My philosophy teacher

  • #101
DaveC426913
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...which I demonstrate by suggesting she apply it to her own real life.
But you know that's not what she meant, which means you're being deliberately obtuse.

You know she didn't mean gravity would change right now; she meant it could change at some arbitrarily distant time in the future.

I seriously question her powers of reason and motives. If she thinks a tiny, tiny probability should be given so much weight, let her action speak louder than words. Otherwise, her point is incredibly poorly made, and her motivation, therefore, highly suspect.
Well, remember, we weren't there. We did not hear what she said in context. We have only the OP's contextless transcript. And since we can't judge, we are obliged to give her the benefit of the doubt. For all we know, the next thing she said was "of course, that doesn't mean go jump off a cliff. We're pretty darn sure it won't change anytime soon - but the principle is there."

I see the point as similar to saying that QM asks the question 'is the Moon there when we aren't watching it?' or 'is the cat is two states at once?'


The budding scientist must be taught that our knowledge, while excellent, is not ironclad. To temper the numbers with a sanity check.


ar·gu·men·ta·tive *(ärgy-mnt-tv)
adj.
1. Given to arguing; disputatious.
2. Of or characterized by argument:
If I were, which I am not, then you would be also,
No. Comments like ''why doesn't she go jump off a cliff?" are discussion-closers, not discussion-openers. They designed to encourage derision and dismissal of the opposing case. They are appeals to emotion rather than rationality. That is argumentative.

How does it teach humility to coach people to doubt an assertion which has a minuscule probability of being erroneous?
Because miniscule is not zero.

In the classical world, a particle in a box will stay in that box FOR.EV.ER. In the quantum world, small as it may be, budding scientists must realize that our world is fuzzy around the edges. Gravity's constancy is the same kind of 'remember you can't speak for forever.'


Dave, it speaks well of you that your knee-jerk reaction was to assume...
It is not a knee-jerk reaction. But nice try :smile:
The hallmark of a knee-jerk reaction is evident in yours - when pressed to defend it, you went off on a tangent about UFOs and perpetual motion machines - as if she was guilty of saying these things. You judge this case on the merits of some other case(s) that you obviously relate to this one, yet they have no bearing here.

It was apparent that you had your arguments cocked and loaded for rapid fire long before this thread was started and you fired them whether or not they actually applied here. That is a knee-jerk reaction.
 
  • #102
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It's always easier to predict outcomes that lie 10 min from now than ones that lie 10 000 years away. The latter would be definitely more tentative and much more likely to be wrong in so many ways. You seem to extrapolating scientific conclusions to truths and extending them unreasonably far, which is what the teacher appears to be fighting against.
I think part of the problem is that as a nonscientist she sees 10000 years as a longgggggggggg time, but as far as basic physics is concerned it just isn't. A long time in this context would be more like 10^40 years
Suppose I could put myself into suspended animation and set to wake in 10000 years time, then I might have many worries of what I would wake up to, but a different law of gravity wouldn't be one of them.
 
  • #103
atyy
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You know she didn't mean gravity would change right now; she meant it could change at some arbitrarily distant time in the future.
But if she meant that, isn't that misleading? Logically we can't tell if induction works. Hence we don't know for sure if our local laws of physics hold throughout creation (I'm only using that word in case spacetime is not an applicable concept in some parts of it). Hence she should mean that we can't tell if Newton's law of gravity remains an equally good approximation 10 seconds from now, just as much as 10000 years from now. If she meant that 10 seconds from now we are surer than 10000 years from now, then I would really ask how that probability is being calculated. As chronon says, 10000 years from now is as good as (or as bad as) 10 seconds from now with respect to this law.
 
  • #104
DaveC426913
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But if she meant that, isn't that misleading? Logically we can't tell if induction works. Hence we don't know for sure if our local laws of physics hold throughout creation (I'm only using that word in case spacetime is not an applicable concept in some parts of it). Hence she should mean that we can't tell if Newton's law of gravity remains an equally good approximation 10 seconds from now, just as much as 10000 years from now. If she meant that 10 seconds from now we are surer than 10000 years from now, then I would really ask how that probability is being calculated. As chronon says, 10000 years from now is as good as (or as bad as) 10 seconds from now with respect to this law.
She's not claiming answers, she's simply reminding us the questions need to be asked. That is a lesson for budding scientists to keep in mind.
 
  • #105
atyy
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She's not claiming answers, she's simply reminding us the questions need to be asked. That is a lesson for budding scientists to keep in mind.
Yes, but being illogical is not a lesson for budding scientists to keep in mind. Being skeptical is. My claim was that being skeptical of 10000 years from now but not of 10 seconds from now is illogical, and insufficiently skeptical.
 
