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#6287 - 04/01/06 07:23 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
Originally posted by J. Arthur God:
Quote:
Originally posted by Count Iblis II:
Quote:
Originally posted by DA Morgan:
Count Iblis wrote:
"Professors don't really need to teach undergraduates."

Nonsense. This is absolute nonsense.
Not nonsense but fact, especially in the US where undergraduates do much less than what we do in our undergraduate studies. Let's take physics as an example. In the US in the first year you have to learn calculus. In Europe we do that in high school. And unlike in Europe, in most US universities you don't learn these topics at undergraduate level:

General Relativity

Advanced Quantum mechanics

Quantum Field Theory

Introduction to String Theory.


These topics are part of the curriculum for third and fourth year students in most European universities. These topics can be taught by professors, but also by lecturers. There is no specific need for a professor to teach these topics. Much less so the subjects the US undergraduates have to learn, like Classical Mechanics, Introduction in Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, etc.
Except for string theory, all of these subjects were taught at my undergraduate institution. I would have avoided string theory anyway...

However, I have to ask myself how relevant this is. So, you don't have to teach (your department would consider web design an equivalent effort?) Your students learn more subjects...how does this relate to whether you have to actually put out effort to teach your classes?
There is other work to do as well, like organizing seminars etc. It is only fair that you get less teaching duties if you take up such duties.

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#6288 - 04/01/06 07:39 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
Count Iblis wrote:
"Professors don't really need to teach undergraduates."

DA Morgan responded:
"Nonsense. This is absolute nonsense."

Count Iblis then wrote:
"Not nonsense but fact, especially in the US where undergraduates do much less than what we do in our undergraduate studies. Let's take physics as an example. In the US in the first year you have to learn calculus. In Europe we do that in high school. And unlike in Europe, in most US universities you don't learn these topics at undergraduate level:"

Help me out here Count Iblis ... what does your responses, just above, have to do with whether professors teach their classes?

It seems to me your response is off topic and non-relevant to what I wrote.

And Count Iblis went on:
"And unlike in Europe, in most US universities you don't learn these topics at undergraduate level:
General Relativity
Advanced Quantum mechanics
Quantum Field Theory
Introduction to String Theory."

Your statement is incorrect to the best of my knowledge ... but again non-relevant to whether professors do or do not teach a class.
_________________________
DA Morgan

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#6289 - 04/01/06 08:33 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Of course, Professors do teach. The point is do they need to teach? Will the university educational system collapse if we decided that Professors don't need to teach anymore to undegraduates and let other staff, lecturers etc. take over that duty?

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#6290 - 04/01/06 08:41 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
And Count Iblis went on:
"And unlike in Europe, in most US universities you don't learn these topics at undergraduate level:
General Relativity
Advanced Quantum mechanics
Quantum Field Theory
Introduction to String Theory."

Your statement is incorrect to the best of my knowledge ... but again non-relevant to whether professors do or do not teach a class.

I just looked in the preface of the book ''Topics In Advanced Quantum Mechanics'', by Barry R. Hollstein. It says that he wrote it from his lecture notes of a course he taught to graduate students. But this book is is used for third year undergraduate students.

Graduate students here usually don't follow any classes. They start with their Ph.D. research right away. They do have to learn things, but they do that themselves from the literature.

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#6291 - 04/01/06 10:38 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
J. Arthur God Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/05/06
Posts: 142
Quote:
Originally posted by Count Iblis II:
I just looked in the preface of the book ''Topics In Advanced Quantum Mechanics'', by Barry R. Hollstein. It says that he wrote it from his lecture notes of a course he taught to graduate students. But this book is is used for third year undergraduate students.

Graduate students here usually don't follow any classes. They start with their Ph.D. research right away. They do have to learn things, but they do that themselves from the literature.
Yes, and J.D. Jackson in the standard senior text for E&M at CalTech (or was 20 years ago). I found that my education in Quantum was sufficient to give me a big edge in grad school, but in other subjects (e.g. mechanics) I had to work as hard as the rest.

And this proves that one can call showing videos and telling stories is passable as teaching how?

Yes, the American secondary education is not as advanced as elsewhere. I had to go to community college starting in my 3rd year in high school in order to do math. Current trends in the US are trying to correct this by allowing H.S. students to take calculus and other advanced courses.

