Science Archives

The big announcement 2012

OH: "We can just have physicists on in the background…"

Tuesday does Saturday right: Our big screen shows physicists filing in slowly to take seats for the big Higgs-Boson announcement #nerds #yes

OMG. Physicists are cute. #higgsboson

Default for male physicists seems to be blue shirts, for females red. Does this mean female physicists are moving faster away from now?

Physicists. Sooooo cute and funny. #higgsboson #nerdsRgreat

Quickly becoming incomprehensible to me, but STILL CUTE! #higgsboson

Loving the messy, non-definitiveness of science. Slow growth of understanding & growth of subsequent questions. Thank you, scientists!

Posted on July 3, 2012 at 11:30 PM in Science, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trying stuff no one's done before? Science does that. 2012

"Nobody thinks to raise baby ostriches in the middle of a museum."


At @calacademy again. Yay!


These chicks are about 2 weeks old. Since they're the same ones I saw a week ago and the scientist in the rear of the photo said they'll be too big for the enclosure in another 4 weeks and that they have the next batch of eggs incubating now, I recommend a visit between June 25th and July 5th for optimal cuteness, either of the gangly teen or teensy fluffy baby variety depending on your luck and the accuracy of my memory of what he said.


The scientist bending over is using a small thermometer to test the temperature under the heat lamps. Baby ostriches are sensitive to heat and humidity and they like it about 95 degrees under there. The scientists are adjusting the height of these new lamps for optimal conditions.

Posted on June 1, 2012 at 10:16 AM in San Francisco, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bad science has bad consequences 2012

RT @kottke: The Jenny McCarthy Body Count

Posted on May 30, 2012 at 12:38 PM in health, Science, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

A lovely visit to the museum 2012

Having a great time at @calacademy. The new Earthquake exhibit is excellent--especially the shake room! Members only today; public tomorrow.

New planetarium show at @calacademy is super cool, esp. for fans of #SF. Fly-through of bay in 1906 is entrancing & intriguing. #earthquake


(I love my city. Why did the info desk guy at @calacademy look so familiar? He's a Cockette, of course & he was great in Pearls Over Shanghai)

Posted on May 25, 2012 at 10:39 AM in Science, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

getting off the ground again 2012

RT @striatic: also love being one big step closer to some happy astronauts getting a shot at the first ride on a *new launch vehicle*! new era! @spaceX

Posted on May 25, 2012 at 09:02 AM in Science, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

sexism is a negative economic force 2012

Interesting comments from astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (co-discover of pulsars) re: women, science & engineering

"There is a lot still of unthinkingness and I have to say this is in the UK. This programme will go to many countries, particularly in southeast Asia, where there aren't these kinds of issues; where it's perfectly normal for women to do engineering, physics, science, what have you. But, it's a cultural thing and the English-speaking countries in particular tend to be on the poor side."

"Why is that?"

"It's something to do with cultural history. It may be something to do with defensiveness by the males. But what has happened, I judge, in southeast Asia for example, is the government has seen they need all the scientific and engineering talent they've got, so they make sure that it's perfectly okay for women to do science and engineering. And it shows."

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 05:28 PM in Science, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

High tea with astronomy break 2012

Turns out the overlap between Gilbert & Sullivan fan & science nerd is pretty high. @lamplightersMT #eclipse


The intermission at the special fundraiser event was extended so everyone could enjoy the eclipse.


Joe under the pinholes created by gaps in the trees' leaves.


Pinholes in paper.


Pinholes created by gaps in leaves.


Making pinholes with our hands.


Posted on May 20, 2012 at 07:01 PM in Science, the big room with the blue ceiling, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Media I've enjoyed recently 2012

Productivity and problem-solving

Lewis Pugh's mind-shifting Mt. Everest swim (TED video)

Bosses Who Work Out Are Nicer (60-Second Science podcast)



Gun-Toting Increases Bias to See Guns Toted (60-Second Science podcast)


Environment and climate

Jason Clay: How big brands can help save biodiversity (TED video)

Lee Hotz: Inside an Antarctic time machine (TED video)

Rob Dunbar: Discovering ancient climates in oceans and ice (TED video)


Politics and philosophy

Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index (TED video)

Carne Ross: An independent diplomat (TED video)


Technology and the Web

Chris Anderson: How web video powers global innovation (TED video)

Christien Meindertsma: How pig parts make the world turn (TED video)

This was great. Really impressive piece of research. (It never occurred to me that fine bone china has actual bone in it.)

