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Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
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PostPosted: 25-03-2008 07:26    Post subject: Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Reply with quote

This subject has been mentioned in a few other threads, but as it should provide a wealth of new data and theories in physics I feel it deserves a thread of its own.

The Big Bang: atom-smaching could uncover truth
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 25/03/

Scientists hope that a new atom-smashing machine will allow them to replicate the beginning of the universe and uncover truths about how it works, says Graham Farmalo

In a few months' time, the world's most powerful atom-smasher will be switched on at the CERN laboratory near Geneva.

Scientists hope the new machine will further their understanding of the fundamental laws that underlie the workings of the universe - "to know the mind of God", in Stephen Hawking's arresting phrase.

Plans are afoot at Radio 4 to mark the event by devoting programming to particle physics, broadcasting from the lab throughout the day on which the physicists switch on their new toy, the biggest scientific instrument ever built.

It will enable them to recreate - fleetingly - the state of the universe during the early stages of the Big Bang. Quite how early beggars belief: a millionth of a millionth of a second after the beginning of time.

One of the leading theorists of the younger generation, Nima Arkani-Hamed of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, summarises the excitement: "We have been waiting for a generation for the new machine to turn on. Our world view is set to change dramatically, and we can't wait to get started."

The machine is known as the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC (hadron is the technical name of the class of sub-atomic particles to which protons belong).

The LHC will do something essentially very simple: record what happens when protons are smashed together.

This way of finding out about Nature might seem crude, but there is no alternative: protons, each about a tenth of a thousandth as wide as an atom, are much too small to see, cut up or probe in any other way.

This strategy of arranging brutal, sub-atomic smash-ups has paid handsome dividends over the past three-quarters of a century.

Its first great success was the talk of the country in 1932 when the Cambridge experimenters John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton split the atom by firing protons into the core of lithium atoms, producing atoms of a different type, helium.

In a piece of nuclear alchemy, they had turned one type of chemical element into another.

Science has come a long way since then. Cockcroft and Walton's particle accelerator was a pea-shooter compared with the LHC, which delivers protons with 10 million times the energy.

The particle beams in the new collider circulate in a tunnel 17 miles long, about 100m below the Swiss-French border. The collisions take place in huge detectors, one of them called Atlas, so vast it would only just fit inside Westminster Abbey.

Some 10,000 physicists and engineers from 100 countries are working on the £4.4 billion machine. For every adult in the UK, the annual cost of contributing to the project is about the price of one pint of beer.

So is it worth it? Yes - because the LHC will probe more deeply into the heart of atoms than ever before, 10 times more deeply than any previous machine.

To do this, its operators have to assemble batches of particles, each consisting of hundreds of billions of protons, and accelerate them to within a gnat's whisker of the speed of light, while subtly tweaking the motion of each batch so that it keeps to the right path.

In the tunnel - the largest fridge in the world, colder than outer space - two batches will circulate in opposite directions, ready to meet in virtually head-on collisions. Forty million such collisions will take place every second, generating a spray of hundreds or even thousands of particles.

The conditions then will be just as they were 13.7 billion years ago, at the start of the Big Bang.

This, inevitably, will produce a lot of data - indeed, the experiments will fill some 600 stacks of CDs, each of them as high as the Eiffel Tower. The data processing, to be carried out by researchers all over the world, is one of the biggest challenges computer scientists have ever tackled.

What do they expect to find when they begin poring over the results, probably early next year?

They would certainly like to improve their current theory about the forces that bind together the particles in every atom. Known as the Standard Model, this is one of the triumphs of 20th-century science and fits in with the results of all experiments ever done on sub-atomic particles.

The problem is that no one has ever observed a crucial ingredient, the Higgs particle, whose existence goes some way to explain why atoms contain particles that have weight. With confirmation or refutation of the Higgs impending, some theoreticians are getting cold feet and supporting other ideas.

This is partly because the Standard Model is far from perfect. For theorists, too much in it is arbitrary. Nobody, for example, understands the masses of Nature's fundamental particles and why the force of gravity is so weak compared with the other forces.

Some researchers have a new, improved model up their sleeve, based on a special kind of symmetry known as supersymmetry, which might exist at the heart of Nature.

