Proposal: Theoretical Physics

Theoretical Physics is at 96% commitment now! That means that launch is probably imminent.

You need a URL sub-domain though. And, well, you can't take physics.stackexchange because that belongs to the existing physics.stackexchange.com.

Theoretical Computer Science, which is in ways parallel to Computer Science what this is to Physics, they have the subdomain cstheory.stackexchange. We could try something similar (phystheory? phytheory? pheory?).

Or if you have any other ideas, those could work as well! What do you think would make a good sub-domain?

Please post one suggestion per answer. If you have a second (or revised) suggestion, please post it as a separate answer for voting.

  • 1
    97% now. Who knows, we might actually hit 100% today. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 7:48
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    I think a good test for the name of the site is if you can use it in the following line: "Oh yeah, I just asked that question at ___". This will allow the name to become associated with the Q&A site, I know I always use cstheory in that context. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 8:51
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    Artem makes a good point. TP is pronouncable, th-ph is not. – Dan Browne Sep 7 '11 at 9:27
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    you should consider that some use google operator inurl: and even that a full written name is better recognized by google and its ranking algorithm with theoretical physics if someone searches for "theoretical physics forum | community" – Werner Schmitt Sep 7 '11 at 9:41
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    @Dan why is th-ph not pronounceable as 'tee aehc pee aehc'? I have heard people say the 'quant-ph' tag as 'quant pee aehc' before. Do you mean the presence of the dash? I don't think we would have to voice the dash. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 10:20
  • I would refrain from using only 'ph' (it stands for a lot of different disciplines) - IMHO 'physics', or 'phys', is way better. – Piotr Migdal Sep 7 '11 at 12:08
  • @DanBrowne: you could pronounce it thee-phy – Tobias Kienzler Sep 7 '11 at 12:23
  • @Piotr unfortunately phys has almost the same level of problems as ph by overlapping with large fields like physiology and only eliminating philosophy (which already has an exchange and is a non-issue if you include the word theory in the name since philosophy theory doesn't make too much sense). – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 12:27
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    @Artem To that end when we were first discussing the subdomain, the point was made that a lot of the "phys" alternatives don't really have theoretical branches. You don't really have theoretical physiology, for example. – Grace Note Sep 7 '11 at 14:02
  • @Grace, how long does it take to set up the private beta once the sub-domain has been settle on? – rcollyer Sep 12 '11 at 19:31
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    @rcollyer Launch will be some time this mid-week – Grace Note Sep 12 '11 at 19:33
  • 1
    @Grace, thank you. – rcollyer Sep 12 '11 at 20:05
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about an obsolete proposal – Manishearth Aug 4 '13 at 15:07

20 Answers 20


TheoreticalPhysics theoreticalphysics.stackexchange.com

If we are going for longish names (PhysicsTheory is the current favorite). Sure it's long, but surely it is also the easiest to remember, and completely unambiguous.

