National Geographic Daily News
3D visualization of gravitational waves produced by 2 orbiting black holes.

Gravitational waves trigger ripples in space, seen in this illustration.

ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF NASA

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published March 17, 2014

Surprisingly strong gravitational waves rippled through the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang, astronomers announced Monday, a finding that confirms the cosmos grew to a stunningly vast size in its very first moments.

The long-sought observations, taken from Antarctica, strongly support the cosmological theory of "inflation," which explains how the early universe smoothly expanded to unimaginable vastness in the first fractional second of its existence. (See: "Origins of the Universe.")

"This is a first detection of a gravitational wave signal," says physicist Clement Pryke of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, a member of the scientific team that reported the results Monday at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts. "We're firmly convinced these observations are real."

The finding means that in little more than a century, humanity has figured out not only the age of the universe—it was born about 13.82 billion years ago in the Big Bang—but also how its birth unfolded. (See also: "Proof of Big Bang Seen by Space Probe.")

"I never thought I would see these measurements made in my lifetime, and it is thrilling to learn of them," said Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who first described a theory of cosmic "inflation" in 1980. "These are very difficult measurements."

To make the gravitational wave discovery, the team studied the cosmic microwave background, leftover heat from the origin of the universe.

Imprinted across the entire sky, this relic heat reveals in minute temperature differences where matter condensed about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Those patterns also serve as a frozen snapshot of the conditions inside the moment of creation that spawned it.

That matter later condensed further to form the clusters of galaxies that fill the universe today.

Scientists on the BICEP2 team, which reported the new observations on Monday, hailed from a wide number of scientific institutions. Their team is just one of many observing the cosmic microwave background in a long-running hunt for hints to how the Big Bang happened.

The sun sets behind BICEP2 and the South Pole Telescope.
The sun sets behind BICEP2 and the South Pole Telescope.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEFAN RICHTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

The BICEP2 team did not observe gravitational waves directly. Instead, it observed their effect on the cosmic microwave background. The researchers looked for curling patterns in the distribution of temperature and matter seen there, which is a signal of gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves stretch and compress space as they travel, lumping together matter at intervals determined by the size of the stretching. Described by Einstein's theory of gravity, the waves are predicted as a signature effect of inflation, and are ruled out by competing theories.

"Thus, if this discovery is confirmed, inflationary theory does not have any real alternatives," Andrei Linde of Stanford University, who was not part of the study team, said by email.

Antarctic Observations

The discovery team relied on microwave-detecting telescopes in Antarctica, where clear skies and dry air allowed unparalleled views of the cosmic microwave background.

The South Pole measurements came over three seasons of observation from 2010 to 2012, in areas of the sky two to ten times as wide as the full moon. These wide views allowed telescopes to look for gravitational wave patterns in the cosmic microwave background.

Inflation theory held that these light particles, seen as microwaves today, should be preferentially twisted in their orientation, an effect similar to the light blocking of polarized sunglasses.

Photo of the BICEP2 telescope's focal plane.
The BICEP2 Telescope's focal plane consists of 512 superconducting microwave detectors, developed and produced at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANTHONY TURNER, JET PROPULSION LAB

Powerful Polarization

Indeed, the team reports that a distinctive polarization pattern emerged. The effect was about twice as strong as expected from indirect measures of the effect, which in recent years had been estimated by satellite observing teams.

"That is a surprise, and it does mean that gravity was working more strongly than we expected during inflation," said MIT's Guth. "It will be very reassuring to see the result confirmed."

Pryke said the finding was so surprising that the discovery team spent three years checking the result. Statistics suggest that they have a 99.9997 percent certainty of being correct.

"This is not just a home run, it is a grand slam," says physicist Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who spoke at the briefing but was not on the discovery team. "It is the smoking gun for inflation."

Graduate student Justus Brevik tests the BICEP2 readout electronics.
Graduate student Justus Brevik tests the BICEP2 readout electronics.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEFAN RICHTER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Jittering of Matter

The strong gravitational wave findings support some of the simplest models of inflation and explain how the mass of the universe first escaped from subatomic size without falling in on itself in its very first moments.

