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Letter from the editor | 64

From the stars down to terra firma

There are scientific themes that are particularly fascinating, even exciting for the layman through the extraordinary window that they open up for one’s imagination or for free speculation. By the very adventure of thought which they contain, they seem to propose that each person, for a few minutes, may see himself or herself a little as a scientist, a philosopher, an artist, all at the same time, so one can personally exercise one of the most lucid and pleasurable human possibilities: to explore one’s capacity to imagine and to think to the limit.

This is one of these themes that the cover story of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP brings up by reporting the most recent contributions of a group of physicists from the University of São Paulo, in collaboration with specialists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and of the Aeronautical Technological Institute (ITA), for the understanding of the functioning of the elementary particles of matter. Using as springboard the experimental results of German researchers with whom later they would establish a fruitful cooperation, they constructed a theory capable of covering the various types of movements of the atomic nucleus, depending on the energy charge to which they are submitted. That the nucleus itself moves, contrary to the established model of the atom of 1920, has been known for more or less five decades. However, a model that covers both the collective oscillations of the nuclear particles and the chaotic movements that afterwards take over is a brand new achievement. As the reader will discover, beginning in page 28, we are speaking of a theoretical accomplishment that might even provoke a better understanding of the evolution of the stars. There lies its radical fascination. After all, each solar explosion or of any given star form the atoms from which we are made, and thus, our most remote origin is ingrained in the evolution of knowledge regarding the nucleus of atoms.

From the stars we can come back down to terra firma of innovation technology. The coverage of the 3rd Venture Forum, which took place in São Paulo on the 18th and 19th of April. This story serves as a link for an extensive story which shows how technology innovation projects, developed by small Brazilian firms, very successful in the research stages, have already begun to attract risk capital, both national and international. Capital, we may add, indispensable in the present economic cycle so that the new products which these projects generate, may enter into the normal circuit of the market, creating profits and employment. Precisely because it understands this necessity and at the same time, convinced that research into innovative technology, mainly carried out at company level, is crucial for the social economic development of the country, that FAPESP, along with other development agencies, has been working hard to bring together entrepreneurs that it supports with risk capitalthrough programs such as PIPE.

This issue of Pesquisa FAPESP brings also the second of a series of Special Supplements that show the results of the Program of Recovery and Modernization of Research Infra-Structure in the State of São Paulo, simply called Infra. The effort made since 1995 by the Foundation to assist São Paulo to have adequate research installations as a large center of scientific and technological research should has been gigantic. But its results are excellent and are having an impact on the quality of research which is being done here.