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Careers for People Who Like Science

Do you enjoy science? Do your chemistry, biology, and physics classes entertain and engage you? Are you interested in exploring how science can be used to improve modern life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, a career in science may be a good choice for you.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s website provides a wide range of information about careers that align with your interests. The following selection describes three career paths in the field of science: chemists and materials scientists, environmental scientists and specialists, and physicists and astronomers. Keep in mind that there are many additional science careers to consider.

If chemistry is an area of enjoyment, then you might consider a career as a chemist or materials scientist. People with these careers study substances at the atomic and molecular levels as well as the ways in which substances react with each other. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products and to test the quality of manufactured goods.

Chemists and materials scientists work in laboratories and offices. They typically work full time and keep regular hours.

What kind of education would you need to be a chemist or materials scientist? You would need at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a related field. However, a master’s degree or post-graduate Ph.D. is needed for many research jobs.

The job outlook for chemists and materials scientists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, this growth rate is slower than the average for all occupations. However, chemists and materials scientists with an advanced degree, particularly those with a Ph.D., are expected to experience better opportunities.

Chemists and materials scientists typically plan and carry out complex research projects such as the development of new products and testing methods. They direct technicians and other workers in testing and analyzing components and the physical properties of materials. They also instruct scientists and technicians on proper chemical processing and testing procedures, such as ingredients, mixing times, and operating temperatures.

In addition, chemists and materials scientists prepare solutions and compounds used in laboratory procedures, and analyze substances to determine their composition and concentration of elements. They conduct tests on materials and other substances to ensure that safety and quality standards are met. Chemists and materials scientists write technical reports that detail methods and findings and present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues.

Many chemists and materials scientists work in basic and applied research. In basic research, chemists investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter. They also experiment with combinations of elements and the ways in which they interact. In applied research, chemists investigate possible new products and ways to improve existing ones. Chemistry research has led to the discovery and development of new and improved drugs, plastics, cleaners, and thousands of other products.

Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones. They determine ways to strengthen or combine materials or develop new materials for use in a variety of products. Applications of materials science include inventing or improving superconducting materials, ceramics, and metallic alloys.

Chemists and materials scientists use computers and a wide variety of sophisticated laboratory instrumentation for modeling, simulation, and experimental analysis. For example, some chemists use three-dimensional (3D) computer modeling software to study the structure and other properties of complex molecules.

Most chemists and materials scientists work as part of a team. An increasing number of scientific research projects involve multiple disciplines, and it is common for chemists and materials scientists to work on teams with other scientists, such as biologists and physicists, computer specialists, and engineers. For example, in pharmaceutical research, chemists may work with biologists to develop new drugs and with engineers to design ways to mass produce the new drugs.

If you are enjoying your classes about the environment and human health, then you might consider a career as an environmental scientist or specialist. People with these careers may clean up polluted areas, advise policy makers, or work with industry to reduce waste.

Typically, environmental scientists and specialists work in offices and laboratories. Some may spend time in the field gathering data and monitoring environmental conditions firsthand. Most environmental scientists and specialists work full time.

To become an environmental scientist or specialist, you would need at least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or science-related field for most entry-level jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Heightened public interest in the hazards facing the environment, as well as the increasing demands placed on the environment by population growth, is expected to spur demand for environmental scientists and specialists.

Environmental scientists and specialists typically determine data collection methods for research projects, investigations, and surveys. They collect and compile environmental data from samples of air, soil, water, food, and other materials for scientific analysis, and they analyze samples, surveys, and other information to identify and assess threats to the environment.

In addition, environmental scientists and specialists develop plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems, such as land or water pollution. They provide information and guidance to government officials, businesses, and the general public on possible environmental hazards and health risks. They also prepare technical reports and presentations that explain their research and findings.

Environmental scientists and specialists analyze environmental problems and develop solutions. For example, many environmental scientists and specialists work to reclaim lands and waters that have been contaminated by pollution. Others assess the risks that new construction projects pose to the environment and make recommendations to governments and businesses on how to minimize the environmental impact of these projects. Environmental scientists and specialists may do research and provide advice on manufacturing practices, such as advising against the use of chemicals that are known to harm the environment.

The U.S. federal government and many state and local governments have regulations to ensure that there is clean air to breathe, safe water to drink, and no hazardous materials in the soil. The regulations also place limits on development, particularly near sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands. Many environmental scientists and specialists work for the government to ensure that these regulations are followed. Other environmental scientists and specialists work for consulting firms that help companies comply with regulations and policies. Some environmental scientists and specialists focus on environmental regulations that are designed to protect people’s health, while others focus on regulations designed to minimize society’s impact on the environment.

If you enjoy studying the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact, consider a career as a physicist or astronomer. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Physicists and astronomers in applied fields may develop new military technologies or new sources of energy, or monitor space debris that could endanger satellites.

You will need many years of education to pursue these careers. Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. for most research jobs. Many physics and astronomy Ph.D. holders typically begin their careers in temporary postdoctoral research positions. Physicists and astronomers spend much of their time working in offices, but they also conduct research in laboratories and observatories. Most people with these careers work full time.

Employment of physicists and astronomers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Expected growth in federal government spending for physics and astronomy research should increase the need for physicists and astronomers, especially at colleges, universities, and national laboratories.

Typical physicists and astronomers develop scientific theories and models that attempt to explain the properties of the natural world, such as atom formation or the force of gravity. They plan and conduct scientific experiments and studies to test theories and discover properties of matter and energy.

In addition, they do complex mathematical calculations to analyze physical and astronomical data (such as data that may indicate the existence of planets in distant solar systems); design new scientific equipment, such as telescopes and lasers; and develop computer software to analyze and model data. Physicists and astronomers write scientific papers that may be published in scholarly journals, and present research findings at scientific conferences and lectures.

Physicists explore the fundamental properties and laws that govern space, time, energy, and matter. Some physicists study theoretical areas, such as the fundamental properties of atoms and molecules and the evolution of the universe. Others design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers. Through observation and analysis, they try to discover and formulate laws that explain the forces of nature, such as gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear interactions. Others apply their knowledge of physics to practical areas, such as the development of advanced materials and medical equipment.

