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New Graphical Representation of the Periodic Table 140

Posted by kdawson
from the thulium-and-thalium dept.
KentuckyFC writes "The great power of Mendeleev's periodic table was that it allowed him to predict the properties of undiscovered elements. But can this arrangement be improved? Two new envisionings of the periodic table attempt to do just that. The first uses a new graphical representation that shows the relative sizes of atoms as well as their groups and periods. The other uses the same kind of group theoretical approach that particle physicists developed to classify particles by their symmetries (abstract). That helped particle physicists predict the existence of new particles, but may have limited utility for chemists who seem to have discovered (or predicted) all of the elements they need already."
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New Graphical Representation of the Periodic Table

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  • Huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:14PM (#29663041)
    looks like something that should be on a game show. "I'll take Silicon for 500!"
  • Call me a cynic.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Afforess (1310263) <afforess@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:14PM (#29663051) Journal
    but that design doesn't look much better than the current one. In fact, it looks worse. Helium and Hydrogen overlap, and part of the table is cut off completely. Some might whine that part of the table is cut off in the current version too, but that's just to make it fit on a page, it actually is one contiguous body.

    I believe the age-old axiom "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" applies here.
    • by Lunoria (1496339)
      Management always wants changes. If it isn't broken, is a good enough reason to improve it. The new design is horrible though.
      • The only thing management is good at changing are pretty colored charts. [dougbelshaw.com]
        • Wouldn't that make them good at this?

          Anyways the one linked is terribad. I'm sure we can do much much better representing a bunch of data at once. This is missing all kinds of info that is available on a modern periodic table.
    • by dsginter (104154)

      that design doesn't look much better than the current one

      Sure it does - it gives you scale. I, for one, never spent the time required to appreciate the differences in scale. So this new graphical representation provided me with an immediate and intuitive grasp on the situation. Sure - the numbers are there. But I never really thought about them beyond being a number (I'm sure that non-chemists can appreciate and forgive this ignorance).

      And the gaps create an immediate sense of wonder. I think wonder is

      • by Afforess (1310263) <afforess@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:30PM (#29663259) Journal
        To quote someone far more famous than I,
        "Form follows Function"

        The current version is very useful. One can tell which atom is larger than another by simply looking down the column of the element, or across the period (row). The Electron Affinity increases across the period, and up the columns. Many periodic trends can easily be told by the current chart. It is extremely helpful and useful in that regard.

        Should we throw away all that usefulness in the name of "fresh" and "new" ideas? I think not.
        • That is just changed to down = outwards, right = counter-clockwise (starting from the bottom center). But they didn't show the 'staircase' and their colouring scheme is completely useless providing no additional information. So it is shittier than the standard periodic table [ptable.com] and provides no new information. I think one thing we COULD do is use an ap like Seadragon [livelabs.com] to include much more information in the table. Obviously only doable with computers of course.
        • [...] I think not.

          I wholeheartedly agree.

        • by dsginter (104154)

          Should we throw away all that usefulness in the name of "fresh" and "new" ideas?

          Who suggested that we throw anything away?

          I think that this is a good supplement that open the minds of people who might not grok the scale illustrated non-graphically by the canonical chart.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)
          I don't know if they're calling for throwing the old tables away, just for adding new potentially interesting ways of seeing the same thing.

          The genius of the periodic table is that people were unable to find a satisfying pattern to elements before, and with this table suddenly everything just clicked into place. Just having a pattern provided a lot of insight. Today though, a lot of students just take this table for granted as something they have to memorize without realizing what a great tool it was. Ha
        • Should we throw away all that usefulness in the name of "fresh" and "new" ideas? I think not.

