The strange afterlife of Einstein’s brain


Original photos of Einstein's brain

Einstein’s death 60 years ago was just the start of a strange journey for the most prized part of his anatomy, his brain. Stored in jars and on slides, it is still inspiring awe and scholarly research.

At 01:15 in the morning of 18 April 1955, Albert Einstein – theoretical physicist, peace campaigner and undisputed genius – mumbled a few words in German, took two breaths, and died. The nurse on duty at Princeton Hospital did not speak German and the meaning of Einstein’s final words was lost forever.

Einstein’s cremation took place later that day in Trenton, New Jersey, but the following day his son, Hans Albert, learned that the body in the coffin had not been intact. A front-page article in the New York Times reported that “the brain that worked out the theory of relativity and made possible the development of nuclear fission” had been removed “for scientific study”.

The pathologist who conducted the autopsy, Dr Thomas Harvey, had gone further than simply identifying the cause of death – a burst aorta. He had sawed open Einstein’s cranium and removed its celebrated contents.

“He had some big professional hopes pinned on that brain,” says Carolyn Abraham, who met Harvey while researching her book Possessing Genius: The Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein’s Brain. “I think he had hoped to make a name for himself in medicine in a way that he had been unable to do. And then he comes to work one morning and finds Albert Einstein on his autopsy table.”

Hans Albert was furious. His father had been a modest man who had been cremated without ceremony, and had asked for his ashes be scattered in secret to prevent the site becoming a place of pilgrimage.

But Einstein had also, at some point, given people to believe he was happy for scientists to use his body for research. Harvey convinced Hans Albert to grant permission for a study of Einstein’s brain in the hope it would, as the New York Times put it later, “shed light on one of nature’s greatest mysteries – the secret of genius”.

Harvey, controversially, took possession of the brain. “Whether he took it for himself, or took it for science – it was hard for people to know which, and that’s what put him in the crosshairs for a lot of people,” says the journalist Michael Paterniti, who met Harvey near the end of his life. Harvey was not a neurologist, but he promised to marshal the country’s greatest specialists to study the brain, and to publish their findings soon.

Thomas Harvey

Years passed, however, and no scientific paper emerged. After a while, Einstein’s brain was forgotten.

Then, in 1978 a young reporter, Steven Levy, was dispatched by his editor to find the illustrious organ. The brain was nowhere to be seen at Princeton Medical Center, as Princeton Hospital was then called, and neither was Thomas Harvey. Levy eventually tracked him down to Wichita, Kansas.

“I told him, ‘I’m writing a story about Einstein’s brain.’ The first thing he said was: ‘I really can’t help you with that,'” Levy remembers. “He wasn’t eager to talk.”

In the end, though, Harvey agreed to meet the reporter in his office in the small medical lab where he was working and it quickly became apparent, to Levy’s surprise, that Harvey still aspired to publish a scientific report.

“He was a somewhat introverted guy, a polite guy,” Levy recalls. “But as the conversation went on, he had a pride that he was doing this study, but he didn’t really have good answers as to why, after almost 25 years, nothing had been published.”

When Levy pressed Harvey to see some pictures of the brain, a strange look came over the doctor’s face. Grinning sheepishly, he stood up, walked behind Levy to the corner of the room, and removed a beer cooler from a stack of cardboard boxes. The bottom box was labelled Costa Cider.

“He reaches in, pulls out these big mason jars,” says Levy. “And there was Einstein’s brain. It was amazing.”

In Levy’s article, published in the New Jersey Monthly, he described the contents of one of the jars. “A conch shell-shaped mass of wrinkly material the colour of clay after firing. A fist-sized chunk of greyish, lined substance, the apparent consistency of sponge. And in a separate pouch, a mass of pinkish-white strings resembling bloated dental floss.”

A second, larger jar contained “dozens of rectangular translucent blocks, the size of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews”.

A jar containing Einstein's brain
The brain in a jar reminded Steven Levy of confectionary

The missing 23 years have now been filled in.

Back in 1955, armed with Hans Albert Einstein’s permission to conduct an investigation, Harvey had measured and photographed the brain and even commissioned a painting of it from an artist who had done portraits of his children.

In those early days, he was not acting alone, but had the support of Einstein’s executor, Otto Nathan, and the physicist’s friend, the neuropathologist Harry Zimmerman.

Harvey had overseen the division of the brain into 240 blocks, and created 12 sets of 200 slides containing tissue samples indexed to the blocks. These were delivered, as promised, to the great and the good of 1950s neuropathology.

But Harvey heard very little back from these august men. Those who did reply found it to be no different from normal, non-genius brains. This mirrored the result Harvey had received when he first weighed the brain, and found it to be – at 1,230g – towards the low end of the normal range for men of Einstein’s age.

All the time, as he energetically ferried small samples of Einstein’s brain across the US, he doggedly hung on to the bulk of it.

Among those who tried to take it from him was the US Army. “They felt that having it would put them on a par with the Russians, who were collecting their own brains at that time,” says Abraham. “People were collecting brains – it was a thing.”

Slides of Einstein's brain on display at London's Wellcome Collection, 2012
Slides of Einstein’s brain on display at London’s Wellcome Collection, 2012

But taking possession the brain set in motion a painful chain of events for Harvey.

“This was supposed to have been his great good luck charm but in fact it was much more like a relic cursed,” says Abraham. “He lost everything after he took that brain. He lost his job, he lost his marriage, he lost his career at Princeton. After the controversy over having taking the brain, he never regained his footing at the hospital.”

That explains why Harvey was in Wichita when Steven Levy caught up with him.

When the article appeared in summer 1978, Harvey was suddenly the centre of much attention. The journal Science interviewed him and reporters camped out on his lawn. He was approached for samples, by, among others, the neuro-anatomist Marian Diamond at the University of California, Berkeley. With the package that Harvey sent to Diamond by post, of four sugar cube-sized pieces of brain in a jar previously used for Kraft Miracle Whip mayonnaise, the era of Einstein brain studies finally took off.