Astronomers study planets, stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies. They use ground-based equipment, such as radio and optical telescopes, and space-based equipment, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. With these they make observations and collect data on the motions, compositions, and other properties of the objects they study. Some astronomers focus their research on objects in our own solar system, such as the sun or planets. Others study distant stars, galaxies, and phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes, and some monitor space debris that could interfere with satellite operations.

Many physicists and astronomers do basic research with the aim of increasing scientific knowledge. These researchers may attempt to develop theories that better explain what gravity is or how the universe works or was formed. Other physicists and astronomers do applied research. They use the knowledge gained from basic research to develop new devices, processes, and other practical applications. Their work may lead to advances in areas such as energy, electronics, communications, navigation, and medical technology. Because of these workers, lasers can now be used in surgery and microwave ovens are in most kitchens.

Astronomers and physicists typically work on research teams with engineers, technicians, and other scientists. Some senior astronomers and physicists may be responsible for assigning tasks to other team members and monitoring their progress. They may also be responsible for finding funding for their projects and therefore may need to write applications for research grants.

To learn more about these careers in science, or careers in many other fields, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Overcoming Injustice

There are two kinds of radicals: those who bring about change through civil disobedience and those who bring about change through violence.

Civil disobedience, the peaceful refusal to obey laws or commands of government, seems an unlikely tactic for a rebellion. How can truly non-violent methods change a deeply rooted government policy or oust an oppressive regime? A leading example is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who effectively employed civil disobedience during the American Civil Rights movement. His peaceful protests set in motion sweeping changes to U.S. segregation laws.

On the other hand, the Russian Revolution is an example of change brought about through violence. The turbulent year of 1917 began with the ousting of the Russian tsar and the creation of a provisional government. The year ended with Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin seizing power and establishing a soviet state. The following civil war between Lenin’s revolutionaries and all those who opposed the rebellion was brutal. More than five million people died and scores of millions more suffered.

As for Dr. King, he was not the first person to believe that peaceful protest was a powerful tool. There was a British-educated lawyer born in India in 1869 who forged the way for this form of non-violent protest against tyranny. He was Mahatma Gandhi, a political leader of the movement to free India from British rule. Gandhi passionately held the belief that non-violence was the only means to freedom.

Then again, Lenin was not alone in his belief that revolution can come only through violent action against oppression. Che Guevara, the leader of Cuban and other international guerilla rebellions, also believed that socialism through revolution was the only way to remedy socio-economic inequalities.

Gandhi was born into a middle-class Hindu family. His father was the prime minister of a small city on India’s western coast and his mother was a deeply devout woman who instilled in her son the importance of tolerance, respect, and peaceful coexistence with all living things. These ideals would have a profound effect on the development of Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent protest.

Though he was not an especially good student, Gandhi graduated from an Indian college, studied law in London, and returned to India to practice law, where he did not have much success. As a result, he decided to accept a yearlong job with an Indian law firm in South Africa, where there was a thriving Indian community at the time. Gandhi was appalled at the blatant discrimination directed toward blacks and Indians in South Africa, where he faced prejudice on a most personal level. On one occasion, a conductor on a train banished Gandhi to a third-class car despite the fact that he held a first-class ticket. Another time he was beaten for refusing to give up his seat on a stagecoach to a white passenger. He faced segregation in hotels and restaurants, and in the courtrooms where he practiced law. It was here, during his years in South Africa, that the seeds of activism were planted in Gandhi’s mind.

When his yearlong commitment to the law firm ended, Gandhi opted to remain in South Africa to fight for the rights of Indians living there. He worked diligently to oppose a bill that denied voting rights to Indians. Gandhi formed an organization to support Indian rights, and successfully unified South Africa’s Indian population into a unified political bloc.

In response, an enraged mob of white South Africans tried to lynch Gandhi in early 1897. His refusal to press charges against his attackers was an early example of his life-long commitment to non-aggression. Gandhi worked diligently for Indian rights in South Africa until he returned to India in 1915.

Back at home, Gandhi began to participate in the Indian National Congress, a movement struggling to free India from British rule. Through the 1920s, Gandhi continued to adhere to his conviction that revolution was possible through civil disobedience. His philosophy was “Satyagraha,” the term he created to describe his beliefs about non-violent resistance. The ideals of Satyagraha spread throughout India and were embraced by millions.

Satyagraha was apparent in the response to British laws that gave colonial leaders emergency powers to suppress the independence movement. Indian public officials resigned and Indian citizens boycotted British agencies. Indian children withdrew from schools run by the British government. Indians clogged the streets. They simply sat and refused to move, even if beaten by the police.

In one of Gandhi’s most famous acts of civil disobedience, he marched more than 250 miles with thousands of Indians as a protest against a British tax on salt. Gandhi and his followers marched to the sea so they could make their own salt from seawater. As India’s epic struggle for independence continued through the 1930s, Gandhi encouraged his compatriots to maintain a practice of non-cooperation and non-violence.

When World War II erupted in 1939, Gandhi’s political role became more active. The British expected India’s help during the war, but the Indian National Congress wanted a promise of independence in exchange for that help. In 1942 Gandhi began the Quit India Movement, an attempt to push out the British. He was promptly arrested.

The British released Gandhi from prison in 1944 due to his ill health. In 1945 the war ended. Britain and the Indian National Congress began talks about Indian self-rule. However, the Indian National Congress and another major political bloc, the Indian Muslims, could not agree on terms for an independent country. Because of this disagreement, British India was partitioned into two sovereign nations, India and Pakistan, in 1947. Raging riots erupted between Hindus and Muslims in the aftermath of partition.

Following the partition, Gandhi tried valiantly to forge peace between the Hindus and Muslims, which enraged some Hindus who felt betrayed by such action. This man of peace ironically died a violent death. As he was going to his evening prayers on January 30, 1948, a Hindu extremist assassinated him.

Gandhi’s own words best define his life’s work, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” This peaceful man taught the world that Satyagraha could lead to lasting change. Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence exemplified the effectiveness of civil disobedience.

