Carbon nanotubes, tiny pieces that are only visible by means of powerful electron microscopes, so difficult to explain in clear words and short definitions, have imposed themselves as the unquestionable subject for the cover of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP, the last of 2005. It is because this – oh, all right – material, one of the great technological conquests of the 1990’s, which should be part of new electronic equipment, advanced medicines, technological textiles and 1,001 other products in the future, is now being produced in the laboratories of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and marketed by the Research Development Foundation (Fundep) of the same university. Amongst the purchasers now are research institutions and companies from São Paulo.
The nanotubes, as explains the technology editor, Marcos de Oliveira, on page 62 onwards, measure from 1 to 3 nanometers in diameter and up to 1,000 nanometers in length – to get an idea of what that is, imagine a strand of your hair split along its length 50 thousand times, take one of the resulting parts, and there you have something of similar dimensions to the tiny artifact. With these dimensions, they have excellent electrical conductivity and a mechanical resistance a hundred times greater than that of steel, besides flexibility and elasticity. The article that explains all this is fascinating, even for those who find it difficult to enter the world of the new technologies.
While the future world that is going to be designed by these technological creations is scarcely being unveiled, the covers of the weekly magazines displayed in the newsstands in some way estheticize the contemporary world, bring order to its real chaos, strive to seduce, to attract, whenever possible escaping from the old notion of the most important fact of the week. And that is what has been shown by the most recent researches and theses about the function of magazine covers, addressed by the editor for humanities, Carlos Haag, starting on page 78.
In the field of science, it is worth highlighting the recent discoveries about the very particular strategies of T. cruzi, the causal agent of Chagas’s disease, to reproduce itself. This is the result of basic research, without any promise of having a foreseeable use in the short term. Even so, as Ricardo Zorzetto, the assistant editor for science, explains from page 34 onwards, the discovery may create future alternatives for seeking more efficient compounds to combat the protozoon that infects about 18 million persons in Latin America.
And now that we are talking of strategies for controlling diseases, it is worthwhile reading, starting on page 10, the interview with Bernardo Galvão, a key personage of the National Aids Control Program, since the very moment that the disease appeared, in the 1980’s. Galvão, a modest citizen of the state of Bahia, profoundly committed to the living conditions of our people, has his name linked to the isolation of HIV in Brazil, with the good results in controlling the quality of blood in the country, to the present-day researches into HTLV, and much more. With the international assistance of US$ 1 million that he was given when he was a young 32-year old researcher, 28 years ago, he simply made viable the assembly of the important Immunology Department of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, in Rio, amongst other valuable contributions towards Brazilian scientific production. It is worth the trouble to read.
Good reading, and happy holidays.