Author Topic: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive  (Read 192431 times)

Offline john smith 19

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #40 on: 04/29/2015 10:59 PM »
Thanks to the whole team behind this for a superb piece of science journalism. :)

This latest round of tests has radically narrowed the number of possible sources of experimental error. While it's possible the readings are an experimental artifact that view is getting harder and harder to support.

The fact that Dr White's team had developed a model that explains not just their  results but also why other teams have been much larger is very exciting, as it also offers some direct ways to increase the thrust. The use of magnetrons by other teams is an interesting example of how a less "controlled" experimental component (probably used due to cost and availability reasons) actually gave better results.

I hope the team will be able to leverage NASA's experience with magnetron systems as they were a key part of the JPL work on satellite solar power systems in the 70's and 80's.

This has gone a long way to vindicating SPR's original work in the early 2000's, although I suspect it's too early to consider the use of SPR's "2nd generation" concept of increasing the cavity conductivity by making it a superconductor. Likewise I'd wonder is HDPE the optimum choice for a cavity insulator, or just one that was available? If the latter that suggests the efficiency of small units could be improved by evaluating different insulators in the cavity

Some of the projected mission times enabled by this technology are just astounding.
 
A few words of caution should be mentioned. While there are space reactor designs for systems in the GW range they are thermal reactors, designed as heat sources to expel a fuel (normally H2).

The biggest electrical space reactors are much smaller units, with 10Kw(e) being known. A 100x fold scale up is not impossible but it will be demanding.

Note the fact that this is a fixed mass is the intriguing part. In principal any mission can return to Earth.  A possible candidate for the Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling TechnologY (KRUSTY) programme perhaps?

There is one joker in the pack. It seems force produced falls as the payload accelerates, so this is an engine with a "top speed" limit.  It's not clear to me how high that limit is.

I think when a history of the first 50 years of NASA is written this programme may turn out to be one of NASA's most enduring in its effects (and one of its cheapest).  :)
« Last Edit: 04/29/2015 11:02 PM by john smith 19 »
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

Online Rodal

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #41 on: 04/29/2015 11:03 PM »
Absolutely astounding. Interesting question about whether this damages the quantum vacuum. The only tiny nit I had was that Ohio class SSBNs launch SLBMs, not ICBMs.
Excellent point thank you  :) .   I'm always appreciative of such careful eyes.

It originated from a statement in one of the tread discussions and it should have been edited. (A lot of the editing effort went into making the article understandable and double checking the numbers, and we missed that acronym). 

I bet there are other errors still remaining to be found.  ;)
« Last Edit: 04/29/2015 11:13 PM by Rodal »

Online Chris Bergin

Absolutely fascinating to see the reaction on twitter (which is the "tough crowd" on the internet). About five percent "yeah right - doubt it", 20 percent "sceptical, but interesting", 25 percent "cool!", 25 percent "very interesting" and 25 percent "OMG!" ;D

Just passed 30,000 reads. About 10 percent follow through into the EM Drive threads, which is standard for an article (bar the launch/event articles, as more go through for live coverage on the forum). Main EM thread now at 512,000 views, but it's organically rising in tandem with the article boost.

Offline EMPaul

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #43 on: 04/29/2015 11:23 PM »
That was an astronishing read. Of course, this is early days, but the key to this is it's a path. It actually doesn't matter if it becomes a dead end, it very, VERY likely produces branches to take a new direction in, eventually resulting in something takes us further down the line and eventually to a breakthrough.

That is why it makes me excited, because it's pushing out of the box, which is the only way we'll find breakthroughs.

Offline Jose Martinez

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #44 on: 04/29/2015 11:27 PM »
Technical, very techical, but that's the tradition of this site, not to patronize the reader with sensationalism or dumbing things down, so while this is out of NSF's comfort zone on the subject, I think it was an excellent decision to press ahead with an article and the quality and objectivity is superb.

Absolutely fascinating to see the reaction on twitter (which is the "tough crowd" on the internet). About five percent "yeah right - doubt it", 20 percent "sceptical, but interesting", 25 percent "cool!", 25 percent "very interesting" and 25 percent "OMG!" ;D

I know you didn't write it, and I know you're a chemical propulsion hugger (Shuttle, etc. ;) ) but where would you stand in the above "color me...." scale?

