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Eric Mead: The magic of the placebo

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http://www.ted.com Sugar pills, injections of nothing -- studies show that, more often than you'd expect, placebos really work. At TEDMED, magician Eric Mead does a trick to prove that, even when you know something's not real, you can still react as powerfully as if it is. (Warning: This talk is not suitable for viewers who are disturbed by needles or blood.) TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the "Sixth Sense" wearable tech, and "Lost" producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at http://www.ted.com/translate. Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/top10
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Text Comments (277)
Thimón Sahuleka (19 days ago)
He sounds like Carl Sagan
Mk3 (23 days ago)
And where is the rest? Hahaha
adam langley (5 months ago)
way 2 go. sweet-dud
Corey Lambrecht (7 months ago)
Video doesn’t match title 👎🏼
Paul Abbott (8 months ago)
Placebo was again not the real subject matter here. A different type of placebo?
Vaibhav Gupta (9 months ago)
I didn't understand the needle part. Can anyone explain!
mediaguardian (9 months ago)
A prosthetic patch of arm-like material which is invisible to the viewers. The he pierces that and not his real arm. The "blood" is stored inside the patch or inside the bulb. I have seen a guy pull a chain thru his neck using a similar effect.
BDF30 (8 months ago)
Adam Payne (10 months ago)
Here's Harry Anderson doing the same hat pin gag. Arguably better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czElKoDQbGQ
Jamie W (1 year ago)
i dot get the whole point of it. can somewone explain?
KGames (9 months ago)
I think the point is that even though he continues to tell people throughout the "talk" that what they are seeing isnt real, yet because we can see we believe to a certain degree. Somewhat like the placebo effect. Thats my interpretation. Cheers :)
ZER0 (1 year ago)
That is not blood. He made you think it was with his placebo effect, priming etc. Still cool.
tech nox (1 year ago)
Just waisted 10 minutes on this dumb video about nothing.
MarbledSkies (1 year ago)
I don't really understand how the end thing- sticking the needle in his arm- is relevant to the subject?
MarbledSkies (1 year ago)
of the placebo effect
Mr. VA Rhythm~_~ (1 year ago)
Most boring opening magic trick ever
Mark Morash (1 year ago)
Here's an article that talks about placebos and it's amazing! http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/news/open-label-placebo-treatment-reduces-chronic-pain/article/567252/
CoryTheMan789 (1 year ago)
is this seth mcfarland
TheManChise (1 year ago)
Mead WTF.unacceptable. I expected more
Fars mezan (1 year ago)
Did any one heard the guy who said something thing in Arabic? 😂 He was disgusted, therefore, he laughed than said "Allah yagrafak". 8:16
DoingStuffWhenImBored (1 year ago)
In 6:56 he was squeezing his skin over the needle so I think it was just like some glue on his skin and he pressed the needle in...
BDF30 (8 months ago)
DoingStuffWhenImBored (1 year ago)
But I did notice that there were only three fingers...
AMJYT (1 year ago)
I didn't understand the end. I assume it was fake and we thought it was real?
manfrombritain (1 year ago)
this was one of the worst ted talks, he didnt say anything worth hearing. everybody already knows about placebos and the fact that they work
damiano lee (2 years ago)
So what is the fucking conclusion here????
SoulEater Evans (2 years ago)
....I thought the point of videos like these was to prove the placebo effect or at least enlighten us. That's what TED talks are, right? Because all I saw here was a guy say things without giving evidence and then do some magic to impress people. You could argue that he's using the placebo effect with his magic, but even then it's also giving proof that it doesn't work because I'm calling BS on all of it. This was the least interesting, most confusing talk ever. He literally walked off stage leaving more questions than answers.
DestinationD (2 years ago)
So did he actually pierce himself (even if he feels little pain)? So... what's the point of this? What point is he trying to prove? That if it comes to serious topics even the magicians are not joking around?