What have these studies told us about Einstein’s brain and the nature of intelligence?

More studies followed.

In 1996, Britt Anderson at the University of Alabama at Birmingham published a study on Einstein’s prefrontal cortex. He found that the number of neurons was equivalent to brains in a control group, but they were more tightly packed, allowing, perhaps, for faster processing of information.

In a 1999 Lancet paper, Sandra Witelson from McMaster University in Canada studied Harvey’s original photographs of Einstein’s brain. She said that Einstein’s inferior parietal lobule – the part of the brain responsible for spatial cognition and mathematical thought – was wider than normal, and seemed better integrated. Perhaps, Witelson speculated, the shape of the brain may relate to Einstein’s own descriptions of his thinking in which “words do not seem to play any role”, but there is an “associative play” of “more or less clear images”?

In 2012, the eminent anthropologist Dean Falk worked with a set of previously unseen photographs of Einstein’s brain that Harvey had taken with an Exacta camera. She did a complete audit of the brain, naming every convolution and crevice, and found a number of unusual features.

Diagrams and pictures of Einstein's brain
Based on Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2013, The cerebral cortex of Albert Einstein: a description and preliminary analysis of unpublished photographs, Brain 136(4):1304-27. Photographs of the brain reproduced with permission from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, MD

Perhaps the most striking is that Einstein had an extra ridge on his mid-frontal lobe, the part used for making plans and working memory. Most people have three ridges but Einstein had four. She also found Einstein’s parietal lobes were dramatically asymmetric, and he had a knob on his right motor strip. This latter feature is called the “sign of omega” and it is thought to be correlated to musicians who use their left hands. Einstein played the violin.

Falk was also named on a 2013 study that looked at Einstein’s unusual corpus callosum, the bundle of fibres connecting the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The researchers found Einstein’s was thicker than in control groups, suggesting enhanced co-operation between brain hemispheres.

pictures of Einstein's brain
Based on Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2013, The cerebral cortex of Albert Einstein: a description and preliminary analysis of unpublished photographs, Brain 136(4):1304-27. Photographs of the brain reproduced with permission from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, MD

The question arises: Are these features that Einstein developed throughout a life devoted to higher thought, or was he born with them? People are born with the basic pattern of convolutions in their brains, but the extent to which these are reshaped by experience is unknown. The sign of omega may have developed as Einstein practised the violin as a boy, Falk says, but she thinks it is more difficult to assess the contribution of life’s experiences to other parts of the brain.

With each of these papers, starting with Marian Diamond in 1985, the press splashed the story with headlines suggesting that scientists had discovered the special neural wiring responsible for E=mc². The truth is that the links with Einstein’s genius have never been anything more than speculative.

“You can’t take just one brain of someone who is different from everyone else – and we pretty much all are – and say, ‘Ah-ha! I have found the thing that makes T Hines a stamp collector!” says Terence Hines, a psychologist and stamp collector at Pace University who has been very critical of all the Einstein brain studies. “If you have this notion that stamp collecting was caused by something different in the brain, and you looked at my brain and compared my brain to 100 other brains, you could find something different and say ‘Ah-ha! I have found the centre of stamp-collecting.’ And it’s bull.”

A screenshot from the Einstein brain app
An app showing Harvey’s slides of Einstein’s brain is available for iPad

Hines has accused the scientists involved in the Einstein brain studies of being caught up in what he calls the “neuromythology” of Einstein’s brain.

The first victim of this tendency was arguably Harvey himself. He told Steven Levy in 1978 that all the research so far conducted on the brain “showed it to be within normal limits for a man his age”. But rather than publishing these results, Harvey waited for exceptional differences to turn up, differences worthy of an exceptional man.

This “selection bias” was also evident in the first of the studies to find a possibly significant difference – Marian Diamond’s. She subjected the four brain samples to seven different tests, Hines says, but Einstein’s brain only came back as unusual in one of the measures – the glial cells – and only in one of the samples.

In what has become a bitter spat about the body of a famously mild-mannered man, Falk and her co-writers insist that Einstein’s brain is exceptional. There is a natural variation in our brain anatomy, true, but Einstein possessed unusual features in every cerebral lobe, some very unusual.

But they are willing to accept that it’s impossible to map these anatomical differences on to Einstein’s genius with any certainty. “I don’t know if Einstein was a genius because his parietal lobes were different,” says say Dr Frederick Lepore, a neurologist who worked with Dean Falk on the 2012 paper. “If you put my feet to the fire and you say, ‘Where’s special relativity? Where did general relativity come from?’ – we have no idea.”

Einstein was, of course, lots of things besides being a genius. He was bilingual, musical and even – it has been suggested – autistic.

Einstein playing the violin

Hines makes the point that to correlate an unusual feature of the brain to a characteristic you need lots of brains with those unusual features. The easiest way to do it, he says, would be to put a lot of geniuses through the flashiest neural imaging scanner you can afford – perhaps by taking the scanner to the Large Hadron Collider and get the scientists there to form a queue. “They may not find anything, but that would be far more productive than slicing and dicing one or two brains of geniuses,” he says.

Recent published research on Einstein’s brain has used Harvey’s photographs, as it’s no longer easy to get access to brain samples themselves. In 1998, Thomas Harvey handed the 170 chunks of brain still in his possession to Dr Elliot Kraus, chief pathologist at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, the current name for the institution where Einstein himself was sliced and diced in April 1955.

“If you say, where’s the brain? It’s about five miles from my office in Plainsboro, New Jersey, and you can’t get access to it,” says Frederick Lepore. “At least Tom Harvey would send pieces out. Krauss is not allowing access to this brain.”

Elliot Krauss denies this. He says he sent some samples for DNA analysis, and although they were too damaged to be useful, in the future the technology may be sophisticated enough to examine them by this method. “I think I am waiting till someone comes with a really good proposal on the material, but I would have to be comfortable that they’re not looking at it just to have some, and the notoriety of possessing some,” says Krauss. “There has to be a real good scientific reason for having it.”