Inflation suggests that the dense energy of the Big Bang drove an exponential expansion of the boundaries of space (hence the name "inflation") within the first millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of the existence of the universe.

This rapid expansion produced the gravitational waves, Guth says, which are "just a jittering of matter in the universe."

That means that in its very first moments, the entire universe reached a size far, far larger than what is observable or will ever be observable to humanity (the "observable" universe is about 92 billion light-years across).

Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated the width of the observable universe, which is about 92 billion light-years across.

Follow Dan Vergano on Twitter.

58 comments
M. TURAN
M. TURAN

I BELIVE BIGBANG THEORY IS REAL, NOT A THEORY AND IT IS A NUCLEAR EXPLOSION. WHAT CAN CAUSE SUCH A BIG SCALE NUCLEAR REACTION ?????? AFTER ALL, NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS ARE NOT WERY RARE IN UNIVERSAL SAPACE. OUR SUN JUST 149 MILLION KM AVAY FROM OUR PLANET.

Grayson Kane
Grayson Kane

Whoa, amazing to believe how this could all happen, and eventually result in today.

What would we all do without National Geographic… Hands down the best magazine ever.



Edward Bazylinski
Edward Bazylinski

Where is the actual point where the big bang occured?

Is there such an area ?

If so, is that not in itself part of the expanding universe?

Edward Bazylinski
Edward Bazylinski

Are we still part of the big bang?  in the sense that unlike ripples in a pond that are bound by the area of the pond, the universe has no boundaries, so the ripples keep going without fading out and us along with it.

Felix Kwan
Felix Kwan

At the end of the day, is it the big bang spark from the super dense of the black hole create the universe?

Eve Rifkah
Eve Rifkah

So what existed before 13.82 billion years ago?

Jeremy Lewer
Jeremy Lewer

WOW!!! You really can appreciate just how small we are in all this. It also must prove that we are not the only life in whole universe. Its just huge.

Daniel Moran
Daniel Moran

There remains at least one valuable and competing theory defined through what is being called Carmelian Physics.  It postulates that it was never the explosion of energy in the form of matter that created the Universe but, just as the inflaton particles appeared, expanded matter -creating space, and then disappeared, it was actually space that was stretched and the resulting production of energy from the stretch was released in the form of galaxies, clusters, superclusters and galactic walls.  The expansion of space or velocity becomes the 5th dimension; width, depth, length, time being the first 4 dimensions.  


Gravity waves may not be the gravity of matter or the undetectable "inflaton" particle at all, but the residual and continuing stretch of the fabric of space itself, even as it continues to stretch.  Matter continues to be embedded in the fabric of space, and this fact can be measured with precision to account for what appears to be the nonsense of dark matter and dark energy, substances that do not adhere to rules and are required in disproportionate amounts to conveniently account for different masses behaving in "unlawful" gravitational ways with regards to the dark substances. 


I don't think we have heard the last of this.


Dan

Matt Seidner
Matt Seidner

if confirmed.

new revision, kinda cleaned up and added some more thoughts.

THEORY AND LAWS OF EVERYTHING, MATT SEIDNER DRAFT OF THINKING or i.e. a thought procces.

this may work to solve the link between the work of Einstein, Newton, quantum mechanics and the new law of how the universe was created, time and space are still expanding. Because big bang and inflation is now (pending confirmation but for the purposes of this it will be assumed) law. and answer the question of why we are here.

What if the reason we can't observe atoms is because of the relativistic speed we are traveling at across the universe!? The observing medium can not get close enough to the object being observed?! Because if the universe is still expanding we are already traveling close to the speed of light. There by bending the observed wave a kind of refraction? What is everything observed by? Electromagnetic based observation. Therefore Atoms must emit radiation at a smaller scale then we have observed so far. We cannot observe unfixed medium. I.e. the sensor must be traveling at the same exact speed to get a true reading.

