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Who said: “Nature does nothing in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
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Sink Quotes (37 quotes)

... If I let myself believe anything on insufficient evidence, there may be no great harm done by the mere belief; it may be true after all, or I may never have occasion to exhibit it in outward acts. But I cannot help doing this great wrong towards Man, that I make myself credulous. The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.
The Scientific Basis of Morals (1884), 28.
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The Redwoods

Here, sown by the Creator's hand,
In serried ranks, the Redwoods stand;
No other clime is honored so,
No other lands their glory know.

The greatest of Earth's living forms,
Tall conquerors that laugh at storms;
Their challenge still unanswered rings,
Through fifty centuries of kings.

The nations that with them were young,
Rich empires, with their forts far-flung,
Lie buried now—their splendor gone;
But these proud monarchs still live on.

So shall they live, when ends our day,
When our crude citadels decay;
For brief the years allotted man,
But infinite perennials' span.

This is their temple, vaulted high,
And here we pause with reverent eye,
With silent tongue and awe-struck soul;
For here we sense life's proper goal;

To be like these, straight, true and fine,
To make our world, like theirs, a shrine;
Sink down, oh traveler, on your knees,
God stands before you in these trees.
In The Record: Volumes 60-61 (1938), 39.
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[Describing the effects of over-indulgence in wine:]
But most too passive, when the blood runs low
Too weakly indolent to strive with pain,
And bravely by resisting conquer fate,
Try Circe's arts; and in the tempting bowl
Of poisoned nectar sweet oblivion swill.
Struck by the powerful charm, the gloom dissolves
In empty air; Elysium opens round,
A pleasing frenzy buoys the lightened soul,
And sanguine hopes dispel your fleeting care;
And what was difficult, and what was dire,
Yields to your prowess and superior stars:
The happiest you of all that e'er were mad,
Or are, or shall be, could this folly last.
But soon your heaven is gone: a heavier gloom
Shuts o'er your head; and, as the thundering stream,
Swollen o'er its banks with sudden mountain rain,
Sinks from its tumult to a silent brook,
So, when the frantic raptures in your breast
Subside, you languish into mortal man;
You sleep, and waking find yourself undone,
For, prodigal of life, in one rash night
You lavished more than might support three days.
A heavy morning comes; your cares return
With tenfold rage. An anxious stomach well
May be endured; so may the throbbing head;
But such a dim delirium, such a dream,
Involves you; such a dastardly despair
Unmans your soul, as maddening Pentheus felt,
When, baited round Citheron's cruel sides,
He saw two suns, and double Thebes ascend.
The Art of Preserving Health: a Poem in Four Books (2nd. ed., 1745), Book IV, 108-110.
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Apart from blunt truth, our lives sink decadently amid the perfume of hints and suggestions.
In Adventures of Ideas (1933), 321.
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Archimedes said Eureka,
Cos in English he weren't too aversed in,
when he discovered that the volume of a body in the bath,
is equal to the stuff it is immersed in,
That is the law of displacement,
Thats why ships don't sink,
Its a shame he weren't around in 1912,
The Titanic would have made him think.
From lyrics of song Sod’s Law.
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But although in theory physicists realize that their conclusions are ... not certainly true, this ... does not really sink into their consciousness. Nearly all the time ... they ... act as if Science were indisputably True, and what's more, as if only science were true.... Any information obtained otherwise than by the scientific method, although it may be true, the scientists will call “unscientific,” using this word as a smear word, by bringing in the connotation from its original [Greek] meaning, to imply that the information is false, or at any rate slightly phony.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 176-77.
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Engineering without imagination sinks to a trade.
Reprint of his 1916 statement in 'Engineering as a Profession', Engineer’s Week (1954).
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For, Mathematical Demonstrations being built upon the impregnable Foundations of Geometry and Arithmetick, are the only Truths, that can sink into the Mind of Man, void of all Uncertainty; and all other Discourses participate more or less of Truth, according as their Subjects are more or less capable of Mathematical Demonstration.
Inaugural lecture of Christopher Wren in his chair of astronomy at Gresham College (1657). From Parentelia (1741, 1951), 200-201.
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From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
Quoted in 'Sport: Poet of the Depths', Time (28 Mar 1960)
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Hitler is living—or shall I say sitting?—on the empty stomach of Germany. As soon as economic conditions improve, Hitler will sink into oblivion. He dramatizes impossible extremes in an amateurish manner.
In Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931), 105. Also quoted in book review, 'Einstein Obiter Dicta', Time (6 Oct 1930), 16, No. 14, 18.