Like Gandhi, Ernesto Guevara, known as “Che,” also was a revolutionary who wanted to liberate the poor, oppressed, and disenfranchised. However, his means of carrying out his mission were quite different from those of Gandhi. Che Guevara is most famous for the part he played in the Cuban revolution, which overturned the rule of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Known as a bold leader, Che Guevara exhibited passion and dedication to his revolutionary beliefs, but he often was scorned for his violent and callous methods.

Born into an upper-class family in Argentina in 1928, Che Guevara displayed a strong personality from the time he was young. Although he suffered from asthma attacks, he was an excellent athlete. He earned two nicknames as a boy: “Fuser” (meaning “the raging”) for his aggressive moves in rugby and “Chancho” (meaning “pig”) for his aversion to bathing regularly.

While studying medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, Che Guevara decided to take time off from his education for a motorcycle trip with his friend through South America. During this trip, he came face to face with wide-spread poverty. Based on his readings of Russian revolutionary Karl Marx, he saw armed rebellion as a solution for liberating the oppressed and eliminating inequalities among the people of Latin America.

Following the road trip, Che Guevara returned to school to complete his medical studies, earning his degree in 1953. After graduation, he immediately decided to travel again. He was in Guatemala during a rebellion, backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which overthrew the government of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.

Although Che Guevara fled to Mexico, the incident hardened his negative view of the imperialist power of the United States. He was angered by the lack of U.S. support in addressing Latin America’s socio-economic inequality problems. The incident also strengthened his resolve that an armed rebellion by the people was the only solution.

In Mexico, Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and other Cuban exiles. He joined their “26th of July Movement” that planned to remove General Batista, the Cuban dictator. Aboard the small boat, “Granma,” the group of revolutionaries sailed to Cuba in 1956 but were attacked by the Cuban military on arrival.

The approximately 16 rebels who escaped fled into an area on the mountains, where Che Guevara became the leader of the group of guerrilla warriors. While earning a reputation for bravery and leadership, he also earned a reputation for ruthlessness in carrying out or overseeing the executions of enemies, both proven and suspected.

Cuba’s revolution was successful and Batista fled the island on January 1, 1959. Che Guevara, one of only four non-Cubans among the original revolutionaries, was named “a Cuban by birth” in recognition for his part in the victory. He was appointed commander of a prison where his reputation of ruthlessness expanded as he oversaw trials and executions that were sometimes considered “lawless proceedings.” He also held positions at the National Institute of Agrarian Reform and the National Bank of Cuba, forgoing a regular salary for meager wages to set an example as a true revolutionary.

Che Guevara continued to be a prominent figure in the Cuban government, serving as head of the Ministry of Industry from 1961 to 1965, where he was involved with developing Cuban socialism. His writings during that period included “Guerrilla Warfare,” a book in which he proposed the use of the Cuban small-group model of guerrilla warfare rather than large organizations of rebellion. In his 1965 essay, “Man and Socialism in Cuba,” he put forth the idea of the “new man,” who had no egotistical motives but whose passionate rage against injustice and oppression replaced the old order of personal glorification and gratification.

Che Guevara continued to travel widely and his last international speech was at an appearance in Algiers at the Second Economic Seminar on Afro-Asian Solidarity. He declared: “We cannot remain indifferent in the face of what occurs in any part of the world. A victory for any country against imperialism is our victory, just as any country’s defeat is our defeat.”

A short while later, Che Guevara returned to Cuba and dropped out of sight. Reasons suggested for his disappearance included the collapse of his industrial, economic, and ideological plans for Cuba, as well as his pro-Chinese Communist stance and increasing skepticism of the Soviet Union.

He finally decided to leave Cuba, resigning from his government positions and renouncing his Cuban citizenship. He planned to travel abroad, seeking new battlefields to espouse the cause of revolution. After leaving Cuba, he attempted to support a rebellion in the Congo by teaching fighters the strategies of guerrilla warfare that had been successful in Cuba. When the rebellion collapsed, he was ill and disheartened and decided not to return to Cuba with the other Cuban fighters.

Eventually, he made his way to Bolivia, where he found a new revolutionary cause in helping guerrilla fighters. This effort resulted not only in failure but also in his death. President Rene Barrientos had the Bolivian Army hunt for him in the mountainous terrain of the Camiri region. Although Che Guevara knew that the Bolivian army was not well trained, he did not expect the participation of agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in squashing his revolutionary activities.

The hunt for Che Guevara ended when Bolivian Special Forces surrounded his camp and captured the 39-year-old revolutionary. President Barrientos ordered his execution, which was carried out on October 9, 1967. His bullet-ridden body was later displayed for the press. Afterward, his hands were cut off and his body taken to a secret location.

In 1997, the remains of an exhumed body, identified as those of Che Guevara, were returned to Cuba, where he received a military funeral and was buried in Santa Clara, the site of one of his most successful battles during the Cuban Revolution.

It is ironic today that Che Guevara, who fought against the evils of capitalism, has himself become a “national brand.” His image, based on a photograph taken by Alberto Korda during his early revolutionary years, adorns mugs, key chains, hats, and T-shirts. In 1997, the 30th anniversary of his death, five biographies of him were published. He also has been the subject of at least three major films.

As a result, Che Guevara has become a symbol of revolution and rebellion. Although many people are enthralled with his story, others say his supporters have reinterpreted his accomplishments, making them into myths and delusions. However, his supporters cannot deny that Che Guevara’s radicalism was replete with aggression and violence.

As revolutionaries, both Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara have become legends, known for their strength of character and dedication to their ideals. While Gandhi’s method of fulfilling his mission through non-violence has proven successful at securing lasting change for the betterment of society, the results of Che Guevara’s violent method of revolution continue to be scrutinized. Both Gandhi and Che Guevara remain radicals whose influences can be seen in a new generation of revolutionaries.

The Landfill Harmonic

It’s difficult to imagine a community where poverty is so acute that one violin commands a higher price than an entire house. Why would anyone compare housing prices to costs of musical instruments? It’s undoubtedly an unusual comparison, but perfectly appropriate in this context. The community in question is the Paraguayan village of Cateura. Astonishingly, poverty has become so acute that musical instruments do indeed have more value than the ramshackle dwellings located there.

