#0024 RRS Newsletter for July 5, 2007

hellfiend666's picture

Well, here we are again! Back in business! I would like to direct you locals to the RRS MI section, first of all. Feedback on that idea would be appreciated. Thank you to all who've expressed an interest in the continuation of this Newsletter. I just discovered another benefit of having these up in the blog section, I can see just how many people are reading these, and I must say, I'm already surprised at the number of hits it's received just in the last 12 hours.

Thanks again for the support, and, as always your comments and suggestions are very welcome.

Stay rational
and the RRS MI

Table of Contents

Rational Response Squad News

RRS Michigan News

Science News

My contributions for today 15 minutes of Daniel Dennett New cancer mutation found Universe “forgets” its past Inferior Design by Richard Dawkins (review of Behe's book)


My contributions for today I found this kinda funny Amnesty International fires back at Vatican Was Jesus Christ an admirable figure?


My contributions for today Gen. Wesley Clark - Bush planned on taking out 7 countries.


My contributions for today Atheism Is a Civil Rights Issue


My contributions for today

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I have decided that I will host monthly RRS MI meetings and/or outings in an effort to bulid a better sense of community. These will be held on the last Thursday of every month. This means the first one will be held on July 26th, and we will be watching the movie "The God Who Wasn't There". If you all have seen this, please let me know, we can choose another, but I thought it fitting to start with that one, and I WILL start the evening off with a group discussion on where and what we would like to see come out of this local chapter (something that was never really talked about in depth yesterday). Other activities under consideration are things like scientific exhibition outings, protests where needed, and possibly the planning of political activism as our state is concerned.

My thanks go to all who attended the party yesterday, hopefully we will have a greater turn out next time, and I hope the rest of you had a great holiday!

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The Privileged Planet - Part 1 of 6

The Privileged Planet - Part 2 of 6

The Privileged Planet - Part 3 of 6

I never get enough of hearing him speak...

Carl Sagan Speaks

Carl Sagan - speaks about 4 billion years of evolution

15 minutes of Daniel Dennett

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: RRS_TX
Date: Jul 3, 2007 11:04 PM

From: RabidApe [does not have imaginary friends]
Date: Jul 3, 2007 10:03 PM

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New cancer mutation found

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Reverend AtheiStar
Date: Jul 4, 2007 7:48 PM


New cancer mutation found

July 4, 2007
Special to World Science

Bi­ol­o­gists re­port that they have found a muta­t­ion im­pli­cat­ed in at least four types of can­cer. The find­ing may add a key piece of in­forma­t­ion to medicine’s ar­se­nal of can­cer-fighting strate­gies, the re­search­ers say.

Like many oth­ers in­volved in can­cer, the gene, called AKT1, plays a role in cell growth and mul­ti­plica­t­ion. Can­cers of all types are char­ac­ter­ized by un­con­trolled cell growth and pro­lifera­t­ion, which pro­duces tu­mors.

Doz­ens of can­cer genes have been iden­ti­fied al­ready. But AKT1 could be a ma­jor ad­di­tion to this list, re­search­ers said. This is be­cause it’s a “cen­tral mem­ber of pos­sibly the most fre­quently ac­ti­vat­ed” chain of chem­i­cal events con­trol­ing cell mul­ti­plica­t­ion and sur­viv­al in can­cer, they wrote.

Their pa­per de­scrib­ing the find­ings ap­pears in the July 4 on­line is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Na­ture.

AK­T1 func­tions to pro­duce a pro­tein mol­e­cule that can trav­el from with­in a cell to the in­ner side of the cell sur­face. There, it pas­ses along sig­nals from oth­er mol­e­cules that come from out­side the cell and send chem­i­cal mes­sages in­side. Such sig­nals in­clude com­mands re­lat­ing to growth and mul­ti­plica­t­ion.

AKT1 is a mem­ber of a family of pro­teins whose muta­t­ions have been sus­pected as cul­prits in can­cer, sci­en­t­ists said. But to date, no one had found a di­rect link by iso­lat­ing the muta­t­ions in tu­mors. The new work by Ker­ry L. Blan­chard of Eli Lilly Co. in In­di­an­ap­o­lis and col­leagues did so, the re­search team said.

The muta­t­ion in AKT1 causes a change in its elec­tri­cal in­ter­ac­tions with oth­er mol­e­cules, such that it be­comes ab­nor­mally “ac­ti­vat­ed,” Blan­chard and col­leagues said. The mu­tant pro­teins are too of­ten at the cell sur­face sites where they’re ac­tive. This makes the sig­nal­ing spin out of con­trol and the cells be­come can­cerous.

