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Author: Subject: New to chemistry, looking for some ideas
aqueous_solution
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smile.gif posted on 4-7-2017 at 16:04
New to chemistry, looking for some ideas


Howdy everyone! I'm winding up Chem 1 at my local community college and I've really enjoyed it. However, there is only so much you can do in an eight week course, so I intend to continue my studies with further science courses where I can study chemistry directly or work with chemicals in a lab, as that was what I found very enjoyable during class. I'm wondering what you folks would recommend I do during the July / August parts of the summer with experiments to reinforce principles whilst I am away from my school and an actual lab.

Additionally, I've taken up some very basic coding with LaTex Markup and I was wondering if any members had advice for tips of what projects I could do with mhchem or other packages for LaTeX that would be cool to do. I currently have a document that I'm using to test how LaTeX does markup for balancing chemical equations and the like. It's pretty good and I'm enjoying how intuitive the coding language is. If there is any way to model reactions or insert chemdraw stuff, I'd appreciate tips!

I've lurked for a bit, every thread I've read seems welcoming, so I'm happy to be here!

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[*] posted on 4-7-2017 at 23:36
Welcome


I get the clear impression that you have developed a genuine interrest in chemistry,
I discovered my own interest in chemistrry three years ago and so far I have enjoyed it very much,
the subject is so wide (as evidenced by topics covered here at SM) that there is always a queue of experiments waiting ...

On the assumption that you intend to continue experimenting at home there are a few things to consider;

. Chemistry often involves corrosive, staining, smelly and sometimes toxic chemicals,
so I strongly advise against 'kitchen chemistry' unless the other members of your home are very tolerant.
e.g. in my case, try explaining those stains on the kitchen cupboard to my wife :mad:
So the first thing to do is decide where you will work, and where you will store your chemicals and equipment.

I recommend that your first expense is personal protection equipment

1 Goggles or Face Shield, to protect your eyes

2 Gloves, (butyl, nitrile, latex, pvc etc) to protect your hands
... common acids, bases, oxidisers etc. are not that harmful to flesh if washed off quickly but better to be safe than sorry
... many chemicals stain skin - gloves reduce embarrasment / explaining to those wo do not understand.

3 Clothing, a lab coat would be nice but choosing a suitable 'disposable' set of old clothes to wear each time that you do chemistry is as good.

4 Gas Mask, I am not in favour of them but some here are

5 Internet connection to SM where you can explain any intended experiment and get advice before you start any experiment that you are not sure of.
Preferably post a link to the source for your experiment and search for an answer yourself before asking, folk here are VERY helpful but have a low tollerance for questions that have been answered many times here.

Equipment - the majority of chemistry can be done using domestic glassware BUT to remove the risk of chemical contamination it is best to have dedicated glassware

Although some may laugh, I recommend a used 'Chemistry Set'
e.g. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Chemistry-Set-/302369063788?hash=i...
very basic but useful (except for the goggles)
- spirit lamp
- test tubes, flask etc.
- useful basic chemicals
- a book of basic experiments

have fun




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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 02:52


I definitely suggest a lab coat because they are designed to protect from chemicals and can be quickly and easily removed. Also, you'll be the envy of your friends in a stylish lab coat.

It's a good idea to have a gas mask, but you shouldn't need it most of the time unless something goes wrong.




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aqueous_solution
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 03:12


ah yes, safety is certainly key. I have a few ideas for experiments that I would like to do, luckily I live in a rural area and can do a lot of stuff outside and away from bothering anyone. I'll definitely have to do more reading about properly disposing of solvents and other such chemicals, don't want the lawn dying!

I'm pretty familiar with safety procedures thanks to family experience in industrial chemical processing but there are always more precautions to take. I appreciate the advice about getting a lab coat, my model growing up for chemical work gear was coveralls which are wonderful at picking up gunk but are VERY hot.

edit: with regard to safety equipment, I have access to a lot of eye protection (welder in the family and general mechanical interests) but not a gas mask. Got a lot of those mouth covers for preventing dusk lung, but no masks. What's a good starter gas mask if I were working mostly outside and some day would like to use phosphate compounds or chlorine compounds or sulfur compounds (y'know the acids thatll make gas that'll make life miserable for months if not kill you) in small concentrations? Honestly as much as I like halogens, acids freak me the hell out after I read that fluorine gas poisoning can lay dormant for 20-48 hours before visual burns appear on skins... stuff's wild... I love chemistry... lol.

all the chemistry I've done prior to taking this course was some basic oil / fat extractions using vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol for some flavored VG for my mom's soap making hobby. Soap synthesis is very cool, I definitely wanna help out with that again or do it myself after I have a better understanding of the procedures. That said, Organic matter extracts are MESSY. I don't have a huge interest in doing anymore, especially without proper glassware (crockpot hotwater bathing a Mason Jar with VG and Mint leaves is cool like once).

