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Businesses

Survey Says: Elon Musk Is Most Admired Tech Leader, Topping Bezos and Zuckerberg (teslarati.com) 119

First Round Capital conducted a poll of 700 tech company founders and found Elon Musk to be the most admired leader in the technology industry. Elon Musk received 23 percent of the votes; 10 percent said Amazon's Jeff Bezos, 6 percent said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 5 percent wrote in Steve Jobs. First Round writes: "We launched State of Startups to capture what it means to be an entrepreneur. We asked the leaders of venture-backed companies about everything from the fundraising environment to their working relationships with their co-founders to their office's price per square foot. [...] Once again, we asked founders to write in which current tech leader they admire the most and we tallied 125 names. The Tesla and SpaceX leader held firm at the top spot (23%)..." Teslarati reports: While the survey did not ask respondents to explain their choice, it is safe to assume that Elon's propensity for setting lofty and visionary goals, and then being able to execute on them, is one trait admired most by tech founders. Most recently, Musk moved the scheduled start of production for the upcoming Model 3 midsize sedan forward by a full two years. Tesla also recently celebrated a record-setting third quarter and has been moving aggressively to close the second half of this year with 50,000 cars delivered. The company has announced a series of sweeteners to motivate people to order and take delivery of new vehicles before the end of the year. Unlimited Supercharger access for long distance travel and a, then, upcoming price hike on its entry level Model S 60, announced by the Palo Alto-based electric car maker and energy company, were incentives to stimulate sales. With plans to increase annual vehicle production by a factor of ten to twenty-fold by the end of the decade, send humans to mars and transform the energy sector, Musk's innovative solutions to rewrite humanity as we know it joins an elite rank held by few genius inventors and industrialists who have gone on to change the world.
News

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is Being Emergency Evacuated From the South Pole (businessinsider.com) 189

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced Thursday morning that it will provide a "humanitarian medical evacuation flight" from the South Pole for an "ailing" Buzz Aldrin. BusinessInsider adds: Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, joining Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 Lunar Module in July 1969. He has since become an author and advocate for crewed missions to Mars. He is 86, and no further information is available as to his condition. The NSF's statement said that an NSF plane will fly Aldrin from the Amundsen-Scott research station at the South Pole to McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast. At that point ski-equipped LC-130 cargo planes flown by the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard will haul him to New Zealand "as soon as possible."
ISS

Spinal Fluid Changes In Space May Impair Astronauts' Vision, Study Finds (sciencealert.com) 77

A condition called visual impairment inter cranial pressure syndrome (VIIP) that has been impairing astronauts' vision on the International Space Station is believed to be caused by a build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their brains. The long-duration astronauts had significantly more CSF in their brains than the short-trip astronauts. Previously, NASA suspected that the condition was caused by the lack of gravity in space. Science Alert reports: The researchers compared before and after brain scans from seven astronauts who had spent many months in the ISS, and compared them to nine astronauts who had just made short trips to and from the U.S. space shuttle, which was decommissioned in 2011. The one big difference between the two was that the long-duration astronauts had significantly more cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their brains than the short-trip astronauts, and the researchers say this - not vascular fluid - is the cause of the vision loss. Under normal circumstances, CSF is important for cushioning the brain and spinal cord, while also distributing nutrients around the body and helping to remove waste. It can easily adjust to changes in pressure that our bodies experience when transitioning from lying down to sitting or standing, but in the constant microgravity of space, it starts to falter. "On earth, the CSF system is built to accommodate these pressure changes, but in space the system is confused by the lack of the posture-related pressure changes," says one of the team, Noam Alperin. Based on the high-resolution orbit and brain MRI scans taken of their 16 astronauts, the team found that the long-duration astronauts had far higher orbital CSF volume - CSF pooling around the optic nerves in the part of the skull that holds the eye. They also had significantly higher ventricular CSF volume, which means they had more CSF accumulating in the cavities of the brain where the fluid is produced.
Education

Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash (vice.com) 137

Tuesday a Canadian journalist described his newest victory in his war on fake-science journals. An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote "the world's worst science research paper...a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble" -- then got it accepted by eight different journals. ("I copied and pasted one phrase from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology...and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars...") He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, "a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate."