          You say that now, but wait until you hear the Kanye West mix!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mcgrew (92797) *

          To quote someone far more famous than I,
          "Form follows Function"

          That's the first rule of design (programmers, PLEASE learn that rule!). I never heard who was the originator. So I just now looked it up on Wikipedia. [wikipedia.org]

          Origins of the phrase
          The authorship of the phrase is often ascribed to the American sculptor Horatio Greenough[2], whose thinking to a large extent predates the later functionalist approach to architecture. It was, however, the American architect Louis Sullivan who coined the phrase, in 1896, in h

      • Re:Call me a cynic.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Volante3192 (953645) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:57PM (#29663561)

        The major problem I see with it is they stitched the table ends together rather than really account for size. You have to know the previous one to make any sense of the new one.

        Take the first inner ring: it LOOKS like it goes B - C - N - O - F - Ne - Li - Be... and that puts 10 right next to 3.

        Makes sense if you KNOW to start counting at Lithium, but if you're just looking at the table, you will naturally start at Boron. More annoyingly is that puts a very unreactive element first. The great part about the old one is it went from very reactive, to minimally reactive, to very reactive (with a brief stop to inertsville). Again, you lose that having the top line bookended by Boron and Beryllium.

      • Re:Call me a cynic.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @05:28PM (#29663887)

        I think you are like me--a visual thinker.

        Some people quite simply comprehend things more efficiently when the information is supplied in a context that is comfortable to them.

        An example of this I used to use as an automotive mechanic was alignment angles of the steering and suspension systems. They can be related numerically, or graphically, but there is a third context that is what I tried to teach the younger mechanics in the shops I worked at--spatial. Some mechanics had a very difficult time translating numbers to making a car go in a straight line (it can be far more difficult then one might imagine). I tried to make correlations between the numbers and, say for instance, the angle the front struts actually lean forward and backward equaling -/+ caster changes--to attempt to get the image of the strut in their mind 3-dimensionally. When they could imagine visually the changes the numbers represented, it all fell into place--they understood it.

        These changes to the table simply make it more accessible to people that think more visually. While it may work well for some, it may not for others. And that is just fine. Use what works for you.

        • Some people quite simply comprehend things more efficiently when the information is supplied in a context that is comfortable to them.

          While some other people comprehend things more efficiently when the information is supplied in a context that is comfortable to them.

      • by residieu (577863) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:57PM (#29664703)
        Why is "Towards the center is the smaller" easier than "The top is smaller"? The other trend in atomic sizes is size decreases as you go, right, and this new chart totally destroys that. It looks like Lithium and Neon should be similar in size (since they're right next to each other), but Lithium is the largest in its row and Neon the smallest. If they wanted to show the center is smaller, they shouldn't have shown the elements in circular rings, but as sort of a spiral-shape. All the Noble gases should be shown as closer to the center than the Alkali Metals (Lithium and its column, excluding Hydrogen)
        • by cyn1c77 (928549)

          I agree. And even better is how the author writes:

          That's worthy but flawed. Unfortunately, Abubakr's arrangement means that the table can only be read by rotating it. That's tricky with a textbook and impossible with most computer screens.

          Is it really that hard to print the circular table with all the letters in the same upright orientation so it can be read without turning the page? Durrrrr!

          • Is it really that hard to print the circular table with all the letters in the same upright orientation so it can be read without turning the page? Durrrrr!

            Instead of formatting one cell and populating it with data as necessary, you now have to format 118 cells seperately. Realize every cell of that table is different from every other cell. (Yes, Boron and Oxygen might hold the same area, but their different rotations require custom formatting.)

            • by d'fim (132296)
              Format 118 cells?! Oooh-the agony! And it would have to be done for each and every copy of each and every textbook! Please make it stop!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Freeman (933986)
        The current one doesn't give the sizes of the atoms because the size DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER IN MOST CASES. Size generally has not a whole lot to do with any properties. Any size-based properties are very general. e.g. "Very big atoms are unstable". It does you very little to no good to know if one atom is SLIGHTLY larger/smaller than another. You can get the difference between "very big" and "very small" with the current table, and because that's all that matters, the current table is just fine.

        I can't
        • Imagine taking the dictionary and reorganizing it by which words evoke which emotions rather than by alphabetical order.

