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Season 7

The Maths of Star Trek: The Original Series (with James Grime)

Wednesday 15th May, 2013

To celebrate the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, serial guest James Grime has taken on the arduous task of re-watching the original series to study the mathematics featured on the screen. He joins us for a podcast-only special to tell us all about it, with audio clips of the relevant episodes. We'll talk about cicadas, morphogenesis (or “waves on cows”), deceiving androids from first principles, and the biggest question of them all: does the redshirt always die?

If you want to check James’ working, he's published a series of posts over at The Aperiodical on the same themes: part I, part II, part III.

Please enjoy this photograph of Gödel, which we mention towards the end of the show. Please also enjoy further information on the remarkable Valais goat. The short skirt uniform worn by both men and women in early episodes of The Next Generation is called a skant, and it was occasionally worn with trousers.

JIM: Science and medics, those are the blue shirts.
HOST: Where do mathematicians go? Scientists?
JIM: That’s right, yes, science.
HOST: You’re safe?
JIM: Yes, I am, I’m in the blue shirt category.
as quoted by Peter Rowlett in What colour shirt do mathematicians wear?


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Season 6

The Human Side of Science (with Oliver Marsh)

Sunday 10th March, 2013

Oliver Marsh studies science-media interactions at the department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, occasionally performs at Bright Club, and blogs about “the human side of science”. He joins Andy in the studio for the final episode of season 6!


  • KT Tunstall – Funnyman
  • David Bowie – Life on Mars
  • Ethel Merman – There's No Business Like Show Business
  • The Smiths – That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
  • Mother Mother – Infinitesimal

Listen »


Sunday 3rd March, 2013

Picking up where What if… we could all become cyborgs?, a show Andy produced for the BBC World Service, and last week's episode both left off, Andy and Will discuss cyborgs, hive minds, extending the senses, and the alleged emasculating effects of smartphones.

Bionic eyes; artificial synæsthesia; lab rats with brain implants sense invisible infrared light; powering an artificial heart; Google Glass; Sergey Brin: Smartphones are ‘emasculating’; Steve Mann (Will mentioned the hit-and-run anecdote in this article but didn't realise it was the same man who was assaulted in McDonald's); the many strands of Ghost in the Shell; brain hacking; typing with twenty fingers; Nigel Shadbolt and AIs for the elderly; the Borg; the Ood; Intercontinental mind-meld unites two rats; Rats ARE like the Borg; faint memories of a Dark Angel plotline; Lab-grown human brains could control robots, says Kevin Warwick; aaaaaaand rat kings.


  • The Six Million Dollar Man theme
  • Faded Paper Figures – Information Runs On
  • Scott Matthew – Lithium Flower (from the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack)
  • Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind
  • Kraftwerk – The Robots

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Gaming Science Fiction vs. Modern Science Fact (with Cam Robinson)

Sunday 24th February, 2013

Cam Robinson hosts GameSpot's The What If Machine, where he explores how close the wonder of modern science fact can bring us to gaming science fiction. He joins us to discuss cybernetics, autonomous robots, nanotechnology, and more, with his choice of excellent tunes.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution, implants, augmented reality, Call of Duty, Noel Sharkey on The Life Scientific, ethical risks of robotics, Crysis 3, wipE'out", levitation, Punch the Custard (Will misremembered how the hit detection works), space travel, and Cam’s recommendation of the one recent game non-gamers should play.


  • Radiohead – Paranoid Android
  • Nine Inch Nails – Discipline
  • AC/DC – TNT
  • Sabrepulse – City at Speed
  • Muse – Space Dementia

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Helen Arney

Sunday 10th February, 2013

Spoken nerd and songstress Helen Arney lends her voice to the show. Video games, fossils, AIs, cat chat, and almost no ukuleles.


  • Buckner & Garcia – Pac-Man Fever
  • They Might Be Giants – I Am A Palaeontologist
  • A.F. Harrold – Science Party Poem
  • Tim Minchin – When I Grow Up (from Matilda)
  • Jonathan Coulton – Good Morning Tucson
  • Helen Arney – The Sun Has Got Its Huff On

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Natural Resources (with Ivan Scales)

Sunday 3rd February, 2013

Political ecologist Ivan Scales—McGrath Lecturer and Director of Studies in Geography at St Catharine's College, Cambridge—joins the show to discuss natural resource use and environmental change. Ivan is the McGrath Lecturer and Director of Studies in Geography at St Catharine's College.


