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Boston University researchers Béla Suki (left) and Jarred Mondoñedo have developed a computer model of emphysema that could help predict patient survival and quality of life following treatment. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
Emphysema is a long-term and devastating lung disease. As it progresses, the body’s own inflammatory enzymes slowly digest and destroy alveoli, the delicate sacs where oxygen from air is transferred to the bloodstream. The damaged alveoli form large holes in lung tissue that impair gas exchange in the rest of the organ, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, chronic cough, and, eventually, death. According to the American Lung Association, 4.7 million Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
In new research, two Boston University researchers have gained insight into the progression of the disease by looking at it with engineers’ eyes. Their work, published in the February 9, 2023, issue of PLOS Computational Biology and funded by the National Institutes of Health, suggests how mechanical forces operating on a microscopic scale could help to predict patient survival and quality of life following treatment.
“In the future, you should be able to optimize treatment for a specific patient,” says Béla Suki, a BU College of Engineering (ENG) professor of biomedical engineering and corresponding author on the study. “Very few computational studies have been able to address quality of life.”
Emphysema has no cure, and for many years the last-ditch treatment for the disease was an invasive surgery called lung volume reduction, in which a surgeon opens a patient’s chest and removes the diseased, inflamed portions of the lung. The surgery gives the remaining healthy lung tissue room to expand and allows the patient to breathe. But the procedure only works in some people, and the effects vary widely among patients.
In recent years, a less-invasive treatment called bronchoscopic lung volume reduction (bLVR) has emerged. In this outpatient procedure, a surgeon inserts a bronchoscope into a patient’s diseased lung and releases a sealant, or, alternately, a coiled spring, which collapses the diseased tissue, closing gaps and giving the remaining healthy lung tissue room to expand. Interest in these treatments has heightened recently, as the results of clinical trials like REVOLENS, published in JAMA in 2023, showed significant improvement for some patients six months after surgery. But no research has explained why the procedures work better in some patients than others.
“There’s been a lot of research, clinical trials. But not much investigation of what’s happening at the microscopic scale,” says Jarred Mondoñedo (ENG’11,’13,’21, MED’21), a BU School of Medicine (MED) MD candidate, an ENG PhD candidate, and lead author on the PLOS Computational Biology study. “That’s where the direction of this research came from. We said, ‘Let’s really find out what’s going on.’”
Mondoñedo and Suki built on previously published results from Suki, who had studied the elastic properties of healthy and diseased lung tissue by actually stretching samples in the lab. One of Suki’s students found, accidentally, that emphysematous tissue broke under surprisingly low strain. This led Suki to further investigate the mechanical forces at work as emphysema progresses.
“Even if you quit smoking, emphysema keeps progressing, though at a lower rate,” says Suki. “The reason is that when something ruptures in the lung, the tension that element carried is going to be distributed around. The other elements will start to carry a little bit higher force, so they are at a higher risk of failure. And that makes a progressive feedback.”
To better understand this process, Mondoñedo and Suki built a simple computer program, called an elastic spring network model, to mimic lungs with emphysema. “It’s not a super complicated model,” says Mondoñedo, who says it represents the connections and tensions between sections of lung tissue as hexagons of interconnected springs. “We can go through and ‘break’ the springs, and we get a new configuration that represents the progression of emphysema,” he says.
Mondoñedo and Suki ran the computer model in different ways, allowing the emphysema to progress, then “intervening” with various treatment—such as surgery—at different times, then allowing the model to progress further and quantifying the results.
“In the computer, you can play God,” says Suki. “We just do the surgery in the computer, and then we let it evolve, and now it’s easy for us to compare the rate at which things happen.” They measured a factor called “compliance,” which quantifies the stretchiness of lung tissue. “And we could say that, well, if the compliance reaches such-and-such a value, basically the lung is so much destroyed that the person dies. And then we can predict how long it would take, with or without intervention, and also what your lung function is, how easy it is to breathe.”
Their computer model suggests that bLVR performs as well as, or better than, traditional lung volume reduction surgery, and also suggests a mechanism—force distribution and its relation to lung structure—that explains, for the first time, why this is the case. It also confirms previous findings that the procedures work best for patients who are affected only in specific parts of their lungs, rather than evenly throughout the lung tissue.