          Although I agree with most of what you said, as a part-time author I would love such a dictionary. Anyone know where to find such a thing?

          Maybe that proves a point: what looks like garbage to most may be just the gem someone particular is looking for. Maybe there is someone for whom this new table is useful. And maybe he is not a chemist.

    • Um.... that's the one thing it totally *fails* to do. It's LESS clear on that one than the current "the ones at the bottom are bigger".

      The guy's obviously an idiot with too much time on his hands.

      • by Fluffeh (1273756)

        The guy's obviously an idiot with too much time on his hands.

        Now now, put you claws away kitty, just because it doesn't make sense to one person doesn't mean it doesn't make sense to everyone. Some people might benefit from this, although I must admit that I don't find it better than what I used in school. If it helps anyone, great, if not, it's no reason to really slam it that much is it?

        • No one benefits from learning a confusing (and some parts plainly nonsense) representation of an academically accepted knowledge. To say the least, an 8th grader could have written this. The original paper is not peer reviewed, submitted by an author who works at Microsoft India (as he claims since there's no way to check), with a proud hotmail email address, and 8 references... Why is this posted on /. again? Oh yes, nice colors!
    • I think it needs work, but I think the fundamental idea is sound. The chemical properties of the elements are almost entirely based on how full the electron shells are, and I think a circular diagram represents that better. This particular representation is far from ideal (it's silly to have the names sideways and upside-down, among many other flaws), but as an abstract concept, I like it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LotsOfPhil (982823)

        The chemical properties of the elements are almost entirely based on how full the electron shells are, and I think a circular diagram represents that better.

        Concentric circles don't show that any better than rows do. What rows do better is clearly indicate that the shells get filled in a certain order (left to right). Looking at the circle table, which has more electrons, Li or Ne? F or Ne? Is that intuitive or better?

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          Concentric circles don't show that any better than rows do.

          They do for me. When I first encountered the periodic table, way back when, I found it very confusing until I constructed a mental model a lot more like the proposed one.

          Gradients could be used to indicate the direction in which the shells get filled, with pale colors to represent emptier shells and darker ones for full. I'm not saying the idea is perfect (maybe there is no perfect representation), but I think the idea is well worth exploring. I also think the standard representation is strongly counteri

    • I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think that the picture at the top is the 'new' design that the article. Other than the circular layout, that table doesn't seem to really change anything. Farther down there is a different table that seems to be grouped differently (or more explicitly?) than the standard Mendelev table.

    • Re:Call me a cynic.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by annodomini (544503) <lambda2000@yahoo.com> on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:51PM (#29663517) Homepage

      I like this one [wikipedia.org] a lot better.

      Anyhow, having new designs for representing the periodic table is not a bad thing. Sometimes seeing the same information presented in different ways can help visualize it. I approve of people trying to improve the display of the elements and their periodic relationships, even if as a general purpose reference I'll probably stick with the tried and true table.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      I believe the age-old axiom "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" applies here.

      That maxim is from the uneducated; it actually should read "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But it seldom applies in real life. One needs to do maintenance on nearly any system; you don't wait until your car quits running before you replace the spark plugs, for example.

      And if that maxim was universally followed, there would be no technological progress at all. "This device works fine, don't improve it."

      However, some "improvements"

      • by hitmark (640295)

        or you drive a diesel instead, that ignites on compression alone...

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          It should have been obvious that I was talking about gasoline engines, since diesels have no spark plugs.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:17PM (#29663089) Homepage Journal
    Is not strange the color scheme... you can see clearly now the Blue Elements of Death
  • by schon (31600) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:19PM (#29663115)

    If you're gonna go and change it, why not make it correct [cslacker.com] while you're at it?

    Teach the controversy, people!

    • Re:Still not right (Score:4, Interesting)

      by stephanruby (542433) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @05:50PM (#29664093)

      Actually, I wish all Science diagrams would be as entertaining as that one.

