Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ingo Swann (1933-2013) - Psychic Astronaut

Ingo Swann, remote viewer and psychic astronaut, died on February 1 at the age of 79. Many skeptics today probably won't even recognize the name, but Swann played a major role in several "classic" parapsychology experiments, including the Pentagon's "Remote Viewing." His "accomplishments" are mentioned in the book The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. (A book I highly recommend! You can't imagine the crazy stuff that went on.) In the 1970s Swann worked extensively with Targ and Puthoff at SRI International, the team whose loosey-goosey 'validation' of Uri Geller's magic powers has been soundly criticized. Swann was always considered among the the "best" of the Remote Viewers.
Ingo Swann awes J. Allen Hynek (The National Enquirer, Sept. 9, 1975).

Swann's best-known parapsychological feats were when he and psychic Harold Sherman took Psychic Voyages to Mercury and Jupiter (just ahead of the Pioneer 10 probe). The Enquirer reporter interviewed the most famous UFOlogist in the world, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, former scientific consultant to the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book, who said "These are things that Mr. Swann couldn't have guessed or read about. His impressions of Mercury and Jupiter cannot be dismissed... I  was fascinated by the Jupiter findings of Pioneer 10 when I compared them with Mr. Swann's. His impressions of Jupiter, along with his experience with Mercury, most certainly point the way to more experimentation." (For more about Hynek's weird beliefs, see "The Secret Life of J. Allen Hynek" by John Franch in the January/February 2013 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer. Also see my earlier Blog entry, Jacques Vallee, J. Allen Hynek, and the "Pentacle Memorandum." )

Carl Sagan's evaluation of Ingo Swann's "Psychic Voyages"

However, another astronomer looked at the results of Swann's psychic space travel, and came to a very different conclusion: Carl Sagan. Philip J. Klass sent Sagan a copy of this National Enquirer article - Sagan's reply is above. He calls the results "dreadful - sort of vague remembrances of sixth-grade general science." In the "little book" to which he refers, Sagan writes of "two courageous American mystics" who made an "astral projection" trip to Jupiter. "If their reports had been submitted in my elementary astronomy course, they would have received grades of "D" .... they were filled with the most obvious misunderstandings both about Jupiter and about Pioneer 10."

Sagan's comments in his book Other Worlds.
In 1975 Swann wrote To Kiss Earth Good-Bye, which contains some really fascinating stuff. He makes the usual predictions of an impending ecological disaster. (The exact nature of the disaster changes from time to time, but that ecological disaster is always there in the near future, waiting for us.)  Swann tells how he first established an ESP connection with one of his houseplants, asking it what was wrong when it was not doing well. The plant replied by projecting mental images to him.

Later Swann got together with Clive Backster, the man who discovered the "Backster effect": ESP with plants hooked up to a polygraph. (When "UFO abductee" Travis Walton and his pals were trying to set up a mutually-agreed upon polygraph test for them with Philip J. Klass, Backster was their choice.) They hooked the polygraph to a philodendron, but had poor results because, according to Swann, the plant was too strong-minded. They later tried hooking the equipment up to a piece of "rubberized graphite." They found it had no mind at all, but Swann gave himself headaches trying to communicate with it, anyway. The book is filled with all kinds of wild psychic visions and experiences.

Swann's website is still up at http://biomindsuperpowers.com/ .

28 comments:

  1. Well I think I have to agree with Sagan here (as always science trumps imagination!).

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  2. I think Swann was considered one of the better remote viewers, but I think "best" was usually applied to Pat Price, and perhaps to Joe McMoneagle. Swann and Price were both Scientologists, by the way, along with researcher Hal Puthoff.

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    1. Jim,

      I think you're right about that, I've changed the text just a bit. I have read extravagant praise for the supposed Remote Viewing skills of Pat Price. Of course, Price died in 1975, so his career as a Remote Viewer lasted only a couple years. One wonders, had he lived longer, would he still retain that reputation?