  • Villagers – Mercy, Mercy Me
  • R.E.M. – It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
  • Grandaddy – Broken Household Appliance National Forest
  • Radiohead – Idioteque
  • Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi
  • Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven

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Madness (with Alex O'Bryan-Tear)

Sunday 27th January, 2013

In the first live episode of season 6, Andy and Will are joined by Alex O'Bryan-Tear to discuss schizophrenia, psychosis, and the treatment of mental illness.

Ageing and Rejuvenation (with Aubrey de Grey)

Sunday 20th January, 2013

Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Foundation joins Will by phone to discuss reversing the effects of ageing, the accurate or counterproductive ways life extension and immortality are presented in fiction, and public perception and acceptance of new medical technology.

Repairing the body vs. uploading human consciousness; Buying Time (aka The Long Habit of Living) by Joe Haldeman; whither implants; prosthetics and improving on baseline humans; the state of the art of rejuvenation research.

By around 2050, I'm fairly sure that the human-driven automobile will be a specialised race-track toy for gear-heads, much as horse-drawn carriages in the developed world are a quaint hobby or a deliberate affectation.

Charles Stross


  • Death Cab for Cutie – What Sarah Said
  • Barcelona – Obsoletion
  • 65daysofstatic – When We Were Younger & Better
  • Ume – Pendulum

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Season 5


Sunday 25th November, 2012

Andy and Will round off the year with a show on intoxicants: real or fantastical, legal or outlawed, poison or cure (or sometimes both…).

James Bond’s heart, curare, Charles Waterton’s donkey- and bellows-based hobbies, counteracting poisons with poisons, deadly beauty treatments, glass swans, penicillin, recycling a policeman's urine, K-Pax, alkaloids, opiates, the works of Jeff Noon, Hofmann, tripping babies, Equilibrium, mood stabilizers, and a surprisingly large number of emails!

The claim that Dolophine, a brand name for methadone, was chosen in honour of Hitler was sadly too good to be true.

This is a fantastically interesting show!

an anonymous listener


  • Alice Cooper – Poison
  • The National – All The Wine
  • Skunk Anansie – She’s My Heroine
  • Massive Attack – Rush Minute

Plus, if you were listening live:

  • Nirvana – Lithium

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Contagion (with Alexandra Kamins)

Sunday 18th November, 2012

Alexandra Kamins, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and IOZ, brings us the messy reality behind the spread of disease, everyone's favourite apocalyptic scenario. Pestilence galore!

Zoonotic disease, pandemics/epidemics, fruit bats, Contagion, Outbreak, Ebola, badgers, the imposition of quarantine, (not) being a “helping-people doctor”, Good Omens and more.


  • Metallica – Four Horsemen
  • Toto – Africa
  • Peter, Paul and Mary – Leaving on a Jet Plane
  • They Might Be Giants - Doctor Worm

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Quantum (with Michael Conterio)

Sunday 11th November, 2012

Serial guest Michael Conterio joins the show to discuss the fiction and fact of technology enabled by quantum mechanics. Michael co-hosts Burst The Bubble—which airs just before The Science of Fiction—and is the ringleader of Sci Cam, a new magazine-style live video show with interviews, beginner's guides and news.

101 Housework Songs, wave-particle duality, A Quantum Murder, A Quantum of Solace, teleportation, lasers, Boeing YAL-1, semiconductors, Qubit Slip, and many other things.


  • Katrina and the Waves – Walking on Sunshine
  • Jonny Berliner – Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
  • Chris Cornell – You Know My Name
  • The Firm – Star Trekkin’

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Perceptions of Scientists (with Sam Gregson)

Sunday 4th November, 2012

Andy is joined by Sam Gregson—who works on a “very big thing in Geneva”—to discuss public perceptions of scientists, as revealed through fiction and the media.

CP violations; sinusoidal need & perception; hypocritical stand-up sets; aliens; Stargate SG-1; destroying the magic; Spock; Brians with Ph.D.s; and more.


