Mental Dynamist

Mental Momentum (short essays about mind and brain)

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‘Mental Momentum’ is a collection of ideas about mind and brain. I treat thinking as a perpetual flow of thoughts to study where they come from and where they will go to. There'll be short essays reflecting on how our brain tackles the commonalities and oddities of everyday life. Hope you’ll find them interesting.

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Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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11 hours ago, Mental Dynamist said:

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Do you have a psychology background? You mention "ideas about", and use the phrase "I treat thinking...", which makes it seem like this is stuff you made up without knowing how mainstream science explains the same thing. If that's the case, you won't really get our "thoughts" on the matter, you'll get critique on where your ideas don't match up with what we observe using mainstream scientific methodology. Science knows a great deal about how the mind and brain works, even if we still have a lot to learn.

If you're still up for running the gauntlet though, please post an excerpt here.

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Posted (edited)

 

Mental Momentum: The Perpetual Motion

 

I. Mental Motion: Threads and Knots

1. Collective processing: how idiot beats Darwin to propose Natural Selection 

In China, people have a peculiar habit of greeting: “Have you just eaten?”

What would you expect if you greet your friends with this question?

Will they simply answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Or will their answers vary widely? [1]

One of your friends may say: “Oh, never mind, I’m just too tired. Why not you leave me alone for a moment?”

Do you know what makes your friend tired? Is it physical? Mental? Or a bad mood?

Maybe your friend just wants you to leave him alone for a moment, so that he could work quietly. Maybe your friend is reading a book, and is at the moment perplexed by a question. While he’s trying to figure out an answer, you suddenly come in and disrupt him.

You walk away, not knowing what’s really on your friend’s mind. You greet another friend with the same question. There you get a different answer:

“The lunch was fantastic. It’s never been that good for months.”

Well, the lunch was fantastic. Was it fantastic because of the meal? Or the people?

Perhaps, your friend and her group had just gone through months of experiments to catch the deadline. It was finally over. She and her group had just gathered around in a familiar restaurant to share the relief.

If you ask me what’ll determine the answer, I’d say a lot of factors: Who ask the question? How familiar are you to your friend? What’s the attitude and previous impression your friend has toward you? What is the situation you ask your friend this question? What is your friend’s past experience related to the question you ask?

Now you may wonder: why won’t we treat the matter in a simple way: You ask a question on a situation. That’s the input. The input triggers a well-defined related memory. And there you get the answer.

Besides, ‘Have you just eaten?’ is like all other greetings. They are perhaps too ambiguous to tell us anything specific. What if you ask an unambiguous question, like ‘Who proposed natural selection?’

You walk down the street, pick a random person, and ask him/her this question. You may be answered with:

“Idiot.”

‘Idiot’ is of course not the correct answer. But in your replier’s brain, natural selection appears to favor an idiot who doesn’t seem to exist, over our brilliant scientist Charles Darwin who proposed it.

“Well,” you may ask: “Ask a stranger on a street. You are not expecting good answers, aren’t you? Please, do it properly.”

Now you are facing a group of students, as a teacher in an exam, or a psychologist in a lab. Now, students write answers on paper.

But it is still not impossible that ‘idiot’ appears on their answer sheet.

It is way less likely, because the situation has changed, and it makes a big stroke.

In fact, you probably wouldn’t ask a question if you would expect an answer of ‘idiot’. You choose your target. You create a proper situation.

But you haven’t realized that they end up being part of your question, because without them answers will differ.

Quite a few years ago, while trying to sort out the mess and uncover how the brain truly works, I said: “The brain is complicated.” Now I realized it was nothing more than saying: “The brain is cock-a-doodle-doo.” Even worse, it implies that I didn’t know how the brain works. You know, almost everyone around me would say that a computer is complicated, until I had a numerical programming class. There, I see none of the computer experts would ever say so.

What I learned from the experts is: A computer has a large storage, a much smaller memory, and a processor with limited computing power. When it computes, it puts some storage into memory, and the processor computes data in the memory following a fixed logic. If you’re a programmer, you need to decide what goes to the memory, and what logic to follow. The logic should be straightforward. A large program is better reduced into separated small programs. In this way, at each time the computer could extract as small amount of memory as possible, and the overall computation would be quicker.

But does our brain work like this sort of computer? Are you applying specific logic you know well of to exclusive programs in your brain? Are you good at doing these ‘exclusive programs’ repetitively? Are you unable to do things outside these ‘exclusive programs’ where logic is explicit?

Are you, while thinking, trying to extract as small amount of memory as possible? Or are you always trying to associate thoughts relevant to what you’re thinking, meanwhile creating logic you’ve never used before?

Are you good at recollecting past experience at a specific moment as complete as possible? Or are you good at using what you’ve learned through your experience in a collective way?

If you ask me about the exact situations where I learned to program, I wouldn’t be able to recollect them. They are scattered everywhere – not from a single teacher, not at a certain hour, not in any specific room, and not through a particular programming experience.

But my inability to recollect my programing experience in specific terms doesn’t mean I’m unable to program. It also doesn’t mean I’m unable to tell the logic of programing – I can tell it in words that I’ve never been taught before, even in a completely different context, like I did in this book which talks about how the brain works.

Apparently, I’m not thinking like a program I run on my computer.

When I think, I’m not narrowing my thoughts to a well-defined range. Neither can I apply stringent logic to run tasks with infallible accuracy. I make mistakes. My thoughts wander around. If I must concentrate, the smaller the range I have to concentrate, the quicker I’d feel tired. If I must compel myself to follow specific logic, my thinking at any moment could still go astray. And at that moment, if I’m not disturbed by external sensation, I can always say that my brain is trying to relate additional information.

Unlike a computer, my brain likes to use as much information as it can relate to to process information. And there never seems to be any clear logic to follow.

My brain, in short, processes information collectively.


[1] When I learned English in primary school, I was asked to memorize the following dialog:

A: “How are you?”

B: “I’m fine, thank you. And you?”

A: “I’m fine, too.

