3

This thought started off as 'If we are in a simulation, or if there exist a God/omnipotent being that can change the laws of physics (and everything) as we know it - is it possible for a change to defy reality as we know it?"

The most dramatic example I could think of is 1+1=3.

Ex: One shoe, another shoe, bam - 3 shoes.

This concept of a world where 1+1=3 is really hard to conceptualize for me because it changes everything that I understand the world as - which creates a picture for my original thought process:

Are there rules that even God(s) have to follow when formulating a world? Is it possible for us to be completely sure that 1+1=2 and there's no other way around it? Or, am I having a trouble conceptualizing this simply because I've lived my whole life in a world where 1+1=2 and laws of the universe are possibly more fluid than I had originally imagined?

(Note: Although I am indeed curious if 1+1=3 is possible in a theoretical world, please note that this is just an example for a bigger question)

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  • 12
    "Could an omnipotent being draw a square circle? Descartes notoriously answered “yes.” However, the Western philosophical and theological traditions have, at least since Aquinas, almost universally given the opposite answer. The view that an omnipotent being could do absolutely anything, even the logically absurd, is known as voluntarism." Mar 16, 2020 at 16:01
  • 3
    Seems like there might be two aspects to this question, one about whether "a world where 1+1=3" is actually a possible world, or even expresses a coherent or conceivable concept (some philosophers do discuss impossible worlds), and second about whether philosophical views about God's omnipotence say that God can change the "laws" of mathematics or logic. Might be a good idea to edit the question a bit to focus on which question you're more interested in, or if you're interested in both split it up into two more focused questions.
    – Hypnosifl
    Mar 16, 2020 at 18:30
  • 5
    1+1=3 is not something that can be in the world or even about the world, it is a mathematical abstraction. So the title question does not really make sense. But we can easily make it true "in" our world by swapping the use of symbols "2" and "3". Even without that there can be a world where putting two things together makes a third thing pop up. There can even be a world where this happens often enough for its intelligent inhabitants to incorporate it into their rules of arithmetic. It doesn't even take omnipotence. But it is a postulated rule, not something to be sure or unsure about.
    – Conifold
    Mar 17, 2020 at 4:49
  • 2
    @Conifold - Even in that hypothetical world, ppl would likely have notions of arithmetic matching ours for conceptual groupings (such groupings may be the intuition behind sets in set theory). For example if you pick some volume of space at a single instant of time and divide it conceptually into two halves, then ask "how many people are in the left half" and "how many people are in the right half" and the answer in each case is "1", then they would presumably agree this implies that the whole volume contains 2 ppl at that instant, even if a 3rd would appear if they later moved closer.
    – Hypnosifl
    Mar 17, 2020 at 6:15
  • 1
    @Hypnosifl Perhaps, or perhaps they'll have no arithmetic or concepts, those are our devices. We or they decide what the rules are for them, if any, not the world. The question confuses linguistic conventions with what they are used to express.
    – Conifold
    Mar 17, 2020 at 7:34

18 Answers 18

3

Can an omnipotent being make:
Successor(Successor(0)) = Successor(Successor(Successor(0)))? --No. https://mathworld.wolfram.com/PeanosAxioms.html

Can an omnipotent being assign the semantic meaning of {2} to the numeric symbol "3", --Yes.

5
  • easy-peasy: just declare: 0 := +infinity + 1 resp. 0 := -infinity - 1 (and i feel/think: this is not "fiction", this is reality/truth)
    – xerx593
    Jan 4 at 14:20
  • But then 1+1 does not necessarily have to be equal to Successor(Successor(0)), outside of PA.
    – rus9384
    Jan 6 at 14:51
  • @rus9384 There is nothing that exists anywhere in the world that defines the meaning of Successor(Successor(0)) thus the ambiguity that you refer to does not exist.
    – polcott
    Jan 6 at 15:39
  • The notion of Successor itself is a human invention that attempts to describe the world around us, not some hypothetical world with different laws of physics (and even logic). We have noticed that if you put an apple near a single apple, then you have two apples in a pack. Repeat and it is 3, then 4, etc. That is what Successor is, and in the hypothetical world we assume that if you put an apple near a single apple, you somehow have 3 apples together. And then Successor does not describe that hypohetical world.
    – rus9384
    Jan 6 at 15:46
  • @rus9384 There is a difference between {analytic} expressions that can be verified as completely true entirely based on their meaning and expressions that require sense data from the sense organs to verify their truth. {1+1=3} is stipulated to be false on the basis of its meaning. This remains true no matter how the semantic meaning is {1+1=3} is encoded.
    – polcott
    Jan 7 at 22:41
2

