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Letter from the editor | 72

Strategic advances

This issue of Pesquisa FAPESP shows as its cover story important contributions from Brazilian physicists towards the advancement of nanotechnology, at this strategic frontier of research, which should produce great transformations in the conception of today’s computers, amongst other effects. They are changes based on the miniaturization of components, with gains in storage capacity and in the speed of information processing, which practically heralds the end of the reign of silicon chips in no less than a decade. Within this vast field waiting to be explored, the theoretical propositions and the concrete experiments carried out in São Paulo with nanowires of gold are contributions so recognized that they merited the cover of the December issue of Physical Review Letters, one of the most important, if not the most important international scientific publication on physics. The subject has already appeared in the Brazilian press, particularly in a story published by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo on January 4th, but due its significance, due to what it shows of the Brazilian capacity for occupying the front line of scientific research, even in frontier regions, Pesquisa FAPESP is giving it pride of place. In doing so, it has this time deliberately sacrificed one of the criteria that it always takes into consideration in the choice of the cover story of each issue, namely its novelty.

This issue, though, is stuffed with new information. There are, for example, new calculations that indicate that the Amazon Forest does not absorb as much carbon dioxide as it used to be thought; this is told in the story by Marcos Pivetta, and which was a serious candidate for the cover. The revised figures came out of the international US$ 80 million megaproject, which involves over 300 researchers from Latin America, the United States and Europe, led by Brazil. The work points to a new vision of the environmental possibilities of the Amazon: it is not the villain of the world because of the clearing and burning of the forest, but it is also far from being the salvation of the planet. Without doubt, a new contribution towards a serious scientific debate to be waged over the region, in various parts of the world.

Worth a special mention are the recent indicators for science, technology and innovation in São Paulo and in Brazil, produced by FAPESP. They show a system for Science e Technology that is permeated with contrasts, but which even so, as Lucília Atas Medeiros reports in the story, is advancing, innovating and producing, albeit at a pace that is still slow for its needs and ambitions. The study measures the various angles of the cientific/technological system, and shows a real scoreboard of production in São Paulo and in Brazil.

Getting a precise idea of what is produced in the fields is the result of a methodology created toestimate the tonnage of sugar cane produced in a given area, four or five months in advance. Created by a group of researchers from Unicamp, the project uses satellite images to make the right calculations, and was so successful that it is now at the stage of being patented.

Also to do with production and work is the main feature in the Humanities section. The story is told there of the first women to work for the Northwestern Railroad of Brazil, in Bauru, in the interior of São Paulo, at the beginning of the 20th century. The prejudices and difficulties faced carrying out the roles of wife, mother and worker in an entirely male environment are stories that are still little known by a society that has made slow progress.