Paraguay, a small South American country, shares borders with Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. Paraguayans are proud of their heritage, which intermingles cultural traditions of both native Guarani Indians and Spanish colonists. However, fully one-third of the Paraguayan population lives below the poverty level, subsisting on less than two dollars a day.

Even in a nation that experiences intense poverty, the residents of Cateura are among those who suffer most acutely. The community was built around a mammoth landfill — a polite term for garbage dump — not far from Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital city. Some 2,500 people inhabit dilapidated shanties clustered chaotically around this mammoth garbage heap, located precariously close to the banks of the Paraguay River. Some 1,500 tons of garbage arrive daily at the landfill. Due to lack of regulation governing what can be deposited there, Cateura has become a toxic stew of every variety of trash, including hazardous waste. Toxic chemicals flow freely into the river, contaminating drinking water not only for Cateura residents but also for inhabitants of the surrounding region.

Most Cateurans earn their living by scavenging through the landfill, searching for materials that can be sold for recycling. Although they live and work at a garbage dump, their own community has no organized refuse disposal system. This renders their living conditions acutely unsanitary. Run-off from toxic chemicals that commingle in the mammoth garbage mound pollutes their drinking water. Burning trash, a method employed to reduce the chaos of garbage surrounding them, pollutes their air. On rainy days, the river floods, transforming the entire community into a toxic lake that Cateurans have no choice but to wade through. Not surprisingly, disease caused by unsanitary conditions is commonplace. Hunger is acute and pervasive throughout the tiny village. Police rarely venture into the chaotic community, allowing criminals free reign. Living conditions there would astonish most of us who inhabit more comfortable surroundings.

A majority of Cateura residents are illiterate. Approximately 40 percent of children leave school to help their parents rummage through the garbage, seeking recyclables. This chaotic environment serves as their playground, while garbage serves as their toys. It’s no wonder that many young people become involved in dangerous and even criminal activities.

In 2006, Favio Chavez, a recycling technician, arrived in Cateura to help local recyclers classify items they scavenged from the chaotic landfill. The 37-year-old recycling professional had studied music as a child and a young man. While working at Cateura, Chavez continued to return to his hometown every weekend, where he served as a youth orchestra conductor. One day, he brought his orchestra to Cateura to perform a concert for the residents.

The trash recyclers of Cateura were astonished by the beauty of the concert performed by the young musicians. Some of them asked Chavez to teach their own children to play music. They were acutely interested in the possibility of an activity that could keep their children out of trouble, while transporting them away from the chaos of the landfill for even a few hours a week. Chavez was elated to become the community’s music teacher. Initially, his small collection of musical instruments was sufficient for the children who became his first students. However, the number of students kept escalating. Additionally, Chavez realized that his students really needed to practice their music at home between lessons if they were to progress.

Chavez didn’t have enough musical instruments for all his students. Even if he had, it would have been foolhardy to send instruments home in a community where criminal activity was a mammoth problem and most people were acutely in need of food, water, and other basic necessities. As he indicated in subsequent interviews with the media, a violin is more valuable in Cateura than a house. Children toting musical instruments might have been targeted by criminals. Additionally, they or their family members might have been tempted to sell instruments to buy food in times of acute hunger.

Obviously, Chavez required a different kind of solution. He was a fan of a popular group of Argentine musicians who made their own instruments, and he wondered whether he could do the same for his students. Around this time, Nicolas Gomez, a Cateuran recycler, was astonished to discover an old violin shell concealed among the dilapidated and sometimes toxic landfill debris. The recycler repaired the instrument under the music teacher’s direction. Afterward, Chavez began to work in concert with Gomez to fabricate instruments from materials scavenged from the landfill.

They experimented with an array of items, gradually ascertaining which ones could produce the desired sounds, which were most comfortable to hold, and which were durable enough to withstand frequent practice. Gomez, whose nickname is Cola, was able to finish only the fifth grade before he was obliged to assist his family in their landfill recycling activities. Nevertheless, he possessed a natural engineering talent that enabled him to construct anything. He began to demonstrate his genius for fabricating musical instruments from recycled trash. Soon, he was recycling paint pots, oven trays, oil drums, wood scraps, eating utensils, packing crates, X-ray containers, and other debris from which he created violins, cellos, guitars, flutes, saxophones, and drums — an entire orchestra of musical instruments that could produce astonishingly beautiful music.

Because the recycled instruments had little monetary value, Chavez felt safe entrusting them to his students, who were then able to practice their music at home between lessons. Initially, with no facility to house a music school, group practice transpired amid the landfill’s noise and chaos. Not all of the students’ parents recognized the value of music lessons. It took some effort to convince them that their children would benefit from the experience. None of the students were familiar with music when they began their lessons; however, with Chavez to guide them, they made astonishing progress. Before long, they were performing concerts for community members, presenting a repertoire that consisted principally of classical music.

Soon it became evident that making music had a profound and astonishingly positive effect on these children, whose lives would otherwise have been constrained by their chaotic and unhealthy environment. They learned not only about music, but also about persistence, about reaching beyond their community’s expectations, and about mammoth possibilities in the wider world. Some parents, inspired by their children’s mammoth achievement, decided they would attend school to learn something new, as well. So far, Chavez has instructed more than 100 young people to play musical instruments.

Some students have proven to be talented enough to qualify for membership in an orchestra that Chavez established, named the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura. In 2011, Chavez resigned from his recycling position to provide music lessons and guide the orchestra full time. His students, ranging in age from 12 to 19, share his passion for music and devote countless hours to practicing. As their skills improved, the orchestra’s reputation swelled. Soon, they were presenting concerts in the capital city of Asuncion.

In 2009, two documentary filmmakers decided to make a film about the acute challenges facing the women and children of Paraguay. One of them, Alejandra Nash, a United States-based filmmaker who had grown up in Paraguay, was determined to attract the world’s attention to her tiny homeland. The filmmakers traveled to Paraguay, where they met with leaders of Sonidos de la Tierra, or Sounds of the Earth, an organization that establishes music schools in Paraguay’s most impoverished areas. This organization had assisted Chavez in the early days of his musical education program. From this meeting, Nash learned about the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments.