My first year class was largely chinese, taiwanese, US and European students. On the qualifying exam (taken at the start of the 2nd year), the Chinese scored the best, the Taiwanese the second best and the US and European students were pretty much tied. My advisor used to brag that his first group of 3 students "did as best as the worst Chinese". That said, I didn't see that the European students were that much better prepared than their US counterparts.

Also, my experience (and maybe this has changed since I was a grad student) was that UK students were often under a lot of pressure to finish in 3 years, before state support ran out. I find that this put them at a severe disadvantage in doing a complete research project. Basically, given the long time for a US Ph.D., a good U.S. Ph.D. is often (but not always) comparable to a UK Post-doc.

I have not found the same to be the case with students from France, Germany or Holland. However, I have much less experience with them.

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#6292 - 04/01/06 10:51 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
J. Arthur God Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/05/06
Posts: 142
Quote:
Originally posted by Count Iblis II:
Of course, Professors do teach. The point is do they need to teach? Will the university educational system collapse if we decided that Professors don't need to teach anymore to undegraduates and let other staff, lecturers etc. take over that duty?
This will sound mean, but it is an honest opinion.

If Professors like you are replaced by other staff with a mission to teach, the University system would be improved.

I would also then state that the University system would be improved if the tenure system were removed or weakened for these Research-only faculty. If your research isn't up to grade (as partly judged by outside referees), you can find a new job. You don't pull in enough grants, you hit the streets.

By the way, keep in mind that for the University of California (as one example), there are 5 undergraduates for every graduate student. Why exactly do you think a University exists?

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#6293 - 04/02/06 12:15 AM Re: What to do in the classroom?
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
Count Iblis asks:
"Of course, Professors do teach. The point is do they need to teach? Will the university educational system collapse if we decided that Professors don't need to teach anymore to undegraduates and let other staff, lecturers etc. take over that duty?"

Yes it would. And if any professor is incapable of sustaining that burden his tenure should be challenged.

BTW: You contradicted yourself yet again in your response.
_________________________
DA Morgan

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#6294 - 04/02/06 12:20 AM Re: What to do in the classroom?
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
J Arthur wrote:
"Yes, the American secondary education is not as advanced as elsewhere."

No argument there.

"I had to go to community college starting in my 3rd year in high school in order to do math. Current trends in the US are trying to correct this by allowing H.S. students to take calculus and other advanced courses."

Fascinating. When I graduated from H.S. in 1968 it was after taking 2 years of algebra, 1/2 year of geometry, 1/2 year of trig, and 1 year of calculus. The U.S. system hasn't always been so weak.

But then again we haven't always had government that led by dumbing things down for a voting public that voted for American Idol.
_________________________
DA Morgan

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#6295 - 04/02/06 12:32 AM Re: What to do in the classroom?
J. Arthur God Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/05/06
Posts: 142
Quote:
Originally posted by DA Morgan:
Fascinating. When I graduated from H.S. in 1968 it was after taking 2 years of algebra, 1/2 year of geometry, 1/2 year of trig, and 1 year of calculus. The U.S. system hasn't always been so weak.

But then again we haven't always had government that led by dumbing things down for a voting public that voted for American Idol.
1981--My H.S. math ended at 2nd year Algebra (with Trig). No Calc.

Now, our local H.S. offers calculus supposedly equivalent to 2 semesters of college calc.

The real winner for me in H.S. was chem. I didn't know it, but the teacher was great. I coasted through first year chemistry in college. I probably should have tried to test out. Funny, I don't recall being told stories or being shown videos...

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#6296 - 04/02/06 12:20 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
Originally posted by DA Morgan:

BTW: You contradicted yourself yet again in your response.
Nonsense, I didn't make any contradicting statrements on this thread. You, yet again, first misinterpreted my words and then, when I explain myself better, chose to interpret your original misinterpretation of what I was saying as a contradiction.

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#6297 - 04/02/06 12:48 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
Originally posted by J. Arthur God:
Quote:
Originally posted by Count Iblis II:
Of course, Professors do teach. The point is do they need to teach? Will the university educational system collapse if we decided that Professors don't need to teach anymore to undegraduates and let other staff, lecturers etc. take over that duty?
This will sound mean, but it is an honest opinion.

