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Letter from the editor | 99

Reflections on life and death

For the first time in its 42 years of existence, FAPESP has lived the harsh experience of the unexpected death of a director of the institution in the full exercise of his term. Its director-president, Francisco Romeu Landi, worked normally throughout Thursday, April 22, and when he went back home in the evening, he died, a victim of a heart attack. Professor Landi, as everybody at the Foundation called him, with his always affable way, full of fun with those closest to him, but with a cast iron, albeit smooth, obstinacy in the defense of his points of view, had been in office since 1997, after having been, between 1995 and 1996, the president of FAPESP’s Board of Trustees. He was coming through his third term, which was only to end in August 2005. Accordingly, amidst perplexity and sadness, the Foundation now goes through the necessary period of mourning. It is a period of innumerable expressions of homage to one who dedicated himself so much to the problems of science and technology in Brazil. Amongst them, we line up the text that begins on page 10 of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP – which, incidentally, under the command of Professor Landi, passed from a modest news bulletin to a magazine for the popularization of science.

The cover story of this edition also leads to inevitable reflections about life and death. Our special editor, Marcos Pivetta, dived deeply into the subject and here deals with circumscribing the limits of the current treatments of cancer, a disease that is today the second largest cause of death in the country, since no less than 13.2% of all deaths derive from it. He is trying to find out the effective advances of scientific research in this field, after a few decades of investigation veering between moments of euphoria and despair, and the challenges that are posed for researchers, in Brazil as well, so a cancer diagnosis ceases, more and more, to sound as something very close to a death sentence.

It is not only with somber revolutions of the human body, though, that the Science section of this issue is dealing. The interview with neurologist Iván Izquierdo treads a luminous path between the mechanisms of omissions, occultation, forgetting, recalling, and remembering that keep composing this fascinating human property called memory. Of extraordinary interest is the passage in which the researcher refers to the recent resumption, in the ambit of neuroscience, of the concept, so important in Freudian theory, or repression or repressed memory, thanks to the scientific corroboration of its veracity.

A luminous, somewhat celestial feeling may also result from reading about the music festival of the small town of Prados, in Minas Gerais, held in mid-July, for the last 26 years. Conceived by maestro Olivier Toni, a professor at USP’s Communications and Arts School, today retired, this is a very singular festival, as the magazine’s editor in chief, Neldson Marcolin, reports. First, it is carried out with a complete interaction between musicians from outside and the local population, and, second, is centered on ancient and little known Brazilian sacred pieces, written by blacks and mulattos. The 18th century music that is heard there is beautiful, and every year rarities may come to light that have not been played for over 200 years.

To wrap up, the story by the editor for Humanities, Carlos Haag, starting on page 86, about a study that assesses documentaries about nature produced by Brazilian television, takes us back, and plants our feet well in the ground of the contemporary culture of the spectacle. And here, as this study realizes, the environmental issues tend to be treated with resources that are far more proper to the field of fiction than to journalism, animals can be anthropomorphized ad nauseam, the narrative seems to acquire the colors of live war reports. It is worth checking it out.