As far as books are concerned, my class is working from the latest edition of Chemistry by Zumdahl & Zumdahl. I've got a shelf of old chemistry and physics texts from the 70s when some family members were in school for chemical engineering and a few old lab books. There's a lot of really interesting stuff about hydrocarbons in the Organic textbook (duh) but I really do get a nice kick out of reading it, even if it's a lot of levels above me right now.

for fun stuff I picked up Theodore Gray's two books about Molecules and Elements, which are both beautiful and quick, gripping readings. A friend recommended that I read "Uncle Tungsten" as it was the memoir that sparked her interest into chemistry, anyone know of any good narrative books written by chemists or scientists worth reading?

thanks again for all the help! y'all are great!




[Edited on 5-7-2017 by aqueous_solution]
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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 04:13


I doubt that there are many hobby chemists that have hydrofluoric acid in stock
(unless also used for another hobby such as glass etching)
I have no reagents deliberately containing fluorine in any form as I do not (yet) feel that I have the expertise to deal with the (potential) hazards.

P.S. I like YouTube chemistry videos (a large proportion of the good amateur chemistry videos are by members here using pseudonyms)
and Wikipedia is a good first reference.
not to forget
http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/index.html
http://www.sciencemadness.org/smwiki/index.php/Main_Page
http://www.sciencemadness.org/member_publications/index.html

[Edited on 5-7-2017 by Sulaiman]




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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 13:55


Welcome to the forum, and let me wish you a lot of fun exploring chemistry.

Typically, chemists (at least those I know) have a general interest in chemistry, but find particular areas of chemistry more interesting than others.
It would therefore help if you can broadly outline what you find interesting.

Regarding gas masks: while they can be life-saving at times, it should not be your primary means of protecting yourself. It should be more of an extra precaution, 'just in case'. Planning and setting up an experiment properly and the use of a good fume hood is adequate for the vast majority of experiments.

There are many types of gas mask filters, and when you are planning an experiment that you deem requires the additional protection of a gas mask, make sure to select one that is effective for whatever your are working with. There are filters that remove a range of organic vapours with varying levels of efficiency, but also filters designed to remove one compound specifically (eg. mercury, sulfur dioxide, etc). Sometimes they also filter small solid particles. Read up on it when you need to buy one, but for now I'd recommend to simply stay away from extremely toxic compounds.

[Edited on 5-7-2017 by phlogiston]




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[*] posted on 5-7-2017 at 16:50


phlogiston and sulaiman, I should be clear I don't intend to do any experiments with anything extremely toxic at my home. it's far above my ability and understanding and unnecessary right now, there's just some images that you can't forget, you know? HF burns stick in my mind for some reason.

I'm really still very new to this science outside of passing interaction in some classes or my own unguided googling.

I think organic chemistry is really cool. Molecular structure is something I find aesthetically attractive for some reason and I'd like to have a better understanding as why and how different types of carbon-carbon bonds can form to create unique molecules with differing physical and chemical properties. everything from crude oil to capsaicin to paper and soap! it's really mindbending to think about the seemingly limitless numbers of possible organic molecules thanks to things like isomerization. the whole "functional group" thing is intriguing and it's a concept that's stuck in my brain from ATP synthase stuff in biology classes.


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[*] posted on 6-7-2017 at 06:55


It might be interesting to try to come up with the smallest set of chemicals and glassware you can, that can do the largest number of potential reactions to give the largest number of different interesting products. n-Butanol is one that's surprisingly versatile, I'm learning. Add sodium bromide and sulfuric acid, and you have n-bromobutane. Or oxidize n-butanol to butyric acid, and see if it really smells as bad as they say. React n-bromobutane with lithium to get n-butyllithium, a staple of organolithium chemistry (this may require dry ice, and I have not actually done it myself). Oh, n-butanol is also a great solvent to use with a lot of reactions that need water continually removed, because it has a 50-percent azeotrope with water. No dean stark required.



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[*] posted on 8-7-2017 at 03:32


Quote: Originally posted by Melgar  
It might be interesting to try to come up with the smallest set of chemicals and glassware you can, that can do the largest number of potential reactions to give the largest number of different interesting products. n-Butanol is one that's surprisingly versatile, I'm learning. Add sodium bromide and sulfuric acid, and you have n-bromobutane. Or oxidize n-butanol to butyric acid, and see if it really smells as bad as they say. React n-bromobutane with lithium to get n-butyllithium, a staple of organolithium chemistry (this may require dry ice, and I have not actually done it myself). Oh, n-butanol is also a great solvent to use with a lot of reactions that need water continually removed, because it has a 50-percent azeotrope with water. No dean stark required.