SoulEater Evans (2 years ago)
He didn't pierce himself. The needle has two small holes and you squeeze the bottom bulb to "create" blood. He either used a patch of fake skin that is adhesive or just used non-clear adhesive alone for the piercing
Gibby Vogel (2 years ago)
Eric gives a different approach to explaining how the placebo effect works. He perceives this effect as something that is fake but most people still believe in it. I think this is a unique way of looking at the placebo effect, Eric explains it like magic. Throughout the video he does a few magic tricks, then relates them to how the placebo effect works. The placebo effect is an easy way to manipulate people into believing things that are not true. This is used in so many different ways other than medicine, in medicine it is not as disliked as it is in people’s daily lives. For medicine this idea is definitely one of the ideal practices since sometimes the individuals getting the placebo also think that they were getting better. This shows that sometimes all it takes to get better is the idea in the individual’s head. The placebo effect is very efficient in most cases medically because although some people are only getting sugar pills, it shows how each medication can help the patients.
Adam Turner (2 years ago)
I would have to agree with this whole idea of the placebo effect because of heard of many studies done before on this. I think it is interesting the power our mind has on our bodies to affect a curtain trait or feeling just because a white or blue pill was ingested, that seems incredible to me once I actually think about it. But this also makes me sit back and think about, if our mind can trick our bodies into feeling an effect of a pill, wouldn't this be able to have the same effect on feeling better from a sickness, or healing part of the body? It seems to me that just by thinking something is better or maybe even getting it 'fake' fixed, we can convince our own bodies that it is actually better, until of course our bodies are tested and the weakness or pain is exposed. The point I'm trying to make is that if our minds are so powerful in the fact that a placebo effect can be absolutely true, why cant we in turn trick our bodies into healing themselves or feeling better, simply with thought? I guess its kind of a long shot but it just seemed interesting to me and how the health of our minds can greatly effect the health of the rest of our bodies, and the other way around.
Tyler Kwapis (2 years ago)
The statistics on the effectiveness of placebos has been proven time and time again. The fact of the matter is: The human mind can help heal physical wounds with slight encouragement of a placebo. However, this is not always the case, and being prescribed a placebo by a doctor can be dangerous. The statistical advantage of a controlled, blind experiment is next to none. This helps researchers develop better medications to help more patients in the future, but in order to speak about the ethics of placebos, we must talk about medical consent. Consent is defined as a patient's agreeance to a specific medical treatment. It is our job as healthcare professionals to provide our patients with informed consent, that is consent after all of the information about a decision is given to them. When we carry out placebo-controlled placebos, however, we are giving our patients the opportunity for informed consent. So must balance the ethical question of which is more important: informed consent or the greater good of the experiment? Medical professionals still debate over this subject, and patients are typically left in the dark. I believe that the probability of saving lives, combined with the benefits of having a placebo to some patients, is more important than completely informed consent. However, I believe that we can include consent for placebo treatments in general release forms, and this is what physicians and hospitals are moving towards.
Maria Lynn (2 years ago)
Wow, okay! The placebo effect is a phenomenon that I can't quite seem to understand, but I get the point of this video. Placebos do great work for uncovering all sorts of pharmecudical breakthroughs. However, I question if they are ethical to use. The use of a placebo could very psychologically damaging to a patient, epspecially if they are given a placebo for a disease such as Huntington's or ALS, which are devastatingly incurable. There are certain practices in place in which patients may be aware that they have recieved a placebo and not an actual treatment, but they take on the study anyway in hopes of benefitting even in the slightest. But there are other practices in which neither the doctor nor the patient is aware of what is being administered (double-blind). This may all be in the name of science, or what have you, but I don't find that to be good enough reason or ethical for that matter. As I said, this can be emotionally scaring to a patient, and may even cause a patient to regress when they discover they have not actually been recieving anything that could help them. On the other hand, there IS some positivity that comes to the patient from the placebo effect, and some would argue that this constitutes a good enough reason to take on the research.
NewYear (2 years ago)
Rubber cement on the arm and the needle is prop needle. Notice the rubber ball it's fake blood in it. He over laps his arm skin around the needle while he allowed the rubber cement to dry up and makes it looked pierced and then the he squeezes the ball at the end for blood. Ahhhh, ooooo
2 liter (2 years ago)
some trials show that it sometimes will work even if the person knows it's a placebo
Alexander Brand (2 years ago)
The "placebo effect trick" is the best and biggest magic trick in the world! Or is it the "pharmacists make billions trick"?
