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Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.

Tonight, I am stepping in for Neon Vincent.  

Our featured story comes from the Khaleej Times of Dubai:

Earth Hour: Spare an Hour for Mother Earth

A slew of events are lined up in the country today to mark Earth Hour — the walk at Bay Avenue Park in Dubai, drumming session in Abu Dhabi, and switching off of lights at iconic buildings — but the biggest one could be your small steps like switching to energy-efficient bulbs, water taps with sensors and... consuming less of everything for the sake of our planet and ourselves  
More stories beneath the fold!

Meteorology News

Health costs of air pollution from agriculture clarified (from NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, via sciencedaily)

Ammonia pollution from agricultural sources poses larger health costs than previously estimated, according to NASA-funded research.
Harvard University researchers Fabien Paulot and Daniel Jacob used computer models including a NASA model of chemical reactions in the atmosphere to better represent how ammonia interacts in the atmosphere to form harmful particulate matter. The improved simulation helped the scientists narrow in on the estimated health costs from air pollution associated with food produced for export -- a growing sector of agriculture and a source of trade surplus.

Astronomy News

How the Big Bang discovery came about (from CNN)

By Meg Urry
Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

(CNN) -- For the past week-and-a-half, people have been marveling over the discovery of evidence supporting "inflation," the theory describing the birth pangs of the Big Bang 13.7 billions years ago. What do these findings mean and how did they come about?

Lots of articles reported the news, but I am going to try to explain it in depth. Stick with me, because this is one of the most exciting astrophysical discoveries in decades.

Telescope Is an Exoplanet Hunting Robot (from Gizmondo)
by Andrew Tarantola
Exoplanets—planets orbiting stars that aren't our Sun—seem to be popping out of the cosmic woodwork now that we know where and how to look for them. The Kepler mission alone has discovered 961 of them, and it's only looking at a tiny sliver of distant space. Just think of how many we'll find when the new James Lick robotic telescope comes online and starts surveying one thousand of our closest solar neighbors.
Skywatch: Total lunar eclipse set for morning of April 15 (from Washington Post)
By  Blaine Friedlander,   Saturday, March 29, 2:47 PM

Wake up early or stay up late: If skies are clear, you could see the bright full moon turn a reddish hue during a total lunar eclipse early on the morning of April 15.

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch with the naked eye. Fred Espenak, astronomer and noted eclipse expert ( says the eclipse could take on “a dramatically colorful appearance, ranging from bright orange to blood red.”

Aurora hunters: The people who chase the Northern Lights (from the BBC News Magazine)
By Denise Winterman

For many they are a once-in-a-lifetime experience but chasing the Northern Lights dominates daily life for aurora hunters.

A hunt can start with a late-night text message from Alaska for Val Chalmers. A tip-off from a fellow enthusiast that good auroral activity might be heading her way. A warm bed and sleep are swapped for hours standing in shallow shore waters or perched on a cliff, often in freezing temperatures. The reward, if she's very lucky, is one of nature's most glorious displays - the aurora borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights.

