09/19/2020
Searching for weekend reading? We’ve organized all of the topics covered in Quanta in an alphabetized, scrollable Index page: https://www.quantamagazine.org/topics
Read and discuss the latest news and trends in mathematics, physics, computer science and life science research. At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story.
Since Quanta is a nonprofit foundation-funded publication, all of its resources go toward producing responsible, freely accessible journalism that is meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked. And our editorial independence ensures the impartiality of our science coverage — our articles do not reflect or represent the views of the Simons Foundation. All editorial decisions, including which research or researchers to cover, are made by Quanta’s staff reporting to the editor in chief; editorial content is not reviewed by anyone outside of the news team prior to publication; Quanta has no involvement in any of the Simons Foundation’s grant-giving or research efforts; and researchers who receive funding from the foundation do not receive preferential treatment. The decision to cover a particular researcher or research result is made solely on editorial grounds in service of our readers.
Since Quanta is a nonprofit foundation-funded publication, all of its resources go toward producing responsible, freely accessible journalism that is meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked. And our editorial independence ensures the impartiality of our science coverage — our articles do not reflect or represent the views of the Simons Foundation. All editorial decisions, including which research or researchers to cover, are made by Quanta’s staff reporting to the editor in chief; editorial content is not reviewed by anyone outside of the news team prior to publication; Quanta has no involvement in any of the Simons Foundation’s grant-giving or research efforts; and researchers who receive funding from the foundation do not receive preferential treatment. The decision to cover a particular researcher or research result is made solely on editorial grounds in service of our readers.
Mission: Quanta Magazine's mission is to enhance public understanding of research developments in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.
Searching for weekend reading? We’ve organized all of the topics covered in Quanta in an alphabetized, scrollable Index page: https://www.quantamagazine.org/topics
The most fundamental aspects of nature stay the same even as they seem to shape-shift in unexpected ways. This symmetry has been vital to decoding how reality works, but will it help us find new physics? https://www.quantamagazine.org/einstein-symmetry-and-the-future-of-physics-20190626/
Lurking behind Einstein’s theory of gravity and our modern understanding of particle physics is the deceptively simple idea of symmetry. But physicists are
“All of a sudden we had this list of numbers,” said astrophysicist Chuck Bennett, about mapping the cosmic microwave background (CMB) for the first time and learning the precise contents of the cosmos. The CMB is a snapshot of the young universe that has become the central pillar of modern cosmology: It reveals the cosmos’s age and shape and exactly how much dark matter and dark energy it contains. Here’s how the universe scrawled such a telling message in the cosmic microwave background, and how researchers learned to read it. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-the-cosmic-microwave-background-reveals-the-universes-contents-20200128/
A photograph of the infant cosmos reveals the precise amounts of dark matter and dark energy in the universe, leaving precious little room for argument.
“Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire” is the Quanta science collection that takes its readers on what Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum calls “an exploration of the universe with all its mystery and wonder and starlit dazzle, told by some of the best science writers working today.”
It's available in audiobook form here:
https://www.audible.com/pd/Alice-and-Bob-Meet-the-Wall-of-Fire-Audiobook/140017063X
And here:
https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Bob-Meet-Wall-Fire/dp/B07S37M992/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Check out this great listen on Audible.com. Bringing together the best and most interesting science stories appearing in Quanta Magazine over the past five years, Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire reports on some of the greatest scientific minds as they test the limits of human knowledge. It com.....
From 2018: For decades, when atmospheric scientists developed weather and climate models, they mostly left out effects from forests and vegetation. That may have been a serious omission: Recent simulations from Abigail Swann at the University of Washington and other researchers suggest that the “flying rivers” of water vapor released by major forests can change patterns of rainfall and drought thousands of miles away. https://www.quantamagazine.org/forests-emerge-as-a-major-overlooked-climate-factor-20181009/
New work at the intersection of atmospheric science and ecology is finding that forests can influence rainfall and climate from across a continent.
Space weather scientist Liz MacDonald studies unique atmospheric phenomena such as the aurora called STEVE.
