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Curiosity may, or may not have killed the cat.

Funny how things show up exactly when I really need them. ย 
wonderful, just as it should be…
๐Ÿ˜‰
Thank you to @SiniS for sending it to me, and thank you to Dan for saying it. ย ๐Ÿ˜€

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Physics and the Basic Principle of Visualization Magick

by Dan

Introduction:

For starters, I would like to say a few things about myself to set the record straight. I have a Masters degree in Quantum Field Theory, am working on my PhD in the same, and am a practicing, if tyro, shaman. I have read in several places that the best way to start in magick is to read read read read, and I have noticed several articles using Physics to explain magickal arguments. Unfortunately, many of these articles either do not explain the Physics very well or are just plain wrong. I am not disrespecting these people: after all, not everyone can be a Physicist! I thought I would write a brief article to clear up a few issues on the nature of probability in Physics as well as how probability might play a role in magick.The following article is essentially a short paper on the Metaphysics behind what I call “visualization magick.” I am not going to footnote: all of the Physics arguments are well known and documented and can be found in any introductory text on Quantum Mechanics. As for my magickal arguments, well, they are as correct as I can make them. Naturally, I accept responsibility for any errors contained in this article.

The Nature of Investigation:

Most of the science done today is based on a problem solving technique called the “Scientific Method.” The Scientific Method is a well-established way to start from the basic principles behind a problem and develop an experimentally based explanation of a given phenomenon. It has been used successfully for centuries. There is one problem with this method, though: it can be very difficult to incorporate any newly discovered facts that do not fit the structure of the current scientific theory. This point has been raised repeatedly when scientists try to discover the nature of ghosts, ESP, etc. I think it is natural to take the viewpoint that any axiomatic structure, such as the sciences, can only explain certain types of phenomena. Other systems, such as magick, can explain other phenomena. It is interesting that these different axiomatic structures can overlap: they can explain the same types of phenomena, but they explain them in different ways. One might call different axiomatic systems as “paradigms,” or “representations.” Whatever you call them, it is important not to mix the different systems, because the any term defined in one representation are not likely to have the same meaning in another. For example, anyone trying to explain a magickal phenomenon in terms of Physics needs to be careful of how the word “energy” is used. Energy in magick will not necessarily mean the same thing as it does in Physics. (Incidentally, energy is not a well-defined concept in Physics!) In the remainder of this article I am going to discuss the Physics representation known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics (CI) and, within that representation, provide an explain of visualization magick.

Schrodinger’s Cat and Quantum Reality:

When most people think of Physics, they think of equations, math, and all sorts of difficult problems. In actuality, Physics is based on very simple arguments and can often be put in the form of puzzles that illustrate the basic principles. For instance, Classical Physics can usually be put into the form of some little guy (or person, for you extreme liberalists) firing a cannon over a ravine. Classical Physics describes what we see and touch in everyday life. We are familiar with it and it is the representation that makes the most sense to us. Another representation, which is more basic, is that of Quantum Reality. Classical Reality is fully contained within Quantum Reality, but Quantum Reality contains more phenomena, much of it things we do not see in day-to-day life. Not really accepting Quantum Reality for what it is, Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment to show the odd nature of what Quantum Physics implies. He was essentially trying to ridicule the interpretation of the science he was helping to develop. The thought experiment is known as “Schrodinger’s Cat.” We start with building a switch device based on quantum principles. We are going to take an atom of a radioactive material and place it inside a detector. The detector sends a signal to a switch if the atom decays. Now, all atoms decay eventually, and the amount of time it takes for half the amount of a radioactive material to decay is called the “half-life” of the material. So the chance our one atom will decay in one half-life is 50%. Thus, after one half-life, our switch has an equal chance of being “on” or “off.” We now connect a vial of the deadliest poison to the switch; if the switch is “off” then the poison vial is closed, if the switch is “on” then the poison vial is open and any creature in contact with the poison will die instantly. Now place the quantum switch and vial of poison along side a cat in a sealed box. The question is after one half-life has elapsed, is the cat alive or is it dead? Since there is a 50% chance that the atom has decayed in one half-life, our “logical” answer must be that the cat has a 50% chance of being alive or dead. No other answer in our (Classical Reality) experience makes any sense. We cannot say with certainty if the cat is either alive or dead. However, we are asking a question that requires a specific answer. Is the cat alive, or is it dead? Quantum Reality gives us a third, and actually the only valid, answer to this problem. The cat is in a mixed quantum state of both alive and dead as far as anyone outside the sealed box is concerned. That is, the cat is only in a specific state of alive or dead when someone called a “quantum observer” looks inside the box to determine the state of the cat. This leads us to all sorts of metaphysical problems about the cat as well as the problem of what defines a quantum observer.

