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Unqualified speculation about the nature of the universe 
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[The runaway speculation now condensed in this thread originally started at the end of this post.]

And finally I just want to mention the binary system GRS 1915+105, aka V1487 Aquilae, an energetic X-ray source 40,000 ly away from Earth; estimated at 10 to 18 solar masses, it is the largest stellar black hole found in the Milky Way. That doesn't necessarily mean much, because it wouldn't include intermediate-mass black holes, like the one probably at the center of Omega Centauri, shown a few posts up; rather than collapsing from one really really big star, the black hole could be the result of several stars converging, as it is probably doing now with its current regular-star neighbor.

But the binary has been significant in research: it was the first source in our galaxy found with apparent superluminal motion (in this case thought to be due to "Doppler boosting," which I think is an apparent increase in Doppler shift due to the observer's reference frame (ie the Earth) moving toward the thing it's measuring--the two shifts sort of get added together, so you think one is going faster than the other...maybe. Or maybe something weird happens with trying to measure really fast stuff; the things the binary is throwing out are thought to move at up to 90% light speed, which is considerable. These superluminal things sure aren't explained very clearly! Which might have something to do with the fact that they're illusory. :P).

Also, the black hole may be rotating 1,150 times per second, which is a pretty good rate. As a "microquasar" (really just an old name now for X-ray binaries--aka binary systems that emit X-rays) it helped scientists study self-governing processes that may also apply to the growth rates of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies: as material sucks down into the hole and heats up, it blows other material away; the hole then stops "eating" and growing for a while, until new masses of material have time to get sucked back over to it.

I shouldn't say that a "microquasar" only applies to X-ray binaries, though, because at least three star systems have been found that emit gamma rays, which are way higher energy; usually gamma rays are only found coming from things like supernova explosions or very energetic neutron stars (aka "pulsars"). So those three systems (which all have horrible abbreviation/number names, one of which is here) very likely include lively neutron stars, or black holes. Which again isn't that surprising, since all known/suspected stellar black holes, and 5% of neutron stars, are in binaries. So I guess I just thought it was remarkable that only three binary systems are known that emit gamma rays.

Oh wait, maybe the "Doppler boosting" used to describe that binary, and some of the silly phrases thrown out about M87's superluminal effect, were ways of describing time dilation, an effect of relativity. I thought I sort of understood time dilation, but now I don't think I do. Math seems to be involved, which always defeats me. But it has something to do with relativistic laws like:

- light always moves at the same speed in any one person's frame of reference
- mass and energy are equivalent
- gravity and acceleration are equivalent
- space and time are dimensions of a single continuum
- energy is always conserved

Hey, I like those. That's much nicer than math (or at least, it's 1=1 type of math, which I like :D). And really it boils down to my own Theory of Everything, which is that everything is a vibration, moving in discrete increments (the Planck distance), at a fixed speed (the speed of light). That's nice and simple, eh? So if something is moving, in effect the particles in it have to slow down, because otherwise in their own orbits or whatever they'd be going faster than the speed of light, which just isn't possible--like the Universe doesn't process change any faster than that, or something (analogy: the Universe is a computer running a visual simulation, with the speed of light being its processing speed, and Planck distances being the tiniest spaces it can render as individual pixels). So their own motions--electrons orbiting in atoms in cells and air pockets and clothes of a man walking, say--have to slow down, because their net motion can't exceed light speed, and in effect time is running a little slower for them; if the man speeds up, their individual motions--again because they're limited by light speed--have to get slower still, and their time runs even slower, etc.

Say! That means if we're in a fast / energetic / high gravity galaxy shooting through the Universe, we'll live longer than all the slower / weaker / lighter galaxies (huh unless our galaxy explodes/implodes or hits something...), and be able to see more of what happens. Man, I hope we're in a rad (and lucky) galaxy.

