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Flat Earthers Nearly Derailed a Space Photo Book (nytimes.com)
47 points by pseudolus 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

Last weekend I met a person that was convinced the US government protects "the edge". I told him that was very interesting.

I don't think there is anything you can do when interacting with these people outside of smiling and nodding - so I'm sad to see you get downvotes.

This is actually a really big problem for me as I find it physically discomforting to listen to lies being spoken unopposed.

You can tell them you think they're delusional, or make it slightly less personal and say what they've said is delusional (linguistically incorrect but a compromise). I mean, it really isn't your responsibility to coddle their emotional state by staying silent. Anyway, I've done both, in public, and the result is interesting. I felt slightly guilty because the person will take great offense even though usually they don't get riled up about it. But at the same time it was less uncomfortable than listening to unopposed lies.

Diplomacy provides for ample indirection: I'm so sorry to inform you so directly, I mean no offense, but what you're saying is completely unprovable, you have no facts at all that can demonstrate your position. I do appreciate your bravery for being willing to expose your ignorance on this topic so publicly, however.

Et cetera.

I think it’s less about “coddling their emotional state” and more about the futility of getting dragged into argument with no end. It reminds me of the saying, attributed to Mark Twain, among others: “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Or the other variant, "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get covered in muck, but the pig likes it." https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/07/08/pig/

Great quote. I'll say that out loud next time. I'm content with letting an idiot think I'm the idiot.

I used to see it that way. Now I remind myself that for nearly all of us, there are certain truths never to be acknowledged.

Such encounters are a rate opportunity to gain first-hand insight on someone else's particular set of unbearable truths. Maybe start with "What whole-Earth map would you recommend?"

Part of this is totally legitimate, we all have limited knowledge and unfortunately in America being stubborn and an ability to BS is pretty much taught in schools... but there is a range of people here. At one extreme there are people, who, when their misconceptions are challenged, can admit they were wrong and have no hesitancy to voice their ignorance on a subject - at the other extreme are people who never want to be wrong and go to lengths to dismiss anything they observe that would invalidate their beliefs. Then we have the trouble causers that delight in the ignorance of others and reinforce misconceptions either out of pure joy or to monetize those misconceptions - either way just being terrible trolls.

I feel like the earth being round is such a generally accepted fact that anyone still clinging to flat-eartherism is either a troll or quite close to the extreme of that spectrum and I don't think it's worth my time to deal with those people - and I get that, it's sort of a mean stance to take but... I don't know, there's enough stuff I have to do in life - I'd rather not devote the effort into trying to convince someone who might just be trolling for the hell of it.

Learn how to talk to people without respecting them. Once you've got it down, you can eviscerate this sort of person in public without getting your hands wet.

Speaking to someone without respect for them or their views isn't going to change their minds - ever.

I have a "flat earther" friend on Facebook. I didn't know that about him until after I'd already friended him, but he posts about it constantly. After an initial private message of "Are you for real?", I've made it a point to as mildly as possible point out the obvious logical fallacies in the things he posts. I don't expect I'll ever change his mind - it's possible, but you can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into. Instead, I'd just like to have him see inconsistencies in what others who believe what he believes say. Over time I'm hoping that will at the very least keep it from spreading.

> ... but you can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into.

I'm living proof that this isn't true. I was a Young Earth Creationist for nearly 30 years, despite having an engineering degree from one of the world's best universities. I no longer believe in anything supernatural. It took a very long time, but I was eventually reasoned out of a position I wasn't reasoned into.

When people incorporate ideology into their identity, challenging the ideology directly is often interpreted as a personal attack or something else not worth honestly engaging with. A far better approach is to examine the methods people use to reach conclusions. There's a conversation technique called Street Epistemology that does exactly that. IMHO, it's the most productive way to have these kind of conversions.

Interact with them in person, in private, and you'll change their mind. It can't be done over social media.

I'd appreciate you clarifying "eviscerate" here, if you mean you can convince them the earth is round then hooray - but there are some incredibly stubborn people out there so I really doubt your prowess... More likely I assume that by "eviscerate" you mean that you can walk away from the conversation feeling like it's impossible for a rational person to disagree with what you said - that's certainly a nice feeling for you but I strongly doubt you're having any significant impact on their beliefs.