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Reality:

The Quantum Reality representation of the result of the Schrodinger’s cat experiment does not make any sense as far as Classical Reality is concerned. Nevertheless, it has good basis in Physics. Many of the top Physicists of the time (around the 1930’s I believe) met in Copenhagen to discuss Quantum Mechanics. Several topics were on the board there and eventually a consensus was made as to the nature of a quantum system: if a system is not measured it exists in a superposition of all possible quantum states. When the system is measured, it falls into one specific state. (For you Physics buffs, this is the concept behind the Born interpretation of the wave function.) This representation has become known as the “Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics.” (CI) According to the CI, Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead until someone opens the box to look. There is one other way to look at Quantum reality, but you pay a severe price. The representation, called the “Many Worlds Theory,” states that every time a quantum level decision is made, the Universe splits into two or more copies, one for each outcome of the decisions. The Many Worlds interpretation of Schrodinger’s cat states that the Universe splits into two copies: one with a dead cat and the other with a live cat. When we open the box we find out which Universe we are in. Personally, I find this representation to be a bit ridiculous, but you may feel free to choose which one you like the most. Both the Many Worlds and the CI make exactly the same predictions and we cannot tell which one is correct (if either!).

The Double Slit Experiment:

The Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment does not really tell us anything about the real world unless we can prove it. Obviously, we are not going to learn anything from killing cats (and why would we want to anyway?) so we need to turn to another experiment to give us some facts. The Young’s double slit experiment does just that and is almost as simple as Schrodinger’s Cat. First though we need to talk about light. When Sir Isaac Newton was doing his experimentation on light he decided, based on his experiments on reflection, refraction, and the sharpness of shadows, that light was made of little particles, which he dubbed “corpuscles.” (We now call corpuscles photons.) Later on, interference experiments (such as the Young double slit) showed that light was made of waves, not particles. Was the great Sir Isaac wrong?? Not entirely. In the early 1900s, a man named DeBroglie showed that electrons, which are “obviously” particles, could be thought to have a wavelike character. Eventually scientists realized that all subatomic particles have both wave and particle properties…subatomic “particles” are neither particles nor waves, but are something else which we have come to call by the badly punned name of “wavicles.” (If you are a John Gribbon fan, as I am, then you may like to call subatomic particles “slivey toves.”) When we run an experiment that assumes light is a particle, light behaves as if it were made of particles; when we run an experiment that assumes light is a wave, light behaves as if it were a wave. Young’s double slit experiment assumes light is going to behave as a wave. We start with a monochromatic (single coloured) light source and pass it through a slit so that we obtain a set of equally spaced wave fronts. We pass these wave fronts through a wall that has two tiny holes in it, equally spaced from the centre point. Beyond the wall is our “detector:” essentially a TV that records the wave pattern striking the screen. A diagram of the double slit experiment may be found in any introductory Physics text, just look under the term “interference” in the index. When we turn the light source on, we see a pattern of light and dark areas on the TV screen. This is the expected result since light is a wave and the two slits create an interference pattern: the peaks and troughs of the wave cancel out in different regions on the TV screen. This is entirely due to the fact of those two little holes in the wall…if there was only one tiny hole in the wall then we would only see one point of light on the TV screen and no interference. The one hole experiment is more like treating light as a particle rather than a wave, and we get no interference from it since particles do not interfere with themselves. Now let us play with the experiment a bit. We are going to presume that light is made of particles and install detectors in both holes in the wall to see which hole the photon goes through. What kind of pattern do we get on the TV screen now? According to Classical Reality it had better be an interference pattern again. Nope. We get two little points of light on the TV screen. Why? Because we are thinking of light as particles we detected the particles, so they cannot interfere with each other. Let’s play with this again. We are going to take the original double slit experiment and this time put the photon detector right in front of the light source and then we are going to run the double slit experiment only letting one photon through at a time. Obviously, we only get a point of light on the TV screen each time a photon passes through. However, let us record where each photon hits and run a bunch of single photons through the experiment. What do we get on the TV screen? We might expect to see two little points of light on the screen, but we do not. We now get a full-fledged interference pattern! Remember, this is a composite pattern made up of individual photons going through the experiment, not a bunch of waves. This is truly weird. There are only two ways to explain this last result, neither of them comfortable. Consider a photon passing through hole #1 as a photon in state 1 and a photon going through hole #2 as a photon in state 2. The only way we can get an interference pattern is if we have something going through BOTH holes at the same time. This implies that the photon is travelling through the double slit apparatus in both states at the same time. Remember we are not trying to detect which state the photon is in as it goes through the holes, so the CI predicts that the photon is in both states, just as the results say it must be. (We can make a similar argument for the Many Worlds case as well). This is hard experimental evidence for the CI and has not been contradicted in the last 70 years or so. Just the opposite…other experiments have lent validity to the CI. (By the way, this same experiment has been done with electrons and, I believe, neutrons as well.)