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How can you shorten the subject? That stern struggle with the multiplication table, for many people not yet ended in victory, how can you make it less? Square root, as obdurate as a hardwood stump in a pasture nothing but years of effort can extract it. You can’t hurry the process. Or pass from arithmetic to algebra; you can’t shoulder your way past quadratic equations or ripple through the binomial theorem. Instead, the other way; your feet are impeded in the tangled growth, your pace slackens, you sink and fall somewhere near the binomial theorem with the calculus in sight on the horizon. So died, for each of us, still bravely fighting, our mathematical training; except for a set of people called “mathematicians”—born so, like crooks.
In Too Much College: Or, Education Eating up Life, with Kindred Essays in Education and Humour (1939), 8.
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How did Biot arrive at the partial differential equation? [the heat conduction equation] … Perhaps Laplace gave Biot the equation and left him to sink or swim for a few years in trying to derive it. That would have been merely an instance of the way great mathematicians since the very beginnings of mathematical research have effortlessly maintained their superiority over ordinary mortals.
The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854 (1980), 51.
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I complained to Mr. Johnson that I was much afflicted with melancholy, which was hereditary in our family. He said that he himself had been greatly distressed with it, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation to the dissipating variety of life. He advised me to have constant occupation of mind, to take a great deal of exercise, and to live moderately; especially to shun drinking at night. “Melancholy people,” said he, are apt to fly to intemperance, which gives a momentary relief but sinks the soul much lower in misery.” He observed that laboring men who work much and live sparingly are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.
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I want to turn women loose on the environmental crisis…. Nobody knows more about pollution when detergents back up in the sink.
In Unity, Freedom & Peace: A Blueprint for Tomorrow (1968), 87.
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If we sink to the biochemical level, then the human being has lost a great many synthetic abilities possessed by other species and, in particular, by plants and microorganisms. Our loss of ability to manufacture a variety of vitamins makes us dependent on our diet and, therefore, on the greater synthetic versatility of other creatures. This is as much a “degenerative” change as the tapeworm’s abandonment of a stomach it no longer needs, but since we are prejudiced in our own favor, we don’t mention it.
In 'The Modern Demonology' (Jan 1962). Collected in Asimov on Physics (1976), 150.
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It is not the lie that passeth through the mind, but the lie that sinketh in and settleth in it, that doth the hurt.
'Essays or Counsels: Civil and Moral. I. Of Truth'. In Francis Bacon, James Spedding, The Works of Francis Bacon (1864), Vol. 6, 378.
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Men have been talking now for a week at the post office about the age of the great elm, as a matter interesting but impossible to be determined. The very choppers and travelers have stood upon its prostrate trunk and speculated upon its age, as if it were a profound mystery. I stooped and read its years to them (127 at nine and a half feet), but they heard me as the wind that once sighed through its branches. They still surmised that it might be two hundred years old, but they never stooped to read the inscription. Truly they love darkness rather than light. One said it was probably one hundred and fifty, for he had heard somebody say that for fifty years the elm grew, for fifty it stood still, and for fifty it was dying. (Wonder what portion of his career he stood still!) Truly all men are not men of science. They dwell within an integument of prejudice thicker than the bark of the cork-tree, but it is valuable chiefly to stop bottles with. Tied to their buoyant prejudices, they keep themselves afloat when honest swimmers sink.
(26 Jan 1856). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: VIII: November 1, 1855-August 15, 1856 (1906), 145-146.
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Our discombobulated lives need to sink some anchors in numerical stability. (I still have not recovered from the rise of a pound of hamburger at the supermarket to more than a buck.)
…...
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Questions of personal priority, however interesting they may be to the persons concerned, sink into insignificance in the prospect of any gain of deeper insight into the secrets of nature.
As quoted in Silvanus Phillips Thompson, The Life of Lord Kelvin (1910), Vol. 2, 602.
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Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.
In 'A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart', Strength To Love (1963), 3.
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See with what force yon river’s crystal stream
Resists the weight of many a massy beam.
To sink the wood the more we vainly toil,
The higher it rebounds, with swift recoil.
Yet that the beam would of itself ascend
No man will rashly venture to contend.
Thus too the flame has weight, though highly rare,
Nor mounts but when compelled by heavier air.
De Rerum Natura, second book, as quoted in translation in Thomas Young, A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts (1845), 12.
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Surely something is wanting in our conception of the universe. We know positive and negative electricity, north and south magnetism, and why not some extra terrestrial matter related to terrestrial matter, as the source is to the sink. ... Worlds may have formed of this stuff, with element and compounds possessing identical properties with out own, indistinguishable from them until they are brought into each other's vicinity. ... Astronomy, the oldest and most juvenile of the sciences, may still have some surprises in store. Many anti-matter be commended to its care! ... Do dreams ever come true?