1 + 1 in exponential math can equal three, so this is not actually a good way to phrase the question. Some aspects of our world sum arithmetically, some sum exponentially, some sum logarithmically, some statistically, and some sum in the frequency domain. I think we all get the point, which is to ask about logical impossibilities, but the answer when one just considers the math actually suggests an answer.

We humans tend to think that what we experience on a daily basis is a logical necessity. In math terms, this was exemplified by the belief that Euclidean Geometry couldn't NOT be true -- everywhere and for everything. This was actually the example Kant used. Of course, less than a half century later, non-Euclidean geometries were developed that were self-consistent, demonstrating Kant was entirely wrong about the "logical necessity" of any form of math. And then our universe ended up following non-euclidean geometry, just rubbing the noses of necessitarians in their error. (Note that in a space of varying non-euclidean curvature, angles do not sum arithmetically either, for yet another example from our world.)

MATH, it turns out, can be done in all sorts of exotic and unique ways. Which of them are instantiated in the world -- is CONTINGENT, not necessary. And yes, a world could exist where exponential summing was common rather than an unusual exotica, and 1+1 = 3 on a pretty regular basis.

Your bigger question has to do with logic, and whether logic is necessary, even if math is not. And if logic IS necessary, would it then precede and constrain a creator deity? Alternatively, of a deity created everything, a PantoKrator, why would that everything not include logic?

Well -- it took a century and a half after showing that math is purely discretionary, but logicians are now pretty much agreed that LOGIC is also discretionary: https://math.vanderbilt.edu/schectex/logics/ If logic is contingent, then a creator, a PantoKrator, can in principle specify the logic that a world follows. And also could have different parts of a world follow different logics. Which we pretty much knew, given how quantum mechanics follows different logic than macro scale matter.

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    The problem is that when you refer to alternative systems of math you are changing the definitions of the terms (different axioms to define them)--for example if someone says it's logically impossible two parallel straight lines could ever meet, thinking about the intuitive meaning of the terms in Euclidean geometry, does it really prove them wrong if you show this isn't true when you redefine a "straight line" to mean an arbitrary geodesic on a curved surface, like a great circle on a sphere, and define "parallel' in terms of parallel transport?
    – Hypnosifl
    Mar 17, 2020 at 4:41
  • 1
    @Hypnosifl -- I think I agree with you, I believe that a logic or math claim has to come with a specified frame set, as in "1+1=2 in linear arithmetic summing", and the selected frame set is contingent.
    – Dcleve
    Mar 17, 2020 at 4:53
  • 1
    Kant didn't say that Euclidean geometry was "logically" necessary. Apr 22, 2020 at 21:37
  • 1
    Kant thought Euclidean geometry was necessary synthetically a priori, not analytically so. The latter would be "logical" necessity. Apr 22, 2020 at 22:08
  • 1
    Well in the first Critique itself Kant says that Euclidean geometry is known synthetically a priori so I don't know what to tell you. Apr 22, 2020 at 22:53
2
  • Just an attempt.

(1) If a proposition is contradictory, it logically implies any proposition.

(2) 1+1 = 3 is contradictory.

(3) God decides that 1+1 = 3.

(4) Therefore God decided that any proposition is true.

(5) Therefore, God decides that " 1+1 is not equal to 3 " is true.

(6) Therefore God decides that one and the same proposition has 2 truth values.

So , the question amounts to : " can an omnipotent being reject the principle of bivalence?".

  • Other attempt :

(1) An omnipotent being is a being that can do anything that is possible.

(2) It is not possible that 1+1 = 3.

(3) Hence, it is not the case that an omnipotent being can make 1+1 = 3.

  • Another attempt ( along Descartes' line of thought in Meditations):

(1) A bad or evil will is a sign of impotency.

