Wooster Physics in Hawai’i!

Aloha! Thanks to Wooster’s generous sabbatical program, I’m spending the 2014-2015 academic year at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa on the island of O’ahu in Honolulu, and I’m learning my Hawaiian accents.

View south from my apartment. While the volcanic Hawaiian islands are couple of millions of years old, Lily Crater or Diamond Head is only a couple of hundred thousand years old.
View south from my apartment. While the O’ahu island is a couple of million years old, the volcanic cone of Diamond Head is only a couple of hundred thousand years old.

I live in a very small studio apartment with spectacular views of the ocean, Diamond Head or Lē’ahi (which I call Lily Crater), and the skyscrapers of Waikīkī. During the winter, I was able to watch the sunset over the ocean while eating dinner in my kitchen, and I saw at least a half dozen green flash sunsets. (Previously, I had a seen only a single green flash, and that was on a small boat sailing among the Galápagos Islands.) Double rainbows are common as are brief sun showers called “pineapple sprinkles”. Fahrenheit temperatures range from 70s to 80s in the summer and 60s to 70s during the winter, so I eat lunch outside almost every day. But because my apartment is unheated and uninsulated with jalousie (or louvre) windows, I slept under an electric blanket in winter. I did go swimming at Kailua beach on Christmas Day, where people were making snowmen from sand (aka sandmen) with twigs for arms! Birds are both noisy and showy, and sometimes I find cute geckos using van der Waals force to climb my bedroom walls.

I occupy an ample office on the fourth floor of the Watanabe physics building next to members of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer collaboration whose unique experiment is on board the International Space Station. Former Wooster physics major Kirsten Larson ’08, who is completing her Ph.D. in astronomy here, holds office hours down the hallway. I’m working with former Wooster physics professor Bill Ditto and many new friends. I’m enjoying the physics colloquium series, which I am reminded of each Thursday by a person walking the hallway ringing a cow bell and yelling Bring out your dead! “Colloquium!”.

I do however miss Wooster, and I especially miss the unforgettable group of wonderful physics seniors that graduate in just few weeks! So has my Hawai’i adventure been worth it? I’ll tell you about some of my research in subsequent posts.

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