Breaking science news and multimedia, heavy on astronomy and physics (and heavy on citing) New vids, pics, articles, and the occasional research post for ResearchBlogging.org.

Monday, April 30, 2012

NEW PROMETHEUS VIDEO Mentions Saturn

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It seems that everyone is super excited about the new movie coming out: Prometheus.
A new Prometheus video just popped up on YouTube, and gives some tantalizing new information of the connection between Prometheus and Saturn.




Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SSI / QMUL

















gotcha.






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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Huge List Of Debates And Lectures On Theology And Science

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This floated my way somehow, supposedly originating from Reddit.  Almost all of these are religious debates/lectures, but a few are simply science.  This list will last me a hell of a long time.  My late nights are now pretty much now taken care of!  I can only imagine how many hours are in here.

Listed fifth from the bottom happens to be my favorite lecture of all time:
Lawrence Krauss - A Universe From Nothing. (on cosmology)

**DISCLAIMER**  I have NOT watched them all; so I cannot outright endorse them as a lot.  Furthermore, I have not tested each link.


However, what's important to note is that these people are well known to be highly educated, have phenomenal credentials, and are supremely eloquent.


Pick and choose AND ENJOY!




Christopher Hitchens:
Richard Dawkins:
Sam Harris:
Richard Carrier:
Michael Shermer:
Neil deGrasse Tyson:
Daniel Dennett:
PZ Myers:
Other debates and lectures:





Credit:  NO CLUE who compiled this list, I'm very sorry to say.  It was not me.


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Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Bearded Brothers, Be Proud!

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The title on Boing Boing caught my eye OF COURSE!
"All you ever wanted to know about beards"


Read the beard's glorious history and learn exactly how women feel about them.
A PhD in Facial Hair
Created by: Online PhD

As a side note:

Ethan Siegel, theoretical astrophysicist and fellow bearded blogger (Starts With A Bang) posts yearly on a beard-off he takes part in called The West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships.  Here's a snippet of his excitement about the Jan 2012 event: "...I've had a whole extra year to prepare for this, both in terms of facial hair and in terms of style; you don't want to miss the spectacle I've created for this competition!"

Extremely entertaining!  Read on HERE.




Found via Boing Boing who found via geekosystem



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Nerd Humor In New Animated Short - AHH! Stuck In The LHC!

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This brightened up my whole day!  A full 2 minute smile on your face tends to do that.
See for yourself!

"A quick look around the LHC"


Video Credit: OxfordSparks (YouTube) www.oxfordsparks.net (Main)
Found via SymmetryMag's Twitter



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Monday, April 23, 2012

If The Elements Were Students

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What is MY favorite element?  After much internal debate, I'd say Iron.


!!WARNING!! EXTREMELY CORNY!!



If the elements were all students:
  


Carbon and Oxygen were caught in the greenhouse [wiki] "bonding."  ...it was hot. 

Hydrogen and Oxygen go to the club and make it rain [urban dict.]

Gold pretty much took over the orchestra class because he's so good at conducting. [Monster Cables]


Platinum wants to be a rapper [ThugFashion] 
(insert in mouth... no, seriously.)

Lithium [.gov Fact Sheet] has some serious problems. 

Tungsten is the brightest one in the class. [wiki]

Barium is goth. He sticks out in stark contrast [wiki] to everyone else.


Chlorine, captain of the swim team just CANNOT convince Sodium [YouTube] to try out for the team. 

But really... everyone wants to be Iron [NASA]


"Fusion continues in red supergiants until iron is formed. Unlike the elements before it, iron releases no energy when fused. This is because iron has the most stable nucleus of all the elements. Elements lighter than iron generally emit energy if fused, since they move from a less stable nuclear structure to a more stable one. By contrast, elements heavier than iron emit energy if they undergo fission, that is, by losing nucleons (i.e. protons and/or neutrons). Again, they go from a less stable to a more stable nuclear structure... ...The stability of the iron nucleus is represented by the fact that it requires the most energy to break apart."

Yeah, everyone wants to be Iron.



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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Retain Your Wonder

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If you know me, you know that things like this get me all emotional.

There are things I can't "get used to."  Even today, when I see an airplane, I'm taken aback.  While I look up at the stars, I disappear. 