Think like Marvin the Paranoid Android. It's not about your beliefs or emotions, but those of the person that you're talking to. Your goal isn't to feel good about yourself, but to be confident that they cannot feel good about their position in light of what's been brought up.

Just curious, do Flat Earthers never fly the earth a round to confirm? I mean, leaving from America to go to Europe then Asia then America. Doesn't have to go to the space to see the shape of the earth but just keep looping the round earth should be sufficient. Will they think it may be another continent? with same wife, kids, street names, etc?

What I've heard is that it's very difficult to fly straight. GPS will lie to you and tell you that you're flying straight when in "reality" you're flying in a circle.

There's an (insane) explanation for absolutely everything.

Speaking of GPS, I've always wondered what their explanation is for how GPS works if there's no globe to speak of. Are the satellites in orbit around the flat earth? :)

Just make up whatever you want on the go. i.e. If I were to make something up I would say that the GPS satellites really are going around the flat earth. Also, the GPS satellites were really invented to monitor the underside of the earth where dinosaurs still exist and where the real location of Atlantis is.

This is the real reason governments do not want you to discover that the earth is flat. They are hiding Atlantis. The whole city is covered by a forcefield and we have not yet been able to penetrate it. It is apparently uninhabited, long since abandoned. Once we are able to get inside it we will be able to obtain Star Trek level technology. And by we I mean an Illuminati like group that controls all the governments of the world.

They want to keep all that technology for themselves. Q'Anon is actually a defector of that group and it will eventually help us find Atlantis so that we can all share its technology. etc. etc.

This stuff almost writes itself. You can never loose.

> Q'Anon is actually a defector of that group and it will eventually help us find Atlantis so that we can all share its technology. etc. etc.

Is QAnon a Flat Earther? (serious question)

No, just made it up. I think that when you are a Flat Earther the more unbelievable something sounds the better.

I would actually buy and read a novel that had the plot you described.

Yeah, I actually found the plot interesting as I was writing it, which kind of surprised me. If I were a writer I would write a short fiction about it. But I'm not. I wonder if it would make an interesting video game, though.

> I would actually buy and read a novel that had the plot you described.

Come on, write some fanfiction. ;-)

> Speaking of GPS, I've always wondered what their explanation is for how GPS works if there's no globe to speak of.

The common explanation seems to be that GPS is in reality some ground-based system (think some kind of a modernized LORAN):





According to the first link, there also exists a minority opinion among Flat Earthers that satellites might exist: "being swept along by whatever “cosmological current” it is that moves the sun and moon around in the complicated spirals needed to precisely reproduce the effect that’s so simple if the Earth is round. They won’t be able to explain why those currents do what they do - or why they move some satellites in one way and some in another…but that rather weak argument seems to suffice for their own benefit.".

In comments on a Youtube video (which I cannot now find) the flat earthers didn't know the difference between GPS and radar, and thought that the limited range of oceanic radar for air traffic control somehow proved that GPS satellites didn't exist.

The ones I've spoken to mostly seem to believe that satellites don't orbit. The most detailed explanation I've heard is that geosynchronous satellites are balloons and that LEO satellites are autonomous long-range aircraft that are kept aloft 24/7.

Wow... I never thought about the theory... just wow...

Flat Earthers look for ways to confirm what they believe.

My favorite demonstration goes like this. Get into a plane. Sight down the spine of a magazine at the horizon then look at it. You'll see that it is tilted a few degrees. Do the same out the other window. It is tilted a few degrees the other way.

Can we work out by how much it should tilt? Why yes! If the Earth is a ball, then you, the horizon, and the center of the Earth make a right angle triangle with the right angle at the horizon, one leg being the distance from you to the horizon, the other being from the center of the Earth to the horizon, and the hypotenuse is the distance from the center of the Earth to the ground below plus your height. Furthermore if you draw the picture, the triangle from you to the horizon to a vertical line up from the horizon to horizontal back to you is a similar triangle to the first, so the angle that the horizon is below horizontal is the same as the angle at the center of the Earth of this triangle.