If this is correct, there is a symmetry between the two basic classes of sub-atomic particle - ones with whole-number spins (such as the particle of light) and ones that are multiples of a half (such as the electron).

According to the equations of this symmetry, the Standard Model remains intact, but there also follow a host of new predictions, for example the existence of a slew of hitherto undiscovered particles, often called supersymmetric particles, or "sparticles".

Since supersymmetry was first mooted 30 years ago, the idea has been a favourite among particle physicists. But experimenters have found no evidence to support it - indeed, some theorists have come to doubt whether the idea is correct after all.

Perhaps all the doubts will be swept away by a menagerie of new particles when the LHC is switched on - and perhaps some of them will help account for the "dark matter" that astronomers cannot see, although they can detect its existence via the gravitational forces it exerts on other particles.

Quite a bit of this matter needs to be accounted for - about 10 thousand trillion trillion trillion tonnes.

It is also possible, as Nima Arkani-Hamed suspects, that evidence might be found for new dimensions of space and time. Perhaps the longest shot of all, though, is that the LHC will come up with results that support string theory.

According to this idea, the universe is not made of tiny, point-like particles but of tiny, vibrating pieces of string, each about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimetre long.

Many of the world's leading theorists are working flat out on this mathematically beautiful theory, but it has yet to make a prediction confirmed by experiment.

When physicists were planning the LHC, they designed it so that, according to the predictions of the best and most promising theories, it would have enough energy to explore plenty of new ground in our understanding of the way the universe ticks.

It could be that this ground is arid and the physicists find nothing exciting.

But the mood among theorists is upbeat: most are convinced that Nature is going to show that they've been on the right lines all along. In any event, the experiments will soon be marking the theoreticians' cards, as they learn how well they've done their job of being God's mindreaders.


Scheduled to begin operation in May, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will produce close to one per cent of all digital data generated on the planet. The amount stored every year by each of the big experiments would fill about 100,000 DVDs.

The LHC operates at a temperature colder than that found in outer space - about 240C colder than a domestic freezer.

The vacuum inside the LHC beam pipe is so good that there is actually 10 times more atmosphere on the Moon.

The filament making up the LHC's superconducting cable is about a tenth of the width of a human hair. If you could lay all the filament end to end, it would stretch to the Sun and back five times.

LHC protons at full energy will travel within 0.0000001 per cent of the speed of light.

An LHC beam has the total energy of a 400-tonne train travelling at 150kph. Each proton has about the energy of motion of a flea.

The Sun never sets on the LHC collaborations - members come from all seven continents except Antarctica.

The magnet system of one of the detectors contains more iron than the Eiffel Tower.

Big Bang, an exhibition about the LHC produced by the Science Museum and supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Research Council, is at Glasgow Science Centre until June 23. It will be at the World Museum, Liverpool, from June 28 until September 22.
For more information on LHC visit

Last edited by rynner on 25-03-2008 18:04; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: 25-03-2008 17:59    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please note that the people who believe that pokemon are real believe that the hadron collider may create the opening into the pokeverse.
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PostPosted: 26-03-2008 20:19    Post subject: Reply with quote

The amount stored every year by each of the big experiments would fill about 100,000 DVDs.

I suppose that more people will be using their PS3's in idle time to process the data then. Wink
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PostPosted: 01-04-2008 12:37    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Big Bang' machine could destroy the planet, says lawsuit
By Tom Leonard in New York
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 01/04/2008

A giant particle accelerator that mimicks the effects of the "Big Bang" could destroy all life on Earth by sucking it into a black hole, a lawsuit claims.

Walter Wagner, who runs a botanical garden on Hawaii's Big Island, and Luis Sancho, a Spaniard, have asked for an injunction to prevent the European Centre for Nuclear Research, or Cern, starting up the Large Hadron Collider.

The accelerator, which will be the world's most powerful particle smasher, is due to begin hurling protons at each other at its base outside Geneva this summer.

Physicists hope that the device, which has taken 14 years and £4 billion to build, will provide clues to the universe's origins by mimicking its condition a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

Although Cern scientists have already ruled out the possibility in a safety review, Mr Wagner and Mr Sancho say there is at least a small chance of total annihilation of the planet and maybe the universe.