  • #106
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But if she meant that, isn't that misleading? Logically we can't tell if induction works. Hence we don't know for sure if our local laws of physics hold throughout creation (I'm only using that word in case spacetime is not an applicable concept in some parts of it). Hence she should mean that we can't tell if Newton's law of gravity remains an equally good approximation 10 seconds from now, just as much as 10000 years from now. If she meant that 10 seconds from now we are surer than 10000 years from now, then I would really ask how that probability is being calculated. As chronon says, 10000 years from now is as good as (or as bad as) 10 seconds from now with respect to this law.


You are assuming something to be a fact, based on the fact that you consider your assumption to be a fact. This is circular reasoning.


We assume that the laws of the universe DON'T change accross the universe and haven't changed throughout history. How is this a fact or truth? Assumptions have been found to be wrong multiple times, inductive reasoning too(and while this may not be the case, it serves the purpose of being skeptical towards claims that encompass 10 000 years)

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19429-laws-of-physics-may-change-across-the-universe.html
 
  • #108
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No, you have misread me. I am saying the opposite.
Sorry
 
  • #109
Pythagorean
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lots of nitpicking ITT
 
  • #110
atyy
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lots of nitpicking ITT
Nitpicking is not conserved. But who knows if that'll be true in 10000 years.
 
  • #111
Pythagorean
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:biggrin:
 
  • #112
Containment
Is it common for professors to make students read books in their field that they have wrote?
 
  • #113
Pythagorean
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Is it common for professors to make students read books in their field that they have wrote?
By their students do you mean they are advisers to the student or as teachers to a whole class? As a teacher, they should probably not show much bias. If they're your adviser though, you presumably are interested in their research so you should probably already be reading what they're about.
 
  • #114
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If your theory makes both correct predictions and incorrect ones, then it's just as falsified as if it only made incorrect ones. This principle has been applied to the phlogiston theory which also got some things right.

In practical terms, I think scientists would be reluctant to abandon a falsified theory if there were no better theory to take its place. However, this is not the case with Newton. Whenever Newton gets it right, so does Einstein. But when Newton gets it wrong, Einstein gets it right. Game over. The only thing left is to speculate whether in the future, Einstein may in his turn be falsified. In addition to philosophical reasons, I think there are theoretical reasons to expect it may. As I said before, there is currently no consistent theory including both gravity and quantum physics. Something's gotta give.
Yeah, actually I understood all this already. I was not entirely seriously (about 87.645% seriously) indulging in some emotional hissy-fitting about the word "falsified" being applied to Newton, whom I admire greatly for what he did under the circumstances he was in. Due to my emotional attachment to him I demand physics make an exception in his case and merely refer to him as "superseded", which doesn't sound so damning.

But this brings us to the fact that there does not seem to be one figure in the history of physics who has not been eventually proven to have gotten something important wrong for just about anything they got right. Einstein, evidently, didn't get Quantum Physics, and he's faulted for balking at Bohr. Galileo didn't get the pendulum right. Millikan got the method right, but then actually miscalculated the charge of an electron. And so on. You've heard all the stories. Science is self-correcting as has been noted here numerous times since I joined. It is not possible to propose anything without a gazillion people lining up ready to try and falsify it: Science is highly competitive. The notion scientists would be playing out an eternal comedy of errors without philosophers to remind them not to be arrogant and absolute is pretty silly. The best check and balance of any scientist is another scientist working on the same thing in the same field. If the thought of that other guy besting you doesn't prevent you from making any unwarranted assumptions, nothing will. The scientist who arrogantly assumes that the current 'laws' of nature are the last word...I've never actually encountered an example of one. All the people I have heard accuse scientists of being that way are crackpots et. al. who don't understand that there is an exceptionally good reason not to casually toss conservation of energy out and start working on a "perpetual, fuel-less motor" or , and are taken aback when told "Not gonna happen. Period."
 
  • #115
chiro
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I agree with what you said zoobyshoe but the only I want to add is to get other scientists that do not have a bias or invested interest in your work.

If you get all your work checked by people who have a high bias, have a vested interest in the science or the results, or have some other kind of incentive to produce a biased judgement (both negative or positive), then really we might as well be doing the 'high priest' thing.

If we get results checked by people with the above kind of bias, then humans being humans will not be doing real science in any high likelihood.
 
  • #116
Pythagorean
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This thread is not about scolding publishing scientists, it's about teaching overconfident students.