That is why energy is required to bind atoms to form materials and chemical reactions for everything To align the speed of the atom to form the elements themselves.

All elements are originally traveling at a close speed to each other. Remember the theory of inflation is a fact and the universe is still expanding based on the big bang. There lies the link to understanding the link between the atomic and the universe.. The observed and observing.
The other side effects of the big bang being confirmed is that parallel or multiple universe may also exist and we may have to remember in the equation based on future observations might prove true.
BAM that explains everything therein lies the mathematical answer the final law the link between the observed in observing the link between all matter and Atoms everything IS interconnected by electromagnetic forces or gravitational pull

Gravitational pull will cause immense temperatures because the forces are forcing the Atoms and their electrons to travel the same speed (the change in energy manifests as chemical reactions or thermal reactions, like take our sun as an example, because energy CANNOT be destroyed.)

Because of the Big Bang has been solved and formed is true that means anti matter exists and fits into the universe.

Check it out since we're all traveling at different speeds we harvest energy by changing the speeds of things we ingest chemically. In this theory everything must be able to break down in time to basic atoms of hydrogen or less which we know everything can break down into more basic forms.

so in all awesome sauce the experiment would be to form and cut a piece of silicon that could observe itself because it should be moving the same speed, however gravity from the center of the universe and our time would still possibly affect the observation because of the effects that it has on light energy.

everything is moving & expanding. remember that.

seems to me if we work in and figure out a value (thats prolly changing due to the expansion) for the relativistic speed the observer and observed are traveling. relative to what? it seems that we need to take our space-time expansion and such. the space between the electron orbits is itself expanding.

the bonds between atoms themselves is energy.

everything must be interconnected, all the matter and energy in the universe currently exist there will never be more created.

it makes sense though. We are forever expanding and always moving. It is very possible that galaxies could collide. This is and should be basic knowledge. 
\

what if the space between the atoms and electron rotation is also expanding because space-time is expanding

also if all this is true then one must assume that will prove a type of heaven is also scientifically real, our energy in our bodies must go somewhere when we die. However this whole thig also disproves that god does not exist and cannot interact with the known universe
let me extrapolate that. we while living have energy, but when our body dies and brain shuts down that energy must go somewhere right?
this may be the smoking gun in multiverse theory too, basically that some type of atomic particles can transition or exist in both universes, but we can only observe the static state we catch. however all universes must co exist on a single plain.

the reason we exist as a species is to further the species. help advance civilization and the human race while wiping out ignorance. that is our purpose. use math and science to help others understand wrong thinking and furthermore explain why its wrong and teach them the way it really is, backed up by math and pure logic.In essence our reason to live is to advance our species and fully understand our universe.
why math and logic? because unlike humanity ,math and logic are infallible in this universe.

HEllo Hello
HEllo Hello

wow I thought that this was just a theory

Jesse Quiroz
Jesse Quiroz

So Awesome, I was in Antarctica 2012-2013 and met the scientists working on this project, and even had a chance to check out the telescope sent into space. They said they were really close at the actual discovery, WOW!!!

Jose Estrada
Jose Estrada

the new knowledge what open a new window for the science

Tina Wade-Lucas
Tina Wade-Lucas

Either I'm incredibly stupid or unbelievably intelligent because I don't understand why this is a NEW finding when it already makes sense that gravitational pull would cause a rippling effect. An explosion would have to expand. An with something as vast as the universe, I would think the expansion would be extensive.  Isn't that physics? I admit to not having read the full article.

Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews

Everyone think about if Einstein and Isacc Newton and Thomas Edison all existed right now at the same time- they would have figured out every bit of the universe 10 times faster than the scientists today haha. All they would have to know about nowadays is how some stuff works and they'd be on a role!

Zdravko T.
Zdravko T.

Oh man.... how long has this been up, and there are already religious nuts and morons trying to fit it to their myths and fantasies. Why can't you just enjoy the amazing science and ponder the significance of such a momentous discovery instead of spouting your religious nonsense?

Philip Heywood
Philip Heywood

Someone sort this out if you would.  Nothing with mass can travel at or above the speed of light. Correct?