Sebastian Thrun: Google's driverless car (TED video)

Breathe Easier with Electric Car Charging Overnight (60-Second Science podcast)

App Turns iPhone Into spiPhone (60-Second Science podcast)



Nicholas Christakis: How social networks predict epidemics (TED video)

A non-health takeaway from this one: Corporations (or as more benignly referred to, "brands") will be analyzing and acting on our social activity in staggering detail in ways that are not automatically or even always possibly perceptible to us. Individual rights now and in the future will require people with an understanding of the technology and techniques of analysis who are working on our side. We will need watchdogs with deep understanding of advanced analytics.

Mitchell Besser: Mothers helping mothers fight HIV (TED video)

Annie Lennox: Why I am an HIV/AIDS activist (TED video)

Sebastian Seung: I am my connectome (TED video)

Didn't enjoy his presentation style, but the content and its implications are impressive.

Inge Missmahl brings peace to the minds of Afghanistan (TED video)

Wonderful projects and encouraging data on the power of psychosocial counseling to help break cycles of violence.

Mechai Viravaidya: How Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place (TED video)

Hans Rosling: The good news of the decade? (TED video)

"The time has come to stop thinking of sub-saharan Africa as one place. Their countries are so different and they merit to be talked about in the same way that we don't talk about Europe as one place. I can tell you that the economy in Greece and Sweden are very different."

It's bigger than that, though:
"There is no such thing as a Western world and Developing world."

"You can clearly see the relation with falling child mortality and decreasing family size."

"Almost 50% of the fall in child mortality can be attributed to female education."

It's this kind of tight focus on the actual data—on what really works—that makes me love and respect Hans Rosling. It also reinforces my commitment to only vote for presidential candidates who place a high priority on the family planning and female education efforts which will drive that reduction in child mortality while at the same time slowing population growth.

Boys Who Lack Empathy Don't React to a Fearful Face (60-Second Science podcast)

Animal Production Practices Create Antibiotic Resistance (60-Second Science podcast)



Amateur Planet Hunters Find Exoplanets (60-Second Science podcast)



Amit Sood: Building a museum of museums on the web (TED video)

Monika Bulaj: The hidden light of Afghanistan (TED video)



Large Hadron Collider "Big Bang" Analogies Put Under Microscope (60-Second Science podcast)



Elephants Ask for a Helping Trunk (60-Second Science podcast)

Black Plant Life Could Thrive on Other Planets (60-Second Science podcast)

Box Jellyfish Eyes Aim At The Trees (60-Second Science podcast)

Bat Ears Deform for Better Ping Pickups (60-Second Science podcast)

Body Hair Senses Parasites While Slowing Their Blood Quest (60-Second Science podcast)

Boa Constrictors Listen To Loosen (60-Second Science podcast)



Bloody Mary Gives Up Its Flavor Secrets (60-Second Science podcast)



You Probably Get That A Lot (TMBG Podcast Video Bonus)

Posted on May 13, 2012 at 05:49 PM in health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, Science, Web/Tech, worry vs. clarity | Permalink | Comments (0)

a diameter of about 860 miles 2012

RT @rands: All of Earth's Water in a Single Sphere

Posted on May 6, 2012 at 03:01 PM in linky goodness, Science, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fame is no substitute for expertise 2012

RT @AGW_Prof: Serious errors and shortcomings void #climate letter by 49 former #NASA employees

"The letter was filled with no less than six serious errors regarding the science, data, and facts of climate science. The errors, in turn, exposed that the signers had confused their fame and/or their expertise in unrelated fields with expertise in climate science. And in response, NASA’s chief scientist politely suggested that the letter’s authors and signers should publish any contrary hypotheses and data in peer-reviewed scientific journals instead of trying to censor the publication of scientific conclusions from NASA climate scientists."

Posted on April 25, 2012 at 02:46 PM in Science, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

* 2012

RT @Annaleen: Love this. RT @para_sight: What do we want? image from

Posted on April 21, 2012 at 04:46 PM in politics & philosophy, Science, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Media I've enjoyed lately 2011

Wow. Lots to catch up on since the last time I posted on podcast episodes I really enjoyed. Not to worry, though, most of them are from 60-Second Science.


