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Hector the stick insect-inspired robot takes its first steps

Hector the stick insect-inspired robot takes its first steps | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Hector, the stick insect-inspired robot built by a research team at Bielefeld University in Germany that we first covered in 2011, could be forgiven for feeling lonely as the only one of its kind in world, but has lately been too busy learning to...
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FX Traders Facing Extinction as Computers Replace Humans

FX Traders Facing Extinction as Computers Replace Humans | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

A widening probe of the foreign-exchange market is roiling an industry already under pressure to reduce costs as computer platforms displace human traders.

Electronic dealing, which accounted for 66 percent of all currency transactions in 2013 and 20 percent in 2001, will increase to 76 percent within five years, according to Aite Group LLC, a Boston-based consulting firm that reviewed Bank for International Settlements data. About 81 percent of spot trading -- the buying and selling of currency for immediate delivery -- will be electronic by 2018, Aite said.

“Foreign-exchange traders are much like stock floor traders: a rapidly dying breed,” said Charles Geisst, author of “Wall Street: A History” and a finance professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. “Once the banks realize they are costing them money, the positions will dwindle quickly.”

Related:Swaps Pioneers Recall Wild West Days as Trades Go Digital

At least a dozen regulators are investigating allegations first reported byBloomberg News in June that traders colluded to rig benchmarks in the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market. That scrutiny may give banks an opportunity to cull more staff, say analysts including Christopher Wheeler of Mediobanca SpA in London. It’s also boosting demand from clients for greater transparency in pricing and transaction charges, accelerating a longer-term shift in trading onto electronic platforms.



 

‘Very Skinny’

“The margins are very, very skinny in foreign exchange because it’s easy to move onto a trading platform,” said Wheeler, who tracks European lenders. “The move by banks into electronic trading in other areas has cost a large number of jobs, and we’ve seen revenue come off sharply. The foreign-exchange probe won’t help this.”

The push toward electronic trading probably will lower costs for customers and boost transparency of pricing, according to Cormac Leech, an analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd. in London. It may also squeeze margins for banks, he said.

Broken Benchmarks

Human traders have maintained their role in the foreign-exchange market while disappearing in areas such as equities because most trading takes place away from exchanges. That means clients don’t have a central repository showing the flow of completed orders, forcing them to piece together information about the direction of rates from traders and salesmen with knowledge of other clients’ orders. People were also needed because early computerized trading systems weren’t reliable and couldn’t handle larger transactions, according to dealers.

 

‘Egg Timers’

“Many algorithms in previous foreign-exchange platforms were very, very basic -- not a lot more than egg timers,” Chris Purves, London-based global head of foreign-exchange, rates and credit electronic trading at UBS AG (UBSN), said in an interview. “The equities world, on the other hand, had advanced algorithms with gaming technology inside of them -- they would randomly split up clip sizes to provide best execution. A lot of that technology has now been brought into the foreign-exchange world.”

Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and UBS AG are the four biggest currency-trading banks, according to a May survey by Euromoney. The investigation of alleged manipulation already is reducing the number of spot traders at these and other firms. At least 21 traders have been fired or suspended as a result of the probe. Some are leaving of their own volition. Banks including UBS, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup have banned dealers from using multiparty chat rooms.

Firms such as London-based Barclays (BARC) have started to cut employees amid a wider squeeze in revenue from fixed income, currencies and commodities, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

‘Information Advantage’

“A handful of traders in a few banks have a huge information advantage they can transform into profits,” said Andre Spicer, a professor at Cass Business School in London. “They know what order flows are, and research shows order flow is one of the few decent predictors of price in this market. Ongoing inquiries may erode this information advantage by restructuring the market. This will kill off opportunities for relatively easy profit.”

Banks’ income from foreign exchange already has been squeezed. Volatility, a key driver of revenue, is declining as concern that Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis would trigger the breakup of the euro eased and central banks provided unprecedented liquidity to stabilize markets.

Deutsche Bank’s Currency Volatility Index, which measures the market’s expectation of future price swings for nine currency pairs, slumped to 7.53 percent on Feb. 17. The index was as high as 15.8 percent in September 2011.