(2) A world in which 1+1 = 3 is true is a bad world, for in that world if a proposition is true, it is also false, in such a way that truth and falsehood do not mean anything.

(3) God is omnipotent, infinitely powerful, hence infinitely good.

(4) God would never want to create a world in which 1+1 = 3, for this world would be a bad one.

(5) It is morally impossible God to make 1+1 = 3, because he is omnipotent.

2
  • thoughts: Your first (2), 2a, is not true for many forms of summing. Most entertainingly, it is not even true of people, as population math leads to 1+1 = 3, then 4, then many more. 2b presumes that logic preceeds a PantoKrator -- so, where did logic come from, and why can't it be modified? The multiple logics we have found, show that there is no single absolute "One True Logic". The argument in 6a unravels when one realizes that reasoning and logic cannot be justified by reason or logic -- the Munchausen Trilemma shows that reasoning cannot validly close on itself.
    – Dcleve
    May 2, 2020 at 20:54
  • "(1) If a proposition is contradictory, it logically implies any proposition." Relevance logic understands that the principle of explosion is gibberish nonsense. That other logics do not understand this is their error.
    – polcott
    Jan 4 at 17:21
2

We first have to answer the question of what does omnipotence mean. If a being is omnipotent, is this being bound by the rules of logic, or can the being alter logical inference itself?

If God cannot alter the rules of logical inference, then if he created a universe where 1+1=3, this universe would automatically be degenerate. The rules of logical inference prove that 1+1=2 (e.g. use the Peano axioms). If 1+1=3 and 1+1=2 and logical inference is valid, then the principle of explosion implies that in this universe, every possible statement is both true and false.

However, if God can alter the rules of logical inference, then all bets are off. It is not possible for me or anyone else to rationally answer this question under that assumption, as doing so requires assuming rules of logical inference. I suppose one could argue that in such a universe, there would be nothing that we would recognize as numbers and so there wouldn't be such statements as 1+1=3, but since we have no way of conceptualizing such a universe, I don't feel comfortable to make any claim about it at all.

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  • 1
    Bets would be off if things didn't add up properly.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 16:03
1

A world in which counting is meaningless is necessarily a world in which measurements are meaningless. So if in that world 1+1 = 3, then the distance to the sun is both 93 million miles and zero. Such a world would be uninhabitable to humans.

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  • Maybe if 1+1=3 were true, then all living things would look different, as well. Such a world might be inhabitable to some other human-like animal. Mar 17, 2020 at 0:52
  • Your premise is quite simply false. Logarithmic, exponential, and statistical summing are not arithmetic, and some aspects of the world use all of them. We currently inhabit a world where 1+1 does not always equal two. We DO tend to require reasonable stability in our world, but either absolute stability, or arithmetic summing -- no.
    – Dcleve
    Mar 17, 2020 at 3:38
  • 2
    The OP's question did not specify what form of summing to consider. I took the simplest example. If we accept 1+1 = 3, subtracting 2 from each side yields 0 = 1, an important result which establishes among other things that Winston Churchill is a carrot. Proof is left as an exercise to the reader. . Mar 17, 2020 at 4:53
  • Subtracting 2 from each side of 1+1=3 in exponential math does not yield 0 = 1. Your "proof" has presuppositions that are false. Have you ever done statistical summing or subtractions. Logarithmic, or frequency summing or subtractions?
    – Dcleve
    Mar 17, 2020 at 4:57
  • I stated my presuppositions, they are not false, yes I have, but I will waste no further time on this. Since this is "philosophy", you are free to believe whatever you want. Mar 17, 2020 at 7:00
1

You can do 1+1 apples only if both apples are absolutely identical. Can you find two apples having such characteristic? No way. What you will always do is selecting a scale to accept identity. That is "I will consider two apples if they weigh the same up to the limit of my balance, which shows hundredths of kgs". But in such case, you are just being subjective about what to consider an identity. You will be saying 1+1=2 to something similar to 1.0000+1.0001=2.0 (which is obviously wrong). 1+1=3 is exactly the same case:

Take a digital bathroom scale that's able only to display integers. Put 1.4 kg on it. It'll tell "1". Repeat with a similar weight. Now, put both on the balance, you'll read "3". That is, 1+1=3.

