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Monthly Archives: September 2012

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Jonathan Trent: Energy from floating algae pods

(Hey, this is the very first time I’ve written an EDTalksTed entry during the day.)

On Wednesday night I was driving around the city and was thinking about solar panels.  This isn’t something I think about on a routine basis mind you, it just sort of slipped into my head.

It started when I saw these mini solar panels on my friend’s walkway, they were attached to these small walkway bulbs that would light up a path to the door at night.  It made me wonder a great deal about alternative energy.

And that leads it to today’s Ted Talk:

LINK: http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_trent_energy_from_floating_algae_pods.html

Date Filmed: September 2012

 Length: 14 minutes, 46 seconds

Total Views so far: 172,059

One Sentence Summary: “An explanation of how floating algae pods can be cultivated beside population centers to create biofuel and that the homework to prove them positive has been done.”

This is not a Ted talk for everyone I find.  It isn’t particularly flashy, it’s based upon a complex idea that isn’t easily absorbed and it takes some personal interest in its ideas in order to watch it in its entirety. 

On the other hand, this TedTalk speaks towards an ingenuity that could become a real alternative energy source. 

This Ted Talk just screams ‘GO GREEN’ and so it isn’t surprising near the end that Trent shows how this algae pod is environmentally safe and comfortably fit into societal integration.

That last part is reminded me of where I had gone with my thoughts on these solar panels.  I had heard a long time ago that some student was able to prove that solar panels distributed across a network to mimic leaves on a tree provided better results than a traditional setup. 

Now for an experimental environment, this probably was just a very small tree.  Real trees are huge, and that made me wonder if there was some way to create a solar panel-ed monstrosity that would double as a fake tree.  Some 40 or 50 foot tall tree, that actually wasn’t a tree, but was actually a complex network of solar panels.  Thinking about it made me think that this would probably be the most fragile solar panel ‘doohickey’ in the universe and one good season of bad weather would be enough to destroy it.

With floating algae pods, it makes me ask the question how these might survive up in Toronto when part of the lake freezes over.  Unfortunately, at this point in time I couldn’t confirm.

To learn more about the algae pods, the Omega website can be found here: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/research/OMEGA/index.html

The initial articles on the site are all complimentary to Trent’s TED Talk, and there’s a great deal more information about Trent himself.  (It’s interesting that biofuel is a byproduct of nanotechological research.)

As I continued to drive around the city, I started wondering that if weren’t able to make fake trees, what if there was something we could put ‘on’ the tree to cooperatively pull in energy.  There’s Christmas lights everywhere in this city, and they seem to be up 365 days a year.  Could there be some replaceable solar panel equivalent that we could string up and at night they glowed like little lights?  I dismissed this idea as simply not possible and continued on.

So if not on trees, why aren’t there solar panels on top of every street lamp to assist in powering it?  Is it because the technology hasn’t reached a natural developed integration that people forget the possibility?  Or is because the costs associated are too heavy?  Maybe it’d be a pain to maintain?

This could very well be thoughts and concepts on why the Omega project is a published and not private idea set.  That in order for it to be even utilized, requires such a drastic series of steps that is outside the common set of norms that trying to package and sell it isn’t reasonable.  After all, why bother trying to add a solar panel into a street lamp when the current models are already at the cheapest they can be?

What caught me off guard

Why does it need to branch out to multiple options at the end of the talk? 

Trent explains it in his talk with one sentence at around the ten minute mark.  The economics of the system is difficult to make it work.  So to make it ultimately competitive, it suddenly adds a series of additional things like solar panel, wave power, growing oysters and alternative mulch options. 

This sounds crazy in its sudden complexity.  Couldn’t there be some easier solution?  If I think like a pessimist, couldn’t they (they being the ambiguous faceless entity that has infinite money) hire lobbyists to force cities to utilize a percentage of their waste water as a biofuel source?  

I guess that really isn’t an option, just like fake solar panel trees on people’s lawns isn’t an option. 

So what can we do?

