or wirelesses microphone
• A clicker base for audience response
• Microsoft office and video software with captioning

All funds to support the technology upgrades and improvements came from a grant of approximately $500,000, and all the work is being done in-house by staff in the Office of Campus Technology and tech staff in the library. We will continue with improvements to our information technology systems in what we see as a continuous process to ensure that our students, faculty and staff have the technical resources they require to succeed.

I would be interested in your comments on either the wireless system, infrastructure upgrades or the Draft Strategic Plan as whole and would encourage you to write to with any feedback or suggestions you may have.

For more news and information from the Office of the Chancellor, please visit my blog.

Donald Straney

3rd Annual Best Bowl Cook-off held today; Taco Soup voted favorite dish

Shana Kaneshiro from the UH Hilo Financial Aid Office is this year’s Best Bowl Grand Champion.

Don Straney at the buffet.
Chancellor Don Straney and Marcia Heller, chancellor’s private secretary, are served culinary delights at the 3rd Annual UH Hilo-Hawai‘i Community College Best Bowl Cook-off.

Faculty and staff of University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College showed off their culinary skills today at the 3rd Annual Best Bowl Cookoff held at UH Hilo’s Student Life Center. Colleagues who attended were the official “tasters” and judges who voted for their favorite dish to determine the Best Bowl on campus.

Shana Kaneshiro from the UH Hilo Financial Aid Office is this year’s Best Bowl Grand Champion. Her winning dish was a delicious Taco Soup, garnished with sour cream and cheese served with tortilla chips. She won a one-year membership to the Student Life Center.

Sheila Kaupu from Auxiliary Services won Best Stew/Curry Style Bowl with her ono Kama Pulled Pork.

Jodi Kunimoto from the Advising Center won Best Bowl Dessert with her Red and White Delight, a medley of strawberries and cream with macadamia nut topping.

All attendees (cooks and tasters) received a punch card that allows five free visits to the Student Life Center.

Congratulations to this year’s winners!

The award for Best Bowl Grand Champion goes to Shana Kaneshiro from the Financial Aid Office. Her winning dish was Taco Soup, garnished with sour cream and cheese served with tortilla chips.
Sheila Kaupu from Auxiliary Services won Best Stew/Curry Style Bowl with her ono Kama Pull Pork.
Jodi Kunimoto (at left) from the Advising Center won Best Bowl Dessert with her Red and White Delight, a medley of strawberries and cream with macadamia nut topping.

Top photo of Chancellor Straney by Tim Moore. Other photos by John Oshima.