The team iden­ti­fied a re­cur­rent muta­t­ion in the AKT1 gene in sam­ples from breast, col­orec­tal and ovar­i­an tu­mors. When trans­ferred in­to mice, the mu­tant form of AKT1 al­so in­duced leu­ke­mia, they found. It’s too early to say how the find­ings could trans­late in­to treat­ments, the re­search­ers said. But one pos­si­bil­ity is that they might help in designing personalized therapies, with tests of AKT1 re­veal­ing which treat­ment is best for a par­tic­u­lar pa­tient.

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Universe “forgets” its past

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Reverend AtheiStar
Date: Jul 4, 2007 7:51 PM


Universe “forgets” its past

July 1, 2007
Courtesy PSU
and World Science staff

The cosmos may undergo ep­ic cy­cles of col­lapse and re-crea­t­ion—but some prop­er­ties of our pre­vi­ous un­iverse have left no mark on our own, a team of phys­i­cists has con­clud­ed. Two con­se­quences of this, they say, are that we can’t know our past un­iverse ex­actly, and suc­ces­sive un­iverses probably aren’t alike.

“An in­trin­sic cos­mic for­get­ful­ness” seems to pre­vent “the eter­nal re­cur­rence of ab­so­lutely iden­ti­cal un­ivers­es,” said team mem­ber Mar­tin Bo­jowald of Penn State Un­ivers­ity in Un­ivers­ity Park, Penn.

For dec­ades, most phys­i­cists have agreed that our un­iverse was born in a “Big Bang,” an ex­plo­sion of what pre­vi­ously had been an in­fi­nitely com­pact point of ma­te­ri­al. One sign of this is the cos­mos is still found to be ex­pand­ing. But what caused the Big Bang, and what might have pre­ced­ed it? These ques­tions have posed stum­bling blocks, be­cause as tra­di­tion­ally de­scribed by Ein­stein’s The­o­ry of Gen­er­al Rel­a­ti­vity, the Big Bang is a non­sen­si­cal state: a vast amount of en­er­gy packed in­to a point of ze­ro size.

A grow­ing num­ber of sci­en­tists, though, are in­terest­ed in the idea that the un­iverse goes through end­less cy­cles in which the ex­pan­sion re­verses; then space col­lapses back to a point, and re-explodes. Thus the Big Bang would really be a “Big Bounce.”

Bo­jowald and col­leagues at Penn State are ex­plor­ing this no­tion us­ing a the­o­ry called Loop Quan­tum Gra­vity, which they say serves as sort of math­e­mat­i­cal time ma­chine. Their find­ings are to ap­pear in the July 1 early on­line issue of the re­search jour­nal Na­ture Phys­ics, and the Au­gust print edi­tion.

Ein­stein’s the­o­ries did­n’t in­clude the quan­tum physic­s—the mod­ern sci­ence of the fun­da­men­tal build­ing blocks of mat­ter—needed to de­scribe the ex­tremely high en­er­gies of the early cos­mos, Bo­jowald said. Loop Quan­tum Gra­vity, pi­o­neered at Penn State, does, he added.

Loop Quan­tum Gra­vity is one of the more pop­u­lar the­o­ries that phys­i­cists have de­vised in at­tempts to un­ite na­ture’s var­i­ous forc­es, to de­scribe them as man­i­festa­t­ions of only one, un­der­ly­ing force.

Loop Quan­tum Gra­vity can al­so pro­duce cal­cula­t­ions that trace cos­mic his­to­ry, ac­cord­ing to Bo­jowald. Such work, he said, has found that the be­gin­ning was not in­fi­nitely small or dense after all; this in turn means the equa­t­ions can yield val­id re­sults for the pre-Big Bang era. The num­bers point to a pre­vi­ous un­iverse in which the ge­om­e­try of space and time was si­m­i­lar to that of ours, but with cer­tain prop­er­ties un­know­a­ble, the re­search­ers said.

Bo­jowald said his team re­vised pre­vi­ous equa­t­ions of Loop Quan­tum Gra­vity to create a sim­pler mod­el with more pre­cise re­sults. What tipped off re­search­ers that a sim­plifica­t­ion might ex­ist, he said, was that ear­li­er model was very com­pli­cat­ed, “but its so­lu­tions looked very clean.”

The new equa­t­ions, though, con­tain some “free” param­e­ters that aren’t pre­cisely known, but which are needed to de­scribe cer­tain prop­er­ties.