They claim Cern has under-played the chances that the collider could produce a tiny black hole or a particle called a "killer strangelet" that would turn the Earth into a shrunken lump of "strange matter".

Their lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order banning Cern from finishing the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment.

Defendants named in the suit are Cern, the US Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the National Science Foundation. The US Justice Department said it would represent the Energy Department at a meeting over the lawsuit in Hawaii in June.

Cern is not bound by an American court's jurisdiction, but Mr Wagner said a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helped to supply the accelerator's crucial super-conduction magnets, would be enough to stop the programme. Shocked

A spokesman for Cern said the lawsuit's claims were "complete nonsense". "Much higher energy collisions than those at the LHC occur in nature, because cosmic ray particles zip around our galaxy at close to the speed of light," he said.

"The moon has undergone such collisions for five billion years without being devoured by a ravenous black hole or killer strangelet."
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PostPosted: 01-04-2008 18:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

May I be the first poster on this thread to point out that "hadron" is an anagram of "hard-on" and that there may be a tad of synchronicity with the fact that the "Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory" is also mentioned.

It's OK, I'll get my coat... Embarassed
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PostPosted: 02-04-2008 03:46    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realize that I'm just being impossibly paranoid here but I can't quite escape the creepy feeling that it was in some similar alien laboratory 12,000,000,000 years back that that other Big Bang was accidentally created. <ggggg>
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PostPosted: 06-04-2008 11:09    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coming soon: superfast internet
Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

THE internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.

At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.

The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.

David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.

The power of the grid will become apparent this summer after what scientists at Cern have termed their “red button” day - the switching-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. The grid will be activated at the same time to capture the data it generates.

Cern, based near Geneva, started the grid computing project seven years ago when researchers realised the LHC would generate annual data equivalent to 56m CDs - enough to make a stack 40 miles high.

This meant that scientists at Cern - where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989 - would no longer be able to use his creation for fear of causing a global collapse.

This is because the internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.

By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.

Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said: “We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at Cern. The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries.”

That network, in effect a parallel internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.

One terminates at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire.

From each centre, further connections radiate out to a host of other research institutions using existing high-speed academic networks.

It means Britain alone has 8,000 servers on the grid system – so that any student or academic will theoretically be able to hook up to the grid rather than the internet from this autumn.

Ian Bird, project leader for Cern’s high-speed computing project, said grid technology could make the internet so fast that people would stop using desktop computers to store information and entrust it all to the internet.

“It will lead to what’s known as cloud computing, where people keep all their information online and access it from anywhere,” he said.

Computers on the grid can also transmit data at lightning speed. This will allow researchers facing heavy processing tasks to call on the assistance of thousands of other computers around the world. The aim is to eliminate the dreaded “frozen screen” experienced by internet users who ask their machine to handle too much information.

The real goal of the grid is, however, to work with the LHC in tracking down nature’s most elusive particle, the Higgs boson. Predicted in theory but never yet found, the Higgs is supposed to be what gives matter mass.

The LHC has been designed to hunt out this particle - but even at optimum performance it will generate only a few thousand of the particles a year. Analysing the mountain of data will be such a large task that it will keep even the grid’s huge capacity busy for years to come.

Although the grid itself is unlikely to be directly available to domestic internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. One of the most potent is so-called dynamic switching, which creates a dedicated channel for internet users trying to download large volumes of data such as films. In theory this would give a standard desktop computer the ability to download a movie in five seconds rather than the current three hours or so.

Additionally, the grid is being made available to dozens of other academic researchers including astronomers and molecular biologists.

It has already been used to help design new drugs against malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills 1m people worldwide each year. Researchers used the grid to analyse 140m compounds - a task that would have taken a standard internet-linked PC 420 years.

“Projects like the grid will bring huge changes in business and society as well as science,” Doyle said.

“Holographic video conferencing is not that far away. Online gaming could evolve to include many thousands of people, and social networking could become the main way we communicate.

“The history of the internet shows you cannot predict its real impacts but we know they will be huge.”
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PostPosted: 08-04-2008 09:06    Post subject: Reply with quote

At 78, scientist hopes for proof soon that he was right about the Universe
Mark Henderson, Science Editor

The 40-year hunt for the holy grail of physics – the elusive “God particle” that is supposed to give matter its mass – is almost over, according to the leading scientist who first came up with the theory.

