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Letter from the editor | 112

Of traverses and transpositions

Everything indicates that the first inhabitants of today’s state of São Paulo were already to be found here 10 thousand years ago, one or two thousand years before when used to be imagined until now. Difficult to decide, for the time being, is whether they were men from the sea or from the forest, because their physical traits are reminiscent of those of other prehistoric inhabitants from the hinterland of Brazil, but something in their behavior brings evidence of a social life particular to the primitive coastal dwellers. For example: despite living several kilometers away from the sea, these intriguing personages, when they buried their dead, would cover them with a thick layer of shells, a typical procedure of the populations on the coast – which was, incidentally, exactly what made possible the traverse to us of the archeological vestiges of these tombs, the so-called sambaquis. The cover story of this issue deals precisely with this fascinating discovery of a team of researchers from São Paulo, reported on page 38 onwards by special editor Marcos Pivetta.

Pivetta himself is the author of another prominent article in this issue, which will certainly fill with joy those like to take from life and from the day to day the largest possible dose of pleasure, without the risks that are sometimes associated with it. Because, as it can be verified from page 44 onwards, fresh studies suggest that compounds from red wine increase longevity. But it is not recommendable to conclude that the more glasses of wine imbibed, the more years ahead guaranteed, because things do not work like that. The recommendation, to get plenty of benefit from the therapeutic powers of the tastiest of beverages, continues to be to drink it with moderation – if possible, always in a celebration of life.

From wine to water: the debate on the transposition of the River São Francisco, even if taken only from the technical point of view – a clash of political interests left a bit aside here, as far as possible –, appears to be a bottomless pit, because there are arguments that have a plausible sound, both on the side of those who defend the project vigorously, and amongst those who are in steely opposition to it. The article in this respect from the policy editor, Claudia Izique, beginning on page 26, throws a bit more light on the nature of the polemics that puts government and researchers in opposite fields.

Can you imagine memory stored in glass? No, it’s nothing to do with well-guarded manuscripts in old bottles thrown into the sea. The case here is the insertion of digital data on a large scale and in three dimensions in a new kind of vitreous material, produced with a high concentration of tungsten oxide. If the team of researchers responsible for the project is successful in its next steps, information technology and the electrical-electronic industry, amongst other sectors, will have a lot to gain, as reporter Yuri Vasconcelos tells, beginning on page 64.

On the theme of the humanities, this issue ventures into a theme that, despite having been threaded into the day to day life of Brazilians for a long time, always causes tremendous controversy , produces kilometers of discussions and acid speeches, creates a hard to disguise  irritation and endless bad temper. This theme that is central to present-day Brazilian democracy, which is the issue of the monetary authority as a specific modality of national political authority, is dealt with in the article by the editor of humanities, Carlos Haag, from page 80 onwards. Yes, Central Bank, inflation, interest rates, it is all submitted to the merciless investigation of respected researchers. It is worth the trouble.