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Letter from the editor | 58

Revelations, reassessments and profits

The normal feeling for someone who treads on the soil of São Paulo is one of complete stability: the earth seems firm, absolutely steady under one’s feet.  But this is, in fact, just a feeling. There are powerful geological movements, under the apparently placid surface, which take place 700 kilometers deep; they slowly provoke a rise in certain areas, which will undergo continuous erosion, and the subsidence of others, which will be silted by sediments. All this will result in alterations to the topography, in the watercourses, in the thermal springs, and in the soil. The Mar and the Mantiqueira mountain ranges, imposing for their apparent solidity and immutability, are growing like some giant live organism, while the western half of the state of São Paulo is subsiding. These are but a few of the pieces of information that have come from the project on the theme of research into Neotectonics, Morphogenesis, and Modern Sedimentation in the State of São Paulo and Adjacent Regions, the subject of the cover story of this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP.

The study covers an area of 400,000 square kilometers, including, besides the territory of the state of São Paulo, parts of the states of Paraná, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. And besides bringing interesting findings, the results are scientific data that show the past and the present, and make it possible to outline the geological future of the region. In the sphere of real life, they help to ensure the geological stability in constructions, in particular highways, tunnels, hydroelectric and nuclear power stations, and to foresee worrying phenomena such landslides on the slopes, and even to gives clues for mineral reserves and water to be discovered.

In another field, the story written on the coverage of the 46th National Congress of Genetics shows how this discipline, besides its own vast objective, the frontiers of which are increasingly expanding, thanks to Genomics, has also become a valuable tool for fields of knowledge so diverse as history and demography. And speaking about history, one must read and reflect on the story prompted by the conclusion of the São Paulo part of the project for the recovery of the historical documentation of the Lisbon Overseas Archives, referring to Brazil as a colony. No sooner had some of the 300,000 microfilmed documents started to be examined – they are being reproduced in CD-ROM and organized in fine catalogs – than they have already obliged a review of some long established truths and of conventional or traditional views on some aspects of the phenomena that have marked our history, such as slavery.

Finally, in the section on technology, taking for its basis the results of some of the most important projects supported by the Program of Partnership for Technological Innovation, started by FAPESP at the end of 1994, we have an article which challenges the anachronistic vision of putting down the funds applied in innovation of products or industrial processes as an expense. This is an investment – and one that has a very significant return.

In the last issue’s editorial, we said that the José Reis Prize for Scientific Journalism was granted by the CNPq, this year, to the Pesquisa FAPESP magazine. But this is only a half-truth. The prize was awarded to FAPESP as an institution, for the set of works to the benefit of the popularization of science in Brazil, with the magazine included therein. (CHBC).