Peter Higgs, whose work gave his name to the elusive Higgs boson particle, said that he was more than 90 per cent certain it would be found within the next few years.

The Higgs boson was the professor’s elegant 1964 solution to one of the great problems with the standard model of physics – how matter has mass and thus exists in a form that allows it to make stars, planets and people. He proposed that the universe is pervaded by an invisible field of bosons that consist of mass but little else.

As particles move through this field, bosons effectively stick to some of them, making them more massive, while leaving others to pass unhindered. Photons, light particles that have no mass, are not affected by the Higgs field at all.

The mysterious boson postulated by Professor Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh, has become so fundamental to physics that it is often nicknamed the “God particle”. After more than 40 years of research, and billions of pounds, scientists have yet to prove that it is real. But Professor Higgs, 78, now believes the search is nearly over.

A new atom-smasher that will be switched on near Geneva later this year is virtually guaranteed to find it, he said. It is even possible that the critical evidence already exists, in data from an American experiment in Illinois that has yet to be analysed fully.

Speaking after visiting Cern, the European particle physics laboratory that has built the £2.6 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to find the Higgs boson, he praised the collaborative work behind the project, adding that such future work could be jeopardised by a funding crisis surrounding particle physics in Britain. The government agency responsible is being told to make £70 million in cuts, forcing Britain to withdraw from a project to build the successor to he LHC.

“It looks like a major disaster in the funding of this kind of physics in the UK,” said Professor Higgs. “You are letting down your international partners, and what happens after that sort of thing is they don’t trust you any more. That’s even worse than the impact on the domestic users of this machine.” Evil or Very Mad

Tantalising glimpses of the boson from other, less powerful particle accelerators, have suggested that unequivocal evidence should emerge almost immediately when the LHC begins its experiments.

The Higgs boson is hard to detect because it is hypothesised to exist only at very high energies, which last existed in nature in the moments after the Big Bang, hence the need for an atom smasher.

The LHC will fire beams of protons around a 17-mile underground tunnel before these collide at close to the speed of light to release vast bursts of energy. Four vast caverns hold sophisticated detectors that will track the particles produced by the collisions. The largest, named Atlas, is buried in a space big enough to enclose the nave of Westminster Abbey.

More than 70,000 people, including Professor Higgs, attended two open days at Cern at the weekend to see the LHC before its tunnels and experiment caverns are sealed. Professor Higgs last visited in 1987, before the LHC’s predecessor had even been built.

If the LHC is successful, all that might then stand between him and a Nobel prize will be the mammoth task of interpreting the reams of data the collider will produce - which would fill a stack of compact discs 40 miles (65km) high every year.

If all goes well, he hopes he will be celebrating by the time he turns 80 in May 2009.

“My prejudice would certainly be, on the basis of the evidence we already have, that it’s not far off,” said the professor. “But there’s a lot of analysis of the data to be done before you make the announcement that you have found it. That’s what will take the time.”

If he turns out to be right, “I will certainly open a bottle of something”, he said. If the boson is not found, however, “I should be very, very puzzled. If it’s not there, I no longer understand what I think I understand.”
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PostPosted: 11-04-2008 21:14    Post subject: Reply with quote

for those who missed the bbc2 docu
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PostPosted: 11-04-2008 21:32    Post subject: Reply with quote

TinFinger wrote:
for those who missed the bbc2 docu

That docu (like the book I'm currently reading, "The Goldilocks Enigma", by Paul Davies) expected the LHC to be switched on in 2007....

but they were both a bit premature!

(There was, IIRC, a bit of an engineering cock-up that delayed things somewhat...)
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PostPosted: 24-06-2008 08:47    Post subject: Reply with quote

Earth 'not at risk' from collider
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Our planet is not at risk from the world's most powerful particle physics experiment, a report has concluded.

The document addresses fears that the Large Hadron Collider is so energetic, it could have unforeseen consequences.

Critics are worried that mini-black holes made at the soon-to-open facility on the French-Swiss border might threaten the Earth's very existence.

But the report, issued the European Organization for Nuclear Research, says there is "no conceivable danger".

The organization - known better by its French acronym, Cern - will operate the collider underground in a 27km-long tunnel near Geneva.

This Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a powerful and complicated machine, which will smash together protons at super-fast speeds in a bid to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Six "detectors" - individual experiments - will count, trace and analyse the particles that emerge from the collisions.

Most physicists believe the risk of a cataclysm lies in the realms of science fiction. But there have been fears about the possibility of a mini-black hole - produced in the collider - swelling so that it gobbles up the Earth.

Critics have previously raised concerns that the production of weird hypothetical particles called strangelets in the LHC could trigger the mass conversion of nuclei in ordinary atoms into more strange matter - transforming the Earth into a hot, dead lump.

New particles

The lay language summary of the report, which has been written by Cern's top theorists, states: "Over the past billions of years, nature has already generated on Earth as many collisions as about a million LHC experiments - and the planet still exists."

The report added: "There is no basis for any concerns about the consequences of new particles or forms of matter that could possibly be produced by the LHC."

The new document is an update of the analysis carried out in 2003 into the safety of the collider by an independent team of scientists.

The authors of the latest report, including theoretical physicist John Ellis, confirmed that black holes could be made by the collider. But they said: "If microscopic black holes were to be singly produced by colliding the quarks and gluons inside protons, they would also be able to decay into the same types of particles that produced them."

The report added: "The expected lifetime [of a mini-black hole] would be very short."

On the strangelet issue, the report says that these particles are even less likely to be produced at the LHC than in the lower-energy Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in New York, which has been operating since 2000.

A previous battle over particle accelerator safety was fought over the US machine.

'Fundamental question'

The scientific consensus appears to be on the side of Cern's theorists.

But in 2003, Dr Adrian Kent, a theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge, wrote a paper in which he argued that scientists had not adequately calculated the risks of a "killer strangelet" catastrophe scenario.

He also expressed concern that a fundamental question (how improbable does a cataclysm have to be to warrant proceeding with an experiment?) had never been seriously inspected.

The LHC was due to switch on in 26 November 2007. The start-up has been postponed several times, however, and is currently scheduled for later this summer.

The first delay was precipitated by an accident in March 2007 during stress testing of one of the LHC's "quadrupole" magnets.

A statement carried on the Cern website from the US laboratory that provided the magnet stated that the equipment had experienced a "failure" when supporting structures "broke".

It later emerged that the magnet had exploded in the tunnel, close to one of the LHC's most important detectors, prompting the the facility to be evacuated.

In March, a complaint requesting an injunction against the LHC's switch-on was filed before the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii by seven plaintiffs.

One of the plaintiffs had previously attempted to bring a similar injunction against the RHIC over safety concerns.
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PostPosted: 24-06-2008 09:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

Science: boffin log
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 24/06/2008
Roger Highfield investigates the planet's biggest atom-smasher

The biggest atom-smasher on the planet is at last being readied for use. As well as being the most expensive piece of experimental apparatus in history, the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva will also be the largest fridge in the world - colder than outer space.

Inside a circle 17 miles in circumference, batches of particles will circulate in opposite directions, ready to meet in collisions not seen since 13.7billion years ago, at the start of the Big Bang. But to do this, the entire thing needs to be incredibly cold.

The temperatures started to drop in January last year, when the cooling of one of the machine's eight sectors began. CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) says five sectors are now at or near to their operating temperature of 1.9 degrees above absolute zero (minus 273.15C), with the remaining three getting closer.

Once all sectors are appropriately chilly, electrical testing will be concluded in readiness for the first particle beams, scheduled for mid- to late August. Responding to fears that the production of new particles will result in the creation of a black hole, or even the end of the universe, CERN commissioned a new report, which fortunately concluded that "there is no cause for concern".
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PostPosted: 25-06-2008 02:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

My GF thought this was HARDON COLLIDER
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PostPosted: 25-06-2008 06:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

BuckeyeJones wrote:
My GF thought this was HARDON COLLIDER

Cue more Viagra jokes.... Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: 25-06-2008 15:59    Post subject: Reply with quote

My son's doing a PhD in particle physics at Brunel and SLAC. His research subject is the Higgs boson.

I've asked him, when he finds some will he send me one please? Very Happy

After this he's considering moving to CERN. He says they don't make much progress there - they're just going round in circles. Rolling Eyes
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