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Letter from the editor | 66

Of the brain, science, and innovation

Investigations into the human brain and the new knowledge that comes from them are frequently fascinating for those who watch scientific themes with interest – perhaps for the simple reason that any clue is welcome, if it helps us to understand why, after all, we are what we are. To the extent that the brain, barring any proof to the contrary, is the physical base which holds the roots of our thoughts and emotions, our talents for creation and reflection, our dreams and anguishes, our formidable capacity for creating culture and civilization, and, on occasions, for also trying to destroy them – in short, as we take the brain, physically, to be the seat of all that most strongly indicates the singularity of the human being in the midst of the animal kingdom -, any small step towards an understanding of the physiology and malfunctions of the brain seems to draw us closer to the never fulfilled desire of deciphering the human enigma. It is certainly one of these steps that the cover story of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP proposes to take. It is about research that shows that the brain is capable of identifying if the death of one group of neurons is the result of an abnormal electrical activity in these cells, or of the clogging of one of the arteries that irrigates the organ, and, from that point onwards, to carry out the various rearrangements of neurons, originating ailments of very different characteristics: epilepsy or a stroke. This result, a sort of memory of the original cause of the aggressions against a group of neurons, throws light on a mystery that has been intriguing neurologists for some time, which is how two brains with practically identical lesions can develop different illnesses.

In a very different field, the encouraging economic results of investing in technological innovation are shown in the article on the recovery and modernization of 108 companies from the ceramic center of Porto Ferreira, in upstate São Paulo. This was achieved with the support of the Multidisciplinary Center for the Development of Ceramic Materials, one of the ten Centers of Research, Innovation and Dissemination (Cepids), which have been supported by FAPESP since last year.

Departing Technology for the Humanities, an interview with the author of a strict and exhaustively commented translation into Portuguese of Galileo’s most polemical work – The Dialog on the Two Greatest Systems of the World – makes possible a philosophically inclined dive into the foundations of modern science and the healthy attitude of challenging the zealous authority of the Church that the creators of science had to embrace, so it could take root.

In the sphere of Scientific and Technological Policy, this issue of the magazine brings news of the National Conference of Science, Technology and Innovation, which the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences are coordinating in Brasilia, between September 18th and 21st. The national event, whose purpose is to define guidelines and strategies for the sector for the next ten years, will be preceded by regional meetings, on August 16th and 17th. These include the São Paulo Regional Conference, which should present a number of propositions for debate and for the national plan.

Finally, a few novelties that are making an appearance at the outset, on the cover page of this issue: a change in the magazine’s logotype, another step towards perfecting the graphic aspects, and the address of Pesquisa FAPESP‘s new website.