But earlier this year, one such operation actually purchased two prominent Canadian medical journals, and one critic warns they're "on a buying spree, snatching up legitimate scholarly journals and publishers, incorporating them into its mega-fleet of bogus, exploitative, and low-quality publications.â So this summer, Spears explains to Vice, "I got this request to write for what looked like a fake journal -- of ethics. Something about that attracted me... one morning in late August when I woke up early I made extra coffee and banged out some drivel and sent it to them."

He's now publicizing the fact that this formerly-respectable journal is currently featuring his submission, which was "mostly plagiarized from Aristotle, with every fourth or fifth word changed so that anti-plagiarism software won't catch it. But the result is meaningless. Some sentences don't have verbs..."
Mars

An Underground Ice Deposit On Mars Is Bigger Than New Mexico (popularmechanics.com) 113

schwit1 quotes a report from Popular Mechanics: A single underground deposit of ice on Mars contains about as much water as there is in Michigan's Lake Superior, according to new research from NASA. The deposit rests in the mid-northern latitudes of the Red Planet, specifically in the Utopia Planitia region. Discovered by the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARD) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the deposit is "more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico," according to a NASA press release. It ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, and has a composition that's 50 to 85 percent water ice, with what appears to be dust or larger rocky particles mixed in as well. None of the ice is exposed to the surface. At various points the dirt covering it is in between 3 and 33 feet thick.
Mars

ESA: European Mars Lander Crash Caused By 1-Second Glitch (space.com) 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The European Space Agency (ESA) on Nov. 23 said its Schiaparelli lander's crash landing on Mars on Oct. 19 followed an unexplained saturation of its inertial measurement unit (IMU), which delivered bad data to the lander's computer and forced a premature release of its parachute. Polluted by the IMU data, the lander's computer apparently thought it had either already landed or was just about to land. The parachute system was released, the braking thrusters were fired only briefly and the on-ground systems were activated. Instead of being on the ground, Schiaparelli was still 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) above the Mars surface. It crashed, but not before delivering what ESA officials say is a wealth of data on entry into the Mars atmosphere, the functioning and release of the heat shield and the deployment of the parachute -- all of which went according to plan. In its Nov. 23 statement, ESA said the saturation reading from Schiaparelli's inertial measurement unit lasted only a second but was enough to play havoc with the navigation system. ESA said the sequence of events "has been clearly reproduced in computer simulations of the control system's response to the erroneous information." ESA's director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, David Parker, said in a statement that ExoMars teams are still sifting through the voluminous data harvest from the Schiaparelli mission, and that an external, independent board of inquiry, now being created, would release a final report in early 2017.
Sci-Fi

'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV (ew.com) 227

HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein's publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a "nonalcoholic martini." "From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't just a science fiction masterpiece [...] it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!" says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. "The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today's world. As a fan, I can't wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event." A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein's novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
Earth

Atlas V Rocket Launches Sharp-Eyed Earth-Observing Satellite (space.com) 19

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: A super-powerful Earth-observing spacecraft has finally taken to the skies, nearly two months after a wildfire nixed its first launch attempt. The WorldView-4 satellite lifted off today (Nov. 11) at 1:30 p.m. EST (10:30 a.m. local time; 1830 GMT), riding a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base to a near sun-synchronous, pole-to-pole orbit. In addition, seven tiny cubesats were onboard in a "ridesharing" initiative. All of the cubesats manifested for the WorldView-4 mission are sponsored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of the United States' spy satellites, and are unclassified technology-demonstration programs. The Atlas-V that lofted WorldView-4 today had been scheduled to launch NASA's InSight Mars lander earlier this year, before issues with one of InSight's instruments delayed the Red Planet probe's liftoff until 2018. WorldView-4 is a multispectral, high-resolution commercial imaging satellite owned and operated by DigitalGlobe of Westminster, Colorado, and built by the aerospace company Lockheed Martin. Its mission is to provide high-resolution color imagery to commercial, government and international customers. Once in operation, WorldView-4 has a global capacity to image 260,000 square miles (680,000 square kilometers) per day. You can watch the launch video here via United Launch Alliance.
United States