Paleontology News

Ancient sea creatures filtered food like modern whales (from

The animals lived 520 million years ago during the Early Cambrian, a period known as the 'Cambrian Explosion' in which all the major animal groups and complex ecosystems suddenly appeared. Tamisiocaris belongs to a group of animals called anomalocarids, a type of early arthropod that included the largest and some of the most iconic animals of the Cambrian period. They swam using flaps down either side of the body and had large appendages in front of their mouths that they most likely used to capture larger prey, such as trilobites.
Counting calories in the fossil record (from
Starting about 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, brachiopod groups disappeared in large numbers, along with 90 percent of the planet's species. Today, only a few groups, or genera, of brachiopods remain. "Most people won't be familiar with brachiopods. They're pretty rare in the modern ocean," said Jonathan Payne, a paleobiologist at Stanford University.
Paleontologists assemble giant turtle bone from fossil discoveries made centuries apart (from
A broken fossil turtle bone discovered by an amateur paleontologist in 2012 turned out to be the missing half of a bone first described in 1849. The surprising puzzle discovery has led paleontologists from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the New Jersey State Museum to revise conventional wisdom of how long fossils can survive exposed to surface conditions. It also provides insight into one of the largest turtle species ever known.
Fossil porpoise has a chin for the ages (from
Scientists have identified a porpoise with a chin length unprecedented among known mammals and suggest the animal used the tip of its face to probe the seabed for food.
Related to living crown porpoises, the extinct Californian porpoise, Semirostrum ceruttii, had an extension of its jaw called a symphysis—the analogue of the human chin—that measured 85 centimeters in the best-preserved specimen, researchers said. The typical symphysis of a crown porpoise measures one or two centimeters.
Neck ribs in woolly mammoths provide clues about their decline and eventual extinction (from
Mar 25, 2014
Researchers recently noticed that the remains of woolly mammoths from the North Sea often possess a 'cervical' (neck) rib—in fact, 10 times more frequently than in modern elephants (33.3% versus 3.3%). In modern animals, these cervical ribs are often associated with inbreeding and adverse environmental conditions during pregnancy. If the same factors were behind the anomalies in mammoths, this reproductive stress could have further pushed declining mammoth populations towards ultimate extinction.
Archaeology News

Humans arrived in the Americas from Asia much earlier, claims study (from ibnlive)

In a ground-breaking research, archaeologists have unearthed stone tools that suggest that humans reached what is now northeast Brazil as early as 22,000 years ago, upending a belief that people first arrived in the Americas from Asia about 13,000 years ago.
"If they are right, and there is a great possibility that they are, that would change everything we know about the settlement of the Americas," Walter Neves, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Sao Paulo, was quoted as saying.
Ancient African Cattle First Domesticated In Middle East (from redorbit)
March 28, 2014
Geneticists and anthropologists previously suspected that ancient Africans domesticated cattle native to the African continent nearly 10,000 years ago. Now, a team of University of Missouri researchers has completed the genetic history of 134 cattle breeds from around the world. In the process of completing this history, they found that ancient domesticated African cattle originated in the “Fertile Crescent,” a region that covered modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Israel.
Bowers exhibition to examine 'lost' ancient Chinese civilization (from the LA Times)
By Mike Boehm
Most museum exhibitions try to give answers, but an unusual Chinese antiquities show the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana has announced as its big fall attraction will focus on 3,000-year-old artifacts in bronze, gold and jade that mainly have produced bafflement.
Ancient bone fragments help describe diet, health of Saharan ancestors (from
The diet and journeys taken by those who lived in the Sahara Desert thousands of years ago are being analysed through their teeth and bones.
Our knowledge of past civilisations is gleaned from what is left behind – the shards of pots, traces of dwellings and goods from graves. And just as these are clues to the everyday behaviours of individuals long gone, so too are their bodily remains. Locked in their teeth and bones is information that scientists can use to reveal how they lived, such as the food they ate and the distances they travelled.
Excavation of Neolithic chambered tomb on Anglesey begins (from
An archaeological excavation of Ynys Môn's least known Neolithic chambered tomb – Perthi Duon, west of the village of Brynsiencyn on Anglesey – has begun. The work is being carried out by a team from the Welsh Rock Art Organisation under the direction of Dr George Nash of the University of Bristol and Carol James.
Perthi Duon, considered to be the remains of a portal dolmen, is one of eighteen extant stone chambered monuments that stand within a 1.5 km corridor of the Menai Straits.
Skeleton from 5th ancient Egyptian dynasty found in Abusir (from Al Ahram)
A well preserved skeleton of a top governmental official from the fifth dynasty unearthed in Abusir, an archeological site near Cairo
Nevine El-Aref , Monday 24 Mar 2014
A Czech archaeological team working on a site in Abusir on Monday unearthed the skeleton of a top governmental official, referred to as Nefer during studies carried out in his tomb after it was discovered last year.
Nefer held several titles in the royal palace and the government during the reign of the fifth dynasty king, Nefereer-Ka-Re. He was the priest of the king's funerary complex, the supervisor of the royal documents scribes and also of the house of gold.
4,000-year-old mummy to go back on display after evading crystal death   (by Culture24)
By Culture24 Reporter
Expert conservation work has been carried out on an Egyptian mummy given to Warrington Museum and Art Gallery more than 100 years ago
A 4,000-year-old mummy case, attacked by a mysterious surface growth of white crystals more than a century after being gifted to Cheshire by a party returning from Egypt, will go back on show in Warrington thanks to the skilful handiwork of an expert from National Museums Liverpool.
Canal, pit houses from up to 4,000 years ago found under planned Marana outlet mall site (from the Arizona Daily Star)
A major ancient human settlement — including pit houses, the likely remnants of an irrigation canal and human burials possibly dating back 4,000 years — has been discovered under the site of a planned outlet center along Interstate 10 in Marana.
Experts agree discovery is significant archaeologically — the settlement is likely from the Early Agricultural Period, which predates even the Hohokam culture that was in Southern and Central Arizona from 500 to about 1450 A.D. The find will add additional knowledge about agricultural practices that may be the oldest known in the United States, archaeologists say.
Two more colossal pharaoh statues unveiled in Egypt (from the Sydney Morning Herald)
Travel News
Archaeologists on Sunday unveiled two colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt's famed temple city of Luxor, adding to an existing pair of world-renowned tourist attractions.
The two monoliths in red quartzite were raised at what European and Egyptian archaeologists said were their original sites in the funerary temple of the king, on the west bank of the Nile.
Skulduggery not required as Mayan skulls reveal brutal blows to the head
A close examination of 116 skulls left over from 2000 years of warfare indicates that ancient Mayan armies used nasty spiked clubs for combat in open terrain.
The widespread adoption of these clubs, as well as projectiles, may have been due to larger armies enlisting more commoners.
A recent published study follows previous research into Mayan skeletal trauma indicating a fondness for flaying and decapitation, heart extraction, dismemberment, de-fleshing, parry fractures and head fractures.
Roman Emperor Dressed As Egyptian Pharaoh in Newfound Carving (from Live Science)
By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor
An ancient stone carving on the walls of an Egyptian temple depicts the Roman emperor Claudius dressed as an Egyptian pharaoh, wearing an elaborate crown, a team of researchers has discovered.
In the carving, Emperor Claudius, who reigned from A.D. 41 to 54, is shown erecting a giant pole with a lunar crescent at the top. Eight men, each wearing two feathers, are shown climbing the supporting poles, with their legs dangling in midair.
But does he look as good as Derek Jacobi?