I've been kicking this idea around in my head over the past few days and I like it a lot. Once I get more accustomed to working with lab equipment and organic chemicals I will definitely keep this advice in mind.

I made a few pounds of soap yesterday just to experience the saponification reaction. My goal for right now is to acquire a hot plate with an accurate temperature measurement (Crockpots with 2 settings aren't exactly... sciencey) and do the reaction a couple times in a day with different ratios of oil and keeping a consistent temperature, or sticking with a decent oil mixture and adjusting temperature. I read in a lot of places that these factors are important for the end physical qualities of the soap. I think it'd give me some actual experience running reactions and collecting data, while producing something that has utility beyond my own chemical interests.

It's pretty simple, not particularly dangerous outside of diluting the base in water or handling hot oil AND the cleanup is very easy! Once I get bored of making soap with NaOH I can switch to KOH for more liquid soaps, too. There seems to be a lot of room to explore with this chemical reaction which should keep me busy for a bit.

thanks again everyone for the pointers! I hope to have an educational experience while I'm here and I'll look forward to seeing y'all around the boards :)
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[*] posted on 8-7-2017 at 09:40


On soap making..my wife and I are soapmakers, we have a small business doing so. Main reason I got into chemistry. I have approx 10 crackpots that I use when I do hot process. Anyway check out the book: Scientific Soapmaking by Dunn for a chemists take to soapmaking.
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[*] posted on 10-7-2017 at 09:18


Oh, just a thought, the minimal glassware setup is probably something like this:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/151087402737

Then get a Buchner funnel with a hand vacuum pump (they're often sold together) and you can use the hand vacuum pump for distillation too. If you have a brake line bleeder, no need to buy a hand vacuum pump since it's the same thing, essentially. You can use a heat gun on low for your heat source until you can get a proper mantle. Or just get a flat-bottom flask separate, then you have two receiving flasks and a boiling flask that you can use with a hotplate.




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[*] posted on 15-7-2017 at 12:31


Not sure if we are allowed to plug specific youtubers, but NileRed's channel is a great source for ideas. Many of his videos are beginner-level chemistry.
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[*] posted on 17-7-2017 at 05:47


I came across a technical manual written about the chemistry and preparation of different naturally occurring organic dyes, synthetic organic derivatives (there's a lot of interesting reactions involving chemicals in the benzene family which I find really compelling cause it's a neat molecule). It's been quite an interesting read and I'm definitely going to have to read and study more about organic chemistry so I can really understand what reactions are occurring and why. It's pretty above my level in a lot of ways (mostly the synthesis stuff) but the discussion of why particular bonds, resonance, and functional groups arise to present the color of dyes is fascinating. It's nice to be able to have a book of different compounds with slightly different formulas where I can go find a sample of the dye and observe the physical appearance myself online (to an extent I guess).

The other incredible thing is how all of the typesetting for complicated molecules was done in prior to computers! I was told by someone working at the local library that publishers had stencils and would put all that stuff in afterward if it couldn't be represented on a typewriter.


In other news, I finished my first chemistry course with a 95! I'm feeling very good about that and looking forward to higher levels of it in the fall. This is a really challenging but rewarding science and I'm having a lot more fun than I was studying other things.



[Edited on 17-7-2017 by aqueous_solution]
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[*] posted on 18-7-2017 at 05:19


Yep, chemistry definitely has a "steampunk" vibe to it, when you've been reading journal articles for a while. From the industrial revolution, to about World War II, was probably the "golden age" of chemistry, and all the articles written during that time period have that old-fashioned-science feel to them. What's fascinating to me is how they managed to learn the forms of all these different molecules, accurately, with no bond-leagth-measuring technology or anything. They just determined structure based on how it reacted, what element ratio they knew it to contain, and how many possible isomers shared that ratio. (For instance, they determined that all of benzene's six carbons were equivalent, and most likely cyclic, because there is only one isomer of benzene and toluene, and three of xylene.) This guy is pretty interesting too, if you're looking for reading material:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Kekul%C3%A9




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[*] posted on 18-7-2017 at 12:29


If you like organic chemistry for the diversity of molecular structures, you should definitely try grignards. You'll love them. They are like LEGO, except with molecules.