Mental Momentum - Content.pdf

Mental Momentum - I.1.pdf

2. The mental motion: a thread of thoughts perpetually pushed forward

I love walking. When I walk, I think. I can’t stop thinking at any waking moment. I believe no one can.

Thinking is joyful, but it also makes me distractible and irritable. It on one hand, associates thoughts outside the range I’m working on, making it hard for me to concentrate on a specific task. On the other hand, when I start feeling mad, it unfolds too much biased thoughts, making me at the moment feel madder.

Temper is something that tends to get worse when ignited. Worse and worse until it explodes in full scale. So, I have been wondering: How good it would be if my thoughts could go where I’d want them to go? Could I even put a stopper on them?

I couldn’t. Thinking is something that just happens, with me unable to take its full control. It happens like breathing, driven by something inside myself (my brain) with me unable to get a full hold of it.

So, what is thinking? What does it consist? And what drives me to think perpetually?

Descartes might argue: “I think, therefore I am”, implying a perpetual state of being. But is thinking really a perpetual being? Isn’t it more like a perpetual seeker, moving in and out of myself?

Thinking, though intangible, has to do with both myself and the environment surrounding me. Perhaps, thinking is a resonation between me and the environment. I’d feel lost if the thoughts that’s on me and the sensation that’s getting into me don’t match. Just like when I was on vacation visiting a city I’ve never been to, I felt lost after going out of a big shopping mall back onto the street.

But what is my feeling of ‘lost’? When would I feel lost apart from experiencing a sudden change in environment? Why would I rarely feel lost in my everyday life?

Would I feel lost if I’m trying to attend to multiple tasks at the same time?

What if I’m talking to my friend? Would I feel lost if my friend sudden says something outside the topic we’re currently discussing? Would I feel even more lost if my friend says something that’s not like what he would say?

Would I feel lost if at the moment, what I get from sensation is far away from my current line of thinking?

If I’m going to say something abrupt to my friend, should I just say it? Or should I make some sort of prelude? What would this prelude do to make what I’ll say less abrupt?

Is thinking consist of separated thoughts? Or a cohesive line of thoughts, with thoughts closer in time more relevant to each other? Do I feel lost because the thoughts that come to my brain before and after the moment are not relevant? Do I always need some time to adjust if my line of thinking changes abruptly?

Do I always feel a little bit lost, or lack of mental cohesion, during the time my thinking changes fields? Is it similar to my feeling of temporarily mentally hollow after a sleep?

Perhaps, thinking is like walking. When I walk, I’m walking around a certain place, under a certain physical environment, with what I see changing smoothly. Similarly, there’s also a mental environment that comes with my thinking. This mental environment is like an intangible sense of being. When I’m inside the shopping mall, I’m mentally inside the mall. As I go outside the mall, I’m still mentally inside the mall, but I’m physically outside.

But as time goes by, I gradually reestablish a new mental environment – being outside the shopping mall on the street. There, my thinking becomes cohesive again.

When my thinking is cohesive, I’m immersed in a certain mental environment, thinking inside a certain field, having an implicit mental sense of being. This enables my brain to process information collectively. But is it also the whole reason why my thoughts closer in time are more relevant to each other? Is our line of thinking fully determined by our mental environment, which persist for a rather long time? Or is there a momentary momentum behind our thinking, like the forward momentum [1] as we’re walking forward?

When walking, what we see tend to be more relevant if they are seen closer in time. If thinking is like walking, can we regard our thinking as our mental path, with us perpetually stepping forward? Can we regard our thoughts as our footsteps, with thoughts closer in time and space have closer meanings, as if they are seen from closer spots?

If thinking is like walking, is there, like the physical world, a mental world upon which we are walking (and seeing)? How does our mental world look like?

In our mental world, is what inside and outside the shopping mall (where you feel temporarily lost) the same world? Or are they two separated worlds? How about what’s inside and outside the building you go to work (where your thinking transit smoothly)?

How does our mental world determine how we think? How does our thinking shape the mental world within us? What make things that physically tend to occur together mentally relevant? How does our mental relevance between things drive our perpetual motion of thoughts?

Is thinking a perpetual triggering of thoughts, with the thought and the sensation received at the previous moment triggering the thought at the next moment, through their relationship imprinted upon our mental world?

Is thinking also perpetually associative, with us trying to find new relations between our thoughts, making our mental world more cohesive and more comprehensive?

Is thinking a perpetual learning? Are we, through making connections between insides and outsides, stitching together mental worlds which were previously apart, thereby making a smooth transition between them?

Is our mental world like a web, with our thinking as threads weaving the web?

How about our thoughts? Are our mental world, our thinking, and our thoughts inseparable? Are they like the web, the threads, and the knots perpetually evolving?

 


[1] When you are trying to stop while running, you can feel your body still trying to go ahead. This is the momentum – the temporarily tendency for you to move toward the direction you’ve been moving

Edited by Mental Dynamist

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8 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

‘Idiot’ is of course not the correct answer. But in your replier’s brain, natural selection appears to favor an idiot who doesn’t seem to exist, over our brilliant scientist Charles Darwin who proposed it.

What is the connection with Darwin or natural selection?

And what does the title "threads and knots" refer to? You never mention threads or nots again.

More generally, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. The brain is more complicated than a computer? I don't think anyone will be surprised by that. 

Most of what you have written above, seems irrelevant to the operation of the brain. What does it matter how people greet each other? This is obviously different in different languages and cultures; but it doesn't really tell us anything about the brain, as far as I can see.

Can you summarise your point in one or two sentences

BTW: if anyone is thinking of downloading the PDF to get more explanation: don't bother. It appears to be exactly the same text.

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3. Intensified unit: why the apple on the tree is the same apple we eat

For a long time, I thought there’s no point in learning a second language – English for instance. Language is just a tool – something that belongs to a different world from the ideas I’m presenting. In so far that my ideas are good, I could easy hire someone else to translate for me. Even better, a computer might do a better job a few years later.