      "One day in 1973, Price walked into Hal Puthoff's office, tossed a file on his desk and said, 'You might be interested in these UFO bases.'
      Price believed that ET's had established four underground bases, had remote viewed them and provided Puthoff with descriptions of their locations and functions. Hal Puthoff, Ph.D., founded and directed the CIA funded Remote Viewing program at SRI from 1972 to 1985. Price, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1975, was believable had a proven RV track record and had neither agenda nor any axe to grind. " http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_underground22.htm

      On the other hand, the following source speculates that Price may have been a "double agent." Also says "The rivalry between Pat & Ingo at SRI was intense."

      BTW, Price was a Scientologist, and "after the FBI raided the Church of Scientology’s Los Angeles office, agents found records that Price, a Church member, gave to a senior Scientology official about his SRI and CIA RV research. These included descript­ions of highly secret operations and names of clandestine agents that Price had agreed, in CIA and SRI contracts, to keep undisclosed."
      http://suite101.com/article/psychic-spy-pat-price-alleged-double-agent-used-remote-viewing-a398780

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    2. Since "remote viewing" is utter nonsense, what are the criteria for excellence in nonsense? Price's "visions" were just as worthless as Swann's so what's the point? Price had more personal flash, made more outrageous claims, and was a better showman than Swann?

      They were both a couple of new-age charlatans, Sixties Hollywood types, and nothing more.

      Delete
  3. I'm a Psychic Gardener and I talk to plants, too!
    I recently made a psychic connection to my Tomato plant and asked:
    "Hello Mr. Tomato plant. Why haven't you produced any tomatoes?"
    The Tomato plant replied:
    "Because I'm a Weed, you idiot."
    I promptly pulled the Weed. Who's an idiot now.
    TS4072

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  4. Mr. Sheaffer,
    Regardless of what you think about the accuracy of Ingo Swann's remote viewing predictions, I think that it is reprehensible that right after the guy dies, you write an article putting him down.
    I also find it very interesting that you praise a schill like Sagan to the skies, but put down real scientists, who have made contributions to science, like Arthur C. Clark, and Dr. Hynek.
    I am at a loss to say what important work Dr. Sagan ever did, besides act as a mouthpiece for party-line govt science, and cozy up to debunkers. Thank you for letting me see that Sagan was good friends with Phillip Klass; that lowers my opinion of him even further, and explains a lot.
    By the way, Dr. Sagan's reputation was in the tiolet before he died, after he made that out-there prediction that the oil fires in Kuwait from the first Gulf War would lead to a worldwide environmental catastrophe. Atmospheric scientist, Dr. Fred Singer said "that's the stupidest damn thing I ever heard!" in response to Sagan's "prediction" and he was correct; the smoke cleared out in a few weeks, after the fires were extinguished. Few took Dr. Sagan too seriously after that, with the exception of his close friends, like you and Klass.

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    1. Government scientists are a clique--they just give each other taxpayer money to continue propagating their beliefs.

      But I do want to comment on the main concept of this thread. The scientific establishment believes that the physical universe is all that exists. We know that this universe is a cause-effect mechanism. But there's a problem: we also know that human beings have free will and are creative--something that a mechanism cannot do! Therefore human beings must have a non-physical component in their consciousness. The whole collection of non-physical components constitutes a "metaphysical realm." Communication between or among non-physical units is telepathy or clairvoyance. While I realize that most ESP studies are bogus, I do think that a sufficient number of them confirm that ESP does exist, hence remote viewing. The same thing holds for UFO sightings; most can be easily explained. A few cannot, and I think these are Top Secret military vehicles--not alien spacecraft. Anyway, I think research should continue. Incidentally, there is one UFO researcher I trust: Dr. Maccabee. I've carefully reviewed the work of an ESP star, Edgar Cayce; I don't see how any real scientist could easily dismiss Cayce.

