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#16315 - 11/10/06 12:37 AM The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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The following was published in the January, 1931, issue of Modern Review. It is the transcript of a conversation between Rabindranath Tagore and Professor Albert Einstein on 14th July, 1930, at the latter's residence in Kaputh).
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Einstein : Do you believe in the Divine as isolated from the world?

Tagore : Not isolated. The infinite personality of Man comprehends the Universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the truth of the Universe is human truth. I have taken a scientific fact to explain this. Matter is composed of protons and electrons, with gaps between them, but matter may seem to be solid without the links in spaces which unify the individual electrons and protons. Similarly humanity is composed of individuals, yet they have their interconnection of human relationship, which gives living unity to man's world. The entire universe is linked up with us, as individuals, in a similar manner - it is a human universe. I have pursued this thought through art, literature and the religious consciousness of man.

Einstein : There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe -the world as a unity dependent on humanity, and the world as a reality independent of the human factor.

Tagore : When our universe is in harmony with man, the eternal, we know it as truth, we feel it as beauty.

Einstein : This is the purely human conception of the universe.

Tagore : There can be no other conception. This world is a human world - the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of the Eternal Man whose experiences are through our experiences.

Einstein : This is a realization of the human entity.

Tagore : Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realized the Supreme Man who has no individual limitations through our limitations. Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals, it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes these truths and links them up with our deeper needs; our individual consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to truth, and we know this truth as good through our own harmony with it.

Einstein : Truth, then, or beauty is not independent of man?

Tagore : No.

Einstein : If there would be no human beings any more, the Apollo of Belvedere would no longer be beautiful.

Tagore : No!

Einstein : I agree with regard to this conception of Beauty, but not with regard to Truth.

Tagore : Why not? Truth is realized through man.

Einstein : I cannot prove that my conception is right, but that is my religion.

Tagore : Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony which is in the Universal Being, Truth the perfect comprehension of the Universal mind. We individuals approach it through our own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experiences, - through our illumined consciousness - how, otherwise, can we know Truth?

Einstein : I cannot prove that scientific truth must be conceived as a truth that is valid independent of humanity; but I believe it firmly. I believe, for instance, that the Pythagorean theorem in geometry states something that is approximately true, independent of the existence of man. Anyway, if there is a reality independent of man, there is also a truth relative to this reality; and in the same way the negation of the first engenders a negation of the existence of the latter.

Tagore : Truth, which is one with the Universal Being, must essentially be human; otherwise whatever we individuals realize as true can never be called truth, at least the truth which is described as scientific and which only can be reached through the process of logic, in other words, by an organ of thoughts which is human. According to Indian philosophy there is Brahman, the absolute Truth which cannot be conceived by the isolation of the individual mind or described by words but can only be realized by completely merging the individual in its infinity. But such a truth cannot belong to science. The nature of truth which we are discussing is an appearance, that is to say, what appears to be true to the human mind and therefore is human, and may be called Maya or illusion.

Einstein : So according to your conception, which may be the Indian conception, it is not the illusion of the individual but of humanity as a whole.

Tagore : In science we go through the discipline of eliminating the personal limitations of our individual minds and thus reach that comprehension of truth which is in the mind of the Universal Man.

Einstein : The problem begins whether truth is independent of our consciousness.

Tagore : What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of which belong to the super-personal man.

Einstein : Even in our everyday life, we feel compelled to ascribe a reality independent of man to the objects we use. We do this to connect the experiences of our senses in a reasonable way. For instance, if nobody is in this house, yet that table remains where it is.

Tagore : Yes, it remains outside the individual mind but not the universal mind. The table which I perceive is perceptible by the same kind of consciousness which I possess.

Einstein : Our natural point of view in regard to the existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack - no primitive beings even. We attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity, it is indispensable for us, this reality which is independent of our existence and our experience and our mind - though we cannot say what it means.

Tagore : Science has proved that the table as a solid object is an appearance and therefore that which the human mind perceives as a table would not exist if that mind were naught. At the same time it must be admitted that the fact that the ultimate physical reality is nothing but a multitude of separate revolving centres of electric force, also belongs to the human mind. In the apprehension of truth there is an eternal conflict between the universal human mind and the same mind confined in the individual. The perpetual process of reconciliation is being carried on in our science, philosophy, in our ethics. In any case, if there be any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing. It is not difficult to imagine a mind to which sequence of things happens not in space but only in time like the sequence of notes in music. For such a mind such conception of reality is akin to the musical reality in which Pythagorean geometry can have no meaning. There is the reality of paper, infinitely different from the reality of literature. For the kind of mind possessed by the moth which eats that paper literature is absolutely non-existent, yet for man's mind literature has a greater value of truth than the paper itself. In a similar manner if there be some truth which has no sensuous or rational relation to human mind, it will ever remain as nothing so long as we remain human beings.