The distance from the center of the Earth to the ground is approximately 3950 miles. Your plane is usually 6 to 7 miles off the ground, let's say 7. By Pythagorus that puts the horizon at sqrt(3956^2 - 3950^2) which is roughly 235 miles away. Apply basic trigonometry, and it should be about 3.4 degrees below horizontal.

I've done this. You've seen that the calculation is easy. The measurement is easy. Running in circles to avoid this conclusion is a sign that you aren't interested in knowing the real answer.

> Just curious, do Flat Earthers never fly the earth a round to confirm? I mean, leaving from America to go to Europe then Asia then America. Doesn't have to go to the space to see the shape of the earth but just keep looping the round earth should be sufficient.

If you look at the picture at


you see that what you call "fly around the earth" is simply flying some giant "circle" (perhaps not a perfect circle in the geometric sense, but you get the idea) in the Flat Earthers' model.

If they have only one flat model, then probably pole-to-pole might be the best to explain... the plain cannot suddenly go to the opposite continent, for instance goes to Australia then south pole then south America...

Or challenge them to a race between those locations.

Ah, so that's why it takes as long to fly from San Fran to Tokyo as it does to fly from Santiago to Sydney - because the government purposefully slows down plans between San Fran and Tokyo...

I feel like it'd be pretty trivial to charter a flight from Punta Arenas Chile to Melbourne Australia and blow the minds of some flat earthers... but, eh, willfully ignorant people are going to be willfully ignorant.

Airline flights can be tracked online, eg at https://flightaware.com

For parts of the Pacific there is no coverage, not because GPS doesn't work there, but because there are no ground stations to pick up the telemetry from the airplanes. Such flights take off, fly over the ocean, then "disappear" for a few hours, then reappear when they approach Australia.

Flat Earthers take this to be evidence of the cover-up.

I am assuming (probably falsely) that if you assume the earth is flat then you assume there is an edge somewhere - not anywhere but in some particular spot. If the assumption is that it's around the south pole (as per the map in the linked page) then a flight from Chile to Australia would be among the longest flights possible, it would be hard to argue[1] against a round earth when that flight took a few hours when Bejing -> Melbourne or even London -> Melbourne is a clearly shorter according to their flat earth map.

As per my general ambivalence to disproving their ignorance though - at this point they might suspect... anything really, maybe they were secretly drugged during the flight to feel like it was really quick and their watches were adjusted or maybe the lizard people used their warp technology to teleport them part of the way. Honestly, willful ignorance gonna willfully ignorant - a conspiracy theorist that's in deep can always find a new excuse.

1. Argue logically that is... willfully ignorant people gonna willfully ignorant as mentioned in the comment above

It's a nice touch that that image of the flat Earth seems to have been generated from satellite imagery of the continents.

Well, if Earth was topologically a torus (like the game area in Asteroids) it would be still possible to circumnavigate it in any direction. One would have to tie a string around it and try to contract it to tell the difference, which would be significantly harder.

To steelman what you said, you could fly a polar route over the south pole (say from the Horn of South America to the Cape of Good Hope) and time it out, then fly a polar route over the North pole and time it out. Both flights are short on a round earth.

You're just going in a circle.

Overall, we need to let go of the idea that people believe things because they have evaluated the evidence and have come to a conclusion. This is scientific thought, and if you have ever changed your mind on a strongly held belief based on new facts then you know that it takes conscious effort and humility, which even the best of us cannot apply to every single position they have.

Instead, I am convinced that all of us believe mostly for emotional reasons: the need to feel important, the need to be part of a group, the need to maintain some social order etc. For most people, who are not willing or capable to apply scientific thought, all of these needs trump every fact you may have. If you want to “convince” people, you need to address first the underlying issue, which is often difficult: loneliness, social isolation, feelings of inferiority etc.

One example I found particularly striking for the contrast between the common “rationality” assumption and actual working of beliefs, is this paper by Max Adams: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9893/2a75ad8e79585e95c58a26...

No they didn't. There are no "flat earthers" fucking anywhere. None. Anyone horsing around with the gimmick is just fucking with people.