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Physicists are struggling to develop a quantum theory of gravity. Current efforts make use of both reductionism and emergence — two overarching principles of modern science. https://www.quantamagazine.org/to-solve-the-biggest-mystery-in-physics-join-two-kinds-of-law-20170907/
Reductionism breaks the world into elementary building blocks. Emergence finds the simple laws that arise out of complexity. These two complementary ways of
Feynman diagrams have helped physicists model particle collisions for decades, but improved experimental precision is pushing the tool to its breaking point. New math may help physicists streamline the monstrous math within Feynman “loops.” https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-particle-collision-math-may-offer-quantum-clues-20200820/
Physicists have identified an algebraic structure underlying the messy mathematics of particle collisions. Some hope it will lead to a more elegant theory of
Here’s how renormalization, a “dippy process” crafted by Richard Feynman to save quantum electrodynamics, became as ubiquitous in physics as calculus: https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-renormalization-saved-particle-physics-20200917
Renormalization has become perhaps the single most important advance in theoretical physics in 50 years.
Lea nuestra artículo en español por Investigación y Ciencia: Un nuevo material colorido que revela dónde siente la tensión está ayudando a los matemáticos a entender por qué algunos nudos son mejores que otros. https://www.investigacionyciencia.es/noticias/por-qu-algunos-nudos-son-ms-fuertes-que-otros-18310
Un nuevo material que cambia de color unifica las matemáticas y la física de los nudos.
Mathematicians add structures to spaces that enhance the information these spaces contain. But the added structure also limits the ways they can deform a space without fundamentally changing it. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-physics-gifted-math-with-a-new-geometry-20200729/
Systole, the moment when our heart contracts and pumps out blood, seems to impact our experience of fear. “Systole is the point when you’re least sensitive to the world… when the inner world rules,” said neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-your-heart-influences-what-you-perceive-and-fear-20200706/
The heartbeat and other bodily processes play a surprising role in shaping perception and cognition.
The sunflower conjecture predicts that certain kinds of randomness will inevitably yield a flower-like pattern. After more than a half-century of failure, mathematicians have made major progress in proving the idea true, thanks to insights from the world of theoretical computer science. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematicians-begin-to-tame-wild-sunflower-problem-20191021/
A major advance toward solving the 60-year-old sunflower conjecture is shedding light on how order begins to appear as random systems grow in size.
Computer scientists Jacob Holm and Eva Rotenberg found a key to improving a 20-year-old algorithm in an unexpected place — their own paper. “We might have given the whole thing away,” said Holm. https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-algorithm-for-graph-crossings-hiding-in-plain-sight-20200915/
Two computer scientists found — in the unlikeliest of places — just the idea they needed to make a big leap in graph theory.
With a paper whose main argument can be boiled down to just one page of dense mathematics, Russian researcher Yaroslav Sh*tov ended a 50-year debate within the field of graph theory. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematician-disproves-hedetniemis-graph-theory-conjecture-20190617/
The cells of the immune system were often given bloodthirsty names, like “natural killer cells” and “macrophages,” to reflect how avidly they destroy bacteria and other pathogens in the body. But researchers are finding that some of these cells have a more nurturing side, too: healing tissues, stabilizing heartbeats, trimming networks of blood vessels, pruning unwanted synapses and preserving pregnancies. “Instead of being killers, they are really builders,” one researcher said. https://www.quantamagazine.org/immune-cell-assassins-reveal-their-nurturing-side-20200211
Don’t be misled by the bloodthirsty names of immune cells. Mounting research shows that the cells also fine-tune tissues and help the body heal.