Beachy Head Lady was young sub-Saharan Roman with good teeth, say archaeologists

By Ben Miller

 “We had over 300 different individuals – most skeletons, but some cremations. The idea was to go back through all those. We had some information about some of them but others we had nothing on.

They were held in the basement of the town hall, where I keep my archaeology collection. They came primarily from two main Saxon cemeteries that were excavated – one in particular had over 200 graves.

Egyptian Grape Guard's Ancient Contract Decoded (from Live Science)
By Megan Gannon, News Editor  
An ancient labor contract by a guard hired to protect a vineyard in ancient Egypt has been deciphered. Scrawled in Greek on a piece of dark brown papyrus, the document dates back to the 4th century A.D., a new research paper claims.
Guarding vineyards in Egypt more than 1,600 years ago was no easy task. Other ancient sources describe grape-seeking thieves who violently beat watchmen in pursuit of the fruits ripe for winemaking. Crime could be especially high from July to September, the time of the harvest, writes Kyle Helms, a classics doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati.
Anglo-Saxon royal village discovered (from
Archaeologists in Suffolk have found conclusive evidence of the long-lost Anglo-Saxon royal settlement whose people buried their kings at Sutton Hoo.
The royal settlement at Rendlesham is mentioned by the Venerable Bede in his 8th century work An Ecclesiastical History of the English People, but was not located until now.
Research examines impact of ancient Aleuts on their landscape (from the University of Buffalo)
Published March 27, 2014
Archaeologists contribute to the global debate about long-term human intersections with coastal and island environments, often through cooperative research with anthropologists, geologists and bioscientists, and frequently in places like Kiska Island in the Rat Island Archipelago more than a thousand miles off the coast of Alaska.