Smells like ammonia....
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[*] posted on 18-7-2017 at 13:35


What country you in? I like soap as well, Essential oil distillation kits from Deschem etc are very good and a good price.

Soap opens a whole world of chemistry, from steam extractions of essential oils to making chloroform or ethanol to do solvent extractions. Tit rations to get exact sap numbers is fun. I am working on trying to titrate iodine numbers but some the chems dont seem easy to get for that.

If your in the UK then you might be in luck!! I have a couple of burettes you can have free.(well u pay p&p) and some beakers etc.

Designing soaps with different properties is alot of fun. KOH can be a mare with soap, you need to make sure its fresh.

Extracting tomato leaf oils gives some great smells for soap as do alot of herbs, I use steam and solvent extraction, then you got TLC plates for seeing whats in natural ingredients etc.
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[*] posted on 18-7-2017 at 16:47


Quote: Originally posted by Melgar  
Yep, chemistry definitely has a "steampunk" vibe to it, when you've been reading journal articles for a while. From the industrial revolution, to about World War II, was probably the "golden age" of chemistry, and all the articles written during that time period have that old-fashioned-science feel to them. What's fascinating to me is how they managed to learn the forms of all these different molecules, accurately, with no bond-leagth-measuring technology or anything. They just determined structure based on how it reacted, what element ratio they knew it to contain, and how many possible isomers shared that ratio. (For instance, they determined that all of benzene's six carbons were equivalent, and most likely cyclic, because there is only one isomer of benzene and toluene, and three of xylene.) This guy is pretty interesting too, if you're looking for reading material:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Kekul%C3%A9


I didn't know that! that's really incredible. I guess I should go back to the first couple chapters of a chem book and try to do some problems determining empirical formulas and such. Mathematics is the language of the universe in a lot of ways and it's really wonderful all of the applications that it has when combined with human problem solving.

I'm always awe-struck by these different scientists whose names I've never heard before but contributed in such a massive way to the particular type of chemistry which I find interesting. I'll see what I can find as close to primary source wise as I can from that August Kekule guy. I took German back in high school but it's long gone and I never was proficient beyond a low level of reading with it. It sounds pretty compelling.

the old world feel of this particular technical manual is definitely pleasing to read in a way that the texts I've read from school aren't.

I'd imagine there are a lot of classic historical texts that are worthwhile to read, judging by this one particular manual related to one particular industrial field. As frustrating as some of the mathematics and concepts are, it's been a really worthwhile and rewarding challenge in the couple of months I've been taking my interest a bit more seriously.

NEMO,

I'm US based, but thank you very much for your kind offer. The design aspect of soap making for predicting end properties of the soap is where I'm going to start. I would like to try to derive saponification numbers on my own, that definitely sounds like a worthwhile experiment.

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[*] posted on 19-7-2017 at 20:34


I recommend over eye protection, but that is the only thing I care about safety wise. Call me stupid, but I don't wear gloves or care about my waste (most of it is corrosive, almost never toxic, but I have dumped picric acid waste on the road). I sometimes need to deal with gasses, and this I probably need the most improvement on. I always get worried whenever I breathe in phenol or nitrogen dioxide.

Anyway, what chemicals do you have? I get most of mine from the hardware store I work at (methanol, toluene, DCM, sulfuric acid, muruatic acid, sodium hydroxide, ammonia, and so on).

I think the first thing I did that got me into this was nitric acid production with a distillation kit that was given to me. I used sulfuric acid and KNO3, both of which came from my hardware store. I then used that to purify silver in broken contact switches, which almost paid for my reagents!

The most fun I had was making nitrogen triiodide, which can be done by making a slurry of iodine and ammonia and letting it dry. Super unstable stuff! Right now, I am making the chemicals needed for making bakalite, which is a really outdated plastic. I hope you find your interest!
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[*] posted on 28-7-2017 at 02:28


Quote: Originally posted by aqueous_solution  
I didn't know that! that's really incredible. I guess I should go back to the first couple chapters of a chem book and try to do some problems determining empirical formulas and such. Mathematics is the language of the universe in a lot of ways and it's really wonderful all of the applications that it has when combined with human problem solving.

I'm always awe-struck by these different scientists whose names I've never heard before but contributed in such a massive way to the particular type of chemistry which I find interesting. I'll see what I can find as close to primary source wise as I can from that August Kekule guy. I took German back in high school but it's long gone and I never was proficient beyond a low level of reading with it. It sounds pretty compelling.

the old world feel of this particular technical manual is definitely pleasing to read in a way that the texts I've read from school aren't.