This is not a joke. A classical philosophical problem is the selection of a limit for the definition of objects. That means that what is 1 for you, could be 0 for another person. If you have a ton of apples in a truck and two persons count them, the results will ALWAYS be different, and not because of errors. Some apples will be partially smashed and one could count them as valid and the other might not.

In simple words, an object (represented mathematically by the unit, 1) is a subjective definition. The definitions of objects are never objective. Therefore, 1+1 is not factually possible, although we assume subjectively that it is, and accept that 1+1=3 in some cases. Therefore, 1+1=3 is a common fact, although we prefer to ignore it and focus the ideal provided by reason and the limitations of perception.

2
  • Excellent point -- the logic of math NOT a constraint on our world, which does not have absolutes or categories intrinsic to it.
    – Dcleve
    Apr 22, 2020 at 22:15
  • I switched to wife's bathroom scale to read in 'Stone' (14 pounds, still used in Ireland) one time. "Whaaat? 9.5?!?"
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 16:10
1

The most dramatic example I could think of is 1+1=3. Ex: One shoe, another shoe, bam - 3 shoes. This concept of a world where 1+1=3 is really hard to conceptualize for me because it changes everything that I understand the world *

I am not quite sure what you mean by "One shoe, another shoe, bam - 3 shoes". Are you saying a world where law of conservation doesn't hold as it does in our World? In our World, you can make 3 shoes out of 1+1 (make smaller shoe -2/3rd of original); you can now count them up to 3, and probably even say, falsely though, 1+1=3.

If the other World is different, you may end up having 1+1=3 because that is how that World would be like. 1+1=3 will be the norm, and your question, under its current interpretation, will have no value.

2
  • Excellent point. Our world does not have "conservation of entity quantity", hence 1+1 can equal 3 in all sorts of situations.
    – Dcleve
    Jul 23, 2020 at 21:08
  • @Dcleve Yes, and it suggests that Type Theory can be a (reasonable) foundation of mathematics.
    – Ajax
    Jul 24, 2020 at 17:48
1

If we're going to be inferring abilities from omnipotence, we'll be using some notion of inference, so we'll at least be holding the rules of that inference true even for our all-capable being. If 1+1=3 according to those rules, then...

1

When we say that p is necessary we mean that it is not possible that not p . So when we say 1 + 1 = 2 is necessary we mean that it is not possible that 1 + 1 is not 2 . To say that God is able to make 1 + 1 = 3 is to say that God is able to do something that is impossible .

1
  • "It's impossible... to put a Cadillac up your nose! It's just impossible..."
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 16:05
1

How do you mean that? In the cause of maths it can be done, by simply omitting the alignment of the symbols, but math would still work the same. If you mean, it as in lying, there the ground rule of a world is to grift about The Truth and telling it is considered wrong and undesired, it could also be. I just don't know, why you would want that. The Romans had something similar, then it was considered normal to offer briber in court and have mobs intervene, being the fundamental part in it, also slander as a form of argument to further the plot. Obviously, in the course of history, it is no longer a common practice.

1

Let's simplify: 1+1 = 3 -> 0 = 1.

Can an omnipotent being create a world where 0 = 1?

In an informal rephrasing:

Can an omnipotent being create something from nothing?

It depends on the definition of omnipotent but I believe most religions will answer yes.

2
  • 1
    "Religion is a tax on people who are bad at math." Or, something like that.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 16:01
  • 1
    @ScottRowe The math reminds me of a George Carlin joke: "When you divide a bread crumb in half you don't get two halves of a crumb; you get two bread crumbs." Jan 7 at 2:02
1

Firstly, I assume that you are not referring to the trivial case in which the number 2 is simply redefined as the symbol 3.

What you seem to be asking is whether it is possible to have a world in which a single shoe, for example, and another single shoe, when considered together in some way, are three shoes, so that somehow the third shoe has materialised from nothing.

There are one or two- or should that be one or three- problems with what you suggest. Let's take the nature of the shoes into account. Suppose the first shoe you encounter is a tasty left boot, UK size 9, with a Cuban heal and faux boa-skin upper. The second shoe is a dainty glass slipper of exactly the sort that would slide effortlessly onto Cinderella's left foot. What then, determines the size, style, handedness, degree of wear, and other properties of the third shoe that materialises from nothing?

