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Questions and answers

When we decided that ChatGPT would be the subject of this issue’s cover story, we could not resist asking the software to write us an editorial. The response generated by the artificial intelligence (AI) was more like a press release, highlighting the tool’s versatility and potential applications in customer service and education (“offering personalized learning experiences and assistance with homework”). In its conclusion, it identified potential risks and challenges related to bias and data privacy.

The limitations of ChatGPT are clear, but the system’s AI is designed to improve with use. In the near future, it could be difficult to tell whether the introduction to this magazine is written by a real person or not. In terms of academic and scientific integrity, the impact of the advancing technology is already being felt and is being discovered in real time. Issues related to scientific integrity and authorship of papers and patents are at stake, as described in an article on the subject written by human reporter Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade and illustrated by AI image generators, such as Midjourney and DALL-E.

When we think about science as the process of producing knowledge, the focus is usually on the results, but the initial questions can be as interesting as the answers. South America has a huge diversity of freshwater fish of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. Although its hydrographic system is vast, why is the region home to such a large number of species?

A recent explanation suggests the answer lies in geological phenomena that have occurred over the last 55 million years. In at least five major reconfigurations, river and lake systems were sporadically connected, leading species to mix, while at other times barriers were created that blocked the movement of animals, isolating fish populations that started to evolve separately.

Depression, an illness that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, is caused by a number of biological and environmental factors. Scientists recently identified an additional factor among the former: the loss of neurons’ ability to recycle damaged or malfunctioning components. Although the study was limited to animal models—in this case mice—the results suggest that the accelerated aging of neurons caused by depression may be linked to a protein called growth differentiation factor.

Luciana Santos, the first woman appointed Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation in Brazil, gave an interview to editor Fabrício Marques during a visit to São Paulo. An electrical engineer with a long political career in her home state of Pernambuco, Santos has made it a priority to restore public investment in science, technology, and innovation and is seeking new ways to increase funding.

Physicist Cid Bartolomeu de Araújo is also interviewed in this issue. The optics researcher was one of the founders of UFPE’s Physics Department, the success of which he attributes to the state’s scientific tradition.