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Let us try to determine the difference between Metaphysics (We have in mind the Substance-Accident metaphysics) and Quantum Mechanics.
In order to do so we must first state a global similarity.
Both Metaphysics and Quantum Mechanics are indeed looking for the "fundamentals of Reality. Both find entities and principles. This is about how far the similarity goes.
The ENTITIES found in METAPHYSICS are of two kinds, SUBSTANCES and ACCIDENTS, i.e. entities that exist in themselves, and entities that are only entities of something else, but nonetheless entities. The latter are in fact determinations (of something, that itself is not a determination). But although we find some sort of difference in fundamentality with respect to substances and accidents, the substances found by Metaphysics are not themselves necessarily (the most) fundamental entities. For Metaphysics any substance is as important and fundamental as any other. Only the degree of substantiality (the degree of being a substance, a Totality) can vary among the different substances. This does not apply to accidents. Any accident, i.e. any determination, will do. But in (the course of doing) Metaphysics these accidents are (conceptually) more and more deprived of their special content, until the very end of abstractions. They then turn into principles of being. In Metaphysics substances are treated as individual substances, i.e. as individuals, their accidents then are individual.
The ENTITIES found in QUANTUM MECHANICS are special entities, FUNDAMENTAL ENTITIES. They manifest themselves either as fundamental particles, or as fundamental waves. This wave-particle duality is in principle also present in the macroscopic world (the non-fundamental entities) but there the particle-aspect dominates strongly. The world is thought of as in some way built up by these fundamental entities. But these fundamental entities are (in Quantum Mechanics) not studied as individuals. The subject of Quantum Mechanics are certain fundamental distributable phenomena and their explanation. This involves the just mentioned entities. These entities of Quantum Mechanics, quantum entities, like an electron, also can possess properties (determinations), for instance electrical charge, which themselves are ontologically dependent on those entities. So these quantum entities behave like substances. But for reasons to be expounded later they seem to have an unclear existence. Their existence (their being) seems to be "weakened".
The second type of items found in METAPHYSICS are PRINCIPLES. Principles do -- like accidents -- not have an ontologically independent existence, they only exist as principles of something (else). But metaphysical principles are GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF BEING-IN-SO-FAR-AS-BEING. They refer to the constitution of a real being as such. Moreover they are INTRINSIC principles, where "INTRINSIC" relates (finally) to an individual substance. They can be called "intrinsic causes". Metaphysics does not directly consider extrinsic causes. The principles figuring in Metaphysics are often of the nature of fundamental and necessary presuppositions, and cannot be verified by Natural Science because they are presuppositions of the latter. Other principles figuring in Metaphysics are more or less speculative and are not empirical in character.
Also QUANTUM MECHANICS finds PRINCIPLES. But they need not be intrinsic, some could be extrinsic (i.e. extrinsic causes). Quantummmechanics also finds LAWS, but we can subsume these under (the heading of) "PRINCIPLES". Further these quantum mechanical principles are not principles of being as such, but principles governing fundamental (in the sense of elementary) phenomena. In some way BEING is already presupposed by Quantum Mechanics. In Metaphysics it is not. Moreover the principles figuring in Quantum Mechanics are mathematically deducible, and can be related to empirical results.
