Synthetic Biology: The $3.6 Trillion Science Changing Life as We Know It
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Synthetic Biology: The $3.6 Trillion Science Changing Life as We Know It

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How Synthetic Biology Could Change Life as we Know it

Synthetic biology (synbio) is a field of science that redesigns organisms in an effort to enhance and support human life. According to one projection, this rapidly growing field of science is expected to reach $28.8 billion in global revenue by 2026.

Although it has the potential to transform many aspects of society, things could go horribly wrong if synbio is used for malicious or unethical reasons. This infographic explores the opportunities and potential risks that this budding field of science has to offer.

What is Synthetic Biology?

We’ve covered the basics of synbio in previous work, but as a refresher, here’s a quick explanation of what synbio is and how it works.

Synbio is an area of scientific research that involves editing and redesigning different biological components and systems in various organisms.

It’s like genetic engineering but done at a more granular level—while genetic engineering transfers ready-made genetic material between organisms, synbio can build new genetic material from scratch.

The Opportunities of Synbio

This field of science has a plethora of real-world applications that could transform our everyday lives. A study by McKinsey found over 400 potential uses for synbio, which were broken down into four main categories:

  • Human health and performance
  • Agriculture and food
  • Consumer products and services
  • Materials and energy production

If those potential uses become reality in the coming years, they could have a direct economic impact of up to $3.6 trillion per year by 2030-2040.

1. Human Health and Performance

The medical and health sector is predicted to be significantly influenced by synbio, with an economic impact of up to $1.3 trillion each year by 2030-2040.

Synbio has a wide range of medical applications. For instance, it can be used to manipulate biological pathways in yeast to produce an anti-malaria treatment.

It could also enhance gene therapy. Using synbio techniques, the British biotech company Touchlight Genetics is working on a way to build synthetic DNA without the use of bacteria, which would be a game-changer for the field of gene therapy.

2. Agriculture and Food

Synbio has the potential to make a big splash in the agricultural sector as well—up to $1.2 trillion per year by as early as 2030.

One example of this is synbio’s role in cellular agriculture, which is when meat is created from cells directly. The cost of creating lab-grown meat has decreased significantly in recent years, and because of this, various startups around the world are beginning to develop a variety of cell-based meat products.

3. Consumer Products and Services

Using synthetic biology, products could be tailored to suit an individual’s unique needs. This would be useful in fields such as genetic ancestry testing, gene therapy, and age-related skin procedures.

By 2030-2040, synthetic biology could have an economic impact on consumer products and services to the tune of up to $800 billion per year.

4. Materials and Energy Production

Synbio could also be used to boost efficiency in clean energy and biofuel production. For instance, microalgae are currently being “reprogrammed” to produce clean energy in an economically feasible way.

This, along with other material and energy improvements through synbio methods, could have a direct economic impact of up to $300 billion each year.

The Potential Risks of Synbio

While the potential economic and societal benefits of synthetic biology are vast, there are a number of risks to be aware of as well:

  • Unintended biological consequences: Making tweaks to any biological system can have ripple effects across entire ecosystems or species. When any sort of lifeform is manipulated, things don’t always go according to plan.
  • Moral issues: How far we’re comfortable going with synbio depends on our values. Certain synbio applications, such as embryo editing, are controversial. If these types of applications become mainstream, they could have massive societal implications, with the potential to increase polarization within communities.
  • Unequal access: Innovation and progress in synbio is happening faster in wealthier countries than it is in developing ones. If this trend continues, access to these types of technology may not be equal worldwide. We’ve already witnessed this type of access gap during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, where a majority of vaccines have been administered in rich countries.
  • Bioweaponry: Synbio could be used to recreate viruses, or manipulate bacteria to make it more dangerous, if used with ill intent.

According to a group of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, communication between the public, synthetic biologists, and political decision-makers is crucial so that these societal and environmental risks can be mitigated.

Balancing Risk and Reward

Despite the risks involved, innovation in synbio is happening at a rapid pace.