"Welcome to Science"



Video Credit:


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Thursday, April 19, 2012

NASA Video Series: Mysteries of the Sun pt 1-5

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In my opinion, this is the best space science multimedia to come out since ALMA started to release photos.  Each of the 5 episodes last about 5 minutes apiece.

It's slickly produced, with top notch narration alongside stunning visuals (both NASA animations and spacecraft photographs/videos.)  They delve into topics unknown by most, and explain them in a way that can be understood by astronomy fans slightly above layman.

Quickly access all 5 via YouTube Playlist, or watch each at whim, embedded below.




Mysteries of the Sun pt. 1/5 - Space Weather
In This Episode:
This video describes the direct and dramatic effects that eruptions on the sun can cause at Earth. Earth's magnetic fields change shape and strength in response to an eruption on the sun, and these changes in turn can damage space born technology and disrupt communications traveling through space. They also cause aurora.





Mysteries of the Sun pt. 2/5 - Solar Variability
In This Episode:
Rotations of the material deep inside the sun cause constantly shifting magnetic field lines. This variability drives the solar cycle, during which the north and south magnetic poles reverse position approximately every 11 years.





Mysteries of the Sun pt. 3/5 - The Heliosphere
In This Episode:
The solar wind streams out from the sun until it collides with material from the rest of space. This entire bubble defined by the solar wind is called the heliosphere and scientists study the very boundaries to better understand our place in space.





Mysteries of the Sun pt. 4/5 - Earth's Magnetosphere
In This Episode:
Earth is enveloped in a protective magnetic envelope called the magnetosphere. This can change shape in response to the sun's effects, causing various types of space weather at Earth.





Mysteries of the Sun pt. 5/5 - Earth's Upper Atmosphere
In This Episode:
Certain layers, high up in the atmosphere also respond to incoming energy from the sun. These layers contain charged particles and so naturally respond to an influx of magnetic energy. Understanding such variability is crucial since it can, in turn, degrade radio communication as well as satellite orbits.





Main Credit: NASA SCIENCE "for the benefit of all"
Sub credits:
Parts 1-4:
http://imgur.com/nFgcL
http://imgur.com/3xWid
http://imgur.com/0x0DT
Part 5:
http://imgur.com/nFgcL
http://imgur.com/zDFGQ
http://imgur.com/0x0DT

NASA's Page for Mysteries of the Sun


The icing on the cake:


NASA has a free (full color) book companion to the video series.
 The award winning 18 page, hi-res picture pdf  is free on their site.

 


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brian Cox on iPad

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I don't even have an iPad!  Furthermore, I HATE virtually every type of commercial!

...But Brian Cox is one of my heroes.



Brian Cox, physicist at CERN, and dubbed "The New Carl Sagan," is famous mostly from the popularity of his work for BBC.  In my opinion, it's the highest quality pop science in many years.  First was the series Wonders of the Solar System [wiki], which was successful enough for the sequel series, Wonders of the Universe [wiki.]
The latter has been made into an iPad app (5 pounds/7dollars.)  On the coattails of its release, a cheaper iPhone version will be coming.
 
Take a look.




 
Tip of the hat to Lights in the Dark


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Friday, April 13, 2012

A White Roof: So Simple It's Insane So Insane It Just Might Work

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[Edit: Take a look, Wired Online's "Observation Deck: Saving the Planet With Pavement" Has a new take on the issue, just released 06-15-12]

Global warming is a problem.

That being said, we obviously get heat from our sun.

Black absorbs light.  White reflects light.

Consider that urban areas get roofing resurfacing regularly (20-30yrs) and paving rehauls even more frequently (~10yrs)

What if...

You see where this is going.  Absolutely brilliant idea.
  • Simply swap asphalt for concrete.
  • Phase out black roofing.  The new "cool roofs" don't need to be shiny.  White is just fine.
 
Together, roads and roofs like this one cover about 60% of urban surface area, 
a higher % than I would have guessed.

A hypothetical policy spanning latitudes 45°N-45°S would mitigate global warming extremely effectively.  As AAAS explains:
"Achieving the same amount of cooling by slashing carbon dioxide emissions would require taking every automobile on the planet off the road for about 50 years."


This idea is not brand new by any means, however it's going to need a lot more attention in order for a big change to overcome the status quo.  The New York Times mentions that comedian Jon Stewart even joked about it back in 2009.  A similar policy already enacted, as InHabitat points out, enforces the people of Copenhagen to plant vegetation on their rooftops...  Different... but by no means bad. 