They don't exist. There are a handful of dipshits on YouTube pretending to be flat earthers for the views. Goofing off for patreon cash, because it's almost kind of funny. That's it.

No one ever bought the flat earth bullshit, except a tiny cross section of damaged goods schizophrenics. The rest was just the internet fueling a slow news day with prank calls.

I promise you there are less than 1,000 English speaking adults that ever professed an honest belief in such a theory and meant it. That's fewer than 10 per state in the U.S. Everyone else is rolling their eyes and cracking jokes.

> That's fewer than 10 per state in the U.S.

I've personally met more than 10 in my state. They are uncommon, but much more common than you'd think.

Just FYI 1000/50 > 10

Also you might be broadly correct but the tone you chose to take has dissuaded me from giving you my upvote.

I looked into flat earthers are little on the internet because it just seemed like such an out there idea that I wanted to see how they justified it.

A lot of it seems to be based on them misunderstanding refraction and the way light behaves over distances. Their main argument seems to be that if you take water and put flags or boats over it, you can continue to see it for long after the curvature of the earth makes it so you shouldn't be able to see it.

The reason for this is that light bends.

this wikipedia page has a really good rundown


That's just one argument. The flat-earth whatevertocallit has an answer for everything. This is what makes it so hilarious.

For example: If you are, from a truly objective perspective, firmly stuck with the idea that the earth must be round, you would have it no other way... then surely seeing objects that should be hidden behind the curvature means light must bend around the curve?

Its like person 1 arguing you cant look though glass, person 2 showing him a glass window then 1 argues woah! The picture travels around the window! Then the 3rd person argues the theory of transparent glass has now been refuted because we know the picture bends around it.

I can't help but think that a lot of Flat Earthers exist just to troll other Flat Earthers and Round Earthers.

It may well have started that way online... but it's a real thing these days. I've not encountered anyone who strikes me as a purposeful troll.

Easily disprovable conspiracy theories like this have always existed, but it's funny (and sad) to see them actually convince hundreds of thousands of people through the momentum of social media these days. People really want to think they're smarter than the "rest of the sheep."

What's ironic is the real conspiracy they're missing is the people who publish & promote these theories (YouTubers, Bloggers, etc) probably don't believe any of it themselves and are just trying to make a buck from the gullible.

It’s a gregariousness thing. Humans like to be in groups, and modern life has strongly reduced the quantity and kind of groups we can be a part of, as well as loosened family ties which used to prime over everything else.

Flat earthers aren’t spending their time writing equations to justify their views - they’re posting in Facebook groups, going to conventions, etc. People become flat earthers not because of their scientific beliefs, but because there is a flat earth movement to become a part of.

It’s about the social group first and foremost, feeling smarter than the establishment is an added bonus.

> feeling smarter than the establishment is an added bonus.

Intelligence is the most important trait for determining social rank in humans, especially for men. This means that a lot of people are very insecure about their perceived lack of intelligence. So being right when another "smart" group was wrong is a huge sense of validation for people and it helps boost their self-esteem.

Given that, I wouldn't be so sure that feeling smarter isn't the primary draw.

> It’s about the social group first and foremost

This was very well highlighted in "Behind the Curve" documentary (available on Netflix). One of the main figures of the flat-earth movement spoke quite openly that he lost his friends when he "found the truth", and doesn't want to go through that again.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZzsq40Bx2Y

> gregarity

I think you mean gregariousness?


Yep, the conspiracy industry is real.

It's not designed to convince anyone here that earth is flat, this is however the target audience.

I wonder if Facebook allows targeting to topic "flat earth" or "conspiracy"? If so, he could have just disallowed ads to these groups and got around the issue. What is more likely is allowing ad targeting to those with an interest in NASA or SpaceX or even just broad topics like space/astronomy etc and just avoid those flat earth users all together.

> He learned that he could tell Facebook whom he did — and did not — want to reach. “We specified we didn’t want conspiracy theorists and lunar landing deniers and flat earthers,” he said.

Oops - I somehow missed that even though I looked through the article a second time to prevent this error from happening :)

He did.

> He learned that he could tell Facebook whom he did — and did not — want to reach. “We specified we didn’t want conspiracy theorists and lunar landing deniers and flat earthers,” he said.

