UFO hypotheses

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UFO hypotheses consist of different hypotheses to account for unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings, many different ideas have been proposed to try and explain the reported phenomena and nature of UFOs.


Extraterrestrial hypothesis

The extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) is defined by Edward U. Condon in the 1968 Condon Report as "The idea that some UFOs may be spacecraft sent to Earth from another civilization, or on a planet associated with a more distant star", further attributing the popularity of the idea to Donald Keyhoe's UFO book from 1950,[1] though the idea clearly predated Keyhoe, appearing in newspapers and various government documents. This is probably the most popular theory among Ufologists. Some private or governmental studies, some secret, have concluded in favor of the ETH, or have had members who disagreed with official conclusions against the conclusion by committees and agencies to which they belonged.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Hostility hypothesis

The UFO Hostility Hypothesis is inside the extraterrestrial hypothesis. It says that the extraterrestrial beings that travel in the UFOs, or most of them, are hostile. The hypothesis comes because of the Cattle Mutilations and the observations made by Wilhelm Reich and Jerome Eden during their experiments with the Cloudbuster.[9]

Balls of light hypothesis

The theory that UFOs can be explained by electromagnetic balls of plasma can be traced back to the work of Philip J. Klass in the 1960s who wanted a natural explanation for UFOs. Klass had shown that in certain cases there was evidence that UFOs sightings could be explained by balls of plasma and that UFOs were not extraterrestrial in origin.[10][11]

Some later researchers concluded that there was a strong link between UFO sightings and high levels of solar activity.[12] This idea was later confirmed by another researcher in 1980.[13] Another study to support this hypothesis was carried out by Jacques Vallée. Vallée completed an analysis on a large number of UFO sighting reports and found that in almost all cases the events started with the perception of a light.[14] These finds added credibility to the hypothesis that balls of light and UFOs are linked. The British government commissioned an official report on UFOs in 2000 which concluded that that UFOs are balls of electromagnetic plasma.[15]

Peter F. Coleman has advanced a theory that some UFOs may be explained by fireballs, instances of visible combustion of a fuel (e. g., natural gas) inside an atmospheric vortex.[16][17] Australian astrophysicist Stephen Hughes has also claimed there is evidence that some UFOs can be explained by ball lightning.[18]

Earthlights hypothesis

Related to the balls of light hypothesis is the earthlights or earthquake lights hypothesis which is based on the work of various independent researchers who have attempted to link UFO sightings where geological faults and geomagnetic fluctuations occur. Early researchers to suggest this hypothesis included Charles Fort, John Keel and Ferdinand Lagarde.[19][20][21]

Paul Devereux in 1982 had published an important work advocating the Earthlights hypothesis.[22] Michael Persinger in the late 1980s also published a number of research findings in scientific journals and a book (Persinger and Lafrenière 1977) which attempted to link psychological and neurological dimensions of UFOs sightings with geomagnetic activities.[23][24] Egon Bach author of UFOs from the Volcanoes (1993) also supported the hypothesis linking the phenomena to tornadoes and volcanoes.[25]

Electromagnetic hypothesis

The electromagnetic hypothesis can be traced to the work of independent researchers such as Michael Persinger who have claimed that electromagnetism can affect human perception. The hypothesis claims that if the human brain is exposed to high levels of electromagnetism then it can disturb the normal processes of the brain and cause altered states of consciousness, hallucinations and types of visionary experience. Persinger claims this may explain some UFO sightings as well as other paranormal phenomena.[26][27][28][29] Persinger has also linked geomagnetism to paranormal phenomena.[30] Other researchers have confirmed the work of Persinger that the human mind can become influenced by electromagnetism and lead to paranormal effects.[31][32][33]

A notable advocate of the electromagnetic hypothesis is Albert Budden author of the book Electric UFOs (1998).[34] Budden calls his hypothesis the "electro-staging hypothesis", he claims that electromagnetic fields can induce hallucinations which can appear very realistic to the witness.[35]

Interdimensional hypothesis

The interdimensional hypothesis (IDH or IH), also called the extradimensional hypothesis (EDH), is a theory advanced by Jacques Vallée that says unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and related events involve visitations from other "realities" or "dimensions" that coexist separately alongside our own. It is an alternative to the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH).[36][37][38][39]

The French author Jacques Vallee believes that UFO sightings have strong links to supernatural creatures like fairies and elves, religious apparitions, and that they all emerge suddenly from a neighboring reality or dimension. The old reports of these "little people" are found very similar to experiences like lapses of missing time, people disappearing and popping in unexpected places, and modern UFO abductions. States Vallee, "we are dealing with a yet unrecognized level of consciousness, independent of man but closely linked to the Earth."

