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NASA may have witnessed the birth of a black hole for the first time ever

NASA may have witnessed the birth of a black hole for the first time ever | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

Black holes are created when a supernova explosion destroys a massive star. Scientists have discovered dozens of black holes, but all of them are already formed. So, when scientists recently saw different distorted remains of a supernova, they knew it something special.

 

What the scientists believe they observed was the infant phases of a black hole, or the youngest black hole ever recorded in the Milky Way galaxy.

Caught on film by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the "remnant," or W49B, is seen as a vibrant swirl of blues, greens, yellows, and pinks. As seen from Earth, it is about 1,000-years-old and is located roughly 26,000 light years away. A typical black hole, like SS433, is thought to be between 17,000- and 21,000-years-old, as seen from Earth.

 

"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy," Laura Lopez, who led a study on the remnant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. "It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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right when it was borne 

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NASA: At Least One in Six Stars Has an Earth-sized Planet

NASA: At Least One in Six Stars Has an Earth-sized Planet | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

The quest to determine if planets like Earth are rare or common is taking another stride forward on the journey. Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, managed by NASA Ames Research Center, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17 percent of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there. 

Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), presented the analysis today in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif. A paper detailing the research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. 

The research team found that 50 percent of all stars have a planet of Earth-size or larger in a close orbit. By adding larger planets detected in wider orbits up to the orbital distance of the Earth, this number increases to 70 percent. 

Extrapolating from Kepler's currently ongoing observations and results from other detection techniques, scientists have determined that nearly all sun-like stars have planets. 

Planets closer to their stars are easier to find because they transit more frequently. As more data are gathered, planets in larger orbits will be detected. In particular, Kepler's extended mission will enable the detection of Earth-sized planets at greater distances, including Earth-like orbits in the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. 


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Atleast 1 in 6 on earth is a Chinese.

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Astronomers discover the largest structure in the universe - 4 Billion light years across

Astronomers discover the largest structure in the universe - 4 Billion light years across | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

An international team of astronomers, led by academics from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), has found the largest known structure in the universe. The large quasar group (LQG) is so large that it would take a vehicle travelling at the speed of light some 4 billion years to cross it. The team publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 

Quasars are the nuclei of galaxies from the early days of the universe that undergo brief periods of extremely high brightness that make them visible across huge distances. These periods are 'brief' in astrophysics terms but actually last 10-100 million years. Since 1982 it has been known that quasars tend to group together in clumps or 'structures' of surprisingly large sizes, forming large quasar groups or LQGs.

 

The team, led by Dr. Roger Clowes from UCLan's Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, has identified the LQG which is so significant in size it also challenges the Cosmological Principle: the assumption that the universe, when viewed at a sufficiently large scale, looks the same no matter where you are observing it from.

 

The modern theory of cosmology is based on the work of Albert Einstein, and depends on the assumption of the Cosmological Principle. The Principle is assumed but has never been demonstrated observationally 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

 

To give some sense of scale, our galaxy, the Milky Way, is separated from its nearest neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, by about 0.75 Megaparsecs (Mpc) or 2.5 million light-years. Whole clusters of galaxies can be 2-3 Mpc across but LQGs can be 200 Mpc or more across. Based on the Cosmological Principle and the modern theory of cosmology, calculations suggest that astrophysicists should not be able to find a structure larger than 370 Mpc.

 

Dr. Clowes' newly discovered LQG however has a typical dimension of 500 Mpc. But because it is elongated, its longest dimension is 1200 Mpc (or 4 billion light years) - some 1600 times larger than the distance from the Milky Way to Andromeda.

 

 


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Rare Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered

Rare Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

A rare Martian meteorite recently found in Morocco contains minerals with 10 times more water than previously discovered Mars meteorites, a finding that raises new questions about when and how long the Mars had conditions suitable for life.

 

The rock is believed to be similar to those studied by NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on opposite sides of Mars in 2004 to look for signs of past water. Spirit is no longer operational, but in August Opportunity was joined by the new and more sophisticated Curiosity rover, which will be searching for chemistry and environmental conditions necessary to support microbial life.