This is one of those tough questions, that we generally know the answer to already.  Unfortunately, it does seem what we can do, for algae pods, is ‘very little’. 

So Algae pod energy cells won’t be happening just yet, but maybe someday.

ED

-Updated every Friday

(usually)

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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Bonus: Gangnam Style

Two months ago, a music video hit YouTube and since then you can’t turn your computer on without it appearing… everywhere.

It’s Gangnam Style, created by Psy, a Korean pop star.

The link for this (if you haven’t seen it already, odds of this is like 0%):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0

Seriously, this song is everywhere like a bad sweat rash.  What’s really crazy is that people can’t seem to get enough of it. 

WHY?  Is there a reason or formula to this?

First answer is this, the song is catchy and the video is funny. 

That goes a little deeper, there are phrases that are easily memorable and there is a dance that anyone can do which is both silly and immediately recognizable.

Now I’m going to go absolutely apeshit and go into an extremely deep delve into what is being presented.  I think there’s a lot more going on here that people might not be aware of. 

Now I don’t speak Korean, so I have no idea what he’s saying.  From what I’ve been told by media, this song is about a section of Korea, it’s lifestyle and his appreciation of the women found there. 

This description, also describes Will Smith’s ‘Miami’.

Miami: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwBS6QGsH_4 

This song was/is incredibly popular.  And in parallel to Gangnam Style, it both shows appreciation of a location, it’s women and pokes fun at itself at the same time.

Is that the reason?  Is this simply Gangnam’s version of Miami?  Heck, the place even sort of looks like Miami at times.

I don’t think so, the story that Psy tells is much more deep.  It’s the story of birth, turmoil, love and success.

What?  Ok, by the second below.

For one, this video

Total Length of Video: 4 minutes, 13 seconds

0:01-0:03 seconds, dream like sequence which turns into a reflection of Psy’s glasses.

This isn’t just a reflection or dream, it creates the link that Psy could be in a state of memory.  He is reflecting upon himself.

0:03-0:33 seconds:  Psy is in a children’s playground where there is a little kid dancing like he owns the place.

However, what’s significant is that the kid isn’t the LMFAO shuffle, this kid is dancing to a Michael Jackson song.  He is rocking it really well too.

Wait, that’s a rather out of place dance, but it places the link between Psy and the boy that could represent that as a child, it was Psy was dancing like the King of Pop MJ.

0:34 – 0:47 Snowstorm Pimp Walk

This is a hint of the chaos that the viewer is about to undergo.  By having the scene turn ridiculous almost immediately it’s a reminder that this video is NOT meant to be taken seriously.  Effectively, it becomes a plot device.

It also links to the Psy story that this ‘endgame’ that Psy wants from childhood is happening ‘the wrong way’.  At least for now.

0:47 to 0:50 Psy in a Sauna

Well, I’m reaching here but I’m going to take a wild guess that Psy’s personality is revealed in this ‘naked’ scene.  There’s a guy who is ‘ripped’ and stretching while Psy sits complacently in the background all covered up. 

In one manner, he is acting comfortable with the guy beside him.  Another way this could be interpreted, is that maybe he is feeling defeated in the presence of tattoo man.

0:52 – Old guys playing Chinese Chess. 

0:55 – Dancing with a pretty girl on a Tennis Court

0:58 – Tattoo man is popping break dance style

1:00 – On a charter bus and making going insane.  And there’s a woman in the back of the bus who is dressed hilarious with an umbrella.

1:08 – Syncing of images of him on the bus and the old guys standing on a platform, followed by explosion.

This symbolism of destroying old ways, or possibly his subliminal hatred of Chinese Chess, is also introducing Psy’s catchphrase of the song. 

1:12 – :1:30 – Introduction to the DANCE.  Not just a dance, the Psy dance.  This is significant, as it ties in with the boy image that was initially given.

Psy is doing his ‘thing’ in the hopes of success and he’s going all over the place to do it.  He effectively sideway gallops his way off screen and reappears on top of a roof top.  He just sideway gallops everywhere he goes.

