(A) SURPRISE!

I have been waiting way too long to share this exciting project with you all! About one year ago, a dear colleague and friend who was in the same research group as me at Clemson was preparing to graduate and was asking the group for help with her proposal for job applications. So, I read her proposal, and at the end I read that she has plans to start a YOUTUBE CHANNEL for educational outreach. If you know me then you know I messaged her with my comments on her proposal and said I WOULD LOVE TO HELP WITH THE YOUTUBE CHANNEL IDEA.

A few months later we meet up, and it’s FIVE (5!!) of us that show up to a meeting, all with the same Clemson advisor (Marco must be proud 🥲). We had all read her proposal and said LET’S GO!🗣 📣 🤣

Over the next year, we prepared what this channel will be about, and man, it is no joke making videos and content of all kinds — it is a TON of work 🥵. Mainly because we all also have our day jobs, so juggling all of this has been an exciting challenge.

Without further ado, please go check out the channel we are building! We aim to share our passion for science with anyone and everyone because, as Nuria points out in the trailer below, it’s contagious! 😉

We plan to officially roll out our first season starting November 6 so be sure to follow/subscribe to your preferred platform (or all of them 😁 ) to make sure you get the latest news in the cosmos! 🌠

We aim to be active as an outreach group on our Youtube channel, webpage, and social media platforms, and I provide them all below! Go follow/subscribe/interact with us to help us grow ☺️

GREATER BOSTON LIVING

Noah and I have been living in the greater Boston area for a little over 1 ½ years now! This September first has marked our third time of moving around in that same time frame 😅. Don’t even ask how many other times we’ve moved around before even coming up here (it’s a ton, we have it just about down to a science now…). We initially moved into a super cute Cambridge neighborhood and lived there with all three of our pets for about 10 months before we crossed the river (a whole two miles) into the Brighton village of Boston city. We just spent the last year being walking distance to the river and that has been relaxing, to say the least.

Images below are just a few from our first neighborhood we lived in in Cambridge. It is such a cute area!!😍

Cambridge

Moving up North in the dead of winter from Clemson, South Carolina was a pretty big change to say the least. Add into the mix a pandemic and you have two very confused Southerners. We tried our best to take advantage of the city, but hopefully you will understand our slow progress 🥲.

I’ve experienced a lot of weird stuff that was new for me — Northern accents, Northern attitudes, snow! Lots of snow, including shoveling my car out and learning why it’s best to not just wait for the snow to melt… Then, there’s triple the cost in everything, parallel parking, the list goes on.

I have to say – the jury is still out on whether I see myself ever choosing to remain in the city. I still really love the idea of rolling hills for miles, no neighbors, no hassle, and reasonably priced everything. Houses, produce, and even shoes, all become more affordable the farther South you go, generally, haha.

Though there are a lot of great things about the city, too! For one, there really is always something to do. I would definitely have moments where I felt sort of stuck in Clemson whenever I was antsy to do something fun or adventurous. I felt like my only option was to go hiking (and I didn’t even go that often!). Whenever I feel bored at home in Boston, I hop on the next bus into town! Well, it hasn’t always been that easy, with the pandemic and everything, but during that brief hopeful moment this summer as vaccination rates and COVID-19 positivity rates switched spots, it started to feel something like a city life 😌

I share what things we have done so far that we really enjoyed below!

If you click the images you should see captions 🙂

Boston: the Freedom Trail

  • The Freedom Trail
    • Highly recommend for spring to summer months. Probably fine to do year round tbh, just stay warm ☃️
    • Begins at the Welcome Center of the Public City Garden in Boston Common.
    • It is ~2-3 miles long, and it takes you through all different parts of the city
    • You follow a visible red brick line to every landmark! Don’t worry they are easy to pick out ☺️

Boston: BikeShare

  • BikeRide with BlueBike Share!
    • A 30 minute bike ride costs $3.00 and there’s dozens of drop off points all over the city.
    • You can pretty much follow the river to get to anywhere in the city by bike!