Abram 134 (2 years ago)
Alexander Brand yeah true
Alexander Brand (2 years ago)
I don't really get why placebo has such a bad reputation. It's the biggest healing response in living organisms! And all it takes is an impuls. All the chemical healing is unethical.
theorist199791 (2 years ago)
+Alexander Brand It is limited, especially when contrasted against aggressive and specific mechanical approaches. Thus, considerations are contrasted against as placebo group in order to determine if it would be worth the investment or not.
Haleyann (2 years ago)
This video makes you question many of the drugs on the market. Do they really do what they say they do or do doctors and pharmaceutical companies label them as such to make us think they are helping? Sometimes you wonder if doctors prescribe medication to satisfy the patient, so they take the medication and believe they are truly getting better when they most likely didn't need it in the first place. I think this comes to play more often around the flu season. When people have a virus there really isn't much to do treatment wise, but when you have a bacterial infection it can be treated. People don't always accept that fact and accuse the doctor of not treating their problem. I think that sometimes people go to the doctor expecting to get a medication to make them feel better and then the doctor prescribes them an antibiotic to make the flu symptoms subside, but in reality the virus is just taking its course and is going away on its own. There are many instances that I have personally heard about that are similar to the ones previously described.
Constantine Chaos (2 years ago)
did anyone else pick up the trick straight away at the start before he even explained it? I've never seen or heard the trick before and im like but hes only got 3 fingers on his wrist so one of them is holding the knife duhh :/ OKAY EXCEPT I HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT THAT NEEDLE THING SOMEONE EXPLAIN HOW
beakf1 (2 years ago)
The blood is in the round bit on the end of the needle and he squeezes it to make blood come out. Not sure about the rest.
Harulfr (8 months ago)
the rest is rubber cement :D
Christian Leon (2 years ago)
This man looks like Micheal from GTA 5
Ford Focus (11 months ago)
Brett Skinner (2 years ago)
more like trevor
Chris Valade (3 years ago)
Based on his presentation, and the amount of 'blood', I'm quite certain that he didn't actually pierce his skin. That said, the classic sideshow 'human pin cushion' doesn't (or at least doesn't need to) rely on any trick at all, I can and have done it myself multiple times (when younger I got fascinated by the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and learned a number of such things). The secret is that there is MUCH LESS pain than most suspect: it's not much more than a light pinch (unless you go through muscle--that's a different thing altogether). Also, there is very little blood, most of the time there's only a few drops once you remove the needle, and it heals up quite quickly. I've done it through my cheek, lip (well, the area where if I kept it in it would be called a labret piercing), skin on my arm, leg, chest. This, eating glass, laying/walking on a bed of nails, walking on coals, 'hammering' a nail into the nose (no hammering needed, you just slide it into your sinus cavity, there's no pain, just sneezing if you're not used to it), having a cinder block broken over your chest, etc. are all 'tricks' that work because of our ignorance and fear, but they aren't (necessarily) illusions. ... this really adds nothing of substance, but figured I'd share anyway =P
Mr. Hyde (10 months ago)
Keith Otis Edwards Thanks for keeping your ego at 100% you tool.
SoulEater Evans (2 years ago)
^ The replier above me was not using their brain when they made that reply. If you actually bothered to read this comment properly, you'd realize that they said exactly what you said. The guy then brought in an anecdote that is related to skin piercing placebos. You chose to focus on the second part and assumed that that filled in the gaps perfectly on this person's opinion on the trick when it didn't at all.