By 2030, most people will have likely eaten, worn, or been treated by a product created by synthetic biology, according to synthetic biologist Christopher A. Voigt.

Our choices today will dictate the future of synbio, and how we navigate through this space will have a massive impact on our future—for better, or for worse.

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The Cost of Mining Bitcoin in 198 Different Countries

Mining bitcoin is costly. But the exact price fluctuates, depending on the location and the cost of electricity in the area.

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Cost of Mining Bitcoin in 198 Different Countries

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It takes an estimated 1,449 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy to mine a single bitcoin. That’s the same amount of energy an average U.S. household consumes in approximately 13 years.

Given the high amount of energy needed to mine bitcoin, it can be a costly venture to get into. But exact prices fluctuate, depending on the location and the cost of electricity in the area.

Where are the cheapest and most expensive places to mine this popular cryptocurrency? This graphic by 911 Metallurgist provides a snapshot of the estimated cost of mining bitcoin around the world, using pricing and relative costs from March 23, 2022.

How Does Bitcoin Mining Work?

Before diving in, it’s worth briefly explaining the basics of bitcoin mining, and why it requires so much energy.

When someone mines for bitcoin, what they’re really doing is adding and verifying a new transaction record to the blockchain—the decentralized bank ledger where bitcoin is traded and distributed.

To create this new record, crypto miners need to crack a complex equation that’s been generated by the blockchain system.

Potentially tens of thousands of miners are racing to crack the same code at any given time. Only the first person to solve the equation gets rewarded (unless you’re part of a mining pool, which is essentially a group of miners who agree to combine efforts to increase their chances of solving the equation).

The faster your computing power is, the better your chances are of winning, so solving the equation first requires powerful equipment that takes up a lot of energy.

The Costs and Profits of Mining Bitcoin in 198 Countries

Across the 198 countries included in the dataset, the average cost to mine bitcoin sat at $35,404.03, more than bitcoin’s value of $20,863.69 on July 15, 2022. Though it’s important to note that fluctuating energy prices, and more or less miners on the bitcoin network, constantly change the necessary energy and final cost.

Here’s a breakdown of what the cost to mine one bitcoin in each country was in March 23, 2022, along with the potential profit after accounting for mining costs:

#CountryCost to mine 1 bitcoinProfit (July 15, 2022)
1🇰🇼 Kuwait$1,393.95$18,362.58
2🇩🇿 Algeria$4,181.86$15,574.67
3🇸🇩 Sudan$4,779.27$14,977.26
4🇾🇪 Yemen$7,161.77$12,594.76
5🇪🇹 Ethiopia$7,168.91$12,587.62
6🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan$7,168.91$12,587.62
7🇦🇴 Angola$7,368.04$12,388.49
8🇶🇦 Qatar$7,368.04$12,388.49
9🇰🇵 North Korea$7,744.32$12,012.21
10🇰🇿 Kazakhstan$8,762.00$10,994.53
11🇿🇲 Zambia$9,160.27$10,596.26
12🇦🇿 Azerbaijan$9,558.54$10,197.99
13🇧🇳 Brunei$9,956.81$9,799.72
14🇮🇷 Iran$10,355.09$9,401.44
15🇺🇿 Uzbekistan$10,355.09$9,401.44
16🇽🇰 Kosovo$10,560.17$9,196.36
17🇸🇬 Singapore$10,952.50$8,804.03
18🇲🇳 Mongolia$11,151.63$8,604.90
19🇧🇹 Bhutan$11,749.04$8,007.49
20🇧🇭 Bahrain$11,948.18$7,808.35
21🇴🇲 Oman$11,948.18$7,808.35
22🇹🇯 Tajikistan$12,545.59$7,210.94
23🇺🇦 Ukraine$12,744.72$7,011.81
24🇬🇪 Georgia$13,143.00$6,613.53
25🇦🇬 Paraguay$13,143.00$6,613.53
26🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago$13,143.00$6,613.53
27🇸🇷 Suriname$14,337.81$5,418.72
28🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$14,736.09$5,020.44
29🇦🇲 Armenia$15,333.50$4,423.03
30🇹🇳 Tunisia$15,333.50$4,423.03
31🇸🇾 Syria$15,532.63$4,223.90
32🇨🇬 Congo (Republic Of The)$16,130.04$3,626.49
33🇲🇲 Myanmar$16,130.04$3,626.49
34🇷🇺 Russia$16,130.04$3,626.49
35🇮🇶 Iraq$16,926.59$2,829.94
36🇲🇩 Moldova$16,926.59$2,829.94
37🇹🇷 Turkey$17,723.13$2,033.40
38🇷🇴 Romania$18,320.54$1,435.99
39🇦🇱 Albania$18,718.81$1,037.72
40🇧🇩 Bangladesh$18,718.81$1,037.72
41🇱🇮 Liechtenstein$18,917.95$838.58
42🇱🇹 Lithuania$18,917.95$838.58
43🇲🇿 Mozambique$19,117.08$639.45
44🇪🇬 Egypt$19,316.22$440.31
45🇨🇩 Congo (Democratic Republic Of The)$19,913.63-$157.10
46🇳🇴 Norway$20,112.77-$356.24
47🇦🇹 Austria$20,311.90-$555.37
48🇨🇱 Chile$20,311.90-$555.37
49🇪🇪 Estonia$20,511.04-$754.51
50🇸🇪 Sweden$20,710.18-$953.65
51🇨🇫 Central African Republic$20,909.31-$1,152.78
52🇺🇸 United States$21,088.53-$1,332.00
53🇧🇬 Bulgaria$21,307.58-$1,551.05
54🇮🇩 Indonesia$21,307.58-$1,551.05
55🇷🇸 Serbia$21,307.58-$1,551.05
56🇦🇷 Argentina$21,506.72-$1,750.19
57🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates$21,705.86-$1,949.33
58🇳🇬 Nigeria$22,303.27-$2,546.74
59🇲🇬 Madagascar$22,502.40-$2,745.87
60🇱🇻 Latvia$22,701.54-$2,945.01
61🇰🇷 South Korea$22,701.54-$2,945.01
62🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina$23,099.81-$3,343.28
63🇹🇼 Taiwan$23,298.95-$3,542.42
64🇮🇱 Israel$23,498.08-$3,741.55
65🇪🇨 Ecuador$23,697.22-$3,940.69
66🇲🇾 Malaysia$23,896.36-$4,139.83
67🇳🇵 Nepal$23,896.36-$4,139.83
68🇳🇿 New Zealand$23,896.36-$4,139.83
69🇱🇺 Luxembourg$24,095.49-$4,338.96