Both scientists express hope that their model may someday help physicians and patients decide which procedure will work best for each individual. “If you could take a CT scan of a patient and then somehow fit that data into our network model, you could develop a strategy based on that particular patient, rather than one-size-fits-all,” says Mondoñedo. “In that way I think it could translate into clinics and enhance care.”
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A Cartoonish Way to Prevent Cruelty
In graduate school, I mostly studied –isms. Feminism. Marxism. Racism. I got a Master’s degree in Cultural Theory, which is sort of an intersection between philosophy and deep analysis of English literature. Mostly, I read philosophers who talked about literature and wanted to change the world. When I started my course of study, I thought I would get a PhD. I thought I would become a professor. But over the course of two years of graduate study, I realized that all we were doing was reading and talking. The authors we read were writing mostly in terms so abstract that you could hardly divine what they were talking about, let alone what they wanted to accomplish. It seemed a terrible way to change the world, talking but not doing anything. So, I left.[Image via Cinematical]
There’s a fad going around Facebook this week that is bothering me. Lots of people I know are changing their avatars to cartoon characters. Apparently, a children’s rights organization called NSPCC, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, has inspired the campaign, which seeks to replace all of the faces on Facebook with childhood memories. Thus, people are changing their profile pictures to their favorite cartoon characters.
At first, I was ready to jump on board. I started looking for pictures of my favorite characters. I wanted to find a good picture of Sky Warp from the Transformers. He was a cool black and purple jet that transformed into an evil robot. I couldn’t find anything good, so I started browsing G.I. Joe cartoon images.
The irony didn’t escape me. As part of a campaign to promote awareness of cruelty, I was looking for pictures of villains and soldiers of war. Sure, nobody ever died in cartoons, but it still felt odd. But then something else occurred to me.
I do not support cruelty to children. I am a loving parent. I’ve been a caring high school teacher. I was a supportive camp counselor to kids ages 10 – 14. I still keep in touch with former students, former campers. I was a swimming instructor for kids, specializing in hydrophobes and other difficult cases. I taught infant swim classes, teaching parents how to teach their children to swim. I worked with special needs children at camp and in my schools.
Why do I need to do anything more to prove that I’m not in favor of cruelty to children? I like my Facebook avatar. It’s a cool, somewhat abstract self-portrait of my eye on a cracked phone screen. I put some thought into it, and I think it says something interesting about me. Know what doesn’t say anything interesting about me? Snake Eyes. Megatron.
The only people who see my Facebook avatar will be my friends and people who search Facebook for me. If any one of those people needs me to prove that I don’t support cruelty towards children, they shouldn’t be my friend, and I don’t care if they can find me in a search.
It seems like just a lot of talk with no action behind it. I don’t think that my Facebook friends are cruel towards children. I’m not friends with anyone who ever gave me the impression they were cruel, and I hope I’m right. But changing my Facebook profile picture seems like just about the weakest thing I could do to prevent cruelty to children. It seems like an easy, self-aggrandizing step, with no real muscle behind it.
Once, I encountered a case of a parent who was punishing a child in an especially cruel manner. I won’t go into details, except to say that I had to call child protective services and file a report. It was a difficult thing to do, because the end result might have been separating a child from her parent. But it was the right thing to do, because I have never believed in cruel punishment, and I will put my feelings and my reputation on the line to protect a child.
If you’re not on a front-line job with children, there are still many ways to prevent cruelty. You can offer your time to organizations that need help. If you don’t have free time, you can make a trade, instead. Give time to your job, which will in turn give you money, and then give some of that money to the NSPCC. That’s the way the world works, and I think we’re better off for it. There is nothing wrong with giving money instead of your free time or effort. Either way, you are giving support.
Enough with the empty gestures. If I change my Facebook avatar, I’m telling a bunch of people who already know me that I’m against cruelty towards children. Also, I like puppy dogs and enjoy chocolate, in case you didn’t know. If you want to raise awareness about cruelty towards children, do something real. Find a way to tell people who haven’t already gotten the message, or support groups that can get the message to the people who need to hear it.
Changing a profile picture, hitting the “Like” button on Facebook, slapping a bumper sticker on your car, these are the most insignificant and self-centered ways of making a statement. If you aren’t exposing yourself to people you don’t know, you aren’t spreading the message. If you think you can send a message by doing something effortlessly, you don’t know how real change is accomplished.