Keith Otis Edwards (2 years ago)
Thanx for keeping the record at 100%. I watch a lot of magic videos, and absolutely each and every time someone tries to explain the trick in a comment, they get it _waaaaay_ wrong. You are no exception, and Mead does not actually stab himself. When I was a kid, I bought this illusion for $12 from a catalogue. Every on-line magic shop sells it. There's a certain type of person who is easily duped by magic tricks, even simple ones such as this, and they have a need to show how sophisticated they are by posting (or shouting) their wrong explanation. Of course, this has the opposite effect. The people who actually know how the trick is done have no interest or need to show-off that they know, and the people who need to show that they know *never* have the correct answer. Thanx for keeping the record at 100%.
jxn141 (3 years ago)
He says something around 3:10 the mind does not count the fingers it groups them. Where can I learn more about that principle? For more on the placebo effect I recommend Joe Dispenza's books
John Rodriguez (2 years ago)
check out inattentional blindness AKA selective attention bias
Michael Adams (3 years ago)
When my finger was dislocated the nurse gave me a small bit of morphine that did very little..I asked her for more and she said 'this is twice as much as the last dose so it'll help your pain'..she injected me with it and I was in the same amount of pain so I'm pretty sure she just injected me with saline because I was a bit drunk aswell...The placebo did nothing for my pain
Michael Adams (3 years ago)
Seth McFarlane's brother!!
Armani garrison (3 years ago)
so then we must be able to trick our bodies into healing themselves. if just thinking we're cured can lead to ourselves feeling better then that can open up so many possibilities for other diseases. things like the placebo effect make me think there was an actual reason why those old saying like mind over matter, a laughing smoker will never die, etc all had legitimate backup. the body is an amazing thing and if left to its own, it can heal itself and your body. your body is built to bounce back from a lot so, we should let it do what it was made to do instead of pumping it full of all types of chemicals and bad things.
SoulEater Evans (2 years ago)
Maybe don't use this trick to fit your narrative? You can try to make this into mind over matter and push your self-healing agenda, but it doesn't fit. The example you used is one that only works on things we can fix via mood when used in the realm of medicine. The placebo effect only "cures" people because their illness was mostly centered around their attitude. However, you can only do this for certain illnesses or parts of an illness. You can't smile away lung cancer-causing tobacco products like you're implying. Maybe you can do it to power through aches, pains, a cough, the flu, or some other small scale thing, but you can't make magic happen with a magic *trick*. You stretched it past its capabilities to fortify your beliefs and then tried to pass them onto us. Save it for church, not science.
K A (3 years ago)
It's more complicated than that. Te placebo affect isn't really for super serious stuff more for fun and social experiments.
Joe Lackey (3 years ago)
What an interesting element this adds to the mind-body problem.
SUCKRPUNCHED (3 years ago)
Materialists deny the existence of the placebo effect because it goes against their dogmatic scientific ideology that all thought arises in the brain by process of electrochemical rxns. If this were 100%, the placebo effect would have no merit.
4200cg (4 years ago)
Wtf! Made No Fucking sense!
TrenTonStackZ (4 years ago)
It's fake... he mentions it on TED Radio Hour
Brody Z Akira (4 years ago)
Kinda reminds me of how someone is lying constantly and believes their own lies
geirtwo (4 years ago)
The placebo affect is actually everywhere. Intelligent people use it to manipulate normal people for their gain. This is one of the methods the Jews uses to gain control over the world. But if you are constantly sceptical and aware and go deeper into the knowledge of things you will not be victim to the placebo effect.
Zach Cooley (10 months ago)
geirtwo lol you really dont like being lied to. But since jews are "crafty" they are the worlds problem i see
Leonard S (11 months ago)
Yes please elaborate
Klajdi Veizi (1 year ago)
How did the jews gained control over the world?
Átila (4 years ago)
And nothing really about placebo effect u.u
Mike J. (4 years ago)
He probably didn't pull it out cause he realized "Oh crap!... I really did stab myself!"
wiremessiah (4 years ago)
It's obvious he uses adhesive to attach the needle, then you can see him squeeze the bulb at the base of the needle when producing "blood". Good trick, I need one of those  needles.
Fennec Besixdouze (4 years ago)
For the people thinking this is real and the "trick" is to get people to believe it's not real, no. It's a trick. He didn't actually pierce his skin with a needle. This is actually a well known effect among magicians. If you want to see a magician do a needle-through-arm trick that isn't a trick at all, watch David Blaine's latest special (segment with Ricky Gervais). As far as I can tell in that case it really is a genuine stunt (presented by Blaine as a trick). 