The Extreme Copenhagen Interpretation and Your Quantum Universe:

What follows is my personal interpretation of the Physics mentioned above. Let us go back to Schrodinger’s Cat since it is the simpler experiment. We need to discuss what makes a quantum observer again, because it is a tricky point. A quantum observer is some nebulous thing that takes a measurement of a system. What is it that creates the measurement process? Presumably, we have two systems to consider: the first is the actual experiment that we want to measure, and the second is the system that does the measuring. Therefore, if we take the measurement process to its most basic level, a measurement is the process by which the experimental system “gives” information to the observer’s system. This information exchange is mediated by photons (or W, Z, gluons, etc. Basically any boson you wish. That’s another topic.) To make a long story short, the observer gets information from the experiment by absorbing a photon. This means that an electron can serve as a quantum observer since a absorbing a photon will alter the electron’s state. A quantum observer does not actually need to have an intelligence to function; it merely needs to respond to the experiment in some way. So. Let us go back to Schrodinger’s Cat. According to the scientist running the experiment the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened. Say that he opens the box and knows the state of the cat. Now look at the people in the next room who are waiting to hear from the scientist in the room with the cat. According to them, the cat is STILL in that odd alive and dead mixed state. We can go further and state that the whole lab we ran the experiment in is in an undetermined state since the scientist in the lab might take different actions depending on the state of the cat. No one outside the lab can possibly know what is going on in the lab. Now look at the people in the next room beyond that, etc. What we have is a nested set of “Schrodinger’s Cats.” Until the information is passed between different rooms, the set of rooms inside exists in a mixed state. We can take this argument to an (I feel logical) extreme. Since the individual particles in our bodies act as quantum observers the only pertinent information we have about the state of the Universe at large is what we perceive through our senses. Therefore, anything that we do not perceive through our senses exists in a mixed state similar to Schrodinger’s alive/dead cat: nothing exists in a definite state unless we are sensing it. This is what I call the “Extreme Copenhagen Interpretation.” (ECI) What this implies, then, is that each of us exists in our own personal universes and everything exterior to that universe exists in an undetermined state until we sense it. Note: I am going to ignore the question of other people existing…I will assume other people exist and our knowledge of their reality comes from the “interference” of these multiple universes. To give a quick example consider the question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to see it fall, does it make any noise?” The ECI states that since no one was around, the tree is in a mixed state of existance/non-existance. Furthermore it has fallen/not fallen, much less made any noise/silence. Since the tree does not directly influence your universe, you cannot say anything definite about it even existing, even though you may have seen the tree an hour ago.