I know your heart is in the right place. I know you want to do something good, especially during this time of year. But helping to change the world takes more than abstract reading and talking. It takes real interaction with the world around you.
The iPhone is still one of the only mainstream smartphones on the market today that doesn’t offer a way to place widgets directly beside your Home Screen icons. Most Android handsets can already do this, and from what we can gather, Apple may be working on something similar to this for iOS 14. Unfortunately for those on vanilla iOS 13 and earlier, swiping over to the Today page is as close as you’re going to get to this experience.
Fortunately for jailbreakers, these silly boundaries are easy to break. A brand new and free jailbreak tweak called HSWidgets by iOS developer DGh0st lets users inject all sorts of widgets directly into the Home Screen interface, effectively having them ‘snap’ into place alongside the bevy of app icons that you might already have.
HSWidgets supports all of your existing Today widgets, including those preinstalled by Apple and those added to your device after installing third-party apps that support them, however it also includes custom widgets made to work specifically for HSWidgets, and they’re configurable by the end user.
In the screenshot examples above, you’ll see just a few examples of some of the widget choices HSWidgets brings to the table. On the far-left is a Lock Screen-style date and time display. In the center is a widget that grabs a random photo from your Camera Roll to display, and on the far-right is an example of the Stocks Today widget being displayed.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. All of HSWidgets’ custom widgets can be resized to take up more or less space on the Home Screen. By entering Home Screen editing mode, you’ll reveal special buttons on the widget, such as a Settings button to configure the widget’s behavior and a Resizing button to change how many spaces the widget takes up on the Home Screen:
You’ll see that the date and time widget provides settings for its alignment and for resetting everything to the default values. As you might come to expect, each widget has its own options tailored for its needs.
HSWidgets also includes an option to add blank icon spaces to your Home Screen. Those blank icon spaces appear as little widgets while in Home Screen editing mode, but when you return to normal Home Screen mode, you will see blank spaces between your app icons where you’ve placed them. These are great for creating custom Home Screen layouts to add emphasis to your wallpaper:
As for using HSWidgets, there aren’t really any options to configure. Instead, you just enter Home Screen editing mode, tap on any of the blank spaces indicated by outlined squares, and choose a widget that you want to add. From there, you can configure any of that widget’s properties and place it on the Home Screen:
All widgets added to the Home Screen with HSWidgets can be moved around just like app icons, and so they’ll ‘snap’ into place without giving the Home Screen a dirty appearance.
We think HSWidgets is a really nifty add-on for jailbroken iOS 13 devices, and it seems that the developer will be adding more widgets to the tweak in the future based on user requests. If you’re interested in trying HSWidgets, then you can download it for free from DGh0st’s repository via your favorite package manager.
If you’re not already using DGh0st’s repository, then you can add it to your package manager with the following URL:
On June 21, Search Engine Journal’s Philippine team had the privilege of attending a one day marketing conference called SEO Summit 2014. I interviewed one of the hosts, Sean Si, about his company SEO Hacker and its humble beginnings.You mentioned at SEO Summit that your company, SEO Hacker, started out as a one-man team before becoming one of the leading SEO companies in the Philippines. Can you share a brief history of your company’s journey?
Yeah, sure! I started providing SEO services as a side job in January of 2010–one month before I graduated from college. I studied IT but I was a really bad student because I didn’t like the course to start with. It was fun for me because I love writing and I got to work from home.
Things started to roll November of that year. Clients grew and I was looking to register SEO Hacker as a legal business, which I did April 2011. I met some people along the way, such as Jason Acidre, who I hired to work remotely for me. He did some link building during that time for my clients. I also hired an editor who worked remotely to manage my outsourced writers.
I worked solo until I figured I couldn’t do it alone anymore. Clients were growing, I couldn’t see myself working with remote people because I didn’t know better during the time.
So I hired my first two in-house guys November 2011 to help me out and rented a small 30 sqm. office where we could stay, brainstorm, train and work. It was a very exciting time for me. I’ve always imagined handling my own team.