Aleksandar Ilijevski (5 years ago)
Which means it's not fake. Nothing appears from thin air. Real things produce real effects. Placebo effect is not a paradox. It's a reality, but you hav to train your mind so that you can believe what you want and than it becomes a reality. :)
ArcticIce (4 years ago)
great example: soldiers get teached to control the Placebo effect so that they can (for example) feel heat in the cold.
Brainbuster (5 years ago)
He looks just like John Edwards, the fraudulent psychic medium!!!
Brainbuster (3 years ago)
+Tao Denkyem I agree it's redundant. Also, he uses all the magic tricks magicians have been using for many decades. It's very unlikely that he'd be caught using all the cold reading tricks and also happen to be the real deal.
Angelos (5 years ago)
research shows that the red pill works better than the blue pill. ... cos u get to go down the rabbit hole :)
Katapult5721 (5 years ago)
You know that you can see it actually sticking in his skin?
Van Truong (5 years ago)
He basically showed us a placebo effect, by saying that he was inserting the needle into his actual flesh, when its actually fake
Christina Fitzer (5 years ago)
omg gross
Katapult5721 (5 years ago)
I don't get it. How is putting a needle into your arm magic?
kitty roxus (5 years ago)
I dont understand why he did that needle thing... How did that retlate to placebos?
NewYear (2 years ago)
kitty roxus Rubber cement on the arm and the needle is prop needle. Notice the rubber ball it's fake blood in it. He over laps his arm skin around the needle while he allowed the rubber cement to dry up and makes it looked pierced and then the he squeezes the ball at the end for blood. Ahhhh, ooooo
Maryo Viber (5 years ago)
yes !
Makdavian (5 years ago)
secret for the needle trick : /watch?v=uA0W2Q0i1Hk
rewQsuiNrg4wdfuhGVfd (5 years ago)
I had a friend who did this, during a school lesson, for real, close to the humerus. Our teacher thought it was a trick and tried to rip the stick from his arm and as a result caused a massive bleeding. He had poked a deeper and deeper hole in his upper left arm for a week creating a channel straight through his arm. The guy was a bit crazy and committed suicide about ten years later.
Zedmanest. (5 years ago)
I'm fully agree with you. This is one of the best presentation I've seen !
Dean Atkinson (5 years ago)
I have never seen this effect done with such clarity, meaning and realism. The build up with the knife and the call back to the fingers when he does the needle is brilliant. very professional presentation.
saintcruzin (5 years ago)
What is truly amazing is how we have just scratched the surface of what our minds are capable. The mind can heal.....amazing.
vastowen (6 years ago)
I have researched on your note, and I realize this now. I had done little before placing that comment, and I had researched on it afterwards, but that was several months ago. You are a bit late, amigo.
andrew murray (6 years ago)
nope. The ultimate placebo is fake surgery my friend. However when you research deeply, you will obersve that the placebo effect is the humans ability to heal itself through belief. Incredible
JureGorucan (6 years ago)
It's done with wrapping the needle in a wrinkle of forearm skin. Sterilizing is really just putting glue on the surface of needle and then while you can't see him, he pinches skin well around it. There is a very small hole in the middle of the needle where fake blood comes from when he squeezes the bulb :)
Shawn Winters (6 years ago)
he places the needle tightly onto his arm and presses firmly, the skin wraps around the needle to create the illusion that it is continuous. the bulb contains the "blood" and its possible that the "sterilization" of the needle helped in wrapping his skin around it.
Tone 720 (6 years ago)
OK so needle in arm trick... even though he talks about taking it out on stage and showing there aren't any wounds etc, does he ever actually do that? Not seen the trick before but could see there had to be some trickery there. Sterilized needle or not, I doubt TED would let a guy bleed all over the stage, it's not like he's a pro-wrestler doing some blading and juicing, right?
Tristan Noelmans (6 years ago)
How about the blue pill vs the red pill? Seems important for Neo.
vastowen (6 years ago)
Actually, the most ultimate placebo is when you enject it when they are inside a gigantic machine or somehting.