Hm although that reminds me, something I saw in a...was it MIT course on black holes on YouTube?--well, some smarty-pants university that has all their course materials online, anyway--had this one theoretical physicist (EDIT: it was Alan Guth--who came up with the idea of cosmic inflation back in 1980--in this lecture) saying that gravity is actually negative energy; so if that's the case, maybe it's highly, highly unlikely that you'll have a galaxy that's fast AND energetic AND high gravity. His gravity = negative energy thought experiment went something like this, I think: if you attach lines to stuff falling into a gravity well from all directions, they can be tied on the other end to say a wheel to do work, so according to the law of conservation of energy, gravity must be a negative in the equation, to balance things out (this disregards antiquated notions like "potential energy," I guess). And the other reasoning is that if you count gravity as negative energy, then the overall energy of the Universe can--by somebody's calculations--be made to work out to a nice tidy sum of zero, which means among other things that there's no reason the Big Bang couldn't have occurred purely spontaneously, from nothing, since the universe in sum equals nothing (and "from nothing, nothing comes" said one of those smartypants ancient Greeks). So while "negative energy" is semantically grotesque, it seems like a useful way of looking at things sometimes.

Now that I have solved every problem in physics to my own indiscriminate satisfaction, I can get some sleep! No doubt tomorrow I will be more confused than ever.


Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:17 pm
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More horrifyingly uninformed and just plain wrong speculation that's still going around in my head!

So what are the Planck distance and speed of light really, and why are they are what they are? And what the heck is gravity?

Mmmmmaybe the Planck distance was simply the length of the first vibration from the universal nothing/everything that eventually formed the clumps of "stuff" we see today. If equal parts stuff and anti-stuff can come from nothing spontaneously, that could have been happening for untold epochs of time prior to what we know of as the Big Bang; just as organic molecules took billions of years of random movements and mutations to get to the point where one become self-replicating, beginning life, vibrations and anti-vibrations should have been popping off here and there and everywhere around the otherwise featureless universe, then just recombining, going from nothing to nothing, but eventually, two, say, vibrations of the same length and speed happen to overlap, forming a x2 positive vibration, which their anti-vibrations can't cancel out. But maybe even those x2 vibrations constantly canceled out against x2 anti-vibrations anyway. Still, at some point, some vibration, which had happened to start as a movement of what we know as the Planck length, expressing itself at what we now know as the speed of light, by sheer random chance managed to multiply up and up, combining with others up to a point where it became self-generating, reorganizing the areas around it into vibrations of its own pattern, and this wave of replication spread through the Universe in a flash: the Big Bang.

It *is* thought that soon after the Big Bang, particles and their anti-particles formed and merged in similar fashion, and again due to quantum fluctuations, what we know as "positive" particles won out and took over. But that was on a scale of baryons, the subatomic particles we know of today (and was called baryogenesis), and what I imagine taking place prior to that was on the much smaller Planck scale, one of "fundamental" vibrations that haven't yet jostled their way into particle clumps.

This is sounding sillier and sillier! :D

Now on that Planck scale page listed above I see that the Planck distance itself isn't proven to be a discrete quantum of space at which things move:
Quote:
The physical significance of the Planck length, if any, is not yet known. Because the Planck length is the only length that can be formed from the constants c, G, and ħ, dimensional analysis suggests that lengths of special significance in quantum gravity are likely to be small multiples of the Planck length. Contrary to statements sometimes found in the popular press, there is no evidence to suggest that distances in space are quantized in units of the Planck length.[citation needed] In some theories or forms of quantum gravity, it is the length scale at which the structure of spacetime becomes dominated by quantum effects, giving it a discrete or foamy structure, but other theories of quantum gravity predict no such effects.
But I'm going to look on the positive side and say that it's gotta be something pretty fundamental, rather than just a (mini)massive coincidence!

Now, the little vibrations I'm talking about aren't at all original to me; they can fall under the heading of the virtual particles that make up vacuum energy, which is thought to be the effective energy of this constant positive/negative spontaneous ripple creation on tiny scales at every point in space; among other things, it would account for the observed "expansion" of the universe, and maybe a good chunk of the so-called "dark energy" that we can't seem to find and which would complete many theories oh-so-nicely. One funny thing about the idea of vacuum energy is that its energy is expressed as "negative" pressure. :o

And I didn't note down the address for this, but in some theory of gravity I was reading about, or maybe two separately, mentioned that this constant positive/negative spontaneous vibration going on throughout space would constitute a universal energy field, and that the interaction of matter as it moves through this field--stretching it and rumpling it as it goes, maybe, or being slowed or accelerated by it--could possibly account for what we know as gravity; so gravity comes about from all these little vibrations pushing and pulling on each other and bigger vibrations (matter), all wiggling on tiny Planck scales in this energy field, everywhere.

