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Letter from the editor | 65

The applications of science

One of the many motivations for scientific and technological research is looking for solutions for the problems that afflict society. That is a good reason for research projects dealing with the issue of generating electricity, from a practical point of view, to be the order of the day. Amongst the projects financed by FAPESP, then, there are some that seem to have been tailor-made for the current electricity crisis in Brazil, and others that beckon with advanced solutions for the future generation of clean energy. Making them known to the public is therefore the least that this issue of Pesquisa FAPESP could do to show a sense of opportunity that is de rigeur in journalism. Hence, for the cover story, the results of seven of these projects, carried out by São Paulo researchers who have been dedicating themselves to this field for years, are didactically compiled. One of the projects, capable of being put to immediate use, refers to two software applications that can improve by 5% the production of energy at the hydroelectric power stations in Brazil. This is equivalent to 2,250 megawatts (MW) of output, equivalent to the average production of eight hydroelectric power stations installed on the Paranapanema river, on the border between São Paulo and Paraná.

There are also options outside hydroelectric power. Biomass from sugar cane (bagasse and straw) is one of the most promising – Brazil has the potential to produce another 2,500 MW of electricity from this option. And there is also the development of fuel cells and of new panels for solar energy, among other projects that will help the country to become less dependent on hydroelectric power, and more confident in its own capacity to solve major problems.

Doing research, even basic research, that will have sooner or later an important application is not an exception – it is the rule for FAPESP. The Revealing Profile article shows that, throughout 2000 and up to April 2001, no less than 72.9% of the funds invested by the Foundation in regular assistance for thematic research and the Biota and Support for Young Researchers programs were applied in projects whose results have an immediate or potential application in technology, or in the implementation of public policies. Taking into consideration the same support lines, basic research aimed basically at the advancement of knowledge and without any definite horizon for application, received 27.1% of the funds. Another important detail: half of the investments in the lines taken into consideration was applied in research that concurrently contributes towards the advancement of knowledge and has an immediate or potential practical application. This therefore confirms that the concept of quality has the edge over the applicability of the research, because high quality research will have an application sooner or later. Or, to paraphrase Pasteur: “there is no applied science; there are only applications of science”.

Two other features of June’s Pesquisa FAPESP come from the animal world. The first is a study about the guaraipo bees (Melipona bicolor), typical of tropical regions, which shows that they are less hierarchically ranked and have a greater division of power between the queens and the workers. The other is the discovery of a new species of the Cervidae family that lives in a limited area of the Atlantic rain forest, in the south of the state and the northeast of Paraná. The new finding was baptized with the name of lesser brocket of São Paulo (Mazama bororo) .

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