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  #1  
Old Apr 21, '17, 4:50 am
Mort Alz Mort Alz is offline
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Default Particle Physics and Causation

Several months ago, I engaged some very thoughtful atheists on a topic that I have never heard expounded. C. S. Lewis once briefly touched upon it, but never went into any detail. (It might have been in his book, "Miracles"). The following exposition is the result of my own thinking refined by several arguments and discussions. Its purpose is to examine whether our knowledge of particle physics necessitates the existence of supernature.

The first part considers that there are two possibilities when it comes to the mechanics of the very small. One is that physics regresses infinitesimally into smaller and smaller particles. The only "floor" in particle physics is our knowledge. The very smallest and most elementary particles which we have labeled are only just that; the smallest particles which we have discovered. This says nothing about whether or not they are, in fact, the smallest in existence. The second possibility is that physics eventually bottoms out at one or many different kinds of smallest or most elementary particles; particles which are not made up of anything smaller; particles that have no constituent parts. One atheist who I corresponded with claimed that the latter possibility is the correct one because "the discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle has completed the Standard Model of Particle Physics." However, I also discussed this with a friend of mine who is a physics major and he stated that it is not entirely accurate to say that we have completed the Standard Model. I don't know what his philosophical views are concerning the existence of supernature.

Anyway, most atheists I have argued with have tended to be insistent that physics does bottom out; that there are particles so small that they are not made up of anything smaller. Some of these atheists were even bold enough to name some of these particles according to kind. I thought this was interesting since I think that a closed model of particle physics necessitates the existence of supernature. Here is my reasoning:

The mechanics of physical objects at the molecular level and smaller is always caused by the properties of their constituent parts. Salt molecules act salty only because of how sodium and chlorine atoms behave together. Sodium and chlorine atoms only act the way they do because of how protons, neutrons, and electrons behave. And on and on and on all the way down to quarks and gluons, leptons, etc. If this process bottoms out and we reach particles which are not made up of anything, then the cause(s) of their behavior can only be something that itself is not nature. I call this supernature. C. S. Lewis called it subnature.

I insist that this is not a "God of the Gaps" argument. Firstly, I am only so far talking about supernature. That is miles away from discussing a causation that is God. Secondly, I am not invoking an axiom of supernature because of a gap in scientific knowledge. A "most elementary particle" by definition has literally run out of possible natural causes for the behavior of its movement. It literally just moves the way it does with no possible natural cause. Further, if, as these atheists postulate, there are not only particles which are most elementary, but different kinds of particles which are most elementary, then there is no possible natural causation for the differences in their behavior. There are no smaller particles to differentiate them from each other. They are only differentiated by behavior which is the same as to say that they move the way they do because they move the way they do. At this point, it sounds a lot like saying "they move because of magic." It sounds silly to put it that way, but that is basically what is being said if you admit that they have no constituent parts. I propose that something is a determining cause of their different behaviors and movements and I propose that this something is supernatural only because there are no other options. It is a law in logic; specifically, the "Law of the Excluded Middle."

Thoughts? To stoke the fire a bit, I should point out that no atheist has ever been able to give me a coherent rebuttal to this proposition. They either betray that they don't actually understand my argument, or they cite facts that are not actually facts.
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  #2  
Old Apr 21, '17, 5:49 am
ShrodingersCat ShrodingersCat is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by Mort Alz View Post
A "most elementary particle" by definition has literally run out of possible natural causes for the behavior of its movement. It literally just moves the way it does with no possible natural cause. Further, if, as these atheists postulate, there are not only particles which are most elementary, but different kinds of particles which are most elementary, then there is no possible natural causation for the differences in their behavior.
I have a degree in physics. One of the most important lessons I learned was in the first semester, when the lecturer explained to us that it was impossible to "prove" a scientific theory. Rather, one could only disprove it. The physicists you spoke to who insist that there are no smaller particles than those that we know of, or that there is a bottoming out, are merely stating their opinion.

