For A Good Time On The InterTubes: Women Scientists-in-Binders [Self Aggrandizement Alert]

Attention conservation notice (h/t Cosma Shalizi)This is a purely (well, hopefully not, actually) self-aggrandizing break from debate mastication.

I’m pretty sure this crowd knows by now that I host an internet radio show once a month (one of three hosts in the (almost) weekly slot) on science and its surrounding culture.  The strand is called Virtually Speaking Science, and it’s part of the expanding Virtually Speaking empire created by Jay Ackroyd, a commenter here and a front-pager over at Atrios’ place, Eschaton.

I’ll be doing another netcast this evening, 5 p.m. EDT,nd it’s going to be a good one, I think.

To get a sense of some of the issues to be discussed, what’s notable about this picture?

Well, lots, of course — and don’t even get me started on the bizarre proportions misproportion of the left arm and hand [vs. the right]…*

But you may notice a certain common attribute shared by the figures depicted here — which visible evidence of the historical reality of career paths in the sciences is something my guest, Professor Nancy Hopkins, has done as much to change as any single person in the American academy.

Hopkins, an MIT colleague is both a top flight biologist (her research has focused on development and cancer and she is particularly well known for her work on zebrafish as a model for basic questions in developmental biology) — and a real hero of the drive for gender equity at MIT and really, throughout the tier 1 research university world.  As often happens with top flight researchers, she is part of a lineage of scientific inquiry that provides a glimpse of the creation story (myth?) of molecular biology — as she was trained by Jim Watson and Mark Ptashne — and the Watson connection is rich in this context.

(Just as a bit of a spoiler, we’ll probably talk a bit about Rosalind Franklin, to whom I have a family connection.  When I first met Watson, I mentioned that bit of clan history, and he blanched just a bit.  I had thought it was because the mere mention of Franklin gave him something of a shock, but I found out a little later that my older brother had met Watson just a couple of weeks before — and had walked up to him saying almost exactly the same thing…so the man Peter Medawar called Lucky Jim must have felt that the Franklin family was stalking him…;)

Hopkins managed to advance the cause of gender equity in the 02139 zip code the MIT way — confronting real barriers to her own work, she found the handful of other women faculty in the sciences similarly constrained, and then went to central administration to get support for a study.  She and her colleagues then went out and did that radical thing, collecting actual data on measurable aspects of faculty research experience: how much space, when, what kinds of support and all that.  She  and her co-workers were able to demonstrate clear and significant discrimination, and to their and the Institute’s credit, central administration responded with real measures to address the issues raised.  A report published in 2011 documents the changes within MIT [PDF], and it notes both significant change and considerable room for further progress.

By the way — just to link up with another of my recent conversations, Hopkins and her colleagues lived and have now documented the same phenomenon Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about so powerfully in his piece Fear of a Black President.”  Women in science have had to fight through the “twice as good” demand and constraint for a long, long time — and to a greater extent than should still obtain in this century of the fruitbat, they still do.  That’s where Hopkin’s work is now taking her, as she documents how the playing field within and around the academy is still far from level.  We will talk about that work too.

Do tune in if you have a moment, and/or pick up the podcast  (either at Blog Talk Radio  or on iTunes) within a day or two.

Oh — by the way.  No binders were harmed in the making of this post.

*completely off topic, but I found W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn to be incredibly moving — and he has a wholly strange and wonderful discussion of this painting early in the text.

Image:  Rembrandt van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632.

 

 

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78 replies
  1. 1
    Political Observer says:

    Obama needed a decisive, blowout victory last night to stop Romney’s surge towards victory.

    He didn’t get it. The debate was, for all intents and purposes, a draw and only brain-dead O-Bots and their accomplices at MSNBC think otherwise.

    The fundamentals of the race are unchanged–a surging, confident challenger vaulting ahead of an embattled, struggling incumbent in a horrible economy and a world in chaos.

    The race is STILL Romney’s to lose, folks.