Offline Nilof

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #45 on: 04/29/2015 11:36 PM »
... But wouldn't it be possible to use emDrives terrestrially as well?  Think helicopters with no downdraft, levitating cars or trains.  Heck, why not a emDrive SSTO vehicle?  Are these concepts within the realm of possibility?

Firstly, congrats on your first post!  And to answer your question, it probably wouldn't be cost effective because of the amount of electricity you'd need to generate just to fight earth's gravity.  The amount of thrust per kilowatt is extremely small.  But for space, it'd be worth it not to have to use chemical propellants to move or make orbital corrections.

Even the claimed 1 N/kW experimentally measured thrust is NOT small. It's roughly what you'd get out of a 100% efficient rocket engine with 200 seconds of specific impulse.

If they start talking about 10 N/kW or more, you could trivially build a perpetual motion machine for commercial power generation by putting drives like this one on a centrifuge with a ~200 m/s tangential velocity and a dynamo at the center (power out is force times velocity, which at a certain speed becomes higher than the input power if the engine thrust is independent of velocity). At that point, the nuclear reactor talked about in the article is completely unnecessary.

This is one of many reasons why claims like these are something you should be VERY sceptical of. The entire thing smells of unicorns and wish fulfillment.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 12:13 AM by Nilof »
For a variable Isp spacecraft running at constant power and constant acceleration, the mass ratio is linear in delta-v.   Δv = ve0(MR-1). Or equivalently: Δv = vef PMF. Also, this is energy-optimal for a fixed delta-v and mass ratio.

Offline punder

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #46 on: 04/29/2015 11:38 PM »
Absolutely fascinating to see the reaction on twitter (which is the "tough crowd" on the internet). About five percent "yeah right - doubt it", 20 percent "sceptical, but interesting", 25 percent "cool!", 25 percent "very interesting" and 25 percent "OMG!" ;D

Just passed 30,000 reads. About 10 percent follow through into the EM Drive threads, which is standard for an article (bar the launch/event articles, as more go through for live coverage on the forum). Main EM thread now at 512,000 views, but it's organically rising in tandem with the article boost.

Wouldn't you feel weird if this stuff does work out, and your website was instrumental in creating an "interest phase change" that finally led to adequate financing for these efforts?  And someday people are flying all over the Solar System, and you're thinking "wow... I helped do this."  Wouldn't that be weird?   :)

Online KelvinZero

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #47 on: 04/29/2015 11:40 PM »
With propellentless propulsion and with FTL respectively, the most important thing I want to see in an article is a discussion of what it means wrt to free energy and time paradoxes respectively.

This isn't a knee-jerk "It is impossible because..", it is just that these
* are the most important questions,
* can usually be discussed with very simple mathematics,
..and without which it is not even clear what is being claimed, let alone whether a test satisfies that claim.

The physics that can actually implement the claim is probably beyond the scope of any mere rocket scientist let alone myself so of course I must defer judgement there.


Online Chris Bergin


I know you didn't write it, and I know you're a chemical propulsion hugger (Shuttle, etc. ;) ) but where would you stand in the above "color me...." scale?

Chemical propulsion hugger! True I suppose! ;D

I'd probably be in the middle of that scale. I mainly know engineers, but one of my friends is a pretty high level scientist at the University of York and his motto is to be skeptical about everything. I'm not really of that nature, but I get what he means.

Remember, we had EM Drive being discussed on here for a LONG time. I even shut down the first thread as it seemed wild, but it was also becoming loose for the subject matter of this site. The second thread (the big one) was a solution to get it specific to space flight and to focus people on building a thread as a resource of updates and discussions. That clearly worked, but I was still too busy running around in my comfort zone of SLS and SpaceX threads, etc to notice how that thread was building.

Then a few things happened, from a few notes from NASA friends I trust, to noticing how it was getting some interesting attention, so I followed it for a while - albeit not really understanding it - and then realized it was actually a very good thread per who was posting in there and how it was progressing.

So we made the jump to reflect the interest in the thread and see if we could perhaps write it up into a summary article, partly because of the interest, partly because of it being something fresh per what we normally publish (launch, dock, launch, land, launch, SLS, We love Elon, launch and so on) and partly because the best thing about this site is its community - which I'm both trying to tap into and provide a conduit to those who want to do more than just post on the forum.