Today we’ve grown to an in-house team of more than 20 people and counting. Some of us work remotely (including myself) because we have systems in place that allow us to be efficient and productive even when we’re working from home or anywhere else.What tips could you share about hiring an SEO team, especially for start-up businesses?
To make my answer more complete, I want to take an excerpt about hiring from my book (to be published in hard and soft copy this August) since I wrote it out there anyway.
“Hiring people is perhaps one of the most difficult and critical things in starting up a company. You don’t simply hire people to relieve your team of pressure. That would be stupid. No, you hire the right people. Why?
Because the right people are self-motivated, driven, and love working with the same kind of people. The right people hate working with the wrong people. You don’t want to dilute your team with the wrong people. This is perhaps one of the most perplexing questions I’ve ever asked myself when I was starting out: “How do I know if I’m hiring the right people?”
As our clients grew, so did our need for people to help us do the job. My hiring strategy started out as posts in Facebook. I had more than 2,500 friends there and they would refer people they knew to SEO Hacker. Which is completely fine–at least it came from a connection somewhere–until we’ve exhausted that strategy. And we didn’t exhaust just my Facebook, we exhausted all my current team’s Facebook connections.
So we got all the people we could from Facebook connections and referrals. There were some who I had to lay off. There were some who just suddenly up and left and never came back. There were some who politely said their goodbye. In all, we’ve had some people come and go in our early years.
Of course, as the founder of the company and the main leader, it breaks my heart to see good people leave–in whichever way. We spent time together, had fun, learned a lot, but now had to part ways. That’s just how it is in business. You can’t really stop people from leaving. But you don’t have to wait until people tell you they’re leaving to do something.
So we finally consented to getting job ad packages from job websites like Jobstreet in hopes of getting the right people. We have hiring processes and strategies in place. But how do you know if the person is the right fit?
Three things: Character, Commitment and Skill.
Character is something you can never trade nor largely develop. It is something that has been mostly intact within a person since the day they became conscious of their personality and environment. It’s heavily difficult to affect character in terms of work ethics, camaraderie, integrity, and overall values. I place a heavy weight on a person’s character. Someone who I think does not have the right character for the job will not make it to the team. That person may well just affect the team chemistry negatively.
Commitment deals with a person’s drive and loyalty to the company. How far do you think this person will run for you when push comes to shove? How long will he or she stay and help build your company’s dream and vision? Yes, long-term commitment is rewarded but it is first sought in the hiring process. I continually ask applicants “How do you see yourself with SEO Hacker five years from now?” I’ll have a good idea of their level of commitment from their answer right there.
Skill is one of the last attributes of a person I weigh in the hiring process. That’s because skill can be taught much easier than character. It can be affected and improved by processes, environment, and tools. However, a person with little to no skill to start with has no place in SEO Hacker. We are a team that is looking to help us build a great, lasting company, not someone who will slow us down. We don’t spoon feed anything in our team. In fact, we make sure that every new hire hits the ground running–with shoes, of course.
One of the most effective ways to ensure low churn rate in your team is to sell them a dream. A vision. Something that you know you’re honestly headed to. Something that you’re trying to attain, even now, with little goals every day. I sell my people a dream. And not just any dream. A dream that will come true–and I myself will die trying to reach it.
One of the things I love to tell my people is that we’re going to have our own campus someday. A place where we’ll have our own sports complex, our own dormitory, research and development lab, support center, and so on and so forth. This is something that may be quite far from where we are today–but it is something that I’m definitely shooting for as the owner and founder. And since we’re growing, it’s looking truer and truer each day.
One step at a time.”The year 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Philippines’ first connection to the Internet. In your opinion, how much has the local SEO scene changed over the past years?
Internet usage has definitely changed in the Philippines. A whole lot of people are using the Internet. Mobile data has also changed the way we live our lives. We can now use the web even when we’re away from home, and it just makes more sense for us to use SEO to make our local search results better.I noticed on your website that you’re writing your first book. Can you share something about it?
Sure! It’s a book about how I started up SEO Hacker–all the risks, challenges, failures, and successes I’ve been through. It’s a book that’s meant to talk to people who are trying to start things up no matter where they are in life. The book deals with all things startup; from hiring, managing people, leading from the front, dealing with risk and the ‘lows’ of business, and so on and so forth. I found I really enjoyed writing about how to start-up a business when I started my “secret” personal blog.