If Professors like you are replaced by other staff with a mission to teach, the University system would be improved.

I would also then state that the University system would be improved if the tenure system were removed or weakened for these Research-only faculty. If your research isn't up to grade (as partly judged by outside referees), you can find a new job. You don't pull in enough grants, you hit the streets.

By the way, keep in mind that for the University of California (as one example), there are 5 undergraduates for every graduate student. Why exactly do you think a University exists?
I do teach a lot (but I'm not a Prof.). I also do a lot of private teaching in my free time, mostly to US physics students via email. They send me their homework, I send back the solutions with explanations. Per hour's work these students pay me more than I earn from my regular work. If the US system is so great, then why do these students come to me?

You make the mistake of thinking that I am a prof. who doesn't like to teach and would rather maintain the fasculty web page, organize seminars etc. I was just giving examples.


A university as a place where student learn to get their degree will be something of the past within a few decades. Even today, if you want to learn something, you can already find the information on he web. If you want to study theoretical physics, then you can almost do that without ever showing up at the university (except for the exams, of course). This means that the huge amount of tuition fees you have to pay in the US cannot be justified.


Sooner or later, due to economic competition, you will get virtual universities who will offer the same or even better courses as in, say MIT but with far lower tuition fees. To get the degree you would then only have to show up for the exams. Virtual universities already exist, but they don't compete with the top institutions yet.

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#6298 - 04/02/06 01:05 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
J. Arthur God :

''Also, my experience (and maybe this has changed since I was a grad student) was that UK students were often under a lot of pressure to finish in 3 years, before state support ran out. I find that this put them at a severe disadvantage in doing a complete research project. Basically, given the long time for a US Ph.D., a good U.S. Ph.D. is often (but not always) comparable to a UK Post-doc.

I have not found the same to be the case with students from France, Germany or Holland. However, I have much less experience with them.''

Yes, the British system isn't so great. Their education is a bit ''narrow'', they don't do a lot of subjects during the last few years of high school and later at university. And Ph.D. theses finished by British physics students can hardly be called ''original work''. Most of it is based on papers that their supervisors had in the pipeline anyway.

Things are better here in Holland, but sadly we are moving in the wrong direction. High school students learn much less maths and physics than they used to. Add to that the fact that university students have to finish their studies much sooner, and you see that today's graduates are not at the level I and my friends were when we graduated.

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#6299 - 04/02/06 07:43 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
J. Arthur God Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 02/05/06
Posts: 142
Quote:
Originally posted by Count Iblis II:
I do teach a lot (but I'm not a Prof.). I also do a lot of private teaching in my free time, mostly to US physics students via email. They send me their homework, I send back the solutions with explanations. Per hour's work these students pay me more than I earn from my regular work. If the US system is so great, then why do these students come to me?
/[QUOTE]

there are poor students everywhere. One supposes that the students are largely copying your solutions into their homework and ignoring your explanations. It would be interesting to see how well the students you are tutoring in this way fare compared to their collegues.

[QUOTE] Sooner or later, due to economic competition, you will get virtual universities who will offer the same or even better courses as in, say MIT but with far lower tuition fees. To get the degree you would then only have to show up for the exams. Virtual universities already exist, but they don't compete with the top institutions yet.
There have been textbooks for independent study, correspondence courses, night school and other alternatives since before my father was born. There are also cheaper institutions. In the state of California, the California State Universities are cheaper than the University of California, which, in turn, is cheaper than, say CalTech. Why do student shell out the extra cash now for a degree in "Physics" from CalTech if they can get it at Cal State Dominguez Hills for a fraction of the cost? One would guess that the expected level of instruction at CalTech is highe than at CSUDH.

Now, I would say that the flagship state Universities (e.g. U Cal, U Illinois, U-dub, U Texas, etc) are excellent. Probably the best education for the money in the world.

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#6300 - 04/02/06 10:08 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
there are poor students everywhere. One supposes that the students are largely copying your solutions into their homework and ignoring your explanations. It would be interesting to see how well the students you are tutoring in this way fare compared to their collegues.
They are indeed not the brightest student. Some have to work to pay for their studies and as a result don't have enough time to complete all their assignments by themselves on time.