It is probably useful to delve a little deeper into the difference between principles on the one hand, and entities on the other. Although a principle resides in one or another thing or things (i.e. it is immanent in matter), it is NOT a physical part of that thing or things, but only some aspect of it (or them). For example if we consider that something IN a thing A, which causes it to be red, then we are looking for a principle. We find some type of molecule in the thing A, that seems to be responsible for it to be red. So we could consider such a molecule as the cause of redness of the thing A. But this isn't correct because the molecule as such does not cause the color ( i.e., does not cause that something, that in turn causes in us the impression of red when light reflected from the thing meets the eye ). Only some features of the molecule cause the red color, features that have to do with the energy household of the molecule, or some other features like the spacing between the constituent atoms. All this can potentially be described and explained by Quantum Mechanics. And both energetic and spatial features are NOT things, they are certain determinations of things. So principles stem from determinations, they originate from certain features of things. A (certain) principle does not originate from the complete collection of all features of the thing in which it resides, but only from a certain subset of this collection, and this causes the principle to be abstract in nature, while the complete collection of features of a thing is equivalent with the thing itself and consequently is concrete in nature. So the abstract principle and the concrete thing in which it resides, relate to each other as
Special Principles and Ultimate Principles
Metaphysics is looking for intrinsic principles, i.e. intrinsic causes. If Metaphysics asks why something is red, it does not mean to ask : "why is this thing here (now) red?". This latter question refers to an extrinsic cause of the thing being red, which could be some sort of chemical (coming from without) that reacted with the thing in question and caused it to become red. Viewed from the thing in question, the chemical was an extrinsic cause. But Metaphysics looks for causes inside the thing in question, and only as such they are principles of that thing('s features). A principle is an intrinsic condition, i.e. a condition in the thing, for some feature of that thing to be present. Of course Metaphysics does not ask why something is red. When it nevertheless does so then its only objective is to ask what "something-having-a-quality" actually means. The special question (what is redness) can potentially be answered by Quantum Mechanics, and that answer provides us with a special intrinsic cause, the principle governing something to be red. If we study this result in so far as it is an intrinsic cause, or when we maximally generalize this cause, then we are doing Metaphysics.
The principle (responsible) for something to be red is a special principle. If we generalize such a principle, i.e. if we minimalize the degree of determination of the features, that constituted that special principle, all the way to the limit, then we get a (general, i.e. universal) principle of being. We will often end up with the Categories of Quantity and Quality. Such a principle cannot be defined anymore. It is an ultimate principle.
Special principles originate in special features, and refer, in their function of principles, to other special features (of which they are the principles). Said differently, special principles inhere in a certain subset of special features of that thing, and are a necessary and sufficient intrinsic condition for the presence and status of other special features of that thing.
Ultimate principles originate from ultimate features, which themselves are not dependent upon other principles anymore. Ultimate principles refer to the most general and universal features, and in this way refer to being as such. They are the necessary and sufficient intrinsic condition for something to be a Being.
The following scheme can be established :
So in this preliminary way I have tried to draw a clear distinction between the "fundamentals" found by Metaphysics, and the "fundamentals" found by Quantum Mechanics (the most fundamental discipline among the natural sciences).
"So these quantum entities behave like substances. But for reasons to be expounded later they seem to have an unclear existence. Their existence (their being) seems to be "weakened"."This (ontologically) weakened existence of quantum entities follows -- as we will see shortly -- from the acceptance of the most popular interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, namely the so called Copenhagen Interpretation (Formulated by the Danish physicist Niels BOHR). If their reality-status is indeed weakened, it is not by virtue of the same reasons by which we consider the reality-status of accidents and principles as weakened. An Accident is ontologically dependent upon (the) substance in which it must inhere. Quantum mechanical entities, like electrons, also, it is true, are ontologically dependent, but here it is a dependence of a different nature than the dependence of an accident on its substance, or (than) the dependence of a principle on the matter it inheres (or on that something of which it is a principle). What kind of dependence then do we mean, in the case of quantum-mechanical (i.e. submicroscopical) entities? Let us now give the first of the (promised) preliminary statements about the ontological status of submicroscopic entities. This first statement is based on an acceptance of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Within this statement we will also discuss briefly another interpretation, namely the non-local hidden variable theory of David BOHM, in order to make our position with respect to the Copenhagen Interpretation more clear (The second statement concerns yet another interpretation of Quantum Mechanics).
