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The good winds of Brazil

When we started thinking about a cover story on wind power in Brazil, particularly about the technological research driven by the wish to make wind power cheaper and more efficient, I foresaw its huge visual possibilities. The large, light contoured turbines atop tall towers that turn the strength of the wind into power seemed to me like elements so naturally endowed with esthetic potential that taking them to make up the visuals of the Pesquisa FAPESP cover didn’t seem like anything that might pose a major challenge for the magazine’s designers, Laura Daviña and Mayumi Okuyama. And I think that was the case.

Still, I certainly hadn’t foreseen – or, better said, I didn’t know – that, for instance, the productivity of the wind farms in the Brazilian northeast, thanks to trade winds that blow the year round, is far greater than the global average. Neither was I aware of the dynamism that domestic companies and some multinationals are currently bringing to the sector, thanks to their investments in the promising Brazilian market, driven by a happy combination of local and foreign economic factors. One should note that, even though the installed capacity of the Brazilian wind farms has increased by a factor of 15 in the last 10 years, to the current 835 megawatts, wind power still accounts for less than 1 percent of Brazil’s power, indicating huge room for growth. I was also unaware that most of the Brazilian innovative capacity in this sector centers on the development of wind generators, which, along with the turbines, normally made out of fiberglass and an electric generator, comprise a small set that is highly useful in areas where conventional power is unavailable. I learnt this and a lot of other information as our assistant technology editor, Dinorah Ereno, pored over the subject to try to capture the real possibilities of technological innovation for the growth of wind power in Brazil’s total power supply. What she brought to light and presents to our readers starting on page 16 is a complex, very interesting and well contextualized overview, which will certainly raise our readers’ level of familiarity with wind power in Brazil.

There are many other possible highlights in this issue: the ambitious climate modeling program that Inpe, the National Institute of Space Research, is developing (page 51); new studies on the thyroid, linking a strange paralysis of the legs and a poorly functioning thyroid or detecting brain mechanisms that determine a reduction in the action of this gland’s hormones in the face of complicated clinical conditions, such as those triggered by strokes (starting on page 46); and the revitalization of the pelletron, USP’s particle accelerator (page 58).

However, what I would especially like to highlight is the article about Cândido Portinari (page 78) by Carlos Haag, our humanities editor. The artist – many of whose main works are currently on show, in the form of reproductions, in the lobby of the FAPESP headquarters, as they were chosen to enrich the Foundation’s 2009 report – may come to be seen in a very special light in Brazil and worldwide from 2011 to 2013, because his immense and extraordinary panel, War and Peace, donated by the Brazilian government to the UN headquarters, will reach Brazil this month, to be shown here before being taken elsewhere. The article also describes (and shows) how a fourth previously unknown painting, The Fourth Migrant, was found. It also explains an entirely new approach for establishing the authenticity of paintings, developed thanks the Portinari Project <>. Don’t miss it.