4e42cb359280f1313000245_blog.jpg
 
  • #117
chiro
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The child with the knife in the outlet was pretty good :)
 
  • #118
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But you know that's not what she meant, which means you're being deliberately obtuse.
People who are obtuse don't pretend to be obtuse. They strive to be acute.

You know she didn't mean gravity would change right now; she meant it could change at some arbitrarily distant time in the future.
I observed that she set it far in the future. I am guessing she chose 10,000 years because people naturally associate long time intervals with great change, which makes it psychologically easier to agree that whatever phenomenon you pick might be different. I am the one who asserted that, if it could happen at any point down the road, it could happen in ten minutes as well. Nothing she said excludes that alternative. She offers no suggestion of any possible mechanism for such a change, or even what the nature of the change that makes the law invalid might be, so there's no reason to suppose it's authentically time dependent.

"There is no definite means whatever of knowing if the law of Universal Gravitation will remain valid in 10,000 years."

The statement is not about change over long periods of time, it's about not being able to know something for certain. Therefore, it's perfectly valid to envision the suggested change happening much closer in time. The important "not knowing for certain" is intact.

Well, remember, we weren't there. We did not hear what she said in context. We have only the OP's contextless transcript. And since we can't judge, we are obliged to give her the benefit of the doubt. For all we know, the next thing she said was "of course, that doesn't mean go jump off a cliff. We're pretty darn sure it won't change anytime soon - but the principle is there."
The OP got the exact quotes he eventually posted from the text. She wrote the text and is teaching from it. If you're interested in the context, he can provide it. It seems obvious to me that if there are mitigating statements around the quoted part, he should have posted them long ago. Just in case, let's request he look and report back.

The budding scientist must be taught that our knowledge, while excellent, is not ironclad. To temper the numbers with a sanity check.
Not in dispute.
No. Comments like ''why doesn't she go jump off a cliff?" are discussion-closers, not discussion-openers. They designed to encourage derision and dismissal of the opposing case. They are appeals to emotion rather than rationality. That is argumentative.
Dave, I posted the definition of argumentative. Amazingly, you quoted it and had it right in front of you when posting your mis-definition of it. Derisive and dismissive are not synonymous with argumentative.

Here it is again:

ar·gu·men·ta·tive *(ärgy-mnt-tv)
adj.
1. Given to arguing; disputatious.
2. Of or characterized by argument:

Meaning 1. is the one that you might level against a person if they seem to chronically seek out arguments. There is no automatic connection between it and someone who is derisive, dismissive, or who appeals to emotion rather than reason.

What you are mistaking for "derision" is, in actual fact, an example of "Reducio Ad Absurdam":

In its most general construal, reductio ad absurdum – reductio for short – is a process of refutation on grounds that absurd – and patently untenable consequences would ensue from accepting the item at issue.
An ancient and accepted means of making a point. RyanM_B's quote was in the same vein.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/reductio/

Because miniscule is not zero.
Where do you draw the line and stop holding your breath? Should Einstein not have written GR because there's a non-zero possibility he'll look like a fool sometime between now and 10,000 years from now for not having forseen the Big Gravity Change? Does Newton look like a fool because he did not remotely anticipate Einstein?

In the classical world, a particle in a box will stay in that box FOR.EV.ER. In the quantum world, small as it may be, budding scientists must realize that our world is fuzzy around the edges. Gravity's constancy is the same kind of 'remember you can't speak for forever.'
The lesson is completely lost when you apply it to something that has a minuscule probability of happening. When you apply it to something that seems, at first, secure, but can be demonstrated not to be, then you make your point.
It is not a knee-jerk reaction. But nice try :smile:
The hallmark of a knee-jerk reaction is evident in yours - when pressed to defend it, you went off on a tangent...
"...the hallmark of a knee-jerk reaction"? Got a link? What school of psychology is this you're getting your info from? I've read a lot about the 'indicators' of things like lying, distress, displeasure, affection, and others, but I've never run across "the hallmark of a knee-jerk reaction".

The hallmark of a knee-jerk reaction is evident in yours - when pressed to defend it, you went off on a tangent...about UFOs and perpetual motion machines - as if she was guilty of saying these things. You judge this case on the merits of some other case(s) that you obviously relate to this one, yet they have no bearing here.
OK. I guess I have to spoon feed you once again. What she has in common with the UFO nuts, I was contending, was a shared tactic of trying to undermine Science in order to allow for their personal interest. I did not imply her statement was as nutty as what a UFO nut would say, Dave. I asserted she was using the same tactic. The UFO nuts, etc, I said, try to undermine things like conservation of energy, in order that their particular interest not be ruled out. Her motive was, I contended, to undermine Science to save face as a philosopher. Inferiority complex and all that. It's very weird to me that you have such a hard time sorting that out. I thought it was pretty clear I had ascribed the same tactic but a different specific interest to her. I fully understand she's not allied with UFO nuts, etc in their beliefs. My post did not compare her to them on the level of having said those things, herself. It compared her to them on the level of wanting to undermine science to protect personal beliefs.