The Basic Principle of Visualization Magick:

The ECI tells us that what we sense is what is contained in our universe. In order to do magick we need (at least) one more principle. When we do visualization magick, we actually feel what it is that we visualize. The ECI says that what we feel makes up our reality. Combining these two statements, we have what I call the “Basic Principle of Visualization Magick.” What we visualize becomes real in our universe. This principle can be demonstrated by a simple spell, which I call an “empowering” spell. First, enter a light meditative state. (This first step may also be achieved by casting a circle.) Next visualize a blanket of white fire surrounding you, starting at your feet and working its way up to encompass your whole body. Hold this visualization until you can actually feel the fire surrounding you, cleansing your spirit and not letting any darkness penetrate your being. Now visualize your hands held outward from your body and let a globe of white fire come into being between your hands. Hold the globe there until you can feel it. This globe of fire represents your inner strength and the longer you hold it the more in touch with your strength you will be. The result of this spell is that you will feel empowered and more able to cope with the challenges of your life. Is this magick, physics, or psychology? Remember, how we view our universe depends on the representation we use. In this case, the empowering spell may be viewed in any one of these representations. Using the ECI to describe the spell what we are doing is literally bringing up our inner strength as a concrete object and physically contacting it. We know it is there because we can feel it, therefore according to the ECI it has an actual existence. A similar argument holds for essentially any magick that has its basis in visualization or feelings. The ECI explains how magick can affect our own universe, what about someone else’s? After all many witches (warlocks, sorcerers, etc.) will claim that their magick affects other people, not just their own universe. We can use visualization magick to show how this might work, so there is not necessarily any conflict here. You (presumably) put some clothes on today so anyone that sees you will see those clothes and all of them will be able to describe the same set of clothing. You know you are wearing a certain set of clothes, and your best friend came up to you and mentioned something about the outfit, so you know she saw them. Both of you agree on the set of clothes because both of your universes came into contact, i.e. the two universes interfere because they both contain quantum observers. Now, can your best friend say anything about what you are wearing three hours after you parted? No, because you might have changed clothes. (Or Heck, you might be skinny-dipping in the local watering hole!) Once the universes are out of contact they no longer interfere. To continue the analogy, if you feel something in your universe then it is real in your universe and thus, because your universe interferes with other universes the effect may well be real in someone else’s universe. Say you know a spell to create a rainstorm. It will happen in your universe. Whether or not it happens in someone else’s universe depends on the strength of the interference between your universe and theirs. I would suppose that the strength of the interference depends on the strength of your belief (and that of others) that you can make it rain. Taking things at face value, I would say that it would take a tremendously powerful mage to create an effect in someone else’s universe seeing how difficult it is to create a magickal effect in our own universe. Note: I am aware the rain spell probably has nothing to do with visualization magick. I am also aware that other magickal principles could come into play here. Remember that I am using a representation, the ECI, to explain an effect. The ECI is probably not a good representation to discuss a rainmaking spell!

Summary:

The way we explain an effect depends on the representation we use. The rules for which a representation is a good representation to explain an effect are not known, though we may certainly use common sense to guide us. The CI is a well-established representation that is used in modern day Physics. A logical extension to the CI is the ECI, which states that we all live in our own individual universe and that the Universe is composed of the interference of these personal universes. The ECI provides a way for Physics to explain the phenomenon of visualization magick by stating that what we feel is what is real in our universe.

An excerpt fromย 
ย http://www.sacredtexts.com/bos/index.htm

12 thoughts on “Curiosity may, or may not have killed the cat.