Hey, why not? And anyway sub-particle vacuum energy sounds to me like a better explanation than midichlorians or the Higgs boson. :p But I'm not going to roll out anything like any of those in A*, at least not until actual scientists reasonably prove one of them, so no worries. ;)


Wed Feb 24, 2010 1:10 am
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Last night I somehow got to thinking about vacuum energy--the ongoing spontaneous creation and destruction of positive and negative "virtual particle" pairs at pretty much every point in the universe--again, and how it's described as forming a negative pressure, and can have a negative gravitational effect--ie in the expansion of the universe--and then I was thinking about gravity being described as a negative energy, and anyway then I thought maybe gravity is just the pressure effect of vacuum energy; space is pushing against everything non-space.

I tried looking this up and didn't really find anyone equating the two things that directly, although I did find various articles and blogs talking about them together in relation to other problems in cosmology, or musing about isn't it funny how vacuum energy appears to be unaffected by gravity, etc. This is probably the best sign that my untutored idea about them is complete poppycock!

Among other doubts, I suspect that the energies involved are way off one way or the other--like, maybe there isn't nearly enough vacuum energy bearing on any particular thing in the universe to account for the gravitation force of a star, say (and let's not even try thinking about black holes for now, mmkay). Also I'm not at all sure that vacuum force's "negative pressure" would even act as something pressing things into other things like that.

Still it's fun to think about until I find it solidly refuted in language I can actually understand, and trying to investigate it in my various incompetent ways (ie Googling and skimming articles I don't understand :D) at least lets me learn a thing or two accidentally. So here's some stuff I found:

- Vacuum energy is kind of popular nowadays, particularly as something that would help explain the expansion of the universe, "dark energy" and all that; I came across a few pages trying to come up with various calculations for the universe's vacuum energy.

- According to the Wikipedia article on vacuum energy linked above, bits of the theory of it have been around since the '30's. It sounds like maybe it wasn't really looked into in terms of actually trying to help calculate large scale things until getting into the later '70's, though. Anyway I'm thinking about the chronology there because there was this Russian guy Andrei Sakharov who in the late '60's started saying that maybe gravity really has to do with quantum activity in the vacuum, or something like that. But the actual term vacuum energy doesn't seem to come up with him; one term that does come up a lot when people talk about Sakharov is induced gravity, but that sounds really hypothetical and complicated and not really the vacuum energy equivalence at all.

- There is this old idea--originally proposed to provide a mechanical explanation for Newtonian gravity, back in Newton's day--of gravity being a "push" rather than a pull, sometimes known as Le Sage's theory of gravitation, which proposes that there's some kind of particle hitting everything in space from all directions, and that large masses end up getting a net attractive force from it because they block the particles that would otherwise be pushing things away from them; so things within that "shadow," being pushed in all directions by these particles except the direction toward the large mass, since the particles from that direction are blocked by the mass, end up being pushed toward the large mass. On the face of things it sounds similar to a notion of gravity being a manifestation of vacuum pressure, but somehow I like it a lot less, maybe largely because it proposes a new and unseen particle; or maybe just because Feynman gave a stern rejection of it, the video of which is somewhere in his lectures at the University of Auckland from 1979, but I've forgotten exactly at which point there and wasn't able to find it by skimming; you can hear the audio part of it in the background recording that plays automatically on this nutty physics conspiracy page. Feynman in that recording refutes it on the basis of the drag it would cause on moving bodies, but there are also many other objections described on the Wikipedia article for it that I linked at the start of this section, including that it proposed faster-than-light motion. The article also notes that vacuum energy is "very different" from the Le Sage "push" idea of gravitation.