  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Love Rollercoaster
  • Right Said Fred – I'm Too Sexy
  • Carly Simon – You're So Vain
  • The Flying Lizards – Money (That's What I Want)
  • Pilot – Magic
  • D:Ream – Things Can Only Get Better

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The Tortured Genius (with James Grime)

Sunday 28th October, 2012

James Grime, “resident tamed mathematician” of The Enigma Project and past guest, returns to the show to discuss the cliché of depicting scientists as tormented by their own vast intellects.

Can 2 + 2 = 5?; Good Will Hunting; George Dantzig; Walter Pitt; William Sidris; Srinivasa Ramanujan; 21; card counting; savants; Fermat's last theorem; Gauss.

Some links from the end of the show:


  • Radiohead – 2 + 2 = 5
  • MGMT – Time to Pretend
  • The Notwist – This Room

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Oceans in Fiction (with Helen Scales)

Sunday 21st October, 2012

We're joined by Helen Scales—marine biologist, broadcaster and author of Poseidon’s Steed—to discuss watery lairs, submariners, cephalopods and more, with a nautical soundtrack.


  • Lisa Hannigan – Ocean and a Rock
  • Villagers – The Waves
  • Kings of Convenience – Cayman Islands
  • Sigur Rós – Starálfur
  • The Beatles – Octopus’s Garden

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Dead Mammals (with Nick Crumpton)

Sunday 14th October, 2012

Nick Crumpton—zoologist, co-editor of BlueSci Films, freelance journalist, occasional beard-haver and ukulelist—joins the show to talk primarily about long-dead mammals.


  • John Williams – Theme from Jurassic Park
  • David Byrne & St. Vincent – Ice Age
  • PVT – In The Blood
  • Here We Go Magic – Collector

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A Tale of 2² Cities

Sunday 7th October, 2012

Your intrepid hosts have spent their summers in two unfamiliar cities apiece. To kick off the new season, we'll be discussing fiction which deals with the unique characters of different cities and societies. Expect plenty of free marketing for China Miéville. (Also, Andy has been working on a new survival technique in case of the breakdown of society…)


  • The Clash – London Calling
  • Kaki King – Montreal
  • They Might Be Giants – Electric Car
  • Buke and Gase – Naked Cities

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Season 4

Games in Fiction, Fiction in Games (with Leonard Richardson)

Sunday 17th June, 2012

Leonard Richardson joins the show from across the Atlantic to talk about games as plot devices, generative content, storytelling, games which exploit the player, and dadaism. You may know Leonard as the creator of Robot Finds Kitten, the maintainer of Beautiful Soup and the author of Constellation Games, among his many other works.


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Mediæval Science and Literature (with Daisy Scholten)

Sunday 3rd June, 2012

Daisy Scholten joins Andy to talk about saintly medical techniques, the afterlife, and absolutely no Dan Brown.

Don't forget to get your ticket to see Prometheus on Monday 4th, preceded by an in-the-flesh edition of The Science of Fiction about the science of Alien! (Why not join the Facebook event?)

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Sunday 27th May, 2012

How might the world end? This week, The Science of Fiction investigates the myriad of scenarios for the downfall of humanity. Plus, we introduce a revolutionary new unit of apocalyptic severity…

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Economics and Game Theory

Sunday 20th May, 2012

With Andy having fled the country, Will is joined by Trevor Wood to talk about Nash equilibria, reputation-based currency, and the 16th-century tulip bubble. (They will try to avoid discussing Diplomacy too much.)

You may remember Trevor from his Season 2 appearance on mathematics and mathematicians.


  • The Hives – Supply and Demand
  • Battles – Wall Street
  • I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
  • Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues
  • R.E.M. – It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

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Here Comes The Science Bit

Sunday 13th May, 2012

The worst offenders might be shampoo adverts, but egregious pseudo-science is not exactly rare in fiction. Joined by The Science Of Fiction regular Djuke Veldhuis, we take a look at what gets scribbled in beside the bits in the script marked “technobabble”.


  • Death Cab for Cutie – Crooked Teeth
  • Placebo – Every You Every Me
  • Clint Mansell – Leaving Earth

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Sunday 6th May, 2012

Minimizing the edit distance from last week's show, Chris Smowton joins us to talk about androids, AI, the uncanny valley, and tiny fire extinguishing robots.