But it shows him chasing away people while he cowboys his way around. In a form of rejection, they walk backwards against him.  Psy is receiving resistance.

There are dancers with him, but based on the way they’re dressed these are either close associates or imaginary in the sense.

1:35 Introduce the Butt.

Cause butts make everything better.

1:39 Psy screaming at the Butt.

Seriously, who hasn’t wanted to do this at one in time?  A fine piece of ass can make one crass, I guess.

1:41 Parking lot showdown

I’m not sure what’s going on, but it looks like Psy is winning the dance battle against..  Bruce Lee.  The yellow suit is a bit like the one that Bruce Lee and Uma Thurman had used. 

1:55 Elevator with Pelvic Thrust man

Ok, what the hell man, what the hell.  Seriously, what the hell is that supposed to mean? 

The first time I saw this, I thought Thrusto was wearing a mask.  I was that wrong.

Psy is in a subservient position during the pelvic thrusting marathon which again implies his failure to defeat the cowboy of Pelvicity.  It’s a moment where you want to look away, but stare at it and go blind instead.

Yeah, this could be simply a dance move too.  But any dance move that requires the use of an elevator, pelvic thrusting and a cowboy hat, usually needs to have a license.

2:09 Psy WINS the dance battle!

And almost immediately, Psy’s luck turns around and he meets someone new.

2:10- 2:30 Psy falls in love with a mysterious stranger.  On a subway.

Very everyday man.

2:31 He teaches her the ‘Dance’.  Sure, the dance could mean something more but he shows it to her and based upon her reaction, he is accepted.

And being accepted, isn’t that we all want?

Let’s face it, if someone with Psy’s ‘frame’ was walking down the street, they wouldn’t be begged to be in next year’s photo calendar.  That makes his love success, all the more meaningful.

3:00 Psy is wiping out in a giant hot tub, much to the joy of his neighbor.

All I can say is, whatever the meaning behind this, it is so deep that no one will ever crack it. 

On the other hand, it reminds us to not take the video that seriously and to laugh.

3:03-3:10 Dance floor and Finale foreshadowing.  Psy is accepted by his subway lady love and it’s in a public place too.

3:11-3:18 Not so public place.  Proving that any place is good place to be Gangnam Style. 

3:19-3:43 Success!  Psy’s dance is adopted by all.  There’s nurses, doctors, kung fu guys, an incredible amount of randomness all dancing the Psy Dance. 

Psy has gone through a complete transformation, from being a kid that danced to MJ, to being rejected and dominated by Sir Thrustalot, only to fall in love and find complete acceptance by everyone.. in the barn.

Or the dancefloor, or wherever they are.  Possibly Gangnam, but I seriously don’t know.

So although people might have liked this journey of a youth travelling the world and finding his home in the world, chances are this is all pure luck too.

You know why this video is popular?  After all this, I think I finally know why.

Cause the music is catchy and the video is funny.

ED

-Updated every Friday

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Wayne McGregor: A choreographer’s creative process in real time

The title of this TED Talk really caught my eye.

It’s different, it’s new, I have no idea what to expect.  More interesting, is that it is involving a series of actions and concepts that is not only rarely used in TED but rarely used by the average person.

Anyone can talk about logic, anyone can talk about advancements in science and anyone can quote another person’s work.  Dance, choreography, is a different process.  It’s that process we had used, when were kids that played but for most people this is something that fades away over time.

The Ted Talk can be found here: http://www.ted.com/talk/wayne_mcgregor_a_choreographer_s_creative_process_in_real_time.html

Date Filmed: September 2012

Length: 15 minutes, 18 seconds

Total Views so far: 105,968

One Sentence Summary: “Three creative processes of choreography applied to TED.”

I think this entire TED Talk had caught me off guard.

The very first aspect was that McGregor takes something very real, very literal, the T from TED and places it into a dance.

It’s a bit of a game of telephone, except McGregor doesn’t begin by citing a phrase or a series of words.  It’s about the perception and attention level of his performers that really come into play.