  2. 2
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Totally OT, but the private investors who are sponsoring measures 82 and 83 in Oregon, which would allow for the construction of a private casino in the Portland area, are suspending their campaign in support of it. It seems that polling is not supporting their effort. KATU (the Portland ABC affiliate) polled across the state and found that…wait for it…you’ll be amazed…27% favored the two measures.

    The current governor and four former governors, and both the Dems and the GOP have come out against the measures.

  3. 3
    dslak says:

    Looks like somebody’s trolling the wrong post.

  4. 4
    Schlemizel says:

    @Political Observer:
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    . . . GASP
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    HAHAhahaHAHA gasp gasp gasp

    Damn boy, you are hilarious – please don’t ever change. Do GTFA but don’t change

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Oh, I used a very naughty word in my previous post. Could someone please take it out of moderation? Thanks.

  6. 6
    rlrr says:

    @Political Slobserver:

    Just goes to show, some people actually like being conned.

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Political Observer:

    You are unspeakably stupid.

    The humane thing to do would be to have you put to sleep.

  8. 8
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Political Observer:

    You are unspeakably stupid.

    The humane thing to do would be to have you put to sleep.

  9. 9
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I still remember the zipcode from Worcester Polytechnic 22 years after I left: 01609.

    @Political Observer: And when he loses, I’m sure you’ll bitch about how it was stolen. No, the fundamentals haven’t changed: No matter how many lies Romney tells, he’s going to lose.

  10. 10
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Political Observer: If this were a court, I’d rise to say “irrelevant and immaterial.”

    As it’s not, I’ll just note that yours is a particularly foolish utterance in this context. Please troll appropriately.

  11. 11
    Sherry Reson says:

    Political Observer – up thread, buddy.

    Tom – Not so self aggrandizing, imo. These VS Science episodes are not about you, neither are they really about me, although I’m very devoted to producing them. They are mainly about the people who explore their ideas and share their stories: ideas and stories we both care about. By hosting, you, Alan Boyle and Jennifer Ouellette make it happen. I’m more grateful than you can imagine.

  12. 12
    Sherry Reson says:

    Political Observer – up thread, buddy.

    Tom – Not so self aggrandizing, imo. These VS Science episodes are not about you, neither are they really about me, although I’m very devoted to producing them. They are mainly about the people who explore their ideas and share their stories: ideas and stories we both care about. By hosting, you, Alan Boyle and Jennifer Ouellette make it happen. I’m more grateful than you can imagine.

  13. 13
    Ben Franklin says:

    I still haven’t heard wingerz lamenting the uppitiness of black blowback.

    I told y’all that was a red herring.

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    FYWP is doing the duplicate thing again.

  15. 15
    Schlemizel says:

    @Schlemizel:

    And please remember, we are not laughing WITH you we are laughing AT you!

  16. 16
    Less Popular Tim says:

    don’t even get me started on the bizarre proportions of the left arm and hand

    Dunno, if you’re talking about the cadaver, once you are tearing away at all that connective tissue, couldn’t everything stretch/spread out?

    (IANADr and have not dissected a cadaver)

  17. 17
    rlrr says:

    @Political Slobserver:

    Please proceed, troll.

  18. 18
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I will say, if there’s one good thing about working for a government contractor, is how much further they are with regards to gender and racial equality than a lot of other places I have worked. Yes, they are required to do it to receive their government money – I’m not sure how that fits into not creating jobs – but there are a number of women in management positions, and the director of my division is African American.

  19. 19
    jwb says:

    @Political Observer: All that UNLIMITED CORPORATE CASH and this is the best talking point they could come up with. Hahahahaha. Excuse me while I wipe the tears of laughter from my face. PO, don’t ever change.

  20. 20
    GregB says:

    The King of Bizarro World Punditry has chimed in and it is official. Dick Morris says that Romney had a big win, meaning that President Obama kicked ass.

  21. 21
    catclub says:

    Why did you say the left arm?

    The right arm of the cadaver only reaches to above the hip. Mine reaches to mid thigh. The left arm is dissected but seems about the correct length.