Emerging science is a great catalyst for change.

Precision data, some of the newest available, has allowed for better extrapolations from simulations.  A study out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows with significance several changes within the ecosystem of the Mojave Desert (the area of experimentation)  Three sites were maintained: SOL, COOL, and CTRL.  CTRL, as you'd guess, is the control.  At SOL, photovoltaic surfaces (solar panels) were installed.  The third site, COOL, simulated the cool roofing system that could have so much effect on us.


Reflectivity:
A reflectivity coefficient is referred to as a material's albedo.  Studies of the effects of changed albedo in a given area have been done before, most heavily from 2008 on, but with some mixed results.  It's hard to set up experiments that: A) have an effect on the area large enough to sift out signal from noise, and B) accurately measure the variety of meteorological data necessary for spread out simulations to be truly representative.




Interestingly enough, cool roofing has been seen to affect nearby rural areas in several ways.  Summer afternoon temperature increases, and a correlation with less cloud cover AND lower precipitation emerges.  These possible effects upon implementation of policy could make the situation a little bit hairier.


The idea's simple charm and ease of implementation is a recipe for attention and motivation.  The idea still needs to spread far for international cooperation to come to fruition.





ResearchBlogging.org Millstein, D., & Menon, S. (2011). Regional climate consequences of large-scale cool roof and photovoltaic array deployment Environmental Research Letters, 6 (3) DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/6/3/034001
      
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Giant Worm Robot! Santa Heard Me Finally!

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 Softworm: A Soft, Biologically Inspired Worm-Like Robot


Potential uses for this big gross dude:
  • Robotic surgery and diagnosis
  • Industrial pipe inspection
  • Search and rescue missions


Strictly in my own opinion, I find this 70 centimetre long robot worm incredibly creepy.  Regardless, it's still fascinating.  The goal achieved here is working peristalsis (the movement allowing worms to crawl, as well as the waves of contraction in our gastrointestinal tracts)

Their accomplishment, as taken from their abstract:
"This method of locomotion is particularly effective in constrained spaces, and although the motion has been studied for some time, it has not been effectively or accurately implemented in a robotic platform."


This video (mostly silent) shows a 2d software representation of the braided mesh in movement, giving a clear idea of what's going on here.  Then you get up close and personal to watch the big guy run.




This next video explains the robot in detail, in language only slightly above layman's terms.  It was after watching this that I became really impressed.


"Continuous Wave Peristaltic Locomotion"


Visit the Case Western Reserve University SoftWorm project site at http://biorobots.cwru.edu/projects/softworm/

The SoftWorm Team - Case Western Reserve University
Alexander Boxerbaum
Hillel J. Chiel
Roger D. Quinn


 
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Italians Made an Octobot

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A robotics crew in Italy have developed a soft bodied robot octopus.  An entirely soft body is new to robotics.
It might be:
"able to reach impracticable places and simultaneously [show] manipulation capability, which could open up new scenarios for marine exploration and underwater rescue."

This video provides a nice montage of the coolest footage:



Video Credit: Press TV / Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna


Learn more about the project, creatively titled "Octopus" at http://www.octopusproject.eu/


Happy Nightmares!




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Monday, April 9, 2012

Phase Out QWERTY Keyboards Already!

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The letters QWERTY reference the upper left row of keys on what is the current standard keyboard layout.  (it's ok, go ahead and look if you have to) 

What we've known all our lives is NOT an ideal layout.  In fact, a superior layout has been around since 1936.

The very first layout (by Sholes, who also created QWERTY) was essentially alphabetical, with very little thought involved. 

QWERTY was invented in the 1870's in order to mitigate typewriter jams.  The QWERTY design achieved this by separating  "commonly used letter-pairs (like "th" or "st") so that their typebars were not neighboring, avoiding jams."

Enter stage left: an alternate layout, designed with both statistics of the English language and optimization of finger movement taken into account.
This is the Dvorak layout, for some reason still sitting "on deck."  Its strange name comes from its inventor, Dr. August Dvorak


Teaching new generations to use an alternative layout can cause no harm.  Unlike the idea of "Esperanto" ("an easy-to-learn and politically neutral language that transcends nationality") Dvorak can't hinder communication between young and old.  Any typed message is identical on-screen despite the interface.  Why haven't we changed?  The only reason I can imagine that could be complicating things is the lack of keyboards with the alternate layout PRINTED on its keys.  As we all remember, early on, sight is very much required.