Utah Teen Discovers Possible Fremont Skeleton While Digging In Backyard (from KUTV)

(KUTV) Police were called to a Salt Lake City neighborhood after a family doing a little yard work found human remains. The father- son duo was digging a pond to raise trout when they found the bones last Friday.

When Ali Erturk stands at the bottom of the hole, you can only see the top of his head from above ground. He's 5'8" and still has some digging to do.  He's been working on his hole since early March and the work is back breaking. He says he "got the shovel and started digging and before I knew it - it got pretty deep."

1,300 year-old mummy and her intimate tattoo (from the Telegraph)
Hospital scans help British Museum discover the secrets Egyptians took to their grave, including one woman’s intimate tattoo
By Robert Mendick, Chief reporter
9:43AM GMT 23 Mar 2014
Wrapped in bandages and caricatured as figures of terror in Hollywood movies, Egypt’s mummies have long captivated and bewildered scientists and children alike.
Now a new exhibition at the British Museum will disclose the human side of the mummies of the Nile.
Forget GPS: Medieval Compass Guided Vikings After Sunset (from livescience
By Laura Poppick, Staff
Often regarded as ruthless robbers, the Vikings were also impressive mariners capable of traversing the North Atlantic along a nearly straight line. Now, new interpretations of a medieval compass suggest the sea robbers may have skillfully used the sun to operate the compass even when the sun had set below the horizon.
The remains of the supposed compass — known as the Uunartoq disc— were found in Greenland in 1948 in an 11th-century convent. Though some researchers originally argued it was simply a decorative object, other researchers have suggested the disc was an important navigational tool that the Vikings would have used in their roughly 1,600-mile-long (2,500 kilometers) trek from Norway to Greenland.
Students unearth Presbyterianism's past in Va.
Archeological dig at Makemie Monument includes ESCC class (from
MAKEMIE PARK — Eastern Shore Community College students struck pay dirt when they got to participate for a day in an archeological dig at Makemie Monument Park near Sanford.
It was the second of a three-day effort that also included work by other volunteers, including two Presbyterian ministers who traveled from Delaware to help.
The students are enrolled in David Wright’s archeology class at the community college.
'World's oldest yacht' excavated from island cellar (from the Beeb)
An archaeological dig is under way to free what is believed to be the world's oldest yacht from a cellar in the Isle of Man.
The vessel, Peggy, was built for Castletown politician and bank owner George Quayle between 1789 and 1793.
After Mr Quayle's death, the boat was locked away for almost 120 years, until it was rediscovered in 1935.
Archaeologists Uncover UVA History Through Cistern Excavation (from NBC29)
Archaeologists at the University of Virginia are revealing some of the findings from an excavation of a cistern near the historic Rotunda. They now know what it was likely used for, and who built it.
The cistern originally held around 75,000 gallons of water. Archaeologists have uncovered a plate and wall inscriptions that give them more background into its history.
Scientists unearth grisly secrets of Treblinka (from San Diego Jewish World)
NEW YORK (Press Release)-It’s one of the most notorious cold cases of World War II — 900,000 Jews transported by the Nazis to a camp in eastern Poland, never to be seen again. Rare documents and eyewitnesses claimed Treblinka was a death camp even more ruthlessly efficient than Auschwitz-Birkenau, but evidence was thin, because the Nazis destroyed all traces of the camp. Holocaust deniers have even claimed that it was only a transit camp. Now, 70 years later, a forensic investigator and her team have gained unprecedented access to excavate the site for the first time.  
Treblinka: Hitler’s Killing Machine, premiering Saturday, March 29 at 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel follows their quest to finally uncover clues that reveal the brutal mechanics behind an operation designed to murder people on a mass scale. It is airing as part of “Women in Science,” Smithsonian Channel’s special month-long programming block celebrating Women’s History Month.
Today, all that is visible where two camps once stood is the Treblinka Memorial and surrounding forest. No security fencing. No buildings. No gas chambers. Nothing to indicate that from 1942-43, the Nazis exterminated 900,000 people as part of Operation Reinhard, the official name for what is now known as the Holocaust. Now, thanks to work by British forensic archaeologist Dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls and her team, the full story of Hitler’s killing machine can be told.
For other WW2 "archaeology" news, see Crime news.  