    Or is ‘left arm’ the arm on the left side of the picture?

  22. 22
    hueyplong says:

    The nouns and verbs are not optional. Neither is the mandatory declaration that only blind adherents fail to see the oncoming freight train. The limited creativity in a trolling post lies in the choice of the two modifiers that go with each noun.

    He chose “surging” and “confident” for Romney. “Commanding,” “dominating” and “in charge” were available, but were not chosen. In the territorial-p1ssing-is-all world of the winger troll, this is weak sauce.

    The two modifiers chosen for Obama were “embattled” and “struggling.” What happened to “cowed,” “hapless,” “staggering,” “flummoxed” or “out of his depth”?

    This is the trolling equivalent of right wing blogs calling it a draw.

    I’d avert my eyes out of respect, if I had any.

  23. 23
    Felanius Kootea says:

    Bless Nancy Hopkins. She was one of the people who walked out when Larry Summers made his idiotic comments about women in science.

  24. 24
    rlrr says:

    @hueyplong:

    I’d avert my eyes out of respect, if I had any.

    Eyes or respect? ;)

  25. 25
    Tom Levenson says:

    @catclub: I meant the corpse’s left arm, and yes, you’re right. I was in haste trying to call attn. to the difference in the proportions of the two arms.

  26. 26

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):
    Cripes, I still remember my PO box number.

    100 Institute Road, FTW.

    (Sounds like you got there just after I’d left).

  27. 27
    Amir Khalid says:

    @catclub:
    You’re right — I mean, correct. The left arm does appear to be about the proper length. The fingertips of the right hand seem like they should reach to the lower edge of the cloth covering the cadaver’s hips. If I recall correctly, the artists of Rembrandt’s day hadn’t quite figured out this whole “nearer objects look bigger” thing yet.

  28. 28
    Yutsano says:

    @Tom Levenson: Oddsfish. I noticed the left gesticulating hand of the lecturer and thought it maybe a touch off ut as he’s the subject of the portraiture not entirely unusual. The cadaver’s left arm is already carved to bits.

    This, incidentally, was rather advanced medical education for its day.

  29. 29
    Forum Transmitted Disease says:

    The “women in binders” comment was a huge, huge mistake. Every woman on my FB feed has remarked on it, not in a positive way, and it’s not even 10am yet.

    Romney should have been able to have this election put away months ago, but he can’t stop fucking up. I don’t know what it is with the guy. It’s not that he lives in a bubble – Christ, Reagan was the poster child for “living in a bubble” – and even after he went senile he didn’t commit regular and routine acts of self-ruin like Romney does EVERY DAY.

  30. 30
    Elizabelle says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    Romney should have been able to have this election put away months ago

    The Republicans got us into this mess, and GOP Congressional intransigence keeps us here, to the extent they can.

    GOP governors got smacked back big on voter suppression.

    I don’t think Obama has been as much of a shambles as that lead-in depicts. It’s purely framing.

    This isn’t just personal to Romney. He was the “best” of a nasty bunch.

  31. 31

    FB datapoint: An old high school classmate (a rightish-leaning fireman) compared Romney to Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.

    Specifically, the scene where Potter had just offered George Bailey that job with money and travel, went to shake his hand, and “he just knew”.

    Please let that be the majority’s impression.

  32. 32
    locoparentis says:

    Not that it is important, or anything, but that painting depicts medical students studying a cadaver. The ratio of men vs. women in medical schools now favors women and has for a number of years.

  33. 33
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    Heh. Except RWR was made of teflon, and Romney is flypaper.

  34. 34
    Political Observer says:

    Luntz focus group of former Obama voters persuaded by second debate…TO SWING TO ROMNEY.

  35. 35
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God: As I said on the other thread, Al Giordano is seeing focus groups consistently say Willard was politicizing a tragic event and being disrespectful to the President.

    If that impression is widespread, Willard will have problems.

  36. 36
    Jewish Steel says:

    To get a sense of some of the issues to be discussed, what’s notable about this picture?

