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|Created by||Peter Rees|
|Country of origin|
|No. of seasons||12|
|No. of episodes||249 (including special episodes)|
(List of episodes)
|Running time||43-44 minutes|
|Original channel||Discovery Channel|
|First shown in||United States|
|Original run||January 23, 2003– present|
|Related shows||Head Rush|
|Created by||Peter Rees|
|Country of origin|
|No. of seasons||12|
|No. of episodes||249 (including special episodes)|
(List of episodes)
|Running time||43-44 minutes|
|Original channel||Discovery Channel|
|First shown in||United States|
|Original run||January 23, 2003– present|
|Related shows||Head Rush|
MythBusters is a science entertainment television program created and produced by Australia's Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is transmitted by numerous international broadcasters, including SBS Australia (New episodes, repeat episodes show on 7mate Australia), and other Discovery channels worldwide. The show's hosts, special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, use elements of the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, Internet videos, and news stories. The show is one of the oldest—and the most popular—on Discovery Channel currently in production, being preceded only by How It's Made in the US and Daily Planet in Canada.
Filming is based in San Francisco, though some elements of production are done in Artarmon, Australia. Planning and some experimentation take place at Hyneman's workshops in San Francisco; experiments requiring more space or special accommodations are filmed on location, typically around the San Francisco Bay area and other locations in northern California, going elsewhere when required, such as Florida for alligator experiments, or Africa for shark and elephant myths.
During the second season, members of Savage's and Hyneman's team ("The Build Team") were organized into a second team and now generally test myths separately from the main duo and operate from another workshop. On rare occasions, there are episodes where the entire cast teams up to do a special.
MythBusters refers both to the name of the documentary and also the cast members who test the experiments.
The series concept was created for the Discovery Channel as Tall Tales or True by Australian writer and producer Peter Rees of Beyond Productions in 2002. Discovery rejected the proposal initially because they had just commissioned a series on the same topic. Rees refined the pitch to focus on testing key elements of the stories rather than just retelling them. Discovery agreed to develop and co-produce a three-episode series pilot. Jamie Hyneman was one of a number of special effects artists who were asked to prepare a casting video for network consideration. Rees had interviewed him previously for a segment of the popular science series Beyond 2000 about the British/American robot combat television series Robot Wars. Adam Savage, who had worked with Hyneman in commercials and on the robot combat television series BattleBots, was asked by Hyneman to help co-host the show because, according to Savage, Hyneman thought himself too uninteresting to host the series on his own.
During July 2006, an edited thirty-minute version of MythBusters began airing on BBC Two in the UK. The episodes shown on the European Discovery Channel sometimes include extra scenes not shown in the U.S. version (some of these scenes are included eventually in "specials", such as "MythBusters Outtakes").
Savage and Hyneman are the original MythBusters, and initially explored all the myths of the series using their combined experience with special effects. The two work at Hyneman's effects workshop, M5 Industries; they make use of his staff, who often work off-screen, with Hyneman and Savage usually shown doing most of the work at the shop. The show is narrated by Robert Lee, though in some regions his voice is replaced by a local narrator.
As the series progressed, members of Hyneman's staff were introduced and began to appear regularly in episodes. Three such members, artist Kari Byron, builder Tory Belleci and metal-worker Scottie Chapman, were organized as a second team of MythBusters during the second season, dubbed the "Build Team". After Chapman left the show during the third season, Grant Imahara, a colleague of Hyneman, was hired to provide the team with his electrical and robotics experience. Byron went on maternity leave in mid-2009, with her position on the Build Team temporarily filled by Jessi Combs, best known for co-hosting Spike's Xtreme 4x4. Byron returned in the second episode of season eight. The Build Team now works at its own workshop, called M7, investigating separate myths from the original duo. Each episode now typically alternates between the two teams covering different myths, although the two teams still work together.