  • Stars – Sad Robot
  • Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1
  • Kael Alden (Robot Repair) – Where You Belong

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Sunday 29th April, 2012

We take a look at reboots, remakes, re-imaginings, and other almost-synonymous new versions of old works. Are they made to take advantage of new technology; to update the plots for modern audiences; or maybe for no valid reason at all?

Needless to say, none of the music featured on this episode was as it was originally recorded:

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Season 3

Steampunk, Shams and Space Cowboys (with Kat Arney)

Sunday 11th March, 2012

Kat Arney—songstress, Naked Scientist, knitter—joins Andy and Will to chat about colliders, steampunk, lab-based literature, quacks and the ’Verse.


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Sunday 4th March, 2012

Fasten your tin-foil hats securely, as Andy and Will delve into the murky world of conspiracy theories. Assassination plots, Martian civilizations, mysterious ionosphere research—and how The Establishment will wipe your memory when you've finished listening.


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Sunday 26th February, 2012

Andy and Will take a (pseudo-)random walk around the scientific and/or fictional topics suggested by their music collections, from interdimensional transport using gravity pulses to musical trees via whistling at nuclear missiles.

An Important Correction

Thomas Truax plays the Hornicator. It is Psapp who built and played the Bone-a-phone.


  • Thomas Truax – Inside The Internet
  • Muse – Supermassive Black Hole
  • Brad Fiedel – Terminator 2 main title
  • Placebo – Slave to the Wage
  • Hella – 1-800-GHOST-DANCE
  • Garbage – Special

Listen »

Hybrids (with Djuke Veldhuis)

Sunday 19th February, 2012

Djuke, guest star of last season's episode about stress, returns to the show to discuss hybrids, aliens and mutants across fiction and fact (and 16th century Scottish superstition, naturally).


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Season 2

Cryptography (with James Grime)

Sunday 4th December, 2011

Bond, Neil Stephenson, Turing, and a real live Enigma machine in the studio!

Here are some photos: Andy, James, the Enigma machine, its instructions, and a video of James demonstrating the machine during the episode.

James Grime is the “resident tamed mathematician” of The Enigma Project.


  • Tunng – Code Breaker
  • Massive Attack – Babel
  • Matt Monroe – From Russia With Love
  • Silversun Pickups – There’s No Secrets This Year

Listen »

Mathematics and Mathematicians (with Trevor Wood)

Sunday 27th November, 2011

Good Will Hunting, the bat sonar digital switchover, The Hunt for Red October, The Oxford Murders, A Beautiful Mind, Pi, Kevin Bacon, curing the world of Facebook, dinosaurs.

Your archivist believes that one host was struggling to remember the details of the Ramanujan-Hardy number on this episode.


  • Darwin Deez – Radar Detector
  • Battles – Ice Cream
  • Broken Social Scene – Love and Mathematics
  • De La Soul – Me, Myself and I
  • Jurassic Park themes

Listen »

The Music of Fiction

Sunday 20th November, 2011

A music-packed episode of some of our favourite music from and about fiction! From concept albums to point-and-click adventures, and Vikram Seth to Rez and Stalwart.

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Environment (with Rachel Kennerley)

Sunday 13th November, 2011

Floods, custard shortages, beards, raccoons, Command & Conquer, environmental pressures, vulnerability theory and more.

Here’s an article about the Minecraft mod Rachel mentioned.


  • They Might Be Giants – Flood
  • Imogen Heap – Earth
  • Maps and Atlases – Solid Ground
  • Fever Ray – When I Grow Up
  • Jon Boden – When The Walls Come Tumbling Down

Listen »

Four Fundamental Forces (with Michael Contario)

Sunday 6th November, 2011

…assuming a spherical shark…

How the four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force) crop up in TV shows, comics, films and more! Michael is the host of Burst the Bubble.

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Biotechnology (with Steve Frenk)

Sunday 30th October, 2011

Genetic engineering, stem cell research, and the impact of biotechnology on societies past, present and future, mundane and fantastical.

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Stress (with Djuke Veldhuis)

Sunday 23rd October, 2011

Televisions in Papua New Guinea; Heinz ketchup varieties; Fight Club; Dell, Apple and freedom from choice.