  1. I hope you like it @tortugo23, I am so sorry that it’s so long! I didn’t realise how much room it would take up until I posted it. Maybe there is a way of hiding most of it, with a read more button, but I don’t know how. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I just couldn’t resist the awesome potion of quantum and magik!
    ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Thank you for this article, I also have a bachelors degree in Physics and have long been frustrated by people’s mis-interpretation of quantum mechanics, attributing things to it that are way out of context and if anything have more to do with information theory and chaos theory than the wave function of a single photon. As a result of my studies I learned that Physics actually does have a lot to do with numbers and equations, thought experiments and diagrams are great ways of explaining most things but I realised when studying quantum mechanics that there are actually some subtleties that can only be described with complicated differential equations, so if you don’t understand the maths, you’re not going to get the concept.
    I think the reason “new age”-ists and some members of the pagan community have jumped on the quantum mechanics bandwagon is because of the mystery. To some who don’t understand calculus and physics these things probably do seem like magic. This may seem like I am expressing intellectual superiority here and I apologise for this, I do not wish to be pompous, I am speaking from my personal experience where I spent a fair bit of the first year and a half of my degree course trying to make physics understandable without the maths, wave functions was the point at which I failed, I would love to be disproved.
    Also re: the Scientific Method, it relies upon experiments being repeatable and making it possible to recreate the conditions of the experiment, so things that are subjective to a person’s individual experiences (eg. paranormal experiences) do not fit into this. The scientific method also relies on statistics and how well something fits into a normal distribution curve where 99.something% of occurrences happen within 3 standard deviations from the mean (average). This also does not fit with individual, subjective experiences and very large population numbers (population being the whole amount of what is being studied as opposed to the sample taken for analysis). A physical example is when I made the mistake of telling my GP doctor what I thought was wrong with me and he said “oh no, it’s a very rare condition.” That didn’t mean I didn’t have it, after all rare doesn’t mean nobody has it, just not most people, but he assumed that it was so unlikely for him to see a case of it, and didn’t take into account my individual experience of symptoms which were later diagnosed by a specialist as the condition I had stated (that’s narcolepsy I have btw).

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  3. Thank you for your reply @ cosmicdilettante. ย 
    No probs too! ย  I think there is nothing wrong at all, with saying what you are thinking. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I know **** all about maths and equations, so it’s interesting to know what this article means to someone else who understands the apparent fact that it’s maybe just what this dude feels, and maybe not what is actually occurring. ย 
    Is there actually any stuff at all in quantum physics that cannot be scientifically/mathematically explained? ย 
    I have been reading a book quite recently, called the Tao of Physics, i’m not sure, but I think it was written by a physicist, and it seems to imply, that science and mysticism, are now ‘both’ facing the same problem. ย Mystics/philosophers and such, always had a great problem explaining enlightenment n stuff. as there really are no words. ย but this guy was saying, that quantum physicists are now having the same problem. ย as stuff that they have worked with, no longer can be shown by classical scientific models… ย can he compare these two things? ย  ย a very simplified account I know, but alas, I have no argument either way. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I cannot tell if it’s a universal truth, or just his truth. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Perhaps there is the maths available for all quantum stuff, but I still can’t help saying ‘woah!’ ย when I read that photons are waves when you don’t measure them, and particles when you do. ย ๐Ÿ™‚ ย again, very simplified, but nobody tells you that the maths shows you how this happens, if you could only understand it. ย ๐Ÿ™‚
    Maybe quantum physics and magik have no business being in the same sentence… but i enjoyed seeing them together. ย ๐Ÿ˜€ย 

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  4. My knowledge of physics and maths is close to 0 what recently made me feel like I was slightly disabled:-(I started reading Tao of Physics but got distracted with other books in a meantime. From what I remember the author said just what Cosmicdillettante mentioned- you can not understand modern physics without understanding of maths.
    As regards the new-agers quoting quantum physics- to me it seems like that’s a defence mechanism against people who don’t believe in any unexplained phenomena. During my time at university studying complementary healthcare it seemed to me that our lecturers were desperately trying to show us some scientific evidence to back up claims about effectiveness of “alternative” medicine. Some articles based their argument on quantum physics.
    It seems to me that since modern science is facing a crisis, people who experience unexplained phenomena hope that new scientific discoveries will be able to explain them. My personal view on that brings me back to Wilson and reality tunnels- it all depends on how many scientists will be open to search for such explanation. If they search hard enough they will surely find one, whether this explanation will represent an actual “reality” that’s another question.