Boston/Cambridge: Kayak the Charles River

  • Kayaking or canoeing along the Charles River
    • You can do a 2-3 hour kayaking trip for as cheap as $25 per person at any one of the popular Charles River Kayak Kiosks along the river banks!
    • Canoeing is even better priced and all of the kiosks offer a range of boating equipment. You can choose from kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and more (maybe?). The kiosks are located at several river access points so you can choose to paddle through the quieter suburbs toward Newton or dive right into the opening into the Atlantic Ocean near downtown.

That’s basically it for affordable things to do in Boston 😂 but I list below a few other places that you might find enjoyable to explore, too:

Cambridge: Fresh Pond

  • Fresh Pond Reservation
    • Lots of trails, parks, and nature in the middle of Cambridge.
View of Little Fresh Pond which is hidden inside the Fresh Pond reservation 😆

Boston: Harvard Football Stadium

  • Harvard Football Stadium and the Recreational Area there
    • Lots of open fields, tracks, and free recreational stuff. It’s really cool actually it features an outdoor skate park and even an ice skating rink in the winter.

Boston/Cambridge: the Charles River

  • Any recreational spots along the river
    • There is always some cool recreational spots along the river. Where we live now, there are two huge kid parks, two of them are water parks! I’m pretty sure it’s free, too. Just this past weekend I saw the water parks looking like Water Country, USA, with lifeguards and everything, just like in my backyard, it felt like!
    • You just never know what you will find in the city when you explore. At the river near my house, there’s a regular drum circle that plays in the courtyard every weekend. There’s even Herter park, a full on amphitheater that hosts free shows weekly during the summer (yes, even right now!!).
    • One time I even stumbled upon an artist painting the river early one morning on my run 🥺 it was such a whimsical moment running up among a Bob Ross Bob Rossing it right there in the open. Though I feel bad for the painter hearing me stomping, grunting, panting as I run by. Sorry, dude!

Cambridge: Harvard College Observatory

Oh, yeah! My work! The Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics! Why, you might ask?! Well because of the super historical Harvard College Observatory, of course. How can you forget!

Boston: SoWa Open Market

And most recently we went to the SoWa open market in South End for the first time and it was lovely! There’s other more tourist-y things that we did (or tried to do) this summer that we’ve been wanting to do and I’d definitely recommend including the aquarium, whale watching (weather actually cancelled our whale watch event 😔), festivals like SoWa open market which are happening all times of the year all over the area, and visiting the many beautiful and immaculate college campuses that decorate the city.

Images are all my own and from April — August 2021.

SAFE WAYS TO ENJOY LIFE DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

2020 Version (hopefully the last ever version of a blog post addressing surviving a global health crisis)

​Hey guys! Long time no talk. We’ve all been experiencing a whirlwind of emotions, current events, and not-so-swift societal changes for a longer duration of time than one might prefer.

 

Since March 13th-ish, I’ve been working full-time remotely from home alongside (virtually) many of you. Though I am considered one of the lucky ones as my financial stability has not been compromised from the global health crisis. I hesitate to say we are in this together because the reality is that current events have impacted each individual in wildly different ways. While yes, we are all experiencing the global pandemic together, and trying to work together to protect each other and our families, the personal impacts and perspectives are broad to say the least. My deepest gratitude and best wishes are sent to you all during this time. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your thoughtfulness as we navigate a new world together.

Current events have stirred up a lot of uncomfortable feelings – anger, frustration, fear, and anxiety – to name the most unpleasant ones. I feel a change coming (but I don’t know if the outcome will be good or bad). To quote the world renowned author, an Indian political activist Arundhati Roy:

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Unfortunately, I’m no psychologist or therapist. I don’t have the answers to the world’s problems but, I am managing to survive and have a few hobbies I have found to be a little therapeutic for me and would like to share, just in case anyone needs that extra boost to provide more meaning to their daily ritual while coping with a global pandemic. Let me stress these are things I’ve personally found to be enjoyable or helpful and may not be for everyone! Plus there is still a chance that these hobbies are just manifestations of a nervous breakdown like Ben Wyatt in the show Parks and Rec when he loses his job and invents Cones of Dunshire, an extremely involved nerdy board game (no offense) and also tries his hand at claymation movies and loses it when he realizes he spent like a month on 3 seconds worth of his movie.
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Yoga of all kinds

​1. I’d hate to be *that girl* but ummm, it really is a game changer and I encourage anyone to at least try it. I’m talking about yoga! I know – it feels like everyone suggests yoga for every ailment these days! But it really does help balance you mentally through self discipline and learning to tune into *what your body wants*. Yoga isn’t about being crazy flexible and balancing in weird positions. I mean it can be if that’s what you want but yoga practice is all about ~what feels good~. Everything else comes next.