Ponte Vedra schooner wreck identified
Archaeologists determine 1947 wreck that of the Deliverance (from WJXT)

Submerged in the water's edge just south of Mickler's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach, the skeleton of an old schooner has been haunting archaeologists at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum for four years.
After a nor'easter in January exposed more of the wreck than ever before, the archaeologists were finally able to put together the puzzle pieces and identify the ship as the Deliverance, which wrecked in December 1947.
5 Shipwrecks Lost to Time That Archaeologists Would Love to Get Their Hands On
The shipwrecks of some seafaring cultures have never been found—but not for lack of looking. (from the National Geographic)
Jane J. Lee
Finding modern ships lost at sea, even with the help of radar, sonar, and satellites, can be a herculean task. But trying to find a shipwreck from thousands of years ago is even harder. It's like looking for a wooden needle in a haystack after part of the needle has rotted away.
Underwater archaeologists keep looking, though, because finding one of these shipwrecks could yield a treasure trove of information—from how ancient peoples built their vessels to where they traveled and who their trading partners were.
The comments add other ships one wishes could be found.  

Crime News

TV Series is Criticized in Handling of Deceased (from the NY Times)

Archaeologists who specialize in excavating battlefields are condemning a new television series from National Geographic, saying the program’s approach to digging up the remains of World War II soldiers is unprofessional and borders on the ghoulish.

National Geographic Channel International is defending the four-part series, “Nazi War Diggers,” scheduled to begin in Britain in May. (It has not been scheduled for the United States.) The channel says the work was supervised by licensed authorities in Latvia and Poland, that it was conducted in full view of archaeologists, and that human remains will be repatriated.

Dear National Geographic Channel (UK) (blog by Alison Atkin)
If you have visited my blog recently you will have heard about the recent rage-inducer that is ‘Nazi War Diggers’. I posted up a quick rant yesterday, which in the grand scheme is not very helpful (although it did feel brilliant).

[UPDATE: Betty Hudson (Executive Vice President, Communications National Geographic Society) has sent Donna Yates an official statement from National Geographic. You can read it here (Word Document file). I believe it is also available on the programme's website, but I am trying not to send more traffic there. I am pleased that an official statement regarding the legality of the programme's actions has been released (although I do not think all of the issues have been properly addressed yet). I echo Donna in saying please investigate the claims in the statement. That being said, I still stand by my opinion that their handling of human remains (as demonstrated in the previously available clip) was unethical. I will also be interested to see if any of the people I contacted at the National Geographic will be in touch in order to direct me to this statement.]

Science Fiction News  (because I think it counts)

MOVIE REVIEW: Midnight-movie auteur missed making 'Dune,' but documentary almost makes up for it (via Go San Angelo)

By Michael Phillips Chicago Tribune (MCT)
If I ever go through a wormhole, let me land on a planet where repertory cinema is alive and well and showcasing all the lost, cruelly abridged and, especially, unmade movies conceived on a grand, misbegotten scale. That’d be quite a three-day weekend. Murnau’s “4 Devils,” followed by von Stroheim’s original cut of “Greed,” plus the Welles version of “The Magnificent Ambersons.” Plus Welles’ never-made “Heart of Darkness,” intended to be his Hollywood debut. Plus Clouzot’s “L’Enfer,” the sexual-jealousy obsession he never finished and subject of its own terrific documentary.
Sci-fi novel in line for major award (from
by Matt Stewart
It's in line for the sci-fi equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, but Phillip Mann's latest novel was nearly locked away forever.
Now, more than 10 years after it was penned, the 71-year-old Wellingtonian's latest novel, The Disestablishment of Paradise, has been shortlisted for the prestigious Arthur C Clarke sci-fi book awards.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reunite for one-off show (from the Herald of Scotland)
The original cast of surreal science fiction comedy classic The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy have reunited for a one-off show.