The latter point is the interesting element for me, because I said I'd read the entire thread and try and get a grip on the subject, but I soon realized I clearly wasn't educated enough to process it, but I've always said over 50 percent of the readers here are more versed in the subject matter (all subjects) than I can ever dream to be - I just started a site for STS-114 and it just happened to take off, so I'm just a lucky guy.

Asking for people to help build an article was the only way this would work and we got Dr. Rodal and others - and we had a bit of fun trying to merge the challenge of their education with my goal of converting their knowledge (and that of the thread) into a news article. A bit like a square peg into a round hole, but we got there! ;D

Do I understand it all now? Nope, but I've got the basic idea behind what is being worked on here, thanks to that resulting article - and if that's progressed my own understanding, then that's the litmus test for our readership being able to read it - the "If Chris can read it, then we've done an OK job to translate it to Joe Public!" test and having my assistant editor, Chris Gebhardt, shake it more into a news article really helped too - as he's a super writer.

I'm digressing, but are we making any claims here? No. We're covering a subject that was already very interesting to a lot of readers here, and this site serves its readership. We've been fortunate enough to have some excellent help to ensure this article was the best we could hope to produce on this subject, so that's a job done in my eyes.

Back to launch, dock, launch for me tomorrow, but I have no doubt this subject will continue to run and IF there's progress, we now have a baseline article as a foundation for follow ups.

Offline arachnitect

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #49 on: 04/29/2015 11:55 PM »
Skeptical does not even begin to describe how I feel about this.

Online Chris Bergin


Wouldn't you feel weird if this stuff does work out, and your website was instrumental in creating an "interest phase change" that finally led to adequate financing for these efforts?  And someday people are flying all over the Solar System, and you're thinking "wow... I helped do this."  Wouldn't that be weird?   :)

That'd be cool, but I doubt we have that sort of influence.

Our best achievements are (we're up to nine that I know of over the years - and yes I'm keeping count) people who have turned up on the forum and have got a job in aerospace by talking to/getting noticed by people here who are already in aerospace, who went on to get them through the door.

I don't think we can beat that, but quiet frankly knowing the site helped facilitate the above keeps me sane when it gets a bit crazy here.

Offline a_langwich

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #51 on: 04/30/2015 12:18 AM »
Absolutely fascinating to see the reaction on twitter (which is the "tough crowd" on the internet). About five percent "yeah right - doubt it", 20 percent "sceptical, but interesting", 25 percent "cool!", 25 percent "very interesting" and 25 percent "OMG!" ;D

Just passed 30,000 reads. About 10 percent follow through into the EM Drive threads, which is standard for an article (bar the launch/event articles, as more go through for live coverage on the forum). Main EM thread now at 512,000 views, but it's organically rising in tandem with the article boost.

Twitter is tough on some things, not so tough on others. 

I'm very skeptical still.  One smell test which it continually fails:  when people spend far more time talking about what it will mean if it's true, rather than focusing on whether it is true...bad smell.  Especially on a topic that at the most optimistic telling requires accepting extensive revision of many scientific principles, and accepting what its proponents acknowledge are a whole raft of theories that do not have mainstream acceptance.  Makes for great fiction, but very poor science, because it puts the spotlight front and center on what is to the researcher a conflict of interest, a source of impartiality which threatens the integrity of their work.  Queue up the Feynman quote about not fooling yourself.

It would not be the first bit of skanky science which NASA, or NASA researchers, have embraced.  (Arsenic-based life forms, anyone?)

I'll look forward to seeing results several orders of magnitude larger by the NASA team in a controlled environment.  And to see what the physics academic community thinks about the various theories put forward by the teams.

Offline TomH

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #52 on: 04/30/2015 01:08 AM »
Skepticism is what separates science from superstition. The branch of philosophy known as Epistemology deals with How do you know that what you claim to be true really is true? Historically, these are the main ways that people have claimed to know truth.

-A deity told me.

-It's written in an infallible book.

-It was stated by a holy man who is incapable of error.

-Conventional wisdom-acceptance by many

-Basic Aristototelian observation

-Logic: induction, deduction, syllogism, dialectic, rationalism, empiricism, idealism, constructivism, etc., each in isolation.

-Scientific methodology: integrated use of observation, induction, deduction, hypothesis, testing, conclusion, peer review, multiple independent concurrence. In some instances, placebo controlled double-blind trials.

The last of those, the hypothetic-deductive model of scientific investigation is the only one which actively tests and proves or disproves a hypothesis.