 

I really enjoy the free YouTube videos Yoga with Adriene (and Benji!). I’ve linked her here. She offers hundreds of videos varying in length, difficulty, and theme. Her themes can be general like learning the basics to yoga or it can be more specific like hip and joint targeted practices, back pain, anxiety, even kids yoga! I like going to her playlists because she has them divided up by length. If I’m feeling like a shorter, deeper yoga practice, I peruse her 20-30 minute videos. If I want something more rigorous or perhaps more variety, I peruse the 30-45 minute playlist.

Plus side: she has a super cute doggo that is in almost every video and she has beautiful house plants, haha. I also personally find her to be a personable and relatable human being.

It’s easy to do at home and only requires your ~self~ and a yoga mat or blanket.

 

While we are here, the breathing practice that accompanies yoga I find to be very helpful in managing daily anxiety and stress. It slowly teaches you self discipline, focus, and attentiveness to your body and what it needs. It is a way to slow down and learn to shed the worries of everyday and just be. It is connected to meditation but this is something I still have not mastered and admittedly don’t practice too often.

Plant care

2. I got a plant. Lol. It was a $3 grow kit at the front clearance section of Target. It was an Impatiens kit and came with everything but water to grow them. I got it right before everything started closing down and wanted to start growing it in my new office here but just a few weeks later, we were sent home. I decided to grow it at home even though my cats have killed pretty much every indoor plant I’ve ever had and any prior roommates’ plants (sorry about that).

 

I managed to perch the small pot directly onto the window latch, high enough where the cats couldn’t reach. It grew over the next month and then the next and it just looked like weeds. I transferred them over into a bigger pot and put little pieces of vegetable and fruit scrap in the soil to promote fertilization in time. They began to bloom about a month ago and I just transferred them over into another bigger pot and this time I added a food spike.

Maybe it sounds super lame but I’ve enjoyed taking care of the little plant, making sure it gets enough sunlight but not too much, watering it when it needs it, and encouraging growth and blooms. It’s been a delightful experience and I was so happy when I saw the little flower buds and their unique colors! I added a few friends with time. I can’t do anything too luxurious since I’m in a smaller apartment now but I have sunlight driven plants lining our front porch and that brings me enough joy for now.

Anyway, I know a lot of us have already invested time into plant care during quarantine so I know I’m not alone!

Daily excerise

3. Whatever that means to you. It can be yoga, running, swimming, walking, biking, etc. I encourage avoiding gyms if you can for public health and safety (that includes protecting you! ️). Besides it’s so beautiful out! I like to bring my mask and have it around my neck and I choose routes that I know will not be heavy with pedestrian traffic. I wear the mask when I approach others. Some days if it’s cooler out, I can wear the mask for my entire exercise without any issues and I find that easier; it’s a little less to worry about running into someone without being prepared. I know this can be awkward to picture for some but, it truly is effective as we see up here in the northeast (and in contrast to what is happening in the south) and what we see over in Europe, China, and throughout Asia. Wear a mask if you can during your daily exercise if it’s outdoors and in public, for just a little while longer!

Stepping off my soap box now, I have enjoyed taking time to get to know my neighborhood by taking new routes in my runs and walks and recommend this to anyone really at any time, even without a pandemic. This could be especially important for anyone new in their area/region like me! In some ways I feel more connected to my community (especially because it has enabled me to meet neighbors!)