Crimping Revenue

That decline is crimping revenue at firms including Citigroup (C) and UBS. New York-based Citigroup said last month that revenue in its rates and foreign-exchange business was down slightly in the fourth quarter from the previous period. UBS said this month that foreign-exchange revenue declined in the fourth quarter because of “lower liquidity and reduced client risk appetite.”

Regulators are helping push more trading away from humans to electronic platforms by making some transactions more expensive for banks. The latest rules from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision will make foreign-exchange derivatives -- contracts with values derived from changes in currency rates -- less attractive for banks by imposing charges for holding positions and products that aren’t cleared through exchanges.

More Expensive

“No matter how you slice it, foreign-exchange options will be more expensive for clients to trade and for banks to take on,” said Kevin McPartland, head of market-structure research at consulting firm Greenwich Associates. “Shrinking profits from higher operational costs and the increased cost of capital may cause banks to focus on generating revenue from their traditional cash business and redirect money into technology that facilitates trading through an agency model.”

European regulators are also pushing firms to move more currency trading onto regulated exchanges to boost transparency. German Deputy Finance Minister Michael Meister this month gave his backing to such an overhaul after it was suggested in January by Bafin, the country’s financial regulator.

The Basel rules are spurring the development of a currency futures market, based on exchanges. In 2005, the volume of such futures traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was less than one-third of daily spot trading on EBS, an electronic trading platform owned by ICAP Plc. In 2013, CME surpassed EBS for the first time, and by December, the volume of futures traded on the CME was almost 30 percent greater than that logged through EBS.

‘Clear Shift’

“The aggressive growth of the futures model demonstrates a clear shift in the landscape, with market participants looking at alternative sources of liquidity and hedging tools alongside the over-the-counter market,” said Derek Sammann, a managing director at the CME.

Two of the biggest currency-trading banks are taking different approaches to defend their share of the market. Barclays has developed an addition to its electronic platform that gives clients foreign-exchange rates aggregated from external sources. Zurich-based UBS is trying to retain the human element in its platform, allowing clients to connect directly with its sales and trading desks, in addition to accessing research covering fixed income, credit, equities products and foreign exchange.

Barclays, the U.K.’s second-largest bank by assets, last year started Gator, which allows clients to trade foreign exchange with the same technology its traders already used internally to quote prices. Gator, an extension of Barclays’s earlier BARX platform, is the first offering from an investment bank to aggregate currency prices from external sources such as EBS, Currenex and FXall, which is owned byThomson Reuters. EBS was started by a group of banks in 1990 before being acquired by ICAP, the world’s largest interdealer broker, in 2006.

UBS Neo

Officials at Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup declined to comment on their trading operations. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, competes with Thomson Reuters and EBS in providing news, information and currency-trading systems.

In October, Switzerland’s largest bank started UBS Neo, a platform that replaced almost 100 internal systems with one that allows institutional clients to trade a range of asset classes. The system, which enables clients to connect with traders and salespeople, mimics the way Twitter lets users to follow one another.

While the system uses computer algorithms to complete client orders, a service for which clients once relied on dealers’ judgment, some trades are still passed on to the dealing desk in Zurich. The firm still has about 25 spot currency traders, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

Electronification Risk

About 70 percent of Barclays’s trading is electronic today, compared with less than half when it opened its first currency platform in 2005, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

“A good chunk of spot traders, maybe 30 percent to 40 percent of them are at high risk of electronification eating their lunch,” said Javier Paz, senior analyst at Aite.

A decade ago, France’s BNP Paribas SA (BNP) employed about 15 spot traders and one electronic foreign-exchange team member in Paris. Today, the team has moved to London and includes six spot traders and eight people dealing with electronic trading, according a person with knowledge of the matter.

The shift to electronic trading may concentrate trading at an even smaller number of banks, forcing out competitors with a lower market share, according to Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. in London. Some firms also may move toward the equities sales-trader model, where salesmen handle orders as well as provide market information.