Nash later observed that the history of the little orchestra took her breath away, making her realize immediately that she wanted to create a documentary about the children, the recycler who fabricated their instruments, and the musician who taught them to play. Nash and her colleague journeyed to Cateura, where they filmed members of the orchestra in action, complete with scenes amid the landfill’s chaos.

They created a short, three-minute film, called a trailer or teaser, to preview the documentary that they hoped to produce. It features Chavez, Cola, and several young orchestra members talking about their lives and demonstrating their recycled instruments. One young man explains that his cello is made from a recycled oil can and various recycled kitchen tools. He proceeds to perform a haunting rendition of Bach’s Cello Suite No.1. A young girl declares that her life would be nothing without music.

The filmmakers were able to obtain financing from the Creative Visions Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports media and arts to create positive change in the world. After assembling a team of professional filmmakers, the group returned to Paraguay several times over the next few years to film the orchestra’s progress. Meanwhile, they released their trailer film on the Internet, posting it on YouTube and Facebook, where it attracted hundreds of thousands of astonished viewers and created a sensation. The filmmakers solicited financing from these viewers and began raising funds on, a fundraising website that allows individual citizens to make small contributions to worthy causes. The completed film was released in 2014. They called it “Landfill Harmonic,” a play on the word, “philharmonic,” which means symphony orchestra.

The astonishing amount of attention that the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments has received as a result of the three-minute trailer has led to more opportunities. In 2012, the Recycled Orchestra was invited on a concert tour of Brazil, Colombia, and Panama. The concert tour was a mammoth project, because none of the 30 would-be travelers possessed passports. In fact, most did not even possess birth certificates. Chavez coordinated the gathering of documents for every child, working with parents whose knowledge of such things was negligible. Somehow he managed to complete the mammoth task of preparation. The concert tour proved to be a terrific success, with audiences routinely astonished at the wonderful concerts created by the young musicians playing their recycled instruments.

The following year, in 2013, the orchestra traveled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to perform concerts before audiences that were positively astonished at their musicianship. Among the pieces of music they performed was Pachelbel’s “Canon,” known the world over as a touchstone of classical music.

They made contact with the Musical Instruments Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and donated a selection of recycled instruments to the museum, which is dedicated to the exploration of musical instruments from all over the world. The museum invited the entire orchestra to the United States, hosting them in an extravaganza of special events and concerts.

Chavez has been quoted as saying, “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” In a community where even stepping outside can mean exposing oneself to a pool of toxic waste and a violin is worth more than an entire house, that is a remarkable message indeed.

Ways to Stay in Shape

It’s only 6:45 a.m., yet Justin has been in the gym for close to an hour. He is pedaling away on a stationary bicycle in a dimly lit room. Upbeat pop music blares from several small speakers overhead. All around him other members of his gym are seated on their own stationary bicycles. Most are feeling fatigued. All are sweating from the exertion of their intense “ride” in the gym’s indoor cycling room.

A certified instructor has been leading the packed room of cyclers. She is seated on her own stationary bicycle. She tells the cyclers to go faster. She tells them to add more resistance to their bicycles. The cyclers do this by turning a special knob on their bicycles. Adding more resistance requires the cyclers to exert more energy in order to turn their bicycles’ pedals. The indoor cyclers feel as if they are riding up a hill. Now Justin is feeling very fatigued. Adding a lot of resistance makes it very hard to go fast!

For a few seconds, Justin takes his eyes off of the instructor. He glances down at the watch-like gadget on his wrist. The shiny front of the gadget tells him how much energy he has exerted in his indoor cycling class. It calculates how many calories he has burned. It also calculates how fast his heart is beating. These calculations tell Justin how hard his body is working when he is exercising. Today Justin’s gadget tells him he is working very hard.

Justin’s gym began offering indoor cycling classes about a year ago. Since then, they have become very popular. The gym had to hire five certified indoor cycling instructors to meet demand. Gym members of all ages, shapes, and sizes who are eager to exert themselves show up for the gym’s indoor cycling classes. Seats in the classes fill up fast. Some gym members show up an hour or more before each class starts just to get a bicycle. Many arrive wearing gadgets like Justin’s, which are called “fitness trackers.”

Indoor cycling and fitness trackers are just two of the latest fads in fitness. Currently, there are dozens of popular ways to stay fit. Just like different types of clothing go in and out of fashion over time, different kinds of exercise regimens and equipment wax and wane in their popularity. Also like clothing trends, fads in fitness reflect the requirements and wants of people at a specific moment in time.

Certified health experts recommend young people get at least an hour of exercise daily. This helps to ensure their bodies stay healthy and strong. Today life can be very stressful. Between school, homework, and chores, an hour or more might sound like a lot of time to spend working out. How can you make enough time to fit in all of that exercise?

High-Intensity Interval Training, also called “H.I.I.T.,” is a modern fitness fad designed for people with busy lives. Besides being fast-paced, it’s designed to be fun. H.I.I.T. involves short, fast bursts of intense exercise followed by short low-intensity exercise “rest” periods, each ranging from 30 to 60 seconds in length. This combination helps the body exert a lot of energy fast and makes the most of the time you spend working out.

H.I.I.T. slowly began to become a trend in 1996 after Japanese exercise scientist Izumi Tabata published a study illustrating its benefits. In the early 1990s, the head coach of the Japanese Olympic men’s speed skating team, Irisawa Koichi, asked Tabata, who was also an assistant coach of the team, to analyze the efficacy of a new exercise regimen he had created for his athletes.

Koichi had created a short but fatiguing workout for his athletes that today would be considered H.I.I.T. His training regimen consisted of eight 20-second rounds of intense pedaling on a stationary bicycle, followed by 10 seconds of rest. The whole workout took a total of only four minutes. Koichi wanted to know whether this time-saving training regimen could provide his athletes with real health benefits that would improve their athletic performance on the ice.