70🇮🇸 Iceland$24,294.63-$4,538.10
71🇨🇦 Canada$24,493.76-$4,737.23
72🇲🇦 Morocco$24,692.90-$4,936.37
73🇿🇼 Zimbabwe$24,692.90-$4,936.37
74🇻🇳 Vietnam$24,892.04-$5,135.51
75🇨🇮 Côte D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)$25,091.17-$5,334.64
76🇱🇾 Libya$25,091.17-$5,334.64
77🇹🇿 Tanzania$25,091.17-$5,334.64
78🇦🇩 Andorra$25,276.27-$5,519.74
79🇨🇳 China$25,489.45-$5,732.92
80🇱🇧 Lebanon$25,887.72-$6,131.19
81🇱🇦 Laos$26,285.99-$6,529.46
82🇫🇮 Finland$26,485.13-$6,728.60
83🇫🇷 France$27,082.54-$7,326.01
84🇨🇭 Switzerland$27,082.54-$7,326.01
85🇵🇱 Poland$27,281.67-$7,525.14
86🇷🇼 Rwanda$27,281.67-$7,525.14
87🇹🇭 Thailand$27,281.67-$7,525.14
88🇨🇿 Czech Republic$27,480.81-$7,724.28
89🇱🇸 Lesotho$27,679.95-$7,923.42
90🇲🇪 Montenegro$28,078.22-$8,321.69
91🇲🇱 Mali$28,277.35-$8,520.82
92🇨🇷 Costa Rica$28,675.63-$8,919.10
93🇳🇱 Netherlands$28,675.63-$8,919.10
94🇧🇾 Belarus$29,273.04-$9,516.51
95🇳🇦 Namibia$30,069.58-$10,313.05
96🇲🇰 Macedonia, North$30,866.13-$11,109.60
97🇸🇲 San Marino$30,866.13-$11,109.60
98🇸🇰 Slovakia$31,065.26-$11,308.73
99🇿🇦 South Africa$32,060.94-$12,304.41
100🇧🇼 Botswana$32,459.22-$12,702.69
101🇸🇿 Swaziland$32,857.49-$13,100.96
102🇧🇪 Belgium$33,255.76-$13,499.23
103🇺🇾 Uruguay$33,255.76-$13,499.23
104🇧🇷 Brazil$33,454.90-$13,698.37
105🇭🇷 Croatia$33,454.90-$13,698.37
106🇮🇹 Italy$33,454.90-$13,698.37
107🇺🇬 Uganda$33,654.03-$13,897.50
108🇨🇲 Cameroon$33,853.17-$14,096.64
109🇲🇽 Mexico$33,853.17-$14,096.64
110🇲🇼 Malawi$34,251.44-$14,494.91
111🇧🇮 Burundi$34,450.58-$14,694.05
112🇱🇰 Sri Lanka$34,450.58-$14,694.05
113🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea$34,649.72-$14,893.19
114🇧🇴 Bolivia$34,848.85-$15,092.32
115🇲🇷 Mauritania$35,047.99-$15,291.46
116🇵🇸 Palestine$35,047.99-$15,291.46
117🇹🇬 Togo$35,047.99-$15,291.46
118🇦🇫 Afghanistan$35,844.53-$16,088.00
119🇭🇺 Hungary$35,844.53-$16,088.00
120🇸🇱 Sierra Leone$35,844.53-$16,088.00
121🇲🇨 Monaco$35,922.73-$16,166.20
122🇵🇭 Philippines$36,043.67-$16,287.14
123🇰🇭 Cambodia$36,242.81-$16,486.28
124🇸🇳 Senegal$36,242.81-$16,486.28
125🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe$36,441.94-$16,685.41
126🇮🇪 Ireland (Republic Of)$37,835.90-$18,079.37
127🇲🇹 Malta$37,835.90-$18,079.37
128🇨🇾 Cyprus$38,035.03-$18,278.50
129🇬🇦 Gabon$38,035.03-$18,278.50
130🇸🇻 El Salvador$38,831.58-$19,075.05
131🇵🇪 Peru$38,831.58-$19,075.05
132🇨🇴 Colombia$39,628.12-$19,871.59
133🇩🇴 Dominican Republic$40,026.40-$20,269.87
134🇬🇹 Guatemala$40,026.40-$20,269.87
135🇬🇲 The Gambia$40,225.53-$20,469.00
136🇬🇳 Guinea$40,424.67-$20,668.14
137🇮🇳 India$40,424.67-$20,668.14
138🇦🇺 Australia$40,623.81-$20,867.28