  • 3
    my only issue with this suggestion is one I've raised before: it might be hard to build an identity for the site associated with just that name, and we might have to always refer to it as name.SE. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 8 '11 at 4:59
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    If Artem's comment is a concern, perhaps we should think about what we would call ourselves. Naming after famous physicists has already been heavily downvoted. Might I suggest "The oracle of ∇Φ"? – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 8 '11 at 11:05
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    @Niel, we can shorten it in discussions to TP or TP.SE. The tagline/elevator pitch/motto will be decided at the end of beta (IIRC). Right now what is needed is a good URL and I think Joe's suggestion is good. – Kaveh Sep 8 '11 at 11:42
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    We can also use a URL shortener later, like j.mp/cstheory (or even better, ask SE admins to redirect from tp.stackexchange.com to theoreticalphysics.stackexchange.com ;) – Kaveh Sep 8 '11 at 11:51
  • @Kaveh: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to give the impression of derailing, or somehow disparaging his suggestion. – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 8 '11 at 12:49
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    This name sounds the most appropriate, I think, for this site: it's a *no-frills* name for, respectfully speaking, no-frills individuals searching for professional-quality, peer-reviewed answers to academic- / research-level physics questions. – UGPhysics Sep 8 '11 at 16:40
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    Thanks for putting my suggestion as an option. People may not differentiate the contents of the physics and physicstheory in the first sight. But the theoreticalphysics is much clear that it is for research level. – unsym Sep 8 '11 at 19:36
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    @Artem If the community can come up with a superb name (as Seasoned Advice and Cross Validated both did), then we can always use that as a site name that will be catchy. However, note that even those two are still rooted at cooking and stats. The subdomain should ideally focus on clarity of the subject matter, not catchiness. You can look into catchy titles on the site's Meta during beta. – Grace Note Sep 8 '11 at 19:37
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    I've been indirectly notified that the group's name has been decided upon as physicstheory.stackexchange.com. May I raise my voice of objection here, for couple reasons: 1) this is predominantly a proposed site for theoretical and mathematical physics, not experimental physics. Therefore the use of theoreticalphysics.stackexchange.com would seem more appropriate; and 2) both the two contending title suggestions have equal numbers of up-votes: so I don't understand why the final decision has already been made. – UGPhysics Sep 9 '11 at 5:32
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    @UGP Could I ask you about what your source is, exactly? – Grace Note Sep 9 '11 at 14:25
  • @Grace: I prefer to convey his / her ID in confidence if you won't mind: it's not for any reason other than I don't feel comfortable conveying such information in the public arena. – UGPhysics Sep 9 '11 at 14:48
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    @UGPhysics: Your "source" is wrong. Unless their first name happens to be "Jeff" of "Joel," this issue remains open to community discussion. – Robert Cartaino Sep 9 '11 at 16:52
  • Ok. Thanks for the clarification. – UGPhysics Sep 10 '11 at 1:46
  • Too long - look at Ask Different -> apple.stackexchange.com (you don't necessarily need to have the same name as the URL) – bmike Sep 14 '11 at 21:04



It's not too long and completely unambiguous.

  • 3
    I'm still a bit meh about the length, but considering the sheer number of suggestions we're getting, this one feels sensible. If there are so many viable abbreviations then there's always the point of confusion as to which abbreviation it is when people try to remember it (especially on the t/th/the/theo aspect moreso than the ph/phys aspect). Comparatively, if the name isn't abbreviated then it's fairly clear to recall in that respect. – Grace Note Sep 7 '11 at 15:20
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    imo the best considering google ranking – Werner Schmitt Sep 7 '11 at 20:34
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    warning: there was a lot of buyer's regret on cstheory about that name :) – Suresh Sep 7 '11 at 21:10
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    Can someone explain why it has to be short? Doenst make any sense to me? Does anyone plan to spread this link orally??? None of beneath suggestion makes much sense from a google point of view... – Werner Schmitt Sep 7 '11 at 21:29
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    If it does not need to be short, why not theoreticalphysics – unsym Sep 7 '11 at 22:24
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    @Suresh was there complaints about cstheory? I really enjoy that name. I also enjoy how this suggestion has cstheory as a substring ;) – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 8 '11 at 4:52
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    it seemed ungainly, and folks in the community didn't quite like it. I personally liked "STOC Exchange" :) – Suresh Sep 8 '11 at 5:34
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    I don't like it as it reverses the order. Then it should be abbreviated to TP.SE or PT.SE? – Piotr Migdal Sep 8 '11 at 7:17
  • @Werner: Actually shortness is less important than distinguishability. Compare ''- I learnt it on [distinct name] - I'll google it.'' vs ''- I learnt it on PhysicsTheory.'' – Piotr Migdal Sep 8 '11 at 7:29
  • @Piotr I agree, the shortening is really unfortunate. PT makes me think of physical therapy. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 8 '11 at 11:41
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    My main problem with this name is that people don't usually refer to theoretical physics as "physics theory", unlike TCS which is often referred to as CS Theory. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 8 '11 at 12:49
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    @Joe: This may work in it's favour as being the name of a site dedicated to a discipline, as distinct from the name of the discipline itself (which, obviously, is not limited to the site). I like the name CSTheory for that reason, in retrospect, as it's simple and not a phrase that I personally would otherwise use myself. – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 8 '11 at 14:40
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    @Werner It doesn't need to be short. Shortness is just a perk. I'd prefer clarity over brevity, myself. – Grace Note Sep 8 '11 at 14:49
  • Still too long - you can have your cake (short URL) and eat it (long site name) too! Ask Different -> apple.stackexchange.com has worked for a year... – bmike Sep 14 '11 at 21:07