Keeping the brain, Krauss says, is an honour and a burden – one that Thomas Harvey shouldered for more than 40 years. Krauss has said in the past that Harvey did “a great service”, but no-one would say he didn’t sometimes make bad mistakes. In a 1994 BBC documentary, the octogenarian is seen wandering into his kitchen with one of his mason jars and slicing off a piece of Einstein’s brain on a cheeseboard for a visitor to take home as a memento.

It’s an interesting moment. The visitor, Kenji Sugimoto, has been on a pilgrimage to find the brain of his idol and the possibility that he might be about to receive an actual relic of this nuclear-age saint is almost too much for him. But one senses that Harvey gives Sugimoto a piece of Einstein not out of charitable fellow-feeling, but a profound lack of sentimentality about his prized possession.

Shortly after this sequence, the Yale-educated doctor is shown working in a plastics factory to pay the bills. Notwithstanding money troubles, Harvey never sold any of his troublesome cargo.

“Really I do think that his were sins of omission rather than commission,” says Carolyn Abraham. “If he was really serious about wanting the brain to be studied I think at some point he should have turned it over to people who could have properly studied it.”

Thomas Harvey working in a factory
Harvey working in a factory in 1994, in the BBC documentary film

She believes there are probably slivers of Einstein in attics across America – the samples distributed by Harvey to scientists who then kept them as interesting curios.

In 1997, Michael Paterniti went on a road trip with Harvey across the US with Einstein’s brain in a plastic container in the boot, an experience he described in his book Driving Mr Albert. He describes Harvey as “a very nice, quiet person” who evaded difficult questions about his actions. “Sometimes his response was just to fall into a deep silence. And sometimes these silences could last the length of an entire state.”

Although the brain’s scientific significance remains debatable, its story has been culturally productive, spawning a novel, a comic book and even a play by Nick Payne, inspired by Harvey’s story, which will open in New York next month.

Whether one sees all this as a sad addendum to Einstein’s truly world-changing life or a touching sign of how deeply revered he was by the normal-brained majority is a matter of opinion. But according to Carolyn Abrahams on thing is certain: “As long as Einstein’s tongue adorns t-shirts, we’ll be talking about his brain.”

‘Fukushima lessons: Any notion that nuclear power is clean is obsolete’.

The unit No.1 (L) and No. 2 reactor building of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Reuters / Itsuo Inouye)

The unit No.1 (L) and No. 2 reactor building of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (Reuters / Itsuo Inouye)

The world must phase out nuclear power because it is absolutely not clean from the mining processing of uranium to the generation of high-level radioactive waste, Kevin Kamps for the radioactive waste watchdog Beyond Nuclear, told RT.

It’s been four years since the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history struck the Fukushima nuclear power plant. All of Japan’s 43 operable reactors have been shut down since 2013, because of safety checks required after the accident. The operator of the nuclear plant has sent a second robot inside the Fukushima reactor to collect data from it. The first robot became immovable after recording some footage from inside the reactor.

RT: Since the disaster, Japan has allocated more than $15 billion to an unprecedented project to lower radiation in towns near the power plant. However few locals believe Tokyo’s assurances that the site will eventually be cleaned up. Do you think their fears are reasonable?

Kevin Kamps: Yes, it is an unprecedented catastrophe. Of course there was Chernobyl, but in this area of Japan – it is so densely populated all over. So when they are trying to clear the landscape down to a certain depth, it is going to be more and more expensive. When you add all of the projects from decommissioning of the nuclear power plant to trying to clean up the landscape to loss of economic activity – we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars all together. It is going to be very difficult for anything like normal life ever to return there.

RT: In addition to massive radioactive remains, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise following the increase in coal-fired power. Should environmentalists sound the alarm here?

KK: Just in recent days there have been the admissions by high-ranking Tokyo Electric officials that the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant could take more like 200 years because of the lack of technology to do the job. They are going to have to invent all of these robotic systems and engineering processes to try to remove the melted cores at Fukushima Daiichi because that is their current plan unlike Chernobyl with the sarcophagus. The current plan in Japan is to remove those melted cores to somewhere else – perhaps to geologic disposal, they haven’t said. But it is going to be very challenging.

RT: How has the country been handling the shortage of nuclear energy so far?

KK: It is high time for Japan, but I should also say the US and many other countries, to do what Germany is doing – which is to make the transition in its energy sector to efficiency and renewables. Germany will phase out the nuclear power by 2022. This is a direct response to Fukushima. And it will also largely phase out fossil fuel by the middle of the century, by 2050. Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world. So if Germany can do it, so can other developed countries in the world. It is high time that we do this so that dangerous nuclear power plants can be shot down, and we don’t have to turn to polluting fossil fuels.

RT: What is the main importance of nuclear power phase-out in your opinion?

KK: I think it’s very important that world turned from the nuclear power. It is absolutely not clean from the mining and processing of uranium to the generation of high-level radioactive waste. Then the routine radiation releases is even from normally operating nuclear power plants. But then certainly you have the disasters like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Any notion that nuclear power is clean is obsolete at this point.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reuters / Kyodo)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

RT: On Tuesday, a Japanese court halted the restart of two reactors at the Takahama plant in Fukui prefecture citing safety concerns. Why did the judges issue such a ruling?

KK: They are having a very difficult time. Just in recent days again a judge in Fukui prefecture ruled for the second time against the restart of atomic reactors in their prefecture, this time at Takahama. Two reactor units were blocked by this judge’s ruling from restarting. And last year he ruled against two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant. So the local population, the local governors of prefectures, and local elected officials like mayors have put a stop to these plants restarting reactors in Japan.

RT: Do you think this latest move by the court is a major blow to the Prime Minister’s attempts to return to atomic energy?

KK: Yes, and in this particular case in the last couple days the judge in Fukui prefecture ruled that the new regulations – supposedly based on lessons learned from Fukushima by the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority – are irrational and do not guarantee protection of public health and safety and the environment. So it is a big blow to Prime minister, [Shinzo] Abe’s plans to restart reactors.

RT: All 40 reactors in Japan are shot down at the moment, aren’t they?