In addition I would say that just because we don't know how something happens doesn't necessarily imply supernatural influence. We don't really have enough knowledge of what quarks actually are in order to say why strange quarks have certain properties and up quarks have other properties. I would hesitate to draw any solid conclusions from something that we understand so poorly at this point in time.
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  #3  
Old Apr 21, '17, 6:07 am
Mort Alz Mort Alz is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

Right. I get that. During these arguments, I'm sort of taking these atheists at their word and following their opinions, as you called them, to their logical conclusion. That is to say, I recognize that there are a bunch of assumptions taken for granted in this particular argument. I'm not meaning to prove, just to examine the consequences of some what ifs.
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  #4  
Old Apr 21, '17, 8:29 am
hazcompat hazcompat is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/...-big-bang.html

Were there any particles at the instant time began?

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  #5  
Old Apr 21, '17, 9:56 am
inocente inocente is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by Mort Alz View Post
A "most elementary particle" by definition has literally run out of possible natural causes for the behavior of its movement. It literally just moves the way it does with no possible natural cause.
Warning, I'm not a physicist. My understanding is that in QCD, 99% of the mass of a proton comes from the relativistic jiggling of its constituent quarks and gluons. That mass comes from their movement, not from their 'stuff'.

Broadening that idea, take E = mc2, or equivalently m = E/c2. The c2 has dimensions of space and time. So a particle (at least with mass) cannot exist in isolation from spacetime. There cannot be any 'things' without spacetime. At some deep level, energy, mass, space and time must all be the same 'stuff' or they couldn't be related by the equation. So perhaps a particle isn't anything different from spacetime, perhaps it is instead a particular geometry of spacetime. I think that was the original thought behind string theory.
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  #6  
Old Apr 21, '17, 11:12 am
Wesrock Wesrock is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mort Alz View Post
A "most elementary particle" by definition has literally run out of possible natural causes for the behavior of its movement. It literally just moves the way it does with no possible natural cause. Further, if, as these atheists postulate, there are not only particles which are most elementary, but different kinds of particles which are most elementary, then there is no possible natural causation for the differences in their behavior. There are no smaller particles to differentiate them from each other. They are only differentiated by behavior which is the same as to say that they move the way they do because they move the way they do. At this point, it sounds a lot like saying "they move because of magic." It sounds silly to put it that way, but that is basically what is being said if you admit that they have no constituent parts. I propose that something is a determining cause of their different behaviors and movements and I propose that this something is supernatural only because there are no other options. It is a law in logic; specifically, the "Law of the Excluded Middle."
Aquinas' Fifth Way

Still, I think it important to state that thoughts on what a "cause" is have changed over the centuries. No longer is it popular to think of a thing having a formal cause (what it is), material cause (what it is made of), or final cause (what ends it's directes towards, even a weak sense). All everyone considers is a thing's efficient cause, and in that respect really only in physical operations.

You mention that there may be an elementary particle with properties or behavior that can't be explained by further reduction into the smaller things that make it. To someone who only thinks of that type of physical efficient causes, then, this appears to be happening for "no cause."

But to a Scholastic? It might just be part of the object's formal and final causes to exhibit this type of behavior. In determining the efficient cause, we just look at whatever "made" this individual elementary particle to begin. Is there any way to rule out a smaller efficient cause? Perhaps not. Is it possible to perfectly isolate it down to only its formal and final causes? Perhaps not. But that doesn't mean it is therefore logical to assume it's uncaused. It might just be intrinsic for Elementary Particle Z to behave that way, the cause for the behavior due to being what it is and its teleology.
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  #7  
Old Apr 21, '17, 12:26 pm
Mort Alz Mort Alz is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by inocente View Post
Warning, I'm not a physicist. My understanding is that in QCD, 99% of the mass of a proton comes from the relativistic jiggling of its constituent quarks and gluons. That mass comes from their movement, not from their 'stuff'.

Broadening that idea, take E = mc2, or equivalently m = E/c2. The c2 has dimensions of space and time. So a particle (at least with mass) cannot exist in isolation from spacetime. There cannot be any 'things' without spacetime. At some deep level, energy, mass, space and time must all be the same 'stuff' or they couldn't be related by the equation. So perhaps a particle isn't anything different from spacetime, perhaps it is instead a particular geometry of spacetime. I think that was the original thought behind string theory.
Ya know, I once watched a documentary on string theory that lasted at least an hour. It was on a very well established science channel, and what you've just said is still a better explanation of string theory than the entire documentary.

Physicist or not, hats off to you.

