Physics

Applicable for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Physics Website

Professors LANG (chair), BURNS; Associate Professors CERVANTES, PURDUE; Assistant Professors GOSNELL, LIGHT, KRISHNARAO; Visiting Instructors SCHUMER, WETTERER, HINKLE

The Department of Physics offers both major and minor programs. The physics major consists of only nine physics courses and their math prerequisites. This allows flexibility to adapt this core curriculum to a student's specific career goals.  In addition we offer numerous tracks within the major (called emphases) which focus on specific interests and career goals.  Emphases for the physics major include:

  • Comprehensive (recommended for students intending to pursue physics professionally)
  • Astrophysics
  • Environmental Physics
  • Geophysics
  • Chemical/Materials Science
  • Education
  • Computational Physics

Summary of emphases

In addition, the college partners with several engineering schools to offer a 3-2 or 4-2 engineering degree.  In this program, students spend three or four years at CC, completing a major (in physics or some other subject), and two years at the partner school. They receive two undergraduate degrees, a BA from CC and an engineering degree from the partner school.

Pre-engineering options

 

If you are considering a major in physics, it is useful to take both PC 241 and 242 during your freshman year, and PC 251 in the fall of your sophomore year.  Since PC 251 is the pre-req for many upper division courses, this will prevent scheduling conflicts during subsequent years.  However if you didn't do this...come see one of the physics faculty and we'll help you out!

Guide for choosing your first physics course for those who have taken AP or IB physics in high school.

Sample Course Schedule for students who start physics courses in their first year.

Sample Course Schedule for students who start physics courses in their second year.

 

Major Requirements

Physics Major Requirements:

PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC 362 Observational Astronomy
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3
AND
Three units of physics numbered 262 or above, along with any prerequisites

One block of Investigations in Physics may be included. In addition, all majors must actively participate in the department seminar program. Additional advanced courses in physics and mathematics are recommended for those who intend to pursue a career in physics, astrophysics, or applied science. 

 

Emphases

An emphasis is a collection of courses designed to help you specialize in a particular field of study. These emphases are guides to help you select courses, and there is no obligation to finish an emphasis.  However, if you like, you may declare an emphasis and if completed, it will be noted on your transcript. 

The available emphases are:

Comprehensive - Astrophysics - Environmental - Geophysics - Chemical/Materials Science - Education - Computational

Summary of emphases requirements


 Comprehensive Major

This emphasis is for students interested in pursuing graduate school in physics or a related field. A broad coverage of major topics of physics is represented, preparing you for graduate school in any field of physics. 


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
One physics elective numbered PC262 or higher
PC311: Vector Analysis
PC341: Mechanics
PC349: Thermal Physics
PC353: Electromagnetic Theory
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC362: Observational Astronomy
PC441: Quantum Mechanics I
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3
MA220: Linear Algebra

Recommendations:
CP122: Computer Science I
PC253: Computational Physics (adjunct, .5 units)
PC354: Electromagnetic Waves and Optics
PC420: Advanced Topics in Physics
PC442: Quantum Mechanics II

Astrophysics Emphasis 

This emphasis is designed for physics majors who are interested in astronomy and astrophysics and it provides a good preparation for graduate work in astronomy and astrophysics.


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC311: Vector Analysis
PC341: Mechanics
PC349: Thermal Physics
PC357: Astrophysics
PC358: Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology
PC362: Observational Astronomy
PC441: Quantum Mechanics I
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3
MA220: Linear Algebra

Recommendations:
PC253: Computational Physics (adjunct, .5 units)
PC353: Electromagnetic Theory
PC354: Electromagnetic Waves and Optics
PC420: Advanced Topics in Physics
PC442: Quantum Mechanics II

Interdisciplinary Emphases: 

The following emphases are interdisciplinary and consist of the core requirements to complete a physics major and (often) the courses to complete a minor in another department. It is recommended that students planning on completing one of these emphases consult an adviser in both departments.

Environmental Physics Emphasis

Students who are interested in applying physics to environmental issues should consider this emphasis. 