Thousands of healthcare workers around the world are volunteering to receive the BCG tuberculosis vaccine in clinical tests of whether it might slow the spread of COVID-19. https://www.quantamagazine.org/trained-immunity-offers-hope-in-fight-against-coronavirus-20200914
A novel form of immunological memory that was mostly ignored for a century extends the benefits of vaccines. It could be of help in ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only three geometries fit the cosmological criteria for the shape of the universe: flat, spherical, and hyperbolic. In this explainer, we visualize what life would look like inside each geometry and explore the most likely possibilities for our universe.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/what-is-the-geometry-of-the-universe-20200316/
In our mind’s eye, the universe seems to go on forever. But using geometry we can explore a variety of three-dimensional shapes that offer alternatives to
Sometimes, proving that a math problem is impossible requires inventing new math altogether. https://www.quantamagazine.org/when-math-gets-impossibly-hard-20200914/
Mathematicians have long grappled with the reality that some problems just don’t have solutions.
From 2017: In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled extreme partisan gerrymandering — or drawing voting districts to give one political party an unfair advantage — unconstitutional. But how do you test how much is too much? New approaches based on math and quantitative social science may help.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-mathematics-behind-gerrymandering-20170404/
Powerful new quantitative tools are now available to combat partisan bias in the drawing of voting districts.
New from the Quanta Science Podcast: Today, a seafloor layered with the carbonate corpses of plankton helps stabilize the ocean’s chemistry. Before the rise of these calcifying creatures changes in the seas’ acidity were the major factor in determining the survival of marine life.
To hear the podcast episode, click the icon for your preferred listening app in the player.
https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-jurassic-plankton-stole-control-of-the-oceans-chemistry-20191001/
Only 170 million years ago, new plankton evolved. Their demand for carbon and calcium permanently transformed the seas as homes for life.
If they exist at all, odd perfect numbers would need to satisfy a “complex web of conditions which hem it on all sides.” “Spoof” numbers, generalizations of odd perfect numbers which relax some of these restrictions, are helping mathematicians look for the real thing. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematicians-open-a-new-front-on-an-ancient-number-problem-20200910/
For millennia, mathematicians have wondered whether odd perfect numbers exist, establishing an extraordinary list of restrictions for the hypothetical objects
What does it take to make a great mathematical conjecture? Robbert Dijkgraaf, the director of the Institute for Advanced study, argues that it should be plausible, concise and difficult: https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-subtle-art-of-the-mathematical-conjecture-20190507/
It’s an educated guess, not a proof. But a good conjecture will guide math forward, pointing the way into the mathematical unknown.
Our physics map provides concise descriptions of highly complex theories to form a broad network of ideas. This interactive is best viewed on a large screen. https://www.quantamagazine.org/frontier-of-physics-interactive-map-20150803
Explore the deepest mysteries at the frontier of fundamental physics, and the most promising ideas put forth to solve them.
How do two or more different species sometimes merge into a single symbiotic unit? Researchers have looked for clues in sets of interdependent simple organisms. But new research reveals how a profoundly deep symbiosis evolved between carpenter ants and the bacteria that help them digest wood. To ensure that they pass from one generation of ants to the next, the bacteria have taken control of the insects’ early embryonic development. https://www.quantamagazine.org/symbiotic-bacteria-tell-ant-embryos-how-to-develop-20200909/
From AlphaGo to zoology, explore the alphabet of Quanta’s coverage with our new Index page: https://www.quantamagazine.org/topics
Illuminating mathematics, physics, biology and computer science research through public service journalism.
This is the Map of Mathematics. https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-map-of-mathematics-20200213/
An unexpected measurement has presented cosmologists with a new tension to grapple with. “If we were having conferences, all the coffee chatter would be about these results.” said Michael Hudson, a cosmologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada. https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-new-cosmic-tension-the-universe-might-be-too-thin-20200908/
Cosmologists have concluded that the universe doesn’t appear to clump as much as it should. Could both of cosmology’s big puzzles share a single fix?
From the Quanta Science Podcast: How do we tune out what doesn’t matter to keep our attention where it needs to be? The quest to understand this process has revealed surprising connections between consciousness and deep, ancient parts of the brain. To hear the podcast episode, click the icon for your preferred listening app in the player. https://www.quantamagazine.org/to-pay-attention-the-brain-uses-filters-not-a-spotlight-20190924/
A brain circuit that suppresses distracting sensory information holds important clues about attention and other cognitive processes.