Maintain daily routine

4. Encourage a normal week schedule. Humans are creatures of habit and to an extent, we thrive in environments that have structure and purpose. Working remotely from home was a huge adjustment. At first it was kinda nice, felt convenient, easier. But then I started to abuse all of this time I was now spending at home. I started sleeping in all of the time, getting distracted by the pets or TV instead of working, cooking or cleaning instead of working, or calling family and talking about the pandemic instead of working (lol). And then I’d go through bouts where I would just work. Constantly. My work is all right there at my desk three feet away from where I sleep. It began to be all I thought about. ​

 

​It cycled through like that. Lacking motivation and then either feeling behind or feeling energized and compensated by working a lot – sometimes at the sacrifice of physical activity. So I find encouraging an as-normal-as-possible daily routine can be crucial. I like to run in the mornings Monday through Thursday and begin work around 9:30am. Just having that one part of my schedule defined really helps layout the rest of what needs to be done. I’m also a big list person (as you’ll see here) which helps, too.

Check in

5. Find something you enjoy and find something that provides an outlet for you. This can be the same thing, if it so happens to be. For me, that is running. For you it could be reading or writing or cooking. This is up to you but it’s something I highly suggest checking in on regularly. “Have I been doing things I enjoy?” and “Have I been able to process this new life properly?“. Idk, the questions don’t have to be that philosophical, I’m just saying to check in with yourself every now and then and make sure you are dealing with new adjustments okay and if you’re not, consider what might help you do that and speak it aloud, maybe to someone that can help will it into existence with you.

 

Lastly, try to remember to shut off Netflix, shut off Tiktok, and spend time outside safely, maybe even sniff the crap out of your face covering so you can get a small whiff of those blossoming trees outside. ​​

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
— ​Arundhati Roy

DIY HAIRCUT FOR LONG HAIR

Welcome to my first DIY blog post!

It’s going to be really short because I am not one to start my own DIY projects. So, I don’t have my own DIY to share but rather the tips and tricks to a pre-existing one that I’ve found extremely useful. It began a few years back when I really needed my hair trimmed but I couldn’t afford a hair cut. 

 

As a disclaimer, I love my hair. I LOVE it. I love having long hair and am very, very picky about who touches my hair. I don’t even like hair dressers that try to tell me how to cut it – the last time I took a hair dresser up on a suggestion to “cut all my dead hair off” I looked like Dora the Explorer going into my freshman year of college (never again). This led to a big hiatus from going to the hair salon.

A few years back, I was in Clemson, SC with hair that hadn’t been cut in over a year and I was needing a trim badly but I didn’t want to go to a new salon and I certainly didn’t want to pay for it. I googled DIY haircut hacks and found a good sample of DIY hair hacks for long hair. This is the one I use exclusively because it’s super easy, quick, and pretty hard to mess up!

There are some really nice perks to doing your own hair, specifically using this technique:

 

  • Buy TWO utensils but virtually pay nothing for any future hair trims! 
  • You pick the amount you want to cut
  • Get a great, layered hairstyle in less than ten minutes
  • A perfect V shape style in the back
  • You get to pick when you cut your hair and how often without breaking the bank 🙂

Whenever I see those dead ends growing out of control, that’s when I start considering doing this trim again. But, as this great influencer in the video mentions, for other hair styles, it’ll probably be best to leave it up to the experts ;-). For now though, this has kept my hair in tip-top shape as a ~baller on a budget~! 

Here are the utensils I use!

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The cut-razor comb – $5.99 at Sally’s Beauty! This thins and fluffs the hair edges. I use this after trimming the dead ends off.
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Procare styling shears (5.5in) – currently on clearance for $10.19 at Sally’s Beauty! This is what I use to cut the bulk of my dead ends off.
You’ll also need a hair straightener, a hairbrush, 3-4 small hair ties, and 1-2 regular-sized hair ties. I use a regular towel underneath me to catch any hair and just shake it out later for easy clean up. The actual trim time takes me about ten minutes but it would fair to say the first time will take the longest because you’ll be scared (lol).
This is really all you need to cut your own long hair from home, as long as you don’t mind and/or want layers! Below, I share some photos I took after I cut my hair.

Happy hair cutting!

 

SCIENCE V. RELIGION

Is science an attack on religion?

Short answer: No. Science is not an attack on religion.