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC362: Observational Astronomy
Two physics electives numbered 262 or higher
     Recommended:
     PC333: Solid State Physics
     PC341: Mechanics 
     PC349: Thermal Physics 
     PC441: Quantum Mechanics I
MA126: Calculus I
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3
EV128: Introduction to Global Climate Change
EV145: Environment and Society
EV333: Atmospheric Dynamics
One additional environmental course
     Recommended:
     EV212: Energy: Environmental Thermodynamics and Energetics
     EV315: Atmosphere-Biosphere Interactions
     EV351: Hydrology
     EV431: Atmospheric Chemistry 
At least one 200, 300, or 400 level EV humanities or social science course
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience* or EV499: Environmental Science Thesis 
    *Senior Seminar must be relevant to environmental physics

Recommendations:
One or more summer research programs in environmental physics
Additional advanced physics courses
Additional math courses (particularly MA218/EV228, MA220, MA315)
Introductory Chemistry, Geology, or Biology

Geophysics Emphasis 

Students who are interested in going into geophysics in employment or graduate school may be interested in this emphasis, which combines a core major in physics with courses in geology. 


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC362: Observational Astronomy
Three physics electives numbered 262 or higher
     Recommended electives:
     PC333: Solid State Physics
     PC341: Mechanics 
     PC349: Thermal Physics 
     PC354: Electromagnetic Waves and Optics
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3
GY130: Introductory Geology or GY140: Physical Geology 
GY308/PC308: Introductory Geophysics
Two of the following three geology courses:
     GY240: Plate Tectonics
     GY315: Structural Geology
     GY320: Surface Processes and Geomorphology

Recommendations:
One or more summer research programs in physics or geophysics
Additional advanced physics and geology courses
Additional math courses (particularly MA313, MA220, MA316, MA318)
General Chemistry I (CH107)
Computer Science I (CP122)

Chemical Physics or Material Science Emphasis

Students who are interested in employment or graduate school in chemical physics or material science may be interested in the chemical physics emphasis, which combines a core physics major with a minor in chemistry.  


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC362: Observational Astronomy
Three physics electives numbered 262 or higher
     Recommended Electives:
     PC333: Solid State Physics
     PC349: Thermal Physics 
     PC354: Electromagnetic Waves and Optics
     PC441: Quantum Mechanics I
     PC442: Quantum Mechanics and Relativity II
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
CH107: General Chemistry I
CH108: General Chemistry II
CH366: Physical Chemistry I
CH367: Physical Chemistry II
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3

Recommendations:
One or more summer research programs in physics or physical chemistry
CH241: Analytical/Bioanalytical Chemistry
CH250: Structures of Organic Molecules
Additional advanced physics, chemistry, and math courses

Teaching Emphasis

The teaching emphasis is intended for students interested in teaching physics at the high school level. In Colorado, physics teachers are certified to teach all sciences. This means that you need to major in physics, but also take at least two courses in biology, chemistry, and earth sciences. CC has two options for becoming a certified physics teacher. One is completed as an undergraduate: you major in physics, take the introductory courses in the other sciences, plus the education courses (essentially a minor) and student-teach. You can also be a 9th semester student where you graduate in May, then delay student teaching until the following fall, with a substantial reduction in tuition for the 9th semester. The second option is to focus on majoring in physics and completing the science requirements. You should take ED100 and ED120, then apply for the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program, which is a 14-month certification and master's degree program in the Department of Education. For more information, contact Mike Taber or Deb Mortenson in the Department of Education for advising. 


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC362: Observational Astronomy
Three physics electives numbered 262 or higher
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
ED 100: College Aids in Colorado Springs Schools 
ED 120: Experience Aids in Colorado Springs Schools 
Two lab-based introductory science courses chosen from biology, chemistry, and geology
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3

Recommendations:
PC133: Astronomy
Additional education courses such as ED 203 or 275. ED 275 is particularly useful for those interested in Teach for America.

Computational Physics Emphasis

The computational physics emphasis is for physics students interested in computational modeling, computer control of equipment, or students considering a career in electrical or computer engineering.     


PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
PC361: Techniques of Experimental Physics or PC362: Observational Astronomy
PC253: Computational Physics (adjunct, .5 units)
2 physics electives PC 262 or higher
PC450: Senior Capstone Experience
CP122: Computer Science I
CP222: Computer Science II
CP274: Software Design
CP275: Computer Organization
MA126: Calculus 1
MA129: Calculus 2
MA204: Calculus 3

Recommendations:
Additional advanced physics courses especially PC341, PC349, PC353, PC441, PC442
Additional computer science courses especially CP344, CP360, CP407
Additional advanced math courses especially MA201, MA220, MA251
One or more summer research programs

 

Minor Requirements

Minors are required to take the following courses:

PC241: Physics for the Physical Sciences I: Mechanics
PC242: Physics for the Physical Sciences II: Electricity & Magnetism
PC251: Introductory Modern Physics
PC261: Electronics
Plus one additional course, level 200 or higher

Courses

Physics

Introduces machining and fabrication through hands-on experience. Provides an introduction to use of a mill, lathe, band saw, plasma and oxyacetylene torch, welding equipment and other common machining and fabrication tools. Also introduces use of precision measurement tools and mechanical drawing. Using these tools, students will complete an independent project. The course will lead to an understanding of possibilities, limitations and tolerances for custom machined and fabricated parts. Such knowledge is essential for experimental scientists designing equipment, entrepreneurs designing prototypes, and others who work with machinists. Extended format.

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Experimental or occasional courses taught by visiting professors or permanent faculty. Courses under this rubric will vary year to year. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. (Not offered 2022-23).

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Physics of vibrations, waves, and sound with applications to hearing, physics of music, musical instruments and the human voice, and architectural acoustics. 1 unit. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement.

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A course for non-physics majors who are interested in learning to use a telescope and studying the sky. Class activities will include: understanding and learning to use the telescope and CCD camera, learning to manipulate and reduce images, offering observational opportunities for campus and community members, and performing individual or group observational projects, such as looking for Messier objects, tracking the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, and observing the tilt of Saturn's rings.

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Our solar system, our galaxy, the expanding universe of galaxies. Methods for obtaining astronomical data; fundamental properties of planets, stars, interstellar matter and galaxies; their origin and evolution; unusual objects like pulsars, quasars and black holes; life in the universe. (Meets the laboratory/field requirement for natural sciences.) Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

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Basic physics principles are introduced and used to study dynamic processes in the atmosphere: atmospheric energy flow, solar radiation, green-house effect, large-scale circulation of the atmosphere, small-scale processes including clouds and storms, weather forecasting, man's impact on weather and climate. Laboratory and field experiments and field trips will be utilized. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. (Not offered 2022-23).

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A practical introduction to the physics in everyday life. Covers examples from simple experiences like ice skating and drinking through a straw to complicated devices like televisions and microwaves,these are explained using physical principles, logical arguments, schematic diagrams, lots of demonstrations, and a few equations. Each student dissects and explains a mechanical or electrical device, such as a wind up clock, bicycle, or vacuum cleaner, using principles and techniques developed in the course. Requires no previous experience with physics. Those with significant previous physics experience will find some repetition, but significant new applications. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. (Not offered 2022-23).

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This is the first block of a two-block sequence in introductory physics tailored to students majoring in one of the life sciences. This course covers mechanics, thermodynamics, and fluids. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

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This is the second block of a two-block sequence in introductory physics tailored to students majoring in one of the life sciences. This course covers electricity, magnetism, basic electrical circuits, waves, optics, and quantum physics Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

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How physical principles apply to living things. Some examples of the kinds of topics to be discussed are muscle action, running, jumping, flying, circulation of blood, keeping warm, keeping cool, nerve action, hearing, and seeing. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. (Not offered 2022-23).

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Project-based course taught by a visiting engineer to introduce students to a particular field of engineering. Content will vary substantially between offerings.

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Courses offered under this rubric will vary year to year. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. (Not offered 2022-23).

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This is the first block of a two-block sequence in introductory physics for students planning to major in the physical sciences or enter an engineering program. This course covers mechanics and thermodynamics. The course emphasizes mathematically rigorous problem solving. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

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This is the second block of a two-block sequence in introductory physics for students planning to major in the physical sciences or enter an engineering program. This course covers electricity & magnetism, waves, and optics. The course emphasizes mathematically rigorous problem solving. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

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A continuation of introductory physics begun in 241 and carried forward in 242. The course focuses on special relativity and quantum mechanics. It includes an experimental exploration of these topics, and basic scientific computational skills are introduced. 1 unit. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Scientific Investigation of the Natural World lab or field requirement. Meets the Critical Perspectives: Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement. Meets the Critical Learning: SA requirement.

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Numerical modeling of physical systems, data acquisition and analysis. The use of data analysis/visualization tools, analytic computation tools, and a general scientific programming language are covered. Students will use topics from regular block courses as the basis for computational projects.