Oops - I somehow missed that even though I looked through the article a second time to prevent this error from happening :)

FE'ers likely have interests in those areas, too; after all, you can't have a conspiracy unless you have a "they" to rail against...

The documentary "Behind the curve" gives a nice glimpse inside the minds of Flat Earthers.


Don’t forget Qanon


Actually I don't know why people are downvoting you. Weren't these the first people to be ranting and raving about Jeffery Epstein years ago, and everyone (myself included) thought they were complete conspiracy nuts?

Now those statements of theirs has been proven, and before Epstein has a chance to testify, he magically manages to commit suicide in a high-security prison.

And when you think about it, the whole Epstein story is ridiculous. It's completely fucking insane! Everything from the private island to the "suicide" reads like an alternate reality where everything is as stereotypically cliche evil as possible. But yet it exists. So clearly, the insanity of the conclusion of a theory is not grounds for ignoring it.

I am not saying conspiracists are right on everything, or even most things, but it seems to me that some of them have a knack for seeing problems from a different angle. Perhaps we shouldn't just flat-out ignore them before verifying said angle for ourselves.

Yes, not all conspiracy theories are just theories. It's relatively easy to disprove something like flat earth by getting on an airplane, but something like Epstein required time to collect evidence, make arrests, etc.

No rational person has had any doubts about Epstein's involvement with sex crimes since at least 2008. If they had secret knowledge of this, why didn't they share it much, much earlier?

Also anti-GMO people

There are scientific, fact based reasons to be skeptical of GMOs:

- Intellectual property concerns

- Biodiversity concerns

- Glyphosate-tolerant modifications leading to higher pesticide usage

Blanket opposition to GMOs is silly, there's no real difference between selective breeding and scientific modification - but GMOs haven't yielded only positive results.

If you believe the science, being opposed to GMOs is being in favor of mass starvation.

See https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2018/06/unfairly... for some of that information. Also note that separate lines of research show that higher CO2 results in crops growing faster, but having fewer nutrients. And therefore GMOs are our best hope of having not just enough food, but food that compensates for CO2 increases.

These GM plants are a tiny(and mostly exclusive to third-world) minority of the market, most of which is pesticide resistant or pesticide producing crops. Its like arguing that cars(all GM crops) are great and save us from global warming because electric cars(nutrient rich GM crops) exist.

Additionally, these(for GM crop) pesticides/herbicides are sprayed in such quantities they violate chemical limits in foods. https://www.salon.com/2019/07/14/corporations-can-legally-pu...

> - Glyphosate-tolerant modifications leading to higher pesticide usage

That might be true, but Glyphosate is less toxic than the alternatives, so the overall effect is positive:

> On balance, herbicide-resistant GM crops are less damaging to the environment than conventional crops grown at industrial scale. A study by PG Economics, a consulting firm in Dorchester, UK, found that the introduction of herbicide-tolerant cotton saved 15.5 million kilograms of herbicide between 1996 and 2011, a 6.1% reduction from what would have been used on conventional cotton. And GM crop technology delivered an 8.9% improvement to the environmental impact quotient — a measure that considers factors such as pesticide toxicity to wildlife — says Graham Brookes, co-director of PG Economics and a co-author of the industry-funded study, which many scientists consider to be among the field’s most extensive and authoritative assessments of environmental impacts.


"pesticide": probably you mean "herbicide".

There is also the problem of pesticides that, previously, were only on the skins of fruits, and able to be washed off, now being produced by the plant and so laced throughout.

Incidentally, probably most of the glyphosate in our diet comes from seeds of plants killed with it -- e.g. oats, chickpeas -- and not resistant.

It's tragic that abuses of GM techniques generate opposition that interferes with adoption of carotene-producing ("yellow") rice.

... which is to say, anti-GMO people aren't the same as Flat-earthers, anti-vaxers, and climate change deniers, who all reject science and reason.

All of them deny the scientific consensus because it clashes with their ideology. That's not to say they're _same_, e.g. Flat-earthers probably harm society less than anti-vaxers.

The consensus regarding GMO safety is solid, but I find a lot of people are immune to it for some reason.

