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Letter from the editor | 194

On aircraft, passions and falling in love

The comfort laboratory that opened this April at USP’s Polytechnic School has become the cover story of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP for several good reasons. The most relevant of these, I think, is that the laboratory is the result of exemplary cooperation between Embraer and three universities, firmly supported by FAPESP and by the Studies and Projects Funding Agency (Finep); and the use of the adjective ‘exemplary’, which in other contexts might sound exaggerated or standoffish, is far from gratuitous here. I risk using it because the fine report on the project, “Cabin comfort,” prepared by the magazine’s senior editor, Neldson Marcolin, makes it very clear how many lessons can be learnt, with a well-structured university/company partnership, from the production of new knowledge, the addition of technology and the generation of innovation.

We should recall that all large aviation companies are pursuing more comfortable aircraft cabins in the current development stage of the aeronautical industry, if only for the basic health of passengers and crew, particularly on long-haul journeys. The Brazilian company Embraer, the world’s third largest maker of commercial jets, now has a laboratory like few others in the world in the search for progress on the various items that jointly add up to this comfort – and inside the university. It is well worthwhile getting to know this story (page 18).

I also want to draw your attention to the report on Brazilian research in Antarctica (page 32), by our policy editor, Fabrício Marques, who examines the ambitions of Brazilian science on the frozen continent and the strategies required for the researchers’ work to gain a second wind there and greater relevance, after a long period during which the aims of knowledge production were interwoven with military objectives. Perhaps the recent fire at the Comandante Ferraz station, though highly regrettable because of all the losses, in particular of two lives, has become a watershed in this sense.

In the science section, I would like to highlight three texts: the first one details with the intriguing presence of trees typical of the Amazon forest 2,400 km away from its boundaries, within an Atlantic rainforest reserve in Espírito Santo, and with strong indications that specimens of these species were already there 7,800 years ago (page 46); the second, with advances in the knowledge about the protein prion, including the first experimental evidence that interrupting the interaction between it and the beta amyloid oligomer may check the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the death of neurons (page 54); and the third one, with an auxiliary diagnostic proposal for mania and schizophrenia, based on mathematically determined speech patterns (page 62). The first and the third are by our special editor, Carlos Fioravanti, and the second by our science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto.

However, it is time to clarify the reason for the heading of this letter. When it comes to planes, it has been explained. So let us move on to passions and falling in love. These are the words that come to mind in connection with the two admirable individuals that I had the rare luck to deal with simultaneously in this issue: journalist Alberto Dines (in the question and answer interview on page 24) and scientist Luiz Hildebrando Pereira da Silva (via his recently released Crônicas subversivas de um cientista [Subversive tales of a scientist], reviewed on page 93). The question that these two men made me think of — the former being 80 years old and the latter, 83, both of them fine masters, with their lessons on time and their testimonies that, to be great, life must always be invented with new projects, and total disregard for the end before it happens – wanted to identify the nature of the relation of each with their respective objects of work and study. Passion? But doesn’t passion, with its tempestuous nature, always pose the risk of engulfing the other party until the latter disappears? The object of study, perhaps, is more open to unveiling if the approximation takes place through movements that are full of delicacy and care. In this case, is the relationship of someone who produces so much, with such enormous pleasure, a type of love affair with what he does? I suggest you read the interview with Dines and not only the review, but the wonderful book by Hildebrando in order to expand on this question.