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A passion for words

During the week we are closing the magazine, while I read all the texts that will soon be published, a task that is inherent to my function, I also look to see whether any of them move me in a special way, over and above their informative intensity – its journalistic/scientific weight, shall we say. Without prejudice to the three or four stories that I necessarily recommend in this space because of their importance in the overall issue, I sometimes pick out precisely that text that, among other things, gave me some new and very stimulating, or some particular sensation of esthetic pleasure to share with the reader, there and then, the enjoyment possibilities I found in reading it. This time, what imposed itself firmly on my sensibility (though not only on it) was the beautiful, back and forth interview that writer Nélida Piñon granted our humanities editor, Carlos Haag. I must say that I agree entirely with him when he placed right at the start of the interview this statement: “I always wanted to be a pilgrim, walking all over the world; geography never scared me. That’s why I have been a reader of big stories, with a capital S, ever since I was small.” Or this one: “The writer must not only create but also lend his own awareness to the awareness of the readers, especially in a country like Brazil.” I confess, however, that I would have found it very difficult to choose which of the so many exquisite and powerful statements that the novelist made throughout the conversation to highlight. Take, for example, something she says when commenting on the various and exceptional risks that the act of writing involves: the last of them “is when you (…) did not treat your text with deference to the end (…) and, out of laziness, ambition or haste to be applauded, published early, before time. That particular book needed more time, it needed to have another face, the final face that suited it.” I must not continue further and extend an invitation to you to read quietly, as from page 10, what is, in short, a long and shameless declaration of the passion of Nélida Piñon for words and writing.

It’s time to set our feet back firmly on the very much harder and more prosaic ground of economics and technological innovation, but this is ground that is also permeated with challenges and intriguing questions. The cover story in this issue deals with the current effects on Brazil of the worldwide movement of the globalization of research and development of multinational companies. According to a report from our technology editor, Marcos de Oliveira, starting on page 16, everything points to the fact that this movement, which was first recorded in the mid-1990’s, continued vigorously throughout the 2000s and originally involved China, India and Eastern Europe, is also beginning to gain ground in Brazil, thanks in part to its growing internal market and good economic prospects. As a kind of counterpart to this dynamic, according to report by journalist Yuri Vasconcelos (page 21), a reverse movement is emerging, in other words, the setting up of the R & D centers of Brazilian companies abroad.

Of the science reports I want to highlight the one that starts on page 50 and focuses on the participation of Brazilian scientists in the work of searching for and identifying stars, like our Sun, in the vicinity of the Milky Way, or not so close. The author of the text is our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto.

In the area of scientific and technological policy I want to recommend the first of a series of reports prepared by editor, Fabrício Marques, on the trajectory of groups that reflect the healthy globalization of scientific research in the state of São Paulo (page 36), supported by a number of initiatives that have been implemented in a decisive way by FAPESP since last year.

To conclude, I draw your attention to the opening text in the humanities section, motivated by the exhibition, “Rastros e Raças de Louis Agassiz: fotografia, corpo e ciência, ontem e hoje” [Trails and Races by Louis Agassiz: photography, body and science, yesterday and today], at the 29th Biennial of Art in Sao Paulo. The report written by Carlos Haag (page 80) lays bare the racist and repulsive experiments that were carried out on black slaves in Brazil by Agassiz, Darwin’s rival, according to whom his colleague “collected data to prove a theory instead of observing the data to develop a theory.” Here we enter the realm of sad passions.