And what actually constitutes the act of addition? Do the single shoes need to be brought together in some way for the third to appear, or is it sufficient simply to contemplate the single shoes and the third automatically springs to mind. Can you, indeed, contemplate a single shoe and then another single shoe in this strange world, as surely that would amount to the contemplation of two shoes, which is not allowed?

Now suppose we have a one litre bottle of some liquid, another one litre bottle of some liquid and three much larger containers. We empty all three of the bottles into one of the large containers, so that we have three empty bottles and three litres of liquid in one large container. Presumably we can pour all the liquid from one of the large containers into another of the large containers without breaking the rules of your special arithmetic. And presumably we can also pour a third of the liquid from the large container into another large container. The question then is whether, in your new mathematics, 3-1=1, because if so, when we take away a litre from the three litres we need to be left with just one litre. So how does that actually come about? How, in this new world, do you distinguish between the circumstances in which you are about to pour all three litres from one container into another, or put just one causing half of the remainder to disappear? It is all extremely puzzling. One thing is for sure, magicians and sleight-of-hand artists would find it hard to earn a crust in the world you envisage. And just imagine all the other confusions magicians would face. Tossing a coin with three faces would be a challenge. And I don't suppose my poor old binary computer would cope with all those extra bits that would pop up.

5
  • What you seem to be asking is whether it is possible to have a world in which a single shoe, for example, and another single shoe, when considered together in some way, are three shoes, so that somehow the third shoe has materialised from nothing. -- yes.... and no. I mean, your phrasing is still sounding like it's coming from the point of view of someone for whom 1+1 is obviously 2, so in order to make it 3, something has to materialize from nothing. I think OP is meaning it in a more fundamental way, in a way where 1+1=3 naturally. And I think the answer is no, personally.
    – TKoL
    Jan 3 at 12:00
  • "The number of the counting shall be Three." Some early computers used Ternary representation: positive voltage, negative voltage and zero. It works well for data transmission, as long as you don't have too many zeros in a row.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 15:57
  • @TKoL there isn't a way in which one shoe plus one shoe is three shoes without a shoe appearing, and that's the point. Jan 6 at 17:14
  • @MarcoOcram I agree with you.
    – TKoL
    Jan 6 at 18:51
  • @TKoL thanks- that makes three of us! Jan 6 at 20:12
1

Disclaimer: this is just my own thoughts, and is NOT meant to be me presenting what is objective unquestionable fact.

In my view, mathematical facts are, somehow, more primal than just about anything else. Any physical law, you can imagine a universe where that law is different. Perhaps you can imagine a universe where gravity is weaker, or is nonexistent, or even repellant rather than attractive. You can imagine a universe where various physical forces are stronger or weaker than they are now.

But in all of those universes, certain mathematical truths remain true.

I believe that mathematical truths are the deepest primal truth, and if there were a God, the mathematical truths would be even more primal and unbreakable than him.

1
  • "God bows to math" - song by The Minutemen
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 15:54
1

I like the thinking of Spinoza for this.

One of his criticisms of the interpretation of an "omnipotent god" is that it's contradictory to think that god can go against it's own nature.

If omnipotent god can act against itself then it is not omnipotent because the limits of its power would be itself.

So the answer would be: no, god cannot go against nature.

1
  • I've +1ed this. And I'd respectfully suggest you want "One of his criticisms"
    – Rushi
    Jan 6 at 5:46
0

It depends on the definition. For instance, if you have one infinity and add another infinity, is it now 2 infinities? or is it just a greater infinity? This theory could also be reversed. Making 1 infinity + 1 infinity = 3 infinities.

2
  • mathworld.wolfram.com/PeanosAxioms.html Can an omnipotent being make Successor(Successor(0)) = Successor(Successor(Successor(0))) ? No.
    – polcott
    Apr 19, 2020 at 15:32
  • Good point, arithmetic summing does not work with infinities. However, fleshing the answer out with more content, so that it stands alone as an answer, rather than just a comment, would be a good idea.
    – Dcleve
    Apr 22, 2020 at 22:12
0

All words and numbers are based on definitions on how we understand them. 1 Woman and 1 Man interacting with each other will possibly get you to a family of 3

So we are essentially already living in the world you described.