I am a math major. For me, it was a toss up between physics and math. I was eventually honest with myself and admitted that I only wanted a college level physics education because I wanted to be able to competently examine this specific question. I figured it wasn't worth all the time and money since the question is almost inconsequential.

My friend who is the physics major says he is a believer, but he also thinks that nature is a totally closed and self-sufficient system as opposed to many (but not all) Catholic thinkers who believe that the supernatural intersects the natural at every possible instance. That nature is suspended by supernature. He thinks, basically, that God only really intervened in nature at two points: the Big Bang and the Incarnation. He's never given me a reason for why he believes at all, even when pressed.

This is not a judgment call about you as much as it is a statement seeking confirmation, but you seem to be of a similar mind especially given interactions I've had with you previously. I wonder, do you mind telling me what your reasons are for believing at all? And do you believe there is something called supernature?
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  #8  
Old Apr 21, '17, 12:28 pm
Mort Alz Mort Alz is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by Wesrock View Post
Aquinas' Fifth Way

Still, I think it important to state that thoughts on what a "cause" is have changed over the centuries. No longer is it popular to think of a thing having a formal cause (what it is), material cause (what it is made of), or final cause (what ends it's directes towards, even a weak sense). All everyone considers is a thing's efficient cause, and in that respect really only in physical operations.

You mention that there may be an elementary particle with properties or behavior that can't be explained by further reduction into the smaller things that make it. To someone who only thinks of that type of physical efficient causes, then, this appears to be happening for "no cause."

But to a Scholastic? It might just be part of the object's formal and final causes to exhibit this type of behavior. In determining the efficient cause, we just look at whatever "made" this individual elementary particle to begin. Is there any way to rule out a smaller efficient cause? Perhaps not. Is it possible to perfectly isolate it down to only its formal and final causes? Perhaps not. But that doesn't mean it is therefore logical to assume it's uncaused. It might just be intrinsic for Elementary Particle Z to behave that way, the cause for the behavior due to being what it is and its teleology.
I admit that my thinking tends toward Scholasticism and Platonism; even in my own field of mathematics. I think that numbers are real abstract objects and not just something we've constructed in our heads.
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  #9  
Old Apr 22, '17, 3:59 am
inocente inocente is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by Mort Alz View Post
Ya know, I once watched a documentary on string theory that lasted at least an hour. It was on a very well established science channel, and what you've just said is still a better explanation of string theory than the entire documentary.

Physicist or not, hats off to you.
Thank you kindly.

Quote:
I am a math major. For me, it was a toss up between physics and math. I was eventually honest with myself and admitted that I only wanted a college level physics education because I wanted to be able to competently examine this specific question. I figured it wasn't worth all the time and money since the question is almost inconsequential.

My friend who is the physics major says he is a believer, but he also thinks that nature is a totally closed and self-sufficient system as opposed to many (but not all) Catholic thinkers who believe that the supernatural intersects the natural at every possible instance. That nature is suspended by supernature. He thinks, basically, that God only really intervened in nature at two points: the Big Bang and the Incarnation. He's never given me a reason for why he believes at all, even when pressed.

This is not a judgment call about you as much as it is a statement seeking confirmation, but you seem to be of a similar mind especially given interactions I've had with you previously. I wonder, do you mind telling me what your reasons are for believing at all? And do you believe there is something called supernature?
I think any supernature concept suffers the same big problem as Descartes' substance dualism - how does it interact with the physical world? If it doesn't interact then it cannot have any role in the physical world, so it serves no purpose in nature. Whereas if it does interact then the interaction must obey the physical law, so it is part of nature. Either way it seems redundant.

There was a Thomist here, no longer active, who argued that Aquinas' unmoved mover has to continuously sustain the motion of every particle in the universe (by motion, Aquinas means every kind of change). Seemed to me a lot of work when the unmoved mover could get them to obey the physical law all by themselves. But even if yon unmoved mover did that and only had to sustain the particles themselves, not their motion, it's still a lot of work compared with just creating them and then leaving them on autopilot.

In which case the unmoved mover creator could relax, as Genesis 2 says of the seventh day.

I think theistic philosophers are leery of that, because it means God could leave the stage, so they invent jobs for God to do, like yon unmoved mover, but to me it seems a long way from God. I'm a Christian as per 1 Cor 1:18-31. I don't buy philosophers' worldly wisdom when it comes to God. As Paul says "we preach Christ crucified ... For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom."
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  #10  
Old Apr 22, '17, 4:29 am
Mort Alz Mort Alz is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by inocente View Post
Thank you kindly.