It was apparent that you had your arguments cocked and loaded for rapid fire long before this thread was started and you fired them whether or not they actually applied here. That is a knee-jerk reaction.
It couldn't have been apparent because I didn't. I was completely on-the-level about how methodical and meticulous I was in looking at the statement. That does not insure I'm correct, it should merely assure you my reaction wasn't "knee-jerk".

I started composing this response about quarter to nine, P.M. and it's now 2 A.M.. I've been working on it continuously the whole time. I'm not a knee-jerk type poster. I think about what I'm saying.
 
  • #119
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I agree with what you said zoobyshoe but the only I want to add is to get other scientists that do not have a bias or invested interest in your work.

If you get all your work checked by people who have a high bias, have a vested interest in the science or the results, or have some other kind of incentive to produce a biased judgement (both negative or positive), then really we might as well be doing the 'high priest' thing.

If we get results checked by people with the above kind of bias, then humans being humans will not be doing real science in any high likelihood.
I agree, of course. Thoughtful feedback from someone you are not in competition with can be a great help. I'm just saying, if you publish, and you made important errors, they'll be seen and brought to your attention.

While he clearly is making a mockery, some philosophers can be too far out there to be practical (they might actually be technically correct or make a good point, but again its what I refer to as 'too much paranoia').

If you end up getting stuck in an 'analysis paralysis' then that doesn't do anyone any good. Finding the sweet spot between 'arrogance' and 'analysis paralysis' is something that will probably be debated for a very long time.
Feynman said a thing about 'analysis paralysis':

We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?"
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman

I didn't really realize I disliked philosophy till I started posting here and someone quoted a thing where Wittgenstein gets all balled up about the fact of how hard it is to actually define the word "game". He demonstrates well, that, while it seems it should be an easy word to define, it's actually excruciatingly complex. Which is fine, but whenever I hear someone use it I seem to automatically understand what they mean by it. "Philosophy" often seems to me to mean: The belief that one should position oneself relative to a concept such that it is maximally bewildering.
 
  • #120
chiro
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One thing that I think may lead us a step forward to solving the 'definition' problem that plagues philosophers and anyone paying attention to them is language.

The most precise way I see this happening to stop the endless debate is through mathematics, but I don't think this is feasible at this very time.

The best we can do if we use a written language like English is to create more and more definitions that have an unambiguous purpose and that are still easy to use.

The problem is that since we re-use terms so often (I think the word 'energy' alone has more than ten different interpretations) for many different purposes, this is such a huge cause for confusion and debate.
 
  • #121
DaveC426913
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People who are obtuse don't pretend to be obtuse. They strive to be acute.
While that's an interesting corollary, it has nothing to do with what I said. My claim is not that you are obtuse, but that you're not, but are pretending to be - deliberately taking the wrong meaning. Your comment above does not address that at all.

Dave, I posted the definition of argumentative. Amazingly, you quoted it and had it right in front of you when posting your mis-definition of it. Derisive and dismissive are not synonymous with argumentative.
Yes, because an entry in one dictionary, chosen by you, definitively determines how a word can be used to convey meaning in the English language. :uhh:

Seriously Zoob, this is beneath you. Don't make me invoke the "T"-word.


Where do you draw the line and stop holding your breath? Should Einstein not have written GR because there's a non-zero possibility he'll look like a fool sometime between now and 10,000 years from now for not having forseen the Big Gravity Change? Does Newton look like a fool because he did not remotely anticipate Einstein?
We don't draw the line. The student must ask themselves where the line is drawn, instead of just taking it for granted because everyone tells him so. That's the lesson here.

The lesson is completely lost when you apply it to something that has a minuscule probability of happening.
Tell me something. How do you know it has a miniscule probability of happening?



Got a link? What school of psychology is this you're getting your info from?
...
OK. I guess I have to spoon feed you once again.
These are as desperate as pretending you own the definition and usage of a word. Don't stoop to "T"-like tactics.


Look, I think we've beaten this up enough. I don't refute your viewpoint outright; only the prof knows what she really means, and each of us is entitled to interpret as best we can. I just think you are being needlessly dismissive of this lesson and sowing distrust.

Were the OP to agree with your viewpoint, I think a valuable lesson would be lost. You disagree. Fair enough. Let's be done before one of us says something they regret.
 