The initial universe was  without form, and void -- presumably it was begun as something like a pinpoint of something like pure potential-packed information, either invisible to the human eye, or opaque.  It was all potential and no structure.  Such a pinpoint could not have been matter as we experience it and it was no-thing.  'Without form, and void'. No-thing cannot have mass, and anyway, the speed of light would not have become a universal constant until the universe became sufficiently settled  to allow everyday electromagnetic radiation.  Correct? 


So initially, light did not exist -- only the potential for light.  And the universe that was no-thing (other than potential) was without particles (even subatomic particles) and was certainly lacking in particles travelling at less than light speed. Therefore it was without mass. And it was concurrently almost infinitely more than a "virtual particle' or quantum, such as can be tweaked into being detected by modern technology. But; no mass, no gravity.  Correct?  And, no mass, no electromagnetic radiation -- correct?  No light.  


"And God said, "Let there be light ......" .  Electromagnetic radiation potential cut in. That seems clear enough, but let's go back to the gravity question. No mass -- and the initial universe as I see it could not have had mass -- therefore, no initial gravity.  Unless -- gravity is in a different and more creation-involved category than light?


But as far as I know, gravity requires mass and mass has something to do with the Higgs's boson interacting with some of the potential for matter that was part of the big bang. Correct?


But read this (my emphasis added):

"To make the gravitational wave discovery, the team studied the cosmic microwave background, leftover heat from the origin of the universe.

Imprinted across the entire sky, this relic heat reveals in minute temperature differences where matter condensed about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Those patterns also serve as a frozen snapshot of the conditions inside the moment of creation that spawned it."


My question here is, are the authors saying that gravity was operational at the moment of creation, or are they saying that fluctuations in the initial no-thing, led to gravity waves during the  inflation which followed creation?


it seems gravity must certainly  have cut in soon after light, (if not being operative in some mysterious way before) because, immediately after light we have, "... let there be a firmament... ".  The word, firmament, in Hebrew, literally translates as an expanse, an expansion, and in this context implies a dynamic expansionary process and the beginning of space. Inflation. 


My main question though is exactly what order of events surround the proposed gravity wave generation of the early cosmos.  Can someone interpret?








د.محمد الروسي
د.محمد الروسي

The meanings of the holy Qur''an precisely describe the process


Cleavage(big bang) ,
 Expansion ,
 Smoke (hot dust, atoms, just like in the current mountains of creation), 


(Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?) 
(Qur'an, 21:30 ).

And it is We Who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it. (Qur'an, 51:47).

(Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together), in willing obedience)
(Qur'an, 41:11).


 Sure there is only One GOD, the GOD of Adam, Noah, Issac, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammad peace be upon them all
They all came with the same message (There is no god but Allah) the creator of the universe and the One who truly deserves to be sincerely worshiped and obeyed


 When the message was distorted after Adam, Noah was sent to and when the message was distorted after Moses, Jesus was sent and when the message was distorted after Jesus Mohammad was sent peace be upon them and all other prophets sent by Allah 

(Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition) (Qur'an, 16:90).

agnes chalwe
agnes chalwe

Very much interested. It is really amazing.

Janie Litt
Janie Litt

Thought you would be interested ...

AS Wish
AS Wish

the contracting dimensions drive the inflation in the other directions by leading their expansion to accelerate without a cosmological constant - gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime that propagate as a wave, travelling outward from the source -->Inflation predicts that the quantization of the gravitational field coupled to exponential expansion produces a primordial background of stochastic gravitational waves with a characteristic spectral shape & Though unlikely to be directly detectable in modern instruments, these gravitational waves would have imprinted a unique signature upon the CMB. Gravitational waves induce local quadrupole anisotropies in the radiation field within the last-scattering surface, inducing polarization in the scattered light (Polnarev 1985). This polarization pattern will include a “curl” or B-mode component at degree angular scales that cannot be generated primordially by density perturbations-- > 

BICEP2 2014 Release Frequently Asked Questions

:http://bicepkeck.org/faq.html

karen h.
karen h.