Here's another kind of nutty page that seems to be supporting "push" gravitation maybe, but it does at any rate do a pretty reasonable job of gathering together the various perceived problems with gravity as described by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

So that's some other kooks. The only person I found actually saying hey maybe vacuum energy is gravity was an(other) amateur speculator on the Science File forums, in a post made just yesterday, in fact (man, Google's getting fast :o). He quickly seemed to discount his own proposal, but for reasons I didn't really get, so I jumped in, spouted my own stuff, and am hoping people will come along and shoot it down quickly with actual science. Just for the sake of completeness I'll duplicate my post there:
Quote:
As it happens (suspicious, no?), this same idea, that gravity is a manifestation of the negative pressure of vacuum energy pressing into everything else, or in other words the pressure of space against non-space, occurred to me last night. I'm far more of an amateur than you even (frightening, I know), so I'm interested in more detail on the reasons why you've discounted your own idea. The first two points you list above seem to be concerned with vacuum energy's manifestation in a Casimir-like effect only, which is at very small distances, rather than as a large force over cosmological distances, which would be the cause of "gravity" in this idea, anyway: that the accumulated pressure of space is pressing against things, and we feel this as gravity.

I suspect that the math can be shown quite easily by those who know it to destroy this idea immediately. I don't know the math, however, so for the time being I'm safe to bathe in my own ignorance, and to think of other implications/explanations related to the idea:

- Vacuum pressure ie gravity (in this idea) moves everything equally regardless of mass or surface area because it is a pressure on quantum levels that is roughly equal against all particles in a given body, in terms of a small body being "pushed" toward a larger body. (This strikes me as very likely to be complete nonsense in quantum mechanical terms!)

- As pointed out earlier in the thread, virtual particles can easily occur within ordinary matter/energy due to their small area of incidence; however, I wonder if a given mass will still tend to disrupt the creation of virtual particles to a sufficient extent that it will cause a void in the negative pressure of space, into which the rest of space will push/gravitate. For instance, does the presence of the Sun inhibit the creation/annihilation of virtual particles within the volume of space the Sun and its various particles occupies? If it does, does that relative absence of virtual particles therein lead to a relative vacuum (egads, vacuums within vacuums, this can't be right) that the vacuum pressure of space would rush to fill?

- How could this idea of the negative pressure of vacuum energy being gravity account for gravity's inverse square behavior?

That would seem to require math of some sort, where I'm completely at sea; the closest I've come is to consider that the pressure coming in on a body might act along what would be in effect the inside surface of a sphere, which would vary with the square of the radius (distance)...but that's like to be complete nonsense. ; )

- Our calculations for gravity might run into the observed problems seen at large distances because the space in which we live has less true vacuum, ie less vacuum pressure, so the gravity we experience is very slightly less than it would be in, say, intergalactic space, where the density of particles is much smaller, and vacuum/gravity consequently more dominant. For instance, it has been observed that stars at the rims of galaxies move faster than the gravity we thought was there should allow, implying there is more gravity there: but might that be due, not to a mass of gravitating "dark matter" out there, as is often suggested, but rather to the relative thinness of the interstellar medium near the galactic rim, and the corresponding increase in vacuum, and thus negative pressure / gravity, at least compared with what we experience within the relatively dense confines of our solar system? Although now that I think about that more it strikes me that the difference would be rather slight and probably not able to account for the observed behavior by many orders of magnitude. ; )

At any rate I'd be happy for these silly ideas to be shot down as quickly as possible by people who actually know stuff, so that I can stop thinking about them. : P And if this isn't at all the idea you had, then I apologize for muddling up your thread!

Perhaps the more pertinent question I should be asking myself is will I ever get tired of advertising my ignorance on the internet? :p Being horribly wrong seems to be the only way I ever manage to learn anything.


Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:10 am
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^ It took a little while for replies to come along but a few parts of this were refuted, such as the "moves everything equally regardless of mass or surface area" part, which...well I'm not even sure what I was trying to say there since gravity does depend on mass.