According to BOHR (and, consequently according to the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics) Quantum Mechanics is about the inseparable whole of quantum object and the measuring set-up. This whole is called the phenomenon. Such a phenomenon, of course, also occurs in natural situations, for it just means :
In order to make things more clear I will translate, from Dutch into English, some passages (p. 100--101) from Van Quantum tot Quark (From Quantum to Quark), edited by G. 't HOOFT, for the TELEAC foundation, 1989, meant to be an introduction to Quantum Mechanics (comments are placed between square brackets [...] ) :
" A phenomenon is not analyzable into the measuring device on the one hand and the object of which the properties are being measured. So we are not allowed, concerning the above experiment with the photographic plate [ = the measuring of the position of an electron or other quantum entity by means of the local blackening of a photographic plate ], to imagine ourselves that an approaching electron encounters the plate on its way -- and have at the back of our mind that it was equally possible that the plate wasn't there, without making any difference to the position of the electron. It is only meaningful to attribute to the electron the property 'position' because the photographic plate is there.As has been said, the Copenhagen Interpretation assumes that the quantum-mechanical wavefunction describes the situation of a quantum system completely. Some other interpretations assume that this description is not complete. According to Quantum Mechanics a particle cannot simultaneously possess position and momentum, and because these properties are simultaneously possessed by such a particle according to the above mentioned interpretations (where the wavefunction does not provide us with a complete information), these properties are called 'hidden variables'. These interpretations hold that the statistical nature of the quantum-mechanical statements about the condition of a quantum system is due to our still imperfect nature of our measurement techiques. We cannot exactly reproduce a result because we are still unable to start with exactly the same hidden variables.
The idea that Quantum Mechanics is about phenomena [ in the above sense ] gives new meaning to the principle of complementarity [ complementarity in Quantum Mechanics means that there are certain pairs of variables (quantities), like position and momentum, that cannot simultaneously be attributed to a quantum entity, while in classical mechanics they can. ]. An experimental set-up cannot simultaneously function as measuring device for two complementary quantities. An instrument that is appropriate for determining positions, cannot also measure momentum. Because in the Copenhagen Interpretation the properties of a quantum object are defined by the measuring set-up that is present, the object cannot therefore be characterized by the combination of two complementary quantities.
The not-simultaneous presence of two complementary properties is not the result of a physical disturbance of the object by the measuring device. Because the properties of the quantum-system are not defined independently of the measuring set-up, it also is meaningless to say that those properties are being disturbed. BOHR arrived at a clear formulation of this matter after discussions with HEISENBERG. The latter at first believed that the measurement of position of, say, an electron, requires an interaction with the measuring device, disturbing the momentum, resulting in the value of the momentum after the measurement being unknown, uncertain (this is the origin of the name 'uncertainty relation'). In opposition to this, BOHR stated that all this does not concern uncertainties, but undefinedness. In the context of a position measurement the concept of momentum is not applicable.
If space-time concepts and dynamical concepts (energy, momentum) are not together applicable, a quantum object apparently does not follow a trajectory through space [ This is so if the quantum-mechanical wavefunction is considered as a complete (mechanical) description of the quantum system, which it is according to the Copenhagen Interpretation) ]. According to BOHR this explains why Quantum Mechanics only gives probability statements. Classical Mechanics can give exact predictions because of the fact that position as well as momentum, and with it a precize trajectory, can be attributed to a system. Repetition of the same initial conditions leads to the same trajectory. In Quantum Mechanics this does not apply. "The same initial conditions" do not determine a trajectory, and also not a unique end result.
According to the Copenhagen Interpretation the applicability of the concepts depends upon the presence of a macroscopic measuring set-up. It is not necessary that a conscious observer is involved. The physical qualities of the measuring device are decisive for the question which classical concepts apply. Whether a human being or a computer reports the result of a measurement is irrelevant. So there is no sign of an element of subjectivity within the Copenhagen Interpretation. No special part is played by human consciousness."
So we still have to decide between the Copenhagen Interpretation (the wavefunction describes the situation of an individual system completely) on the one hand, and a non-local hidden-variable interpretation (the wavefunction does not give a complete description of an individual system) on the other (like the one of the English physicist David BOHM). BOHM's theory, as a non-local hidden-variable theory, does make the same predictions as Quantum Mechanics, which means that a decision for (the acceptance of) one of them cannot be settled by an experiment or observation.
The Copenhagen Interpretation is the most popular, although its picture of the quantum world is far from the classical picture. The theory of BOHM gives a more illustrative (i.e. imaginable, classical) picture of the microworld, but in order to be able to do so it must introduce its quantum potential which itself has strange properties. Perhaps this is too high a price to pay for saving the classical picture.
Here I will decide for BOHR's view (i.e. the Copenhagen Interpretation), but because I am not a physicist this choice is not 'authorized'.