Einstein : Then I am more religious than you are!

Tagore : My religion is in the reconciliation of the Super-personal Man, the universal human spirit, in my own individual being. This has been the subject of my Hibbert Lectures, which I have called "The Religion of Man."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

No proselytizing please. Do what Einstein and Tagore did ... express opinions. The point here is NOT to invite quotations from any specific religion and any such quotations will see the sharp side of the hatchet. But rather to invite discussion of the nature of reality.

Enjoy.
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#16316 - 11/10/06 01:41 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
terrytnewzealand Offline
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It would have been really interesting if the conversation had included comments from an articulate dog. And I thought the Judeo-Christian group of religions was excessively human-centred. I agree that religion is a human construct but I doubt if we could say the same of reality.

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#16317 - 11/10/06 01:47 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
jjw Offline
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A note:

"Einstein : Then I am more religious than you are!"

Whose truth?

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#16318 - 11/10/06 01:51 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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I think it would be a particularly pathetic universe if its value rested solely upon the prospect that our species exists on this single ball of dirt.

It is remarkably self-centered and arrogant to think we are alone or that we matter any more than anyone anywhere else.
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#16319 - 11/10/06 08:02 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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Wow, I'm still thinking about this. Every time I read it, I get a different take on it. Plus my computer locks up if I spend too much time reading. I've copied it and will read it more and also fully. Some of it sound very similar to other things we've written around these fora recently.

Thanks mucho DA,
Until....
~samwik
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#16320 - 11/10/06 08:16 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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These terms, that just pop up as the conversation progresses, make it hard to follow. re:
Supreme Man, Super-personal Man, the Universal Mind, Universal Man, Eternal Man

I wonder if he's making it up as he goes along, or... (probably all written down somewhere). Must be nice to have all those terms, to help one talk about this. Poor Einstein is limited to non-capitalized words. (I'm adding sarcastically)

~samuntil
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16321 - 11/10/06 11:32 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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Samwick: I think you have identified one of the problems with a lot of conversations and writing. The fact that the terms are, at best, ill-defined.

I have no idea what is met by "the Universal Mind" and worse yet I've no doubt that if I found 100 people who claimed they do ... that I would get 50 different explanations if I asked them to write down an authoritative description.

What makes it possible for everyone to agree on the melting point of an ice cube is that there is no ambiguity in the question.
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#16322 - 11/22/06 05:56 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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I was finally able to read this thru and think about it. There's still many points on both side one could delve into regarding the nature of reality, but... what did Einstein's last comment mean? My thoughts follow (with a PS soapbox).

Nature of reality. Is it independent of human consciousness? Tagore/Indian Philosophy says no. Einstein says yes. Einstein has faith that independent reality is ?something.? Tagore deduces that reality, without some connection to the mind, is ?as nothing so long as we remain human beings.? [don't evolve, don't learn].
Tagore's point is bordering on tautological, I think.

Tagore should agree with this:
Reality (only as we conceive it) is nothing without the mind to conceive it.
But, Inconceivable reality can exist independent of the mind.

Einstein has faith that inconceivable reality can be learned about and conceived of, if we work at it. Relativity and even the atomic model of reality are examples of how at one point we couldn't conceive of a reality based on these conceptions, but now we do know of these concepts and base much of our lives on these (formerly inconceivable) conceptions.

Einstein ?has faith? that something is there, even if he doesn't know what it is yet.
Tagore says ?if? something is there, we can't understand it; and therefore should call it ?as nothing.?

I think Tagore and Einstein would be saying the same thing, except that Tagore defines ?human being? as a static, unchanging consciousness; whereas Einstein has faith that the ?wave function of the universe? is potentially knowable (and therefore must exist).

I think that is why Einstein says he is more religious than Tagore.

????
~samsara

P.S. I think as scientist looking at reality, we easily loose sight of Reality. We too often mistake the Maya and samsara for the Brahman and nirvana (just like fundamentalists do). I think this is why people feel scientists can be just as self-righteous as religious people can be when talking about the Nature of Reality.

~S
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16323 - 11/22/06 08:04 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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Let me define reality without including human consciousness.

Assume you have a paperclip.

Assume it is placed on Mars.

Assume the earth and all its life-forms cease to exist.

Assume life on Europa eventually evolves, visits Mars, and finds the paperclip.

