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Letter from the editor | 93

Ingenuity from men and spiders

We hesitated more than usual in choosing the cover for this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP. We had, on the one hand, a delightful story about the capacity of spiders for memorizing information and hence perfecting their instinctive habits for hunting. The article seemed to us that much more interesting, because the research that led to this discovery has its roots in the far-off curiosity of an adolescent, fascinated by the movements of a spider in the web spun between the leaves of a shrub, on a hot summer afternoon in Alexandria, Egypt, way back in 1956. Fascination turned into lasting passion, and, finally, in a productive and very successful work – so much so that the Egyptian adolescent has turned into one of the greatest Brazilian authorities in ethology.

So we stood before a kind of saga, constructed around the revelation of an intriguing animal behavior, and endowed with a particular load of humanity; this usually sparks off the enthusiasm of those journalists who are convinced that the best stories and the best texts of journalism always carry a certain dose of emotion in amongstthe words of dense information. Accordingly, there was a strong temptation to set aside this issue’s cover for the article that starts on page 42, by assistant editor for Science, Ricardo Zozetto.

But, on the other hand, we had an article that reports a new and important success story – without there being any hint of foolish jingoism – in the history of Brazilian aeronautical technology. Just look: Brazil’s Embraer, the fourth largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, already well established in the regional jet segment, planes with 50 seats at the most – in which it has a comfortable 45% slice of the global market -, is now fully ready to contend for space with the giants Boeing and Airbus in supplying aircraft to the major international aviation companies. Not that they are launching equipment equivalent to the Boeing 767, for example, but the medium sized aircraft, with their high performance and great comfort, may replace, with advantages on some routes, the big jets produced by other companies. And it was precisely this opportunity, that is, the potential demand from the market for equipment with greater seating capacity than the regional jets, and, at the same time, for smaller and more economical aircraft than the jets with over a hundred seats used by the big companies – often flying with spare capacity -, that Embraer was able to identify and to take advantage of. As early as this month of November, the company, headquartered in São José dos Campos, São Paulo, is to deliver to Italy’s Alitalia the first Embraer 170 plane. As told by reporter Yuri Vasconcelos from page 64 onwards, the model is part of a new generation of jets, with a capacity ranging from 70 to 108 passengers. In the meantime, the Brazilian company had already recorded, by September, 245 firm orders for the new aircraft and 308 purchase options. It is worth recalling here that Embraer success story is written with the technological competencethat the company has built up since its foundation, in 1969, supported by professionals graduated from the Technological Institute of Aeronautics and the Aerospace Technical Center. A conclusive and concrete demonstration that investment in technology has a guaranteed return for the country, the article on the new aircraft ended up imposing itself on our cover.

Also worthy of highlighting in this issue are the polemics about transgenics, fueled by the question of allowing the planting of genetically modified soybeans for the 2003/2004 crop in Rio Grande do Sul, and which have built into them the risk of endangering, without any need, the enormous potential for the development of Brazilian biotechnology. Starting on page 16, the editor for Scientific and Technological Policy, Claudia Izique, details the views of respected researchers from the area on transgenics, and their assessment of the reasons and unreasons that permeate the debate. Good reading!