For this post, you are going to hear a lot about Carl Sagan. He was a brilliant astrophysicist who had a way with connecting the public to science. Neil deGrasse Tyson was taught by Carl Sagan. The movie Contact (that has major religious undertones!) with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey is based on Carl Sagan’s book Contact. He wrote several other books including The Variety of Scientific Experience which focuses on the two topics and how they relate: science and religion. I recommend reading this book if you are interested in a different perspective on how to embrace both. 
This is not a celebration of my faith or anyone else’s. This is an essay discussing a different outlook on science and religion than what we popularly know of. Carl Sagan was one of the American scientists to really capture the beauty and human empowerment that we can achieve if we can learn to embrace both science and religion together.
Sources today:

Science is not an attack on religion. I’m going to make some hard-to-swallow statements:The Big Bang theory (not the show) does not suggest there is no God.

The evolutionary theory does not suggest there is no God.

After all, Pope Francis himself suggests these theories don’t prove there is no God but rather that these theories require that there be one. I think that is a very powerful thought. These theories are still being developed, too. This isn’t the final hour but rather just the best guess we humans have at understanding what we have observed. What we provide in these frameworks is what is consistent with what we know and what we observe – there is always room for improvement and even change.

Science is the pursuit of knowledge and truth. It seeks to understand the world around us. For many individual scientists, their pursuit is inspired by their desire to get closer to God and to understand the Heavens. For some it is a quest to understand God’s existence. For others it is a journey of fulfillment; seeking to understand everything they sense, regardless of what religious realms they might uncover.

Scientists often feel a deep connection with science. We may even describe it as a religious experience.

The term [‘God’] means a lot of different things in a lot of different religions. […] To others, for example, Baruch, Spinoza, and Albert Einstein, God is essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe.
— Carl Sagan

It would be fair to point out that some scientists may even interpret the laws of nature being either the consequence of the existence of a God (i.e. gravity belongs as a inner working to a God) or as the essence of their God (i.e. their God’s powers emerge in the form of nature’s laws).
I would agree that it would be too soon to mark all scientists as athiests. Scientists tend to have minds that are swayed when presented with empirical evidence.

No decent scientist will try to convince you there is no God.

Because we simply do not know enough about the Universe to make such a statement!

If we say “God” made the universe, then surely the next question is, “Who made God?” If we say “God” was always here, why not say the universe was always here? If we say that the question “Where did God come from?” is too tough for us poor mortals to understand, then why not say that the question of, “Where did the universe come from?” is too tough for us mortals?
— Carl Sagan


But in order to be able to embrace both religion and science, we have to be open to learning new information and most importantly, we need to be comfortable not having all of the answers.

We are only human. We do not know anywhere CLOSE to everything there is to know. We may never know it all….

I am extremely uncomfortable with dogmatic atheists, who claim there can be no God; to my knowledge, there is no strong evidence for that position. I’m also uncomfortable with dogmatic believers; to my knowledge, they don’t have any strong evidence either. If we don’t know the answer, why are we under so much pressure to make up our minds, to declare our allegiance to one hypothesis or the other?
–Carl Sagan

For some of you, faith is all you need and I think that is beautiful. You are someone who is so loyal and confident to your God and your God is lucky to have someone like you on their side because you show strength and power. However, I urge you to always remind yourself of the extent of what you put your faith into. Let’s not forget that the Bible was written a very long time ago. It was written and edited hundreds of time since its creation. There are some things we have gotten wrong in it. Just like how scientists have gotten many things wrong before, too.

Remember when we found Pluto and we thought it was ten times the mass of the Earth? Today we understand it to be 0.2% of the Earth’s mass! And remember when we thought that because the Earth is made of dirt and rocks, that the stars had to be made of it, too? Today we understand that stars are hot balls of hydrogen and helium! Remember when we tried to measure the speed of light by taking lanterns on top of mountaintops and trying to time the on/off of the lights? Haha! Today we understand that light can travel the Earth’s surface in seven seconds! Remember when we legitimately thought the Moon had intelligent alien life on it? And then Mars? I mean really. Very distinguished and beloved scientists believed plenty of outlandish things. Not to mention we have used science for really, incredibly inhumane things (ahem, nuclear weapons, biological warfare, etc.).

