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 Tags richard dawkins

17th April 2007, 04:43 PM   #1
andyandy
anthropomorphic ape

Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: up a tree
Posts: 8,190
Dawkins - stranger than we can imagine

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this is from a lecture a couple of years back - about how the universe is stranger than we can imagine...

interesting stuff.
__________________
"Contentment is found in the music of Bach, the books of Tolstoy and the equations of Dirac, not at the wheel of a BMW or the aisles of Harvey Nicks."

 17th April 2007, 05:43 PM #2 scotth Atheist Political Candidate     Join Date: Feb 2003 Location: DFW, TX area Posts: 1,801 Thanks for that! __________________ "This is one of things that I find so dangerous about religion. It actually allows people who are perfectly healthy psychologically, and quite intelligent even, to believe things that only a lunatic or an idiot could believe on his own." - Sam Harris in an internet radio interview with www.rationalresponders.com Hurst Photography
 17th April 2007, 07:52 PM #3 Apathia Master Poster     Join Date: Jun 2006 Location: Tempe, AZ Posts: 2,936 Thanks AndyAndy! That was delightful!
 17th April 2007, 07:57 PM #4 Foster Zygote Dental Floss Tycoon     Join Date: Jun 2006 Location: Between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge Posts: 14,384 I remember seeing something called the pistol shrimp on a nature program years ago. I was utterly speechless. __________________ It looks just like a Telefunken U47... You'll love it.
 18th April 2007, 03:19 AM #5 Cuddles Decoy Moderator     Join Date: Jul 2006 Location: A magical land full of pink fluffy sheeps and bunnies Posts: 16,566 I always hate the phrase "stranger than we can imagine". I can imagine all kind of things. If you find something stranger than you can imagine that just means you have a very poor imagination. __________________ I am not a little teapot.
 18th April 2007, 03:45 AM #6 andyandy anthropomorphic ape     Join Date: Apr 2006 Location: up a tree Posts: 8,190 Originally Posted by Cuddles I always hate the phrase "stranger than we can imagine". I can imagine all kind of things. If you find something stranger than you can imagine that just means you have a very poor imagination. do you think so? I find it hard to imagine in more than 3 spatial dimensions.....and yet reality could certainly incorporate several more. I don't think that's due to a deficiency in imagination as such as a deficiency of species.... __________________ "Contentment is found in the music of Bach, the books of Tolstoy and the equations of Dirac, not at the wheel of a BMW or the aisles of Harvey Nicks."
 18th April 2007, 06:49 AM #7 scotth Atheist Political Candidate     Join Date: Feb 2003 Location: DFW, TX area Posts: 1,801 Originally Posted by Cuddles I always hate the phrase "stranger than we can imagine". I can imagine all kind of things. If you find something stranger than you can imagine that just means you have a very poor imagination. Adding to what andyandy said (and extra spatial dimensions is a good one), can you really imagine what is going when light hits a diffraction grating or in when you get interference from multiple partial reflections (as when oil floats on water and causes a rainbow effect)? I pretty well understand how to work out what is happening in those situations, but my mind simply cannot wrap itself around how a photon can physically behave the way it needs to, to agree with QED predictions. All of those things (including the extra dimensions) are literally stranger than I can imagine. __________________ "This is one of things that I find so dangerous about religion. It actually allows people who are perfectly healthy psychologically, and quite intelligent even, to believe things that only a lunatic or an idiot could believe on his own." - Sam Harris in an internet radio interview with www.rationalresponders.com Hurst Photography
 18th April 2007, 09:33 AM #8 Dave1001 Illuminator   Join Date: Jul 2006 Posts: 3,717 Originally Posted by Cuddles I always hate the phrase "stranger than we can imagine". I can imagine all kind of things. If you find something stranger than you can imagine that just means you have a very poor imagination. But we do relative to phenomena in apparent reality. You don't think so? __________________ I'm here to discuss ideas, not to get personal. I won't criticize you personally, please don't criticize me personally. I won't direct ad hominems at you, please don't direct ad hominems at me. I won't attack you or put you down, please don't attack me or put me down. Thanks.
