Category Archives: Brazil visit 2013

Postcard from Campinas – the site of Brazil’s future synchrotron

Artist's impression of Brazil's Sirius synchrotron source.

Artist’s impression of Brazil’s Sirius synchrotron source. (Courtesy: LNLS)

By Susan Curtis in Campinas, Brazil

For the first time this week I woke to a brilliant blue sky, and below my hotel room I could see young Brazilians enjoying a quick game of football in the relative cool of the morning. Away from the traffic jams and unseasonably wet weather of the past few days, this seemed much more like the image of Brazil that’s projected to the outside world.

Today I was in Campinas, the third largest city in the state of São Paulo, some 100 km north-east of São Paulo itself. On the outskirts of the city is the National Center for Energy and Materials (CNPEM), home to Brazil’s synchrotron source as well as three national laboratories for nanotechnology, biosciences and ethanol production – which is a big deal for Brazil, since it offers a way to produce fuel from its abundant sugar cane.

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Postcard from Rio – following in Einstein’s footsteps

Photo of Einstein visiting Brazil's National Observatory in 1925

Einstein visiting Brazil’s National Observatory in 1925. (Courtesy: Observatório Nacional)

By Matin Durrani in Rio de Janeiro

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to the head of a physics lab with a parrot screeching outside the window. But that was the case today when I visited the Brazil’s National Observatory – the country’s oldest scientific institution, founded in 1827 by Emperor Dom Pedro I just five years after the country won independence from Portugal.

The parrot was somewhere in the lush green trees directly outside the open windows of the director’s elegant first-floor office, which is currently occupied by the physicist Joao dos Anjos, who took over as head of the observatory earlier this year. (He also claimed his secretary had seen a ghost in the office recently, but that’s another story.)

After closing the windows’ shutters and switching on the air-conditioning, Dos Anjos explained how the observatory is now focused on three main activities – astronomy, geophysics and metrology. In fact, the observatory is still the official body in Brazil for setting time, which was one of its original missions, along with determining geographical locations and studying the country’s climate.

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Postcard from Rio – a paradise for physics?

Photo of Sugar Loaf Mountain

View towards the Sugar Loaf Mountain from the CBPF in Rio de Janeiro. (Courtesy: Herman Pessoa Lima)

By Matin Durrani in Rio de Janeiro

Having flown almost half-way round the world from Bristol to Rio, you might think there is little in common between Physics World‘s home city and the Brazilian metropolis.

But on my trip to the Brazilian Centre for Physics Research (CBPF) in Rio today, it soon became clear from the statistical physicist Constantino Tsallis, who hosted my visit, that there is indeed a link between the two cities. That connection lies with the Brazilian physicist César Lattes, who was the founding director of the CBPF.

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Postcard from Brazil – satellites and space weather

An image of Belém taken with the Brazilian-Chinese CBERS-2 satellite.

An image of the city of Belém taken with the Brazilian-Chinese CBERS-2 satellite. (Courtesy: INPE)

By Matin Durrani in São José dos Campos, Brazil

Two people died today in Brazil when a crane fell into the roof of a sports stadium in São Paulo that was due to host the opening ceremony of next year’s football World Cup.

The incident was not perhaps the best indication of Brazil’s technological know-how in a country that is keen to show its best face off to the world. But I saw a better example of Brazilian expertise today at the National Institute of Space Science (INPE) in São José dos Campos – a city of about 700,000 people 100 km north-east of São Paulo.

My visit to the INPE was hosted by Elbert Macau (whose middle name is Einstein, by the way), where my colleague Susan Curtis and I saw two key activities at the institute.

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Postcard from São Carlos – a hub for Brazilian science

Traffic jams in São Paulo

In search of calmness – stuck in traffic in São Paulo.

By Susan Curtis in São Carlos

Sitting in one of São Paulo’s famous traffic jams as part of the Physics World fact-finding mission, we slowly turned into a road named after Order e Progresso (Order and Progress), the motto that forms a key element of the Brazilian national flag. I couldn’t help smiling, because there wasn’t much order on the roads, and precious little progress either.

The crazy traffic in Brazil’s largest city is just one reason why many physicists prefer to be stationed in the University of São Paulo (USP)’s science and engineering campus in São Carlos, some 200 km north-east of the mega-city.

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Postcard from São Paulo – turning Abdus Salam’s dream into reality

Photo fo Nathan Berkovits

Happy days – Nathan Berkovits enjoying life at the new ICTP South American Institute for Fundamental Research.

By Matin Durrani in São Paulo

Today was the second day of the Physics World trip to Brazil and I flew from Rio de Janeiro down the coast to São Paulo, which is about an hour’s flight away. After yesterday’s disappointingly poor weather in Rio, things aren’t any better further south – in fact, it’s probably raining even more heavily today.

São Paulo is the largest urban area in South America, as becomes obvious from the forest of tower blocks that you skirt over on approaching the city’s downtown airport.

But the city is also, according to US-born string theorist Nathan Berkovits, an enjoyable place to live. In fact, Berkovits has an extra reason to like the place – having worked at the São Paulo State University (UNESP) for almost two decades, he was last year appointed acting director of a new theoretical-physics institute that’s already one of the leading places of its kind in South America.

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Postcard from Rio – checking out Brazilian physics

Beach scene on a gloomy day in Rio de Janeiro.

Not your typical summer’s day in Rio de Janeiro.

By Matin Durrani in Rio de Janeiro

Sun, sand, sea – that’s Rio de Janeiro surely?

Well, sadly, I’ve had to make do with just two out of the three as it’s been distinctly cloudy, rainy and cool since I flew in to the Brazilian metropolis yesterday at the start of a week in the world’s fifth largest country (by both size and population).

So what, you may ask, am I doing in Brazil?

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