IDH also holds that UFOs are a modern manifestation of a phenomenon that has occurred throughout recorded human history, which in prior ages were ascribed to mythological or supernatural creatures.[37] Meade Layne had proposed an early version of the interdimensional hypothesis to explain flying saucer sightings. He speculated that, rather than representing advanced military or extraterrestrial technology, flying saucers were piloted by beings from a parallel dimension, which he called Etheria, and their "ether ships" were usually invisible but could be seen when their atomic motion became slow enough. He further claimed that Etherians could become stranded on the terrestrial plane when their ether ships malfunctioned and that various governments were aware of these incidents and had investigated them.[40]

Although ETH has remained the predominant explanation for UFOs by UFOlogists,[41] some ufologists have abandoned it in favor of IDH. Paranormal researcher Brad Steiger wrote that "we are dealing with a multidimensional paraphysical phenomenon that is largely indigenous to planet Earth".[42] Other UFOlogists, such as John Ankerberg and John Weldon, advocate IDH because it fits the explanation of UFOs as a spiritistic phenomenon. Commenting on the disparity between the ETH and the accounts that people have made of UFO encounters, Ankerberg and Weldon wrote "the UFO phenomenon simply does not behave like extraterrestrial visitors."[36][43] In the book UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse published in 1970, John Keel linked UFOs to supernatural concepts such as ghosts and demons.

Also Jerome Clark was influenced by IDH but then he rejected this hypothesis and argued very cautiously in favor of the extraterrestrial hypothesis

The development of IDH as an alternative to ETH increased in the 1970s and 1980s with the publication of books by Vallée and J. Allen Hynek. In 1975, Vallée and Hynek advocated the hypothesis in The Edge of Reality: A Progress Report on Unidentified Flying Objects and further, in Vallée's 1979 book Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults.[44]

Some UFO proponents accepted IDH because the distance between stars makes interstellar travel impractical using conventional means and nobody had demonstrated an antigravity or faster-than-light travel hypothesis that could explain extraterrestrial machines. With IDH, it is unnecessary to explain any propulsion method because the IDH holds that UFOs are not spacecraft, but rather devices that travel between different realities.[45]

One advantage of IDH proffered by Hilary Evans is its ability to explain the apparent ability of UFOs to appear and disappear from sight and radar; this is explained as the UFO entering and leaving our dimension ("materializing" and "dematerializing"). Moreover, Evans argues that if the other dimension is slightly more advanced than ours, or is our own future, this would explain the UFOs' tendency to represent near future technologies (airships in the 1890s, rockets and supersonic travel in the 1940s, etc.)[46]

In recent years a variant of the interdimensional hypothesis has been advocated by Andrew Collins author of The New Circlemakers: Insights Into the Crop Circle Mystery (2009).[47]

Cryptoterrestrial hypothesis

The Cryptoterrestrial hypothesis was suggested by the ufologist and futurologist Mac Tonnies. It concentrates on the idea that the so called extraterrestrial intelligence is not out of our planet, but living among us.[48]

Paranormal hypothesis

Some early psychical researchers such as Gustav Geley speculated that paranormal phenomena could be explained by the human mind materializing objects[49] this view had influenced a minority of UFO investigators in the 1970s. In 1975, John Keel published the Mothman Prophecies based on his investigation of reported UFOs in West Virginia. Keel had linked poltergeists and other paranormal events to the UFO sightings which he claimed were all occurring at the same.[50]

Another researcher Karl Brunstein in 1979 proposed similar ideas linking UFO sightings to paranormal events.[51] Other researchers also pointed out that there were similar features of reported sightings of ghosts and apparitions to UFOs.[52][53] The parapsychologist D. Scott Rogo also linked paranormal phenomena with UFO sightings[54] however the majority of parapsychologists do not study UFOs and very few advocate the hypothesis.