The series had two interns, dubbed "Mythterns": Discovery Channel contest winner Christine Chamberlain and viewer building contest-winner Jess Nelson. During the first season, the program featured segments with folklorist Heather Joseph-Witham, who explained the origins of certain myths, and other people who had first-hand experience with the myths being tested, but those elements were phased out early during the series. The MythBusters still commonly consult with experts for myths or topics for which they need assistance. These topics include firearms, for which they mostly consult Lt. Al Normandy of the South San Francisco Police Department, and explosives, for which they consult retired FBI explosives expert Frank Doyle and Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. The MythBusters often ask other people, such as those supplying the equipment being tested, what they know about the myth under investigation. Whenever a guest is on the show, they often consult them or include them in the experiments.
There is no consistent system for organizing MythBusters episodes into seasons. The program does not follow a typical calendar of on and off air periods. The official MythBusters website lists episodes by year. On the other hand, Discovery sells DVD sets for "seasons", which sometimes follow the calendar year and sometimes do not. In addition, Discovery and retail stores also sell "collections" which divide up the episodes in a different way—each collection has about 10 or 12 episodes from various seasons.
The following table is organized according to year of first broadcast.
|Season premiere||Season finale||Special|
|Pilot (2003)||3||January 23, 2003||March 7, 2003||N/A|
|2003||8||September 23, 2003||December 12, 2003||N/A|
|2004||17||January 11, 2004||December 22, 2004||1|
|2005||26||February 2, 2005||November 16, 2005||7|
|2006||28||January 11, 2006||December 13, 2006||2|
|2007||25||January 10, 2007||December 12, 2007||4|
|2008||20||January 16, 2008||November 19, 2008||8|
|2009||23||April 8, 2009||December 28, 2009||3|
|2010||25||January 4, 2010||December 22, 2010||4|
|2011||22||April 6, 2011||November 30, 2011||3|
|2012||22||March 25, 2012||November 25, 2012||3|
|2013||12||May 1, 2013||October 17, 2013||1|
|2014||8||January 4, 2014||TBA||N/A|
|Specials||13||March 24, 2004||October 27, 2010||13|
Each MythBusters episode focuses typically on two or more popular beliefs, Internet rumors, or other myths. The list of myths tested by the series is compiled from many sources, including the personal experiences of cast and crew, as well as fan suggestions, such as those posted on The Discovery Channel online MythBusters forums. Occasionally, episodes are produced in which some or all of the myths are related by theme such as pirates or sharks, and occasionally these are dubbed as "[Theme] Special" episodes. As of May 2009, four myths have required such extensive preparation and testing that they had entire episodes devoted solely to them, and four specials have been double-length. Several episodes (including the 2006 Holiday Special) have included the building of Rube Goldberg machines. Before a myth gets introduced by the hosts, a myth-related drawing is made on a blueprint. After the hosts introduce the myth, a comical video explaining the myth is usually shown.
The MythBusters typically test myths in a two-step process. In early episodes, the steps were described as "replicate the circumstances, then duplicate the results" by Savage. This means that first the team attempts to recreate the circumstances that the myth alleges, to determine whether the alleged result occurs; if that fails, they attempt to expand the circumstances to the point that will cause the described result. Occasionally the team (usually Savage and Hyneman) will hold a friendly competition between themselves to see which of them can devise a more successful solution to recreating the results. This is most common with myths involving building an object that can accomplish a goal (for example, rapidly cooling a beer, or finding a needle in a haystack).
While there is not any specific formula the team obeys in terms of physical procedure, most myths involve construction of various objects to help test the myth. They use their functional workshops to create whatever is needed, often including mechanical devices and sets to simulate the circumstances of the myth. Human actions are often simulated by mechanical means in order to increase safety, and to achieve consistency in repeated actions. Methods for testing myths are usually planned and executed in a manner to produce visually dramatic results, which generally involves explosions, fires, and/or vehicle crashes. Thus, myths or tests involving explosives, firearms and vehicle collisions are relatively common.
Tests are sometimes confined to the workshop, but often require the teams to be outside. Much of the outdoor testing during early seasons took place in the parking lot of M5. A cargo container in the parking lot commonly serves as an isolation room for dangerous myths, with the experiment being triggered from outside. However, budget increases have permitted more frequent travel to other locations in San Francisco and around the Bay Area. Common filming locations around the Bay Area include decommissioned (closed) military facilities (such as Naval Air Station Alameda, Naval Air Station Moffett Field, Concord Naval Weapons Station, Naval Station Treasure Island, Marin Headlands, Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Hamilton Air Force Base, and abandoned base housing at Marina, California's former Fort Ord), and the Alameda County Sheriff's Bomb Squad and Firearm range. Occasionally, mainly for special episodes, production is out of state, or even out of the country.