 18th April 2007, 09:35 AM #9 Dave1001 Illuminator   Join Date: Jul 2006 Posts: 3,717 Originally Posted by andyandy do you think so? I find it hard to imagine in more than 3 spatial dimensions.....and yet reality could certainly incorporate several more. I don't think that's due to a deficiency in imagination as much as a deficiency of species.... Well-put, although I would phrase it as our imagination is apparently limited by our current defficiencies as a species. __________________ I'm here to discuss ideas, not to get personal. I won't criticize you personally, please don't criticize me personally. I won't direct ad hominems at you, please don't direct ad hominems at me. I won't attack you or put you down, please don't attack me or put me down. Thanks.
 18th April 2007, 09:41 AM #10 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by Cuddles I always hate the phrase "stranger than we can imagine". I can imagine all kind of things. If you find something stranger than you can imagine that just means you have a very poor imagination. Imagine the size of the universe. No, really, imagine it. Put galaxies in their place correctly, with the right solar systems, and the right areas of visible light. Then shift to X-Rays... oh, wait! You can't see X-Rays. My bad. You can only imagine them in visible light, right? Tell me when you've done all of that, and I may just give you this point. I don't really consider it that possible, though. __________________ Writing.com Account
 18th April 2007, 09:54 AM #11 Boo ts     Join Date: May 2003 Location: state of chaos Posts: 3,743 "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." --From Hamlet I always thought that summed it up pretty well. Boo __________________ Wounds heal. Morally Obtuse. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
 18th April 2007, 10:52 AM #12 JamPal Student   Join Date: Apr 2007 Location: West Sussex, England Posts: 36 Originally Posted by Lonewulf Imagine the size of the universe. No, really, imagine it. Put galaxies in their place correctly, with the right solar systems, and the right areas of visible light. Then shift to X-Rays... oh, wait! You can't see X-Rays. My bad. You can only imagine them in visible light, right? Tell me when you've done all of that, and I may just give you this point. I don't really consider it that possible, though. I'm with you here. The human brain (at least in every human I have ever met) seems singularly incapable of even beginning to comprehend the size of the universe. And why would we? There has never been any need for our brains to evolve such levels of comprehension. Maybe one day... if we are still here.
 19th April 2007, 08:29 PM #13 Mobyseven President of Covert-Ops     Join Date: Nov 2006 Location: Not the Rat. Posts: 5,672 Originally Posted by andyandy do you think so? I find it hard to imagine in more than 3 spatial dimensions.....and yet reality could certainly incorporate several more. I don't think that's due to a deficiency in imagination as such as a deficiency of species.... [bad old maths joke]Please, that's easy! First I picture n spatial dimensions. Then I let n go to 10.[/bad old maths joke] __________________ "[Mobyseven is] a fantastically friendly, open, curious, happy, charming, sweet and adorable young man! And those are his bad points." - HistoryGal on Mobyseven "Damn, you're good." - Ichneumonwasp on Mobyseven
 20th April 2007, 04:23 AM #14 Cuddles Decoy Moderator     Join Date: Jul 2006 Location: A magical land full of pink fluffy sheeps and bunnies Posts: 16,566 Originally Posted by Lonewulf Imagine the size of the universe. No, really, imagine it. Put galaxies in their place correctly, with the right solar systems, and the right areas of visible light. Then shift to X-Rays... oh, wait! You can't see X-Rays. My bad. You can only imagine them in visible light, right? Tell me when you've done all of that, and I may just give you this point. I don't really consider it that possible, though. Yep, done. What you, and just about everyone else who ansered me, fail to realise is that we are talking about imagination. Why can I only imagine in visible light? I can certainly imagine the possibility of seeing x-rays, and it is only a small step to imagining seeing specific things in x-rays. Since many astronomical pictures are actually taken in x-rays I would even be fairly accurate about it. And there's the really important point. Accuracy. I can imagine pretty much anything. That doesn't necessarily mean I get it right. That's the whole point. If I actually knew what it was like it wouldn't be imagination. The more I information I have the more accurate I am likely to be. Seeing in x-ray would be fairly similar to seeing any other kind of light, and we already have pictures of what it would be like, so I can be fairly good with that, while I have no idea what multiple dimensions would be like so it is very likely that I am not all that close. It doesn't matter. The point is that I can imagine these things, and if it is shown that my imagination is wrong it doesn't mean that I am incapable of imagining anything, it just means that I didn't get it right this time. __________________ I am not a little teapot.