 

The meteorite, known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the second-oldest of 110 named stones originating from Mars that have been retrieved on Earth. Purchased from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011, the black, baseball-sized stone, which weighs less than 1 pound, is 2.1 billon years old, meaning it formed during what is known as the early Amazonian era in Mars' geologic history. The only older Mars meteorite found so far is the 4-billion-year-old Allan Hills 84001 Antarctica stone that was the source of speculation about microfossils in 1996.

 

Early Mars was believed to be warm and wet, but the planet lost most of its atmosphere and its surface water to become a cold, dry desert that appears today.


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First 'Alien Earth' Will Be Found in 2013, Experts Predict

First 'Alien Earth' Will Be Found in 2013, Experts Predict | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

The first truly Earth-like alien planet is likely to be spotted next year, an epic discovery that would cause humanity to reassess its place in the universe.

 

While astronomers have found a number of exoplanets over the last few years that share one or two key traits with our own world — such as size or inferred surface temperature — they have yet to bag a bona fide "alien Earth." But that should change in 2013, scientists say.

 

Exoplanets are piling up. Astronomers discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a sunlike star in 1995. Since they, they've spotted more than 800 worlds beyond our own solar system, and many more candidates await confirmation by follow-up observations. NASA's prolific Kepler Space Telescope, for example, has flagged more than 2,300 potential planets since its March 2009 launch. Only 100 or so have been confirmed to date, but mission scientists estimate that at least 80 percent will end up being the real deal.

 

"The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013," said Geoff Marcy, a veteran planet hunter at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the Kepler team. Marcy thinks this watershed find will be made by Kepler, which spots planets by flagging the telltale brightness dips caused when they pass in front of their parent stars from the instrument's perspective. Kepler needs to witness three of these"transits" to detect a planet, so its early discoveries were tilted toward close-orbiting worlds (which transit more frequently). But over time, the telescope has been spotting more and more distantly orbiting planets — including some in the habitable zone.

 

Whenever the first Earth twin is confirmed, the discovery will likely have a profound effect on humanity. "We humans will look up into the night sky, much as we gaze across a large ocean," Marcy told SPACE.com via email. "We will know that the cosmic ocean contains islands and continents by the billions, able to support both primitive life and entire civilizations."

Marcy hopes such a find will prod our species to take its first real steps beyond its native solar system.

 

"Humanity will close its collective eyes, and set sail for Alpha Centauri," Marcy said, referring to the closest star system to our own, where an Earth-size planet was discovered earlier this year. "The small steps for humanity will be a giant leap for our species. Sending robotic probes to the nearest stars will constitute the greatest adventure we Homo sapiens have ever attempted," Marcy added. "This massive undertaking will require the cooperation and contribution from all major nations around world. In so doing, we will take our first tentative steps into the cosmic ocean and enhance our shared sense of purpose on this terrestrial shore."

 

 


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Tens of Billions of Earth-like Rocky Planets Orbit Red Dwarf Stars in Milky Way Alone

Tens of Billions of Earth-like Rocky Planets Orbit Red Dwarf Stars in Milky Way Alone | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it
Data released early this year from the European Space Agency's (ESO) HARPS planet finder shows that rocky planets not much bigger than Earth are very common in the habitable zones around faint red stars. The international team estimates that there are tens of billions of such planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, and probably about one hundred in the Sun’s immediate neighbourhood. This was the first direct measurement of the frequency of super-Earths around red dwarfs, which account for 80% of the stars in the Milky Way.

 

This first direct estimate of the number of light planets around red dwarf stars was announced early this year by an international team using observations with the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. A prior announcement, showing that planets are ubiquitous in our galaxy used a different method that was not sensitive to this important class of exoplanets.

 

The HARPS team has been searching for exoplanets orbiting the most common kind of star in the Milky Way — red dwarf stars (also known as M dwarfs). These stars are faint and cool compared to the Sun, but very common and long-lived, and therefore account for 80% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

 

"Our new observations with HARPS mean that about 40% of all red dwarf stars have a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet," says Xavier Bonfils (IPAG, Observatoire des Sciences de l'Univers de Grenoble, France), the leader of the team."Because red dwarfs are so common — there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way — this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone."