Results are measured in a manner scientifically appropriate for the given experiment. Sometimes results can be measured by simple numerical measurement using standard tools, such as multimeters for electrical measurements, or various types of thermometers to measure temperature. To gauge results that do not yield numerical quantities, the teams commonly make use of several types of equipment which can provide other forms of observable effects. When testing physical consequences to a human body which would be too dangerous to test on a living person, the MythBusters commonly use analogues. Initially, they mainly used crash test dummies (most notably one they named Buster) for observing blunt trauma injury, and ballistic gelatin for testing penetrating trauma. They have since progressed to using pig carcasses when an experiment requires a more accurate simulation of human flesh, bone, and organs. They have also occasionally molded real or simulated bones within ballistics gel for simulations of specific body parts.
Both for the purposes of visual observation to determine a result, and simply as a unique visual for the program, high speed cameras are used during experiments and have become a trademark of the series. Very fast footage of moving objects in front of a measured scale is commonly utilized to determine the speed of the object.
Testing is often edited due to time constraints of a televised episode. It can often seem as if the teams draw results from fewer repetitions and a smaller data set than they actually have. During the Outtakes Special, they specifically stated that while they are, in fact, very thorough in testing myths and repeat experiments many times in many different configurations, it is simply impossible to display all of it during a program. Beginning in the fifth season, episodes typically contain a prompt for the viewer to visit the show's homepage to view outtake footage of either additional testing, or other facets of the myths being tested. However, Savage himself has acknowledged that they do not purport always to achieve a satisfactorily large enough set of results to overcome definitively all bias. In response to criticisms they receive about their methods and results in previous episodes, the staff produced several "Myths Revisited" episodes, in which the teams retest myths to see if the complaints have merit. These episodes have resulted in overturning results of several myths, as well as upholding some results for different reasons than originally concluded.
Occasionally the MythBusters will take the opportunity to test "mini myths" during the course of one of the episode's main myths, usually in the name of satisfying personal curiosity. These can either be planned in advance in order to take advantage of the testing location—for instance, in the "Peeing on the third rail" myth Adam got permission to find out if placing coins on a train track was sufficient to derail a train (he found that the test locomotive was not affected at all)—or can simply take place on the spur of the moment.
There are some myths the MythBusters refuse to test. Paranormal concepts, such as aliens or ghosts, are not addressed because they cannot be tested by scientific methods, although one exception, pyramid power, prompted Adam to comment, "No more 'oogie-boogie' myths, please" and state at a tour show in Indianapolis in 2012 that it was a mistake. The program generally avoids experiments harmful to live animals, though in one episode they bombarded cockroaches and other laboratory insects with lethal doses of radiation and the cast addressed this, saying that the insects were specifically bred for experiments and would have likely died anyway. However animal carcasses, including those of pigs and chickens, are often used.
The book MythBusters: The Explosive Truth Behind 30 of the Most Perplexing Urban Legends of All Time (ISBN 1-4169-0929-X) also gives a list of a dozen myths that are unlikely to be explored (although four were eventually tested). Savage has commented that it is difficult to test myths that require them to disprove general claims because of the inherent difficulty in proving a negative. As a result, when they do pursue such myths, they typically go about disproving specific methods that claim to achieve results.
Additionally, certain myths are not tested due to various objections by Discovery Channel or their advertisers, most notably myths pertaining to radio-frequency identification (RFID) vulnerability. Through nine seasons, a total of 2,391 experiments were performed and 12 tons of explosives were used to test 769 myths. The team has also expressed reluctance to test conspiracy theory myths such as the JFK assassination or 9/11 conspiracies, although they have tested some of the conspiracy theories relating to the Apollo Moon landings.
By the end of each episode, the myths are rated "busted", "plausible", or "confirmed."