In his study, Tabata used young male college students majoring in physical education — most of whom were also amateur athletes — as his research subjects. For six weeks, Tabata had one group of seven subjects perform Koichi’s fatiguing new workout on a stationary bicycle four days a week. This group also performed a 60-minute moderate-intensity endurance training session on the bicycle once a week. During the same period, another group of seven subjects did only the moderate-intensity endurance training on the bicycle, in 60-minute sessions, five days a week.

Chiefly, Tabata wanted to measure the impacts of the two exercise regimens on the aerobic and anaerobic capacities of his subjects. Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen one’s body can take in during exercise, while anaerobic capacity refers to the ability of the body to continue exercising when aerobic capacity is surpassed. Both experienced and amateur athletes playing many high-intensity sports — like soccer, football, and basketball — benefit from having both high aerobic and anaerobic capacities.

Aerobic exercises are those requiring an athlete to maintain a steady pace for a long period of time and to use a lot of oxygen, like long-distance running. On the other hand, anaerobic exercises are fast and high-intensity activities, like short sprints or jumping jacks. For anaerobic exercises the body relies on sources of energy other than oxygen found in your muscles.

Before the study began, Tabata measured the baseline aerobic and anaerobic capacities of his subjects during a preliminary, and relatively easy, 10-minute workout on a stationary bicycle. To do this, Tabata had his subjects wear a special mask. The mask calculated fitness levels by measuring the concentrations of different types of gases they inhaled and exhaled while exercising. Over the course of the study, Tabata measured their aerobic and anaerobic capacities during weekly workouts to track any changes in their fitness.

Tabata found that subjects who trained using Koichi’s H.I.I.T. made greater improvements in their fitness than subjects training with the moderate-intensity endurance exercise regimen. In fact, over the course of the six-week study, the H.I.I.T. group boosted the anaerobic capacity of their bodies by an average of 28 percent, while the anaerobic capacity of the endurance-training group did not change. Although the endurance-training group did improve the aerobic capacity of their bodies by adhering to the exercise regimen, the H.I.I.T. group benefitted, overall, from a greater boost in aerobic capacity at an average of 14 percent.

“Originally I thought this type of training was just for speed skaters or other highly motivated athletes because it is very painful and tiring,” said Tabata of Koichi’s H.I.I.T. regimen. “However, I found that there were groups of [amateur] people interested in building muscle and therefore doing short high-intensity exercises that trained their muscle, but not those exercises that improved their aerobic training. When this regimen came along, they began to realize they could train both at the same time.”

Since Tabata’s study was first published, a strong collection of research has continued to demonstrate that H.I.I.T. may be more effective at burning fat and calories than moderate-intensity endurance training. Another benefit is that H.I.I.T. challenges the body to work very hard, but it also provides the body with time to rest. This combination boosts aerobic and anaerobic capacities, giving the body greater strength and endurance for future workouts.

Though H.I.I.T. classes will definitely make you work up a sweat, this type of workout is not strictly cardiovascular. H.I.I.T. can be adapted to weight-training regimens, in which high-intensity weighted repetitions are alternated with low-intensity rest exercises. Experts recommend young people do both cardiovascular exercises and weight-training exercises. The former helps keep your heart healthy while the latter helps keep your muscles and bones strong.

Besides benefitting your body, H.I.I.T. training is very accessible and is fairly easy to fit into the busiest of schedules. You could do your H.I.I.T. virtually anywhere, from the inside of a gym on a bicycle, treadmill, or in an exercise room, to outside on a track, field, or other open space. You can work out alone or with others, and all you need are some good sneakers and exercise clothing. The accessibility of H.I.I.T. has helped boost its appeal, making it one of the most popular fitness fads today.

Accessibility is the appeal of most modern fitness trends. In general, the less equipment required and the more places a workout can be performed, the more people will be able to do it. Today cost is also a major factor in the calculation of whether or not a specific exercise regimen becomes popular. The more inexpensive a workout, the more accessible it will be.

Bodyweight training is one such highly accessible fitness fad that is very popular today. It is an inexpensive exercise regimen requiring very little, if any, equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Bodyweight-training workouts involve the repetition of a series of strength exercises relying on the use of one’s own body weight to provide resistance against a specific movement — as opposed to using free weights to perform the movement.

The most common bodyweight exercises are the push-up, pull-up, and sit-up, which require no extra athletic equipment and can be done anywhere. This makes it easy to fit exercise into a busy schedule. For example, if during the school week you spent just 10 minutes of your lunch period repeating a series of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups in your school’s gym or outside on the athletic field, you would have only 50 more minutes of exercise remaining to perform each school day.

Bodyweight exercises, which tend to be simple, have been around for thousands of years. In fact, if you were a Spartan soldier during the sixth century BCE, your military training would require you to do bodyweight exercises. Also around that time, Chinese warrior monks used bodyweight exercises to develop strength and endurance. This helped them to physically protect their monasteries from robbers and looters. Even today, soldiers, like those in the U. S. Armed Forces, train with bodyweight exercises, especially sit-ups and push-ups.

One of today’s most popular bodyweight exercise regimens is actually a product of the U.S. Armed Forces. Routinely traveling from mission to mission for long periods of time, Navy SEAL Squadron Commander Randy Hetrick sought an accessible, yet effective, workout regimen to keep him and his fellow SEALS fit while on the road. With traditional bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups as a foundation, Hetrick wondered if he could create special equipment with which to do bodyweight exercises, which might make them more challenging than just doing them on the floor.

One day in 1988, Hetrick scrounged around the barracks for inexpensive surplus military and personal equipment for experimentation. He came across a worn martial arts belt and surplus parachute webbing. First, he sketched out a V-shaped apparatus made from the materials he had found. Both his physical and practical military training helped his idea become a reality. “A little secret is that all SEALS learn how to sew in order to maintain and repair gear,” said Hetrick. After his sketch was complete, he sewed the belt and webbing together to form his apparatus, attaching a metal clip at its point end, and two straps with handles on the other end.

After he finished sewing together his handmade apparatus, he hung it over an open doorway to test it. Grasping the handles, he began performing shoulder rows, pull-ups, bicep curls, and other upper-body exercises, all using his own body weight that was boosted due to the suspending properties of the apparatus. After he had worked his upper body, Hetrick placed one foot into each handle and began performing lower-body exercises like planks and mountain-climbers. By the end of his workout, Hetrick was feeling quite fatigued, but was ecstatic that his new apparatus worked!