      Now on a more serious note, it would seem this guy just worked off this existing wheel [mayanperiodic.com] design without giving a proper citation (the credit goes to Clumma on that technologyreview.com blog for finding it). And he didn't improve on that wheel design (except for the new cooler looking black background) his copy is much worse than the original (quite unreadable). It's no surprise he developed it while working for Microsoft. It sounds like he took a page out of Microsoft's playbook.

  • There were circular based tables that competed with Mendeleev, and some spiral based ones as well. They had problems with the rare earths, as does this one - they are in their own arc and only understood by colour.

    I like it though - it's pretty.

    RS

  • by Haxamanish (1564673) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:20PM (#29663133)
    From the article:

    Unfortunately, Abubakr's arrangement means that the table can only be read by rotating it. That's tricky with a textbook and impossible with most computer screens.

    Please, can somebody find a solution to this important screen rotation problem?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by swanzilla (1458281)
      Netbook. That leaves the tricky textbook rotation puzzle...
    • by MollyB (162595)

      Indeed, the first comment following FTA:

      Just reorient the lettering of the circular table to improve readability. No need to rotate it.
      Rate this comment: 12345
      (Reply)

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Display it using Adobe Flash, or, this being Microsoft, Silverlight. Then you can drag it round on the screen.

    • by vlad30 (44644)

      Please, can somebody find a solution to this important screen rotation problem?

      Part solution My RADIUS PIVOT can turn 90 degrees

      *Tries*

      Scratch that

  • Part of what's nice about the current periodic table is that it's totally squared off. Even if it should wrap around in places, that information should be conveyed in words of symbols, rather than warping the entire thing into some odd shape.

    The second image on the linked page, the one that shows the new layout in grid form? That's the one they should use if it's really more helpful that the current setup.

    • I think that was the point of the article - that the circular one was useless, but the group theory-based one might actually have predictive power.
      • I think that was the point of the article - that the circular one was useless, but the group theory-based one might actually have predictive power.

        Article says that even the designer of the group theory based one doesn't know if it has any predictive power.

        Which makes me doubt seriously that it'll ever be worthwhile - comes across as back of the napkin engineering, not a real effort at improvement.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:21PM (#29663145)

    To quote a history book [amazon.com] (pp. 20-21):

    The way in which the periodic system is displayed is a fascinating one that especially appeals to the popular imagination. Since the time of the early periodic tables of John Newlands, Julius Lothar Meyer, and Dimitri Mendeleev, there have been many attempts to obtain the "ultimate" periodic table. Indeed, it has been estinated that within 100 years of the introduction of Mendeleev's famous table of 1869, approximately 700 different versions of the periodic table were published. These include all kinds of alternatives, including three-dimensional tables, helices, concentric circles, spirals, zigzags, step tables, and mirror image tables. Even today, articles are regularly published in the Journal of Chemical Education, for example, purporting to show new and improved versions of the periodic system.

  • great i spent all of high school remembering this dam thing and now they want to change it. what a great idea it is to go from looking at in from one direction spread out to now turn it around in every direction just to see what you are looking at. .... just looking at it is giving me a migraine
  • Wouldn't the circular version of the periodic table be better represented as a spiral to reflect continuity in sizes?

    • Re:Spiral Form (Score:5, Informative)

      by tpjunkie (911544) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:32PM (#29663287) Journal
      The atomic radii don't progress in a nice orderly linear increase in size with increasing element number; in fact each period overlaps part of the period that comes before it...
    • The size actually decreases across the period, due to the higher charge on the nucleus, then the next period is a step larger as electrons start to occupy a higher energy shell.
       
      I thought it would be cool to see this graphically represented, but all they've done is convert our old cartesian table into a polar table.
       
      No lanthanides, less space than a Mendeleevian table, lame.

    • Wouldn't the circular version of the periodic table be better represented as a spiral to reflect continuity in sizes?

      No, it wouldn't.

  • Yeah... that's what I'm asking... no need to elaborate.