MythBusters places a strong emphasis on viewer safety due to the nature of the myths tested which often involve purported household scenarios. In some countries, all episodes begin with a disclaimer against attempting the experiments seen on the series; most episodes also feature a second warning halfway through the running time. These disclaimers are not broadcast on SBS in Australia, in the Netherlands, Discovery Mix in Sweden, or on the Prime and Sky Discovery Channels in New Zealand. Often, they are presented with an element of humor, such as Adam wearing a padded suit as Jamie hits him in the chest with a baseball bat, or Jamie explaining that he and Adam are professionals before Adam slides into view and crashes into a barrier while saying, "Don't try this at home!"
The series employs various degrees of safety or courtesy-related censorship. Vulgar language and the names of ingredients used in the production of hazardous materials are usually censored; in addition to the standard bleep, the show often uses a relevant or humorous sound effect. Euphemisms and scientific terminology are used for potentially offensive terms. In the "Peeing on the Third Rail" myth, the show censored the valve used to release urine from the dummy. They usually do not show how to manufacture explosives, and the names of dangerous chemicals are often censored and their container labels obscured. For example, in the "Hindenburg" special, Adam ignited thermite with a hypergolic mixture of "blur" (a syrupy liquid) and "blur" (a dark powder). The show makes it clear that although they are professionals, they must sometimes seek special government permission or assistance, as in experiments that involve the use of explosives. Occasionally, their insurance company prohibits certain activities entirely, if it is likely to cause bodily harm or property damage.
In another episode that focused on myths surrounding electronic security devices, there was a segment on defeating biometric fingerprint readers using various methods. One of these techniques involved creating a fake 3D fingerprint from a 2D image of the authorized print. After some trial and error, the team successfully cast a viable ballistics gel reproduction using a copper-coated circuit board, a picture of the fingerprint printed on acetate, and a photochemical acid etching process. After the reproduction was shown to defeat both fingerprint scanners, and although the chemicals used during the etching process are never identified, the narrator still hints at an important step having been edited out and discourages viewers from trying it themselves. However, none of the other techniques that successfully defeated the fingerprint scanners or the other security devices tested in the episode were censored or obfuscated, perhaps because the rest were all fairly simple and straightforward methods, such as holding up a bedsheet or moving extremely slowly to hide from ultrasonic motion detectors or holding up a pane of glass to defeat thermal motion detectors.
Brand names and logos are regularly blurred or covered with tape or a MythBusters sticker. However, brand names are shown when integral to a myth, such as in the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment.
The Diet Coke and Mentos experiment is also an outlier with respect to their safety warnings: Adam and Jamie stated on air that this myth was perfectly safe for viewers to replicate on their own. Another example of this is the "Phone Book Friction" episode, which states, "It is impossible to separate two phone books interleaved page-to-page due to the massive amount of friction between the 800 pages of each book."
Due to the nature of the experiments performed on the show, many have not gone as expected. Sometimes these mishaps have rendered the test equipment unusable, such as when the rocket in the "Rocket Car Revisit" exploded on ignition. Others have even resulted in minor injuries to the personnel involved with the show, such as when Tory banged his knee falling off a fire tower; the fall was expected and prepared for using a safety harness, but him injuring his knee was not foreseen. These kinds of incidents are usually included in the broadcast program, with little other media attention, but sometimes things fail in more spectacular and news-worthy ways. The most common injuries come from moving safety equipment which has led to stitches and at least four broken fingers.
On March 20, 2009, the town of Esparto, California was shaken and windows were shattered by a blast created by 500 pounds of ANFO during filming of the myth "Knock Your Socks Off". Some residents were upset that the blast took place without "telling anyone". Chief Barry Burns, of Esparto Fire Department, had several firefighters on hand for the explosion. He said he made the decision not to notify anyone in town for safety's sake. "Mythbusters is supposed to be a really popular show. Everybody would have been out there. We would have had to cancel it because it would have been too dangerous." Representatives from the show replaced some of the windows that same day. The experiment did air, but the hosts recounted in a 2011 special episode ("Location, Location, Location") that they have never returned to the Esparto quarry as a result of the mishap.
