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Letter from the editor | 143

Beginning the conversation

reproductionI am particularly fond of beginnings – the earliest steps, acts, words. I always find them encouraging, challenging, even exciting. Perhaps because of the sensation – the mental readiness, I should say, more than the actual reality – that there, at that specific moment, the possibility to create appears infinite. Creating. Making. Building. The inner feelings of capability in these first moments, even if accompanied by ill – disguised fear, result in a unique dimension that sometimes becomes an almost inebriating pleasure. A dream of future elements as yet unformed, only molded mentally; a dream that seems to work as a spark for the spirit or to produce a resounding vibration of life at full speed, among other reasons because, at the onset of any path, one’s attention avoids the shadows cast by the objective prerequisites, the barely visible fundamentals that influence, for better or for worse, the construction of a project. Shortly thereafter there will be plenty of time for that – and it is natural that it should be so. Beginnings demand more of a celebration.

I am thinking about beginnings because of the new year, of course. But I am also thinking about the beginnings themselves, inspired perhaps by the theme of the cover feature of our first 2008 issue. Two hundred years ago, in January 1808, the Portuguese royal family or, better said, the entire Portuguese court arrived in the city of São Salvador of Bahia in Brazil, triggering something fundamental for the Brazilian nation. Hundreds maybe thousands of pages were written in 2007 about this event and many more will be written in 2008, given the crucial and newly reevaluated importance of this event in Brazil’s history. We felt that Pesquisa FAPESP should make its modest contribution to the debate about the place of these events in our history, by showing the contemporary historiographic trends on this issue.

Between the view of a Dom João VI (King John VI) as a buffoon king and the notion that his coming to this country was a key moment and a determining factor that shaped what we now call Brazil, it was appropriate to show how views regarding this event have evolved throughout our history and transformed themselves, as well as their many current facets. Carlos Haag, our humanities editor, pursued this subject and the result is a lovely report starting on page 80, describing recent studies that examine the turbulent entry of courtiers into Brazilian life and which draws from it new views of a historical nature. Brazil’s territorial unity, the impossibility of setting up a federal system here such the American one, and the difference between an empire such as that wanted by the native Portuguese versus what the Brazilian Portuguese hoped for, are only some of the themes covered by reflections on 1808, revitalized by the 200th anniversary.

Since we are discussing beginnings, it is important to refer to the so-called path map, the starting point for an agreement to bring about a reduction in greenhouse gases. The agreement was negotiated in Bali, Indonesia, after fifteen days of tension and numerous forecasts about the failure of the 13th Climate Conference held there from December 3 to 14. As Marina Silva, Brazil’s Environment Minister, stressed in an interview to the Pesquisa Brasil program on December 22, it is too early to talk about failure or success. But if things really do progress at the meeting to be held in Ghana at the beginning of the year and in the other four sessions that should take place prior to the next conference, to be held in late 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, the light at the end of the tunnel glimpsed in Bali will be confirmed, according to our policy editor, Claudia Izique (page 32). And the agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol may appear soon. Supporting it is well worth our while.

The theme about beginnings and the word ‘map’ led me to a short but precious report by special editor Fabricio Marques on the profile and destination of the 47 thousand researchers that received FAPESP grants from 1992 to 2002. It is interesting to note that even though most (some 70% to 84%, depending on their field of knowledge) remain in São Paulo, fostering research within the state, a significant percentage of them have spread around the country, in particular researchers in the fields of health, agriculture and veterinary medicine, now distributed across 24 states.

Another short article is one of my favorites in this issue. Written by our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, it shows how the concentration of heat and pollutants in the São Paulo metropolitan area helps to form strong showers during the week, particularly on Mondays. Even more curious, the large storms in the city of São Paulo really do tend to fall in the afternoon, in line with what we all assumed. It is well worth finding out why.

Perhaps it is now time, in this letter, for me to stop going against the direction of our cover’s suggestions and to highlight: the article by our special editor, Carlos Fioravanti, about local production arrangements, i.e., small networks of companies capable of great innovation; a description of the discovery of the properties of hemopressin, a protein fragment linked to blood pressure control that, it seems, may help people to slim and to treat chemical dependence, also by Fioravanti; the report by our assistant technology editor, Dinorah Ereno, about the nanostructures that help the production of biocomposites that may come to replace bones and various tissues, besides carrying medication more directly to the target; and, finally, the news about software that allows the monitoring of diabetes through a mobile phone, also by Fabrício Marques.

Other than this, a new year filled with great dreams, to come true by December. Incidentally, the covers of the foreign language issues on the side of the page show that we have now an annual issue in Spanish, besides the English and French ones, one thousand copies of each are printed. This allows foreign institutions and the Brazilian embassies abroad to be aware of a significant sample of Brazilian scientific production.