“The old model is going away,” said John Taylor, founder of New York-based FX Concepts LLC, once the world’s biggest currency hedge fund before it went bankrupt last year. “But it’s better to say the old model has gone away several times. This is just the latest of those times.”


Via Stéphane Bisaillon
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Smaller, faster, greener "high-rise" 3D chips are ready for Big Data

Smaller, faster, greener "high-rise" 3D chips are ready for Big Data | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Stanford engineers have pioneered a new design for a scalable 3D computer chip that tightly interconnects logic and memory, with the effect of minimizing data bottlenecks and saving on energy usage.
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For Leopards in Iran and Iraq, Land Mines Are a Surprising Refuge

For Leopards in Iran and Iraq, Land Mines Are a Surprising Refuge | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Targeted by hunters and threatened by shrinking habitat, Persian leopards fight for survival along the Iran-Iraq border.
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How the Ancient Romans Made Better Concrete Than We Do Now

How the Ancient Romans Made Better Concrete Than We Do Now | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
If you've ever wondered why the ancient structures of Rome have endured for millennia, when our own modern concrete is susceptible to cracks and crumbles, well, now you have your answer.
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Pharmacy Owners, Employees Arrested After Meningitis Outbreak

Pharmacy Owners, Employees Arrested After Meningitis Outbreak | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
The 2012 outbreak sickened 750 people in 20 states, killing 64.
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What Is This “Atmospheric River” That Is Flooding California? | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

What Is This “Atmospheric River” That Is Flooding California? | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
In 1861 an atmospheric river that brought storms for 43 days turned California’s Central Valley into an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Thousands of people died, 800,000 cattle drowned and the state went bankrupt. A similar disaster today would be much more devastating, because the region is much more populated and it is the single largest food producer in the U.S.


"So maybe 1861 was an oddity. Not really. Geologic core samples show that extreme floods like the one in 1861 have happened in California about every 200 years, since the year 200 A.D. So the next disaster could be coming around the bend. The West Coast has actually been slowly constructing large, specialized, meteorological observatories that can sense atmospheric rivers as they develop, so forecasters can give early warnings."

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Phys.Org Mobile: Assessing scientific research by 'citation wake' detects Nobel laureates' papers

Phys.Org Mobile: Assessing scientific research by 'citation wake' detects Nobel laureates' papers | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
"Our wake citation score is less sensitive to the size of the research community of a paper than other existing measures, as we do not focus on the direct citation count of a paper," Bornholdt told Phys.org. "What makes our wake citation score unique is our focus on whether a paper 'started something,' by estimating its 'word of mouth dynamics' from the subsequent citation network."
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DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living cockroaches - health - 08 April 2014 - New Scientist

DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living cockroaches - health - 08 April 2014 - New Scientist | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
The DNA computers – known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA – travel around the insect's body and interact with each other, as well as the insect's cells. When they uncurl, they can dispense drugs carried in their folds.
Sharrock's insight:

bots in bugs! 

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Phys.Org Mobile: Study shows way to design 'digital' metamaterials

Phys.Org Mobile: Study shows way to design 'digital' metamaterials | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Sharrock's insight:
definition of term: " Permittivity is the property of a material that describes its reaction to an electric field inside it. As such, it's a key quality to consider when designing optical devices, such as lenses and waveguides. Materials with the desired permittivity may not always exist in nature, however."
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Neuroprosthetics | The Scientist Magazine®

Neuroprosthetics | The Scientist Magazine® | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Beyond the ability to infer intentions about limb and hand movement from neuronal activity, the neuronal signals picked up by these so-called intraparenchymal electrodes can be used to control a robotic limb. Research teams at the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford, Duke, and Brown have each performed real-time control of robotic arms based on the brain activity of macaque monkeys. By implanting electrode arrays into the animals’ motor cortex, for example, Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues found that the monkeys could manipulate a robotic arm well enough to feed themselves. By tapping into the motor cortex, the researchers recorded the primates’ movement intentions and used the information to control the movement of the robotic arm.4
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New nuclear weapons needed, experts say, pointing to aged arsenal