Now, I realize language is part of my natural thinking. Sentences are like threads. Words are like knots. And what I write arises from my own mental web. Whoever is the translator, the translation tends to be awkward compared to the original. Why? Because the translator does not have the same mental web [1] as the author.

When I was learning English as my second language, I used to memorize the meaning of words. I assumed: If I could correlate English words with Chinese words, which I used smoothly, I could speak English as smooth as speaking Chinese. Could I?

What I could is, well, speaking Chinglish. Words in my speech were like bumps and lumps. I created sentences like the one below:

Read books break ten-thousand scrolls, under pen like have god.

(Meaning: If you read ten thousand books, you’ll write like a god.)

You know, I have an inquisitive mind, and I read a lot of science. Science, as I see, is often the finding of an explicit and simple answer. What I found was: 1) scientific literature seldom use commonly used words; and 2) commonly used words often have multiple meanings.

So, I tried using words that are not used commonly. And I made sure to get the grammar right. Here’s what I got:

At the abdomen of whatever language, words abiding adjacent meanings are abundant. Any word’s meaning must be assured if only it is distinctly placed inside a sentence’s chamber.

(Meaning: For any language, there are words with multiple meanings, and meanings that can be expressed by many words. Only after a word is put into a sentence can its meaning be specific.)

Again, I realized something went wrong. But while I was confused by words and sentences, I got something from my science readings. You know, if Sir Isaac Newton could think about gravity by a falling apple, what does an apple mean?

Does it mean a hard fruit that falls from the tree when ripe? Does it mean something that has an apple-ish size, shape, and color? Does it mean a fruit that’s sweet and chewy, or a fruit that contains certain nutrition? Does it mean a fruit to be eaten, or to spread seeds for the apple tree?

Does it mean the Apple phone? The apple that hit Newton? Or the Poison Apple in Snow White?

Why would we use the same word ‘apple’ in all these circumstances? Why we do this for almost every word we use in everyday life?

As I probed deep into this question, I found it even more unnerving. You know, ‘disappear’ may be used for a player in a football game, a small pet raised in a family, or a skill of a sorcerer in a fantasy novel. And Gosh! The meanings are similar, but the connotations are very different.

Why our commonly used words are never as precise as those in the scientific literature?

I kept thinking about this until I overheard my aunt talking to my little cousin.

“You may have never eaten bird meat, but you’ve at least seen a bird flying.”

We don’t usually learn new things from a context that’s entirely new, do we? We learn apple tree from apple, in its environment we are mostly familiar with (e.g. grass and sky we see every day).

If I’ve never seen an apple, could I identify apple from an apple tree?

How could I get an idea of apple if I’ve never seen it before?

What’s the natural way of learning a new word? How natives learn to use words?

Not with grammar. Not from a dictionary. But through experience. Not from any specific logic learned through a particular experience. But by encountering it many many times.

That was when I throw away my grammar book. That was when I start reading English novels. That was when I, whenever referring to a dictionary, would pay more attention to example sentences rather than the words’ meanings. That was when I start using English fluently.

That was also when I realized that a word, a concept, or an idea not only cannot exist separably from the mental motion it resides, but is also built collectively by multiple motions. Just like when we see apple in different contexts, in our brain, it’s like passing a thread through a knot. We didn’t see the knot at the beginning, until a lot of threads have passed over it.

This gives rise to the unit of our thinking – the intensified unit: the unit, or node, intensified by mental motions passing over it.

 

[1] I’m not belittling the art of translation, or denying the prospect of a good translated work. But if you’re a good translator, you shall know to understand the author as best as you can, or at least read the original in full before starting to translate. So as to make what you write from as close to the mental web of the author as possible.

[2] Is scientific literature really good for science? Or are they killing our inquisitive nature

6 minutes ago, Strange said:

What is the connection with Darwin or natural selection?

And what does the title "threads and knots" refer to? You never mention threads or nots again.

More generally, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. The brain is more complicated than a computer? I don't think anyone will be surprised by that. 

Most of what you have written above, seems irrelevant to the operation of the brain. What does it matter how people greet each other? This is obviously different in different languages and cultures; but it doesn't really tell us anything about the brain, as far as I can see.

Can you summarise your point in one or two sentences

BTW: if anyone is thinking of downloading the PDF to get more explanation: don't bother. It appears to be exactly the same text.

Summary:

I.1: Our brain likes to use as much information as it can relate to to process information. And there never seems to be any clear logic to follow. Our brain, in short, processes information collectively.

I.2: Thinking is a perpetual mental motion, like a thread of thoughts perpetually pushed forward.

Btw, I.1 and I.2 are more introductory, you'll find more specific ideas in I.3 and later chapters.

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32 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

2. The mental motion: a thread of thoughts perpetually pushed forward

Why does thus section seem to consist almost entirely of questions?

22 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

Summary:

I.1: Our brain likes to use as much information as it can relate to to process information. And there never seems to be any clear logic to follow. Our brain, in short, processes information collectively.

I.2: Thinking is a perpetual mental motion, like a thread of thoughts perpetually pushed forward.

Btw, I.1 and I.2 are more introductory, you'll find more specific ideas in I.3 and later chapters.

How about answering the questions?

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7 hours ago, Strange said:

What is the connection with Darwin or natural selection?

I'm using 'Darwin' and 'Natural Selection' as an example to illustrate my point about collective processing.

 

 
 
1
7 hours ago, Strange said:

And what does the title "threads and knots" refer to? You never mention threads or nots again.

'Threads' and 'knots' are again figures of speech: thread - mental motion, knot - intensified unit.

 
 
1
6 hours ago, Strange said:

Why does thus section seem to consist almost entirely of questions?

How about answering the questions?

Again, I.1 and I.2 are introductory. These questions 1) set up the scope of what I'm going to talk about in later chapters, and 2) are what I want my readers to think about before I answering them later.

4. Turning on the crossroad: how global warming heats up my ambition

Ever since I was a sophomore, I had an ambition of changing how people think about how they think. To my peers, my ambition seems too big to be realistic. They so often joked about me that I learned to make jokes of myself before they came up with a joke.