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Space weather scientist Liz MacDonald studies unique atmospheric phenomena such as the aurora called STEVE. ••• 📖 Want to know more? Read "The Scientist Leading the World’s Aurora Hunters” at QuantaMagazine.org ••• 📹@rosemmorton & Jennifer Hsu for Quanta Magazine ••• #physics #aurora #aurorasaurus #auroraborealis #auroras #astrophoto #astrophotography #nightskyphotography #physicsstudents #physicsteachers #ilovephysics #physicsisfun #physicsclass #quanta #science #sciencenews #research #scientific #STEM #scienceisawesome #scienceiscool #womeninSTEM #thisiswhatascientistlookslike #womeninscience #lizmacdonald #visualfodder #scientificfacts #interesting
We’re interested in hearing your ideas about how Quanta can improve. If you can spare 10 minutes to take our reader survey, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a free Quanta Magazine t-shirt, tote bag or book. http://quantamagazine.org/survey
This is the Map of Mathematics. https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-map-of-mathematics-20200213/
Mathematician Emily Riehl is working to unify higher category theory using category theory itself. https://www.quantamagazine.org/emily-riehl-conducts-the-mathematical-orchestra-from-the-middle-20200902/
Ronald Rivest of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes the role of computers in voting and what makes elections trustworthy. https://www.quantamagazine.org/rsa-cryptographer-ronald-rivest-seeks-secure-elections-20200312/
Once you know R₀ (“R naught”), the average rate of infection of a disease, you can plug it into a simple formula for calculating the herd immunity threshold: 1 – 1/ R₀. When a virus reaches that threshold, its spread slows and eventually ends. Broad estimates place the herd immunity threshold for COVID-19 at 60%, but a host of environmental and individual factors significantly complicate this calculation. https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-tricky-math-of-covid-19-herd-immunity-20200630/
Just like a viola adds depth to an orchestra, category theory adds depth to mathematics by bridging between theorems from different parts of the field. https://www.quantamagazine.org/emily-riehl-conducts-the-mathematical-orchestra-from-the-middle-20200902/
In a recent paper with echoes of Alan Turing, computer scientists have proven that entangled quantum computers can theoretically be used to verify answers to an incredibly vast set of problems. The work has unleashed a cascade of consequences in quantum mechanics and pure mathematics. www.quantamagazine.org/landmark-computer-science-proof-cascades-through-physics-and-math-20200304/
“Mosquitoes are hungry for people. What if we feed them human diet drugs? Can we turn off that hunger? Can we trick them into feeling like ... they already have filled up on our blood?” — Leslie Vosshall, neuroscientist, on “The Joy of x” https://www.quantamagazine.org/leslie-vosshall-on-designer-mosquitoes-and-dude-walls-20200204/
From the NY Emmy Award-winning second season of our In Theory video series: On the large scale, fluid flows behave with a predictable semblance of order. But on the small scale, chaos abounds. The culprit behind the trouble is turbulence — a surprisingly hard phenomenon for physicists and mathematicians to describe. In our latest In Theory video, we explore just what it is that makes the ever-splitting eddies and vortices of a turbulent flow so hard to track. https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-turbulence-is-a-hard-physics-problem-20190128/
Mathematician Emily Riehl of Johns Hopkins University hopes to make infinity category theory — a never-ending tower of equivalences — accessible to more mathematicians. ••• Read the full interview at QuantaMagazine.org: https://www.quantamagazine.org/emily-riehl-conducts-the-mathematical-orchestra-from-the-middle-20200902/ ••• 0:00 What is category theory? 0:37 Fundamental Theorem of Category Theory 1:27 Infinity Categories 2:01 Model-Specific Infinity Categories 2:51 Infinity Cosmoi ••• Video by Kirby Griffin & Jennifer Hsu for Quanta Magazine for Quanta Magazine ••• Sign up for our weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/6FnWj ••• #math #mathematics #matematicas #categorytheory #geometry #topology #algebra #mathclass #johnshopkins #quanta #science #sciencenews #research #scientific #STEM #scienceisawesome #myfeatureshoot #phroom #scienceiscool #womeninSTEM #womeninmath #thisiswhatamathematicianlookslike #viola #australianfootball #lgbtstem #lgbtinstem #womeninmathematics #emilyriehl #visualfodder #interesting