Science is not perfect. A decent person won’t tell you that science has it all figured out and that religion has it all wrong. Though we have presented evidence over time that says, “Hey, you know how we’ve been interpreting the Earth as being merely a few thousand years old? Well we just found evidence [tons of it] that suggests it is much more exciting and dynamic than we thought!”

This evidence in no way suggests there is no God. It just means we are learning about our world. We are learning that we are only human and therefore, we do not hold all of the answers. If you want to think of it this way, God has given us clues along the way to help us grow closer to him. He has given us this information. He is helping us understand our own, collective purpose. Sometimes he even does things to save us from ourselves.

He can manifest himself as laws of nature. He can manifest himself as the Big Bang that led to the existence of this Universe. He can be the divine intervention in the evolutionary theory that ignites genetic mutation. He can be all of these things.

Science doesn’t say He can’t be a part of this newfound evidence. ​

My guess is that there has to be some deeper explanation. But that doesn’t mean the explanation has to be what the people themselves report—that they went to heaven and saw a god or gods.
​–Carl Sagan

Do you agree that worshipping can be different for everyone? Do you agree that branches of christianity stem from varying interpretations of statements in the bible? This is the same thing. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive pools of thought and the two topics have quite a lot they could learn from each other.

For one, religion can provide science a deeper meaning in research endeavors. Human values and scientific goals should be at the forefront of any endeavor, and never with malice.

Science has something to share with religion in how to interpret evidence and seeing beyond the surface, revealing the inner workings of life itself, its beauty, and what it has to offer us. Science can help awaken our religious experience as we walk through life.

This is a learning moment for us all. Not one of us has all of the answers. We are simply all searching for the answers in different ways.

Merging science and religion can be a powerful, unstoppable force. But currently the two are at odds globally, which can have devastating consequences. Over human history, religious conflict has killed so many and scientific advancements have been taken advantage of costing the lives of many more.

This is not necessary.

It is not the teachings of any God and it is written nowhere in the scientific method. Moving forward, let’s be mindful of our experiences and the information we absorb. Whether you are a religious scientist or a religious science skeptic, keep these things in mind to help yourself (and others) to grow their relationship between science and religion:

1. There are many real mysteries that not even science can explain. Go deeper. Keep asking questions. But most importantly, be okay with not having an explanation. Do not invent explanations that have no support.

Imagine our ancestors looking at the moon, the planets, the stars and making up stories to answer their need to understand. In many cases, the stories involved deities, such as the moon as a god. Now is that myth about the moon deeper because it was wrong? Should we waffle, and say, “Well, if we can redefine what we mean by a god, then we can still call the moon a god?” No. Let’s admit that the moon is not a god and move on. It seems to me that it is a much greater achievement to understand what the moon is really about—4½ billion years old, cratered by enormous explosions in its earliest history, a desolate world on which life never arose.
​–Carl Sagan

2. Be kind to others even when they don’t think like you.
3. Be skeptical. Ask for verification (constantly!).

 If someone claims a thing happens in a certain way, you do the experiment to check it out, to see if, in fact, it works as claimed. You examine the internal coherence of the idea. You test its logical structure. You see how well it agrees with other things which are reliably known. And only then do you start accepting new ideas.
​–Carl Sagan

4. Be more open to science and religion. After all, just look at all the advancement we have made in science. We have extended life expectancies, developed life saving equipment for thousands of medical conditions, developed communication that has made the entire globe more connected than ever before, we have sent humans not only into space but on the moon for Christ’s sake ;-). Religion has brought us a deep sense of purpose, community, and morality. We are in touch with what is right and wrong. We discuss what is right and wrong and how to establish moral code all of the time. We grow as a species in both respects because of this.

In short, ​pursue truth while practicing love. 

My deeply held belief is that if a god of anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence are provided by such a god. We would be unappreciative of those gifts (as well as unable to take such a course of action) if we suppressed our passion to explore the universe and ourselves. On the other hand, if such a traditional god does not exist, our curiosity and our intelligence are the essential tools for managing our survival. In either case, the enterprise of knowledge is consistent with both science and religion, and is essential for the welfare of our species.
​–Carl Sagan

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