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Letter from the editor | 137

Investigating the myth

The Brazilian market for shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, colorings, toners and similar products has increased by 50% over the last three years: the volume of hair care products, in 2006, reached the impressive production figure of 458 million tons, while the sector’s total sales amounted to almost US$ 2.2 billion. There are shampoos, conditioners and leave-in creams for all sorts of  hair -dry, oily, straight, curly, fine, fragile, dyed, straightened, etc. If all of this fantastic production targeted only the domestic market, we would reach the extraordinary consumption level of 2.4 tons of  hair care products per Brazilian per year. Within this context of colossal figures, what would really be surprising would be a lack of  independent research to inform us scientifically whether these products really do, at least to some extent, treat hair or not, and whether they are good or bad for our native heads of hair. But yes, there is Brazilian research into this field and our deputy science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, found out about a consistent project at Unicamp (the State University of Campinas) which indicates that although hair care products work in terms of cleaning hair and making it easier to comb, they have hardly any effect, for instance, on the regeneration of  damaged strands, contrary to what most of the manufacturers of these products proclaim. The study is so interesting that we decided to turn it into this edition’s cover feature, starting on page 38.

Far removed from the relative irrelevance that we associate with the subject of hair, the drama of the children of schizophrenics, who grow up without knowing whether or not they will inherit their parents’ disease, is another theme that stands out in the science section. As the article on page 44 by special editor Fabrício Marques indicates, schizophrenia usually manifests itself in 13% of the children of schizophrenics, whereas its incidence in the population in general is 1%. The disease almost always appears during adulthood, meaning there is a long period of uncertainty , or even anguish and psychological suffering, relating to a crucial question about one’s own future. As if this were not enough, prejudice and other dramatic circumstances surround people whose parents have been victimized by the most serious of mental illnesses.

The article that opens the magazine’s technology section has highly auspicious news, to say the least: by next spring, Brazil’s first integrated circuits (or “chip”)  factory is due to go on-stream. These chips are crucial for operating all electronic equipment, in terms  of  both information processing and of data storage, states us our technology editor, Marcos de Oliveira, starting on page 62. Actually, the production of these circuits in Porto Alegre and the creation of seven design houses in different parts of Brazil are the kickoff points for the transformation of  Brazilian microelectronics.

The humanities section brings us subjects of extreme political importance for the country’s future, such as the debate about a government-owned TV channel. However, I will close this by highlighting another text from our humanities editor, Carlos Haag, because of its widespread appeal, if one may put it in those terms. I am referring to the article on page 83 about a study that pointedly tries to clarify what being a man is all about these days. In other words, which ideas of masculinity are ingrained in the male identity of our time and  in our country. This is reading material that both men and women will find worthwhile.