 20th April 2007, 05:44 AM #15 scotth Atheist Political Candidate     Join Date: Feb 2003 Location: DFW, TX area Posts: 1,801 You certainly picked the easiest to make a claim on, Cuddles. Xrays are still light, just of a higher frequency. Try to imagine space in 4 dimensions. Who about 7? or 11? Try taking on some of the rest of these. __________________ "This is one of things that I find so dangerous about religion. It actually allows people who are perfectly healthy psychologically, and quite intelligent even, to believe things that only a lunatic or an idiot could believe on his own." - Sam Harris in an internet radio interview with www.rationalresponders.com Hurst Photography
 20th April 2007, 06:30 AM #16 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by Cuddles Yep, done. Probably not. If you imagined it, you distorted it. Quote: What you, and just about everyone else who ansered me, fail to realise is that we are talking about imagination. Why can I only imagine in visible light? I can certainly imagine the possibility of seeing x-rays, and it is only a small step to imagining seeing specific things in x-rays. Since many astronomical pictures are actually taken in x-rays I would even be fairly accurate about it. Astronomical pictures are taken in x-rays, and then converted into visible light for your eyes. Nice try, though. You think that you can "imagine" anything and everything. Fine, that's cool. Don't mind me if I'm skeptical. __________________ Writing.com Account
 20th April 2007, 06:38 AM #17 Jekyll Graduate Poster     Join Date: Apr 2005 Location: The other other place Posts: 1,589 There is a difference between visualising and imagining though. And visualising and accurately visualising... __________________ And I looked. And behold a green horse, and his name that sat on him was death. ~Tyndale New Testament
 20th April 2007, 06:45 AM #18 Overman Master Poster     Join Date: Feb 2006 Location: Chicagoland Posts: 2,630 Originally Posted by Foster Zygote I remember seeing something called the pistol shrimp on a nature program years ago. I was utterly speechless. 200dB!!!! Holy crap...Thats louder than The Who!
 21st April 2007, 01:52 AM #19 Angus McPresley Muse     Join Date: Jan 2006 Location: Melbourne, Australia Posts: 645 Originally Posted by Cuddles The point is that I can imagine these things, and if it is shown that my imagination is wrong it doesn't mean that I am incapable of imagining anything, it just means that I didn't get it right this time. But you're missing the point of the original quote. No one is saying that you're "incapable of imagining anything", they're saying that you are (very likely) incapable of imagining the actual way that the universe works. Things have already been discovered that tax (or surpass) the abilities of our best minds to imagine in their heads -- and we're just scratching the surface. I've always been curious about the question of how much of the limits of our imagination is ingrained, and how much is due to how we are educated. Put another way, would it be possible to raise a child from the very start in such a way that they could fully grok quantum theory as a grownup? __________________ I can find no fault with Pascal's Wager. And so, I've decided to worship Thor.
 21st April 2007, 06:48 AM #20 Alkatran Muse     Join Date: Nov 2004 Posts: 559 Don't confuse "visualize in your head" with "conceive of", which is what we mean when we say "stranger than you can imagine". It's obviously ridiculously easy to show there are things you can't visualize in your head: just pick complicated things like a chess games (you can do that? fine, a hundred chess games!). But good luck coming up with an example of something we can't conceive of: you just conceived it. __________________ Don't pay attention to this signature: it's contradictory.