I think any supernature concept suffers the same big problem as Descartes' substance dualism - how does it interact with the physical world? If it doesn't interact then it cannot have any role in the physical world, so it serves no purpose in nature. Whereas if it does interact then the interaction must obey the physical law, so it is part of nature. Either way it seems redundant.

There was a Thomist here, no longer active, who argued that Aquinas' unmoved mover has to continuously sustain the motion of every particle in the universe (by motion, Aquinas means every kind of change). Seemed to me a lot of work when the unmoved mover could get them to obey the physical law all by themselves. But even if yon unmoved mover did that and only had to sustain the particles themselves, not their motion, it's still a lot of work compared with just creating them and then leaving them on autopilot.

In which case the unmoved mover creator could relax, as Genesis 2 says of the seventh day.

I think theistic philosophers are leery of that, because it means God could leave the stage, so they invent jobs for God to do, like yon unmoved mover, but to me it seems a long way from God. I'm a Christian as per 1 Cor 1:18-31. I don't buy philosophers' worldly wisdom when it comes to God. As Paul says "we preach Christ crucified ... For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom."
Thank you for the reply. You remind me a lot of my physics major friend. I promised myself I wouldn't do this, but you never actually gave me a reason why you're compelled to belief. My friend is somewhat dismissive when I press him and says something like that he believes simply on faith. By that definition of faith, I always wonder how he responds to atheists who criticize that kind of faith; "belief without evidence." I don't actually think he doesn't have reasons or evidence, but that maybe he's embarrassed of the reasons he believes or just doesn't quite know how to articulate it (which, there's no shame in that. The Body of Christ has its apologists, but that role and its skills are not given to every believer).

So, for what reasons do you believe? If you say it is just a faith thing, can you give me your definition of faith? I'm not asking with the intent to pick apart your views, I just think I might be able to learn from them. Philosophy, as you've emphasized, has its dangers. By asking you, I might learn a more solid or more appropriate reason for faith.

I just have one more question. My wife tends to think like you; that supernature is just nature that we don't yet understand. That Christ's miracles were just amazing scientific phenomenon that He was able to manipulate because He has perfect knowledge of the nature He created. Is that how you view His miracles? Further, would you say that God is just another part of nature, since you resist a more scholastic definition of supernature? Maybe the Big Bang was just further manipulation by God of natural laws which already existed?

Thanks again for your replies and consideration.
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  #11  
Old Apr 22, '17, 5:56 am
Wesrock Wesrock is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

Quote:
Originally Posted by inocente View Post
Thank you kindly.


I think any supernature concept suffers the same big problem as Descartes' substance dualism - how does it interact with the physical world? If it doesn't interact then it cannot have any role in the physical world, so it serves no purpose in nature. Whereas if it does interact then the interaction must obey the physical law, so it is part of nature. Either way it seems redundant.

There was a Thomist here, no longer active, who argued that Aquinas' unmoved mover has to continuously sustain the motion of every particle in the universe (by motion, Aquinas means every kind of change). Seemed to me a lot of work when the unmoved mover could get them to obey the physical law all by themselves. But even if yon unmoved mover did that and only had to sustain the particles themselves, not their motion, it's still a lot of work compared with just creating them and then leaving them on autopilot.

In which case the unmoved mover creator could relax, as Genesis 2 says of the seventh day.

I think theistic philosophers are leery of that, because it means God could leave the stage, so they invent jobs for God to do, like yon unmoved mover, but to me it seems a long way from God. I'm a Christian as per 1 Cor 1:18-31. I don't buy philosophers' worldly wisdom when it comes to God. As Paul says "we preach Christ crucified ... For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom."
You seem to imply that God experiences some type of taxation through all of this, and that one taxes Him more than the other.

Also, the Thomist says that God actively wills things to exist according to their nature. Not that's He pulls puppet strings on all objects.
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Old Apr 22, '17, 6:03 am
Vera_Ljuba Vera_Ljuba is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

Just a short observation for now. I like your conversation. This is how rational people should exchange ideas, even when they disagree.