As I understand it, the distinction between this and physics.SE is one of level: research-level only for this site vs. educational and research for physics.SE. There isn't anything particularly theoretical about this site (unless it was decided somewhere to leave out the experimentalists, but I haven't seen anything like that). So I would propose something like


to make it clear what really distinguishes the two.

  • 3
    I think the two cultures of theory / mathematical- and experimental- physics are sufficiently different to deserve their own separate StackExchange sites. – UGPhysics Sep 9 '11 at 1:52


The same as my other suggestion, but with a hyphen (you are voting here for the additional hyphen).

This was suggested in the comments by artem.

  • 5
    +1 (I prefer it to thph) – Piotr Migdal Sep 7 '11 at 15:26
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    It also is nice and similar to arXiv abbreviations, but yet isn't the same as any of them so there wouldn't be any ambiguity. – Benjamin Horowitz Sep 7 '11 at 19:02
  • this is not a search word anyone would type in google... – Werner Schmitt Sep 7 '11 at 20:33
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    @Werner our website has a name: Theoretical Physics. I think Google cares more about content and text of your site than the text in your url. Also, we want people to come to our site when they search for specific question not just Theoretical Physics in general. Further, having a name like th-ph gives users an easy query to add to the end of their search if they want to have results mostly from the site (and if they are too lazy to type 'site:th-ph.stackexchange.com' – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 8 '11 at 4:56
  • @artem thats the problem, you think google doesnt care. Actually url title and name are pretty unique vs. site meta information. The sitemap often directly relates to url and sub-url. Im no SEO expert myself but doubt your statement. Also the search engine on SE sites has google operators like title: [tags], goole is not really the best to search a SE site imo. A url is a unique search criterion, site content and meta-keywords are often same on very different sites to deceive google ranking algorithm from my knowledge – Werner Schmitt Sep 8 '11 at 9:42
  • @Werner: I don't think this should be a significant concern. If there is good content we'll rank high in google, and if not we won't. Trying to get the URL to do that work for us is, at least in my opinion, the wrong way to do things. What's more, google may tweek their algorithm at any stage, and make the choice of domain from an SEO point of view pointless, yet we'd be stuck with it. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 8 '11 at 12:48
  • @joe maybe i have a misview. I thought this site is mainly for experts, so it will get a isolated community of relative few experts compared to a pop-sci-fi sites like physics.SE or physicsforums.com? Then, why do you think google will rank this less frequented site better than above examples? Google does not index nor rank by higher academic quality. The point of a good url name is that other experts not knowing stackexchange can easily find it with google. "th-ph" doenst help in any way here...? Imo you underestimate a bit how much more laymen frequent popular physics site vs. cstheory/MO – Werner Schmitt Sep 8 '11 at 16:53
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    @Werner: I don't really see the tension. We shouldn't be the top hit for "general relativity", we should be the top hit for "twice contracted Bianchi identity". As regards the potential user pool, I would point out that the arxiv has passed half a million papers, most of which are physics. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 8 '11 at 17:02
  • @joe i can only speak for myself. I would always use google scholar for such special search. I think of undergraduates looking for a theoretical physics community, i dont think they will search on google for "dirac formalism" or even trickier terms. I never saw arxiv results listed on google, only google scholar, so i dont see what your example proves, SE is not indexed by google scholar, this would be the nonplusultra! But anyway this whole discussion was pointless, theoreticalphysics.SE won – Werner Schmitt Sep 9 '11 at 22:47
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    @Werner I recommend looking at the other research level stackexchange, i.e. cstheory.SE to see how it turns up on Google search results. It's performance is pretty good when you search for technical questions that have been asked/answered on cstheory. I don't understand why you would expect the theoretical physics stackexchange to be any different. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 11 '11 at 5:15



Reminiscent of hep-th, more general.