“I know it is difficult. As difficult as changing the climate – creating global warming for example. Which means, it’s not impossible after all.”

The trick is: there are two aspects of global warming that are somehow connected. It is a global climate change, and it is, as many believe, caused by human activities. James Watt could get the credit for changing the climate, if he so wanted.[1]

Being able to figure out this trick, I believed I was undoubtedly smart. On the flip side, my smartness fooled myself. For a long time, I kept saying:

“I know it is difficult. As difficult as climatologists would think to create El Nino. Which means, it is not impossible after all.”

Only until recently did I realize that ‘climatologists’ only refer to ‘climatologists as I presumed they are’, not what they really are in real life. Do climatologists think that El Nino is difficult to be created? Do climatologists think El Nino is created, rather than just happened? Many of them do believe that that El Nino is intensified (rather than caused) by human activities, but even this belief is not conclusive.

So, climatologists don’t at all think that El Nino is created by human activities. Yet I’d fooled myself by making up this joke.

As much as I was fooled, I bet my words had also fooled my peers about how real climatologists think about El Nino. Wow, fooling people without giving away my intention! That’s something to think about.

If I could use this trick to fool people, I bet some other smart people could also do so. Yes, in advertisement: A nice-looking sofa is placed in a splendid house, with a stylish guy comfortably lying on it. Now you have an impulse to buy the sofa.

Before you pay the price, however, have you asked yourself: Would the stylish guy really feel as comfortable as he appears? Would the sofa fit in your home as nicely as in the advertisement? And why the guy as stylish as he is, with such a splendid house to live in, wouldn’t rather prefer another sofa much more expensive, which your budget couldn’t afford?

How were we fooled by ads without these questions ever came across us? How was my ambition heated up by global warming which seems rather irrelevant?

It happens because different aspects of an intensified unit are linked. It happens because our thinking is naturally associating through these links. These links exist in a somewhat vague, or collective manner. In a manner that we may not even explicitly tell.


[1] Modern researchers still disagree on the exact cause of global warming, but a sharp temperature rise is indeed observed after the Industrial Revolution.

 

5. The deconceptualized concept: how we learned Marxism as dreary memorization

When I was in my second years of grad school, I found one of my teachers were particularly interested in Chinese students. It seemed to him that Chinese students are always special.

Perhaps he was right: we had classes of Marxism from primary school all the way to college, but none of us was able to explain it when he asked us:

“Can any of you explain Marxism you’ve learned during school?”

For me, however, thing has been a little different. I learned Marxism not only in classes, but also in my extracurricular readings about history and philosophy.

When I was asked this question, I was tempted to talk about what I learned in my external readings. But I didn’t feel right, cause that’s not what I learned in class. That’s something I feel entirely different from what I learned in class.

What did I learn in class?

As far as I remembered, I was asked to memorize certain logic and moralities that were almost entirely foreign to me. I knew little about their context. The memorization was hard, dreary and unpleasant, but had to be done cause otherwise I’d fail the exam, which would make my life even more unpleasant.

This was probably the same for everyone else around me: Marxism is a rather dreary, obscure theory required to be memorized.

Wait! That’s not what Marxism is, but that’s exactly what we learned it is.

But why didn’t I, or anyone else, tell that to our beloved professor? Why none of us would say: THAT is what we learned.

Because we have never learned to say so. While we were learning Marxism, we also learned we are supposed to say what we memorized, which was soon forgotten after the exam.

In a sense, although none of us explicitly answered our professor’s question, we’d given away what we learned by being silent. What we learned in words was forgotten, yet what we developed as attitude remained and was reflected in our action. Our professor was right to feel strange when none of us remembered what we learned, yet none of us showed even a tiny bit of a regret.

Apart from ‘Marxism’, I had also developed an impertinent attitude toward ‘social’. I only realized that I was socially inept when I was a sophomore. That was when my true attitude toward ‘social’ came to my attention.

When I was a kid, my parents always thought of studying as the chief thing in school, with socializing at a much lower place. But while my parents think of studying and socializing as two good things I could achieve at the same time, I think of them as highly exclusive: That social means bad at studying. That nerdy means smart. I’m on the smart side, spending most of my spare time figuring out answers – from mathematical to psychological, from cognitive to philosophical.

Even if I’d play with kids, I’d like to be accompanied by kids like me, not kids that are social. For me, social kids are particularly annoying: shallow-minded, impulsive, impatient, bad at study, noisy, showing-off, and enjoy harassing others.

Worse, they bring senior students to our classroom. These students were taller and appeared to me even more bullying. This is probably why I, later as an undergrad, was rather resistant to any social activities.

As you can see, the concepts we learned are often not something we explicitly tell. Rather, they are deconceptualized, as intensified units naturally incorporated into mental motions like knots on intercrossing threads, reflected in our attitudes and behaviors.

Do we understand a concept as it is defined in books?

What did I do in this book to explain concepts?

Is a concept built or incorporated?

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15 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

I'm using 'Darwin' and 'Natural Selection' as an example to illustrate my point about collective processing.

It is not clear what the connection is between "collective processing" and Darwin / natural selection. Could you explain what they are supposed to illustrate?

17 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

James Watt could get the credit for changing the climate, if he so wanted.[1]

[1] Modern researchers still disagree on the exact cause of global warming, but a sharp temperature rise is indeed observed after the Industrial Revolution.

James Watt could not be credited with climate change. 

And there is no serious disagreement about the causes.

When you post nonsense like this, it is hard to take the rest seriously.

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11 minutes ago, Strange said:

It is not clear what the connection is between "collective processing" and Darwin / natural selection. Could you explain what they are supposed to illustrate?

I mean even if you ask someone a question which has a well-defined answer, and your replier knows that answer very well, your replier may still possibly answer you with something different. This happens because your replier's brain is not wired up to answer questions with well-defined knowledge or logic, but is taking a lot of factors into consideration at any time.