So far, I see nothing questionable in the research done to date, however jumping to conclusions is premature. Remember cold fusion?

To some, it may seem counterintuitive that you can push on nothing. On a highway, torque pushes on the pavement. In a vacuum, we have thus far had to depend on Newton who gives us equal and opposite reactions as the propellant burns or SEP or NEP propels gasses in the opposite direction. But what many conceive of as a complete vacuum actually isn't. That void does contain the fabric of spacetime, something we know can be warped by gravitational and EM fields. It has appeared that the only resistance to acceleration through spacetime relates to Einstein's theories: an object approaching c infinitely gains mass and cannot reach c. But what if it is possible actually to push against the fabric of spacetime? I am no quantum nor cosmological physicist, but what the article says about electron-positrons is intriguing. It sounds like the EM field is not pushing against NOthing, but SOMEthing that actually exists within what we typically consider to be the empty vacuum of space. Einstein's theories seemed very counterintuitive to the Newtonian physicists at first consideration. We are constantly learning more about quantum and cosmological physics. We've only just recently confirmed the existence of the Higg's Bosun; all other sub-atomic particles actually have no mass in isolation, but do have mass due to the extension of the Higg's Field around them. There is a great deal to investigate. MUCH more research has to be done. And yes, skepticism is one of the main driving components of science. After all the rigor has been applied, lets hope this turns out to be like Einstein's theories and not like cold fusion.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 01:18 AM by TomH »

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #53 on: 04/30/2015 01:12 AM »
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob, Physics instructor, aviator, vintage auto racer

Offline JackFlash

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #54 on: 04/30/2015 01:17 AM »
@a_langwich: I rather think you're falling victim to the same sort of emotionally-charged evaluation you're assigning to others, only in reverse.

I don't work in the field, I'm a computer/network guy by trade, artist and dreamer by predisposition (yup), but I have to say, your insinuation that the greater volume in this discussion is of the 'what it will mean if it's true' sort is something I just can't get my head around.

The thread that is the source material for this article is so science and data dense it boggles the mind. More, your assertion that the theory building 'requires accepting extensive revision of many scientific principles, and accepting what its proponents acknowledge are a whole raft of theories that do not have mainstream acceptance' seems a little off base too, as the theory I've been able to find on the underlying subjects are quite old, some quite central to quantum mechanics ('Heisenberg's uncertainty principle' comes to mind). And seriously, how is the science presented by these researches in any way informed or impacted by what NASA has paid other people to do? Why the strawman?

Seriously, a bit of self-examination may be in order here. Just sayin'.

Follow the data, not your heart.

EDIT: Address individual in question, per suggestion of TomH (thanks)
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 01:49 AM by JackFlash »

Online Rodal

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #55 on: 04/30/2015 01:18 AM »
Absolutely fascinating to see the reaction on twitter (which is the "tough crowd" on the internet). About five percent "yeah right - doubt it", 20 percent "sceptical, but interesting", 25 percent "cool!", 25 percent "very interesting" and 25 percent "OMG!" ;D

Just passed 30,000 reads. About 10 percent follow through into the EM Drive threads, which is standard for an article (bar the launch/event articles, as more go through for live coverage on the forum). Main EM thread now at 512,000 views, but it's organically rising in tandem with the article boost.

Twitter is tough on some things, not so tough on others. 

I'm very skeptical still.  One smell test which it continually fails:  when people spend far more time talking about what it will mean if it's true, rather than focusing on whether it is true...bad smell.  Especially on a topic that at the most optimistic telling requires accepting extensive revision of many scientific principles, and accepting what its proponents acknowledge are a whole raft of theories that do not have mainstream acceptance.  Makes for great fiction, but very poor science, because it puts the spotlight front and center on what is to the researcher a conflict of interest, a source of impartiality which threatens the integrity of their work.  Queue up the Feynman quote about not fooling yourself.

It would not be the first bit of skanky science which NASA, or NASA researchers, have embraced.  (Arsenic-based life forms, anyone?)

I'll look forward to seeing results several orders of magnitude larger by the NASA team in a controlled environment.  And to see what the physics academic community thinks about the various theories put forward by the teams.