 21st April 2007, 07:23 AM #21 chracatoa Scholar     Join Date: Dec 2004 Location: South Brazil Posts: 109 Here's a simple algorithm. Just explain to me whatever you think nature is/does that is stranger than I can imagine. Next, replace the most important noun of the explanation (e.g. photons, black holes, etc.) by "tiny little naked men and women playing banjo". What's stranger now?
 21st April 2007, 07:28 AM #22 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by chracatoa Here's a simple algorithm. Just explain to me whatever you think nature is/does that is stranger than I can imagine. Next, replace the most important noun of the explanation (e.g. photons, black holes, etc.) by "tiny little naked men and women playing banjo". What's stranger now? Black holes and photons. Next? __________________ Writing.com Account
 21st April 2007, 07:54 AM #23 fls Penultimate Amazing     Join Date: Jan 2005 Posts: 10,236 Originally Posted by Lonewulf Quote: Originally Posted by chracatoa Here's a simple algorithm. Just explain to me whatever you think nature is/does that is stranger than I can imagine. Next, replace the most important noun of the explanation (e.g. photons, black holes, etc.) by "tiny little naked men and women playing banjo". What's stranger now? Black holes and photons. Next? That's a nice illustration of the power of science - that ideas that are truly bizarre can be so well-accepted that someone actually suggests that "tiny little naked men and women playing banjo" are stranger than black holes. Ya gotta love it. Linda __________________ God:a capricious creative or controlling force said to be the subject of a religion. Evidence is anything that tends to make a proposition more or less true.-Loss Leader SCAM will now be referred to as DIM (Demonstrably Ineffective Medicine) Look how nicely I'm not reminding you you're dumb.-Happy Bunny When I give an example, do not assume I am excluding every other possible example. Thank you.
 21st April 2007, 09:06 AM #24 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by fls That's a nice illustration of the power of science - that ideas that are truly bizarre can be so well-accepted that someone actually suggests that "tiny little naked men and women playing banjo" are stranger than black holes. Ya gotta love it. Linda And it's totally true. Black holes are constructed of the oddest things around; an escape velocity faster than the speed of light, an ability to warp time and space, a bunch of matter condensed into a tiny ball, and then there's the oddness of gravity in the first place. Yes, it's odd. It's strange. It's weird. And it's very difficult to truly imagine. Oh, sure, you can illustrate it into an "artist's perception"; but if you can SEE it, you're not seeing it. If you can imagine what you'd see, you're not seeing it. It's like trying to imagine the world through a bat's perception; you just can't. It's as simple as that: You and the bat perceive the world in vastly different ways, and you cannot imagine the world as the bat perceives it, simply because you cannot imagine the universe beyond your own perceptions. Our five senses; touch, smell, hearing, taste, and sight; those are the ways we imagine things, and even then there are severe limitations. We can see into visible light; but that's it. We cannot see into the x-ray spectrum, the infrared spectrum, the ultraviolet spectrum, the radio spectrum; to imagine "seeing" these things is fruitless, as we are not designed for it. Have you ever "seen" a photo that sees into these spectra? Here's a tip: They don't. They translate the light into a form that you are familiar with (visible light), but a translation is not comprehension, it is not "imagining". It may give you an idea, but hardly a good enough of one. Then there's hearing; we can only hear into certain frequencies. Dogs can hear at higher frequencies than we do; and there are lower frequencies that we cannot hear. There are ranges of even audible sound that we are not capable of grasping, simply because they are outside of our grasp. And touch. What's a star feel like? Well, it would probably be very painful, if you even lived before being squashed by the gravity, or caressed by a multi-thousand Kelvin stroke of flame. But then, we're still imagining it from our perspective, and our perspective alone. Some things are hard, no, nigh impossible, to truly imagine. We can break down complicated concepts into simpler concepts to try to get a comprehension and even prediction of it; but imagining it fully? I doubt it. __________________ Writing.com Account
 21st April 2007, 12:01 PM #25 Ivor the Engineer Philosopher     Join Date: Feb 2006 Location: South Britain, near the middle Posts: 9,553 I'm pretty sure Feynman, when asked about visualisations for electromagnetism basically said: "Give up and learn the rules of the math." This was because all the analogies you can use eventually break down. Anyone got good analogies for div, grad and curl in their various combinations? By the way, shouldn’t a black hole be called a black sphere?