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33 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

[1] Modern researchers still disagree on the exact cause of global warming, but a sharp temperature rise is indeed observed after the Industrial Revolution.

In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" on strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own. Most established scientific knowledge is supported by a convergence of evidence: if not, the evidence is comparatively weak, and there will not likely be a strong scientific consensus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consilience

 

 

There is no significant disagreement regarding global warming, and not only is there consensus among climatologists, there is consilience among many other disciplines; geologists, biologists, chemists, and others all agree. You REALLY need to know this.

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9 hours ago, Mental Dynamist said:

I mean even if you ask someone a question which has a well-defined answer, and your replier knows that answer very well, your replier may still possibly answer you with something different. This happens because your replier's brain is not wired up to answer questions with well-defined knowledge or logic, but is taking a lot of factors into consideration at any time.

Yes. Or it could happen for all sorts of reasons.

But I don't see how Darwin and natural selection are relevant to that. So your answer appears to be exactly the sort of answer you are talking about: you are answering with something completely irrelevant to the question.

Does this mean that your brain is not wired up  answer questions with well-defined knowledge or logic?

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, Mental Dynamist said:

They are perhaps too ambiguous to tell us anything specific. What if you ask an unambiguous question, like ‘Who proposed natural selection?’

You walk down the street, pick a random person, and ask him/her this question. You may be answered with: “Idiot.”

...after rearranging your initial question to "Excuse me, sir/madam. Could you remind me who proposed natural selection?" You probably would get the right answer if interlocutor knows the correct answer.. ;)

 

17 hours ago, Mental Dynamist said:

You know, almost everyone around me would say that a computer is complicated,

...they meant "it's complicated to quickly explain" (that's what layman expects in short reply)..

17 hours ago, Mental Dynamist said:

In this way, at each time the computer could extract as small amount of memory as possible, and the overall computation would be quicker.

..large oversimplification on your side..

Access to mass-storage like disk is very slow, in comparison to RAM access speed.

But access to CPU cache Level 1/2/3 is much faster than access to RAM.

But access to CPU registers is faster than CPU cache..

So, low-level programmer should try to keep everything in registers. If there is not enough registers, utilize CPU cache efficiently. If CPU cache is too small, utilize RAM efficiently. If RAM is too small, exchange data with mass-storage. Yes. It's complicated.. ;) you could write and fill entire library of programming books about these subjects..

If you're processing extensive data, you could precalculate them and store on mass-storage, for faster lookup. i.e. calculations are slow, fetching ready data from (otherwise slow) mass-storage memory could be faster. e.g. lookup table, rainbow table.

Living organisms can have chemical and electrical memories. Long term memory, intermediate-term memory, short-term memory etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_memory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate-term_memory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short-term_memory

 

 

Edited by Sensei

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Posted (edited)
 
 
 
14 hours ago, Strange said:

James Watt could not be credited with climate change. 

And there is no serious disagreement about the causes.

My apologies, it seems my point is not clear here. Let me make a clarification:

I said 'It (global warming) is a global climate change, and it is, as many believe, caused by human activities.' Here, I'm talking about what people believe, not what the truth is. There's so much that people would believe even if it is scientifically untrue, and so much that's true that people find too complicated to comprehend. Historically, many end up gaining the credit they don't deserve - partly because of the temper of their era, partly because people tend to take in what appears simple. Likewise, in our age 'media psychologists' gain far too much attention than their true scientific merit.

I said James Watt could be credited. Not should. Like the advertisement example I've given later in this chapter, I'm using this example to illustrate how oversimplified belief may appeal to our mind.

As for 'Modern researchers still disagree on the exact cause of global warming', my apologies for the ambiguity. It should be 'Modern researchers still disagree on whether human activities lead to significant global warming' (could you enable me to edit it, or correct it for me?). Much thanks for pointing this out.

Edited by Mental Dynamist

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4 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

It should be 'Modern researchers still disagree on whether human activities lead to significant global warming' 

No they don't.

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6 minutes ago, Strange said:

No they don't.

Technically, at least 1 researcher disagrees, so in a dishonest argumentation / bad faith sort of way, their point is pedantically accurate. Majority of disagreement, however, accepts the core premise and differs only on marginal differences around magnitude or best response.

The obvious issue is that this Mental Gymnastics poster here is clearly attempting to convey an inaccurate impression and to mislead readers. They’re essentially trying to convince people that the consensus among researchers on this topic is anything but overwhelming and consistent across research domains. 

Said another way, and as I’m sure you already know, they’re either ignorant or lying.

https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

https://skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus-advanced.htm

 

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Posted (edited)

'All modern researcher agrees' then, if you don't value individual opinion. But I'll tell you all that great science arise out of those who differ from the opinion in their age, not from those who consense. This is historically 100% true. And Albert Einstein knew this well.

16 minutes ago, iNow said:

this Mental Gymnastics poster here is clearly attempting to convey an inaccurate impression and to mislead readers

I'm not attempting to do this - I'm just making an example to illustrate how the mind works.

 
 
1
5 hours ago, Strange said:

Yes. Or it could happen for all sorts of reasons.

But I don't see how Darwin and natural selection are relevant to that. So your answer appears to be exactly the sort of answer you are talking about: you are answering with something completely irrelevant to the question.

Does this mean that your brain is not wired up  answer questions with well-defined knowledge or logic?

Please don't make attacks on personal level, since my brain is wired up to tell me that it is unwise to do this.

Edited by Mental Dynamist

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11 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

All modern researcher agrees' then, if you don't value individual opinion. 

Perhaps you’ve encountered the logical fallacy of a strawman before? It’s where you completely misrepresent the other and then argue against that misrepresentation instead of what they actually said. 

Sometimes examples help. If you’ve never seen one before, I encourage you to reread your own post in response to me above. 

14 minutes ago, Mental Dynamist said:

I'm not attempting to do this - I'm just making an example to illustrate how the mind works.

Unfortunately, you’re wrong about the workings of the mind, too. I was trying to be kind by not mentioning it as so many others already have. 