 

The HARPS team surveyed a carefully chosen sample of 102 red dwarf stars in the southern skies over a six-year period. A total of nine super-Earths (planets with masses between one and ten times that of Earth) were found, including two inside the habitable zones of Gliese 581 and Gliese 667 C respectively. The astronomers could estimate how heavy the planets were and how far from their stars they orbited.

 

By combining all the data, including observations of stars that did not have planets, and looking at the fraction of existing planets that could be discovered, the team has been able to work out how common different sorts of planets are around red dwarfs. They find that the frequency of occurrence of super-Earths in the habitable zone is 41% with a range from 28% to 95%.

 

On the other hand, more massive planets, similar to Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System, are found to be rare around red dwarfs. Less than 12% of red dwarfs are expected to have giant planets (with masses between 100 and 1000 times that of the Earth). As there are many red dwarf stars close to the Sun the new estimate means that there are probably about one hundred super-Earth planets in the habitable zones around stars in the neighbourhood of the Sun at distances less than about 30 light-years.


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Scientists report new dark matter finding from merging galaxy cluster

Scientists report new dark matter finding from merging galaxy cluster | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it
Astronomers were puzzled earlier this year when NASA's Hubble Space Telescope spotted an overabundance of dark matter in the heart of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520. This observation was surprising because dark matter and galaxies should be anchored together, even during a collision between galaxy clusters.

 

Astronomers have abundant evidence that an as-yet-unidentified form of matter is responsible for 90 percent of the gravity within galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Because it is detected via its gravity and not its light, they call it "dark matter." Now, a new observation of Abell 520 from another team of astronomers using a different Hubble camera finds that the core does not appear to be over-dense in dark matter after all. The study findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal.

 

"The earlier result presented a mystery. In our observations we didn't see anything surprising in the core," said study leader Douglas Clowe, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio University. "Our measurements are in complete agreement with how we would expect dark matter to behave."

 

Hubble observations announced earlier this year by astronomers using Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 suggested that a clump of dark matter was left behind during a clash between massive galaxies clusters in Abell 520, located 2.4 billion light-years away. The dark matter collected into a "dark core" that contained far fewer galaxies than would be expected if the dark and luminous matter were closely connected, which is generally found to be the case. Because dark matter is not visible, its presence and distribution is found indirectly through its gravitational effects. The gravity from both dark and luminous matter warps space, bending and distorting light from galaxies and clusters behind it like a giant magnifying glass. Astronomers can use this effect, called gravitational lensing, to infer the presence of dark matter in massive galaxy clusters. Both teams used this technique to map the dark matter in the merging cluster.


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Exoplanets With The Right Ingredients For Life: Carbon Planets Turn Earth’s Chemistry on Its Head

Exoplanets With The Right Ingredients For Life: Carbon Planets Turn Earth’s Chemistry on Its Head | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

Scientists have discovered exoplanets where carbon, relatively rare on Earth, might be as common as dirt.

 

The study of exoplanets—worlds orbiting distant stars—is still in its early days. Yet already researchers have found hundreds of worlds with no nearby analogue: giants that could steamroll Jupiter; tiny pebbles broiling under stellar furnaces; puffy oddballs with the density of peat moss. Still other exoplanets might look familiar in broad-brush, only to reveal a topsy-turvy realm where rare substances are ordinary, and vice versa.

 

Take carbon, for instance: the key constituent of organic matter accounts for some of humankind's most precious materials, from diamonds to oil. Despite its outsize importance, carbon is uncommon—it makes up less than 0.1 percent of Earth's bulk.

 

On other worlds, though, carbon might be as common as dirt. In fact, carbon and dirt might be one and the same. An exoplanet 40 light-years away was recently identified as a promising candidate for just such a place—where carbon dominates and where the pressures in the planet's interior crushes vast amounts of the element into diamond.

 

The planet, known as 55 Cancri e, might have a crust of graphite several hundred kilometers thick. “As you go beneath that, you see a thick layer of diamond,” says astrophysicist Nikku Madhusudhan, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. The crystalline diamond could account for a third of the planet's thickness.

