To Our Readers:

Week after week, the Los Angeles Times Magazine celebrates the heart of Southern California--actors who move us to tears, athletes who inspire, educators who dare us to dream. In this millennium issue, devoted to Science and Technology, we focus on the brain and the region's passion for invention and discovery.

Make no mistake: This region, often maligned as, like, Airheadsville, has done as much as any place on the planet to blast the world into the next century.

From early flights over Orange County bean fields to work on Stealth bombers, space shuttles and Mars Landers, Southern Californians have been in the vanguard of dreaming up, designing and test-flying every type of aircraft imaginable.

When you answer your e-mail tonight, remember that the first Internet node was, by most accounts, established at UCLA--and Southern California researchers are already plotting ways to get e-mail to future space stations.

Don't think, though, that all this brainpower is heartless. Ask Orange County teacher Bryon Vouga, 30, if science is important, and he'll say he might be virtually bed-bound if a Thousand Oaks company hadn't been at the forefront of the genetic engineering revolution. And our grandkids might have been doomed to a life lived entirely indoors if UC Irvine scientists had not discovered--and urged the world to fix--the hole in the ozone layer.

This century has been an exhilarating science and technology adventure. Judging from the kids you'll encounter in this issue, edited by senior editor Bob Sipchen, the new millennium holds even more promise.

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