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39 minutes ago, iNow said:

Perhaps you’ve encountered the logical fallacy of a strawman before? It’s where you completely misrepresent the other and then argue against that misrepresentation instead of what they actually said. 

Sometimes examples help. If you’ve never seen one before, I encourage you to reread your own post in response to me above. 

Sooo very true. 'It’s where you completely misrepresent the other and then argue against that misrepresentation instead of what they actually said' - like 'this Mental Gymnastics poster here is clearly attempting to convey an inaccurate impression and to mislead readers'.

Btw, 'All modern researcher agrees' then, if you don't value individual opinion.' I'm not replying to you, I'm replying to Strange who said 'No they don't.'

6 hours ago, Sensei said:
 
 
1
6 hours ago, Sensei said:

...after rearranging your initial question to "Excuse me, sir/madam. Could you remind me who proposed natural selection?" You probably would get the right answer if interlocutor knows the correct answer..

Very true indeed! The tone you're asking the question and the question itself both contribute to your interlocutor's answer to you.

 

6 hours ago, Sensei said:

..large oversimplification on your side..

Access to mass-storage like disk is very slow, in comparison to RAM access speed.

But access to CPU cache Level 1/2/3 is much faster than access to RAM.

But access to CPU registers is faster than CPU cache..

So, low-level programmer should try to keep everything in registers. If there is not enough registers, utilize CPU cache efficiently. If CPU cache is too small, utilize RAM efficiently. If RAM is too small, exchange data with mass-storage. Yes. It's complicated.. ;) you could write and fill entire library of programming books about these subjects..

If you're processing extensive data, you could precalculate them and store on mass-storage, for faster lookup. i.e. calculations are slow, fetching ready data from (otherwise slow) mass-storage memory could be faster. e.g. lookup table, rainbow table.

Thanks for the detail explanation. I'm indeed making an oversimplification of a computer just to illustrate my point.

As for the word 'complicated', I mean it's hard to explain. But this could mean 1) This is a hard subject for me, as I don't know it very well. 2) I need some time to explain this, please be more patient. In my book, I mean 1). When two people are talking face to face, it's easy to know whether it refers to 1) or 2). But in text, it seems more confusing ... Interesting to think about this ...

II. Two Systems Quasi-Linear Model (Cortex and Sensation): The Triggering Motion of Time-integrated Units

1. Interconnection: in between a two-unit time progression

Ever since I learned that all my thoughts are originated from my brain, I’d been wondering what does thinking mean to my brain, and how are they represented into understandable meanings. If meanings are expressed by intensified units, how many units do I need to convey a certain meaning?

Would one be enough? Would you understand what I mean if I say:

“Eat.”

Probably not. I could mean ‘eat apple’, ‘eat banana’, ‘eat pork’, etc. I could also mean ‘eat lunch’, ‘eat healthily’, or even ‘eat like a horse’, ‘eat crow’, ‘eat my words’, etc.

Strangely, ‘eat’ as a word doesn’t always have the same meaning as ‘eat’ as an action. But to an onlooker, can he interpret my ‘eat’ as an action unambiguously as ‘eat’? You know, ‘my mouth open’ doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘I’m trying to eat’.

Like ‘eat’ as a word, ‘opening my mouth’ has a lot of possible meanings. But what if I say ‘eat apple’? What if I put an apple toward my open mouth?

With ‘apple’, both my word ‘eat’ and my action ‘mouth open’ become drastically more specified.

The same is true for units whose meanings are more specific, like ‘Marxism’ and ‘global warming’. When I talk about ‘Marxism’, I’m not referring to a communistic morality. Rather, it is used in the sense that they’re dreary, which we Chinese students have developed through our unpleasant experience of learning it.

As you can see, for both ‘Marxism’ and ‘global warming’, when they’re talked about, they do not necessarily mean what they’re defined. Only after combining them with their adjacent units (e.g. ‘dreary’ and ‘human-induced’, respectively) will you know which direction they’ll go.

For me, giving a single unit is like putting myself on a crossing of roads. The next unit specifies where I am going. When I am thinking, my mental motion is like me walking on crisscrossing roads. Whenever I stop at a crossing, I’m still myself, but see roads differently.

I’m not walking in space. I’m walking in time[1].

Figure 2.1.1.pdf

Figure 2.1.1. A two-unit firing progression. The brain, or the cortex – the big part of the brain with a lot of folds, is a single lump of interconnected neurons firing endlessly. The blueish ‘eat’ and ‘apple’ are the firing states – the momentary distributions of firing signals in the brain.

Thinking is a matter of time. An idea that comes across me at a certain moment is the momentary collective firing of neurons across my full brain. My brain – a single lump of interconnected neurons firing endlessly is what gives rise to my perpetual mental motion.

But what drives the billions of interconnected neurons in my brain to fire endlessly?

As thinking can be regarded as a matter of time, i.e. a reflection of the firing state, it can also be regarded as a matter of space[2], reflecting how neurons in our brain are interconnected. These interconnections transmit electric signals, which trigger the firing of neurons.

So how are neurons in our brain interconnected?

Many neuroscientists would regard our brain as containing multiple regions and nuclei. But I’d rather feel: why not taking our brain as a single, interconnected lump for a start? After all, why taking them apart if we cannot use them separately to think about multiple things at the same time?

Our brain is a single lump with neurons intimately interconnected, making the ideas that come out of our brain easily associable. But at the same time, there must be some parts of neurons more densely interconnected, making some of our ideas more associable, like ‘eat’ and ‘apple’. If in my brain, the firing state of ‘eat’ could trigger the firing state of ‘apple’, the neurons for ‘eat’ (Time 1) and the neurons for ‘apple’ (Time 2) must be strongly interconnected. This interconnection is strong in a collective sense: in the sense of time – that the triggering could happen within the small time interval from ‘eat’ to ‘apple’.

Similarly, neurons for ‘eat’ and neurons for ‘banana’ must also be strongly interconnected.

