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Letter from the editor | 134

Encounters and stimulating discoveries

This time let us defer for some lines the usual comments about this issue’s highlights for two very good reasons: a special invitation to our readers and yet another award conquered by the magazine. First the invitation: since March Pesquisa FAPESP, in partnership with Livraria Cultura (a bookstore in São Paulo), is monthly realizing “Encounters with Research”. This involves a talk given by the most important personality of a weighty article published in the magazine, in general the monthly cover story, followed by a public debate. The event, for now, going on at the Cultura bookstore in the Villa-Lobos Shopping Center, is open, informal and has the intention of facilitating a direct, and very close dialogue between scientists, who have been giving an important contribution to the building of knowledge, technological innovation or the creation of important scientific institutions in the country, and people interested in all of this, for the most diverse of reasons. The first meeting, with the respected neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, took place on the 21st of march, and was not announced in our previous issue because the magazine had already gone to print when we scheduled the meeting. It was a stimulating experience: just over two hours of brilliant presentation and intense dialogue, live, starting with questions proposed by the public present. The second meeting – and here finally comes the invitation to our readers who find themselves in São Paulo on the date – will take place on the 25th of April at 19:00 hours at the same location, Cultura, in Villa-Lobos. The speaker will be the doctor and geneticist Sérgio Danilo Pena, who certainly has lots of new and important things to tell in order to  enchant his audience.

Now to the award that all of the team is commemorating: the journalist Marcos de Oliveira, our technology editor, won second place in the 2nd SAE of Journalism Awards, an initiative from the  Sociedade de Engenheiros da Mobilidade (Society of Automotive Engineers). The article that merited this distinction, among the 99 entries throughout the country, was “Energy reform”, which showed hydrogen as an important alternative fuel to generate electrical energy and run vehicles. The text was published in issue 126, of August 2006.

As to the highlights, may we begin with the cover story, which leans towards the valuable research in the field of population genetics conducted by Sérgio Danilo Pena and Maria Cátira Bortolini, whose results demonstrate that the stretch of West Africa that goes from Senegal to Nigeria provided, during more than three centuries, many more slaves to Brazil than it had been imagined. What one can see, in the text by Ricardo Zorzetto, our provisional science editor, is genetics crossing the path of history, in order to widen our understanding of the country and people that we effectively are. Intimately articulated with this report is this issue’s beautiful ping-pong interview with the anthropologist Lilia Schwarcz, carried out by humanities editor, Carlos Haag, in which the researcher deals with, among other (polemic) themes, the polemics of race and racism concepts in Brazil.

In the technology section I want to highlight the report by the already cited editor Marcos de Oliveira in which he details what steps the country must take to transform biodiesel, in truth, into an important national biofuel, after the construction, over the last four years, of almost 30 plants and the development of new production technologies. In the field of policy, with eyes fixed on the fundamental theme of innovative research, it is worth dwelling upon the article by editor Claudia Izique, about the new and important virtual institute that has just been created for fundamental investigations into Information Technology (IT) and Communication Technology (CT), the fruit of a partnership between FAPESP and Microsoft. To end, humanities merits calm and attentive reading with the report about diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Brazil, also tilled by Carlos Haag, at this moment in which the first visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the country draws near.