What Hetrick found was that the apparatus could be used to perform the basic bodyweight training exercises he was taught in Navy boot camp, and more. Using his new “suspension training” apparatus, he could work both the upper body and lower body, plus — thanks to the body’s natural instinct to try to maintain balance while suspended — his core. Besides being extremely effective, Hetrick’s device was extremely accessible. Essentially, he could use it anywhere where it could be attached to a fixed point, whether that was a doorway or a tree branch. Since it weighed only two pounds, it was simple to roll up and fold away.

Hetrick’s suspension training equipment has continued to gain popularity since he began to market it commercially to the public in 2005. Today Hetrick runs his own company that sells his original model of suspension training equipment, but also several new products that also utilize the concepts of suspension and bodyweight training. Hetrick’s equipment is primarily used in gyms where certified instructors lead group classes, but hundreds of experienced and amateur athletes alike have also bought it for home use.

Like indoor cycling and H.I.I.T., suspension training is one of the most popular exercise regimens today. Together, these diverse workouts demonstrate that there are many ways to complete your recommended 60 minutes of exercise per day. The most popular workouts may be inexpensive, but by doing them regularly your body receives a big payoff in terms of health. Accessible yet effective, modern fads in fitness prove that no matter how little time you think you may have, there is always a way to keep moving!

What's Going On in Space?

Have you ever looked up at an ink-blue sky on a clear night, gazing at the constellations overhead and feeling enthralled by the dense matrix of stars that stretches as far as the eyes can see? While observing such a night sky, you may even attempt to contemplate the distance of those stars from your vantage point and the enormous magnitude of remote galaxies that comprise the universe.

Many people find it difficult to grasp these galactic concepts of distance and size. The speed of light, for example, is 671 million miles per hour. A light year is the distance light travels over one calendar year, which is approximately six trillion miles. On Earth, stars can be seen from hundreds of millions to billions of light years away.

With this in mind, we need to think differently to fully comprehend the astonishing size of space and the universe as a whole. We must divorce ourselves from Earth-bound notions of measuring distance in terms of miles, and think instead in terms of light years. Not only does the universe confound our perception of distance and size, but also its mechanics challenge our very perception of space, gravity, and time based on the three-dimensional world in which we exist and interact. Some of the most astonishing phenomena that shape the physical reality around us can be uncovered by examining the universe more closely.

Since physicist Sir Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion and gravitation centuries ago, space has been viewed as an enormous void, empty of all physical properties and sparsely populated by stars, planets, and other astronomical or celestial bodies. Newton’s contributions to physics were truly groundbreaking. He explained the forces at work on Earth that govern how motion and gravity act. However, Newton’s innovative work was less applicable to the universe. Some cosmic tendencies seemed to shatter his law on gravitation.

The framework of Newton’s theories considered gravity to be the governing force in the cosmos that impelled substances with mass to attract one another. As a forceless void, space was assumed to act as an empty arena with no interaction between space and the objects suspended in it. Early theories on the physical makeup of space did not explain the complex network of moons, planets, and stars harmoniously following orbital patterns around entities with greater mass.

It was not until the early 20th century when world-renowned physicist Albert Einstein developed his theory of general relativity that these longstanding perceptions changed. Einstein discovered space was not a blank arena sparsely populated by celestial bodies that interacted with one another only through the force of gravity. Based on the theory of relativity, the very concepts of space as an empty void and gravity as a force were shattered, along with many other preconceived notions about the cosmos. Accordingly, Einstein ultimately reshaped our view of how the cosmos functions and how the reality in which we exist is constructed.

Similar to comprehending the immense magnitude of cosmic space, understanding the theory of relativity requires that we reconsider preconceived notions about time and space. First, it is essential to realize how the properties of space were reinvented by Einstein and how space, although indistinguishable to the naked eye, is a fluid and dynamic entity that shapes and directs the motion of all astronomical bodies.

All entities with mass bend, distort, and manipulate the space encompassing them. The best way to visualize space and how celestial bodies interact with it is to imagine an elastic fabric stretching to the ends of the cosmos. If all stars, planets, and moons were aligned onto a single plane and positioned on the fabric, these astronomical bodies would stretch the fibers, dip, and create contours. Celestial bodies with greater mass would create larger contours in the fabric. These contours then would act like a path for astronomical bodies moving through the cosmos to follow in orbit.

For example, the Sun, which is the largest astronomical body in our solar system, is the central point around which all other planets, moons, and smaller asteroids orbit. The Sun bends space to the outer planets of Uranus, Neptune, and beyond. This creates a far-reaching rippling effect that defines clear paths for all planets in our solar system to follow. Observations confirm that space must be a dynamic entity that is susceptible to distortion by entities with mass situated within it. Otherwise stars and planets would follow Newton’s laws of motion, travel in a straight line, and not adhere to the orbital patterns identified by scientists.

On a much smaller scale, Earth distorts the space fabric encircling it in an identical way. A contour in space is projected around the perimeter of the Earth, much like space surrounding the Sun. Objects in that region of distorted space, namely the moon, small asteroids, and even satellites, follow that orbital pattern around the planet.

The same ripple effect in the space fabric occurs in all solar systems and galaxies. If the mere presence of celestial bodies in the cosmos distorts space and creates orbital patterns, you may wonder what role gravity plays in the cosmos. Gravity does hold smaller astronomical bodies in orbital patterns around substances with greater mass. However, contrary to Newton’s theories, gravity is not a force. Instead, gravity is the byproduct of the curvature in the space fabric. Entities with larger mass have greater gravitational pull as a result of indenting or distorting the space surrounding them to a greater degree than bodies with less mass.

Scientists, astronomers, and physicist since Einstein have observed some astonishing examples to support the process by which celestial bodies interact with and distort the space surrounding them. In space, light bends along the curvatures created by black holes. This is a cosmic phenomenon called gravitational lensing. As a result, the curvature of light beams from distant stars streaking toward Earth is a very visible illustration to support a hypothesis that involves properties invisible to the naked eye.