[Purely whimsical prediction long before the 1932 discovery of the positron, the antiparticle of the electron.]
'Potential Matter—A Holiday Dream', Letter to the Editor, Nature (18 Aug 1898), 58, 367. Quoted in Edward Robert Harrison, Cosmology: the Science of the Universe (2000), 433.
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Surrender. Let silence have you. And if you find you are still swimming on the surface of the ocean, let go and sink into the depths of love.
Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 189
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Tape playback in automobiles is going to be the next big thing. I’m going to be in the position of a man with a boat full of life jackets following a ship he knows is going to sink. He won’t have any trouble selling them.
About making 100,000 new eight-track tape units before having any orders for them. As quoted by C.P. Gilmore, 'Hard-Nosed Gambler in the Plane Game', (1966). Collected in Max Gunther, The Very, Very Rich and How They Got That Way: The Spectacular Success (1972, 2010) 182.
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The advanced course in physics began with Rutherford’s lectures. I was the only woman student who attended them and the regulations required that women should sit by themselves in the front row. There had been a time when a chaperone was necessary but mercifully that day was past. At every lecture Rutherford would gaze at me pointedly, as I sat by myself under his very nose, and would begin in his stentorian voice: “Ladies and Gentlemen”. All the boys regularly greeted this witticism with thunderous applause, stamping with their feet in the traditional manner, and at every lecture I wished I could sink into the earth. To this day I instinctively take my place as far back as possible in a lecture room.
In Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography and Other Recollections (1996), 118.
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The bird which is drawn to the water by its need of finding there the prey on which it lives, separates the digits of its feet in trying to strike the water and move about on the surface. The skin which unites these digits at their base acquires the habit of being stretched by these continually repeated separations of the digits; thus in course of time there are formed large webs which unite the digits of ducks, geese, etc., as we actually find them. In the same way efforts to swim, that is to push against the water so as to move about in it, have stretched the membranes between the digits of frogs, sea-tortoises, the otter, beaver, etc.
On the other hand, a bird which is accustomed to perch on trees and which springs from individuals all of whom had acquired this habit, necessarily has longer digits on its feet and differently shaped from those of the aquatic animals that I have just named. Its claws in time become lengthened, sharpened and curved into hooks, to clasp the branches on which the animal so often rests.
We find in the same way that the bird of the water-side which does not like swimming and yet is in need of going to the water's edge to secure its prey, is continually liable to sink into the mud. Now this bird tries to act in such a way that its body should not be immersed in the liquid, and hence makes its best efforts to stretch and lengthen its legs. The long-established habit acquired by this bird and all its race of continually stretching and lengthening its legs, results in the individuals of this race becoming raised as though on stilts, and gradually obtaining long, bare legs, denuded of feathers up to the thighs and often higher still.
Philosophie Zoologique (1809), Vol. 1, 249-50, trans. Hugh Elliot (1914), 119-20.
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The facts proved by geology are briefly these: that during an immense, but unknown period, the surface of the earth has undergone successive changes; land has sunk beneath the ocean, while fresh land has risen up from it; mountain chains have been elevated; islands have been formed into continents, and continents submerged till they have become islands; and these changes have taken place, not once merely, but perhaps hundreds, perhaps thousands of times.
In 'On the Law which has regulated the Introduction of New Species', The Annals and Magazine of Natural History (1855), 16, No. 93, 184.
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The first effect of the mind growing cultivated is that processes once multiple get to be performed in a single act. Lazarus has called this the progressive “condensation” of thought. ... Steps really sink from sight. An advanced thinker sees the relations of his topics is such masses and so instantaneously that when he comes to explain to younger minds it is often hard ... Bowditch, who translated and annotated Laplace's Méchanique Céleste, said that whenever his author prefaced a proposition by the words “it is evident,” he knew that many hours of hard study lay before him.
In The Principles of Psychology (1918), Vol. 2, 369-370.
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The theory which I would offer, is simply, that as the land with the attached reefs subsides very gradually from the action of subterranean causes, the coral-building polypi soon raise again their solid masses to the level of the water: but not so with the land; each inch lost is irreclaimably gone; as the whole gradually sinks, the water gains foot by foot on the shore, till the last and highest peak is finally submerged.
Journal of Researches: into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World (1839), ch. XXll, 557.
