Letter from the Editor

Astronomy, the Amazon and Aircraft

The astrophysics research community in Brazil is seeking a new level of activity and impact. Ongoing investments by Fapesp of nearly R$ 200 million over the next ten years should increase scientific output and guarantee more hours at major telescopes around the world. If accomplished, this objective of making a qualitative leap in production and impact should put Sao Paulo on the map as an international research hub for astronomy. The strategy is to combine efforts with those who conduct the best research in astrophysics worldwide and share the costs of expensive enterprises by means of partnerships with consortia of universities in Brazil and abroad, and by means of participation in observatories under construction or expansion in South America and Europe. Researchers from São Paulo State have reached an agreement to participate in four major projects: the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), the Javalambre Physics of the Accelerating Universe Astrophysical Survey (J-PAS) and the Large Latin American Millimeter Array (Llama).

The epidemic of Dengue in Brazil has reached alarming levels. Between 2010 and 2014, the country registered an annual average of 881,000 cases, an increase of 126% in comparison to the previous five-year period. An extensive feature in this edition shows that there is no unique solution to the problem of avoiding new outbreaks. Efficient public policies seeking to eradicate the disease will demand coordinated action based on scientific evidence that combines existing tools and new developments. Novel approaches such as preventive vaccines, the use of new types of insecticides and genetically modified mosquitoes could be effective, especially if supported by an ample effort by public and private agents to gather information.

This edition also presents an in-depth interview with Thomas Lovejoy, an American biologist who has worked in the Amazon region since 1965. His research has helped to define forest conservation areas in the Amazon. In Lovejoy’s view, the Amazon demands an integrated plan that brings together forests, urban areas, transportation, energy and agriculture. The scientific community acknowledges the expression “biological diversity,” now in everyday use, as his creation. Lovejoy has access to governments, institutions and non-governmental organizations, and he acts as an environmental affairs advisor as well as a researcher.

A special report investigates the significant small aircraft industry in Brazil. More than twenty companies are investing in Brazil, the second largest market for experimental or light sport aircraft. A look at the origins of these companies shows that that some are university spin-offs and many work closely with universities and research institutions to develop innovations for their products. Designed mainly for amateur pilots who prefer to fly their own equipment, the capacity of the aircraft is limited to two or four people. Despite these limitations, experimental planes are technologically advanced vehicles. They have innovative designs in terms of structure and aerodynamics, are made of high tech materials, and many are equipped with digital avionics and powerful engines. Scoda, based in upstate São Paulo, has sold more than 350 of its Super Petrel LS aircraft to over 20 countries. This amphibian plane was developed with the help of interns from the aeronautical engineering course at the University of São Paulo (USP).