Further discussing in the article why Dr. White's theories do not have mainstream acceptance (beyond stating that the Quantum Vacuum is supposed to be immutable and not degradable, and it is supposed to be the zero-point energy, etc.) proved too difficult to do in an article aimed at a wider audience.  For example, Dr. White is invoking 5-dimensional branes from string theory and other conjectures like capability of the vacuum to support particle-vacuum or particle-particle interactions that allow lower energy, ground states (see http://hdl.handle.net/2060/20150006842 and   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brane_cosmology ) to justify this.  Properly discussing this for a wider audience proved impossible.

Another alternative was to discuss the experimental measurements as an artifact.  Here is an exact solution of the thermal buckling problem for the EM Drive's truncated cone base that I wrote that looks plausible

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268804028_NASA%27S_MICROWAVE_PROPELLANT-LESS_THRUSTER_ANOMALOUS_RESULTS_CONSIDERATION_OF_A_THERMO-MECHANICAL_EFFECT

Although this will also explain the measurements in a vacuum, it suffers from the fact that buckling is very dependent on initial imperfections and therefore it does not explain why the thrust would consistently point in one direction.

@aero has contributed a 2-D MEEP (MIT's Finite-difference time-domain analysis of electromagnetic systems) of evanescent waves leaking from the EM Drive, and possibly interacting with the stainless steeel vacuum chamber.

However, Paul March conducted an experiment at NASA Eagleworks with the EM Drive completely outside the stainless steel chamber that appears to have nullified that explanation.

Analyses of other alternative explanations for the experiments as artifacts (and why they are inconclusive) proved to be too difficult to do in the text of the article.

I fully agree that skepticism is of paramount importance in science. Paul March (of NASA Eagleworks) has contributed detailed information about the experimental set-up, and if anybody is interested, they are very welcome to contribute in the EM Drive thread any engineering, preferably quantitative, theoretical, numerical or experimental analysis they may be able to contribute to try to show these experiments as experimental artifacts.

It is also true that (quoting here  ;) )  “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire universe, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
« Last Edit: 04/30/2015 03:57 AM by Rodal »

Offline TomH

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #56 on: 04/30/2015 01:20 AM »
I rather think you're falling victim to the same sort of emotionally-charged evaluation you're assigning to others, only in reverse.

I don't work in the field, I'm a computer/network guy by trade, artist and dreamer by predisposition (yup), but I have to say, your insinuation that the greater volume in this discussion is of the 'what it will mean if it's true' sort is something I just can't get my head around.

The thread that is the source material for this article is so science and data dense it boggles the mind. More, your assertion that the theory building 'requires accepting extensive revision of many scientific principles, and accepting what its proponents acknowledge are a whole raft of theories that do not have mainstream acceptance' seems a little off base too, as the theory I've been able to find on the underlying subjects are quite old, some quite central to quantum mechanics ('Heisenberg's uncertainty principle' comes to mind). And seriously, how is the science presented by these researches in any way informed or impacted by what NASA has paid other people to do? Why the strawman?

Seriously, a bit of self-examination may be in order here. Just sayin'.

Follow the data, not your heart.

Whom are you addressing?

Offline watermod

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #57 on: 04/30/2015 01:21 AM »
If Lockheed can get it's little Skunkworks Fusion Reactor working - these two technologies would be ideal mates.
 

Offline robertross

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Re: FEATURE ARTICLE: Evaluating NASA's Futuristic EM Drive
« Reply #58 on: 04/30/2015 01:23 AM »
Wow, what an inspiring article! Rarely do we get to see that side of spaceflight on the news site.
Great job to the team putting that one together.

I'm mainly into the physics side of things (despite not having a great grasp on the many nuances of the theoretical side of things) and have so many thoughts to throw out, but I'll save that for later.

I never even realized this was going on! I need to browse more of these other threads!
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline indigodarkwolf

Quote
It sounds like the EM field is not pushing against NOthing, but SOMEthing that actually exists within what we typically consider to be the empty vacuum of space.
My modern physics classes were a long time ago, but if memory serves, the idea is that particles are constantly popping in an out of existence in pairs - a particle and an anti-particle. They collide soon after. Their lifetime, and thus the the distance over which they can act, is bounded by uncertainty. They can even exchange wave packets with each other and with non-virtual particles, imparting force. "Something something something, Quantum Electrodynamics."

I probably just made a bunch of physics majors punch their monitors with how badly I butchered all that. I'm tired and trying to read all the math in Wikipedia's articles is making my head spin. I still have my notes from class somewhere, but I'll probably never dig them back up without being prompted to do so. Maybe someone could comment, whose education is a little less rusty than mine.

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