But which way would I go? When I think of ‘eat’, on the next moment will I go to ‘eat apple’ or ‘eat banana’? Why wouldn’t I think about ‘eat bone’?

 

[1] The definition of a unit is arbitrary. As opposed to ‘eat’ and ‘apple’ as separated units, I could define ‘eat apple’ as a single unit which as a whole could lead to many different directions. But if I say ‘I saw a chimpanzee’, you can see that a shorter word (like ‘a’), which cost you a shorter time to read, has a more dispersive meaning. Here you’ll see whether a mental meaning is diffusive or specific is a matter of time. And this matter of time has an impression: you feel more conscious toward ‘chimpanzee’ than toward ‘a’.

You may wonder what’s the smallest unit could be. I’d answer: the smallest wave period in brainwave (~ 0.4 – 0.03 seconds).

[2] Thinking about how time and space are entangled (the philosophy behind Einstein’s Relativity) inspired me a lot.

 

2. Convergence: the overlapping picture

When I combine ‘eat’ with ‘bone’, it somehow makes up a different picture than combining ‘eat’ with ‘apple’ or ‘banana’. How does this happen? What could fit into my continuously evolving mental picture? How do I form a mental picture in my brain while thinking?

Well, let’s have a try. Imagine what would be your mental picture of ‘eat’? How about ‘eat apple’? How about ‘eat apple on the tree’? How about ‘monkey eats apple on the tree’?

And what’s wrong with ‘wolf eats apple on the tree’?

Have you ever got a fixed picture? In your mental picture, is the monkey eating apple while the apple is on the tree? Or is the monkey eating apple on the tree after taking off the apple from the tree? Is the monkey eating apple with one or both of its hands holding the apple? Where on the apple is the monkey’s hand holding it?

Is your mental picture fixed? Or is it, like the perpetual mental motion, always moving, along which some details are adding to the picture, and others are yet to be specified?

What could fit into your evolving picture? How about replacing ‘apple’ with ‘banana’? How would your mental picture change after this replacement? For me, I didn’t feel any change besides changing the apple into a banana. I didn’t realize that a banana tree, in fact, looks very different from an apple tree. Perhaps, that’s because I don’t know much about what an apple tree and a banana tree look like. Anyway, it didn’t feel the same as replacing ‘monkey’ into ‘wolf’, which is rather like moving outside the shopping mall: Too much of the whole picture needs to be changed to maintain a smooth mental transition.

Despite that my brain wants to maintain a smooth transition, it wasn’t confined with these pictures I asked it to imagine. While devising these mental pictures, I’m also thinking about what my evolving mental pictures can tell me about how my brain works.

You know, the specific details I’ve asked my brain to recall from my mental pictures (e.g. Where exactly on the apple is the monkey’s hand holding it?) aren’t something I’d worry about in my everyday life. But while thinking, why would I naturally overlook these details? Maybe, I’m oblivious to these details because my brain isn’t wired up to describe things with pinpoint accuracy. Just like I’d feel strange having a dialog like this:

A: “Yesterday in the national park, I saw a grizzly bear.”

B: “What’s the bear look like? How grizzly it is?”

A: “It’s entirely different than anything I’ve seen in a cartoon or documentary. It looked wild and scary.”

B: “When you saw the bear, what angle relevant to you was the bear’s head pointing? How about its eyes?”

A: “I can’t remember. It wasn’t looking at me when I saw it.”

While I didn’t feel good pinpointing specific details, I’m feeling good thinking unconfinedly. So, I cast aside the specifics and try to be more imaginative. Now I’m imagining ‘A teenager holding an apple in his hand, beneath an apple tree’.

What if the teenager is Isaac Newton[1]?

What if the teenager is the one who wonders what does an apple mean?

Could you be that teenager?

As you think about a picture, how do different details evolve? How do new details emerge from your picture? Do details on your mental picture emerge right from the beginning? Or do they emerge as you think along?

Is there really a mental picture? Or a rather vague, abstract motion that could fit in different things as it goes? How many mental pictures could originate from a single intensified unit (e.g. ‘apple’)? How do pictures of different units converge into one with more specific details?

How does our brain enable our mental picture to fit into different things? How does our brain reduce specific details into abstract thoughts?

Through cortex – the big part of the brain where neurons are 1) most closely interconnected, and 2) having least specifically associated functions. The cortex is our mental playground, upon which the drama – our thinking, which is consist of a chain of connected units – is unfolding.

A unit, when triggered, is always the firing of a large number of neurons across our full brain. Different units that come across us at different times have some overlap in their firing neurons. Like a unit, when a neuron[2] is firing, it could have a lot of possible meanings. But along the mental motion, as it is firing along with many units, its meaning converges.

Thinking is like flashing through mental pictures. These pictures are 1) relevant to each other such that they are interconnected and overlapped; and 2) abstract such that all of them could fit in many specific details. As you are thinking, the details are overlapping, becoming more specific and conspicuous.


[1] Who is not a Sir yet.

[2] More specifically, ‘a small number of neurons’, taken into account the enormous numbers of neuron in the brain (cortex), and that real meanings are always represented collectively by a large number of neurons.

 
Edited by Mental Dynamist

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3. Incorporation: where did you also see it

When I was new to neuroscience, I was tempted to think that a big part of my brain (the cortex) is working just like a computer hard drive. Whenever I learned a new idea, my brain would have to assign a new bunch of unassigned neurons to account for it, or create a new group of neurons to hoard it.

As far as I can tell, this is totally untrue. You’ve probably already felt how this view goes against everything I’ve so far talked about. But it is particularly incompatible with the idea of overlap.

For me, it wasn’t at first look obvious when I think the opposite: any unit, neurologically, is made up of portions of many other units. But now, I could hardly see how it may work otherwise.

It goes naturally from this new point of view that a new unit is created by incorporating portions of many other units. Otherwise … You know, when standing in frontal of an apple tree, I’m more aware of the apples on the tree, relative to the bark[1] of the tree. The thing is, my brain naturally picks the ‘apple’ out of the tree, not the ‘tree bark’. When seeing trees, my brain wouldn’t even bother to pick the tree bark out of the tree.