Touch typing is typing without using the sense of sight to find the keys. Specifically, a touch typist will know their location on the keyboard through muscle memory.   If you're good enough at this, switching layouts is hardly worth the effort.  That's why it makes sense for kids to start out on the optimized Dvorak layout now.

The interesting problem of "awkward strokes" is a good enough example to persuade. 

"Awkward strokes are undesirable because they slow down typing, increase typing errors, and increase finger strain. Hurdling is an awkward stroke requiring a single finger to jump directly from one row, over the home row to another row (e.g., typing "minimum" (which often comes out as "minimun" or "mimimum") on the QWERTY keyboard). In the English language, there are about 1,200 words that require a hurdle on the QWERTY layout. In contrast, there are few words requiring a hurdle on the Dvorak layout and even fewer requiring a double hurdle." 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_keyboard#Comparison_of_the_QWERTY_and_Dvorak_layouts

Occasionally I'll amaze myself by realizing that a word I just typed was all on one hand.  It seems to be one of those things that's funny; but I can't place why...  For the same reason, after reading the paragraph above and now typing the word "minimum," I laugh.  Go figure.  Maybe it's my nerdiness.





Want to convert?
For those who want to throw caution to the wind and convert, despite having proficiency with QWERTY, there does exist a "training wheels" layout for Dvorak called Colemak.  Similar to QWERTY, this helps you ease your way into full on Dvorak by meeting half way.
http://www.colemak.com/

Dvorak, although far behind, is still 2nd place, and easily enough toggled in virtually any OS.  (via Control Panel > Keyboard & Mouse on Windows.)  Depending on your OS, Colemak might require some fiddling around.





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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Christianity and Horus

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This was composed as an email to several of my friends.  
It is worded very informally.

Happy Easter, my friends!

Stemming from trying to find out if the movie Zeitgeist was worth watching, I delved into the legends of (1-mainly) Horus to Jesus (2nd) Mithra to Jesus, and also the rep of the movie.  Part 2 and 3 of the movie are supposedly obviously conspiracy horseshit about 911 and such.  The film maker's first part focuses on this topic to set his scene for the "control the masses" dealio.  Zeitgeist 1 uses bits and pieces of real shit, and mashes it up with things that are a real stretch, and also things that are straight up lies.  So, Horus doesn't have such exact parallels to Jesus as he claims.  There's a HUGE and really really awesome article on skeptic.com tearing up Zeitgeist pt 1 and also explaining in great detail what the legends are and what aspects are open (but not really proven) to have influenced the finally written Christian scripture.  Horus's legend is fun and insane by the way.



An example of shady parallel: a Mithrian ritual was baptism, as obviously is also the case in Christianity.  Mithrians, however, killed a bull and dripped the blood on you.  wee bit different than some agua.  Washing is pretty common... well not as much then but the idea of cleansing doesn't necessarily mean one begat the other.  Wow.... I just said begat...  Horus had a fight with his uncle, they tore each other apart, literally.  (Horus into 14 pieces) then they made amends and magically zipped back together again.  This sets some precedence for resurrection as a means to qualify for the messianic theme, but resurrection is elsewhere too.  Virgin birth?  Gets kinda weird in the grey-area since the stories are so crazy.  You've got Easter at an equinox and Dec. 25th is a solstice (to their calendar back then) but still, implications that the newly spread story assigned significance over top of already existing pagan ideas or dates (which did a lot of times use the lunar calendar connected to harvest ideas) is extremely hard to validate. When parallels happen so often though, it seems that at least some of the time splicing occurs.  Running away with that idea is what I'd like NOT to do, and think I had a bit before today. 

In the comments of the skeptic.com article, this guy goes apeshit and writes about 15 pages.  His whole point is that, separate from ANY of the tale, there's enough evidence for us to think Jesus indeed probably did exist.  He connects it in the end with his concern that historians' disagreements, along with the unrealistic want for 21st century style evidence, paves the way for denialism of any of the worst atrocities.  Bit of a jump I'd say, but he has a lot of interesting points on the way. 