    Supercilious hipsters and their irritating facial hair. Finally, science is tackling this issue.

  37. 37
    PreservedKillick says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    …he can’t stop fucking up

    This is what happens when you really do live in a bubble.

    Frame just about everything Romney said last night through a Fox news bubble, and all is pretty OK.

    Women in binders? Sounds kinky, but fun! Women should be cooking dinner for the kids not out working, of course! Sluts make people kill with guns, it’s not the fault of the guns, goes without saying!

    …etc…

    This is why they are so focused on the Libya thing. That was not right, on so many levels. First, it did not fit with their reality. Second, it is not conceivable that a Republican, a Rich Republican, a Rich White Republican, could be simply owned by an inferior black man, especially not a stupid one without even the aid of a teleprompter. Therefore he lied! And Candy Crowley! Too!

  38. 38
    PreservedKillick says:

    @Political Observer:

    Yeah, so. I could easily cherry pick a focus group to tell you the moon was made of cheese, too. But go with it. I’m sure it’s reassuring.

  39. 39
    Political Observer says:

    A Frank Luntz focus group made up mostly of former Obama voters say they now support Mitt Romney.

    “Forceful, compassionate, presidential,” one participant said.
    “Confident and realistic,” said another.
    “Presidential,” another told Luntz.
    “Enthusiastic,” another reacted.
    “Our next president,” one man said.
    “Dynamo, winner,” said one more.

    “He’s lied about everything. He lied to get elected in 2008, that’s why I voted for him. I bought his bull. And he’s lied about everything, he hasn’t come through on anything. And he’s been bullshitting the public,” one member of the focus group said.

  40. 40
    Seanly says:

    One problem with gender equity (and with minority equity)in STEM careers is that we still don’t have enough female & minority students entering & staying in those fields. And I would say that gender/minority equity isn’t just a problem in academia, but still a significant one in the professional work force.

    I began my engineering studies in ’86. My civil engineering class at Lehigh was 42 students by graduation – there was a fair number of women, but few minorities. When I was a TA at Clemson in the early 90’s, there was a better mix of women undergrads (though still far out-numbered) but still few minorities.

    I commend a university trying to establish progressive but fair hiring & mentoring policies, but how do we expand the base of people entering STEM fields throughout the nation? I don’t have current numbers, but I’d guess that even in the 90’s 20% female and 5% minority participation was high for an engineering program.

    In my 22-year career as a structural engineer (including graduate school), I have worked with several women (though still much improvement needed by industry), but I can count the non-Asian minorities on one hand and have a thumb & 2 fingers left.

    In the end, I guess I see the solution being that we need to encourage female & minority students to look at STEM careers for college. It’s only when we can increase the number of undergraduates in those fields that we can then produce more scientists, engineers and associated academics to change the homogeny of the workforce.

    EDIT: I’ll put my money where my mouth is & look at ways to help with STEM outreach at my current employer.

  41. 41
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Political Observer: Your man was actually better than he was in Denver, but still got curb stomped by the Kenyan Muslim, who can’t speak without a teleprompter.

  42. 42
  43. 43
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    Oh, right. A Luntz focus group. This is like getting a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

    The stupid. It burns.

  44. 44
    Elizabelle says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    How are you following Al Giordano? Link, please!

    I haven’t seen anything recent from him, and value his insights.

  45. 45
    dmsilev says:

    Frank Luntz, huh? Definitely an unbiased and uninterested source.

  46. 46
    rlrr says:

    @PreservedKillick:

    One could pick a focus group of Americans who believe the universe is ~ 10,000 years old and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church. I guarantee such a focus group will be made up of Republicans.

  47. 47
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Elizabelle: He’s on facebook. I always screw up links.

  48. 48
    SatanicPanic says:

    @PreservedKillick: Yeah, the bubble didn’t do have any favors on Libya. And bring up Fast and Furious like it’s something people care about is another.