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  5. @ cosmicdilettante: “I think the reason โ€œnew ageโ€-ists and some members of the pagan community have jumped on the quantum mechanics bandwagon is because of the mystery. To some who donโ€™t understand calculus and physics these things probably do seem like magic”

    Well, as far as my definition goes that’s exactly what magic means- a mystery. It seems to me that we use the word magic when describing things that don’t have a scientific name or explanation. Whilst explained we see them as mundane and our definition of magic moves somewhere else.
    I see the whole world as magical since we don’t actual know anything about it- all we know is our mental projections of reality. So I like to think that when I change my beliefs the world changes with me:-) now that is magic isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜€

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  6. Yes @Hippi, I reckon it must be. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Magik is … to me, the innocence of life, the wonder and the awe of beautiful things and events that make up the essence of who we are.
    I totally agree, as soon as we know a scientific explanation for stuff… abracadabra … the magic disappears in a puff of logic! Maybe in this particular scientific set of dimensions, there ‘is’ no such thing as magik. But as you say… what’s to stop us choosing a different reality? ๐Ÿ˜€
    There are many times when I seem to fall back to where I started, and I seriously doubt my own choice. However, it appears to me that each time I fight the urge to think the same as most other folk… my true choice becomes all the stronger.
    Science is important, material knowledge is very compelling. but even so, there always has to be the mystery, how else can we stay humble and have power at the same time?

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  7. I miss maths. I used to be good at it at school but since I left I lost touch with it.
    I remember that studying maths was giving me a fresh perspective on reality. The understanding of logic connected with it seems very abstract. I always felt it wasn’t ‘real’.

    I think is some way mathematical calculations resemble divination teqniques. You look for something and applying the method points you in the right direction. In both cases you need some information to get you started. If this information is wrong than all the proces will point you in a wrong direction. The difference is that with maths (at least basic maths) it is much easier to repeat the process and track down the mistakes. ๐Ÿ˜€

    The logick of maths comes from assumptions that some things are equal or ‘the same’. Counting reveals this. You can only count fruits in a basket if you have a good definition of what the fruit is. If we take 2 apples they never look the same, they may taste different and so on. In fact they are 2 different fruits we agreed to call apples because of shared similarieties. The differencees are ignored for convienience. If we would consider everything around us in its totallity we could not count to more than one.

    The fact that math based sciences aren’t all so ‘down to earth’ comes from the fact that they also base themselfes on assumptions just like the one about apples. Ignoring differences can make things much easier in some circumstances but it can be misleading. I think that at least in part this is what quantum physics deal with. The classicall sciences helped to understand a great deal of reality but eventually we need to ask questions like is tomatoe a fruit or a vegetable? Some of discoveries in science comes down to re-writing existing definitions.

    I consider laws of physic a creation of human mind. They came from observation of the surroundings but these observations were performed by very limited aparatus of our senses. The bias must be tremendous. This of course doesn’t imply that laws of physics do not hold true. They do but only until certain limit dictated by our perception. We don’t know and may never know what we would find beyond this limit although, I am sure, we will keep trying. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  8. Thanks @Lolita. ๐Ÿ™‚
    That was very interesting, especially to me, as I am not at all good with any sort of maths. but you have reminded me, amongst many other things, that everything around us is maths.
    The beautiful images that I love so much are generated with numbers, and it’s gotta be said, fractals look so very organic! ๐Ÿ™‚
    I don’t actually know, but I get the feeling that it’s definitely not by chance.
    I spoze as humans have ‘progressed’, we have the urge more and more, to logically explain and map out the way things are in our minds, hovever.. as you say, everything is too diverse to be all that accurate about it. But scientists don’t give up, they are still trying to ‘eff’ the ineffable. ๐Ÿ˜€
    I wonder what would happen to us, if there was nothing else left to scientifically explain?
    ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  9. Thank you @Azoth, I thought mind and matter would be a very open and expansive subject to post.
    why am I surrounded by folks that are much more cleverer than wot I am?
    ๐Ÿ™‚
    Perhaps the balance of academic intelligence is a good thing…
    Well… at least, I hope it is.
    ๐Ÿ˜€

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