 

Carbon-based worlds would owe their distinct makeup to a planet-formation process very different from our own. If the composition of the sun is any indication, the cloud of dust and gas that coalesced into the planets of our solar system ought to have contained about twice as much oxygen as carbon. Indeed, Earth's rocks are mostly based on oxygen-rich minerals called silicates. Astronomers have determined that 55 Cancri e's host star, however, contains slightly more carbon than oxygen, which may reflect a very different planet-forming environment. And Madhusudhan and his colleagues calculated that the planet's bulk properties—denser than a water world but less dense than a world made of Earth-like minerals—match those predicted for a carbon planet.


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Precise measurements reveal that nearby star is almost as old as the Universe

Precise measurements reveal that nearby star is almost as old as the Universe | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

Astronomers have discovered a Methuselah of stars — a denizen of the Solar System's neighbourhood that is at least 13.2 billion years old and formed shortly after the Big Bang.

 

“We believe this star is the oldest known in the Universe with a well determined age,” says Howard Bond, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who announced the finding on 10 January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.

 

The venerable star, dubbed HD 140283, lies at a comparatively short distance of 190 light years from the Solar System and has been studied by astronomers for more than a century. Researchers have long known that the object consists almost entirely of hydrogen and helium — a hallmark of having formed early in the history of the Universe, before successive generations of stars had a chance to forge heavier elements. But no one knew exactly how old it was.


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Einstein Was Right: Space-Time Is Smooth And Not Foamy

Einstein Was Right: Space-Time Is Smooth And Not Foamy | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it
A new study supports Einstein's view over that of some quantum theorists.

 

A team of researchers came to this conclusion after tracing the long journey three photons took through intergalactic space. The photons were blasted out by an intense explosion known as a gamma-ray burst about 7 billion light-years from Earth. They finally barreled into the detectors of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in May 2009, arriving just a millisecond apart.

Their dead-heat finish strongly supports the Einsteinian view of space-time, researchers said. The wavelengths of gamma-ray burst photons are so small that they should be able to interact with the even tinier "bubbles" in the quantum theorists' proposed space-time foam.

 

If this foam indeed exists, the three protons should have been knocked around a bit during their epic voyage. In such a scenario, the chances of all three reaching the Fermi telescope at virtually the same time are very low, researchers said.

 

So the new study is a strike against the foam's existence as currently imagined, though not a death blow. "If foaminess exists at all, we think it must be at a scale far smaller than the Planck length, indicating that other physics might be involved," study leader Robert Nemiroff, of Michigan Technological University, said in a statement. The Planck length is an almost inconceivably short distance, about one trillionth of a trillionth the diameter of a hydrogen atom. 

 

"There is a possibility of a statistical fluke, or that space-time foam interacts with light differently than we imagined," added Nemiroff, who presented the results Wednesday (Jan. 9) at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.


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Early universe: Magnetic fields created before the first stars

Early universe: Magnetic fields created before the first stars | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it
Magnets have practically become everyday objects. Earlier on, however, the universe consisted only of nonmagnetic elements and particles. Just how the magnetic forces came into existence has now been researched.

 

Before the formation of the first stars, the luminous matter consisted only of a fully ionised gas of protons, electrons, helium nuclei and lithium nuclei which were produced during the Big Bang. "All higher metals, for example, magnetic iron could, according to today's conception, only be formed in the inside of stars," says Reinhard Schlickeiser. "In early times therefore, there were no permanent magnets in the Universe." The parameters that describe the state of a gas are, however, not constant. Density and pressure, as well as electric and magnetic fields fluctuate around certain mean values. As a result of this fluctuation, at certain points in the plasma weak magnetic fields formed -- so-called random fields. How strong these fields are in a fully ionised plasma of protons and electrons, has now been calculated by Prof. Schlickeiser, specifically for the gas densities and temperatures that occurred in the plasmas of the early universe.

 

The result: the magnetic fields fluctuate depending on their position in the plasma, however, regardless of time -- unlike, for example, electromagnetic waves such as light waves, which fluctuate over time. Everywhere in the luminous gas of the early universe there was a magnetic field with a strength of 10^-20 Tesla, i.e. 10 sextillionth of a Tesla. By comparison, the earth's magnetic field has a strength of 30 millionths of a Tesla. In MRI scanners, field strengths of three Tesla are now usual. The magnetic field in the plasma of the early universe was thus very weak, but it covered almost 100 percent of the plasma volume.