New nuclear weapons needed, experts say, pointing to aged arsenal | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Warheads in the nation's stockpile are an average of 27 years old, which raises serious concerns about their reliability.
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New largest number factored on a quantum device is 56,153

New largest number factored on a quantum device is 56,153 | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
(Phys.org)—Researchers have set a new record for the quantum factorization of the largest number to date, 56,153, smashing the previous record of 143 that was set in 2012. They have shown that the exact same room-temperature nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiment used to factor 143 can actually ...
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Computer-based "deep neural network" as good as primates at visual object recognition

Computer-based "deep neural network" as good as primates at visual object recognition | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Computers aren't best suited to visual object recognition. Our brains are hardwired to quickly see and match patterns in everything, with great leaps of intuition, while the processing center of a computer is more akin to a very powerful calculator.
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Wireless brain sensor-transmitter could unchain neuroscience from cables

Wireless brain sensor-transmitter could unchain neuroscience from cables | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

In a study in the journal Neuron, scientists describe a new high data-rate, low-power wireless brain sensor. The technology is designed to enable neuroscience research that cannot be accomplished with current sensors that tether subjects with cabled connections. Experiments in the paper confirm that new capability. The results show that the technology transmitted rich, neuroscientifically meaningful signals from animal models as they slept and woke or exercised.


“We view this as a platform device for tapping into the richness of electrical signals from the brain among animal models where their neural circuit activity reflects entirely volitional and naturalistic behavior, not constrained to particular space,” said Arto Nurmikko, professor of engineering and physics affiliated with the Brown Institute for Brain Science and the paper’s senior and corresponding author. “This enables new types of neuroscience experiments with vast amounts of brain data wirelessly and continuously streamed from brain microcircuits.”


“The brain sensor is opening unprecedented opportunities for the development of neuroprosthetic treatments in natural and unconstrained environments,” said study co-author Grégoire Courtine, a professor at EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), who collaborated with Nurmikko’s group on the research. To confirm the system performance, the researchers did a series of experiments with rhesus macaques, which walked on a treadmill while the researchers used the wireless system to measure neural signals associated with the brain’s motion commands. They also did another experiment in which animal subjects went through sleep/wake cycles, unencumbered by cables or wires; the data showed distinct patterns related to the different stages of consciousness and the transitions between them.


“We hope that the wireless neurosensor will change the canonical paradigm of neuroscience research, enabling scientists to explore the nervous system within its natural context and without the use of tethering cables,” said co-lead author David Borton. “Subjects are free to roam, forage, sleep, etc., all while the researchers are observing the brain activity. We are very excited to see how the neuroscience community leverages this platform.”



Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Male Praying Mantids Have a Strategy For Not Being Eaten by Their Mates

Male Praying Mantids Have a Strategy For Not Being Eaten by Their Mates | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
We usually think about male and female mates getting along pretty well (that's `mate' in the biological sense, not your friendly British/ Australian friend).
-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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Scientists locate ‘homing signal’ in the brain, explaining why some people are better navigators

Scientists locate ‘homing signal’ in the brain, explaining why some people are better navigators | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

The part of the brain that tells us the direction to travel when we navigate has been identified by UCL scientists, and the strength of its signal predicts how well people can navigate.

 

It has long been known that some people are better at navigating than others, but until now it has been unclear why. The latest study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and published in Current Biology, shows that the strength and reliability of ‘homing signals’ in the human brain vary among people and can predict navigational ability.

 

In order to successfully navigate to a destination, you need to know which direction you are currently facing and which direction to travel in. For example, ‘I am facing north and want to head east’. It is already known that mammals have brain cells that signal the direction that they are currently facing, a discovery that formed part of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to UCL Professor John O’Keefe.

 

The latest research reveals that the part of the brain that signals which direction you are facing, called the entorhinal region, is also used to signal the direction in which you need to travel to reach your destination. This part of the brain tells you not only which direction you are currently facing, but also which direction you should be facing in the future. In other words, the researchers have found where our ‘sense of direction’ comes from in the brain and worked out a way to measure it using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

 

In the study, 16 healthy volunteers were asked to navigate a simple square environment simulated on a computer. Each wall had a picture of a different landscape, and each corner contained a different object. Participants were placed in a corner of the environment, facing a certain direction and asked how to navigate to an object in another corner.