John Spencer in his book Gifts of the Gods? Are UFOs alien visitors or psychic phenomena? (1994) claimed that ufological and paranormal events are the outcome of a natural force or energy that science has not yet detected.[55]

Atmospheric life form hypothesis

The Atmospheric life form hypothesis also known as the "Space Animal", "Space Critter" or "Sky Beast" hypothesis claims that UFOs are living organisms from the Earth's atmosphere. The Naturalist Ivan T. Sanderson was supportive of the hypothesis in his book Uninvited Visitors (1967) and independently in the same year the paranormal writer Vincent Gaddis had also advocated the hypothesis in his book Mysterious Fires and Lights (1967). Kenneth Arnold was also a proponent of the hypothesis and wrote that UFOs are "groups and masses of living organisms that are as much a part of our atmosphere and space as the life we find in the oceans."[56]

The UFO researcher John Philip Bessor believed that UFOs originate from the atmosphere and are "living organisms, sort of like sky jellyfish".[57][58] Zoe Wassilko-Serecki an Austrian noblewoman wrote a number of articles in an occult magazine in which she concluded that UFOs were life forms in the atmosphere which feed on pure energy, creating "bladder-like bodies for themselves out of colloidal silicones."[59] A famous reporting of a "sky beast" was the Crawfordsville monster which was sighted in Indiana in 1891.[60]

Another early UFO writer Trevor James Constable believed that the UFO phenomenon was best explained by the presence of large amoeba-like animals inhabiting Earth's atmosphere. He called these hypothetical creatures "critters." Constable speculated that they spent most of their time in an invisible low-density state and propelled themselves through the air with "orgonic energy, a force common to all living creatures". Constable wrote that UFOs "are amoebalike life-forms existing in the plasma state. They are not solid, liquid, or gas. Rather, they exist in the fourth state of matter—plasma—as living heat-substance..." He believed when they increased their density, the animals became visible. He thought that "critters" were carnivores and the mutilated animal carcasses and unexplained disappearances were evidence that they sometimes preyed on humans and livestock. The implementation of radar was theorized to be the reason that the critters were being seen more often, as Constable imagined that it disturbs them out of hiding.[61] Constable developed his ideas in two books The Cosmic Pulse of Life (1976) and Sky Creatures: Living UFOs (1978) in these books also appeared photographs of which he claimed were evidence for "critters".[62]

Another researcher the hydrophone inventor John M. Cage theorized that UFOs are sentient life-forms that follow airplanes, he wrote that UFOs are "sentient life forms of a highly tenuous composition, charged with and feeding upon electricity in the form of negative electricity."[63]

The hypothesis was mentioned in detail by the cryptozoologist Karl Shuker in his book Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008).[64]

Psychosocial hypothesis

The psychosocial or psychocultural hypothesis, colloquially abbreviated (PSH) or (PCH), argues that at least some UFO reports are best explained by psychological or social means. It is often contrasted with the better known extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH), and is particularly popular among UFO researchers in the United Kingdom, such as David Clarke, Hilary Evans, the editors of Magonia magazine, and many of the contributors to Fortean Times magazine. It is also popular in France since the publication in 1977 of a book written by Michel Monnerie,[65] Et si les ovnis n'existaient pas? (What if ufos do not exist?).

UFOlogists claim that the psychocultural hypothesis is occasionally confused with aggressive anti-ETH debunking, but that there is an important difference in that the PCH researcher sees UFOs as an interesting subject that is worthy of serious study, even if it is approached in a skeptical (i.e. non-credulous) way.[66]

The paradox of science fiction UFOs

Several authors underline the fact that the science-fiction magazines, stories, etc., curiously predate the UFO phenomena. Bertrand Méheust, a French sociologist, in his 1978 book Science-fiction et soucoupes volantes (Science-Fiction and flying saucers),[67] claimed that almost every aspect of the UFO phenomena can be located in pulp magazines of the beginning of the 20th century, well before the beginning of the modern UFO phenomena around 1947 .