Another point was how would this affect distant bodies, and in trying to write out my thought on that--a net "flow" in the virtual particles toward low-density virtual particle area, ie the mass--I realized that I can't have it both ways: virtual particles at once moving freely through the surface of the mass into the "low density" virtual particle area inside, AND pushing other masses toward that area with them. And then you also run into the usual "blocking" problems of push models, like wouldn't the Earth moving between the Moon and the Sun disrupt their gravitational attraction toward each other if gravity was a "push."

So this naive "low density virtual particle areas inside masses" idea is not going to account for gravity. I would still like to think vacuum energy is involved somehow, though. ;)


Thu May 20, 2010 7:49 am
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This explanation of E=mc² from UC Berkeley is rather long-winded, and the speculation on dark energy/matter is now a bit dated, but



I did find one thing the lecturer says rather interesting, which is that most of the energy in protons and neutrons is the kinetic energy of the quarks that form them.


Thu May 27, 2010 5:58 am
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Huh now I wonder why I apparently wasn't thinking at all about the standard curvature of spacetime explanation for gravity from General Relativity--aside from that I don't really understand it in any quantitative way, of course ;). Seen in that light, I might as well have been asking "what is space?" or "what is time?" It's all the same soup in one way or another, and that's probably all I'll ever know (or think I know) about it, I suppose.

Although I suppose it is fair to ask what space is; I mean, not how many dimensions it has and so on, but what *causes* space to be present. Before the Big Bang there was supposed to be no space, and then space happened. I guess this is getting back to the thoughts I was having earlier about there being what I guess was just a quantum primeval fluctuation, like | there could be space | there could not be space | there could be space | there could not be space | there could be space | and then for some reason it stuck on that setting and off it went. Hm darn this reminds me that I saw some article in the past few weeks having to do with how matter beat out antimatter--I'm talkin' 'bout baryogenesis--enough to lead to our current matter universe, but of course I can't remember where or what that was now.

Ah! Here, this wasn't the site I saw before but I think this is talking about the same thing--results from Fermilab's Tevatron particle accelerator showing a small but measurable difference in the behavior of particles and antiparticles:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_ ... 124360.stm

When they smashed protons and anti-protons together, matter particles were produced 1% more frequently than anti-matter particles.

There's no explanation as to why, but it is a striking result, since it had been thought/assumed up to now that they should balance out much better than that. It's been known for decades that they don't quite balance for reasons having to do with symmetries and kaons and other quantum things I know nothing about; that's called CP violation, but it wasn't calculated to be strong enough to have led to a matter-dominated universe by itself.

~~~~~~~

But getting back to the speculation, if we can suppose (hah) that it's fair to say that space is just a handy way for defining differing states of energy, then for instance you could imagine at first there was one space/energy, which you could call 0, 0, 0 even though that's probably misleading, as well as an alternate state of energy--through quantum uncertainty or whatnot take your pick I don't know--0, 0, 1, and time could happen because you could have a measurable event (or wait could you? quantum behavior being so darn hard to pin down after all) where the energy or what have you transitioned from one state/energy/space to the other--or at least became more likely to be in one state than the other. And then if the energy in each state was able to persist in some degree, there could be some chance it would transition to yet another state/space, and so each little quantum (I think I'm just enjoying saying that word too much because I don't really understand anything about it) space might have quantum space babies, and those could have babies, and so space would be filling up with possibilities: 000 also hops to 010 while 001 switches to 0-11 and then 000 might be at -100 and 010 fizzled but 0-11 also went to 1-11 and 0-21 and 0-10 and see there've only been a few ticks of time events in this universe and you've already got a mess of space spaces on your hands.

...

I wasn't very good with Rubik's Cubes.

~~~~~

And say there is more to spacetime curvature, or "gravity," than just some fancy formulas and saying oh well its space and time and if you have lots of space you have less of time and that's just how it goes because of course it seems to have something to do with the speed of light, ie the speed at which any change can propagate from one space to another.