There are subtle nuances to find too, like how Jesus grew up in Galilee but had to have (in writing) been born in Bethlehem in order for the Davidic genealogy to apply to him.  Which was very much important to the authors. 

One huge thing I saw all over is that the dated evidence we have reach almost at 0.  Earliest I heard was ~40CE



As a side-note, a great fun fact I learned was that, heading for the birth of the king, the "3 kings" were actually "wise men,"  except really the translation is magicians, and the interpretation is Zoroastrian magi.  Furthermore, the text says that the three gifts are, as you know, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  That is the only reason people think that there were 3 of these dudes.  There's never a mention of how many are in the group.   


Skeptic.com throws away Zeitgeist's astrology connect-the dots pretty well, and has to use some subtle stuff too, it's nice.



Here's the shit right here.  Skeptic.com, great site.  It starts a tiny bit down, scroll.  This is where I spent 80% of my time.
http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-02-25/#feature

Ending The Myth Of Horus, this guy hits all the essentials of the skeptic.com article, but very quickly, if you'd rather.
http://stupidevilbastard.com/2005/01/ending_the_myth_of_horus/



Boing Boing, a less serious but good quirky news outlet, provides a quick and dirty blasting of the documentary.
http://boingboing.net/2007/08/06/jay-kinney-reviews-z.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_in_comparative_mythology

The Pagan Christ (no way am i gonna buy it.  Notable though is that lots of the wiki citations above go to this guy......)
http://books.google.com/books?id=pzG7HAAACAAJ&dq=The+Pagan+Christ%3B+Recovering+the+Lost+Light,&cd=1&hl=en

This is one of 12 books, free, on google books, on the lore of egypt.  This one's 400+ pages and there are others in the series that are free too.
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Gerald_Massey_Ancient_Egypt_The_Light_Of_The_World?id=t00XAAAAYAAJ#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDUwMSwiYm9vay10MDBYQUFBQVlBQUoiXQ


HAPPY EASTER!




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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brand New Videos from ESA / NASA: Neutron Star Mergers / Photographing Space in the Full Spectrum

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Just now from my RSS feeds monitoring NASA / ESA.   I uploaded to YouTube for embedding.

Great quality, wonderful imagery, voiceover or ambient music on all.

"Merging Neutron Stars and Gamma Ray Bursts"



Video Credit: NASA / ESA



This shows each instrument we use to capture different bandpass wavelengths of the spectrum of light.  Toward the end, it shows some of the pictures we've processed with combinations of multiple instruments' results.
"What instruments do we use to capture astronomy pictures - spanning the entire spectrum of light"
The object seen is Centaurus A.
 



Video Credit: NASA / ESA



Similar to the first video - simulation animation and music only.  Pretty!
"When Neutron Stars Collide"
"As neutron star density decays (color shift from yellow to red), a powerful magnetic field (blue, green) projects from a black hole (center)."



Video Credit: NASA / ESA


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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New Installment of The Feynman Series (pt4)

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It's really quite moving.  I'll admit, it got me a little bit choked up today.  Absolutely love it.  Wouldn't be able to stand not sharing it!



Video Credit:
@ReidGower http://twitter.com/reidgower

Previous installments of the Feynman Series
1 - BEAUTY - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRmbwczTC6E
2 - HONOURS - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkv0KCR3Yiw
3 - CURIOSITY - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmTmGLzPVyM

CREDITS FOR PT. 4:
Music - http://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/hurry-up-were-dreaming./id462951764
Narration - No Ordinary Genius http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fzg1CU8t9nw
Narration - Fun to Imagine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU8PId_6xec
Narration - Messenger Lectures http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b240PGCMwV0
The Moon in 2012 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woTCsNNfYEE
Agora - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1186830/
IMAX Hubble 3D - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1433813/
IMAX Solar Max - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0177240/
Planet Earth - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_Earth_(TV_series)
Baraka - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103767/
Wonders of the Universe - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonders_of_the_Universe
NASA - http://www.youtube.com/user/NASAtelevision
Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland 2011 - https://vimeo.com/29568236
Galaxy Collision Animation - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_UwUuJFT3Q
Early Flight Attempts - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5l_oZQyluw
IMAX The Magic of Flight - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119595/
When We Left Earth - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_We_Left_Earth:_The_NASA_Missions
IMAX The Dream Is Alive - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089050/ 


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