 

Stellar winds or supernova explosions of the first massive stars generated shock waves that compressed the magnetic random fields in certain areas. In this way, the fields were strengthened and aligned on a wide-scale. Ultimately, the magnetic force was so strong that it in turn influenced the shock waves. "This explains the balance often observed between magnetic forces and thermal gas pressure in cosmic objects," says Prof. Schlickeiser. The calculations show that all fully ionised gases in the early universe were weakly magnetised. Magnetic fields therefore existed even before the first stars. Next, the Bochum physicist is set to examine how the weak magnetic fields affect temperature fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation.


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Search For Extraterrestrial Life Suggests Other Solar Systems More Habitable Than Ours

Search For Extraterrestrial Life Suggests Other Solar Systems More Habitable Than Ours | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own sun—but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth. That’s because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth—up to 25 percent warmer, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form.

 

The preliminary finding comes from geologists and astronomers at Ohio State University who have teamed up to search for alien life in a new way. They studied eight “solar twins” of our sun—stars that very closely match the sun in size, age, and overall composition—in order to measure the amounts of radioactive elements they contain. Those stars came from a dataset recorded by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher spectrometer at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

 

They searched the solar twins for elements such as thorium and uranium, which are essential to Earth’s plate tectonics because they warm our planet’s interior. Plate tectonics helps maintain water on the surface of the Earth, so the existence of plate tectonics is sometimes taken as an indicator of a planet’s hospitality to life.

 

Of the eight solar twins they’ve studied so far, seven appear to contain much more thorium than our sun—which suggests that any planets orbiting those stars probably contain more thorium, too. That, in turn, means that the interior of the planets are probably warmer than ours.

 

For example, one star in the survey contains 2.5 times more thorium than our sun, said Ohio State doctoral student Cayman Unterborn. According to his measurements, terrestrial planets that formed around that star probably generate 25 percent more internal heat than Earth does, allowing for plate tectonics to persist longer through a planet’s history, giving more time for live to arise. “If it turns out that these planets are warmer than we previously thought, then we can effectively increase the size of the habitable zone around these stars by pushing the habitable zone farther from the host star, and consider more of those planets hospitable to microbial life,” said Unterborn.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Another proof of the contingent creation of life

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Most powerful black hole blast discovered - 100 times the energy of whole Milky Way ejected

Most powerful black hole blast discovered - 100 times the energy of whole Milky Way ejected | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

Astronomers analysed the energy being carried away from a huge quasar – the bright centres of distant galaxies which are powered by supermassive black holes and spew out vast amounts of matter.

 

Scientists have long claimed that extraordinarily powerful quasars must exist and play a key role in the formation of new galaxies, but until now none had been discovered which came close to their predictions.


Now measurements of a quasar known as SDSS J1106+1939 have established that it releases energy with about two million million times the power output of the Sun – the type of very high energy proposed by theorists. The team of scientists, who made their observations using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), calculated that a mass equivalent to 400 Suns is given off by the quasar each year, at a speed of 800km per second. Dr. Nahum Arav of Virginia Tech University, who led the study, said: “We have discovered the most energetic quasar outflow known to date ... I’ve been looking for something like this for a decade, so it’s thrilling to finally find one of the monster outflows that have been predicted."


Theorists claim that the existence of quasars with such a powerful outflow of energy could solve a number of unanswered questions in cosmology, such as how the central black hole mass of galaxies helps determine the overall mass of the galaxy, and why the universe has so few very large galaxies.


Until now it was unclear whether quasars were powerful enough to produce such vast galaxies as some seen in the distant universe, but the researchers established that both SDSS J1106+1939 and one other quasar each have tremendous outflows.

 

They are now studying a further 12 similar quasars to determine whether the same is true of other luminous quasars spread across the universe.


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More bad science in the literature : Pharyngula

More bad science in the literature : Pharyngula | Science Communication from mdashf | Scoop.it

That sad article on gyres as an explanation for everything has had more fallout: not only has it been removed from Science Daily's site, not only has Case Western retracted the press release, but one of the editors at the journal Life has resigned his position over it.


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howto spot the spurious and actually honor them?

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