SirLobsterman (6 years ago)
I've seen it done with scotch tape too, it works just as good without the mess on your arm.
jtmotisi (6 years ago)
its rubber cement on the bare part of his forearm and when his hand is behind his arm he pinches the rubbercement/skin around it...but the blood part was right good job:)
SirLobsterman (6 years ago)
he used scotch tape to pinch his skin around the needle and the blood's from the ball at the end of the needle.
EFFINGninja (6 years ago)
the ball of the needle is the container of the fake blood, he uses clear rubber cement on his arm then presses the needle against it rather than piercing through. then he pinches his skin together around the needle to make it look like its gone through.
sjkane711 (6 years ago)
He put the needle between the sanitation pad and his arm then stuck it to his skin. The back of it looks like skin and there is a fake blood capsule inside.
ahgflyguy (6 years ago)
only if you're a solipsist. Actually, that's pretty close to the definition of solipsism I think. Assuming you're not a solipsist, wouldn't that require some pretty complicated machinery? Machinery that supposedly can't exist?
fullfist (6 years ago)
you're not the only one that came to that conclusion. . "believe and ye shall receive" .
suraj gurung (7 years ago)
I watched the masked magician crack it.
Jason Travor (7 years ago)
Looks more like Kevin Spacey.
Jason Travor (7 years ago)
@CymroGoch There is absolutely no respected scientific research into whether or not medicine is "real" or all just placebo. Absolutely none. I'm sure there are quack jobs looking to get famous by making ridiculous claims like that, but there is not a single respected scientist who actually believes all medicine may in fact be placebo. That is utter nonsense, and I would politely ask you to not even suggest that it's legitimate.
Chad Muse (7 years ago)
The top 10 link is a fail
pencrazypal (7 years ago)
@thedisbatcher Since it it biochemical, it will have an effect. However, mentality in treatment is proven to make a difference in some sort of treatment. I am no expert, but I am guessing that beeing aware of something that is in your system and not wanting it may cause your body to react.
Edwin North (7 years ago)
@samiccino feel good that you exposed it? Of course because it can be done for real with no trickery..well that may leave the possibility that he is one of those guys who really does shove a needle through his arm..just look at the art of hook suspension. Rubber cement won't allow full body weight suspension.
aquamus (7 years ago)
This guy has a really good point, but he is kinda badly prepared; referring to graphs without showing them, etc.
TheBlackmentos94 (7 years ago)
@victorjulio15 Aww...my teachers in school showed us videos from TED and ever since we're all hooked!
Samuel Foo (7 years ago)
Hi guys, if you wanna know how it works, here it is: He applied a thick layer of rubber cement on his arm before the show. Thats the portion the 'needle' is going through. If you noticed the end of the 'needle' has a ball shaped handle, which is actually containing small amount of fake blood. you can see him pressing on to it at 8:05. The needle is no ordinary needle, it has some holes at the sides and when the ball handle is pressed, the fake blood comes out of it. Hope that helps.
Melki Hassa (7 years ago)
worry makes us sick
fahadabid (7 years ago)
@thered0390 It is a trick
thered0390 (7 years ago)
He really did pierce himself, but the trick is that he made you believe it's fake, right?
darkhedos (7 years ago)
lol I clicked on this thinking this was an "Epic Meal" video
Donal277 (8 years ago)
And might i add he merely attached some synthetic skin with some fake blood capsule. Everything else was to add to this perception . The towels at the end the sealer.
Donal277 (8 years ago)
Terrible "trick"
kissmyfarmer (8 years ago)
what just happened at the end? Did I not get something?
Creep from outer-space (8 years ago)
@wesleyz15 I hope you lots of luck in life... youre gonna need it.
Maverician (8 years ago)
@KingOfMadCows In what way can you say that belief is not an extremely complex version of conditioning?
Maverician (8 years ago)
@KingOfMadCows What exactly is the difference between belief and conditioning? (Philosophical question, not me simply asking)
Why Not Now (8 years ago)
this trick was pretty obvious!
La Taco Muerte (8 years ago)
Oddly, to me he looks like some sort of Seth McFarland and Matthew Broderick offspring.

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