To explain gravitational lensing, it will be beneficial to first clarify what black holes are. After hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of years, some stars undergo a chaotic transformation as they reach the end of their lifecycles. Dying stars collapse and compact the mass once occupying a large region of space into a fraction of its original size. This drastic size reduction, by compacting the mass into a smaller region, increases the density of that body exceedingly.

Accordingly, a black hole has the largest impression on the space surrounding it in the cosmos. In fact, this impression is so monumental on the space surrounding it that light moving along that curvature bends toward the gravitational pull. Therefore, light from stars in distant galaxies can bend around black holes, causing the astonishing phenomenon of gravitational lensing.

For example, astronomers discovered a distant galaxy in the Pegasus constellation by witnessing the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. A quasar, which is a compact sector of space that illuminates the perimeter of massive black holes, lies at the center of this galaxy. The quasar, called Einstein’s Cross, is eight billion light years away from Earth. Peering through a telescope in a straight line, a person would see Einstein’s Cross behind a less distant black hole 400 million light years away. In most instances, line-of-sight dictates that the quasar should be blocked from view. However, gravitational lensing bends the light emitted around the less distant black hole, allowing astronomers to see it through observatory telescopes.

The distortion of space that facilitates gravity is coupled with another aspect of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Space appears to be a three-dimensional arena with measurable properties of height, width, and depth. Scientists, for instance, can measure the size of planets and stars and approximate their distance from Earth. However, space is actually four-dimensional, containing the three spatial dimensions to which we are accustomed along with a fourth temporal dimension, or time-related dimension. That four-dimensional space, or manifold, that governs the mechanics of how the cosmos functions is collectively called space-time or the space-time continuum.

Distortions and contours in space are indistinguishable to the naked eye. However, they shape the dynamic entity of the space-time continuum, with the fourth dimension of time interwoven into that manifold. As a result, space and time are equal partners of the same manifold that is the space-time continuum.

Just as space can be warped and distorted by objects, so too can time itself. Like the distortion of the three spatial dimensions in the manifold, celestial bodies alter the pace at which time elapses. Bodies with greater mass have a more profound impression on the fourth dimension by stalling the pace at which time passes.

Time does not have an absolute value that elapses at a continuous tempo throughout the cosmos. Internal clocks that quantify time on Earth and affect the human aging process are not identical to the tempo at which time elapses elsewhere in the cosmos.

The size of the Sun and the Earth causes all people to experience time at virtually an identical pace. However, if the Sun or Earth were significantly larger, time would elapse more slowly than it presently does. Positioned in the vicinity of a black hole, astronauts in a spacecraft would experience time much more slowly than they do on their home planet. The immense imprint in the space-time continuum surrounding a black hole is so profound that time is slowed to a fraction of the tempo at which it elapses here on Earth.

The theory of relativity, however, does not concern sci-fi fantasies of time travel. Although time would elapse at a slower tempo, orbiting near a black hole would not be considered time travel. Instead, Einstein’s hypothesis is strongly grounded in the idea of gravitational time dilation.

Astronauts navigating a spacecraft in the vicinity of a black hole would experience a slower aging process, but the way they perceived time elapsing and the ticks on their watches would appear to transpire at the identical tempo to the one they always had. Spending significant time in the vicinity of a black hole or other bodies with enormous gravitation would not create the feeling of moving in slow-motion. However, an observer on Earth watching those astronauts would observe them moving at a slower pace.

In Einstein’s hypothesis, the tempo at which time is experienced is relative to a frame of reference or vantage point. Concisely, all time measured elsewhere in the cosmos must be compared to the tempo at which time is calculated here on Earth.

The bend in the space-time continuum and the idea of time’s being relative to a frame of reference constitute the key to the final aspect of the theory of relativity. We have already described how space and time can be bent by the presence of entities, with mass manipulating the space-time continuum in which they are immersed. However, objects in motion, especially when propelled to nearly the speed of light, also bend time and space as they travel through the cosmos.

The speed of light is absolute. Regardless of the distance or source from which it originated, light speed is always measured at 671 million miles per hour. Nothing else can equal or exceed that rate of motion.

If a spacecraft were engineered to reach speeds just under that of light beams while the ship’s headlights projected forward, the headlights would never exceed that 671 million miles per hour constant. Instead, the time and space through which that spacecraft soars would adjust to maintain the pace of light. As the only absolute in the cosmos, every point in the space-time continuum through which light passes must adjust to maintain that unremitting pace. For light speed to be fixed, time and space cannot be absolute. On the contrary, time and space must be relative and adaptable to maintain the speed of light.

For astronauts on board that spacecraft, everything inside the ship would appear normal despite the rapid rate of motion. But if those astronauts on board glanced outside that spacecraft, they would see a nearly unrecognizable reality since objects would appear much smaller than normal. Although time would appear to elapse at a uniform tempo for the astronauts on board, time dilation would cause time to elapse at a slower tempo than here on Earth.

According to the theory of relativity, it is crucial that the speed of light is an absolute. For light speed to be an absolute, a four-dimensional space-time continuum must be flexible to compensate for anything that would otherwise stall or hasten that universal rate of motion. Space and time must be united into a single entity or manifold to uniformly adjust to the speed of light and maintain that absolute.

A light ray can bend by gravitational lensing, but its pace will remain constant throughout the cosmos. The space-time continuum provides a channel or vacuum for light to move through at a unremitting pace without resistance. In addition, four-dimensional space provides an arena for astronomical bodies to interact with space and time, moving harmoniously in orbital patterns along contours in the space-time continuum.

The theory of general relativity opened new avenues for astronomers, physicists, and scientists to observe and study the cosmos. Since the space-time continuum is physically impossible to measure or evaluate directly, the mechanics of this dynamic manifold are still not fully understood. The cosmos is so enormous, far-reaching, and otherworldly that opportunities for the discovery and the establishment of a more comprehensive understanding of the cosmos are within reach.

If you find yourself gazing into the night sky and contemplating its physical makeup, perhaps you could make valuable contributions to science by conducting a closer examination of the cosmos.

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