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This course explores discrete circuit elements as well as common analog and digital circuits. We will use a combination of analytical theory, simulation, and hardware to understand both physical mechanisms and design constraints in electronics. Every student undertakes a significant final project. Electronics emphasizes growth via failure and perseverance, as iterative work and troubleshooting are core aspects of the course. 1 unit. Meets the Critical Learning: FRL requirement.

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Directed readings in selected areas of physics with discussions and written reports.

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Applications of physics to the study of Earth structure from crust to core. Seismology, magnetics, gravity, and geodesy. Explores history of Earth's formation, current geologic and tectonic problems, and uniqueness of interpretation issues. (Not offered 2022-23).

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Vector functions, divergence and curl. Green's and Stokes's theorems, and the properties of three-dimensional curves and surfaces. Related topics from linear algebra and differential equations.

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Courses offered under this rubric will vary year to year. (Not offered 2022-23).

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Explores the nature of condensed matter and the geometrical arrangement of atoms in a crystal and how that arrangement affects the electronic structure of that material. Understanding of the different band structures of metals, semiconductors, and insulators, and how these govern the interactions of each material with photons and electrons and lead to the very different roles of these materials in the objects we create and use. Particular subjects are likely to include semiconductor devices, alloys, and the effect of dislocations and impurities on material properties.

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Forces, potentials and motion according to Newton, Lagrange and Hamilton. Conditions for conservation of momentum, energy and angular momentum. Topics such as gravitation, oscillations, chaos, scattering and things that go bump in the night.

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First and second laws of thermodynamics and their applications. Statistical mechanics, kinetic theory, elementary transport processes. Maxwell-Bolzman, Fermi Dirac, and Bose-Einstein statistics and their applications in solid state, nuclear and molecular physics.

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The theory of electricity and magnetism: electric charges, forces, fields and potentials; electric currents, magnetic forces, fields and potentials. Electromagnetic induction. Maxwell's equations, plane waves in vacuum.

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Electromagnetic waves in vacuum and in matter, including reflection, refraction, polarization, interference and diffraction. Additional topics, such as lasers or Fourier optics, may be covered.

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An introduction to stellar structure and evolution with an emphasis on the physics underlying the observed phenomena. Topics include the birth, evolution, and death of stars, pulsars, black holes, and white dwarfs. (Not offered 2022-23).

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A study of the large scale structure of the universe and evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to the present epoch. Topics include expansion of the universe, dark matter, dark energy, cosmic background radiation and the formation and evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies.

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The design, execution, and analysis of experiments in physics. Data analysis, probability and statistics. One or more laboratory projects to be completed.

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The design and execution of observations of astronomical objects. Reduction and analysis of astronomical data. Probability and statistics applied to astronomical observations. Includes a weeklong observing run at major research observatory.

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Directed readings in selected areas of physics with discussions and written reports.

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Independent experimental and/or theoretical research in any area of physics. As many as four units of Investigations may be taken for credit

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An advanced course in a topic of current interest in physics. Examples: special and general relativity; quantum mechanics of atoms, molecules, and solids; elementary particle physics, relativistic quantum mechanics. Topics vary from year to year. (Not offered 2022-23).

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Introduction to atmospheric circulation, radiation transfer, thermodynamics and radiation balance as they determine the vertical structure of the atmosphere and regulate the surface temperature. Kinetics, modeling, and reaction systems as they relate to air pollution and ozone chemistry in the stratosphere and troposphere. Course includes a student-designed laboratory/field project related to local air pollution issues. (Not offered 2022-23).

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General formulation of quantum mechanics: hermitian operators, eigenfunctions and eigenvalues, physical content of the wave function, indeterminacy relations and simultaneous observables, angular momentum and spin. Solutions of the Schrodinger equation in one and several dimensions, the hydrogen atom.

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Applications of quantum mechanics. Perturbation theory, scattering theory, and interpretations of quantum mechanics. A short introduction to relativistic quantum theory.

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Students research and complete a senior capstone paper and presentation on an upper-level physics topic that extends a student’s knowledge of physics. Over the course of the block, students complete workshops, topic proposals, peer review sessions, and increasingly complex presentations. This work leads to a paper completed over the course of the fall semester, supported by additional workshops and peer review sessions. Presentations are scheduled in the spring semester. Successful completion of this course is required of all physics majors. 1 unit.

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Directed readings in selected areas of physics with discussions and written reports.

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