Science and Technology

Science Talk - The Poisoner's Handbook : The Sinister Side of Chemistry

Astronaut Love: An Interview with Spacewalker Stanley Love

TEDTalks - Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus - Mike deGruy (2010)

Hans Rosling on global population growth - Hans Rosling (2010)

Hans Rosling and the magic washing machine - Hans Rosling (2010)

60-Second Science: Trusting Souls Excel at Spotting Liars

Low-Level Moral Transgressions Make Us Laugh

Solar Panels Dust Themselves Off

Dinner Party Discovered 12,000 Years Later

Organic Strawberries Beat Conventionally Grown In Test Plots

Pirates Need Science, Too

Butterflies Choose Plants for Medicinal Qualities

Mice Prefer Treats They Worked Harder to Get

Neandertal Brains Retained Infantile Shape

Daydreaming Diminishes Happiness

Follow the Money to See Real Communities

CSIs Could Estimate Victim's Age with Just Blood

It's Even More Full Of Stars

Saturn's Rings May Be Remnants of a Moon

Database Tries to Track Culture Quantitatively

Young Female Chimps Cradle Stick-Toys like Dolls


Creativity and Learning

TEDTalks - Cameron Herold: Let's raise kids to be entrepreneurs - Cameron Herold (2010)

Aditi Shankardass: A second opinion on learning disorders  - Aditi Shankardass (2009)

John Hunter on the World Peace Game - John Hunter (2011)

Jok Church: A circle of caring - Jok Church (2007)

60-Second Science: Reach Kitchen Staff with Safety Stories



TEDTalks - Ananda Shankar Jayant fights cancer with dance  - Ananda Shankar Jayant (2009)

Stephen Palumbi: Following the mercury trail - Stephen Palumbi (2010)

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work - Nigel Marsh (2010)

60-Second Science - Ancient Brewmasters Made Medicinal Beer

A Few Drug-Resistant Bacteria May Keep the Whole Colony Alive

Salmonella Take Advantage of Our Battle Plan

City Living Promoted Resistance to Infectious Disease

Love Lessens Pain

Clenched Muscles Assist Self-Control

New Crop of Elderly Outsmart Their Predecessors

Receptors for Taste Found in the Lungs

Text Message Outreach Improves HIV Patients' Outcomes

Exercising to Music Keeps Elderly Upright

Ultramarathoners Reveal "Safe" Injuries

Think More to Eat Less

Trained Rats Sniff Out TB

Placebos Work Even When You Know

98.6 Trades Metabolic Cost for Fungal Protection



TEDTalks - Jessi Arrington: Wearing nothing new - Jessi Arrington (2011)


Posted on August 21, 2011 at 10:11 PM in creativity, health, linky goodness, school, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Night at the Academy with Mum Jinx 2011


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[Statute of limitations reached since no flash was involved right?]

Posted on June 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM in San Francisco, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Great writing 2010

"The most unmistakable chemical transformation is that of a matter's state – a solid liquefies, a liquid evaporates, a vapor condenses into rain. For most of the furnishings of our everyday life, we associate a particular substance with only one of those three states. Wood, steel, and stone – solid. Oxygen and helium – gas. Alcoholic beverages – liquid (you can keep a bottle of Bombay Sapphire in the freezer, and somehow it remains an ever pourable starter to a gin and tonic). Water again bucks convention and seems almost equally at home in all three forms, as ice, steam, and liquid. In fact, Earth is exceptional in its possession of tristate water. Mars has a lot of water, but it's frozen away underground. Jupiter and Saturn have traces of water, too, but as orbiting ice crystals or a gas among miasmic gases. Only on Earth are there ocean flows and Arctic floes and sputtering Yellowstone fumaroles; only the Goldilocks planet has water to suit every bear."

- Natalie Angier, The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science

Posted on October 30, 2010 at 12:04 PM in Books, creativity, Science | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cool TED talk on animal & robot feet. Geckos' feet do utterly amazing stuff and octopi are more clever than I realized.

Posted on March 22, 2008 at 11:21 AM in Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tasty, tasty science 2007

As you may have read here before, I like me some science when I'm commuting or doing dishes - the two main times I put on my iPod and listen to podcasts.

Scientific American
continues to deliver the best stuff, both in their short 60-Second Science daily series and in the longer Science Talk episodes.

Now you science-phobes stick with me here. The more you know about how living creatures reproduce the more entrancing the world becomes.

My favorite episode of the ones I've been catching up with has a great piece with University of Wisconsin evolutionary biologist Sean Carroll on the role of gene duplication in evolution. Totally cool stuff.

First, some background: all living creatures have molecules of DNA in their cells. DNA carries genetic information which controls the traits of the living creature. To quote Wikipedia, a gene is a hereditary unit consisting of DNA that occupies a spot on a chromosome and determines a characteristic in an organism. Genes are passed from parent to child in sexual species through the combination of genetic material from each parent. This process is called meiosis (pronounced my-oh-sis).