Pardon a dumb question, please, but doesn't that mean the universe inflated at a speed far greater than that of light?  And why isn't that problematic?  Thank you!

Tiffany Yager
Tiffany Yager

I'm not a scientist or extremely intelligent being but I'm far from stupid. That being said, I love knowledge and learning new things, and since I was a kid I've fully believed in a multiverse, though as a child I had no idea what that actually meant. I've always figured though, that space has no end. No walls or corners that say it's contained. If there is an and to one thing, on the other side is a beginning. And about the whole heaven/god thing, I also completely agree! It only makes sense that it's a real possibility! I do so enjoy the endless accessible information on the interwebs and very much enjoyed reading your comment sir!

Chuka Jenkins
Chuka Jenkins

@Matt Seidner could you extrapolate a bit more how this proves a "type of heaven". Very interesting thought, but can energy not just dissipate? why do the energy out thoughts and spirit contain have to "go anywhere" when we give up the ghost? What if they just scatter and remain on this side, and we can just not measure them?

Philip Heywood
Philip Heywood

@Tina Wade-Lucas  You are in fact 'unbelievably intelligent' by admitting it's impossible to understand.  The physicist, Max Planck, who inadvertently stumbled into the realm of so-called "quantum physics', was (if I am correct) six odd years refusing to insert the 'constant' which asked to be inserted into his revolutionary equation, before he brought himself to do it. He went on to say something to the effect that Anyone who does not get giddy, thinking about it, does not understand anything about it.  Einstein sat up and balked and postulated and, I think, employed the word, "spooky"?. 


Quantum theory cuts in as matter gets closer and closer to its fundamental existence -- and the closer we get to the (supernatural) Source, the more hyper unreal yet strangely real it gets.


The earliest universe was something along quantum lines.  Skip explosions as we know them, skip matter as we know it -- and skip gravity as we envisage it. The only way to properly understand gravity is to get it from the Bible.  It says, "The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it" Ps.75:3. "Pillars" means that which gives form and stability.  The pillars were put in place as an integral part of creation.  We see the effect of gravity and we can measure it but no-one, Einstein himself, has been able to explain it. The Bible implies it to be ongoing creative action at work.


An 'explosion' as we envisage it did not cause matter to fling everywhere with resultant gravity waves or 'rippling'.  No scientist currently understands what happened, but as information/energy synthesized into matter and structure, space-time itself, which is the creation, which is an expression of gravity, became the nesting place if you like of future galaxial groupings.


That 'inflationary' event leaves Planck and Einstein more giddy than ever and produces head burn. In intelligent people. 




Dy Cwm
Dy Cwm

@Tina Wade-Lucas The universe stretched at first, and early postulates of the big bang did not explain the smoothness of the CMB once it was discovered. To explain why the universe was so similar (isotropic or smooth) in all directions, a rapid expansion period was hypothesized. The article also says this expansion explains why the created mass did not fall into itself under the gravitational force like it would in today's universe creating a black hole.

Daro Weilburg
Daro Weilburg

@Chris Matthews Sorry to be the bearer of bad news...but, Sir Isaac Newton was an ardent believer in God.  In fact, some consider Isaac the smartest man who ever lived (certainly the greatest physicist who ever lied) among your science community.  Sir Isaac wrote over 1.2 million words on God in his lifetime.  This is what Isaac would tell you today about these scientists: 

"For although they (the scientists, evolutionists, atheists, and agnostics) knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasoning's and their senseless hearts became darkened.  Although claiming they were wise, they became foolish  and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and birds and four-footed creatures and reptiles. For his (God's) invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable." 

The Big Bang theory was debunked a decade ago, the universe is moving and it is moving in the same direction.

Philip Heywood
Philip Heywood

@Zdravko T.  Yeah we know the Easter Bunny made everything.  Don't know if that's in the Q'ran.  Don't forget, the National Geographic takes in all cultures and creeds, even Easter Bunnies. 


