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Letter from the editor | 96

A touch of fiction

When a series of curious chances and coincidences leads to a significant discovery, an unpretentious report about a scientific finding, leaving aside the harshness of scientific language, may turn into reading that is almost as involving and enjoyable as a short story written, with grace and lightness, by an author who is a master in his trade. And this is even for those who put the great fictional narratives in an incomparable place amongst the creations of culture that most delight the spirit. This comment comes due to this issue’s cover story, in which assistant editor for Science, Ricardo Zorzetto, tells, of the finding of roughly 70 dinosaur fossils some 110 million years old, in the interior of Maranhão, and, thanks to this material, the possible discovery of an unknown species of these gigantic prehistoric reptiles. Independently of the broad and very useful panorama outlined in the article about dinosaur research in Brazil, in this case, it is actually how one arrives at the fossils that gives the text its special flavor, by involving in the same, unprecedented story a garrulous youth, committed to carrying out religious proselytism, a farmer, a biology professor educated at the Federal University of Piauí and a paleontologist from the Federal University of Maranhão. It is worth checking it out.

The remote past glimpsed with the weapons of science is, without a doubt, fascinating some reluctance to leave the imaginary journeys to which it drags us is therefore understandable. Once this has been overcome, though, it is worthwhile making contact with issues very close to us, and certainly of great political interest for the country, like the current efforts of the Ministry of Defense to consolidate the so-called Science, Technology and Innovation in the Interest of National Defense System (SisCTID) and, at the same time, to integrate it with the civilian science and technology system. In this effort, the first concrete step, as reported by the editor for Policy, Claudia Izique, is the ministry’s decision to speed up ten projects that have been going on for years in research institutes of the Navy, Army, and Air Force – amongst them the Uranium Hexafluoride Production Facility, that will allow Brazil to master the whole cycle of nuclear fuel. The theme is of particular interest at the moment at which a delicate negotiation is under way between Brazil and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as to the forms of inspection of the uranium enrichment ultracentrifuges that are being installed in a unit of the company Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB).

In the field of technologies that do not saturate the environment with electricity or with other undesirable wastes, it is worth pointing out the article on a new and more efficient process for recycling aluminum swarf and objects like beer and soft drink cans, to include them in the aluminum alloy for producing new cans. The novelty, tells reporter Samuel Antenor is based on a furnace heated by plasma, a gas produced at high temperatures and more known as the fourth state of matter.

To conclude, let us go back, in a way, to the starting point: to fiction – now, in fact. More precisely, to Machado de Assis, the wizardly constructor, for many, of the greatest masterpieces of Brazilian literature and, for that very reason, always submitted to new looks that aspire to a total revelation of his singularity as an author. This time, as reports the editor of Humanities, Carlos Haag, Machado emerges from the systematic observation of a historian as a personage capable of combining two apparently irreconcilable facets, those of a novelist and of a civil servant, to perform a radical criticism of Brazil’s seigniorial truculence. It is reading not to be lost.