Why America Needs India's Rockets (bloomberg.com) 112

Since 2005, U.S. satellite manufacturers have been prohibited from hiring India's space agency to launch their equipment. Private American launch companies, such as SpaceX, are quite happy with this arrangement, which was intended to protect them. But the ban is not only wrong in principle -- it's actually impeding an exciting new American industry, according to Bloomberg. From the article: Last month, under pressure from satellite operators and manufacturers, U.S. trade officials began reviewing the decade-old policy. They should heed the pressure and overturn it. Emerging India may seem like an unlikely competitor for Silicon Valley rocket companies. Yet since 1969, the Indian Space Research Organization has consistently punched above its modest weight class, racking up a series of cheap and practical achievements. One of its most important feats was the development of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which was designed to carry satellites for monitoring agriculture and water resources, among other things. What made the PSLV unique was that it was designed to launch small satellites. And that's a good niche to occupy at the moment. Over the past few years, the small-satellite market has boomed as advances in miniaturization made space accessible to governments and companies that might never have considered it. The uses for such gear seem almost limitless, from shoebox-sized climate-monitoring devices to Samsung's plan to use thousands of micro-satellites to provide global internet access. Some $2.5 billion has been invested in the industry over the past decade. But getting all those satellites into space is now proving to be a problem, and U.S. policy is partly to blame.The article adds that apart from SpaceX, no other U.S. company has offered a rocket for small satellite launches, even though the demand has surged. This in turn, has resulted in American satellite companies with few choices. Though the U.S. Trade Representatives has offered occasional waivers from the moratorium, India continues to offer a far cheaper reliable option, and it's not even being considered.

To offer more context, India's Mars mission has a budget of $73 million -- making it far cheaper than comparable missions including NASA's $671 million Maven satellite. Further reading on Vox.com, "India's mission to Mars cost less than the movie Gravity."
Mars

NASA: We're Not Racing SpaceX To Mars (seeker.com) 98

astroengine writes: According to NASA's new science chief Thomas Zurbuchen, the U.S. space agency doesn't see SpaceX as a competitor in a race to Mars and that if any private company gets there before NASA, it will be cause for celebration and a huge science boon. "If Elon Musk brought the samples in the door right now I'd throw him a party out of my own money," Zurbuchen told reporters on Monday. He also said that polarizing topics, including science issues, need to be tackled with empathy for and patience with people who have opposing viewpoints. "Just because somebody doesn't agree with us the first time we open our mouths doesn't mean that they're stupid, or we're smart, or the other way around. I think it's really important to create, bring some empathy to the table," he told Seeker. "There's a lot of stuff that can be learned by just talking to people." The report adds: "Before joining NASA, Zurbuchen was a professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His areas of expertise include solar and heliospheric physics, experimental space research, innovation and entrepreneurship, NASA said in a statement."
Earth

Where Does Jeff Bezos Foresee Putting Space Colonists? Inside O'Neill Cylinders (geekwire.com) 151

Elon Musk of SpaceX wants to settle humans on Mars. Some talk about taking the Moon Village route. But Jeff Bezos has a different kind of off-Earth home in mind when he talks about having millions of people living and working in space. His long-range vision focuses on a decades-old concept for huge artificial habitats that are best known today as O'Neill cylinders. From a report on GeekWire (edited and condensed): The concept was laid out in 1976 in a classic book by physicist Gerard O'Neill, titled "The High Frontier." The idea is to create cylinder-shaped structures in outer space, and give them enough of a spin that residents on the inner surface of the cylinder could live their lives in Earth-style gravity. The habitat's interior would be illuminated either by reflected sunlight or sunlike artificial light. Bezos referred to his long-term goal of having millions of people living and working in space, as well as his enabling goal of creating the 'heavy lifting infrastructure' to make that happen. In Bezos' view, dramatically reducing the cost of access to space is a key step toward those goals. "Then we get to see Gerard O'Neill's ideas start to come to life, and many of the other ideas from science fiction," Bezos said. "The dreamers come first. It's always the science-fiction guys: They think of everything first, and then the builders come along and they make it happen. But it takes time." For Musk, the prime driver behind settling people on Mars is to provide a backup plan for humanity in the event of a planetwide catastrophe -- an asteroid strike, for example, or environmental ruin, or a species-killing pandemic. Bezos sees a different imperative at work: humanity's growing need for energy. "We need to go into space if we want to continue growing civilization," he explained. "If you take baseline energy usage on Earth and compound it at just 3 percent per year for less than 500 years, you have to cover the entire surface of the Earth in solar cells. That's just not going to happen. [...] I predict that in the next few hundred years, all heavy industry will move off planet. It will be just way more convenient to do it in space, where you have better access to resources, better access to 24/7 solar power," he said last weekend. "Solar power on Earth is not that great, because the planet shades us half the time. In space, you get solar power all the time. So there'll be a lot of advantages to doing heavy manufacturing there, and Earth will end up zoned residential and light industry. [...] We want to go to space to save the Earth. I don't like the 'Plan B' idea that we want to go to space so we have a backup planet. ... We have sent probes to every planet in this solar system, and believe me, this is the best planet. There is no doubt. This is the one that you want to protect."
Space