Getting old; toddlers going caving; Star Wars fan-edits; Falling Down; responsible breakdowns; parachuting; American Beauty; living in a cave for a month; factory workers versus CEOs; sleep cycles; ageing, ulcers, chocolate and turkey.

Full Metal Jacket; the transitions between cushy modern life and the battlefield; the hippocampus; the boredom of military life; predictability and control; blood flow in fight or flight; spiders and leopards.

Over-grooming; a child in a road accident in China; over-litigious-ness; the bystander effect; social stress; first aid training.


  • Pixies – Where Is My Mind
  • Björk – Human Behaviour
  • Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch
  • Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (part 1)

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Dystopias and Utopias (with Steve Hyde)

Sunday 16th October, 2011

Happy birthday Kim; robots; humans are inefficient batteries; squeaky burgers; the end of the world in the late 90s; Demolition Man, Escape From New York; knitting; Equilibrium; hug speakeasies.

Being engaged to Zooey Deschanel; The Matrix; The Truman Show; surveillance vs. voyeurism; “other markers are available”; Neuromancer; Ghost in the Shell; cyborg rats.

Theremins; 1984 vs. We (and Brave New World); book roulette; reading poets; James Randi; Escape From New York’s special effects; glow-in-the-dark cats; circumcision.

Superhero vigilantes with pepper spray; trick or treat; silent movies; Wall-E; Beneath A Steel Sky; GATTACA’s temporal ambiguity; The Forever War; Czech dog poo vigilante; The Culture; elitism.


  • Fol Chen – In Ruins
  • The Postal Service – This Place Is A Prison
  • The Octopus Project – Music Is Happiness
  • Faded Paper Figures – Metropolis

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Chaos (with Niraj Lal)

Sunday 9th October, 2011

Chaos, the weather, and why mathematicians can prove there isn't an answer to everything.

Niraj is a PhD student in nanophotonics, and wrote a children's book called Butterfly Flo and the Everything Effect—a story about a butterfly in the Australian bush who learns about chaos theory and how he can change the weather.

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Sunday 2nd October, 2011

Andy and Will chat about what they've been reading and watching over the summer.

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Season 1

Memory (with Dr Amy Milton)

Sunday 24th July, 2011

Final episode of the series with Dr Amy Milton on the subject of memory, and how to erase it.

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Journey into the Fourth Dimension (with Prof. Andy Parker)

Sunday 3rd July, 2011

Prof. Andy Parker heads up the the work on the Large Hardion Collider in Cambridge. We ask him about his work in search of hidden dimensions, and (as always) check that he isn't about to create a black hole that will destroy the Earth.

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Time Travel (with Andy Pontzen)

Sunday 12th June, 2011

Andy Pontzen discusses the science of time travel, and judges the quality of depictions in fiction from on-air synopses! Expect DeLorean, Terminators and time-travelling phone boxes (be it Bill and Ted’s or the Doctor’s).

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Zombies (with Frank Swain and Thomas Wooley)

Sunday 29th May, 2011

“Science Punk” Frank Swain talks about real life zombies, and Thomas Wooley discusses his reseach into how we will fare in the event of a zombie attack. We all know the zombie apocalypse is coming, so listen in to make sure you're prepared!

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Fictional Scientist Grudge Match (with Will Thompson)

Sunday 22nd May, 2011

Andy and Will go head-to-head with their favourite fictional scientists.

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Computers (with Will Thompson)

Sunday 15th May, 2011

A show on computers and Computers Science in fiction, inevitably tripping over geek classics such as Tron and Hackers, and spaced by nerdcore and chiptune-y sounds.

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Doctor Who (with Michael Conterio)

Sunday 8th May, 2011

Andy and Michael discuss everything “Who”, asking questions like “How does a Dalek really work?” and investigating important issues including “will we all be Cybermen by the end on the century?” No previous knowledge of the Doctor's adventures needed!

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Comic Book Science (with Ben Valsler)

Sunday 1st May, 2011

The very first show, featuring Ben Valsler, producer of the Naked Scientists.

Ben's Masters dissertation was titled “Depictions of science and technology in comics and graphic novels”; this episode looks over his comic collection and discusses the science and its depiction in them.

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