139🇬🇷 Greece$40,623.81-$20,867.28
140🇲🇺 Mauritius$40,822.94-$21,066.41
141🇧🇯 Benin$41,221.21-$21,464.68
142🇭🇳 Honduras$41,420.35-$21,663.82
143🇭🇹 Haiti$42,017.76-$22,261.23
144🇹🇩 Chad$42,216.90-$22,460.37
145🇳🇪 Niger$42,416.03-$22,659.50
146🇰🇪 Kenya$43,212.58-$23,456.05
147🇫🇯 Fiji$43,411.71-$23,655.18
148🇪🇷 Eritrea$43,610.85-$23,854.32
149🇸🇸 South Sudan$43,809.99-$24,053.46
150🇵🇰 Pakistan$44,208.26-$24,451.73
151🇵🇹 Portugal$44,208.26-$24,451.73
152🇧🇿 Belize$45,004.80-$25,248.27
153🇳🇷 Nauru$45,378.54-$25,622.01
154🇹🇱 Timor-Leste$46,597.89-$26,841.36
155🇬🇭 Ghana$46,996.17-$27,239.64
156🇯🇵 Japan$47,195.30-$27,438.77
157🇧🇫 Burkina Faso$47,394.44-$27,637.91
158🇩🇰 Denmark$48,190.98-$28,434.45
159🇯🇴 Jordan$48,987.53-$29,231.00
160🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England$49,301.82-$29,545.29
161🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland$50,090.64-$30,334.11
162🇵🇦 Panama$50,580.62-$30,824.09
163🇩🇪 Germany$50,978.89-$31,222.36
164🇬🇧 Ireland (Northern)$51,536.83-$31,780.30
165🇪🇸 Spain$51,775.44-$32,018.91
166🇩🇯 Djibouti$52,173.71-$32,417.18
167🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Wales$52,194.19-$32,437.66
168🇨🇻 Cape Verde$52,372.85-$32,616.32
169🇯🇲 Jamaica$52,571.98-$32,815.45
170🇧🇧 Barbados$52,970.26-$33,213.73
171🇸🇮 Slovenia$52,970.26-$33,213.73
172🇹🇻 Tuvalu$53,887.02-$34,130.49
173🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau$54,364.21-$34,607.68
174🇰🇲 Comoros$55,957.30-$36,200.77
175🇧🇸 Bahamas$56,753.85-$36,997.32
176🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea$57,550.39-$37,793.86
177🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis$60,935.71-$41,179.18
178🇬🇩 Grenada$61,533.12-$41,776.59
179🇵🇼 Palau$63,922.75-$44,166.22
180🇱🇨 Saint Lucia$63,922.75-$44,166.22
181🇸🇨 Seychelles$63,922.75-$44,166.22
182🇬🇾 Guyana$65,316.71-$45,560.18
183🇳🇮 Nicaragua$66,511.52-$46,754.99
184🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and Grenadines$68,901.16-$49,144.63
185🇹🇴 Tonga$72,087.34-$52,330.81
186🇩🇲 Dominica$73,282.16-$53,525.63
187​🇻🇺​ Vanuatu$76,070.07-$56,313.54
188🇼🇸​ Samoa$76,667.48-$56,910.95
189​🇨🇺​ Cuba$76,946.27-$57,189.74
190🇱🇷 Liberia$77,663.16-$57,906.63
191​🇲🇻​ Maldives$78,459.70-$58,703.17
192🇲🇭 Marshall Islands$80,849.34-$61,092.81
193🇸🇴 Somalia$82,044.16-$62,287.63
194🇰🇮 Kiribati$82,243.29-$62,486.76
195🇫🇲 Micronesia, Federated States Of$82,442.43-$62,685.90
196🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda$89,412.20-$69,655.67
197🇸🇧 Solomon Islands$142,581.59-$122,825.06
198🇻🇪 Venezuela$246,530.74-$226,774.21