A few years ago there was a documentary on Circe du Soleil, the world famous circus.  It showed the needed dedication, the pain and the great amount of practice required to put on a world class show.

A phrase from it that stands out to me now is that the performers all have a very deep connection and awareness of their bodies.

The two dancers, Paolo and Catarina are astounding in this regard.  It is readily apparent that both have worked with McGregor before as they take quite naturally to the methods that he is using.

Due to the fact that physical thinking is new to me, I’ll try to summarize each method.

Creativity -> Interpreted -> Memorized -> Reflected

Lines of movement, body shapes and their expression.

Personal creativity via a mental picture

It’s rather interesting that McGregor mentions that it’s a distributive cognitive theory, that discovering a creative process via the ‘mind hive’ is an interesting description.  Usually, the idea of collaborative process is one that reduces the creative elements and instead focuses on the precision moments that make it more able to reproduced by the whole.

In other words, working in a group is usually used for tweaking a system, to perfect a device, not to create something.  This is usually due to the inability to contain the many different directions that so many minds can create.  In other words, the creativity becomes so great that it falls off the rails and goes in a direction that collaboration was never meant to go.

Not so with dance!  Or as I realize just now, interpretive dance  It certainly leads credence to the idea that dancing is a full time pursuit.  It is significantly more easier to express one’s emotions through physical movement if a person is well acquainted with ‘moving’.  Doing so only once a week would bring about a different result.

I was almost shocked when McGregor first ‘moved’ on stage, even though he introduced himself as a choreographer, I wasn’t expecting him to be so quick on stage.

This entire process is very visually pleasing.  I wonder why the creative process of dancing is so often characterized as something entirely different in film.

Of course, methods and mindsets evolve constantly. This could be a very modern methodology to choreography.

Is it just me, or does McGregor also mimic a reasonably acceptable metronome/beatbox/ska performance?  It works for the presentation at hand that is enough, and no doubt, in the dance hall.

Although this TED Talk doesn’t really mobilize me to want to dance, it does make me appreciate it a bit more.  I’ll have to remember to check out another dance performance sometime.

On the other hand, it does inspire me to do something that McGregor says repeatedly.

Misbehave.  Beautifully.

ED

-Updated every Friday

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Jeff Hawkins: How brain science will change computing

I like to drive at night.  I drive like a rat in a maze where I twist in circles and follow a complex pattern that I have memorized so well I could probably do it blindfolded.  (That is, if rats could drive a crappy rust bucket that is leaking oil)

In any case, while I mindlessly drive the maze of streets that I’ve memorized my eyes have a tendency to catch whatever small changes that have occurred on the various routes.  It’s sort of like flipping through a photo album except that you spot the difference instead of reminisce.

My mind also wanders and I find myself in crazy man debate.  The kind of debate where crazy man goes into the hermit hill and bounces ideas back and forth.  And this nonsense eventually led to computers and artificial intelligence.

Now I do not program artificial intelligence so I haven’t the faintest idea of how it is done.  In any case, it was that mental tennis game that made me search for the following Ted Talk below.

LINK: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/jeff_hawkins_on_how_brain_science_will_change_computing.html

Date Filmed: May 2007

Length: 20 minutes, 16 seconds

Total Views so far: 602,588

One Sentence Summary: “Human brain theory is revolves around prediction and notice how this doesn’t involve computers.”

PS> “Computers which can envision the future from memory and sensors are the future.”

Note: Hawkins speaks so much about brain theory that computers don’t really come into play until the very very end.

Now if computers ever came to the point that they would be able to comfortably program themselves via sensory data, I wondered if what would the best way to achieve this to be?

Using the human brain as the sample, what if it was two computers that were designed to program the other, and that they were specific to what details they could program?

For instance, left and right brain control logic and creativity.  So what if, one side of this AI was looking out for ‘creative’ inputs (what’s new, creating identifications) and the other side was strictly looking out for ‘logical’ inputs (mathematical identifications, examining trial and error).

