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Flexible and creative models

Among the bad news widely publicized in February, at least two referred to global climate change.  The first piece of bad news, in short, was as follows: the Arctic and the Antarctic poles are getting warmer and their ice layers are melting because of global warming. This effect is especially visible in Greenland, in the Northern Hemisphere. Second piece of bad news:  under a 4 to 5-kilometer thick ice blanket on Antarctica lies a hidden mountain chain similar to the Alps, full of peaks and valleys. No scientist has any idea how this mountain chain was formed or how the ice covered it.  Is this bad? Yes. Why? The ruggedness of the terrain has made it clear that the ice layer is younger and not as thick as had been presumed, and therefore it might melt more quickly because of global warming than had previously been believed, thus affecting rising sea levels on the earth. This is the conclusion of an international study headed by the United States (see pg. 46 of this issue). The data related to the first piece of news comes from an extensive study conducted by the World Meteorological Organization/WMO, an official entity of the United Nations which networks with approximately 10 thousand scientists from 60 countries.

This kind of news always leads to crucial debates on the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases. These debates must be held on all levels – especially political, economic, scientific and social – so that plans can be prepared, by different means, for the development of clean and renewable energy sources. These debates must also reflect on the real panorama of this development. The workshop Physics and Chemistry of Climate Change and Entrepreneurship, held at FAPESP on February 26 and 27 fits into the second group.  The global view strongly supported and offering basic state-of-the-art research was applied to and technologically focused on these energy sources which are so vital for our planet and for the continuity of life on our planet.  This justified the choice of this topic for the cover story of this issue. The related article, written by politics editor Fabricio Marques, starts on page 14 and shows the diverse ways with which researchers have pursued a hegemonic energy model for the world, able to mitigate the effects of global warming, even though such a model is highly unlikely to ever exist. The tendency is that each country will create its own model and the major challenge for Brazil is to be the leader in the field of bioethanol and biofuels, yet keep an attentive eye on the development of solar energy, wind energy and other sources, where it lags considerably behind the leaders in terms of research. The workshop brought together British and Brazilian researchers.  It was organized by FAPESP and by Britain’s Institute of Physics (IOP) and Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) as part of the activities under the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change.

Another article, which was the runner-up for the cover story, was called – Fat to unclog arteries.  “This title certainly sounds provocative in the sense that titles of journalistic articles should attract the reader’s attention, that is, they must extract and highlight whatever is most unusual and surprising in terms of information without masking the true facts. And the reader can verify this: it is indeed true that artificial spheres of lipids are among the new treatment possibilities for atherosclerosis, all of them based on the new concept that this disease is an inflammatory disease, as reported, starting on page 50. by special editor Fioravanti.

Fioravanti also authored an article in the technology section on a research study that places rubber tree latex – the innovative use of which focuses on healing skin injuries – at the forefront as a remedy for wrinkles. Reading this article is a must.

In the field of humanities, the article by Editor Carlos Haag on Nelson Rockefeller deserves special attention. Recent studies on this controversial figure surely allow him to be classified among Marshall Berman’s “Faustian promoters” (All That is Solid Melts in the Air, 1982), the men who took advantage of a certain equilibrium between public and private powers driven by the emergence of major quasi-governmental agencies after the Second World War, “to make contemporary capitalism much more imaginative and flexible” than it was one century ago.

To conclude, this issue includes four wonderful articles written by highly respected Brazilian researchers who reflect on the power of Darwin´s legacy on their fields of work – the articles start on page 37.  These articles are Revista FAPESP’s contribution to the heated debate on the theory of evolution, to celebrate Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his book The Origin of the Species.