I'd imagine there are a lot of classic historical texts that are worthwhile to read, judging by this one particular manual related to one particular industrial field. As frustrating as some of the mathematics and concepts are, it's been a really worthwhile and rewarding challenge in the couple of months I've been taking my interest a bit more seriously.

There were a lot of famous British and American chemists too, although the Germans have typically been at the head of the pack when they weren't busy recovering from a world war. The trouble with reading the primary material, is that they tend to describe in excruciating detail, things that are second nature to us today. For instance, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, never mentions genes or genetics, since those concepts were unknown then.

Fritz Haber was another famous German chemist, who was also Jewish, incidentally. He developed the famous Haber process, which allowed the production of nitrogen-containing fertilizer (and also explosives) from the nitrogen in the air, at a time when the former top source was mining the millennia of accumulated seabird poop from the islands where they liked to nest. Since Germany didn't have the sort of navy that could allow it to control access to seabird poop, this new development was critical to allowing them to fight the likes of Britain and France during World War I and II. Fritz Haber also figured out that trench warfare became a lot easier if you just waited until there was very little wind, and then emptied tanks of chlorine gas into enemy trenches, where it settled due to its density. Despite being Jewish, he was actually considered "one of the good ones" by the Nazis, since he served in the German military during WWI. He even did a lot of research for the Nazis. Interesting character, that accomplished so many very good things and so many very bad things, that it's nearly impossible to judge him morally. There is a good Radiolab podcast on him, too:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/180132-how-do-you-solve-proble...




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[*] posted on 3-9-2017 at 04:58


Quote: Originally posted by Melgar  
Quote: Originally posted by aqueous_solution  
I didn't know that! that's really incredible. I guess I should go back to the first couple chapters of a chem book and try to do some problems determining empirical formulas and such. Mathematics is the language of the universe in a lot of ways and it's really wonderful all of the applications that it has when combined with human problem solving.

I'm always awe-struck by these different scientists whose names I've never heard before but contributed in such a massive way to the particular type of chemistry which I find interesting. I'll see what I can find as close to primary source wise as I can from that August Kekule guy. I took German back in high school but it's long gone and I never was proficient beyond a low level of reading with it. It sounds pretty compelling.

the old world feel of this particular technical manual is definitely pleasing to read in a way that the texts I've read from school aren't.

I'd imagine there are a lot of classic historical texts that are worthwhile to read, judging by this one particular manual related to one particular industrial field. As frustrating as some of the mathematics and concepts are, it's been a really worthwhile and rewarding challenge in the couple of months I've been taking my interest a bit more seriously.

There were a lot of famous British and American chemists too, although the Germans have typically been at the head of the pack when they weren't busy recovering from a world war. The trouble with reading the primary material, is that they tend to describe in excruciating detail, things that are second nature to us today. For instance, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, never mentions genes or genetics, since those concepts were unknown then.

Fritz Haber was another famous German chemist, who was also Jewish, incidentally. He developed the famous Haber process, which allowed the production of nitrogen-containing fertilizer (and also explosives) from the nitrogen in the air, at a time when the former top source was mining the millennia of accumulated seabird poop from the islands where they liked to nest. Since Germany didn't have the sort of navy that could allow it to control access to seabird poop, this new development was critical to allowing them to fight the likes of Britain and France during World War I and II. Fritz Haber also figured out that trench warfare became a lot easier if you just waited until there was very little wind, and then emptied tanks of chlorine gas into enemy trenches, where it settled due to its density. Despite being Jewish, he was actually considered "one of the good ones" by the Nazis, since he served in the German military during WWI. He even did a lot of research for the Nazis. Interesting character, that accomplished so many very good things and so many very bad things, that it's nearly impossible to judge him morally. There is a good Radiolab podcast on him, too:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/180132-how-do-you-solve-proble...


yea Fritz is fine I guess.

you ever read this paper about Clara Immerwahr, his wife? Pretty fascinating story about the first woman to earn a Ph.D in physics at a University in Germany.

Clara Haber, nee Immerwahr (1870–1915): Life, Work and Legacy
Bretislav Friedrichcorresponding and Dieter Hoffmann1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4825402/
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[*] posted on 3-9-2017 at 21:41


If you want a cheap thermostatic hotplate, the absolute cheapest are electric skillets.
You can find them at charity places that sell used appliances for next to nothing.
They aren't high quality thermostats, but they'll generally be accurate to 15C or so, and they're shaped like a frying pan so you can use em as a sand/water/oil bath as well.
Get an Aluminum one and you'll be able to magnetically stir right through the bottom too.

Might not be as sciencey as a real hotplate stirrer, but they kick the holy crap out of crock pots.

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