And the piece where I became stuck, was that the logical side of the brain is set up to be programming the creative side while the creative side is programming the logical side.

Like I said, I’m not out to program AI.  The closest I have ever come to viewing the process was watching a student attempt to program a chess game.

In any case, Hawkins brings a very fascinating and amusing talk on how the brain functions and the perceptions of how it works.

‘We’re brains talking to other brains’, is a good quote, because it combines well with another good quote he makes which is (paraphrasing) ‘if you see a nose where you’re predicting an eye you go Holy Shit!’.

So what happens when a brain attempts to talk to a nose?  It’s a Holy Shit moment that fires off in the brain and suddenly you’re on tilt of the situation.

Doesn’t this describe every argument, misunderstanding or conflict?  You’re a brain trying to talk to another brain and you end up bumping into a nose.  That’s like, what the fuck is your nose doing where your brain should be?  What are you some kind of nose brain monster?

This kind of talk is more easily understood by replacing ‘nose’ with something more survival instinct like ‘stomach’ or ‘penis’, but you get the idea.

What’s really interesting is the fact that this talk is from 2007.  And since it’s five years later, there has been a hell of a lot of advancements in computers (and treos) since that time.  For one, a month after this Tedtalk, the iPhone was released to the unsuspecting public and that probably changed a whole mess of things.  (When it comes to handheld devices)

What caught me off guard

Wow, if I was blindfolded I would have thought this was a younger Clifford Stoll speaking.  Seriously.

This guy is all over the place, and he’s making jokes in the forms of statements that I’m not sure if he seems them as jokes.  It’s really amusing nonetheless.

And Hawkins brings up some very interesting things about the nature of brain science.  Instead of breaking the brain up into particular parts (say, in the way Jill Taylor did) it’s more about the entire experience.  (Also reminded me of Future Physicist work in a way, but I digress)

Human memory works by first processing the data.  If you’re in the dark and something walks by, you won’t remember it because it was dark.  Same applies if it’s a piece of logic you’re unfamiliar with or something is truly ‘new’ while you’re new to it all.  All that’s wiped out and ignored like a mathematical proof defining the initial assumptions and variables.

I think Hawkins said a few things that were just outright incorrect, but it doesn’t matter if they are or are not incorrect because that result doesn’t apply to his talk.  It’s a very high level mode of thought that few people take the road on because it invites contradiction.

However, my biggest surprise is the fact that this Talk included the term ‘computing’.  Hawkins really doesn’t drill deep enough into computers to explain how a computer will sense or what it means to truly ‘remember’ or have a memory of something.  On the other hand, learning how the brain works is really quite rewarding.

It does make me wonder about the singularity idea.  The idea that eventually computers will become so ‘intelligent’ that they are able to upgrade themselves faster than humans are capable and at a speed that is faster and faster until eventually computers simply handle everything.

That’s my description, I can probably find a better one.

The Singularity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity

There’s bound to be a few people who might want to argue that the Singularity is the future.  That it will be mankind’s future or the computer’s eventual future or maybe it’s for computers that drive through mazes like rats.  I don’t really know.

What I do know is that every once in a while, I go ‘Holy Shit, that’s a nose!’.

ED

– Updated every Friday

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in TED Talks

 

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Ivan Krastev: Can democracy exist without trust?

This week in Toronto, there was an interesting controversy that had occurred involving its mayor.  More specifically, he was in court regarding a conflict of interest matter and there is a very real possibility that he may be forced to resign.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/09/06/toronto-ford-conflict.html

Now something like this occurring to those in political office, is not exactly a ‘new’.  However, with the way media portrays politics, it seems to be something is becoming all too common.

Which brings us to this TED Talk, delivered poignantly by the surprisingly charismatic Ivan Krastev.

Link:  http://www.ted.com/talks/ivan_krastev_can_democracy_exist_without_trust.html

Date Filmed: June 2012

Length: 14 minutes, 5 seconds

Total Views so far: 180,504

One Sentence Summary: “Democracy has become successful and what made it work, also makes it broken.”