Richard Feynman called turbulence the most important unsolved problem in classical physics. Solving a major question related to vortices has also proven immensely useful to the wide spectrum of researchers who study turbulence. https://www.quantamagazine.org/an-unexpected-twist-lights-up-the-secrets-of-turbulence-20200903/
The equal sign forms the bedrock of mathematics. Some mathematicians think it needs to be replaced. https://www.quantamagazine.org/with-category-theory-mathematics-escapes-from-equality-20191010/
In the early 1960s, the meteorologist Edward Lorenz began making paradigm-wrecking discoveries about the peculiar concept of chaos. But half of that story has gone untold until now: It was the simulations by the coders Ellen Fetter and Margaret Hamilton that uncovered strange attractors and other phenomena at the heart of Lorenz’s chaos theory. The minimization of these women’s role reflects science historians’ love for “solitary genius” narratives but also other tensions in programming that persist today. https://www.quantamagazine.org/hidden-heroines-of-chaos-ellen-fetter-and-margaret-hamilton-20190520/
When an external trigger — a force, pressure, a magnet or electric field — is applied to a caloric material, its temperature can change drastically. In the last year, researchers have identified two unique types of materials that can change by an unprecedented amount of 30 degrees Celsius or more. https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-caloric-materials-cool-and-protect-the-environment-20200824/
Claudia de Rham studies “massive gravity” to understand why the universe behaves the way it does. Read the full interview at QuantaMagazine.org ••• Video by Philipp Ammon & Jennifer Hsu for Quanta Magazine for Quanta Magazine ••• #physics #darkenergy #hubbleconstant #theoreticalphysics #massivegravity #gravitons #theuniverse #theoreticalphysics #physicsteachers #ilovephysics #physicsisfun #physicsclass #quanta #science #sciencenews #research #scientific #STEM #scienceisawesome #scienceiscool #womeninSTEM #womeninphysics #thisiswhatascientistlookslike #womeninscience #claudiaderham #visualfodder #scientificfacts #interesting
Three recent papers use an “algebraic gadget” to streamline calculations involving simple particle collisions. The work could help physicists usher in the next generation of theoretical predictions. ••• 📖 Want to know more? Read "Big Bounce Simulations Challenge the Big Bang” at QuantaMagazine.org (link in bio) ••• 🎨 vchal ••• #physics #quantum #quantumphysics #particlephysics #particles #feynman #feynmandiagrams #mathematics #math #beautifulscience #scienceisbeautiful #cosmologyfacts #physicsteachers #physicsclass #artandscience #scienceandart #sciart #inspiredbyscience #physicsoftheuniverse #quanta #science #sciencenews #STEM #scienceisawesome #didyouknowgram #visualfodder #interesting #thedesigntip #motiongraphics #motionmate
Stephen Hawking discovered that a black hole’s entropy is proportional to its surface area. Now, researchers have found a surprising connection between a black hole’s entropy and the maximum amount of charge it can hold. https://www.quantamagazine.org/black-hole-paradoxes-reveal-a-fundamental-link-between-energy-and-order-20200528/
When James Maynard was three, a health assessor told his mother that he’d have problems in school. “I was definitely one of those annoying kids who would say ‘Why? Why? Why?’ all the time,” he said. Now he’s one of the world’s leading number theorists answering some of the toughest questions about prime numbers. Read the full interview at QuantaMagazine.org. ••• Video by Tom Medwell & Jennifer Hsu for Quanta Magazine ••• #math #mathematics #mathematicians #mathematical #ilovemath #mathisfun #twinprimesconjecture #numbertheory #mathisbeautiful #oxford #mathstudent #mathteacher #quanta #sciencenews #scienceisawesome #themoreyouknow #primenumbers #scientific #STEM #exploreeverything #artandscience #scienceandart #mathandart #myfeatureshoot #phroom #thisveryinstant #visualfodder #scientificfacts #mathfacts #interesting
