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Freedom to create knowledge

Even before making any comments on the cover feature of this Pesquisa FAPESP issue, I would like to recommend that you read the beautiful “back-and-forth” interview with physicist Moysés Nussenzveig, conducted by our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto (page 10). And it is beautiful. I insist upon this word, less for the extraordinary attractiveness of optical phenomena such as rainbows and aureoles, objects of this scientist’s investigation, which, however, he does not discuss at length in this interview, and more for the fight that he has undertaken throughout his life to make room for the free production and the creative and intelligent transmission of knowledge in Brazil, in particular in the field of physics.

Moreover, this is what appears on the scene when he tells us about the newest area of knowledge dissemination that he is involved in, namely, the republishing and sale at newsstands of the science kits that were a countrywide success back in the 1970s. Or when he recalls all the domestic and international efforts in which he took part to protect scientists threatened by the furor of the Brazilian dictatorship (1964-1985). Incidentally, professor Nussenzveig gave us two documents from his personal archives concerning the persecution of two scientists for us to photograph and print in this issue (page 15). Finally, it is to the notion of a network, of the necessary cooperation among many people to create knowledge, that he alludes to when he covers his recollections of practically all the important names in twentieth century physics. It is well worth checking out the interview. I will take advantage of the end of this paragraph and the affinity between the fields to recommend you also read the article by our scientific and technological policy editor, Fabricio Marques, on the outstanding efforts that are under way to incorporate the progress of mathematics over the last 100 years into the teaching of this subject in Brazil (page 28).

Now, let us move on to the cover feature. I think it would be hard to imagine that the proliferation of veins and arteries could be bad. The mental image one has of them, even as I write these words, is loaded with the suggestion of a good organic process, full of vitality. Perhaps because blood vessels branching out, growing, dividing, spreading – as described in the article?s opening lines by our assistant science editor, Maria Guimarães – are nothing more than normal and highly desirable when human (and other) embryos are developing. In adulthood, however, nothing good comes from this process, which is connected to serious diseases such as cancer, or hardships such as blindness. In the midst of the growing knowledge about this pathological process, a good piece of new has arisen, which has led to the well-written text that won the journal’s cover: a peptide or protein fragment assembled by the biochemist Ricardo Giordano, from the University of São Paulo (USP), can find and destroy these undesirable blood vessels, beating the body’s defense system, thanks to what has proven to be just about a veritable set of mirrors. All the details of this original biochemical construction, which may lead to a pharmaceutical drug to fight such adverse angiogenesis in the future, are described starting on page 18.

I will continue to focus briefly on the science section, to recommend an article that provides yet one more part of the puzzle for us to piece together the history of Gondwana, the supercontinent in the remote past that encompassed most of the lands now found in the southern hemisphere. Starting on page 56, our special editor, Marcos Pivetta, reports on how Brazilian and American researchers, by resorting to new dating of rocks and analyses of the magnetic field in sections of a mountain range in Central Brazil, concluded that the final event that formed Gondwana did not occur 620 million years ago, but 520 million years ago. This means, among other things, that the Amazon Region spent much more time apart from the supercontinent than we had believed up to now.

To close, I cannot fail to highlight the technology section’s opening article on a new type of battery built in Brazil for electric cars, written by the technology editor, Marcos de Oliveira (page 67), and the article that opens the humanities section, on a provocative research study that dislocates anthropologists from the old position of translators and recasts them as inventors, written by our humanities editor, Carlos Haag, and by myself. Enjoy your reading!