 

Dr Martin Chadwick (UCL Experimental Psychology), lead author of the study, said: “Our results provide evidence to support the idea that your internal ‘compass’ readjusts as you move through the environment. For example, if you turn left then your entorhinal region should process this to shift your facing direction and goal direction accordingly. If you get lost after taking too many turns, this may be because your brain could not keep up and failed to adjust your facing and goal directions.”


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Paint or Paint App? Value of Creating Digital Vs. Traditional Art

Paint or Paint App? Value of Creating Digital Vs. Traditional Art | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Teachers say there is value to learning to create using digital tools, especially when blended with more hands-on means of expression.
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For Sale: “Your Name Here” in a Prestigious Science Journal

For Sale: “Your Name Here” in a Prestigious Science Journal | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
An investigation into some scientific papers finds worrying irregularities
-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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5 Creepy Ways Your Town Is Designed to Control Your Mind

5 Creepy Ways Your Town Is Designed to Control Your Mind | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
All around you are little design choices you've probably never even noticed, that are absolutely influencing you.
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Smarter Artificial Skin for Prosthetic Hands | MIT Technology Review

Smarter Artificial Skin for Prosthetic Hands | MIT Technology Review | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
South Korean and U.S. researchers have developed a stretchable material that senses touch, pressure, and moisture, and could be used to give artificial limbs feeling.
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NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years

NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes.

The new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries.
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Sociologist Orlando Patterson does landmark work on slavery and freedom. | Harvard Magazine Nov-Dec 2014

Sociologist Orlando Patterson does landmark work on slavery and freedom. | Harvard Magazine Nov-Dec 2014 | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it

The study of culture—of values, established ideas, traditions, language, customs, learned behaviors, symbolic materials, including the arts, and other nonbiological inheritances—has been central to Patterson’s work. Sociologists often contrast culture with structure: the “hard” variables that include prevailing institutions, distribution of wealth, education, housing, jobs, and other “physical-world” factors. For decades, researchers have debated whether culture informs structure, or vice versa.

"Many scholars oversimplify culture by equating it simply with values, Patterson says. This can lead to paradoxes like citing the same cultural complex as the cause of opposite results. “Confucianism was used in the past to explain backwardness in China, before it became successful. The Confucian ethic was supposedly inconsistent with capitalism,” he explains. “Then China becomes economically successful, and suddenly it is the Confucian ethic that explains its success. The same cultural values can move in either direction. So you need a dynamic approach that shows how culture interacts with structure."

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Mitochondria Munchers | The Scientist Magazine®

Mitochondria Munchers | The Scientist Magazine® | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
Most cells clean up their own damaged mitochondria by transporting the organelles into lysosomes, where they are digested internally. Lysosomes are located in the cell body, so neurons with long axons were thought to shuttle far-off axonal mitochondria back to the cell bodies for disposal. Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues observed that in mice, retinal glial cells called astrocytes, clustered around the head of the optic nerve, were constantly chomping up cellular parcels extruded by axons in the nerve, leading Marsh-Armstrong to wonder what the neurons might be exporting for degradation.
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Study shows graphene able to withstand a speeding bullet

Study shows graphene able to withstand a speeding bullet | Science, Technology, and Current Futurism | Scoop.it
ABSTRACT
Multilayer graphene is an exceptional anisotropic material due to its layered structure composed of two-dimensional carbon lattices. Although the intrinsic mechanical properties of graphene have been investigated at quasi-static conditions, its behavior under extreme dynamic conditions has not yet been studied. We report the high–strain-rate behavior of multilayer graphene over a range of thicknesses from 10 to 100 nanometers by using miniaturized ballistic tests. Tensile stretching of the membrane into a cone shape is followed by initiation of radial cracks that approximately follow crystallographic directions and extend outward well beyond the impact area. The specific penetration energy for multilayer graphene is ~10 times more than literature values for macroscopic steel sheets at 600 meters per second.
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