On December 6, 2011, while conducting the "Cannonball Chemistry" experiment, the MythBusters crew accidentally sent a cannonball through the side of a house and into a minivan in a Dublin, California neighborhood. Although the experiment was being carried out at the Alameda County Sheriff's Bomb Range under the supervision of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, the errant projectile went over its intended target of water barrels and instead soared 700 yd (640 m) into a neighboring community, striking a house and leaving a 10 in (25 cm) hole, before striking the roof of another house and smashing through a window of a parked minivan. No one was hurt by the rogue cannonball.
A producer of the show visited the house to apologize, followed by Savage and Hyneman; Savage later stated that production of the series would not be suspended because of the incident. Savage and Kari Byron returned to Dublin High School on February 22, 2012, to participate in a moderated panel session at Dublin High School's Engineering and Design Academy Open House during National Engineers Week 2012, in part to help repair relations with the community. The sold-out event attracted an audience of over 1,000.
During the airing of the experiment on November 11, 2012, the Build Team apologized for the accident and explained that they suspended testing after the accident in order to assess damage and start an investigation. The testing resumed several months later, at a rock quarry in a much more remote area.
In January 2005, children's author and adventurer Andrew Knight (aka "Bowvayne") commenced legal proceedings in Australia against Beyond Productions, the producer of MythBusters, alleging passing off in relation to the use of the name "Mythbusters". Knight asserted that he had previously organized a team of "Mythbusters" and had used the name continuously since 1988 in relation to pursuing myths, ghosts, monsters, goblins, and other such mysteries in an offbeat manner all around the world. Knight authored a series of self-published children's books under the banner "Mythbusters" in 1991, 1993, and 1996. In February 2007, the Federal Court of Australia dismissed Knight's claims against Beyond Productions. A parallel action, relying on the same three books and a collection of short television appearances was brought later that year in the Chancery Division of the High Court of England and Wales. Beyond Properties Pty Limited was again a defendant, as were two other Beyond companies and Discovery Communications Inc, the entity responsible for broadcasting the MythBusters programme in the UK. These claims were also dismissed.
Hyneman and Savage have appeared on numerous entertainment programs, such as Good Morning America, the Late Show with David Letterman, NPR's news program All Things Considered, the syndicated radio Bob and Tom Show, and in the movie The Darwin Awards (as two military surplus vendors who sold a JATO rocket to the main character). Skeptic magazine's Daniel Loxton interviewed the duo in a 2005 article titled "Mythbusters Exposed." Hyneman and Savage spoke at the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association in March 2006, and the California Science Teachers Association named them honorary lifetime members in October 2006. In 2009, they were the featured keynote speakers at RSA Conference. They also are occasionally interviewed for articles by Popular Mechanics and are featured in that magazine's September 2009 issue.
Hyneman and Savage occasionally appear at colleges around the United States to talk about what it is like to be a MythBuster; the show consists of an interview and discussion to give the audience the opportunity to ask the MythBusters questions. The Build Team members have sometimes made appearances in similar capacity. They hold lectures in both collegiate and corporate settings, though the technical colleges tend to be the most enthusiastic. They have spoken at WPI, RPI, MIT, Michigan Tech, the University of Florida and many others.
Adam Savage has written a primer on mold-making for Make magazine, and was a featured guest at the 2008, 2009, and 2010 San Mateo Maker Faire. Kari Byron was interviewed on The Late Show, on January 16, 2006.
People involved in survival stories reported in local newscasts have sometimes mentioned previous viewings of MythBusters as an influence to their actions. Twenty-three-year-old Theresa Booth of St. Martin, Minnesota credits a MythBusters episode for her and her infant child's survival. On April 3, 2007, she skidded off the road into a drainage ditch which had filled with flood water from the Sauk River. In a local newscast, she is described as opening the car door as soon as it entered the water, and credits her watching of the show (specifically, the episode of the Underwater Car myth) for her knowledge of how to survive the accident. On October 19, 2007, in Sydney, Australia, a teenager named Julian Shaw pulled a fainted middle-aged man off the railway tracks near a train station to safety below the platform. He pulled back as the train passed, citing that the "Train Suction" episode affected his response.
On the May 1, 2008 episode of CSI, "The Theory of Everything", Hyneman and Savage appeared in a cameo as observers taking notes during a test to determine whether a taser bolt can set someone on fire under various circumstances (which was later tested on MythBusters itself).