However, comparing them to other students doesn't make sense. You should compare how well they are doing with my help to how well they would do without my help. smile

Quote:
Now, I would say that the flagship state Universities (e.g. U Cal, U Illinois, U-dub, U Texas, etc) are excellent. Probably the best education for the money in the world.
The tuition fees for the top universities are so high that you could save money my hiring a professor from some third world country (e.g. India) as a private tutor for a group of two or three students. The Prof would be available for the students 8 hours a day. No university in the world comes close to this level of tuition.


B.t.w., one of the students I'm tutoring for more than a year now is from CalTech. Clearly, he can't get the help he needs from there. He is not simply handing in my work without studying. I don't think that would go unnoticed for long smile

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#6301 - 04/03/06 12:34 AM Re: What to do in the classroom?
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
Count Iblis wrote:
"The tuition fees for the top universities are so high that you could save money my hiring a professor from some third world country (e.g. India) as a private tutor for a group of two or three students. The Prof would be available for the students 8 hours a day. No university in the world comes close to this level of tuition."

And upon saving all of that money you would likely qualify for a job where you could ask the question: "Do you want fries with that?"
_________________________
DA Morgan

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#6302 - 04/03/06 01:07 AM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
And upon saving all of that money you would likely qualify for a job where you could ask the question: "Do you want fries with that?"
True, so it is not the education that you pay for but rather the name of the institution where you graduated from that will apear on your CV.

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#6303 - 04/03/06 04:31 AM Re: What to do in the classroom?
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
When one attends a college or university one benefits from many many different value propositions.

1. The quality of the curricula.
2. The quality of the instructors.
3. The quality of resources such as libraries and laboratories.
4. The quality of the other students with whom one studies.
5. The quality of the network one can create by interacting with faculty, administration, and students.
6. The personal references one can obtain.
7. The experiences available through internships.

Just to give you a single example the daughter of a good friend is a 3rd year undergrad at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. It isn't CalTech, it isn't MIT, it isn't Oxford or Cambridge. But she chose it with care and has developed personal friendships with people in Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, ANZUS, and central asia. These have already turned into trips to multiple countries where she has further networked, a 10 week internship at ESO (European Southern Observatory) in Chile that she just completed (she's currently on Easter Island) and a second internship at Mauna Kea Observatories.

Is part of her benefit the name of the institution? I doubt many people have even heard of Macalester. The quality of the faculty and the student body? You betcha!

From sour grapes you can make whine ... not wine.
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DA Morgan

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#6304 - 04/03/06 12:46 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
Count Iblis II Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 375
Quote:
Is part of her benefit the name of the institution? I doubt many people have even heard of Macalester. The quality of the faculty and the student body? You betcha!
That's right. I am just questioning the amount of tuition fees one has to pay. In the US it is more than ten times the amount European students have to pay. In case of theoretical physics, you really don't need to spend more than 1000 dollars to learn the entire curriculum taught at university (I'm not counting the living costs). But this is assuming you could learn everything by yourself from books and lecture notes.

But students at university end up learning most of the stuff themselves anyway. The tuition they get only amounts to a Prof. lecturing a bit which is just superficial guidance and thus a waste of time and money. The problem sessions, usually supervised by Ph.D. students, are more important but there is no reason why you couldn't do the exercises yourself at home.

The only labor intensive work per student is checking homework and exams. I don't count prepairing for lectures, because that is not a lot of work per student. You don't get anywhere near the current US tuition fees if students were charged with the work that is actually performed for them.

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#6305 - 04/03/06 05:45 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
DA Morgan Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 4136
Loc: Seattle, WA
Count Iblis wrote:
"I am just questioning the amount of tuition fees one has to pay."

I would be too if I was writing the checks. But things cost what they cost and there is, in our society, not a thing you can do about it. I feel the same way about medical care in the US where we are being raped without so much as a "sorry."

Education is more than just learning. Take the field in which I teach ... Oracle databases. There are plenty of people that have book knowledge. There is even a certification program called OCP the gives people diplomas for their book knowledge. With one of those pieces of paper and match you can start a fire, get a second match and start two fires. In my area the chances of obtaining a job with one is precisely nill.

I feel that a very substantial amount of what I learned in college was self-taught. I had some professors that were brilliant: Carl Djerassi for one. Others that needed to be taught how to inhale air on a regular basis. But I would not be where I am today without having done what I did and while I lived worse than a dog and it cost a lot of money ... I have been repaid many times over. I've no regrets.