It so happens, that the book of GENESIS contains an obvious blow by blow account of the big bang etc.  And morons such as myself who don't have the genius to have actually pulled off the big event ourselves -- unlike the true geniuses -- need a bit of help with understanding.  Einstein, of course, plus a hundred other founders of science, admitted as much. And they got somewhere!  


If you have a complaint, take it to the Management. I found myself having to write after the Q'ran was put up and there before your eyes you can compare. I can put the Bible in, or take it out.  Only I wouldn't really be taking it out, because it is the same account as science, but way deeper and more enlightening. As all those scientists you imply are 'morons' testify in their accounts.



Dy Cwm
Dy Cwm

@Philip HeywoodGIYF (google is your friend)

Cosmogony ideas are still speculative (Harte-Hawking initial state, string landscape, etc.) My personal favorite is

supersymmetry breaking.

Gravity in some of these proposed beginnings was the first force present.


The bigger problem I see with your confusion is using myth creation stories to explain the origin of the universe. Put the bible down, back away from it, and look for natural evidence based explanations for the world around you.

Daro Weilburg
Daro Weilburg

@Philip Heywood  "My main question though is exactly what order of events surround the proposed gravity wave generation of the early cosmos.  Can someone interpret?"

I would like to expound on your question, perhaps in over simplified terms. I was under the impression that according to some physicists the 'Big Bang Theory' was debunked at least a decade ago. 

Here is my additional question if they can answer yours:

If the 'big bang' occurred how is it that the entire universe is still expanding and is moving in one direction?

Attiyah Zahdeh
Attiyah Zahdeh

@د.محمد الروسي

 الدكتور محمد الروسي المحترم، 

الآية الكريمة: "والسماء بنيناها بأيد وإنا لموسِعون"تعني أن الله تعالى هو الذي يملك الرزق ولأقوات، وليس معناها أن الكون يتسع، فقد غشكم زغلول النجار في تسويق المعنى الذي ذهبتَ إليه. وعليه يجب عليك أن لا تعتبر أن القرآن الكريم قد تحدث عن فكرة الانفجار العظيم

And it is We Who have constructed the heaven with might, and verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it. (Qur'an, 51:47).

This is a wrong interpretation of the intended verse. 

Instead of "expanding" you should put the word "energizing".

Sanjiv Shah
Sanjiv Shah

My understanding is that in the first few moments of the Big Bang, all bets including the speed limit of light were off and hence space is much bigger than the max possible even if everything expanded at the speed of light.

Or to put it another way, space expanded at rates faster than the speed of light would allow, during those first few moments.

Bdog C
Bdog C

@karen h.  That isn't problematic because light travels in space where as the universe was expanding into nothing.

Michael Stash
Michael Stash

@karen h.  Space and time were being created at that astonishing expansion rate.  Matter and light came later....  Remember, the expansion of Space-time means that it was creating space as it expands; it is not expanding into some kind of void.  

Dan Vergano
Dan Vergano

@karen h.  yep, that's what is amazing. inflation and general relativity allow for the fabric of space and time to expand at rates faster than the speed of light, broadly speaking. matter just can't travel faster than light inside that space-time.

Tina Wade-Lucas
Tina Wade-Lucas

@james canavan @Tina Wade-Lucas Now THAT was unnecessary and unkind. What would have been better is if you had tried to explain it to me not insult me for not understanding. I hope that made you feel better.

Dy Cwm
Dy Cwm

@Daro Weilburg @Chris Matthews

1) Many people of that period had to be ardent believers of god.

2) Newton used god as a god of the gaps.

3) Today he would be considered a creationist.

4) He also dabbled in the occult.

Invisible qualities clearly seen? Oh,Bible quote. Talking about sinful humans, not scientists (did not exist when this passage was written), etc. Yet you have interspersed with your own straw asides. How deceitful. Was the original passage not good enough?


The Big Bang was never debunked, you've been lied to.

The universe is expanding in all directions.

michael beltrametti
michael beltrametti

Religion is a blight on mankind and the truth will be the end of all religion.

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