The votes on my Qeryz microsurvey tool tell me that people prefer the title “CEO at 22: The Risks, Challenges, Failures, and Success of Starting Up Young.” I prefer that title, too so it’s probably what my book’s title going to be.
Hopefully it’ll be published this August. I’m finishing the secondary editing, I’ll bounce it to another editor and then I’ll be the final editor. The layout and cover design will be done next week. After that, it’s just a matter of costing and paper picking with the printer and we’re good to go. Soft copies will be out sooner though and will be colored, so I think it’s better to get the soft copy. It’ll be on my website’s sidebar when it’s available for purchase.Being part of the SEO industry for years now, what would you consider as your biggest accomplishment to date?
I would consider my biggest accomplishment to be providing jobs for my team. I think that being an entrepreneur, it’s one of the best things we do to give people jobs. And not just any job, but a job that they love.
All other accomplishments pale in comparison to that. Whenever I see my team happy and enjoying their work and their environment, it makes me really glad.Bonus Question: I see on your Google+ account that you have a sweet tooth. What is, by far, the best dessert you’ve ever tried?
I’ll give the Belgian chocolate cheesecake at Afters Cafe along Tomas Morato the crown on that one. It’s really the best dessert I’ve tasted thus far.
Featured Image: docstockmedia via Shutterstock
The simple solution to speed up digitalization is to turn everyone into a Citizen Data Scientist.
A brief survey was conducted at a workshop to gauge the issues and opinions of the participants about citizen data science. Additionally, the poll indicates that these IT executives are still in the early phases of implementing citizen data science projects, even if the sample size of 60 respondents is too small to make any conclusions:
This apparent lack of development is far from encouraging considering that data visualization and preparation tools became widely used 10 years ago. IT and data executives must intensify data governance programs that aid citizen data science initiatives if they want to move things in the right way.Transform compliance risks into force multipliers for citizen data science
sharing sensitive information with others and putting compliance in danger;
unlawful disclosure of information to others outside the company;
making incorrect conclusions based on assumptions and misunderstanding data definitions;
sharing analytics and insights without confirming outcomes and evaluating the algorithms;
Making visualizations without following any standards or style requirements makes it harder for employees to comprehend the outcomes.
Of course, the dangers are greater now because the majority of businesses analyze large data sets, employ several analytics tools, and create bespoke code for their machine learning models. For actions that generate income and operational efficiency, the business uses analytical models, and errors can be expensive. To prevent risk from speeding the pace of citizen data science projects, data governance strives to satisfy compliance needs, knowledge gaps, and data quality objectives.Put business analysts and citizen data scientists together
Citizen data journalists should not be provided with self-service analytics that just let the user work everything out on their own. To provide various kinds of analysis and visualization that are useful to everyone, firms should ideally match users with BI experts. According to Michael Golub, senior vice president of analytics and machine learning at Anexinet, “having a business power user linked up with a seasoned BI practitioner may typically lead to greater outcomes faster than putting the burden into either group solely.” Visualization requires both technical and creative skills. One strategy to make the most of the time spent creating and developing is to adopt an agile business/tech-working-together approach.Pick the appropriate self-service equipment
“Making your visualization tool is a fool’s errand, as we painfully discovered. It takes time, is quite expensive, and is still inferior to available options “Swann clarified. “You have to choose a technique that makes visualization simple and adaptable.” Organizations looking to empower citizen data scientists should search for self-service analytics platforms with scalability and the capacity to effortlessly interface with data sources that are important to the company, according to Samantha Marsh, the marketing coordinator at iDashboards. Consider adopting a solution that kickstarts your projects with established visualization templates if speed and simplicity are crucial to your business,” said Marsh.Pay attention to the users
Both IT and BI teams must pay attention to users to acquire the technology and procedures that work best for them. “One of the toughest realities to learn about big data and visualization is that no IT person can tell marketing folks what the end-user needs to see. Although we may counsel them along the process, they must develop their own opinions to make decisions “added Barak. Data scientists concur, but they underline that citizen data scientists must also put in their labor.Cultivate personalities Check the data
Maintaining clean and well-managed data streams is one of the key responsibilities that IT plays in empowering citizen data scientists. This involves making sure that people only have access to the data they require to perform their duties and that data is safe throughout its entire lifespan.More Trending Stories
The following is an excerpt adapted from The Secret World of Weather: How to Read Signs in Every Cloud, Breeze, Hill, Street, Plant, Animal, and Dewdrop by Tristan Gooley.