Bad Code May Have Crashed Schiaparelli Mars Lander (nature.com) 163

cadogan west writes "In the accordance with the longstanding tradition of bad software wrecking space probes (See Mariner 1), it appears a coding bug crashed the ESA's latest attempt to land on Mars." Nature reports: Thrusters, designed to decelerate the craft for 30 seconds until it was metres off the ground, engaged for only around 3 seconds before they were commanded to switch off, because the lander's computer thought it was on the ground. The lander even switched on its suite of instruments, ready to record Mars's weather and electrical field, although they did not collect data...

The most likely culprit is a flaw in the craft's software or a problem in merging the data coming from different sensors, which may have led the craft to believe it was lower in altitude than it really was, says Andrea Accomazzo, ESA's head of solar and planetary missions. Accomazzo says that this is a hunch; he is reluctant to diagnose the fault before a full post-mortem has been carried out... But software glitches should be easier to fix than a fundamental problem with the landing hardware, which ESA scientists say seems to have passed its test with flying colours.

Mars

Elon Musk's Mars Colony Would Have a Horde of Mining Robots (engadget.com) 222

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.
Mars

"Splat" of Schiaparelli Mars Lander Likely Found (spaceflightnow.com) 106

Long-time Slashdot reader Tablizer quotes Space Flight Now: Views from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released Friday show the crash site where Europe's experimental Schiaparelli lander fell to the red planet's surface from a height of several miles, leaving a distinct dark patch on the Martian landscape...The image from MRO's context camera shows two new features attributed to the Schiaparelli spacecraft, including a large dark scar spanning an estimated 50 feet (15 meters) by 130 feet (40 meters). Schiaparelli's ground team believes it is from the high-speed impact of the lander's main body... A little more than a half-mile (1 kilometer) to the south, a bright spot appears in the image, likely the 39-foot-diameter (12-meter) supersonic parachute and part of Schiaparelli's heat shield, which released from the lander just before ESA lost contact."
EU

Schiaparelli Mars Lander May Have Exploded On Impact, European Agency Says (npr.org) 112

Instead of drifting gently onto Mars' surface, the Schiaparelli Mars lander hit the planet hard -- and possibly exploded, the European Space Agency said today. NPR adds: The NASA images, taken on Oct. 20, show two recent changes to the landscape on Mars' surface -- one dark blotch, and one white speck -- which are being interpreted as Schiaparelli's parachute and its crash site. With the warning that analysis is still ongoing, here are the details the ESA is sharing Friday: "Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometers, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h [186 mph]. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full." That sequence of events followed the lander's largely trouble-free approach to the Martian surface, a trip that was being widely watched on Wednesday, when the craft lost contact with the ESA and its Mars mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, just before its touchdown.
Space

Schiaparelli Mars Probe's Parachute 'Jettisoned Too Early', Whereabouts Still Unknown (bbc.com) 185