KK: That’s right; all 40 reactors in Japan are currently shot down. And this has been the case largely since the Fukushima catastrophe began. There have been a few exceptions but for very short periods of time.

RT: If the court comes up with further restrictions that would eventually extend the countrywide shutdown of the reactors. What are the consequences likely to be for Japan’s economy?

KK: It has made it. There have been challenges and difficulties; there has been a crash course in energy efficiency and also in energy conservation… And … there have been imports of fossil fuels, natural gas and coal. That is why I said [that] it is important for Japan to as quickly as possible transition to a renewable energy economy. In fact, that prime minister who served during the beginning of the catastrophe, Naoto Kan, implemented laws that would make that renewable transition happen more efficiently.

RT: Are there any achievement that have been made by the Japanese government trying to tackle the problem? Any good news?

KK: The good news is that renewables, especially efficiency, are very quickly deployable. You can establish a large scale solar photovoltaic facility in a matter of months, the same with wind turbines and efficiency is even faster than that. You have companies in Japan that are poised to do this kind of work…So there is a real promise in renewables; Japan has tremendous resourcesboth domestically, but also for the export and the installation of renewables around the world. And you have to always remember that the devastation caused by Fukushima Daiichi is a very negative thing for the Japanese economy. So you could have 40 good years at a nuclear power plant like Fukushima Daiichi, and you can have one bad day that is now tuned into four bad years, and there is no end and sight- this will go on for very long time.

RT: Everyone in Japan and all over the world understands that it is very dangerous industry and something should be done to prevent future catastrophes. So why are Japanese authorities slowing down all these processes?

KK: It is a form of addiction; it is a form of political power that is very deeply ingrained. The Japanese nuclear power industry dates back to the 1950’s. The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Abe, one of its founding planks and its platform was pro-nuclear power. Apparently, it is very difficult for these powerful elites to learn lessons and to change their ways. But I think the Japanese people are showing that they have had enough of these risks to their country: first suffering the atomic bombings of 1945 and now also suffering the worst that nuclear power can deliver as well.

E-Cigs Have 10x More Cancer Causing Ingredients Than Regular Cigarettes | Spirit Science and Metaphysics

However, the research commissioned by the Japanese Ministry of Health found formaldehyde and acetaldehyde carcinogens in the liquid produced by a number of e-cigarette products, a health ministry official stated.

The group also learned that e-cigarettes can fuel potentially  life-threatening drug-resistant pathogens. This is based on lab study where they tested e-cigs vapor on live methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and human cells.

The formaldehyde carcinogen was found to be much more present in the e-cigarette liquids than in the chemicals used in regular cigarettes, according to the official.

“In one brand of e-cigarette the team found more than 10 times the level of carcinogens contained in one regular cigarette,” said researcher Naoki Kunugita.

“Especially when the wire (which vaporizes the liquid) gets overheated, higher amounts of those harmful substances seemed to be produced.”

However, Kunugita added that the levels of the formaldehyde carcinogen fluctuated in the final results.  This does not mean that regular cigarettes are safer, it just means that some types of e-cigarettes have even more cancer causing compounds.

“You call them e-cigarettes, but they are products totally different from regular tobacco,” the Japanese health ministry official said. “The government is now studying the possible risks associated with them, with view to looking at how they should be regulated.”

What is being done about this?

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged governments to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors because of the “serious threat” posed to them.

The UN health agency said that despite the lack of evidence on the damage caused by e-cigarettes, there was enough “to caution children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age” about their use, adding that they should be outlawed from indoor public spaces.

Scientists are calling for a urgent controls to be put on the selling of e-cigarettes to children after a correlation was made between e-cigarette usage and binge drinking.

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “More than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, according to a CDC study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research. This number reflects a three-fold increase, from about 79,000 in 2011, to more than 263,000 in 2013.”

While e-cigarettes are often used as an alternative to smoking, they are far from safe.  Not to mention, we still don’t even know what the long-term effects of smoking e-cigarettes is.

Virtual reality may be effective tool for evaluating balance control in glaucoma patients

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death and morbidity in older adults, especially those with a chronic eye disease such as glaucoma. To investigate this problem, a multidisciplinary group of researchers has become the first to use virtual reality technology to develop a new method for measuring balance control in those with glaucoma. The results of their study, published online today by Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, demonstrate that virtual reality provides a more realistic testing environment compared to traditional testing methods.

People with have a more than three times greater risk of falling than those without the condition. Yet, research to date has shown only a weak correlation between results obtained by visual field testing and risk of falls in glaucoma patients. To address this issue, a group of researchers based at the University of California, San Diego, sought to develop a new, more effective approach using goggles.

The team of ophthalmologists, vision scientists and engineers studied 42 patients with open-angle glaucoma and 38 healthy subjects as a control. The subjects wore Oculus Rift stereoscopic goggles that can simulate different settings while standing on a force platform, a device that measures balance and movement. Measurements were recorded by the force platform, including when the goggles simulated movement such as moving through a tunnel or a spinning floor, and when the goggles were not worn or were not providing visual stimulation.

During simulated movement, researchers found that participants made balance adjustments that were an average of 30 to 40 percent more pronounced in glaucoma patients than in healthy subjects, who were able to regain balance more quickly than those with glaucoma. The study authors suspect that the pronounced lack of balance control in the subjects with glaucoma may be related to the loss of retinal ganglion cells caused by the disease, which leads to slower visual processing and impaired motion perception.

The study also found that the degree to which balance was lost was strongly linked to a history of falls, which validated the study’s methods and metrics. The researchers hope that future studies using this paradigm will help ophthalmologists better understand the relationship between risk of falls and retinal ganglion cell loss in people with glaucoma.

“Measures from traditional static visual field tests do not mimic the visual conditions that occur day-to-day,” explained Felipe A. Medeiros, M.D., senior author and professor of ophthalmology and director of the Visual Performance Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego. “With further refinement of this method, we hope that the approach could one day be used to identify patients at high-risk of falling so that preventative measures can be employed at an earlier stage.”