  • #122
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While that's an interesting corollary, it has nothing to do with what I said. My claim is not that you are obtuse, but that you're not, but are pretending to be - deliberately taking the wrong meaning. Your comment above does not address that at all.
I know it's not your claim. I did not ascribe it to you. It's my claim. I'm telling you I'm not that bright. If my posts seem acute in any way, it's because I spend so long writing and checking them. Don't worry about me pretending to be obtuse. I'm too busy pretending to be acute.
Yes, because an entry in one dictionary, chosen by you, definitively determines how a word can be used to convey meaning in the English language. :uhh:
I'm not wedded to that dictionary. If you have a dictionary that defines argumentative as dismissive and derisive, appealing to emotion rather than reason, I'll allow that you were 100% OK in using it that way. Otherwise, I'm faced with the surreal thought that you may think it's OK for people to make up their own personal definitions of words.

Seriously Zoob, this is beneath you. Don't make me invoke the "T"-word.
I don't know what the "T' word is, but I observe it's not beneath you to try and appeal to emotion rather than reason. Which is both ironic and hypocritical.

We don't draw the line. The student must ask themselves where the line is drawn, instead of just taking it for granted because everyone tells him so. That's the lesson here.
No. The philosophy teacher IS drawing a line. The line separates that which is secure from that which isn't. She draws the line such that everything you can possibly think of is on the insecure side. Don't even take gravity for granted. She is not saying: judge for yourself where it's OK to feel secure about knowledge. She is definitely saying: you can't be sure of anything.
Tell me something. How do you know it has a miniscule probability of happening?
The same way you know.
Look, I think we've beaten this up enough. I don't refute your viewpoint outright; only the prof knows what she really means, and each of us is entitled to interpret as best we can. I just think you are being needlessly dismissive of this lesson and sowing distrust.

Were the OP to agree with your viewpoint, I think a valuable lesson would be lost. You disagree. Fair enough. Let's be done before one of us says something they regret.
I can't let it go with you summing up by misrepresenting me: I am not dismissing the lesson. I stated explicitly that the lesson, as you stated it, it is not in dispute. Here again, as I remarked the last time we had one of these extended dialogs, it's like you're not even reading what I write. I said, explicitly "Not in dispute," and you, never-the-less characterize me as dismissing it.

I am, also, not "sowing distrust". I am expressing distrust. The former implies some larger devious agenda which isn't there.

I certainly don't mind if you don't buy my take on her statement. What's bothering me is the strong sense I'm getting that you feel my take must be squelched in favor of yours. The tactic of trying to inspire guilt with things like "Shame on you! You're better than that! That's beneath you!" are "hallmarks" as you put it, of an intensity that strikes me as irrational under the circumstances. Between her statements and what he reported about her reputation, I think you blindly risk condemning him to a semester of science-bashing, which really wouldn't help anyone.
 
  • #123
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The problem is that since we re-use terms so often (I think the word 'energy' alone has more than ten different interpretations) for many different purposes, this is such a huge cause for confusion and debate.
This is what got Wittgenstein all balled up, He chose a word that has a huge number of meanings and tried to extrapolate some sort of 'core' sense of the word that still encompassed all the meanings. Unfortunately, using it in one sense can rule out its meaning in another sense. Paralysis. But it's an artificial problem that arises only when you try to do something of that nature. In every day circumstances, people are rarely confused by the word.

The English language is exceptionally prone to fast evolution. I learned in a thread here a couple years back that most other languages aren't nearly as fast changing. That being the case, I don't think dedicated definitions; one word, one definition, would help. Any word you create in English is prone to quick branching.

I also don't agree that things can't be defined precisely, as Feynman asserted. I think he, himself, may have been at a loss sometimes, but that is because he wasn't much of a word-guy. He was very much prone to casual speech. There are a lot of physicists who were impressively articulate, even on non-physics topics, so this is not a problem with physicists as a group. Feynman's manner of expressing himself was what you'd call "down to earth". I don't imagine he had a copy of "Elements of Style".

So, I don't actually think there is any serious definition problem. The gap in understanding can probably always be ascribed to the unavoidable difference in experiences between any two given people or groups of people. Having had my particular life experiences I am ultimately unable to grasp things the way you grasp them, and visa versa. The shared fact of being human assures some overlap only.
 
  • #124
Ryan_m_b
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I learned in a thread here a couple years back that most other languages aren't nearly as fast changing. That being the case, I don't think dedicated definitions; one word, one definition, would help. Any word you create in English is prone to quick branching.
When reading this I couldn't help but be reminded of...


34ry721.png
 
  • #125
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The nicest thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.
-Ken Olsen
 

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