Why?

Because so many times I’ve seen apple in different places. For tree bark, however, I’ve seldom seen a piece of tree bark that’s not on a tree.

So, if something appears inseparable from where it always appears, my brain wouldn’t be able to feel it. It’s just like when I’m holding a water bottle, my brain could naturally separate its lid from the bottle, but not its bottom.

Perhaps in my brain, an apple is not only an apple, but also incorporates many of the environments from which it appears. The same is true for all units.

This incorporation has two senses:

1) Have: Apples could be apples on the tree, apples to be eaten, and apples on the shelf of a supermarket; but conversely, a tree could be a tree with apples on it, eating could be eating apple, and market shelf could be a shelf full of apples. The unit ‘apple’, therefore, is made of parts of ‘tree’, ‘eat’, and ‘shelf’; and ‘tree’, ‘eat’ and ‘shelf’ each contains a different part of ‘apple’.

2) Development: In my brain, there was originally no ‘apple’. ‘Apple’ is intensified into a unit by incorporating the neural networks of other units, i.e. by seeing it in different environments containing other units.

If a unit is developed through experience where the unit incorporates other units, it must be different among different people. This means for example, different people, as they have different personal experiences, must think of their personal laptop differently.

This difference is again at first glance not obvious. But let me rephrase my question: How differently do different people use their laptops?

Hugely. Some use it to read the news, some to watch movies, some to chat with friends, some to write books, some to design programs, and some to sell products online.

A laptop, however, is also not something irreducible. Have you noticed there are screws on the back of your laptop? Do you know you can unscrew them and replace your hard drive to one that is faster, more reliable, more spacious, and surely more expensive (but surely way less expensive than buying a new laptop)? Has purchasing a new hard drive ever come across you? Do you think one who does this sort of cracking-open every single day would think of laptops differently than you (assuming you’re not this sort of expert)?

Like a laptop, so many things can be either separable or inseparable, making their impressions in our brain different. For example, a desk lamp may have separable light bulbs or use inseparable LED light. I was so accustomed to separable light bulbs that I broke my first LED lamp while trying to disassemble it.

There were also times when I was on the smart side. About a month ago, when my company’s toilet flushing system is broken, only I know to flush the toilet with a barrel of water. In fact, I know this not because I am smart, but because when I was a child, the flushing system is either absent or very poor for nearly all families in my city. Even now, I sometimes collect waste water to flush the toilet and save water.

Like a computer hard drive, there are so many things we have to take out of their normal environment to learn their existence. Just like we can’t learn atoms and molecules directly out of the thin air. We learn them through chemical reactions and under the microscope.

As human beings, reactions are not only things we observe. They are also things we actively make happen. I can clearly see this in our children, who don’t like sitting in a classroom to be trained on specific tasks alleged to be the milestones of their cognitive development, or to read textbooks believed to summarize the laws of nature.

They love being in nature. They love watching how nature unfolds. They love playing with nature.

When autumn comes and leaves turn red, our children watch the leaves spiraling in the wind. They take up the leaves, feel them in their hands, playing with them – tear them apart or set them on fire.[2]

This is how we learned to be natural beings. This is how we learned to be true explorers of nature.

 

[1] In case you don’t know it, ‘bark’ = ‘the skin of tree’. When I wrote this, I had to look at the dictionary to learn the word ‘bark’.

[2] When the sun falls, the whole world is changing colors. In our brain, nothing changes color. We learned naturally that it is a cue for the time of a day.

 

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I didn’t realize this discussion forum had transitioned into a blog

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14 minutes ago, iNow said:

I didn’t realize this discussion forum had transitioned into a blog

It appears my material has become too good to be criticized.

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On 5/16/2019 at 8:02 AM, Phi for All said:

Do you have a psychology background?

If you're still up for running the gauntlet though, please post an excerpt here.

 

 
 
 
On 5/16/2019 at 5:59 PM, Strange said:

When you post nonsense like this, it is hard to take the rest seriously.

 

 
 
 
On 5/16/2019 at 6:27 PM, Phi for All said:

You REALLY need to know this.

 

 
 
1
18 hours ago, Strange said:

Does this mean that your brain is not wired up  answer questions with well-defined knowledge or logic?

 

 
 
 
12 hours ago, iNow said:

The obvious issue is that this Mental Gymnastics poster here is clearly attempting to convey an inaccurate impression and to mislead readers

Said another way, and as I’m sure you already know, they’re either ignorant or lying.

 

 
 
 
12 hours ago, iNow said:

Unfortunately, you’re wrong about the workings of the mind, too. I was trying to be kind by not mentioning it as so many others already have. 

 

1 hour ago, iNow said:

I didn’t realize this discussion forum had transitioned into a blog

It is a discussion. About both how the brain works, and what science really is.

As all of you (Strange, Phi for All, and iNow) should know, I’m trying to illustrate how the brain works, not what climatologists’ view on global warming. I’m using climatologists and global warming as an example to show the logic behind our brain. It, as other example I’ve used, is my personal way to convey my theory. I’m very confused why I’ve gotten so much attack on things that are personal, rather than things I want people to believe to be universal – my theory itself.

Let me kindly remind you something you’d better know: science is about who is true, not who speaks loud or who stands high. So far, I think it is rather clear to our audience that I’ve received a lot of attacks, but most of them are not about the theory I’m conveying. I think it is also clear to our audience that you’re trying to attack me – again not because the validity of my theory. It seems you’re trying to impede my theory without pointing out why it is untrue – posting like this, I’m afraid people who truly understand the way of science can’t take your posts seriously.

Historically, great scientific minds have always encountered violent oppositions. But the oppositions, though in various forms, are not laid on the validity of the theory itself. When initially posting my theory, I was thinking out of my ignorant some of it might be untrue, and people here’d be kind enough to point out. But now, I can’t help feeling that the theory I’m presenting is generally good and true.

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