  49. 49
    hueyplong says:

    The site has a photo of Frank Luntz’s focus group. Unintentionally hilarious. Each and every one old, white, and angry-looking. One can only hope that neighborhood children were firmly encamped on their lawns the entire time they were in Luntz Undecided Fair and Balanced Studios.

    And nothing says “undecided” like the following:

    “He’s lied about everything. He lied to get elected in 2008, that’s why I voted for him. I bought his bull. And he’s lied about everything, he hasn’t come through on anything. And he’s been bullshitting the public,” one member of the focus group said.

  50. 50
    MobiusKlein says:

    @Political Observer: So Luntz cherry picks a group of voters and gets them to say what he wanted to hear.

    Woo.

  51. 51
    FormerSwingVoter says:

    OT, but hilarious:

    http://www.politico.com/news/s.....82498.html

    Apparently, a bunch of the conservative Super PACs are scamming their donors and pocketing as much as 90% of the donations for “operating expenses and overhead”.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer set of folks ;)

  52. 52
    Chris says:

    @Forum Transmitted Disease:

    I don’t think so. Reagan, like FDR, grew up in a country defined by the other party. Hard to ignore that reality no matter how hard you try.

    The real bubble syndrome happens in the next generation, the people who watched their party come to power, remake the country in their image and then rule it. They forget that not everyone IS like them or on their side. They ignore the fact that not everyone who supported them is in it for the same reasons. In short, they’re out of touch.

    That largely explains our latest teabagger Congress hysterically insisting that they will NEVER raise taxes ever no matter what, and refuses to work with the other side of the aisle on anything. This is what people look like who’re so used to getting what they want, they forget it’s just not always going to work out that way.

  53. 53
    SatanicPanic says:

    @hueyplong: Haha, I clicked through. Looks like church bingo night.

  54. 54
    PreservedKillick says:

    @FormerSwingVoter:

    a bunch of the conservative Super PACs are scamming their donors and pocketing as much as 90% of the donations for “operating expenses and overhead”.

    I’m sorry. This made me literally laugh out loud.

    It had to happen. It just did.

  55. 55
    rlrr says:

    @PreservedKillick:

    Like I said, some people actually like being conned.

  56. 56
    hueyplong says:

    “I’m sorry. This made me literally laugh out loud.”

    Not me. A true Objectivist would have kept it all. These people are sentimental pantywaists, and now 10% of that money is being used to create Luntz Undecided Voter Panels.

  57. 57
    ThresherK says:

    @Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God: Mr. Potter?

    Interesting thought. In tone, certainly, right up with that scene.

    But Mr. Potter was probably more of a businessman than Mitt Romney. (And also all the right-wing “ThanksDads” like GWB and Dan Quayle. I’d put Democrats on that list except their scions, no matter how “centrist”, never get “rugged individualist” cred.)

    Mr. Potter may have been an actual Horatio Alger, who came up from nothing in a way Mitt never had to worry about.

    In the real world, I’d say Mr. Potter’s empire would be a freak of geography, a monopoly which would live until the postwar boom, and the W.T. Grants (who Wal-Mart put out of business decades later) provided some real competiton.

    (And if you’re wondering, Yes, almost everything in life can be viewed throught the refractory lens of “IAWL”.)

  58. 58
    Elizabelle says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    Al Giordano on Facebook. Thank you!

    His blog has gone quite stale.

  59. 59
    Yutsano says:

    @FormerSwingVoter: This is me SHOCKED!! Or not. :)

  60. 60
    Steeplejack says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    I second the recommendation on Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. It is an amazing novel, strange in the best sense of the word.

  61. 61
    PreservedKillick says:

    @hueyplong:

    A true Objectivist would have kept it all.

    Yeah, but I bet they kept every dime they legally could.

    Unlimited corporate cash. *Snort*. *Giggle.*

  62. 62
    dmsilev says:

    @FormerSwingVoter: Exactly as many people predicted. And hilarious.

  63. 63
    hueyplong says:

    PreservedKillick, a true Objectivist scoffs at such “laws” because he’s not shackled by the bonds of middle class morality.

    Or was that Dracula? I get the blood-suckers confused.