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting more than 2.7 million individuals aged 40 and older in the United States. In its most common form, known as open-angle glaucoma, fluid builds up in the front part of the eye, increasing eye pressure and damaging the optic nerve. Without proper treatment to halt the nerve damage, open-angle glaucoma patients usually lose peripheral vision first and may eventually go blind.

Top 5 Deadliest Substances on Earth from SciShow

13 Most Evil U.S. Government Experiments on Humans .

13 Most Evil U.S. Government Experiments on Humans

The U.S. Government has been caught conducting an insane amount of vile, inhumane and grisly experiments on humans without their consent and often without their knowledge.

So in light of recent news of the U.S. infecting Guatemalans with STDs, here are the 13 most evil, for lack of a better word, cases of human-testing as conducted by the United States of America.

Conspiracy theory “nuts” are known for being a little out there, but once you read the wild government experiment stories on this list, you’ll be a believer too. Did the U.S. government really infect its own citizens with syphilis and not tell them? Sure did. Did other government agencies test nuclear weapons, resulting in radiation fallout on multiple innocent Pacific islands? Oh yes. And did top U.S. officials condone the research of corrupt doctors who were clearly torturing their research subjects? Scroll through the list below to find out.

Get ready to become one of those conspiracy theory nuts, because after this list, you will never fully trust your government again.

1. Mind Control, Child Abuse – Project MKULTRA, Subproject 68

13-Most-Evil-U.S.-Government-Experiments-on-Humans89This is the stuff of nightmares. The CIA-ran Project MKULTRA paid Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron for Subproject 68, which would be experiments involving mind-altering substances. The entire goal of the project was to probe examination into methods of influencing and controlling the mind and being able to extract information from resisting minds.

So in order to accomplish this, the doctor took patients admitted to his Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal and conducted “therapy” on them. The patients were mostly taken in for issues like bi-polar depression and anxiety disorders. The treatment they received was life-altering and scarring. In the period he was paid for (1957 – 1964) Cameron administered electroconvulsive therapy at 30-40 times the normal power. He would put patients into a drug-induced coma for months on-end and playback tapes of simple statements or repetitive noises over and over again.

The victims forgot how to talk, forgot about their parents, and suffered serious amnesia. And all of this was performed on Canadian citizens because the CIA wasn’t willing to risk such operations on Americans. To ensure that the project remained funded, Cameron, in one scheme, took his experiments upon admitted children and in one situation had the child engage in sex with high-ranking government officials and film it. He and other MKULTRA officers would blackmail the officials to ensure more funding.

2. Mustard Gas Tested on Soldiers via Involuntary Gas Chambers

13-Most-Evil-U.S.-Government-Experiments-on-Humans09As bio-weapon research intensified in the 1940’s, officials also began testing its repercussions and defenses on the Army itself. In order to test the effectiveness of various bio-weapons, officials were known to have sprayed mustard gas and other skin-burning, lung-ruining chemicals, like Lewisite, on soldiers without their consent or knowledge of the experiment happening to them.

They also tested the effectiveness of gas masks and protective clothing by locking soldiers in a gas chamber and exposing them to mustard gas and lewisite, evoking the gas chamber image of Nazi Germany.

EFFECTS OF LEWISITE: Lewisite is a gas that can easily penetrate clothing and even rubber.

Upon contact with the skin, the gas immediately causes extreme pain, itching, swelling and even a rash.

Large, fluid-filled blisters develop 12 hours after exposure in the form of intensely severe chemical burns. And that’s just skin contact with the gas. Inhaling of the gas causes a burning pain in the lungs, sneezing, vomiting, and pulmonary edema. EFFECTS OF MUSTARD GAS: Symptomless until about 24 hours after exposure, Mustard Gas has mutagenic and carcinogenic properties that have killed many subjected to it. Its primary effects include severe burns that turn into yellow-fluid-leaking boils over a period of time.

Although treatment is available, Mustard Gas burns heal very, very slowly and are extremely painful. The burns the gas leaves on the skin are sometimes irreparable. It was also rumored that along with the soldiers, patients at VA hospitals were being used as guinea pigs for medical experiments involving bio-warfare chemicals, but that all experiments were changed to be known as “observations” to ward off suspicions.

3. U.S. Grants Immunity to Involuntary-Surgery Monster

13-Most-Evil-U.S.-Government-Experiments-on-Humans5As head of Japan’s infamous Unit 731 (a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II), Dr. Shiro Ishii (head of medicine) carried out violent human experimentation of tens of thousands during the Second Sino-Japenses War and World War II. Ishii was responsible for testing vivisection techniques without any anesthesia on human prisoners.

For the uninitiated, vivisection is the act of conducting experimental surgery on living creatures (with central nervousness) and examining their insides for scientific purposes.

So basically, he was giving unnecessary surgery to prisoners by opening them all the way up, keeping them alive and not using any anesthetic.

For a disturbing video about vivisection see the video below:


During these experiments he would also force pregnant women to abort their babies. He also played God by subjecting his prisoners to change in physiological conditions and inducing strokes, heart attacks, frost bite, and hypothermia. Ishii considered these subjects “logs”.

Following imminent defeat in 1945, Japan blew up the Unity 731 complex and Ishii ordered all the remaining “logs” to be executed. Not soon after, Ishii was arrested. And then, the respected General Douglas McArthur allegedly struck a deal with Ishii. If the U.S. granted Ishii immunity from his crimes, he must exchange all germ warfare data based on human experimentation. So Ishii got away with his crimes because the US became interested in the results of his research.

While not directly responsible for these acts, the actions of the American government certainly illustrated it was more than willing to condone human torture for advancements in biological warfare that could kill even more people. Not a surprise, considering its past resume. Ishii remained alive until 1959, performing research into bio-weaponry and probably thinking up more plans to annihilate people in different, Dr. Giggles-esque ways to his dying day.

4. Deadly Chemical Sprays on American Cities

Showing once again that the U.S. always tends to test out worse-case scenarios by getting to them first and with the advent of biochemical warfare in the mid 20th century, the Army, CIA and government conducted a series of warfare simulations upon American cities to see how the effects would play out in the event of an actual chemical attack.