To give a little bit more context.

All Areas of Mathematics are based on Axioms. Those are non-proveable statements which are just assumed to be true and show themselve to be "at least somewhat correct" by providing Theories which are derived by them which in turn provide us with possibilities to check if everything works out by real life experiments.

For now everything in the Axiomatik world of Mathematics looks good. But no one can be 100% certain that it will stay that way.

So the direct answer to your question is "we can not know", but the most likely one is "yes, because 1+1=3 is already the case for some underlying Definitions"

1
  • Excellent point, population dynamics is exponential, not arithmetic, so sometimes 1+1 does equal 3.
    – Dcleve
    Apr 22, 2020 at 22:16
0

An omnipotent being can create a world where everyone is 100% convinced that 1+1=3. Including all the mathematicians. That would be a world where you would ask “can an omnipotent being create a world where 1+1=2” and most people would think it’s impossible.

1
  • When I was a child I thought I had to add 2 to go from 9 to 10: one to change the 9 to a 0 and one more to put the 1 in front. I kept getting consistently wrong answers using addition until someone got me to explain this thinking. He said, "it makes sense, but that's not how it works." (I also came up with the idea of multiplication around then)
    – Scott Rowe
    Jan 6 at 15:51
0

This thought started off as 'If we are in a simulation, or if there exist a God/omnipotent being that can change the laws of physics (and everything) as we know it - is it possible for a change to defy reality as we know it?" The most dramatic example I could think of is 1+1=3. Ex: One shoe, another shoe, bam - 3 shoes.

Theoretically, if we were in a simulation, the laws of logic could not be changed. A simulation must run using the rules of the universe it is contained within, and thus the “real” universe would have the same rules of logic as ours.

If we’re discussing what an omnipotent being could do, it depends on what you mean by “omnipotent”. If this Being is the Judeo-Islamic God, then yes. God created the idea of existing concepts and non-existing concepts, as well as whatever’s in between. This includes logic itself, despite how fundamental it is.

If we’re talking about some sort of magical wizard who can manipulate the universe however he wants, then no, he can't manipulate logic. [See below for the reason.]

Is it possible for us to be completely sure that 1+1=2 and there's no other way around it? Or, am I having a trouble conceptualizing this simply because I've lived my whole life in a world where 1+1=2 and laws of the universe are possibly more fluid than I had originally imagined?

Logic isn’t some arbitrary set of rules, like physics. Logic dictates that if there is a loaf of bread, and also another loaf of bread, then the only things in that group are those loaves of bread. This is what 1+1=2 means on the simplest, most fundamental level. For 1+1 to equal three, there has to INHERENTLY have ALREADY been a third piece of bread, despite me adding ONLY one piece of bread to another.

This would apply even in thought: If I would mentally picture my house and your house, I'd be picturing three houses, not two. These three houses would consist of your house, my house, and... that's it. However, this number would be three houses. In the theoretical universe, this would be normal and totally understandable.

This would even be true if nobody’s picturing anything: If there is a tree in Alabama, and also a tree in America, then in the 1+1=3 universe, there are three trees in all. Nobody has to be thinking about those trees, and they don’t have to be close to each other; just by existing, that conceptual group has to consist of three trees, not by magic, but because it's the only reasonable conclusion.

One more example: A sandwich has to have two slices of bread to be considered a sandwich, but in the 1+1=3 universe, the first slice and the second slice together would equal three pieces of bread. In that world, this would be completely logical, conceivable, and non-contradictory, just like the number of bread slices in OUR world's sandwiches.

So no, you're not just "used to" 1+1 being 2. There is no more fluidity in logic than the amount of cabbages in the color blue.

(Note: Although I am indeed curious if 1+1=3 is possible in a theoretical world, please note that this is just an example for a bigger question)

The most powerful theoretical wizard couldn’t make any of that happen, nor could any extra-universe alien who’s simulating our world, or any being to whom any logic applies in any measure. Only the Judeo-Islamic God could change logic itself.

1
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