      Delete
    2. Edgar Cayce? Oh, really?

      http://skepdic.com/cayce.html

      Delete
    3. http://www.rhine.org/media-library/sermon/33-edgar-cayce-the-most-documented-psychic-of-the-20th-century.html

      So the Rhine Research Institute seems to think that Cayce is the most documented of the "psychics." Look, I used to subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer; all I'm saying is that I think research should continue in this area. And, please note that a pure physicalist or materialist must explain how human beings can be creative or ethical or have free will, when the physical universe cannot.

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    4. It's reprehensible to put someone down right after their death. Now, let me get back to slamming another person who has died.

      I don't think Hynek and, particularly, Clarke are two names to use to make a case for respectability.

      Delete
  5. A propos Sagan's comment on the fires in Kuwait -- he simply made the mistake that many another scientists make of commenting on something outside his expertise. He should have known better.

    The real problem with Sagan's commentary (and yours, Roberto) on Swann's account of Mercury and Jupiter is its vagueness. "Dreadful" won't do, any more than arguing from the authority of Sagan's name. What I should like to have seen are comparisons of specific claims made by Swann versus data from the Pioneer probe. I wouldn't be surprised if the Swann claims were indeed dreadful, but let's have the evidence, so that we can be justified in our laughter.

    O, and by the way, please enumerate Allen Hynek's contributions to real science, other than his admirable ability to raise funds for the NWU observatory.

    Peter B

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    1. Hynek had a letter published in the journal Science.

      UFO's Merit Scientific Study
      J. Allen Hynek
      Science, New Series, Vol. 154, No. 3747 (Oct. 21, 1966), p. 329

      He was in the January 1978 issue of Playboy too, back when that was still allowed in the bookstores of the world's leading universities.

      Delete
    2. Hynek's main contribution to science was the 1951 book "Astrophysics: A topical symposium,commemorating the fifieth anniversary of the Yerkes Observatory and a half century of progress in astrophysics," a volume with many respected contributors. His contribution to the book, besides being the editor, was to write the first chapter, "What is Astrophysics?"

      According to the Harvard Crimson, Hynek was a "Visiting Lecturer on General Education" at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory when he was offered a professorial appointment at Northwestern. He had been doing visual satellite tracking at the SAO, not a very substantial role for an astronomer. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1959/10/22/hynek-receives-astronomy-post-at-northwestern/

      When I was at Northwestern, Hynek explained once how that happened. The Astronomy Department essentially shut down in the 1950s when its sole professor took a position somewhere else. To replace him the University hired the young astronomer Karl Henize as a professor. He was a very interesting character: an astronaut who went into space (although not until 1985), who died trying to climb Mt. Everest. Henize knew Hynek, and arranged to have him hired at Northwestern. Henize didn't want to do administrative tasks, but Hynek excelled in that role.

      Delete
    3. Swann's astronomically ignorant and just plain wrong Mercury "viewing" claims on this page are representative of his jumbling of fact, speculation and fantasy. Mercury has no real atmosphere, so no auroras, and lichen-like life would be all but impossible on Mercury--that speculation having been once projected onto Mars! So the psychic astronaut's trip to Mercury was a complete waste of time. Swann's fellow traveler Ed Mitchell typically misstates the facts of this nonsense.

      The results of Randi's analysis of his Jupiter claims are on Swann's wiki entry; and Sagan's "dreadful - sort of vague remembrances of sixth-grade general science" is completely accurate--even generous in my opinion. It's not necessary to conclude on the basis of evidence that any "astral projection" act is baloney, we know it's baloney! Extraordinary claims without evidence are worthless. And that adults indulged in this sort of silliness under the guise of scientific research at public expense reveals our military intelligence at its most stupid and bizarre.

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    4. I agree; simply stating that something is "dreadful" will not do at all.
      Let's see the exact, original, transcript of what Mr. Schwann said, as that is the standard of proof "skeptics" demand of everyone else!