So we stick to the fact (a fact in the Copenhagen context) that quantum entities are not ontologically independent, although in an other way than, say, an accident is, or a principle. A quantum entity is partially dependent upon an interactive macroscopical context, it is ontologically parasitic on such a context.
The Substance-Accident Metaphysics is indeed an appropriate philosophical background in which the Copenhagen-view can be received, because just this metaphysics is already acquainted with GRADED being (which is equivalent with graded existence, i.e. stronger and weaker modes of existence). Its central conceps are 'analogical' (See the Essay on The Analogy of Being), so it can easily accomodate for beings like quantum entities, which presuppose a certain context for them to be determined.
Now we have finally concluded our first preliminary statement, which will set the tone for our further explorations into the submicroscopical world, in order to understand its ontological status, although the second statement (yet to come), based on another interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, will also play a role.
But before we do so we must bring forward an alternative interpretation of the nature of the quantum world which is not totally in accordance with the above preliminary statement, the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.
When we measure something -- say the position of a particle -- in the context of clasical physics, we have a classical theory that predicts one outcome, i.e. one value, of the quantity measured, accompanied by an estimation of a range of uncertanty inherent in the particular measuring procedure. For example a certain theory predicts a position X + / -- 1.2%, which means that the actual measured value will at most deviate 1.2% from X in either direction. Moreover in classical physics it is assumed that the particle itself has an exact position (somewhere in this range, when the theory is correct).
But Quantum Mechanics does not provide us with such directly measurable properties. Instead we only obtain (from the theory) the Wavefunction PHI. This wavefunction does not determine, i.e. predict, values of, for example energy and position, but gives probabilities for finding certain outcomes for such quantities during a measurement. When we describe a system by one determined PHI, does not mean that we will find only one outcome. In general a range of outcomes will be possible. In the case of a measurement of position, the square of the absolute value of PHI,
| PHI(x) | 2, gives the probability, that the value x (one of the possible outcomes) will be found during a measurement. So | PHI(x) | 2 is a prediction of the theory, a prediction in terms of a probability. This prediction can be tested by an experiment (and consequently by observation) :
When we repeat the experiment a large number of times, | PHI(x) | 2 will beter and better corespond with :
The number of times that the value x is found, divided by the total number of outcomes of the experiment, i.e. the predicted chance will manifest itself in the collection of outcomes of the actually performed experiment. So far so good.
But how must we interpret this? The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (which served for my ontological assessment of quantum entities in the above preliminary statement) says that a particle does not possess the relevant propery, until a measurement is actually being carried out. Before such a measurement was going on the relevant property is not defined, which means that it is not determined, which in turn implies that the possible values of that propery are only present as a probability distribution : The chance of being x is, say, 80%, the chance of being y is, say, 40% etc. None of these possibilities is real until a measurement is done, and then only one possibility becomes real, while the other possibilities vanish into nothingness. So -- according to the Copenhagen Inerpretation -- only this one possibility (which is actually measured) is (becomes) real, all the others remain unreal, and all this because of the measurement, which apparently decides between real and non-real. This is called "the collapse of the wavefunction".
This last strange, and at first sight anti-intuitive, state of affairs can however successfully circumvented by an alternative interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, the Many Worlds Interpretation. In this interpretation ALL the possible outcomes are realized, BUT IN DIFFERENT WORLDS. In this interpretation the measurement does not decide whether some possible outcome becomes real or not. All the possible outcomes become real, but, as has been said, each in a different world. How is this accomplished?