During August 2008, Hyneman and Savage appeared on the stage of NVISION 08, an event sponsored by Nvidia, having been asked by Nvidia's Creative Director, David Wright, to provide a visual demonstration of the power of the GPU vs a CPU. They did this by creating an image of the Mona Lisa with a giant parallel processing paintball gun, setting a world record for largest paintball gun in the process. An encore of the demonstration was given at YouTube Live featuring Hyneman standing in the path of the paintballs wearing a suit of armor.
On the April 17, 2012, episode of NCIS, "Rekindled", the character Abby Sciuto demonstrates a thermite fire to her boss, Jethro Gibbs, by playing a clip from the MythBusters episode "End with a Bang". Gibbs asks if the men in the clip are pyromaniacs, and she replies, "Scientists, Gibbs! Okay, yeah, they're kind of pyromaniacs too."
Hyneman, Savage, and others from the MythBusters crew have appeared at The Amaz!ng Meeting, and subsequently were interviewed by Dr. Steven Novella and the "skeptical rogues" for the podcast The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. On April 16, 2010, Hyneman and Savage received the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy.
On October 18, 2010, President Barack Obama, as part of the White House Science Fair, announced he had taped a segment of MythBusters and would appear on December 8, 2010. Obama's segment covered the Archimedes Solar Ray myth.
Both men appeared at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30, 2010 in Washington, D.C. They had an experiment with the crowd involving the wave. They had the audience make various noises (e.g. popping their cheeks or laughing) all at the same time. They also had everyone in the crowd jump up at the same time to see if it would register on a seismograph.
Hyneman and Savage received honorary doctorates from the University of Twente in the Netherlands for their role in popularizing science, on the occasion of the university's 50th anniversary, on November 25, 2011.
As of November 2011, all five MythBusters have also appeared in new shows, segments or specials for Discovery's Science Channel including: Head Rush (Kari, 2010–present); Punkin Chunkin 2010 (Adam and Jamie); Flying Anvils 2011 (Tory); Road to Punkin Chunkin 2011 and Punkin Chunkin 2011 (Tory, Grant and Kari); Large Dangerous Rocket Ships 2010 and Large Dangerous Rocket Ships 2011 (Kari); "Killer Robots: RoboGames 2010" (Grant); Curiosity (Adam); Punkin Chunkin 2012 (Tory, Grant and Kari); and Savage and Hyneman are judges on the game show Unchained Reaction which premiered in March 2012.
Aired on February 12, 2012, Adam and Jamie lent their voices to The Simpsons episode "The Daughter Also Rises" to be featured on a show similar to Mythbusters called Mythcrackers in which Adam and Jamie take on the classic myth that a cat will always land on its feet. In the episode they do not want to harm a real cat so they took a Build A Bear carcass, stuffed it with ballistics gel, shot it with a 20' barrel steam cannon, then made a scatter plot of the remains. By the end of the experiment, Jamie asked, "What was it we were trying to prove again?" to which Adam replied, "Don't know, don't care."
On October 3, 2012, Kari and Tory made a guest appearance on the Discovery series Sons of Guns. They test-fired some of the weapons in the Red Jacket shop, then watched as the staff re-tested a myth busted by the Build Team in 2008: that a propane tank could explode when hit with a bullet.
A traveling museum exhibit called "Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition" was developed over the course of about five years, premiering at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, in March 2012.
In 2011, Savage and Hyneman created a live stage show called the Mythbusters Behind the Myths Tour, in which they conduct experiments on-stage and discuss some of the background details of the show.
MythBusters is broadcast in several countries, primarily by each country's version of the Discovery Channel. In some countries, the English speech is either subtitled in the relevant language, or the narration voice-over is replaced, or the entire show (narration and hosts' voices) is dubbed. The United States customary units, used by the hosts throughout the show, are converted to metric in the process. In the UK since 2011, the use of US Customary Units in the show has often been retained, rather than being replaced with metric units. Sometimes, the part where the myth is explained in sketches is completely redrawn in that language. Excerpts of the show were also shown as part of the Beyond Television-produced Beyond Tomorrow.
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