The actual point: There is nothing intrinsically wrong with believing something for which there is no direct evidence - called "blind faith" - or to be precise a version of "blind faith". Because there are two versions of it: "belief without evidence" and "belief contrary to evidence".

I, personally believe that there must be some intelligent life somewhere in the universe, even though there is no direct evidence for it. The reason is that life is just a special arrangement of matter, and the universe is large enough to "accommodate" several instances of it. This is "blind faith" of the first kind. Then there is "blind faith" of the second kind: to believe something contrary to evidence. An example could be believing that "wrestling" is real fight. Everyone knows that wrestling is a well-choreographed ballet for the spectators. Yet some people believe that it is a real fight.

This "second" type of blind faith is unacceptable. But this is enough for now. I have to go and watch the Bundesliga football (not soccer!) match between Bayern Munchen and Mainz 05. See you later.
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Old Apr 22, '17, 7:53 am
inocente inocente is offline
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Default Re: Particle Physics and Causation

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Originally Posted by Mort Alz View Post
Thank you for the reply. You remind me a lot of my physics major friend. I promised myself I wouldn't do this, but you never actually gave me a reason why you're compelled to belief. My friend is somewhat dismissive when I press him and says something like that he believes simply on faith. By that definition of faith, I always wonder how he responds to atheists who criticize that kind of faith; "belief without evidence." I don't actually think he doesn't have reasons or evidence, but that maybe he's embarrassed of the reasons he believes or just doesn't quite know how to articulate it (which, there's no shame in that. The Body of Christ has its apologists, but that role and its skills are not given to every believer).

So, for what reasons do you believe? If you say it is just a faith thing, can you give me your definition of faith? I'm not asking with the intent to pick apart your views, I just think I might be able to learn from them. Philosophy, as you've emphasized, has its dangers. By asking you, I might learn a more solid or more appropriate reason for faith.
My reason is given in the penultimate sentence of that passage from 1 Cor 1 - It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus”

So then, grace. It is because of God that I am in Christ Jesus. The individual also needs to be accepting, but I think it's an emotional thing. Of course that's an appalling admission on CAF but I think initially is has to be emotional, after all it is love. And that's not faith without evidence, but the evidence is subjective. Another appalling admission but what the hey, we're people not computers. Imho the problem with the god of the philosophers is it can only ever be a theory, it can never step off the page into one's life. I've seen lots of people witness after (adult) baptism, and none have ever said they met with God through uber-rationalism. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel.

You could always ask your friend if he agrees with the philosophy of these Pentecostals. There are equivalent Catholic arguments such as Taizé, but this gets the logic across too - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e33zCUm1ZnY

Quote:
I just have one more question. My wife tends to think like you; that supernature is just nature that we don't yet understand. That Christ's miracles were just amazing scientific phenomenon that He was able to manipulate because He has perfect knowledge of the nature He created. Is that how you view His miracles? Further, would you say that God is just another part of nature, since you resist a more scholastic definition of supernature? Maybe the Big Bang was just further manipulation by God of natural laws which already existed?

Thanks again for your replies and consideration.
For me, the problem with miracles-are-scientific is it sounds like Jesus is a super alien from another dimension, while the notion that God is part of nature sounds pantheist, sort of the Force from Star Wars.

Paul talks of miracles in that passage from 1 Cor 1 - "Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom". Seems some Jews wanted confirmation by miracles and some gentiles by theories. But, Paul continues, "we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles".

As a Baptist, I think I've never heard a sermon on biblical miracles nor heard them raised in conversation. On the other hand, anyone mentions the miracle of Christ in their own life and there's choruses of can I get an amen .
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Old Apr 22, '17, 8:20 am
inocente inocente is offline
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You seem to imply that God experiences some type of taxation through all of this, and that one taxes Him more than the other.

Also, the Thomist says that God actively wills things to exist according to their nature. Not that's He pulls puppet strings on all objects.
To me, if God is intelligent enough to create, He's intelligent enough to do it intelligently.

I don't really buy this business of things having different natures. The whole scheme of Aristotle's categories feels like him trying to project his conceptions on to the world. A pantheon of gods would create many different natures, but surely one god creates one nature, and as far as I can tell, everything does indeed conform to a single nature.
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Old Apr 22, '17, 8:25 am
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I have to go and watch the Bundesliga football.
Bad luck but someone had to get the short straw.
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