By definition ... human consciousness is irrelevant to the universe.
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#16324 - 11/22/06 11:44 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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Your paperclip is equivalent to Einstein's table, re: "Tagore : Science has proved that the table as a solid object is an appearance and therefore that which the human mind perceives as a table would not exist if that mind were naught."
I think they are talking about any 4D perceptually oriented self-consciousness, and not just human consciousness. The Europans are just caught up in the same Maya.

...But I'm still thinking about this.
~samwik
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16325 - 11/23/06 06:52 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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And if the paperclip was discovered by a grain of sand that blew up to it and was stopped in its path ... would not the paperclip still exist?
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#16326 - 11/24/06 10:02 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by DA Morgan:
And if the paperclip was discovered by a grain of sand that blew up to it and was stopped in its path ... would not the paperclip still exist?
Tagore isn't denying that there is some ultimate reality which manifests itself as a table (or paper clip) to us. I was talking about this with my wife last night; and to simplify the example, I brought up the old question, ?If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?? She went for yes, so we had a good argument. I finally won by looking up the definition of sound, and also pointing out that no one is denying that there is some ultimate effect of a tree falling (but the effect is only ?sound? to the brain; it is just a gust of air to a nearby leaf, or a large earthquake to a nearby beetle, or a change in the direction of gravity for a developing egg withing the tree). As Tagore says, ?The table which I perceive is perceptible by the same kind of consciousness [any 4D perceptually oriented self-consciousness] which I possess.?

Tagore's music/literature analogy is more interesting, because it juxtaposes temporal and physical perceptions instead of just physical perceptions. I still think they both would be in agreement on the nature of reality except that Tagore has the static perspective that reality is defined by perceptions now.
?There is the reality of paper, infinitely different from the reality of literature.?
?For the kind of mind possessed by the moth which eats that paper literature is absolutely non-existent.?
Well, that 'infinitely different,' 'absolutely non-existent' reality is all true for ?now;? but I think Einstein might ask, 'what if the literature someday saves the life of the moth species?' That literature is also a reality for the moth, even if it doesn't realize it.

Tagore isn't saying your paper clip is just a dream based on our brains, but that its true manifestation is unknowable (therefore 'non-existent' -to us).
Einstein sees the paper clip's true manifestation as potentially knowable, therefore extant (even if it's not really a paper clip).

I'm a bit uncomfortable putting words in the mouths of such famous people, especially at 3am; so I may need to edit this tomorrow if I've completely mixed things up or gone off on a tangent.

Now if Schroedinger's Cat was on Einstein's Table, then we'd have a real problem!

Cheers!
~samcat
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16327 - 11/24/06 08:00 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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Sorry to say it Samwik but you didn't win ... your wife did.

What you wrote was:
"She went for yes, so we had a good argument. I finally won by looking up the definition of sound"

The definition of sound is that molecules in the air were compressed: They would be. And they would be heard by every other molecule with which they interacted. The fact that a human ear wasn't there is irrelevant. They could have been heard by a microphone, by a bear, by an ant, and by a leaf fluttering down from a tree and landing 1 angstrom further to the left than it otherwise would have.

Now go apologize to your wife. <g>

You are correct when you write: "Tagore isn't saying your paper clip is just a dream based on our brains, but that its true manifestation is unknowable (therefore 'non-existent' -to us)."

But at its core Tagore is saying that we are important, that we are relevant, that we matter. And Einstein is saying that if we had never come into existence the universe wouldn't know, wouldn't care, and would do precisely what it is doing. That is what I am saying to.

I see Tagore as essentially being the same as most self-annointed religious theologians. Claiming some completely self-centered important for Homo homo sapiens because it is Homo homo sapiens making the claim of self-importance.

Einstein is more religious in that he truly understands the nature of the universe. We are not just unimportant ... we are irrelevant. And the sooner we, as a species, realize that and start acting in a manner that would make us something other than a sad accident of evolution ... the better.
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#16328 - 11/25/06 02:25 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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It all depends on the definition of ?sound,? and to a lesser extent, ?hear.? I am familiar with the physics of sound, so don't worry about that part. Probably the distinction between sound waves and sound would clear this all up. I think you are referring to sound waves.

My wife's dictionary (Oxford American, 1980: Oxford Univ. Press) says:
Sound: 1. vibrations that travel through the air and are detectable (at certain frequencies) by the ear.
2. the sensation produced by these vibrations, a particular kind of it, the sound of music.

Mine (Webster's New 20th Century, Unabridged 2nd ed., 1968: World Publishing Co.) says:
Sound: 1. that which is or can be heard; the sensation of hearing, resulting from the stimulation of the auditory nerves by vibrations carried in the air, water, etc.
2. such vibrations (sound waves).