  64. 64
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @FormerSwingVoter:
    No one could have anticipated that Republicans would be taken in by liars and scam artists.

  65. 65
    rlrr says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    We are talking about a group of people who think reduced revenues and increased spending will lead to a balanced budget.

  66. 66
    ThresherK says:

    @hueyplong: “Scoffing at laws”.

    Is that “Atlas Shrugged” we’re watching, or “Rope”?

  67. 67
    handsmile says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Somewhat of a tangential comment on what you described as “completely off topic”:

    I share your enthusiasm for Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn (though Austerlitz remains my favorite among his works.)

    A British documentary, Patience (After Sebald), based upon The Rings was released in 2011. I assume it must have been screened in Boston/Cambridge earlier this year, but if you did not have a chance to view it, the film is well worth seeking out.

    Retracing Sebald’s ambles through East Anglia, the film presents footage of actual places/incidents described in the novel, examinations of particular themes/chapters, and critical commentary by several authors and visual artists.

    http://filmforum.com/movies/mo.....fter_sebal

  68. 68
    Brachiator says:

    To get a sense of some of the issues to be discussed, what’s notable about this picture?

    Nobody has an iPhone.

    Interesting background on Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, and the painting. Even death for the benefit of science was sexist.

    The praelector would give yearly anatomy lessons each winter, performing them on victims of public hanging. At that time in European cities, the dissection of bodies was only legal if the subject was a male criminal and considered outside of the Church. The dissections were performed with the consent of the city council, and were a means to collect funds for city council meetings and dinners…It would be another 100 years before the surgeons were allowed to dissect a female cadaver….

    And an odd connection to early America:

    It was Dr. Tulp who examined and signed the fitness reports for the first Dutch settlers on the island of Manhattan, and his signature was found on these in the long-lost archives of the Dutch settlement uncovered in the 1980s in the basement of the New York public library.

  69. 69
    Yutsano says:

    @Tom Levenson: Incidentally Tom it’s a hair disingenuous to use a painting from 17th cerntury Holland to make a point about diversity. Rembrandt was as much a creature of the norms of his day as anyone, and Holland was one of the most progressive places in Europe at that time but not THAT progressive. It’s only a hair disingenuous though. :)

  70. 70
    Anoniminous says:

    Painting to illustrate the post is typical LIEBRUHL anti-Americanism.

    Could have used Eakin’s The Gross Clinic or The Agnew Clinic.

  71. 71
    Todd says:

    @GregB:

    Dick Morris says that Romney had a big win

    Rmoney could’ve screamed a prayer to Satan while biting the head off a Koala, and Morris would declare him a winner.

  72. 72
    Chris says:

    @ThresherK:

    The problem with movies is that in order to be at all remotely interesting to the audience, the villain has to be interesting and competent to a degree that he probably never would be in real life.

    (What was “Potter’s empire,” BTW, and why would it have collapsed after the war? I don’t remember any details about him other than being the Generic Rich Guy Who Owns The Town).

  73. 73
    Lee Hartmann says:

    I was going to mention Sebald’s book but you beat me to it. The Emigrants is another great book.

  74. 74
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Political Observer: Frank Luntz? A focus group handpicked by longtime Republican advisor Frank Luntz? yeah, he’s an honest broker. Damn, I’m about to wet my pants like Clean Pans Ryan.

  75. 75
    Anoniminous says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    He is pulling on the muscle below the elbow, lowering the left shoulder. Looks to me like the elbow is approximately where the incision was made.

  76. 76
    Anoniminous says:

    @Political Observer:

    Bill McInturff, the chief pollster for the McCain campaign, called Lutz a moron.

    But by all means continue to accept Lutz’s propaganda. I need the laughs.

  77. 77
    catclub says:

    @Chris: Cheap (quality) rental housing.

    The GI bill made it possible (like George Bailey) for people to buy and keep their own homes.

  78. 78
    Fred Fnord says:

    …in this century of the fruitbat…

    As a side note, I believe that it is now the century of the anchovy.

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