Well, according to the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics things go like this:
When we are not yet doing the relevant experiment (= measurement) the theory predicts several possible outcomes and gives the probability for each outcome to be found when we measure. When we actually measure the relevant quantity during an experiment we find ourselves in one particualar world where the quantity has a certain value, say, x, one of the possible values predicted by the theory. But the other values are also realized, but each in a different world. During the experiment the world in which we (who did the experiment) splitted itself in as many copies as there were possible outcomes of the experiment. We ourself will find ourselves in that world in which the quantity has the value we actually measured. Said otherwise, before we did the measurement we did not know in which world we would end up when our world splitted up into several versions, but after the measurement we know in which world we ended up. Before the measurement we could only give the probability in which world we would end up, exactly conform the predictions made by quantumtheory. So the particular value of the quantity was not establish by chance -- because of the indeterminateness of quantum properties according to the conventional interpretation -- but by choice. By choice, because ALL the possibilities are realized, they all are really there, but, each in a different branch of reality, i.e. one of the branches that originate because of the splitting of the universe. What happens when we make a measurement at the quantumlevel is that we are forced by the process of observation to select one of these alternatives, which becomes part of what we see as the "real" world. The act of observation cuts the ties that bind alternative realities together, and allows them to go on their own separate ways through superspace, each alternative reality containing its own observer who has made the same observation but got a different quantum "answer" and thinks that he has "collapsed the wavefunction" into one single quantum alternative. These different universes are forever separated to each other. No inhabitant of one such world can travel to another, except when time-travel is possible. In this case that inhabitant must go back in time to the point where the universe splitted, and then go forward in time again through another branch than the one he came from. The different worlds exist in some way sideways across time from our reality : These worlds stand perpendicular to each other, and to our world. Because a measurement device can only give ONE outcome at a time, we always end up in just ONE world. We therefore cannot experience the splitting up of the world into the alternative realities. So the theory itself predicts that we cannot observe the splitting act.
This Many-World Interpretation has a number of advantages over the Copenhagen Interpretation, of which the most important one is that in the Many-Worlds interpretation determinism is restored. This means that in this interpretation the world is deterministically homogenous. In the quantum-world as well as the macroscopic world a determined antecedent has a determined effect, although we can predict that effect only in terms of probabilities, i.e. we only can calculate in advance the probability that we will end up in a certain branch of reality, a branch which contains a determined value of the quantity we measure. So in each branch of reality there is a linear sequence of antecedents and consequents. But, of course if we consider the totality of all the worlds resulting in the never ending splitting up of the world at each quantum event, then we must admit a certain indeterminateness, because, with respect to this totality of worlds, an antecedent does not imply one consequent only, but all possible consequents. This phenomenon entails however a solution for a major problem (constituting of course a "pro" for the Many-Worlds Interpretation) :
Evolutionary Biology faces a big problem in explaining the fact that the universe finally generated life, including intelligent beings. The way to these organic beings seems to be paved with accidents, which make life some sort of accidental feature of the universe. Life, and especially intelligent life, are, it must be admitted, very special phenomena indeed. How did the universe find exactly the right path leading from the initial fireball to you and me? Is life a coincident, or is life in some way imlicit in the subatomic particles and fields that were going to make up our world. Is life an inevitable feature of the universe, so that it necessarily developed in certain suitable places ('bubbles') of the universe? Or is there some higher power that directed the processes towards life?
Let me quote the answer to these questions of one of the adherents of the Many-World Interpretation, John GRIBBIN, in his In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, Quantumphysics and Reality, 1984 (1987), p. 252--253 (comments between square brackets [...]:
"The answer lies in an idea often referred to as the "anthropic principle". This says that the conditions that exist in our universe are the only conditions, apart from small variations, that could have allowed life like us to evolve, and so it is inevitable that any intelligent species like us should look out upon a universe like the one we see about us. If the universe wasn't the way it is, we wouldn't be here to observe it [ So it is logically that we, as intelligent observers must be in a world that supports intelligent beings to evolve and maintain. GRIBBIN is now going to explain why this world is such a life-supporting world, in terms of the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. ]. We can imagine the universe taking many different quantum paths forward from the Big Bang. In some of those worlds, because of differences in the quantum choices made near the beginning of the universal expansion, stars and planets never form, and life as we know it does not exist. Taking a specific example, in our universe there seems to be a preponderance of matter particles and little or no antimatter [ In our world there are many many electrons, fundamental particles carrying a negative electrical charge. But sometimes "positrons" are encountered. These are particles just like electron with an equal but, positive electrical charge. Such a positron is an example of antimatter. When an electron and a positron meet, then they annihilate each other under a burst of electromagnetic radiation. ]. There may be no fundamental reason for this -- it may be just an acident of the way the reactions worked out during the fireball phase of the Big Bang. It is just as likely that the universe should be empty [ or unsuitable for life. The kind of emptiness could be a case of there being only radiation because there is precisely as much matter and antimatter in the universe, and these annihilate to radiation everytime. ], or that it should consist chiefly of what we would call antimatter, with little or no matter present. In the empty universe there would be no life as we know it. In the antimatter universe there could be life just like us, a kind of looking-glass world made real. The puzzle is why a world ideal for life should have appeared out of the Big Bang.So the Many-Worlds Interpretation has a strong point with respect to the special world we find ourselves in, a strong point that the Copenhagen Interpretation and also BOHM's non-local hidden variable inerpretation do not possess.