Here’s an experiment I’d like you to try over the next day or two. Check out a weather forecast on the Internet. Zero in on anything it says about the wind. How strong is it, what direction is it coming from? Then step outside. I guarantee that the wind you feel will be totally different to the one that was forecast. But why?
The wind that is forecast belongs to a different weather world to the one we live in. The forecasted wind is there, but it’s blowing about one hundred feet above your head. The wind you actually feel is made up of a cast of different characters, breezes that are much richer and more colourful than anything that is bland enough to be true over a whole forecast region. Six new winds are born every time a breeze hits a building in the city.
In a walk of ten minutes, you should expect to meet ten different winds – and none of them will appear in a forecast. This diversity is true of every aspect of weather. There are hundreds of clues and signs that reveal this hidden world and they lie in clouds, plants, animals, streets, frost hollows, and sun pockets. They are there, waiting to be discovered, but you’ll miss them if you don’t know where to look. Because they are too local, too personal, to ever appear in regional reports.
Once you get to know what to look for, the signs take on a personality and every minute outdoors is like meeting old friends. Even the less friendly elements are worth getting to know. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of rain characters from The Secret World of Weather:Rainbirds
When we walk through woods after rain there will always be secondary showers, as some of the rain that is being held in the canopy is shaken loose by the wind. We can hear the breeze responsible, as it shakes the tops of the trees. But there are other even gentler secondary showers that sound and feel different, and they encourage us to look up.
When the rain stops, the water on the upper branches accumulates in a precarious equilibrium. The leaves hold the perfect amount of water for that moment, some drops sitting on the leaf surfaces, others hanging from the tips. The water will sit there until it dries or is disturbed, and because the balance is finely tuned, it doesn’t take much of a disturbance to shake it free.
I first started to notice the showers caused by birds taking off when I paired the loud flapping of wood pigeons with the fat dollops of rain that fell onto my head. But since I spotted the racket and rainfall of these rambunctious birds, I have learned to sense the odd lighter shower that is too local, too narrow, too delicate for a breeze. Looking up, I have seen woodpeckers, corvids, and even small songbirds landing or taking off.
Credit:The ExperimentShapes, Patterns and Time
[Related: Make your own weather station with recycled materials.]
Rain stipples the softest ground, leaving familiar pockmarks in mud, sand, silt, or snow. They tell us about the character of the rain: hard or soft, short or long. The bigger the gaps, the shorter the rain. In soft mud or sand, try to notice the difference between regular, lighter prints of rain and the deeper, less regular marks of secondary showers. These imperfect, cruder raindrop prints show us where a breeze or bird has shaken down the heavy drops. An hour ago, a crow took off from a branch fifty feet above our path, yet that story, written in rain, is still fresh by our feet.Ragged Bottoms
Is it going to rain? What a popular question. The key to longer-term forecasts lies in the earlier chapters about clouds and fronts, but we will often find ourselves looking at an individual cloud and wondering if it’s about to soak us.
However somber a cloud appears, if it has a neat horizontal base and good visibility below, it is unlikely to rain on you.Rain Ghosts
From time to time you may see what look like thin streaks falling from the base of clouds: virga. This is rain that evaporates before it reaches the ground—rain we can sometimes see but never feel. Virga consists of droplets or ice crystals that are just large enough to fall but not substantial enough to make the journey through the drier air below to the ground. If there is a strong wind at cloud level, the streaks can be seen falling behind the cloud as they drop into the slower wind below them. Although most common in hot, arid regions, virga can be seen trailing from the base of clouds anywhere.
Virga is an in-between sign: Conditions are nearly right for rain, but there isn’t enough water in the air yet. Like so many weather signs, virga is most useful in noticing a trend. Virga after heavy rain is common and is part of an improving situation; after clear skies, it means rain is not far off.
[Related: Six clouds you can use to predict the weather.]
Excerpted from The Secret World of Weather by Tristan Gooley © 2023. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment, LLC. Available everywhere books are sold. All other rights reserved.
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