      Delete
    5. OK, if you guys want to see exactly what Swann and Sherman said, I have scanned everything I have on the subject, and placed it together in a single PDF file. That was something I was going to do eventually, anyway. (I have lots more historical UFO and other "Fortean" material.) This file includes some original transcripts, written before Pioneer 10 reached Jupiter.

      In them, Swann says he saw a very high mountain range on Jupiter, implying that it has a solid surface. It does not. Sherman said that Pioneer 10 was going to collide with Jupiter's largest moon.

      See http://www.debunker.com/historical/historical.html .

      Delete
  6. Yes, I would love to see those writings. Just to be clear here, Jupiter does have a solid surface, but under thousands of miles of very thick atmosphere. There could be mountains of metallic hydrogen down there, although ones we are unlikely to ever see.
    Also, the scientific way to test Swann and Sherman's predictions is not to say "did they get them all right", but instead "did they do better than chance alone". By that criterion, I have heard that remote viewers often do fairly well.

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  7. Colbern Steve:
    "Just to be clear here, Jupiter does have a solid surface, but under thousands of miles of very thick atmosphere. There could be mountains of metallic hydrogen down there, although ones we are unlikely to ever see."

    The metallic hydrogen on Jupiter is liquid, not solid. There might be a solid core, but well deep under the surface.


    Colbern Steve:
    "Also, the scientific way to test Swann and Sherman's predictions is not to say "did they get them all right", but instead "did they do better than chance alone". By that criterion, I have heard that remote viewers often do fairly well."

    Is that before or after cherry-picking claims?
    And why does the criterion have to be "better than chance"? Why not "more accurate than scientifically founded extrapolations"?

    After all, scientists can extrapolate available information using known physics to imagine what - for example - Jupiter's surface might look like.
    Wouldn't it be cool if the description of "psychic probes" was a coherent picture that is not just an extrapolation of information available at the time, but matches information that is collected after and is unexpected? At least it wouldn't be a kind of "a broken clock is right twice a day" thing.

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    1. Okay, so I take it I was generally right in suggesting that Hynek was not exactly your original pioneering astrophysicist.

      Colbern Steve wrote:
"Also, the scientific way to test Swann and Sherman's predictions is not to say 'did they get them all right', but instead 'did they do better than chance alone'. By that criterion, I have heard that remote viewers often do fairly well."

      I'm not familiar with the remote viewing literature but do know more than I want to about ESP experiments using the Ganzfeld technique, over which there were mighty storms among parapsychologists in the late '80s (or so). For my sins I watched several experiments, and was not impressed. As far as I understand the remote viewing scam, controls and protocols were looser even than these.

      Info about a randomly selected target picture was "transmitted" by a sender and "received" by someone duly mentally isolated with white noise, red light, ping-pong balls over the eyes, etc. The first problem was the nature and complexity of the pictures: some were relatively simple (the famous 'hit' was Blake's Ancient of Days), whereas others featured a veritable junkyard of objects. So like targets were not being measured against like. In any case, to measure what was named by the receiver you should have (but the experimenters didn't) counted every object in each picture, had at least roughly the same number of objects in each one, and scored the receiver's skill against what he/she was able to name correctly; OR select (say) 10 objects on which the sender should concentrate plus a general sense of the scene. [One of the madder aspects of these experiments was that there was no way to tell whether it was measuring skill at psi transmission or skill in reception, assuming these theoretically-opaque talents to exist.] If a picture featured (say) 10 objects, I presume someone has some statistical basis for where to set the number guessable by chance. How do you set that when judging a remotely view of some geezer standing in Times Square or at the top of the John Hancock building or in the cool & bracing breezes of Mercury, I do not know.