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    Just tried it, I think it is kind of nice to say "I asked it on phys-th". – A.O. Sep 8 '11 at 0:09



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    I like thphys or even th-phys. – F'x Sep 7 '11 at 12:57



(If you'd prefer th-ph vote for my other suggestion!)

  • You want to monopolize the entire section of theory for just physics? – Grace Note Sep 6 '11 at 21:07
  • You are right. The domain probably does need to be Physics specific. I quite like Pheory, though fear it is impossible to say it without sounding like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. – Dan Browne Sep 6 '11 at 21:10
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    I quite like thph as it fits the arxiv abbreviations for both theory and physics (i.e. hep-th and astro-ph). – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 5:39
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    I like this suggestion, but to better fit the arxiv tag I would suggest th-ph with the dash. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 8:47
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    I think I actually prefer the hyphenated version too. Not sure how the SE people will feel about hyphenation, but I like the arxiv style look of it. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 9:51
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    I think it looks better, but we don't have hyphens in any of our other subdomains, so I'm a bit cautious of it. Having to remember that there's a hyphen in the URL when being told of the site is a bit of a meh point to me. – Grace Note Sep 7 '11 at 11:49
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    @Grace: the hyphenation is an allusion to the naming convention for categories on the physics preprint server arxiv.org (like quant-ph, hep-th,cond-mat, etc.), so is probably easy for physicists to remember. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 13:17
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    Just a note -- at least to myself -- that you 100% completely changed your suggestion 12 hours after you made it. That pretty much negates any meaning to the voting so I don't know where this "suggestion(s)" stand. For future reference, if you have a completely different answer to offer, better to post it as a separate answer. – Robert Cartaino Sep 7 '11 at 14:00
  • @Robert: It had no votes until it was changed. When I voted on it earlier it had zero votes either way, and had already been changed. Hope this helps. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 14:27
  • @Joe Fitzsimons: Okay, great. Thanks for noting that. – Robert Cartaino Sep 7 '11 at 14:29
  • Hi Robert - Sorry if it was confusing. I won't change it any more. (My understanding of Stack Exchange etiquette is that you update answers after comments rather than creating multiple answers, but I can see that that probably wasn't appropriate here). – Dan Browne Sep 7 '11 at 14:49
  • I made one final change, to split up thph and th-ph as separate items, as Robert requested above. – Dan Browne Sep 7 '11 at 14:59



It's pretty common to refer to theoretical physics simple as TP.

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    There are other things, in a non-academic setting, which are also commonly abbreviated by 'TP'; this might be worth bearing in mind. – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 7 '11 at 8:29
  • @Neil: Sure, but there are things in a non-computer science setting that are abbreviated to CS. I don't think it is particularly ambiguous. – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 8:53
  • Can the favicon be a tipi in that case? Or is that inappropriate? On a serious note: I am mostly worried that the name might be too short. Also, since it is already widely used in the community as the proper name for the field it might become hard to associate it with the site in particular. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 8:57
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    Things commonly abbreviated with TP: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TP – Dan Browne Sep 7 '11 at 9:24
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    @ Artem: I have never heard theoretical physics referred to "TP". Is this an american usage? – Dan Browne Sep 7 '11 at 9:30
  • @Dan: It was me that mentioned it first. I don't think it is particularly American. It's certainly not formal, but I have certainly both used it and heard it used, but perhaps that was a pretty localised usage? – Joe Fitzsimons Sep 7 '11 at 9:38
  • I'm not accustomed to theoretical physics being referred to as TP either; I assumed it might be a British thing. Even in a physics context, I'd sooner associate it to "Temperature times Pressure". – Niel de Beaudrap Sep 7 '11 at 9:57
  • yeah, I guess I more associated TP with toilet paper or a tent. However, I've definitely used it to mean theoretical physics in conversation. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 10:10
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    One thing to keep in mind: the domain doesn't have to be the name: for example - consider stats.SE (called "Cross Validated"). – Suresh Sep 7 '11 at 21:09



i.e. no need for the first "h" for "theory".