An anonymous reader writes: Europe's Schiaparelli lander did not behave as expected as it headed down to the surface of Mars on Wednesday. Telemetry data recovered from the probe during its descent indicates that its parachute was jettisoned too early. The rockets it was supposed to use to bring itself to a standstill just above the ground also appeared to fire for too short a time. The European Space Agency (Esa) has not yet conceded that the lander crashed but the mood is not positive. Experts will continue to analyse the data and they may also try to call out to Schiaparelli in the blind hope that it is actually sitting on the Red Planet intact. In addition, the Americans will use one of their satellites at Mars to image the targeted landing zone to see if they can detect any hardware. Although, the chances are slim because the probe is small. For the moment, all Esa has to work with is the relatively large volume of engineering data Schiaparelli managed to transmit back to the "mothership" that dropped it off at Mars - the Trace Gas Orbiter.
Mars

ESA Lander's Signal Cut Out Just Before It Was Supposed To Land on Mars (arstechnica.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: On Wednesday, the European Space Agency sought to become the second entity to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars with its Schiaparelli lander. And everything seemed to be going swimmingly right up until the point that Schiaparelli was to touch down. The European scientists had been tracking the descent of Schiaparelli through an array of radio telescopes near Pune, India and were able to record the moment when the vehicle exited a plasma blackout. The scientists also received a signal that indicated parachute deployment. But during the critical final moments, when nine hydrazine-powered thrusters were supposed to fire to arrest Schiaparelli's descent, the signal disappeared. At that point, the European Space Agency's webcast went silent for several minutes before one of the flight directors could be heard to say, "We expected the signal to continue, but clearly it did not. We don't want to jump to conclusions."
China

China Just Launched Two Astronauts Into Orbit (bbc.com) 265

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: China has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 23:30 GMT on Sunday [7:30 p.m. EST].

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

NBC calls this evidence of "the intensifying U.S.-China space rivalry... With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space."
United States

White House: AI Holds the Potential To Be a Major Driver of Economic Growth and Social Progress (venturebeat.com) 121

A day after the Obama administration outlined its vision and plans to send people to Mars by 2030s, it has now concluded the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on economic growth, transportation, the environment, and criminal justice. "The Administration believes that it is critical that industry, civil society, and government work together to develop the positive aspects of the technology, manage its risks and challenges, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to help in building an A.I.-enhanced society and to participate in its benefits." VentureBeat adds: The report, dubbed "Preparing for the future of Artificial Intelligence," highlights a number of areas of both opportunity and concern when it comes to A.I. These include:
- The need to adjust regulatory procedures to account for A.I.
- Better coordination and funding of government-led A.I. research initiatives.
- Further study and monitoring of the economic impact of A.I. on jobs.
- "Ethical training" of people in A.I. fields, particularly as the technology is used to control more real-world objects that could lead to concerns about safety and security.
- Creating a clear U.S. policy regarding the development and use of "Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems."

Businesses

NASA To Allow Private Companies To Hook Up Modules To ISS (theverge.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Private space companies may soon get the opportunity to add their own habitat modules to the outside of the International Space Station. That's according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who announced the new initiative today as a way to help expand the number of companies and people that can do work and research in space. That can eventually help companies gain the experience and capability to create private space stations of their own. "A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations," wrote Bolden in a White House blog post. The announcement of this new opportunity comes just a few months after NASA asked private companies for ideas of how they might use one of the docking ports on the ISS. Based on the responses NASA received, Bolden said companies had a "strong desire" to attach commercial modules to the station that could benefit both NASA and the private sector. Bolden didn't specify which companies expressed interest, but one company in particular, Bigelow Aerospace, has been very vocal about its desire to hook up habitats to the ISS; the company wants to attach its next big inflatable habitat, the B330, to the ISS as early as 2020. One of Bigelow's experimental habitats is already connected to the ISS, though its stay is only temporary and meant to gather data about Bigelow's habitat technology. While the new ISS initiative is meant to foster innovation in the private sector, it will also presumably help jumpstart the space station's transition from a state-run project to one helmed by the private sector. The ISS is set to retire in 2024, and NASA is looking to move beyond lower Earth orbit and send humans to Mars by the mid-2030s. But before NASA abandons the ISS, the space agency wants to leave the orbiting lab in some private company's capable hands. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit," Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said at a press conference in August. President Barack Obama also said Tuesday that the country will send Americans to Mars by the 2030s and return them "safely to Earth," which is part of a long-term goal to "one day remain there for an extended time."

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