You've probably seen a diagram of DNA which looks like a long zipper. What happens in meiosis (in simplistic terms) is that each of the parent zippers gets unzipped and zips back together with the other half of the other zipper, so you get the mother's and father's DNA getting hooked together. What happens in this process is genetic recombination and that is an opportunity for change since the parents' DNA will not be identical. In other words, meiosis and sexual reproduction produce genetic variation.

What that means is that the living creature could have traits or behaviors which are different from its parents and/or from the offspring of other creatures of the same kind.

And what that means is that it might have a better chance of surviving (or at least breeding) in its particular environment. If so, it becomes more likely than those other creatures to pass its genetic material on to its own offspring. Multiply this by hundreds or thousands of generations and you've got survival of the "fittest".  By "fittest" I mean the most able to survive (or at least breed) in a particular environment. It's not "best" - there's no goal or ideal here; it's just what currently, under these conditions works.

As you can imagine, migration of a creature into a new area can introduce new genetic variation in the population - the gene pool, if you will - of that area.

The last but certainly not least factor in genetic variation is mutation. Again to quote Wikipedia, mutations can be caused by copying errors in the genetic material during cell division [including meiosis!], by exposure to ultraviolet or ionizing radiation, chemical mutagens, or viruses, or can occur deliberately under cellular control during processes such as hypermutation. The resulting changes can be small or large - even as large as complete duplication of a gene - and may or may not have any effect on the creature's traits or behaviors.

If a mutation makes a creature less successful at surviving and/or breeding, it's less likely to pass on its genetic material to future generations. If the mutation is beneficial - i.e. improves the chances of survival and/or breeding - the genetic change is more likely to be passed to another generation. Note that a mutation doesn't need to otherwise benefit the creature to be beneficial to the continuation of that genetic pattern; it's all about reproduction.

The overwhelming majority of mutations are neutral; they have neither effect and may even be repaired by the cell. In many cases, though, these genetic changes are simply passed on through the generations doing neither harm nor good to the genetic "fitness" of that creature.

Which brings us back to this cool podcast.

when gene duplication was first noticed and realized to be important, most researchers thought that what it did was give you one copy of the gene that could continue performing its original important function, and another copy that natural selection could then experiment with to find a new function. But in your paper you talk about the fact that it might be the case that both genes wander off to find new functions.

Rather than my summarizing it, go give it a listen or read the transcript. It's totally cool and really well explained. Genetics are so neat!

(And if you want to learn more about molecular biology, I recommend Dr. Zach's Evolution 101 podcast. Pause the playback of the current episode (grrr) and scroll down to episode 108 "Molecular Biology Primer". Good stuff, which, because of when I first listened to it, I now probably irrevocably associate with doing a jigsaw puzzle in the Egyptian House in Penzance, Cornwall.)

Posted on December 7, 2007 at 11:36 PM in Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Mmm, science and skepticism. 2007

I've got some good podcasts episodes from my many subscriptions for you today.

I've really been enjoying Point of Inquiry. Check out these two interviews:
Garrett G. Fagan - loads of fun hearing this author of Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudo-archaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public rip apart a whole bunch of false science about the past. This one is worth it for the incredibly long litany of proposed locations of Atlantis alone.

Peter H. Gilmore - this was a very surprising one. Turns out the Satanists don't believe in Satan as a god. Also, they call themselves a religion without believing in the supernatural at all. And their high priest turns out to be quite charming in interviews. I'm not drawn toward their church, but this interview cleared up lots of assumptions I'd made.

From the Science & the City podcast, this session with Oliver Sacks reminiscing fondly about his favorite parts of the table of chemical elements is just plain sweet.

A more recent session from this one was Alan Walker on the Search for "the Missing Link". Yum! Physical anthropology!

60-Second Science continues to be reliably rewarding. Check out this simple little news story about what does and doesn't work in health education: Abstintence-Only Programs Fail.

I've unsubscribed to a couple podcasts that I mentioned before, Science Update Podcast weekly edition (too fluffy) and This Week In Science (too much like annoying morning talk radio shows like Sarah & No Name on Alice), and subscribed to a new one, The Skeptics Guide To The Universe.

Posted on August 29, 2007 at 08:33 PM in Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Exploratorium 2007

Child almost entirely in Echo Tube at Exploratorium


When we first walked up there were just these pink-shoed feet sticking out. Hee hee!

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Posted on August 26, 2007 at 01:00 PM in creativity, San Francisco, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Where you decide to put your time and attention says a lot about who you are." 2007

That's what Merlin Mann said in a great recent lecture at Google which he's kindly made available as part of his Inbox Zero series of posts.

So I was thinking about that, as well as the good practical email management advice from his talk, and I realized that one thing I really care about is science. But I have not been investing a proportional amount of my time into science compared to my interest in it.