Venezuela ranks as the number one most expensive country to mine bitcoin. It costs a whooping $246,530.74 to mine a single bitcoin in the South American country, meaning the process is far from profitable. Energy costs are so expensive in the country that miners would be out $225,667.05 for just one bitcoin.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the cheapest place to mine bitcoin is in Kuwait. It costs $1,393.95 to mine a single bitcoin in Kuwait, meaning miners could gain $19,469.74 in profits.

The Middle Eastern country has some of the cheapest electricity in the world, with one kWh costing an average of just 3 cents. For context, the average cost of one kWh in North America is 21 cents.

The Race is On

Despite the steep costs of bitcoin mining, many people believe it’s worth the upfront investment.

One thing that makes bitcoin particularly appealing is its finite supply—there are only 21 million coins available for mining, and as of this article’s publication, more than 19 million bitcoin have already been mined.

While the price of bitcoin (BTC) is notorious for its volatility, its value has still grown significantly over the last decade. And if cryptocurrencies become mainstream as many people believe they will, this could boost the price of bitcoin even further.

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Animation: The Rise and Fall of Popular Web Browsers Since 1994

This animation shows the evolution of web browser market share since 1994, showing the rise and fall of various internet portals.

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Evolution of web browsers

Animation: The Rise and Fall of Popular Web Browsers Since 1994

In its early stages, the internet was a highly technical interface that most people had difficulty navigating. But that all changed when the Mosaic web browser entered the scene in 1993.

Mosaic was one of the first “user-friendly” internet portals—although by today’s standards, the browser was actually quite difficult to access. Comparatively, modern browsers in high use today have changed exponentially.

This animated graphic by James Eagle chronicles the evolution of the web browser market, showing the rise and fall of various internet portals from January 1994 to March 2022.

The 1990s: From Mosaic to Netscape

In the early 90s, Mosaic was by far the most dominant web browser. At the time, about 97% of all internet searches were done through this popular web portal.

Web browser% Share (January 1994)
Mosaic97.0%
Other3.0%

Mosaic was the first web browser to display images directly on a page in line with text. Earlier browsers loaded pictures as separate files, which meant users have to click, download, and open a new file in order to view them.

The pioneering portal was created by a team of university undergrads at the University of Illinois, led by 21-year-old Marc Andreessen. When Andreessen graduated, he went on to be the co-founder of Mosaic Communications Corporation, which evolved into Netscape Communications Corporation, the company that created Netscape Navigator.

Netscape was essentially a new and improved version of Mosaic, but since the University of Illinois owned the rights to Mosaic, Andreessen’s new company couldn’t actually use any of the original code.

Netscape became a nearly instant success, and as a result, Mosaic’s market share began to fall. By the late 90s, Netscape had captured 89% of the web browser market.

Web browser% Share (April 1996)
Netscape88.9%
Mosaic7.2%
Internet Explorer3.9%

Netscape dominated the market for a few more years. However, in the new millennium, a new tech giant started to take over—Internet Explorer.

The 2000s: Internet Explorer Enters the Chat, Followed by Firefox

In 1995, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer as part of an add-on package for its operating system, Microsoft Windows 95.

Given the popularity of the Windows franchise at the time, Internet Explorer was quickly adopted. By the early 2000s, it had captured over 90% of the market, reflecting Microsoft’s hold on the personal computing market.

Web browser% Share (January 2000)
Internet Explorer76.6%
Netscape18.4%
Opera0.7%
Other4.3%

Netscape was mostly phased out of the market by then, which meant Internet Explorer didn’t have much competition until Mozilla entered the arena.

Founded by members of Netscape, Mozilla began in 1998 as a project for fostering innovation in the web browser market. They shared Netscape’s source code with the public, and over time built a community of programmers around the world that helped make the product even better.

By 2004, Mozilla launched Firefox, and by 2006, the free, open-source browser had captured nearly 30% of the market. Firefox and Internet Explorer battled it out for a few more years, but by the mid-2010s, both browsers started to get leapfrogged by Google Chrome.

Present Day: Google Chrome is King of the Web Browsers

When Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin pitched the idea of starting a Google web browser to CEO Larry Schmidt in 2003, he was worried that they couldn’t keep up with the fierce competition. Eventually, the co-founders convinced Schmidt, and in 2008, Google Chrome was released to the public.

One of Chrome’s distinguishing features was (and still is) the fact that each tab operated separately. This meant that if one tab froze, it wouldn’t stall or crash the others, at the cost of higher memory and CPU usage.

By 2013, Chrome had swallowed up half the market. And with Android emerging as the most popular mobile OS on the global market, there were even more Chrome installations (and of course, searches on Google) as a result.

Notes on Data and Methodology

It’s important to note that the dataset in this animation uses visitor log files from web development site and resource W3Schools from 1999 onwards. Despite getting more than 60 million monthly visits, its userbase is likely slanted towards PC over mobile users.

Further, though Google’s Android platform has a sizable lead over Apple’s iOS in the global mobile sector, this likely slant also impacts the representation of iOS and therefore Safari browsers in the animation and dataset.

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