Bo­jowald and col­leagues found that two of these param­e­ters are com­ple­men­ta­ry: one is rel­e­vant al­most ex­clu­sively af­ter the Big Bounce, the oth­er al­most ex­clu­sively be­fore. Be­cause the lat­ter has es­sen­tially no in­flu­ence on cal­cula­t­ions of our cur­rent un­iverse, Bo­jowald con­cudes that its val­ue can’t be back-cal­culated from the oth­er. The param­e­ters rep­re­sent un­cer­tainty in the size of the cos­mos.

“The pre­cise un­cer­tainty fac­tor for the vol­ume of the pre­vi­ous un­iverse nev­er will be de­ter­mined by... cal­culating back­wards from con­di­tions in our pre­s­ent un­iverse, even with most ac­cu­rate mea­sure­ments we ev­er will be able to make,” he said. The idea is “si­m­i­lar to the un­cer­tainty rela­t­ions in quan­tum physics,” equa­tions that show it’s in­her­ently im­pos­si­ble to know both the po­si­tion and ve­locity of a par­t­i­cle ex­act­ly. The dis­con­nect be­tween one cos­mos and the next al­so im­plies that the un­iverses probably can’t be iden­ti­cal, he added.

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Inferior Design by Richard Dawkins (review of Behe's book)

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Reverend AtheiStar
Date: Jul 4, 2007 7:55 PM


Inferior Design
Published: July 1, 2007

I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe’s second book as by his first. I had not expected to feel sorry for him. The first — “Darwin’s Black Box” (1996), which purported to make the scientific case for “intelligent design” — was enlivened by a spark of conviction, however misguided. The second is the book of a man who has given up. Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape. Poster boy of creationists everywhere, he has cut himself adrift from the world of real science. And real science, in the shape of his own department of biological sciences at Lehigh University, has publicly disowned him, via a remarkable disclaimer on its Web site: “While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific.” As the Chicago geneticist Jerry Coyne wrote recently, in a devastating review of Behe’s work in The New Republic, it would be hard to find a precedent.

For a while, Behe built a nice little career on being a maverick. His colleagues might have disowned him, but they didn’t receive flattering invitations to speak all over the country and to write for The New York Times. Behe’s name, and not theirs, crackled triumphantly around the memosphere. But things went wrong, especially at the famous 2005 trial where Judge John E. Jones III immortally summed up as “breathtaking inanity” the effort to introduce intelligent design into the school curriculum in Dover, Pa. After his humiliation in court, Behe — the star witness for the creationist side — might have wished to re-establish his scientific credentials and start over. Unfortunately, he had dug himself in too deep. He had to soldier on. “The Edge of Evolution” is the messy result, and it doesn’t make for attractive reading.

We now hear less about “irreducible complexity,” with good reason. In “Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe simply asserted without justification that particular biological structures (like the bacterial flagellum, the tiny propeller by which bacteria swim) needed all their parts to be in place before they would work, and therefore could not have evolved incrementally. This style of argument remains as unconvincing as when Darwin himself anticipated it. It commits the logical error of arguing by default. Two rival theories, A and B, are set up. Theory A explains loads of facts and is supported by mountains of evidence. Theory B has no supporting evidence, nor is any attempt made to find any. Now a single little fact is discovered, which A allegedly can’t explain. Without even asking whether B can explain it, the default conclusion is fallaciously drawn: B must be correct. Incidentally, further research usually reveals that A can explain the phenomenon after all: thus the biologist Kenneth R. Miller (a believing Christian who testified for the other side in the Dover trial) beautifully showed how the bacterial flagellar motor could evolve via known functional intermediates.

Behe correctly dissects the Darwinian theory into three parts: descent with modification, natural selection and mutation. Descent with modification gives him no problems, nor does natural selection. They are “trivial” and “modest” notions, respectively. Do his creationist fans know that Behe accepts as “trivial” the fact that we are African apes, cousins of monkeys, descended from fish?

The crucial passage in “The Edge of Evolution” is this: “By far the most critical aspect of Darwin’s multifaceted theory is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept.”

What a bizarre thing to say! Leave aside the history: unacquainted with genetics, Darwin set no store by randomness. New variants might arise at random, or they might be acquired characteristics induced by food, for all Darwin knew. Far more important for Darwin was the nonrandom process whereby some survived but others perished. Natural selection is arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind, because it — alone as far as we know — explains the elegant illusion of design that pervades the living kingdoms and explains, in passing, us. Whatever else it is, natural selection is not a “modest” idea, nor is descent with modification.

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Richard Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi chair for the public understanding of science at Oxford. His most recent book is “The God Delusion.”

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I found this kinda funny

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: dEd Grimley
Date: Jul 4, 2007 1:53 AM

Oliver Stone had asked the Iranian president, Mahmoud Amadinejhad if he could make a movie about him, and was turned down, saying that Stone was part of the "Great Satan" that is the US.