So eh... Oh this is fun and I'm sure this will make no sense to me when I come back to it:

Matter/energy is defining the spaces it occupies and the spaces around them by its energy and potential energy states. These potential states have the possibility of propagating outward in any direction at the speed of light: the matter/energy that is now at this space/state could now be at this one and then could now be at this one etc. (Oh I guess these could also be called virtual particles, if I've read that right (very possibly not).) Now, *if* particles will tend to want to be closer to each other than farther, on average, due to the EM and weak/strong interactive forces (*do those forces have an overall greater attraction than repulsion at non-quantum scales?* wait... EM falls off slower because photons are supposed to have the least mass--actually they're supposed to be mass-less, but I guess it's impossible to measure that below a certain value--which means they can get closer to the speed of light than the more massive particles used in exchanges by the other forces. Virtual photons can even have negative momentum, can travel backwards in time, etc... It really doesn't matter. Feynman loved drawing the backwards time arrows for them in the lectures of his that eh I've linked elsewhere on this form. Anyway I don't even know if say photons have any net attraction toward each other*), then you'd think that would mean the potential would at least be slightly higher for things to propagate toward each other, as long as they're within each others' light cone. ... Except that maybe they have high outward momentum--the particles with mass, anyway--so if anything, they'd be blasting each other apart.

Also I noticed Propagator is in fact the quantum mechanical term used for the squiggly arrows representing the chances for virtual particles to travel a certain way in Feynman diagrams.


Mon May 31, 2010 9:48 am
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I was reminded that virtual particles are already included in proper physics calculations: when you're dealing with quantum stuff, because you can't single positions of the particles, you have to calculate the possibility of the particle at all the possible positions--and those are virtual particles--then sum it up. That doesn't exactly cover what I was speculating horribly about above, ie the possibility of virtual particles from different sources interacting with each other, but I think it does mean that you won't, at least, have the virtual particles of one source affecting it in some further way, since their effect has already been made or calculated, as it were.


Thu Jun 03, 2010 5:16 am
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My math gene may have been a quark all along, so I have never been able to find it, or indeed even verify that it really exists at all.
However, that hasn't stopped me from wondering what all that stuff is that seems to be everywhere and why is it doing what its doing.
Simpler is better, I think. Even though you might have some very complicated explanations of how things happen, a simple (yet elegant) solution is probably closer to the truth.

The foundation of everything has to be due to the way that space and time are in this Universe. Our galaxy has a velocity of something like 1.3 million miles an hour. I understand that it is loafing along in the general direction of the constellation Leo. At the distance of our Sun from the center of the Milky Way we also have an orbital velocity of around 500,000 miles an hour. Just those figures alone are shocking and impressive, but probably just average for what happens in this Universe when everything is exploding and collapsing in cycles Trillions(?) of years in duration.
I think it would be safe to guess that even though we can't feel these speeds, or even know that they exist without years of careful measurements, that the very nature of matter is affected, because it IS the very nature of matter.
Deep inside matter things are whizzing and whirring and spinning at tremendous rates, yet it seems once again that everything is at a state of rest from the human perspective. Like it has always been.
But realizing what an energetic (even violent) place we actually live in might help to explain the way it all works. State of Rest? Only in relative terms, and only if you don't look too close!
I have seen demonstrations and experimented for myself (usually on the kitchen stove) with the conservation of angular momentum. Since everything is actually ripping along, spinning, twisting and turning everywhere, that makes any velocity a kind of angular momentum. If you consider how fast we are going right now in all those directions, the conservation of that angular momentum is probably what we think of as gravity.


Last edited by Glennnnn on Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:02 pm
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Hmm... What do you mean by "inner and outer regions"? Also, how would that affect nearby bodies?


Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:18 am
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The inner region is a disc or cylinder where everything is turning at the same rate. Matter really doesn't like to change direction as much as it does to find a single axis.
What it does is go towards a center, where at least it has fewer directions to move. The outside is a ring. The inside is trying to stabilize with a single spinning rate, but the best it can do (unless its very small) is to "solidify" so everything in the disc is turning like it was a solid. The outer parts of that disc are compressed inward as those parts try to push their way to the single axis at the center of rotation.


Last edited by Glennnnn on Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:08 am
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