Math from the 1700s gave physicists the tools to calculate the tuning of Earth’s atmosphere, but patchy meteorological data made it difficult to hear the notes. Now, two exquisite data sets have helped scientists hear the full symphony. https://www.quantamagazine.org/weather-data-reveals-long-predicted-pressure-waves-20200813/
From 2018: Did the universe have a beginning? Or is the current phase of cosmological expansion part of an endless cycle of expansions and contractions? The Big Bang theory has long dominated as the prevailing idea about the origin of the universe, but recently, the alternative possibility is garnering renewed interest. Now, two new papers suggest ways that the universe could theoretically “bounce” from one cycle to the next. https://www.quantamagazine.org/big-bounce-models-reignite-big-bang-debate-20180131/
In an interview with Quanta, Katie Mack - Astrophysicist describes the most likely scenario for the end of the universe. Read the full interview at QuantaMagazine.org. Video by J. Adam Huggins & Jennifer Hsu for Quanta Magazine ••• #physics #cosmology #darkmatter #darkenergy #bigbang #bigrip #vacuumdecay #qa #astrophysics #astrophysicist #physicsstudents #physicsteachers #ilovephysics #physicsisfun #physicsclass #quanta #science #sciencenews #research #scientific #STEM #scienceisawesome #scienceiscool #womeninSTEM #thisiswhatascientistlookslike #womeninscience #katiemack #visualfodder #scientificfacts #interesting
Here is The Map of Mathematics. #mathmap www.quantamagazine.org/the-map-of-mathematics-20200213/
In 2012, John Priscu’s team drilled into a lake under 800 meters of Antarctic ice. What they found has shaped our search for life on Mars, Europa and beyond. Read the full interview here: https://www.quantamagazine.org/videos/john-priscu-and-the-search-for-life-under-ice/ Video by: Reid Morth, Emily Buder and Anna Aichinger for Quanta Magazine, with footage by Billy Collins, Kathy Kasic and NASA
In 2012, John Priscu’s team drilled into a lake under 800 meters of Antarctic ice. What they found has shaped our search for life on Mars, Europa and beyond. Read the full interview here: https://www.quantamagazine.org/videos/john-priscu-and-the-search-for-life-under-ice/ Video by: Reid Morth, Emily Buder and Anna Aichinger for Quanta Magazine, with footage by Billy Collins, Kathy Kasic and NASA
Are gravitational wave detectors like LIGO sensitive enough to observe the “noise” of passing gravitons? “That’s like asking: How can a surfer on a wave tell just from the motion that the wave is made up of droplets of water?” said cosmologist Maulik Parikh. https://www.quantamagazine.org/gravitons-revealed-in-the-noise-of-gravitational-waves-20200723/
The simplicity of the Collatz conjecture makes it highly alluring, but real progress on the problem is rare. Now, Terence Tao of UCLA has made the most significant advance in decades. The new proof doesn't resolve the problem completely, but it does prove the conjecture is “almost” true for “almost” all numbers. https://www.quantamagazine.org/mathematician-terence-tao-and-the-collatz-conjecture-20191211/
In a new paper with echoes of Alan Turing, computer scientists have proven that entangled quantum computers can theoretically be used to verify answers to an incredibly vast set of problems. The work has unleashed a cascade of consequences in quantum mechanics and pure mathematics. https://www.quantamagazine.org/landmark-computer-science-proof-cascades-through-physics-and-math-20200304/
Quanta Magazine’s goal is to enhance public understanding of science. Our reporters focus on developments in mathematics, theoretical physics, theoretical computer science and the basic life sciences. At Quanta, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. And having editorial independence ensures the impartiality of our science coverage, so while our publication was launched by the Simons Foundation, our articles do not necessarily reflect or represent the foundation’s views. https://www.quantamagazine.org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QuantaNews Twitter: https://twitter.com/QuantaMagazine Sign up for our weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/6FnWj
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