  • "So why change it? According to Mohd Abubakr from Microsoft Research in Hyderabad"

    So... why is Microsoft interested in something like this? I can understand MS doing research in a number of fields for the sake of research itself, but paying some guy to come up with yet another periodic table?

    • why is Microsoft interested in something like this?

      Appears Microsoft is up to their old tricks again. First, they patent binary [theonion.com], next, patent all the elements, so even if Windows gets the death it so richly deserves, PC makers, including Apple, will forever have to pay them for the silicon, gallium, silver, gold, et al. licensing.

  • Instead of leaving the lanthanoids and actinoids in separate groups, why don't they merge them into the appropriate circles?
    Anyway, it's still a stupid idea. It gives no more information than the current configuration, and places atoms together (the ends of the current rows) which causes a big jump in number of electrons between the two elements. And if you were going to base this on the size, shouldn't you adjust the boxes up/down based on their actual size instead of putting them together? I don't think t

    • by msclrhd (1211086)

      I also like how the current model fits nicely with spdf orbital groupings.

    • There really isn't a way to integrate the lanthanoids and the actinoids into their expected circles; due to poor effective nuclear shielding from the f orbital electrons, they have smaller atomic radii than would be expected, and so their insertion would break the trends of the rest of the table. Overall, basing a periodic table on periodicity of atomic radii has some serious problems- there are trends, but not rules. There aren't precise values for atomic radii anyway- the measured values have big error b
    • Probably just to keep the size of the chart reasonable. In order to get the increase in number of elements in each period to match the increase in circumference of the circle, you'd have to do some funky things with the size of each box. In order to fit the lanthanide and actinide series in the circle, you'd have to either make the boxes for those two periods a lot narrower, or the boxes for the lower periods a lot wider. It's kind of like why they're separate in the standard periodic table; you can put the
  • by Anonymous Coward

    My stoner buddy just looked over my shoulder at the image in TFA

    Woah, do you see those rings, dude? Thats pretty heavy stuff man!

    I turned around to him and said "Only those outer rings".

    He gave me a blank look back.

  • I don't want to bash it just because it was designed by a Microsoft scientist, but...

    A circle is really hard to read and jumping away from the center and then counterclockwise to get to the next "row" is wacky. If you can't read the numbers very well, you won't be able to tell what order the elements are in.

    Won't it look nice on a Zune HD (chemistry edition) though?

  • by LotsOfPhil (982823) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:33PM (#29663305)

    the table can be improved by arranging it in circular form. He says this gives a sense of the relative size of atoms--the closer to the centre, the smaller they are--something that is missing from the current form of the table. ... And by placing hydrogen and helium near the centre, Abubakr says this solves the problem of whether to put hydrogen with the halogens or alkali metals and of whther to put helium in the 2nd group or with the inert gases.

    The atom size thing is no more present in the circular table than in the normal table. If distance from the center correlates with size, then Li and Ne are the same size according to the circular table. Lithium is about twice as big.

    As for the H/He placement, helium is a noble gas, there is no question about that.

    The circle table also mucks up the order of filling. Why are neon and lithium next to each other?

  • by Jack9 (11421) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:37PM (#29663353)

    Another periodic table, is not news.
    Someone should have already linked one of the periodic table databases like:

    http://www.meta-synthesis.com/webbook/35_pt/pt_database.php [meta-synthesis.com]

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @04:39PM (#29663369)

    The new table that came out of Microsoft Research just seems silly. The idea that "closer to the middle means smaller atoms" is a new contribution seems bogus - with the traditional table, closer to the top means smaller atoms. Really the only advantage I can see is the separation of hydrogen and helium away from the other atom groups, which is something that could be easily accomplished using the current table. The circular design itself is a BIG disadvantage.

    The second table seems like a more interesting concept. I tried making it through the actual paper - while it sounds like the author thinks the information conveyed in his redesign are better than in the current layout, I didn't see that it actually conveyed new information.

    Disclaimer: I have done grad work in physics; but that was almost 20 years ago, and I don't work in anything even close to the field anymore.