 21st April 2007, 01:00 PM #26 Macoy Writing on water     Join Date: Apr 2004 Posts: 1,363 Seems obvious that dawkins believes in transcendence. __________________ Realists live in a world of their own
 21st April 2007, 01:02 PM #27 Rrose Selavy Stranded in Sub-Atomica     Join Date: Sep 2004 Location: UK Posts: 2,915 As a child and now as an non-theistic adult - there are two things about the "universe" that I find impossible to comprehend, if not imagine: Infinity & Eternity.
 21st April 2007, 01:43 PM #28 John Hewitt Muse   Join Date: Oct 2006 Posts: 924 Perhaps you would like Kant, "Critique of Practical Reason." "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within." __________________ Evolution and Origin . http://www.evolution-origin.co.uk A Habit of Lies: How Scientists Cheat . http://www.habitoflies.co.uk
 21st April 2007, 01:49 PM #29 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by Macoy Seems obvious that dawkins believes in transcendence. Eh? Originally Posted by Rrose As a child and now as an non-theistic adult - there are two things about the "universe" that I find impossible to comprehend, if not imagine: Infinity & Eternity. Just asking: Do you think that the universe is theorized to be truly "infinite"? Because that theory's been somewhat debunked; there is a limit to how far the universe stretches out (though maybe not necessarily empty space, we don't know about that) __________________ Writing.com Account
 21st April 2007, 02:07 PM #30 Soapy Sam NLH   Join Date: Oct 2002 Posts: 25,885 Cuddles- Imagine making love to Slyvia Browne. Sorry people, but sceptics must be made of tough stuff.
 21st April 2007, 02:08 PM #31 Macoy Writing on water     Join Date: Apr 2004 Posts: 1,363 Originally Posted by Lonewulf Eh? trancendance - thingy __________________ Realists live in a world of their own
 21st April 2007, 02:10 PM #32 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by Macoy trancendance - thingy Oh, well, okay then. I see what you mean. Dawkins probably does believe in transcendence. __________________ Writing.com Account
 21st April 2007, 02:12 PM #33 Macoy Writing on water     Join Date: Apr 2004 Posts: 1,363 the ability to understand now that which was not understandable just now. __________________ Realists live in a world of their own
 21st April 2007, 02:38 PM #34 Rrose Selavy Stranded in Sub-Atomica     Join Date: Sep 2004 Location: UK Posts: 2,915 Originally Posted by Lonewulf Eh? Just asking: Do you think that the universe is theorized to be truly "infinite"? Because that theory's been somewhat debunked; there is a limit to how far the universe stretches out (though maybe not necessarily empty space, we don't know about that) That's why I wrote "universe" in quotation marks. , or universes - however you define it - probably more I am talking about the empty space - if something is finite - ie has boundaries - then surely something lies beyond it - if not universe the something else and so on ad infinitum. -
 21st April 2007, 02:52 PM #35 Lonewulf Humanistic Cyborg     Join Date: Nov 2005 Location: San Antonio, Texas Posts: 10,380 Originally Posted by Rrose Selavy That's why I wrote "universe" in quotation marks. , or universes - however you define it - probably more I am talking about the empty space - if something is finite - ie has boundaries - then surely something lies beyond it - if not universe the something else and so on ad infinitum. - Ah, well, I get what you're saying now. __________________ Writing.com Account
 21st April 2007, 02:52 PM #36 andyandy anthropomorphic ape     Join Date: Apr 2006 Location: up a tree Posts: 8,190 Originally Posted by Lonewulf Just asking: Do you think that the universe is theorized to be truly "infinite"? Because that theory's been somewhat debunked; there is a limit to how far the universe stretches out (though maybe not necessarily empty space, we don't know about that) this is an interesting article on the question of an infinite universe.... Quote: Most astronomers think that the universe is infinite, but recent measurements suggest that it could be finite and relatively small. Indeed, as Jean-Pierre Luminet describes, we could be living in an exotic universe shaped rather like a football At a Glance: Cosmic topology • There are three possibilities for the curvature of the universe: space can be flat, spherical or hyperbolic • The geometry of the universe depends on its curvature and also on its topology, which governs the way space is connected and so determines if it is finite or infinite • Measurements of the cosmic microwave background constrain the curvature of the universe and provide hints about its topology • Recent data suggest that the universe might be multiply connected, like the left- and right-hand sides of the screen in a computer game snip For centuries the size and shape of space has intrigued the human race. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle claimed that the universe was finite with a clear boundary. Democritus and Epicurus, on the other hand, thought that we lived in an infinite universe filled with atoms and vacuum. Today, 2500 years later, cosmologists and particle physicists can finally address these fundamental issues with some certainty. Surprisingly, the latest astronomical data suggest that the correct answer could be a compromise between these two ancient viewpoints: the universe is finite and expanding but it does not have an edge or boundary. In particular, accurate maps of the cosmic microwave background - the radiation left over from the Big Bang - suggest that we live in a finite universe that is shaped like a football or dodecahedron, and which resembles a video game in certain respects. In such a scenario, an object that travels away from the Earth in a straight line will eventually return from the other side of the universe, having been rotated by 36° in the process. Space might therefore act like a cosmic hall of mirrors by creating multiple images of faraway light sources, which raises new questions about the physics of the early universe. However, this is just one possibility and other proposals made by researchers in the expanding field of cosmic topology include tetrahedral and octahedral spaces, flat doughnuts and an infinite "horn-shaped" universe. http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/18/9/3 __________________ "Contentment is found in the music of Bach, the books of Tolstoy and the equations of Dirac, not at the wheel of a BMW or the aisles of Harvey Nicks."
 21st April 2007, 03:08 PM #37 Rrose Selavy Stranded in Sub-Atomica     Join Date: Sep 2004 Location: UK Posts: 2,915 It's rather like "what" existed before the singularity and the big bang - nothing? But nothing is still "something" - or the theory that the universe expands after the bang and will gradually contract and we have several big bangs, inflations then contractions over time or "eternity" - Phew my head hurts....
 21st April 2007, 03:37 PM #38 andyandy anthropomorphic ape     Join Date: Apr 2006 Location: up a tree Posts: 8,190 this is how i think about reconciling the concept of an infinite and expanding universe...(not sure if it does reconcile anything - but it keeps me happy ) $\mathbb{N}$ (the set of natural numbers {0,1,2,3,4...} ) is an infinite set but $\mathbb{R}$ (the set of real numbers {0, $\sqrt 2$, 3.213.....}) is also an infinite set so $\mathbb{N}$ is contained within $\mathbb{R}$ __________________ "Contentment is found in the music of Bach, the books of Tolstoy and the equations of Dirac, not at the wheel of a BMW or the aisles of Harvey Nicks."
 21st April 2007, 05:24 PM #39 Rrose Selavy Stranded in Sub-Atomica     Join Date: Sep 2004 Location: UK Posts: 2,915 If we go back to Dawkin's idea of "Middle World" - Perhaps we could be said to be in "Middle Universe" - and we can no more conceive beyond it, even in the furthest speculations than a fly can of the human world or the partly Buddhist view that there are simply things which we cannot comprehend - that stance doesn't necessarily require "gods" or deities etc - though most religions do , though the Buddha himself provided no creation myths to fill the gaps.
 21st April 2007, 05:40 PM #40 CapelDodger Penultimate Amazing     Join Date: Sep 2001 Location: Cardiff, South Wales Posts: 16,740 Originally Posted by Cuddles I always hate the phrase "stranger than we can imagine". I can imagine all kind of things. If you find something stranger than you can imagine that just means you have a very poor imagination. I wouldn't go with "very poor", I'd go more with "challenged", and after all we are talking about something pretty challenging. That said, I find the phrase equally cringe-worthy. __________________ It's a poor sort of memory that only works backward - Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so - William of Conches, c1150

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