A great example of the damage that anti-GMO people cause is the opposition to Golden rice. Vitamin A deficiency kills an estimated 670,000 children every year under the age of 5 and cause an additional 500,000 cases of irreversible childhood blindness. Most of these areas have conventional Vitamin A fortification programs, but they obviously don't work. Golden rice is a strain of rice that was genetically modified to produce vitamin A (technically beta-carotene, which is humans convert to vitamin A). It's free to plant non-commercially. It was developed by universities and other publicly funded organizations. It's approved for human consumption by the FDA, as well as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Yet Greenpeace and others oppose it, claiming it will open the door to more widespread use of GMOs. They would rather have 500 thousand children die per year.


>but GMOs haven't yielded only positive results.

Neither have vaccines, in 1999 the rotavirus vaccine was withdrawn because of reports of intussusception.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5334a3.htm .

However, on the whole, the safety and efficacy of vaccines and their life-saving nature has been shown in study after study and there is scientific consensus that the benefits outweigh the risks.

The same with GMO. Just like vaccines, there are risks and they will require regulation. However, study after study has shown that the benefits outweigh the risks, and there is scientific consensus on the issue. In addition, GMO opposition does actively harm people. An example is the opposition to Golden Rice which would significantly reduce Vitamin A deficiency worldwide.

From http://www.goldenrice.org/:

>For biofortification alone GMO technology can deliver high folate rice (mothers’ dietary deficiency causes birth defects), high zinc and high iron rice (dietary deficiency impedes mental development). Similarly, GMO Golden Rice provides a source of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is an immune deficiency syndrome, so children die of common infections. It is also the main cause of irreversible childhood blindness. Golden Rice has been accepted as safe for consumption by the Governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA, and registrations have been applied for in Philippines and Bangladesh. Yet, significantly due to rejection of science by activists, Golden Rice is not yet available to farmers and their communities as an additional intervention for vitamin A deficiency. And neither high folate rice, nor high iron rice, nor high zinc rice, nor Golden Rice could be developed without the use of GMO-technology.

Based on the above, it is logical to group anti-GMO opposition in with anti-vaxxers as people that reject science and endanger the health of humans.

All of Europe?

The European public, yes. However European scientists support the scientific consensus, per the definition of a consensus.

> In 2013, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) asked the EU to allow the development of agricultural GM technologies to enable more sustainable agriculture, by employing fewer land, water and nutrient resources. EASAC also criticizes the EU's "timeconsuming and expensive regulatory framework" and said that the EU had fallen behind in the adoption of GM technologies.


> There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction.


Not really. You can view a live feed of the Earth. Modeling climate change has proven to be very difficult. I'm not saying those people aren't wrong, but it's not as black and white as round vs flat.

I'd say not similar methods. Koch Industires/1980s Conservatives spreading propaganda to limit any increase in govt (i.e. more regulation would be passed) lead to climate deniers. Anti-Vax discord was recently aided by Russian disinformation on social media. And flat-earth theories are another form of Christian science or Creationism by and large.

Human caused climate change is still debatable. That the climate changes isn’t. Causality is the controversy.

derriz 69 days ago [flagged]

What exactly is debatable?

A. That humans have added huge amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere?


B. that CO2 is a greenhouse gas?

To deny the former would be delusional. The latter has been known since the 19th century and can be easily tested empirically.

There is no debate.

I think the rate of which we are warming is debatable.

Modeling climate change is very very difficult, and we've had many wrong predictions. Which is probably why so many people are skeptical.

No, it is not debatable.


Also, no, plant food is nitrates and phosphates, CO2 is just what plants 'breath'.

Plant food, if it's anything, is sunlight.

But almost all of what you see when you look at a tree is made of water and CO2.

Water is also vital to all life. Doesn't mean you can't drown in it or that you'll want too much of it in your basement.

Plants need water, too, but that doesn’t mean they like tsunamis.

munk-a 69 days ago [flagged]


So, it's not flat earthers at all, it's facebook trying to optimize what the world should and should not see through "algorithms" and "machine learning" for the sole purpose of selling more user information.

Why should facebook exist anymore?

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