    • No need to disclaim. If you're anything like me, you work with billions of atoms on a daily basis!

    • Try rolling the old table. It's like a square wheel! This new one is round, so it rolls very well. I'd say their "re"-invention of the wheel is a vast improvement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The second table and the ideas surrounding it are really restatements of the theoretical basis for the rules of electron configuration (the Aufbau principle). As a consquence of following Fermi-Dirac statistics, a lot of properties for electrons fall naturally out of associated symmetry groups, including quantum numbers and the Pauli exclusion principle. So in Kibler's group theory representation, elements are really just sorted by arrangment of quantum number, which is really just an alternative position
  • The noble gases can, logically be considered as having either 8 or zero electrons in the outer shell, so could go to the next period.

    Honestly though, a basic rectangular table does the job perfectly adequately.
  • "That's worthy but flawed. Unfortunately, Abubakr's arrangement means that the table can only be read by rotating it. That's tricky with a textbook and impossible with most computer screens."

    I spent endless hours (and quarters) playing tempest, that seemed to work quite well on a computer screen and was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this ring 'o' elements

  • by tygt (792974) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @05:35PM (#29663951)
    While the representation of the modern table can be considered cumbersome, it has a number of benefits - it's easy to see at a glance how various elements are related to each other (such as the noble gasses, the 1A metals, etc). Granted the circle arranges elements in groups as well (radially), but see if you can quickly find a specific group of elements... right, there you go, the traditional table does make that easier. Another thing that I like about the traditional table is that I can draw the table out from memory and fill it in quite a ways mainly by the shape of it and via associative memory (much as I can find the names of the 50 states by filling in a blank map of the USA). The circlular table doesn't have the same raw appearance; it has too much symmetry to give me any other clues about where what should go where.

    That said, though, jogging one's memory isn't the best use of a table; given one put in front of you it'd be nice if its organization alone gave you information. I suppose that the circular representation could do this, with perhaps a few labels.

    Of course this circular representation isn't all that new; the Chemical Galaxy [wikipedia.org] has been around for a number of years now and has a similar structure.

  • It's definitely "news for nerds," but I get this creeping feeling that the whole endeavor should be tagged "slow chemistry day."

    Are chemists really this bored with the classical table? Don't they have more important things to do? ;^)

    --
    Toro

  • The group theory method of organization is the same idea taught to anyone who's taken an atomic physics class (there are many "physics" periodic tables out there). Too bad we don't teach atomic physics very much anymore. It's a very useful representation for anyone who is looking at the elements from a modeling or spectroscopy perspective. There have to be tables in a similar representation that are decades old (though probably lacking a formal group theory explanation).

    The summary missed the actual cool

  • In high-school chemistry I saw a chart like this, though arranged to accommodate the rare earths as their own separate but related group. It was nerd art for me - each element was assigned a shade of blue or red to indicate pH. I ordered two and they came with additional materials explaining the new chart. The charts are packed away, but I just looked up the hand-outs and tried to Google but found nothing. But, one of the had-outs is a reprint of a write-up in Chemistry magazine of September 1976. It was cr
  • a sense of the relative size of atoms--the closer to the centre, the smaller they are--something that is missing from the current form of the table

    Oh, come on. The size of the circles don't scale to the size of the atoms, they just use the "closer to the center" nonsense. Is that really any better than just saying "the closer to the top row the smaller they are"? I don't see any merit to this at all.

  • Something must be wrong, I can't find dilithium in this new representation...
  • I remember at least the circular one (and no, I don't confuse it with the Galaxy of Elements), so it is not _that_ new. But the circular one is so incredibly stupid, it boggles the mind.

    * You can see the relative sizes? Well, yes. But without a spiral instead of concentric rings, where does it start and stop? When do I descend down into the next ring? And how is the established system not providing the same information?

    * He solves the problem of H and He by putting them somewhere where they do not make _any

  • Someone from Microsoft took a product, changed it, and it's worse then before?

    The Duece you say!

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