They conducted the following air strikes/naval attacks: – The CIA released a whooping cough virus on Tampa Bay, using boats, and so caused a whooping cough epidemic. 12 people died. – The Navy sprayed San Francisco with bacterial pathogens and in consequence many citizens developed pneumonia. – Upon Savannah, GA and Avon Park, FL, the army released millions of mosquitoes in the hopes they would spread yellow fever and dengue fever.

The swarm left Americans struggling with fevers, typhoid, respiratory problems, and the worst, stillborn children. Even worse was that after the swarm, the Army came in disguised as public health workers. Their secret intention the entire time they were giving aid to the victims was to study and chart-out the long term effects of all the illnesses they were suffering.


5. US Infects Guatemalans With STD’s

In the 1940’s, with penicillin as an established cure for syphilis, the US decided to test out its effectiveness on Guatemalan citizens.

To do this, they used infected prostitutes and let them loose on unknowing prison inmates, insane asylum patients and soldiers. When spreading the disease through prostitution didn’t work as well as they’d hoped, they instead went for the inoculation route. Researchers poured syphilis bacteria onto mens’ penises and on their forearms and faces. In some cases, they even inoculated the men through spinal punctures.

After all the infections were transmitted, researchers then gave most of the subjects treatment, although as many as 1/3 of them could have been left untreated, even if that was the intention of the study in the first place. On October 1, 2010, Hilary Clinton apologized for the events and new research has gone on to see if anyone affected is still alive and afflicted with syphilis. Since many subjects never got penicillin, its possible and likely that someone spread it to future generations.

6. Secret Human Experiments to Test the Effects of The Atomic Bomb

While testing out and trying to harness the power of the atomic bomb, U.S. scientists also secretly tested the bomb’s effects on humans.

During the Manhattan Project, which gave way to the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. scientists resorted to secret human testing via plutonium injection on 18 unsuspecting, non-consenting patients.

This included injecting soldiers with micrograms of plutonium for Project Oak Ridge along with later injecting three patients at a Chicago hospital. Imagine you’re an admitted patient, helpless in a hospital bed, assuming that nothing is wrong when the government suddenly appears and puts weapons-grade plutonium in your blood.

Out of the 18 patients, who were known only by their code-names and numbers at the time, only 5 lived longer than 20 years after injection.

Along with plutonium, researchers also had fun with uranium. At a Massachusetts hospital, between 1946 and 1947, Dr. William Sweet injected 11 patients with uranium. He was funded by the Manhattan Project.

And in exchange for the uranium he received from the government, he would keep dead tissue from the body of the people he killed for scientific analysis on the effects of uranium exposure.

7. Injected Prisoners with Agent Orange

Watch the video. URL:

Above is a video of what the effects of Agent Orange can do to children of parents affected, or even exposed, to it.

WARNING: video may be disturbing, but is a reality of what Americans used as biological warfare during Vietnam and what we, as Americans, VOLUNTARILY injected into people for “testing” purposes… with the help of a very popular American company.

While he received funding from the Agent Orange producing Dow Chemical Company, the US Army, and Johnson & Johnson, Dr. Albert Kligman used prisoners as subjects in what was deemed “dermatological research”.

The dermatology aspect was testing out product the effects of Agent Orange on the skin. For the effects Agent Orange had on the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, please click here (WARNING images in this article may be extremely disturbing, as they include extreme human deformation, including that of infants.)

Needless to say the injecting of, or exposure to, dioxidin is beyond monstrous to voluntarily do to any human. Kligman, though, injected dioxidin (a main component of Agent Orange) into the prisoners to study its effects.

What did happen was that the prisoners developed an eruption of chloracne (all that stuff from high school combined with blackheads and cysts and pustules that looked like the picture shown to the left) that develop on the cheeks, behind the ears, armpits, and the groin — yes, the groin.

Kligman was rumored to have injected 468 times the amount he was authorized to. Documentation of that effect has, wisely, not been distributed.

The Army oversaw while Kligman continued to test out skin-burning chemicals to (in their words) “learn how the skin protects itself against chronic assault from toxic chemicals, the so-called hardening process” and test out many products whose effects were unknown at the time, but with the intent of figuring that out.

During these proceedings, Kligman was reported to have said, “All I saw before me were acres of skin … It was like a farmer seeing a fertile field for the first time.”

Using that analogy, it’s easy to see how he could plow straight through so many human subjects without an ounce of sympathy.

8. Operation Paperclip

Most-Evil-U.S.-Government-Experiments-on-Humans-2While the Nuremberg trials were being conducted and the ethics and rights of humanity were under investigation, the U.S. was secretly taking in Nazi scientists and giving them American identities.

Under Operation Paperclip, named so because of the paperclips used to attach the scientists’ new profiles to their US personnel pages, N***s who had worked for in the infamous human experiments (which included surgically grafting twins to each other and making then conjoined, removing nerves from people’s bodies without anesthetic, and testing explosion-effects on them) in Germany brought over their talents to work on a number of top secret projects for the US.

Given then-President Truman’s anti-Nazi orders, the project was kept under wraps and the scientists received faked political biographies, allowing these monsters to live on not only American soil, but as free men.

So while it was not direct experimentation, it was the U.S. taking some of the worst people in the world and giving them jobs here to do unknown, horrible.

9. Infecting Puerto Rico With Cancer

13-Most-Evil-U.S.-Government-Experiments-on-Humans2In 1931, Dr. Cornelius (that’s right, Cornelius) Rhoads was sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute to conduct experiments in Puerto Rico. He infected Puerto Rican citizens with cancer cells, presumably to study the effects. Thirteen of them died.

What’s most striking is that the accusations stem from a note he allegedly wrote:

“The Porto Ricans (sic) are the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever to inhabit this sphere… I have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off eight and transplanting cancer into several more… All physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.”