I liked @Kaveh's short 3 letter titles, and think PhT would be a nice short name that says theoretical physics (albeit backwards) while making a play on PhD and the research-level nature of the site.



Well, this is "on the shoulders of giants",http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_on_the_shoulders_of_giants, and the giant is "Orion", isn't it? So if someone wants a personal name instead of a concept, this one is more appropriate that Newton, Galileus, Archi, etc.










TPh or T-Ph

  • it is easy to pronounce (like TCS). This is what Google returns for it. – Kaveh Sep 7 '11 at 12:05
  • 1
    I like TPh or even ThP. If you wanted to make a play on the research level nature, you could call it PhT. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 12:18
  • I added PhT as a separate answer since I think its a fun one, but if you prefer you can edit it into this answer and I will remove my answer. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 12:22



Additional advantage would be shifting it a bit from 'Theoretical Physics' to 'Research-level Physics'.

The name is easy to remember, pronounce and identify.

EDIT: Dash version (i.e. the-physics) removed.

  • 3
    +1 I like the first one. I think the dash is unnecessary in the title, the only reason I would support a dash is in cases like th-ph to build similarity to arXiv tags. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 12:29



Comes from taking the only other research level stackexchange: cstheory and combining it with an arXiv tag.

The advantage this has over more standard names ordering is that the word phtheory itself can start to develop the connotation of referring to the site, like how MO has done:

"I asked that same exact question on phtheory"

If a more common name is used, then we will also have to say .SE or .stackexchange after the name to make it clear we are talking about the site.

  • 1
    Nice except for the fact, that 'ph' (physics, philosophy, physicians, phonology, ...) is less clear than 'cs'. – Piotr Migdal Sep 7 '11 at 12:06
  • @Piotr you have to unravel physics pretty far to avoid conflicts with fields like physicians or physiology. CS only has cognitive science to worry about. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 12:15
  • it can be refereed to as something different, say TP.SE or TP. I don't think that is a problem. – Kaveh Sep 8 '11 at 5:36
  • Why not ptheory if you are going for short? – bmike Sep 14 '11 at 21:09


Lagrangian Exchange


(Inspired by Hamiltonian Exchange.)



I mean, in theory, you regularly stumble upon these guys, no?




  • Wow - this is down -3 relative to thph ... :-0 – bmike Sep 30 '11 at 14:26



Moving in a different direction:


  • 2
    This made me laugh, although it is not one I'd pick. – rcollyer Sep 7 '11 at 16:53



Many research institutes are named after some famous scientists, with that perspective how about a URL like:

  • newton.stackexchange.com

or a URL based on some other famous theoretical physicists e.g.: Max Plank, Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac, Richard Feynman, ...

Another idea is to use a URL based on a famous concept in theoretical physics (s.t. an expert will easily notice that the site is related to theoretical physics).

  • "Oh yeah, I just asked that question at newton" ? – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 8:49
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    @Artem, did you ask it at Newton? I like the mathematical questions people ask at Fields. I think MaxPlank is also a nice place to ask them. ;) – Kaveh Sep 7 '11 at 10:58
  • I would usually follow Fields by the word Institute. In the context of naming the proposal, this would mean you would say "I asked that question at the Newton Stackexchange" or atleast Newton SE or something. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 11:02
  • better counter-examples to my claim might be names of universities: "I attended McGill" or "I visited Harvard last week"... but I am still skeptical. – Artem Kaznatcheev Sep 7 '11 at 11:05
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    Also (against): it is not the pattern of naming things of SE. (It even may be confusing - for example, if it is not only about Netwonian physics). – Piotr Migdal Sep 7 '11 at 12:16

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