But a quick quotation that expresses, better than I can, what I think:

Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.
~ The Princess Bride by William Goldman
_________________________
DA Morgan

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#6306 - 04/03/06 08:13 PM Re: What to do in the classroom?
TheFallibleFiend Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 1940
Loc: http://thefalliblefiend.blogsp...
People teach for different reasons - and an individual might choose it for several reasons. Some people do it because they really believe in it. Some yearn to do something that will make a positive difference for humanity. Some just do it because they're good at it and like doing it. There are others, though, who go into teaching because they're really not very competent at anything else. Others because they like the feeling of authority, or the ability to boss other people around. They're like petty apparatchiks who thrive on their ability to lord their minuscule power over in their puny domains.

Now, here is the difference between students who are going to be researchers and others - the other students just want to learn the material. They don't want to play games. They don't want to help prop the ego of some has-been professor. They just want to learn the stuff. I recall at least one time from my own academic career in which a teacher deliberately threw out an EXCELLENT text in order to teach from a standard, but crappy, one. HOWEVER, this same lowlife gave all of his lecture notes from the really good text book (without giving proper credit to where he got those notes from, btw).

This is not to say that I don't think it's ever appropriate for teachers to show a movie or tell a story. When I'm teaching, I often relate stories from job experiences - or from history or from some other subject area - that are pertinent to the subject of discussion. I obviously don't have a problem with this. What I have a problem with is the idea that teachers should actually teach anything.

This is not to say that I think teachers should always teach from the book. Here is what I typically did when I was teaching at university:

Give reading assignments from book.
Give some very simple problems due every class period (sometimes not graded) from book, plus a more difficult math, logic, or programming problem that had to be worked.
Give lecture on similar material that is in the book, but usually framed around my own particular bias. Usually lecture consisted of general theoretical discussion for one class and then another class of solving problems. (Technically I was an undergraduate and then a graduate teaching assistant, but in fact I never assisted anyone. I taught the entire class, and on one occasion had a person assisting me.)

I then gave harder programming assignments that would be due every 2 or 3 weeks. This assignment would extend some idea that I had introduced in my lectures.

So I might talk about parsing expressions, and then I would give some examples of how to parse them (which is trivial thing to do in some languages, but requires a moderate understanding to do from scratch). I would give several examples of this that were progressively more difficult. For this sort of lecture, I would have two big projects, each 2 weeks in duration. For the first, students would write an assembler to convert a hypothetical assembly language to a hypothetical machine code. For the second, they would write a virtual machine on which to run the program. The idea doesn't come from java, btw, but from an early computer game called red code.

Of course this is not the only way to teach. There may even be better ways to teach. I would never have been so successful if I had not been willing to accept criticism and act on it.

OTOH, what strikes me as the absolute worst thing a teacher can do is just stand there and waste students' time - as I perceive Count I. is suggesting.

The way I looked at it was this: The students are paying $20-$40 for a book for the class (this was some time ago). My salary is my tuition, plus a small stipend (maybe $500 a month). The students ought to get SOMETHING from me.

Now I had some great profs. And I also had a few whose sole contribution to "education" was to raise the temperature of the room by some fraction of a degree. For these fellows, university was basically a place to malinger. By any reasonable criteria, they were lazy and unproductive, but there's something about academia that permits a few slothful individuals to thrive (Ironically, the most widely published author in our dept was also the least competent. Many of the most brilliant students flocked to him, because he was considered brilliant by people who never worked with him. Only after the fact did they realize what a complete boob he was.) I took him for a class in simulation - my specialty now - and came to understand his ability for spouting nonsense that sounded brilliant on the surface of it (at least to the untrained observer).

Different example: I took chem I and II - same prof each time. This guy was pretty famous. He was the dept chair and seemed to be always on the news as an expert. In two classes - he tried each day to solve a problem on the board. At no time was he ever able to solve a single problem - not once. This is not hyberbole. I literally mean he could not solve the simplest problem from the book. Not one time.

And while I think most of my professors were pretty good, there were enough of this sort to cause me to raise hackles even now, decades after the fact. I don't understand how these guys can accept their salaries and look at themselves in the mirror.

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