A man that seems to be hell-bent on killing Puerto Rico through a cancer infestation would not seem a suitable candidate to be elected by the US to be in charge of chemical warfare projects and receive a seat on the United States Atomic Energy Commission, right?

But that’s exactly what happened. He also became vice-president of the American Cancer Society.

Any shocking documentation that would have happened during his chemical warfare period would probably have been destroyed by now.

10. Pentagon Treats Black Cancer Patients with Extreme Radiation

In the 60’s, the Department of Defense performed a series of irradiation experiments on non-consenting, poor, African-American cancer patients. They were told they would be receiving treatment, but they weren’t told it would be the “Pentagon” type of treatment: meaning to study the effects of high level radiation on the human body.

To avoid litigation, forms were signed only with initials so that the patients would have no way to get back at the government.

In a similar case, Dr. Eugene Saenger, funded by the Defense Atomic Support Agency (fancy name), conducted the same procedure on the same type of patients. The poor, black Americans received about the same level of radiation as 7500 x-rays to their chest would, which caused intense pain, vomiting and bleeding from their nose and ears. At least 20 of the subjects died.

11. Operation Midnight Climax

Here’s a government experiment that, when you Google it, has completely different image results than web results.

Operation Midnight Climax involved safe houses in New York and San Fransisco, built for the sole purpose to study LSD effects on non-consenting individuals.

But in order to lure the individuals there, the CIA made these safe houses out to be, wait for it, Brothels.

Prostitutes on the CIA payroll (yes, there was such a thing) lured “clients” back the houses.

Instead of having intercourse with them, though, they dosed them with a number of substances, most famously LSD. This also involved extensive use of marijuana.

The experiments were monitored behind a two-way mirror, kind of like a sick, twisted peep show.

Furthermore, it’s alleged that the officials who ran the experiments described them as…” it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and bidding of the All-highest?”

The most horrifying part was the idea of dosing non-consenting adults with drugs they couldn’t possibly know the effects of.

Embedded is a video of a soldier talking about Operation Midnight Climax and his experiences with the C.I.A. and the U.S. Government.

12. Fallout Radiation on Unsuspecting Pacific Territories

13-Most-Evil-U.S.-Government-Experiments-on-Humans3After unleashing hell upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States embarked on numerous thermonuclear bomb tests in the Pacific in response to increased Soviet bomb activity. They were intended to be a secret affair. However, this secrecy would fail.

Detonated in 1954 over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device the US ever set off. What they didn’t expect was for the fallout from the blast to inadvertently be blown upwind onto nearby residents of other islands. The suffering included birth defects and radiation sickness. The effects were greater felt in later years when many children whose parents were exposed to the fallout developed thyroid cancer and neoplasms.

This created Project 4.1, a study to examine the effects of radiation fallout on human beings. Essentially,it was the latest in a long string of studies where humans act as guinea pigs without giving consent and a project remembered by the US as a way to gather data that would otherwise be unobtainable. The US moral standard that history best remembers is that even though the radiation fallout on the people of the Marshall Islands was an accident, it might as well have been intended.

In addition, perhaps as nature’s way of adding insult to injury, a Japanese fishing boat was caught in the fallout. The fishermen all fell ill and one died, making the Japanese livid that the US was still affecting them with nuclear devices.

13. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Government Experiments on Humans

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was a clinical study, conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama, in which 399 (plus 201 control group without syphilis) poor — and mostly illiterate — African American sharecroppers were denied treatment for Syphilis.

This study became notorious because it was conducted without due care to its subjects, and led to major changes in how patients are protected in clinical studies. Individuals enrolled in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study did not give informed consent and were not informed of their diagnosis; instead they were told they had “bad blood” and could receive free medical treatment, rides to the clinic, meals and burial insurance in case of death in return for participating.

In 1932, when the study started, standard treatments for syphilis were toxic, dangerous, and of questionable effectiveness.

Part of the original goal of the study was to determine if patients were better off not being treated with these toxic remedies.

For many participants, treatment was intentionally denied. Many patients were lied to and given placebo treatments—in order to observe the fatal progression of the disease.

By the end of the study, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. Twenty-eight of the men had died directly of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children had been born with congenital syphilis.

Once it was discovered, the backlash to the study was so fierce that President Bill Clinton made formal apology, stating he was sorry that the government “orchestrated a study that was so racist”. Sadly enough, it would be horrific, but one of the more docile evil human experiments ever conducted by the U.S. Government.

Energy Efficient Bulbs Cause Anxiety, Migraines, and Even Cancer – Reasons to Go Back To Incandescent Bulbs

In an effort to save energy and money, we replace our old standard light bulbs with environmentally-friendly, the new generation energy saving light bulbs.However, these light bulbs are so toxic, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created an emergency protocol you need to follow in the event of a bulb breakage, due to the poison gas that is released. Namely, if broken indoors, these light bulbs release 20 times the maximum acceptable mercury concentration into the air, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Fraunhofer Wilhelm Klauditz Institute for German’s Federal Environment Agency.

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Can Cause

  • Dizziness;
  • Cluster headaches;
  • Migraines;
  • Seizures;
  • Fatigue;
  • Inability to concentrate;
  1. Energy saving bulbs contain mercury. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women

Mercury, being toxic to the brain, the nervous system, the liver and the kidneys, can also damage the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems. It can also lead to tremors, anxiety, insomnia, memory loss, headaches, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

  1. Energy saving bulbs can cause cancer.

A study conducted by Peter Braun at Berlin Germany’s Alab Laboratory found these light bulbs contain poisonous carcinogens that could cause cancer:

  • Phenol, a mildly acidic toxic white crystalline solid, obtained from coal tar and used in chemical manufacture.
  • Naphthalene, a volatile white crystalline compound, produced by the distillation of coal tar, used in mothballs and as a raw material for chemical manufacture.
  • Styrene, an unsaturated liquid hydrocarbon, obtained as a petroleum byproduct.
  1. Energy saving light bulbs emit a lot of UV rays

These light bulbs emit UV-B and traces of UV-C radiation. Because UV-radiation is generally recognized as being harmful for the skin (can lead to skin cancer) and the eyes, these light bulbs are bad news. The radiation they contain, directly attacks the immune system, and furthermore damages the skin tissues enough to prevent the proper formation of vitamin D-3.

