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Letter from the editor | 195

Against a sea of obstacles

The name Alpha Crucis is resonant and suggestive enough for the hero of a saga. Actually, the combination of the two words in Latin, which translates as something like alpha cross, is the name of the brightest star in the Southern Cross, the one that represents São Paulo State in the symbolic heavens of the Brazilian flag. However, here, the words concern USP’s new oceanographic ship, due to arrive this May in the port of Santos, after having been, for months, at the heart of a story full of mishaps and the overcoming of a thousand and one technical and bureaucratic obstacles, from its remodeling in a US shipyard to sailing to the country to which it now belongs. This unlikely narrative as compared to the texts that normally fill the pages of Pesquisa FAPESP warranted, to our mind, the cover of the magazine. Because here we have a highly illustrative sample of the problems that one often faces in trying to set up solid and up-to-date infrastructure for more advanced research in Brazil. And this in conjunction with the major individual efforts and persistence so often required to overcome these obstacles.

Not long ago, Alpha Crucis was called Moana Wave, flew the US flag and belonged to the University of Hawaii. But soon it will be an important platform for Brazilian research into biodiversity, climate change and exploration of the pre-salt layer. And the adventure from one point to the other, with its protagonists and antagonists, is charmingly told by our policy editor, Fabrício Marques, starting on page 18.

I must say that until mid-April, rain is what we had planned to have on our cover, to the point of our getting excited about the series of stormy afternoons in São Paulo during the course of the month, as these would ensure the familiar and intensely attractive photos of the city in all shades of gray. Allow me to explain this: an unprecedented study conducted by the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmosphere Sciences (IAG) of USP proved that the annual rainfall over the São Paulo Metropolitan Area increased, over an 80 year period, by 425 mm: from 1,200 mm in the 1930s to about 1,600 mm in the 2000s. And also: the pattern of rainfall, according to this study, also changed. The number of days with strong or moderate rainfall increased, to the point of causing winter storms, whereas the number of days with less than 5 mm of rain fell. All of this is connected to global climate change, according to the researchers in charge of the study, and is no passing phenomenon. It is well worth learning more about these forecasts for São Paulo (in comparison to a brief overview of the trends expected in Rio de Janeiro), shown by our special editor Marcos Pivetta, starting on page 30. Of course, we kept the fine photo of the city under stormy skies in the article in question, along with drier graphs.

I would also like to call your attention to three other articles in this issue. First, the opening text in the technology section, about R&D at Natura, written by the assistant technology editor, Dinorah Ereno, starting on page 60. This is actually the first of a series of articles that the magazine plans to publish on the successful incorporation of scientific knowledge into processes and products in important Brazilian companies, through the hiring of high-level researchers trained at outstanding Brazilian institutions. Secondly, I want to highlight the first article in the humanities section, on page 74, by our editor Carlos Haag, on the scientific activities of the Rondon Commission (1907-1912), brought back into focus by a research group from Fiocruz. Here, the beautiful photos produced during the travels of Marshal Rondon stand out. Finally, I think that the interview with anthropologist Walter Neves, staring on page 26, is very special. It was granted to Pivetta and to our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto. The scientific, intellectual and personal path of the man responsible for studying the skull of Luzia from Lagoa Santa (the oldest ancestor known to man in the Americas, to date) is undoubtedly worth reading and thinking about.