Stone's response: “I have been called a lot of things, but never a great satan,” Stone said in the statement. “I wish the Iranian people well, and only hope their experience with an inept, rigid ideologue president goes better than ours.”

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Amnesty International fires back at Vatican

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From: The A-Team
Date: Jul 4, 2007 10:57 AM

Humanist Network News
is the free e-zine of the Institute for Humanist Studies.
Subscribe at http://humaniststudies.org/lists/

This article can be found at: http://humaniststudies.org/enews/?id=304&article=5
Amnesty International Is the New Victim of "Reckless" Vatican Blackmail
From NSS Newsline
July 3, 2007

The Vatican is threatening Amnesty International with major financial consequences if it does not reverse its abortion policy. Amnesty's new position wants to give women access to abortion when their health or human rights are in danger.

Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's so-called "justice minister," accused Amnesty of "betraying its mission" and said "individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support" from the group." Martino told an American Catholic newspaper that by taking its new stand ..ion, Amnesty had "disqualified itself as a defender of human rights… To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a 'thing' that must be destroyed."

But Amnesty hit back at the Cardinal's accusations. Its deputy general-secretary, Kate Gilmore said: "The Catholic Church, through a misrepresented account of our position ..ive aspects of abortion, is placing in peril work on human rights." She said Amnesty was not promoting abortion as a universal right but stressing that women have a right to choose abortion when their human rights have been violated, particularly in cases of rape and incest.

"We are saying broadly that to criminalize women's management of their sexual reproductive rights is the wrong answer…. This is not about abortion as a right but about women's right to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage the consequences of rape and human rights violations."

Gilmore accused the Vatican of unjustly trying to "excommunicate" Amnesty but said Amnesty will "continue to campaign for the protection of the Catholic Church" in areas where it suffers discrimination. "We defend the right of the Church to address moral beliefs. But a human rights project is to address the state, the rule of law and to create an environment in which people can make moral choices as individuals," she said.

Amnesty International was founded by a Catholic convert in 1961 and has always retained a strong following within the Church but that could change following the decision to endorse abortion and the call for a boycott.

Terry Sanderson is the vice president of the National Secular Society (U.K.). He is also the editor of the weekly NSS Newsline, in which this article first appeared on June 29, 2007. This article is republished by permission of the NSS.

Editor's Note: The spelling and punctuation in this article have been edited to conform to American standards.

And in a box beside the article:

America's Trust in Religious Institutions Dips
Americans trust the military and the police force significantly more than the church and organized religion, a new Gallup Poll says. Only 46 percent of respondents said they had either a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church, compared with 69 percent who said they trusted the military and 54 percent who trust police officers.

The figures are among the lowest for institutionalized religion in the three and a half decades that Gallup has conducted the poll. Peaking at 68 percent in May 1975, the numbers bottomed out at 45 percent in June of 2003. But while confidence is waning for organized religion, the numbers are even bleaker for other American institutions. Just 25 percent expressed confidence in the presidency, while a mere 14 percent say they trust Congress.

Religious Belief Dips Again in Australia
The 2006 Australian census reveals that nearly one in five Australians are not religious. The Anglican Church is hardest hit by this decline in interest in religion.

The figures revealed that 3.7 million Australians -- 19 percent -- said they had no religion on Census night last year, which was 3 percent more than the 2001 figure of 2.9 million. The state of South Australia had the largest number of self-declared non-religious people -- 25% of the population.

The number of people who said they were Anglican also decreased by nearly 175,000 to 3.7 million. Some 12.7 million people nationwide claimed to be Christian. But as a proportion of the population, Christianity dipped from 71 percent to 64 percent.

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Was Jesus Christ an admirable figure?

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
Date: Jul 4, 2007 4:35 PM


Interviewer: Could we both agree at least that, whether you view Him as God or man, Jesus Christ was an admirable figure?

Mills: No I disagree completely. I think its quite evident from reading the New Testament that Jesus believed in a literal hell, where those who rejected His teachings were to be sadistically tortured, akin to being dowsed with gasoline and set ablaze with a match. Not only is this teaching not "admirable," it is thoroughly disgusting and, in my view should never be taught to young children, who understandably become upset and horror-stricken at the ghastly imagery. Parents are so eager to teach their children that happy little prayer '...if I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take." How inhumane can you possibly be!
There is a pronounced dissimilarity between the popularized "loving" version of Jesus we hear about in church and the Jesus as actually quoted in the New Testament. No wonder His followers are so intolerant. They are only following Jesus' declarations that anyone who disagreees with their religious beliefs deserves eternal incineration. The Bible- both Old and New Testaments - is filled with instances in which God, in various incarnations, supposedly orders people and armies to be murdered or to commit murder.
Another reason why I don't find Jesus admirable is that He squandered His alleged supernatural powers on frivolous nonsense. Instead of bringing mankind a cure for heart disease and cancer. He used His magic to curse a fig tree. Instead of ending birth defects and infant mortality, He filled pigs with demons. Instead of ending world hunger and illiteracy, He conjured up a jug of wine. What an incredible waste of omnipotence!