The anthropic principle says that the many possible worlds may exist, and that we are an ineviable product of our kind of universe. But where are the other worlds? Are they ghosts, like the interacting worlds [ coresponding with the interference of (probability-)waves ] of the Copenhagen interpretation? Do they correspond to different life cycles of the whole universe, before the Big Bang that began time and space as we know them? Or could they be Everett's many worlds [ EVERETT was the one who first proposed the Many-World Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. ], all existing at right angles to our own? It seems to me that this is by far the best explanation available today, and that the resolution of the fundamental puzzle of why we see the universe the way it is amply compensates for the load of baggage carried by the Everett interpretation. Most of the alternative quantum realities are unsuitable for life and are empty. The conditions that are just right for life are special, so when living beings look back down the quantum path that has produced themselves they see special events, branches in the quantum road that may not even be the most likely on a statistical basis, but are the ones that lead to intelligent life. The multiplicity of worlds like our own but with different histories -- in which Britain still rules all of its North American colonies, or in which the North American natives colonized Europe -- together make up just one small corner of a much vaster reality. It is not chance that has selected the special conditions suitable for life out of the array of quantum possibilities, but choice. All worlds are equally real, but only suitable worlds contain observers."
Which means : The uncertainty of Energy, times the uncertainty of time, equals, or is greater than, planck's constant (h) divided by 2 pi (where pi is about 3.14).
So if the uncertainty of time is very very small, which means that the time-interval in which something can happen, is very very small, or in other words, when the point intime is sharply defined, then the uncertainty of the amount of energy must be very great (in order to give h / 2 pi when those uncertainties are multiplied with each other), and this means that the amount of energy CAN be great, i.e. violating the law of the conservation of energy, but only during this very very short time. In this way energy can be even created out of nothing (but again, only during that very short time interval).
Now, according to EINSTEIN's famous equation
in which E stands for the amount of energy, m for mass, and c for the speed of light (which is a natural constant), energy can be converted to mass, so in this way energy, created out of nothing, or whatever excess of energy (both violating the energy-conservation law for a short while), can be converted into one or more particles. But such particles only have a very brief existence. In Particle Physics they are called "virtual particles".
Such virtual particles are indeed entities with a "deficient" existence or being, they are just "flickerings" of being.
So now we have TWO equally acceptable interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, the Copenhagen Interpretation and the Many-Worlds Interpretation. We need not to decide between the two, because the rest of the Substance-Accident Metaphysics, i.e. the metaphysics of macroscopic things (including perhaps also molecules and atoms) is not based on one or another interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. The Substance-Accident Metaphysics can easily accomodate (whatever kind of) weakened beings within its conceptual scheme, its scope extends all the way between nothingness and full-fledged being.
This promised introduction to Quantum Mechanics will be given here as soon as I have time to do so.
In the mean time, however, the reader is invited to a not so well-known, but important interpretation of Quantum Mechanics set up by the quantum physicist David BOHM. This interpretation leads to different conclusions than the ones above, but are nevertheless very important and interesting (We must realize that it is a good thing to let alternative ideas about the constitution of Reality stand side by side, instead of quickly adopt one such idea and reject the others. This is because we probably will never know about the ultimate ground of all Reality. Such alternative ideas should be in constant dialogue with each other, and only in this way will insight progress).
This alternative interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is the starting point of the vision of the World as an undivided wholeness, and in this vision current Quantum Mechanics cannot claim to have said the last word concerning the ultimate structure of Reality, just like Newtonian physics turned out only to be valid in a limited domain (albeit a rather large domain). This new vision of wholeness is presented on the Third Part of our website which is accessible by the following LINK :
HERE (to Third Part of Website).
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