 Krastev starts off with a pretty good joke regarding Bulgarians, I don’t know if its true but its memorable.  I do not know if it is true in regards to being pessimistic but I think I’ve found a new association on gloomy Mondays.

(btw, Mondays are not depressing.  Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiUW8WUBr8M  Ignore the musical introduction, its a real video, not a monday-roll)

Krastev segues quickly to what could be the protest for the common person.  To appear to vote and to purposely vote for no one in protest of a lack of candidates, is absolutely a brilliant action as it ‘in theory’ shows a majority of protest.  (Although I would imagine that these would be considered to be invalid votes and ignored, but this is a complete guess.  The book Krastev mentions this belongs to is ‘Seeing’ by Jose Saramago sounds like something worth checking out.)

What I find rather fascinating about this talk most, is that Krastev states right at the beginning that he is not giving answers or solutions to the quandaries that he brings up.  So what is this?  Modern political philosophy?

Modern day music, more than ever nowadays, has a lot of spoken words but what they “speak” is actually very little.  This was not always the case, there was a time when music created a generation, when music represented a protest and opinion to the world around it.  Ironically, this is also during the time of when Krastev mentions the power of protest at that time.

One of the most beautiful things about this talk is that it, in parallel with certain music,  says many funny and sometimes observant things and at the same time, Krastev is saying nothing at all.

Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times that we live in.  The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest is plagued with having too many different groups each demanding multiple objectives that aren’t related to each other.  However, they do state one clear objective, and that there is indeed a great deal of mistrust that exists.

What about democracy? 

With voting turn out occurring at around 56% for America and 60% for Canada, these numbers definitely are not the 99% of the country.  So I can quickly agree with why Krastev says there are many who simply choose to ‘not play the game’.  (The other possible hyperbole/truth that Krastev says regarding the fall of communism creating the imbalance of power hierarchy runs down a line of thought that is incredibly deep.  It’s just a few statements, but it would require so much additional research that I both accept and disregard it at that the same time.) 

Maybe I simply have mistrust.

Could this be the era of mistrust?  Time magazine said that this might be time of Protest but mistrust might be a better description.

People do not believe playing the stock market is the way to become rich because of a severe lack of faith that it will not crash.  People do not trust banks’ intentions after hearing about bailouts versus executive bonuses.  There is a lack of trust of mainstream media about which stories are given light versus those that are omitted.  People mistrust whether gasoline prices should be jumping up and down every day.  There seems to be a great deal of mistrust happening all over the place.

Mistrust is actually quite healthy.  The cost of freedom is self vigilance and that begins by not relying on mechanisms that are invisible.  Automation today should be about the ability to enact our decision making, not creating blind processes so that we ignore them.

(This is quickly turning into one of my favorite TED Talks btw)

At the three quarter point, the talk turns toward a natural solution of mistrust and that is open transparency. 

Have you ever seen cockroaches when you turn on the light?  They do two things.  First, they freeze and then they scatter.  In an eerily similar description, Krastev mentions that the transparency of government meetings causes a pseudo paralysis of officials as it becomes readily apparent when one strays from the flock in opinion.

And they will remain paralyzed until some invisible tipping point occurs and then there will be scattering and possibly a large boot. 

Another interesting point is that the need for transparency is an issue that is talked frequently in regards to the internet.  There are many TED Talks devoted to this topic, so I will save that for another evening.

Just a couple things I also noticed..

5:32, the cold war involved two old guys kissing?

6 minutes in, that brain science diagram looks like witchcraft.

So now what?

Unfortunately, these questions are part of the system it belongs to.  In order for the democracy to exist, there needs to be this sort of questioning to follow along.

Note1: It is amazing that hear the reminder that democracy is about the right to decide.  And that deciding, is something that changes due to discussion and additional information.  It is thus equally startling that people are identified based upon who they last voted for.

Last I checked, I didn’t vote for that.  I don’t trust it.

ED

-Updated every Friday

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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