Those are complete #'s 1 & 2 definitions, not just partial phrases.

As we both pointed out, there are effects and consequences of a tree falling in the forest, detectable ?...by a microphone, by a bear, by an ant, and by a leaf fluttering down from a tree and landing 1 angstrom further to the left than it otherwise would have.? The bear would ?hear? it, but not the ant. I would suggest that the bear is some one ?there? to hear it. But if the bear weren't there (or any other ?ears?), then by definition, there'd be no sound (plenty of vibrations though).

?Sound? is commonly used to refer to the sound waves or vibrations, but technically...not.
?Hearing? is defined by 'ears' and 'auditory nerves,' so ants (I think), leaves, molecules and microphones don't ?hear? the sound waves.

The fallen tree also makes subsonic vibrations, but we don't call them sound because we don't hear them. Elephants might call them sound though. smile

I used to work with the journal, ?SV: Sound & Vibration?. When the library opens up, I might see if there is an editor's statement about the subject. I have to say that wikipedia words things in such a way as to back up your side of things (sound exists regardless of hearing). Maybe that can be my second mission to correct their site.

You wrote: ?Einstein is more religious in that he truly understands the nature of the universe. We are not just unimportant ... we are irrelevant.? I don't see how that makes Einstein religious, but I have never understood that line of his anyway (even my own explanation above was half-hearted at best).

In reading near the beginning, Tagore sounds outrageously arrogant; but as I understood more, he's only saying that importance is defined by ourselves, not that the universe ?needs? us to exist. He's not denying some ultimate reality, just that our perceived reality does depend on us. As I say it's almost tautological, so I don't see it as a very strong argument. You point this out also when you say, "Claiming some completely self-centered important for Homo homo sapiens because it is Homo homo sapiens making the claim of self-importance." I like Einstein's view better, it is more hopeful and inclusive.

Now I told my wife that you said I should apologize, but she's not expecting one because she read those definitions last night and agreed with my semantic technicalities. This is extremely rare, so I feel even stronger in maintaining my position on this one.

This is an age old question; I'm sure others have opinions or definitions to cite. I'd love to hear some others.

~~samanitcs
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16329 - 11/25/06 02:57 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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Good reply but lets delve deeper into:
"It all depends on the definition of ?sound,? and to a lesser extent, ?hear.?"

A sound, the vibrations of the air molecules, exists whether any human is there to intercept them.

At its core your ear, your nervous system, your brain, and your consciousness are merely chemical systems. A collection of interacting molecules and nothing more. Add a few molecules of aflatoxin and you can quickly follow the inevitable chemical reactions to the demise of system.

Human hearing is only of specific significance if one is so full of oneself as to think we are special. And that is something unacceptable in the context of science.

Your wife's dictionary is a layperson's dictionary and this is a science forum. Consider instead this definition:
"Very simply, sound is the vibration of any substance."
Source:
http://library.thinkquest.org/19537/Physics2.html

I still think you owe her an apology. Remember: There is a price to be paid for being right on a technicality. <g> And a dozen roses costs less.
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DA Morgan

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#16330 - 11/25/06 03:35 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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I looked at your source and agree they define sound as the layperson does, conflating sound and sound waves. On their main page, it prominently advertises that the website is "Created by Students."
"Created by Students" is cut'n'pasted from the site's homepage.

You wrote, "Human hearing is only of specific significance if one is so full of oneself as to think we are special." That quality probably explains why the words are defined so anthropocentrically as they are.

I agree that is a problem, but I don't know that it is unacceptable in science; it does need to be watched and accounted for though.

I'm at least granting that bears (and maybe ants -but I don't think so) can hear the sound too.

I agree though, a dozen roses couldn't hurt! smile

~~samwik

P.S. I think similarly, Tagore is right on a technicality; but Einstein is more right because he is more common sense.
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16331 - 11/25/06 05:12 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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About those roses ...

Never when expected
Never when predictable
Never when buying foregiveness

The calculation is as difficult to understand as those of string theory. But there is no doubt that when the above are factored in ... the flowers multiply exponentially in value. <g>
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DA Morgan

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#16332 - 11/25/06 05:35 AM Re: The Nature of Reality
samwik Offline
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Loc: Colorado
You are very wise DA. I only wish it were as easy to practice as to understand.
Thanks,
~samwik
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Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#16333 - 11/25/06 06:13 PM Re: The Nature of Reality
DA Morgan Offline
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The theory about gifts for wives and girlfriends is not science. It is totally faith based. <g>
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DA Morgan

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