      The second problem was that a hit was arrived at on occasion by what someone once called means worthy of a Freudian word-association session. The writer (Fortean Times 262) continues: "So a picture of a windmill might be reckoned ‘seen’ and the response a ‘hit’ if the words ‘bread’ and ‘sails’ were among the responses, although the word ‘windmill’ might be entirely absent. At this level of precision, those familiar with Chaucer might have counted the word ‘beard’ as a hit." [Geddit?] Harmless, amiable crank Rupert Sheldrake complained about such seditious talk, and in FT266, under the waggish heading Diesen Kuss der ganzen Feld, the writer responded:
      Quote
      Dr Rupert Sheldrake['s] ... attention and that of readers is hereby directed to the website of the Parapsychological Association, where they may view the following descriptions of target images, which, presumably, we are to take as examples of hits:
      1: “I see the Lincoln Memorial... And Abraham Lincoln sitting there... It's the 4th of July... All kinds of fireworks... Now I'm at Valley Forge... There are fireworks... And I think of bombs bursting in the air... And Francis Scott Key... And Charleston...”
      2: “I find flames again... the fire takes on a very menacing meaning... an image of a volcano with molten lava inside...  Molten lava running down the side of the volcano... Suddenly I was biting my lip, as though lips had something to do with the imagery... The lips I see are bright red, reminding me of the flame imagery earlier...”
      Now try to work out what the target images were.
      Unquote

      Okay, no cheating: can you guess? You might be surprised by the answers (which I shall reveal in due course).
      And anyone who calls these "hits" scientific, or statistically valid, or even quite good, really doesn't understand the nature of these terms.

      Peter B

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  8. No one knows whether Jupiter's metallic hydrogen is liquid or solid; they just succeeded in making minute quantities in the lab a few years ago, for a few microseconds.
    There is a LOT we still don't know about metallic hydrogen; if you know all about it, you should write a paper.
    It is generally accepted that there is a solid, rocky, core, WAY down there on Jupiter, so my point is stll valid.

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  9. Colbern Steve:
    "No one knows whether Jupiter's metallic hydrogen is liquid or solid; they just succeeded in making minute quantities in the lab a few years ago, for a few microseconds.
    There is a LOT we still don't know about metallic hydrogen; if you know all about it, you should write a paper.
    "

    You were talking about mountains of metallic hydrogen. As far as we can tell, the metallic hydrogen on Jupiter is liquid.

    Anyway, here is a recent review on hydrogen under extreme conditions (section V is the most relevant):
    http://rmp.aps.org/abstract/RMP/v84/i4/p1607_1

    Colbern Steve:
    "It is generally accepted that there is a solid, rocky, core, WAY down there on Jupiter, so my point is stll valid."

    A solid, rocky core with 31000 feet mountain ranges and crystals sliding and forming sand dunes, under a liquid atmosphere with high-density metallic hydrogen?

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  10. I stand by my statement that no one knows if the metallic hydrogen on Jupiter is liquid or not; there simply is not enough data to say for sure. There may well be zones at different depths with both.
    I'm surprised that as a "skeptic" you would say something like "as far as we can tell"; I thought you all liked to deal in certainties.
    You dance around the point, but who the hell knows what is deep inside Jupiter? It has never been explored, and indirect data is not enough to reveal its inner structure with any high degree of accuracy. Perhaps you are more psychic than Ingo Schwann, and can enlighten us as to EXACTLY what is down there, LOL.

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  11. What has been published so far on the internal structure of Jupiter is opinion and educated guesses, based on the data from spaceprobes and THEORETICAL predictions of the properties and phase diagram of high-density hydrogen which may, or may not, be accurate. We already know that the initial prediction, by Wigner, of the metallic hydrogen transition pressure was much lower than the real transition pressure.
    Seismic data from Jupiter would be necessary to tell whether the metallic hydrogen layers are in the liquid or solid state, and this type of data is currently unavailable.
    I can tell you confidently that anyone betting the farm on the physical state (solid, liquid, or gas) of a substance, in this case hydrogen, in this pressure and temperature range, with so few data points in that area of the phase diagram available, is being very foolish.