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The Titanic didn’t sink because it hit an iceberg; it sank because the steel was brittle and it cracked. If you know the structure of a material, you can figure out how to improve it.
Speaking as group leader of the Electron Microscopy Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory which uses scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) to image atomic structure. As quoted by Alex Stone in 'The Secret Life of Atoms', in magazine, Discover (Jun 2007), 28, 5253.
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There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. ’Tis the crown and glory of organic science that it does through final cause, link material and moral; and yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, and our classification of such laws, whether we consider one side of nature or the other. You have ignored this link; and, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which, thank God, it is not) to break it, humanity, in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it, and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.
Letter to Charles Darwin (Nov 1859). In Charles Darwin and Francis Darwin (ed.), Charles Darwin: His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of His Published Letters (1892), 217.
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There is more evidence to prove that saltiness [of the sea] is due to the admixture of some substance ... It is this stuff which makes salt water heavy (it weighs more than fresh water) and thick. The difference in consistency is such that ships with the same cargo very nearly sink in a river when they are quite fit to navigate in the sea. This circumstance has before now caused loss to shippers freighting their ships in a river. That the thicker consistency is due to an admixture of something is proved by the fact that if you make strong brine by the admixture of salt, eggs, even when they are full, float in it. It almost becomes like mud; such a quantity of earthy matter is there in the sea.
[Aristotle recognised the different density of fresh (river) or salty (sea) water. He describes an experiment using an egg (which sinks in fresh water) that floats in a strong brine solution.]
Aristotle
Meteorology (350 B.C.), Book II, translated by E. W. Webster. Internet Classics Archive, (classics.mit.edu).
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There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all!
Quoted in Giorgio Giacomelli, Maurizio Spurio and Jamal Eddine Derkaoui, Cosmic Radiations: From Astronomy to Particle Physics (2001), 344. by - Science - 2001
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We need to think of “blue carbon” and other services provided by healthy marine ecosystems. Mangroves, seagrasses and coastal marshes are great sinks for atmospheric carbon.
From interview with Terry Waghorn, 'Can We Eat Our Fish and Protect Them Too?', Forbes (21 Feb 2012)
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We say in general that the material of all stone is either some form of Earth or some form of Water. For one or the other of these elements predominates in stones; and even in stones in which some form of Water seems to predominate, something of Earth is also important. Evidence of this is that nearly all kinds of stones sink in water.
From De Mineralibus (c.1261-1263), as translated by Dorothy Wyckoff, Book of Minerals (1967), 12.
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We used to be a source of fuel; we are increasingly becoming a sink. These supplies of foreign liquid fuel are no doubt vital to our industry, but our ever-increasing dependence upon them ought to arouse serious and timely reflection. The scientific utilisation, by liquefaction, pulverisation and other processes, or our vast and magnificent deposits of coal, constitutes a national object of prime importance.
Parliamentary Debate (24 Apr 1928). Quoted in Winston Churchill and Richard Langworth (ed.), Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008), 469.
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[Should Britain fail, then the entire world would] sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister ... by the lights of perverted science.
“Finest Hour” speech after Dunkirk during WW II (18 Jun 1940). In Robert Rhodes James, ed. Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963 (1974), Vol. 6, p.6238.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Sophie Germain
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Ernest Rutherford
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Marcel Proust
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Johann Goethe
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Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
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Bible
Thomas Huxley
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Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
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- 70 -
Samuel Morse
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Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
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Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
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Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
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Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
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JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
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- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
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Richard Feynman
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- 20 -
Carl Sagan
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- 10 -
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