From "Atheist Universe" by David Mills pg. 34 and 35

Check out this and other posts on my blogs page!!

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Gen. Wesley Clark - Bush planned on taking out 7 countries.

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Rich Rodriguez
Date: Jul 4, 2007 12:53 PM

In an interview with Amy Goodman on March 2, 2007, U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.), explains that the Bush Administration planned to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran

tx to: Rod

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Atheism Is a Civil Rights Issue

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: The A-Team
Date: Jul 3, 2007 8:22 PM

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
Date: Jul 3, 2007 3:20 PM

No Indoctrination

Atheism Is a Civil Rights Issue

Back in April, I noted with dismay when science writer Chris Mooney urged atheists to be silent and not voice their views, lest they provoke negative reactions from religious people. Now his partner in that effort, Matthew Nisbet, has written a far worse post along the same lines which has stirred up a hornet's nest among some prominent atheist bloggers.

Nisbet seems to bear some irrational personal animus against Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens which has colored all his views on atheism. For someone who claims to be an expert in "framing" - that is, in presenting one's message in a way that appeals to its target audience - he shows a stunningly poor grasp of the technique here. His post is one long string of condescending, hostile rhetoric directed at atheists ("false spin", "sophomoric and polarizing attacks", "the feeding frenzy of complaints and insults that typify the echo chamber of the Atheist Net Roots"). If he wanted atheists to listen to him and take him seriously, he could not have done much worse.

Numerous commenters on Nisbet's post have pointed out the many ways in which atheism is a civil rights issue. There are the atheist parents who are denied custody of their children because of their atheism; state constitutions that officially deny atheists the right to hold public office (now unenforceable, but the discriminatory language has never been removed); religious language in official affirmations like the Pledge of Allegiance that infringes on atheist parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit; government programs that take atheists' tax dollars and use them to pay for programs of religious indoctrination; and more. And then there are the significant pluralities, if not majorities in some cases, who consider atheists to be the least trustworthy group in America and would not vote for atheists for public office. These examples show Nisbet's claims to be unfounded in reality, and he has chosen to ignore them rather than make any effort to address them.

Granted, there is no organized, society-wide campaign whose explicit goal is to deny atheists their rights. Nor have atheists suffered discrimination equal to that experienced by African-Americans or women, and no atheist that I know has claimed otherwise. But it makes no difference. Discrimination is discrimination, whether it is de jure or de facto and whether it comes from scattered incidents or from a systematic campaign. And discrimination against atheists should still be opposed and ended, even if other groups have been through worse.

I do agree that positive portrayals of atheism are important. I am, after all, the founder of the Humanist Symposium whose entire purpose is to do exactly that. But that does not mean we cannot also criticize religion - this is not an either-or proposition. We can present a positive view of ourselves and our movement while also pointing out the many ways in which religious belief is false and harmful.

Will criticism upset many religious people? Certainly. But it's hardly as if atheists were universally beloved and respected until nasty, mean people like Richard Dawkins showed up and ruined our good name. There has always been prejudice against us, and it's about time we fought back and showed religious people that they cannot claim sole possession of the moral high ground. When false religious beliefs are doing harm, as many of them are, they need to be criticized. In any case, strong, passionate advocacy - whatever the position being defended - will always win more respect than weak, watered-down accommodationism that fears to hurt anyone's feelings.

It is now obvious that what Nisbet is demanding is that atheists be silent and not speak our minds. That isn't going to happen. I'm happy to see a vigorous, thriving atheist community take shape, and we will continue to say exactly what we think. Nisbet can sputter and complain about this to his heart's content, but it will not silence us; it will only show that his position is without worth or value and deserves no further consideration. Meanwhile, we who are genuinely concerned with both the civil rights and the public image of nonbelievers can and will press ahead in the vital effort to defend both.

We are The A-Team and we approve this message.

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Fcuk God in His Face!

A Rational Racing Response

These cars were created by Will of RRS Alabama with various members of the RRS in mind (he did the black mustang for me, lol)

The Easy Bible


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