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  12. Colbern Steve:
    "I stand by my statement that no one knows if the metallic hydrogen on Jupiter is liquid or not; there simply is not enough data to say for sure. There may well be zones at different depths with both.
    "

    Do you have any reason to believe that there might be 31000 feet mountain ranges and solid crystals sliding and forming dunes?


    Colbern Steve:
    "I'm surprised that as a "skeptic" you would say something like "as far as we can tell"; I thought you all liked to deal in certainties.
    "

    Did you see this caricature of a skeptic by remote viewing? Or did you rely only on other people's descriptions?

    Skeptics, scientists and engineers are usually well aware of the limitations of their knowledge. Not only aware, but also honest and open about it. They can explain how they know something and how they extrapolate what is known to reach a conclusion, when that is possible.

    What you perceive as "certainties" is just confidence in the method used by scientists and engineers to test the accuracy of statements about the universe. And the confidence is well deserved because the method has allowed us to increase our knowledge and apply it to improve our lives.


    Colbern Steve:
    "You dance around the point, but who the hell knows what is deep inside Jupiter? It has never been explored, and indirect data is not enough to reveal its inner structure with any high degree of accuracy.
    "

    Then there is no reason to consider what Swann said about it, because you have no way of testing his claims.


    Colbern Steve:
    "Perhaps you are more psychic than Ingo Schwann, and can enlighten us as to EXACTLY what is down there, LOL.
    "
    Maybe you could answer this question:
    Do you have any reason to believe that there might be 31000 feet mountain ranges and solid crystals sliding and forming dunes?


    Colbern Steve:
    "What has been published so far on the internal structure of Jupiter is opinion and educated guesses, based on the data from spaceprobes and THEORETICAL predictions of the properties and phase diagram of high-density hydrogen which may, or may not, be accurate. We already know that the initial prediction, by Wigner, of the metallic hydrogen transition pressure was much lower than the real transition pressure.
    "

    See my point above about the method used by scientists.
    The fact that our knowledge has progressed over time, as more and more accurate information becomes available, is a point in favour of "opinions" and "educated guesses" of scientists and engineers. After all, they actually test their theories against experimental information and are willing to drop the theories and ideas that are not accurate enough.


    Colbern Steve:
    "Seismic data from Jupiter would be necessary to tell whether the metallic hydrogen layers are in the liquid or solid state, and this type of data is currently unavailable.
    I can tell you confidently that anyone betting the farm on the physical state (solid, liquid, or gas) of a substance, in this case hydrogen, in this pressure and temperature range, with so few data points in that area of the phase diagram available, is being very foolish.
    "

    On what is your confidence based?

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  13. "What has been published so far on the internal structure of Jupiter is opinion and educated guesses, based on the data from spaceprobes and THEORETICAL predictions..." says Steve.

    Yeah, how could all those astrophysicists who specialize in the interpretation of astronomical data and the creation of mere "theories" to explain that data know more about the composition of the gas-giant planet Jupiter than the courageous "psychic astronaut" Ingo Swann, who had actually been to Jupiter--in his mind.

    Steve, if the facts of Jupiter's composition are only based in "theory," then the Sun shines by nuclear fusion--only in theory, and nuclear bombs explode by nuclear fission--only in theory. And I suppose the fact that the Moon is a big, geologically inactive, solid rock--not substantially hollow--is only a "theory" too, huh, Steve?

    On the John Baez Crackpot Index this phony appeal is number 16:
    10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it.

    That generations of scientists can make successful predictions about an entire Universe of unobservables is the ultimate validation of modern Scientific realism.

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  14. Hey Robert , i dunno where to but this , but I am curious do you know of a guy named andrjia puharich? and what doyou think of his "research"

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  15. zoamchomsky. What cave did you just crawl out of. Drop the intellect and show some intelligence. What do you know about remote viewing????

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    1. I'd venture to say exactly as much as the ones who claim to do it.

      Delete

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