The actors returned to the BBC Radio Theatre in London more than three decades after they first recorded the show there.

'Star Trek' Fan Film Hits Warp Drive on Kickstarter (from
by Elizabeth Howell, Contributor
Set phasers to stunned: A Kickstarter campaign for a new "Star Trek" project has already quintupled its original $10,000 goal to fund a fan film by veteran science fiction actors.

The short fan film, called "Star Trek: Prelude To Axanar," takes place decades before the famous exploits of Captain James T. Kirk and his Enterprise crew of "Star Trek" lore and is scheduled to warp into release this May. As of Friday (March 28), the Kickstarter project had raised $58,362, with three days left in the campaign.

Doctor Who director Derek Martinus dies aged 82
Derek Martinus, who directed some of Doctor Who's best known episodes between 1965 and 1970, featuring the first three Doctors, has died aged 82.

His family told the BBC he died on Thursday evening having suffered from Alzheimer's for many years, calling him "an inspiration" and an "amazing man".

Martinus directed the introduction of the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet.

The four episodes culminated in first Doctor William Hartnell regenerating into Patrick Troughton.

He also directed the first ever Doctor Who episodes to be made in colour, the Spearhead from Space serial - which introduced third Doctor Jon Pertwee - as well as The Ice Warriors serial.

The book Scientologists kept you from reading for 27-years: Banned biography of L. Ron Hubbard claims to reveal the bizarre sex-rituals, phony war record and racist writings of church founder (from The Daily Mail)
Bare-Faced Messiah was first published in 1986 but the Church of Scientology has successfully kept it off the shelves for 27-years
Written by British journalist Russell Miller about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard
Alleges that Hubbard lied about his education and childhood in official Scientology biographies

Claims to refute Hubbard's assertion that he was one of the nation's first nuclear physicists and a doctor
During his research Miller found unpalatable opinions on Chinese people written by the teenage Hubbard
Alleges that Hubbard would observe and documents bizarre sex rituals with a prominent Caltech rocket scientist
Outlines how Hubbard realized branding Scientology as a religion would be better for business concerns

A book Scientologists have kept off the shelves of American book stores for 27-years that alleges church founder L. Ron Hubbard was a fantasist with a predilection for bizarre sexual rituals is finally to be published.

Written by British journalist Russell Miller in 1986, 'Bare-Faced Messiah' cuts a swath through the many myths the Scientologist chief built up around himself and exposes him as a charismatic charmer, who targeted celebrity devotees.

Science IS Cool News

Preserving Audio For The Future Is A Race Against Time (from NPR)

by Emily Siner
March 23, 2014
On the very first archaeological dig of her career, Andrea Berlin discovered the room of a house that somebody had lived in around 800 B.C. Talk about beginner's luck.
"I felt like a time traveler," she says.
Berlin is now a professor of archaeology at Boston University, where she teaches and studies ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean. She finds their sculptures and tools and lots of pottery — anything tangible and substantial enough to last two or three thousand years.
90-year-old wedding cake added to Biltmore collection
Bruce C. Steele 10:22 a.m. EDT March 25, 2014
ASHEVILLE – When people say fruitcake lasts forever, they probably don't really expect it to be around quite this long.
But a small piece of cake, likely from the groom's cake at the 1924 wedding of Biltmore heiress Cornelia Vanderbilt and English aristocrat John Cecil, is now part of the Biltmore collection of Vanderbilt-related artifacts.
All Cannings 'Neolithic' long barrow takes shape (from the BBC)
The first "Neolithic" long barrow to be built in the UK for 5,000 years, is attracting interest from all over the world.
The burial chamber at All Cannings near Devizes in Wiltshire will contain niches housing urns of cremated ashes, and is set to be finished later this year.
Developer Tim Daw, who owns the farmland on which it is being built, said he was "absolutely thrilled" with its progress.
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