I thought "Where do I have room in my day to fit in some science without pushing out something else that also matters to me or which I choose to make important in order to pay my bills and have some sort of career?"

Hello, commute!

And hello again, cute pink 4gb iPod which was a present from my friends Edmond & Shannon a few years back when they shared my place while escrow on their place cleared. I'd been neglecting it and only remembering about it when I was on the bus next to some incredibly banal and annoying conversation - usually one side of a cellphone conversation at that.

I'm now subscribing to a whopping 10 new podcasts in addition to the lovely 60-Second Science which I had already been enjoying on my laptop. And boy do I listen to them! Somehow even though my brain is sick of email and articles by the end of the workday (or in anticipation of it), listening to even fairly complex discourse is thoroughly enjoyable.

I've signed up for
- NOVA scienceNOW
- Ockham's Razor (the August 5th piece on Abolishing Weapons of Terror was very good)
- Point of Inquiry
- Science @ NASA Feature Stories
- Science & the City (from which I particularly enjoyed last Friday's episode with Alan Walker on The Search for "The Missing Link", a really top-notch ramble through physical anthropology. Highly recommended!)
- Science Friday
- Science Talk: The Podcast of Scientific American (and now I will out myself as a new huge admirer of Steve Mirsky's writing/delivery, both when he's seriously sharing knowledge and when he's barely restraining his sarcasm on, for example, people who play the lottery & their understanding of probability </fangirl>)
- Science Times
- Science Update Podcast weekly edition
- This Week In Science

You can get all these, as well as Merlin Manns 43 Folders podcast and They Might Be Giants podcast (my other subscriptions) most easily through iTunes, but you can also download them from some website somewhere, no doubt. Google is your friend in need for that.

What do you love? Go fit a little more of it into your otherwise idle moments and get reconnected.

And if you love science too, and have recommendations for more good podcasts, please share them in the comments.

Yum! Science!

Posted on August 8, 2007 at 08:54 PM in politics & philosophy, Science | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nerd Salon 2007


Posted on July 10, 2007 at 06:30 PM in creativity, San Francisco, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check out this cool animated map of earthquake activity around the world that my Uncle Larry sent me a link to!

Wouldn't it be great to have a 10 foot long version of this on the wall at a school?

Hmm, actually... wouldn't it be cool to have a giant screen like that which could provide visual data of dynamically changing factors affecting whatever the current study topic at a school was? And of course, putting it on a big screen on a wall is actually the no-brainer step after you make the maps available online so they can be on everyone's home page during that class. Interesting.

Posted on November 11, 2006 at 09:38 AM in Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nerd Salon 2006

Photo by Scott Beale (Laughing Squid).

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Roomba rearing ferociously at Scott.


roomba fight

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Posted on May 9, 2006 at 09:29 PM in creativity, San Francisco, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

making up games at my place with Joe and Adam 2006

So true, so true

Roast Beef has so much science going on you can't even see his face in this picture.


And some photos by Adam:




Photos by Joe.


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Posted on April 24, 2006 at 09:42 PM in friends & family, games, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Visit to the Maker Faire 2006

Joe and Adam on CalTrain


Photo of me by Adam.

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Improbable Orchestra 

This was totally cool. You are controlling the speaker behind you and collectively creating a sound mix.


Maker Faire 2006 map


coveting lovely glassware imprinted with old fabric patterns 

Mediums To Masses

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Mark VandeWettering 

Here he's showing Joe and Adam his cool projects fiddling about with old gaming tech.

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difference engine


Typepad loves me! Photo and caption by Anil.

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Photos by Heather.

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And back to ones by me:

Documenting the documenters documenting the documented

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Dueling cameras

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The finest in 1820s science on display.

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Celestial Mechanics


Temporary Amateur Pyrotechnics Expert 

some wackyass burning man flame-shooting conveyance


really excellent penmanship

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Pleasing signage


Photo of me and Adam by Joe.

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Posted on April 22, 2006 at 02:17 PM in creativity, friends & family, Science, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Excellent commentary on NASA's manned space activities from Maciej Ceglowski: Rocket to Nowhere. This was recommended as a must-read article by Jason Kottke and he's quite right. I hope every member of Congress reads this.

Personally, I would like to see the United States reallocate the manned space "exploration" funding to an even split between direct funding for more primary school science & math teachers & classroom materials and an increase to the budget of our highly successful unmanned activities. Maybe in 10 or 20 years it'll be time to think about sending humans off-planet again, but the decision must be driven by scientific reasons not national propaganda goals.

Posted on August 6, 2005 at 01:39 PM in Science | Permalink | Comments (3)

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