To summarize, these light bulbs, being toxic as they are, shouldn’t even be thrown into the garbage. They are hazardous material, and if you were to break one, open all of your windows and doors, and evacuate the house for at least 15 minutes to minimize your exposure to the poisonous gas. The bad news is that, soon consumers won’t have the option to buy incandescent lights because they won’t be available. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) mandates the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs, and favors energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Acute Stroke Intervention :A Systematic Review

Importance  Acute ischemic stroke is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States. We review the latest data and evidence supporting catheter-directed treatment for proximal artery occlusion as an adjunct to intravenous thrombolysis in patients with acute stroke.

Objective  To review the pathophysiology of acute brain ischemia and infarction and the evidence supporting various stroke reperfusion treatments.

Evidence Review  Systematic literature search of MEDLINE databases published between January 1, 1990, and February 11, 2015, was performed to identify studies addressing the role of thrombolysis and mechanical thrombectomy in acute stroke management. Studies included randomized clinical trials, observational studies, guideline statements, and review articles. Sixty-eight articles (N = 108 082 patients) were selected for review.

Findings  Intravenous thrombolysis is the mainstay of acute ischemic stroke management for any patient with disabling deficits presenting within 4.5 hours from symptom onset. Randomized trials have demonstrated that more patients return to having good function (defined by being independent and having slight disability or less) when treated within 4.5 hours after symptom onset with intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (IV rtPA) therapy. Mechanical thrombectomy in select patients with acute ischemic stroke and proximal artery occlusions has demonstrated substantial rates of partial or complete arterial recanalization and improved outcomes compared with IV rtPA or best medical treatment alone in multiple randomized clinical trials. Regardless of mode of reperfusion, earlier reperfusion is associated with better clinical outcomes.

Conclusions and Relevance  Intravenous rtPA remains the standard of care for patients with moderate to severe neurological deficits who present within 4.5 hours of symptom onset. Outcomes for some patients with acute ischemic stroke and moderate to severe neurological deficits due to proximal artery occlusion are improved with endovascular reperfusion therapy. Efforts to hasten reperfusion therapy, regardless of the mode, should be undertaken within organized stroke systems of care.

Blue-Eyed Folks, Beware: You May Be At Higher Risk Of Melanoma

blue eyes
The gene tied to blue eyes and red hair has been linked to an increased risk of melanoma.

It’s spring break, and you’re in college. You and your roommates are on the way to the beach in Florida, where you’ve decided to spend a week “tanning” and relaxing. After eagerly spreading out towels and reaching for the cooler packed with beer bottles, you put on a hat and start reading a book, but at some point you fall asleep under the noontime sun. One thing: You forgot to put on sunscreen.

Hours later, you don’t feel the burn yet. Maybe when you touch your exposed stomach, you’ll see a patch of white appear amidst the pink. But the burning sets in once dusk falls and you’re back inside in the air conditioning. Looking at yourself in the mirror, you realize with horror that you’re red as a lobster. Your skin feels taut and dry — and any movement, or touch, is painful.

That night, while your roommates are playing beer pong, you’re lying on your stomach on the bed smothered in aloe vera, but this is only temporary relief. The fact is, this is the severest burn you’ve ever experienced. And studies say that each severe sunburn can up your risk for developing skin cancer later in life significantly. One 2014 study found that teens who had serious sunburns might increase their risk of skin cancer by up to 80 percent.

Now, a new study finds that if you have blue eyes or red hair, you may be particularly vulnerable to this risk. The genes linked to blue eyes and red hair — which might cause people to develop moles or freckles, often precursors to melanoma — put these people at a higher risk. The study, completed at the University of Colorado, examined DNA samples from 477 white children aged 6-10. The research team also analyzed information about the children’s exposure to sun. They found that the number of moles and freckles, as well as sunburns and sun exposure, increased each year. The more sun the kids got, the more freckles they developed. Kids with blue eyes — who had the gene variant tied to blue eyes — ended up being more vulnerable to developing moles than those without the gene.

“It seems that there are specific behaviors that predispose kids to the formations of more moles,” Neil Box, an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Colorado, said.

Blue eyes are essentially nearly devoid of melanin, a type of pigment that colors the skin, eyes, and hair. Skin and eyes with less melanin are not as protected from the sun’s UV radiation, making pale, blue-eyed, blonde-haired kids more likely to get sunburnt and develop skin cancer.

The study overall concludes that there is “a complex interaction between genes and sun exposure,” Box said. “We are beginning to work out how our genes interact with our environment. This will lead to the identification of high-risk groups and we will, potentially, come up with different guidelines for people on how they should behave based on their genetics.” It’s important to note that not all freckles and moles mean you will develop skin cancer. Be aware of your moles and get them checked regularly just in case they begin to look different and change colors. In addition, wear sunscreen, hats, and stay out of the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm.

“We think if you can modify behaviors related to sun exposure in children, it will probably make a difference for their well-being in later life with respect to melanoma,” Box said.

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Lecia Bushak Lecia Bushak
Lecia Bushak is a writer and reporter focusing on medical, science, and international news. read more
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Stay Loose on Long Flights with These Simple Plane Exercises

Long haul flights can be really tough on you if you don’t approach them the right way. To keep your cramped body from getting too stiff at 35,000 feet, this graphic has seven exercises you can do on the plane to loosen up.

After a few hours in a plane, there’s a good chance your limbs and muscles will hate you a little bit. This graphic, from Sadie Geoghegan at travel site Thomas Cook, includes seven basic exercises you can mostly from your own seat. Things like making circles with your feet, pulling your knees up, rolling your neck, and taking an occasional stroll down the aisle (when the seat belt light is off, of course). It may seem like these exercises are really simple, but you might be surprised what a little movement can do for you in the long run.

Stay Loose on Long Flights with These Simple Plane Exercises1


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