In the same vein, in his article The truth is: They never were saucers,[68] Robert Sheaffer argued that just after the Kenneth Arnold case, most witnesses described UFOs as saucer- shaped, which agrees with the "flying saucer" reports in the media coverage of the event, but allegedly disagreed with what Arnold himself reported seeing, claiming Arnold instead reported "flying boomerangs." Sheaffer then argued that this type of phenomenon demonstrates the importance of the culture in UFO narratives.

However, in fact, Arnold was never quoted at the time using the term "flying boomerangs", instead describing the shape as like a saucer or disc or pie pan, and also drew a picture for Army Air Intelligence of an irregular flat rounded object with a trailing point. Later he would add that one of the nine objects he saw was different from the disc-like ones in being crescent-shaped or somewhat like a flying wing. (see Kenneth Arnold sighting for period quotes and Arnold drawing).

Mass hysteria

Some authors have argued that the UFO phenomena shows aspects of a mass hysteria, especially during UFO Waves. The French psychiatrist George Heuyer wrote this hypothesis in 1954 in a note to the Bulletin de l’Académie Nationale de Médecine.[69]

History of the PSH

With his essay 'Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (1958), Carl Gustav Jung[70] can be seen as one of the founding father of the PSH. On the other hand, because of his use of the concept of synchronicity in this book, he is also one of the founding father of paranormal explanations of the UFO phenomena. However, even though Jung at times advanced the idea that UFOs might be partly psychological manifestations, he was also on record stating that some might be true physical objects under intelligent control, citing in particular radar corroboration. Jung also seriously considered the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. For example, Associated Press quoted him in 1958 saying, "a purely psychological explanation is ruled out." The flying saucers were real and "show signs of intelligent guidance and quasi-human pilots. I can only say for certain that these things are not a mere rumor, something has been seen. ...If the extraterrestrial origin of these phenomena should be confirmed, this would prove the existence of an intelligent interplanetary relationship. ...That the construction of these machines proves a scientific technique immensely superior to ours cannot be disputed."[71]

Hilary Evans was an notable exponent of the psychosocial hypothesis of UFOs as culturally shaped visionary experiences.[72]


  1. ^ Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Section II Summary of the Study, Edward U. Condon, University of Colorado
  2. ^ Good (1988), 23
  3. ^ Document quoted and published in Timothy Good (2007), 106–107, 115; USAFE Item 14, TT 1524, (Top Secret), November 4, 1948, declassified in 1997, National Archives, Washington D.C.
  4. ^ Schuessler, John L., "Statements About Flying Saucers And Extraterrestrial Life Made By Prof. Hermann Oberth, German Rocket Scientist" 2002; Oberth's American Weekly article appeared in a number of newspaper Sunday supplements, e. g., Washington Post and Times Herald, pg. AW4
  5. ^ Dolan, 189; Good, 287, 337; Ruppelt, Chapt. 16
  6. ^ Good, 347
  7. ^ David Saunders, UFOs? Yes
  8. ^ Velasco quoted in La Dépêche du Midi, Toulouse, France, April 18, 2004
  9. ^ Eden, Jerome: Scavengers From Space
  10. ^ Klass, Philip J. (1966a). “Plasma theory may explain many UFOs”. Aviation Week (22 August): 48 & ff.
  11. ^ Klass, Philip J. (1966b). “Many UFOs are identified as plasmas”. Aviation Week (3 October): 54 & ff.
  12. ^ Poher, Claude and J. Vallée. (1975). “Basic patterns in UFO observations". Annual Conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautic, Pasadena, California, 20–22 January.
  13. ^ Foshufvud, Ragnar. (1980). “Unidentified flying objects – A physical phenomenon”. Pursuit 13(2).
  14. ^ Fuller, Curtis G. (Ed.). (1980). Proceedings of the First International UFO Congress. New York: Warner.
  15. ^ United Kingdom. (2000). Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) in the UK Air Defence Region (Scientific & Technical Memorandum 55/2/00). London: Ministry of Defence.
  16. ^ Ball Lightning Experiments Produce UFOs See Weather, p. 31, 1993; Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2006, Vol. 20, pp. 215–238, and his book Great balls of Fire–a unified theory of ball lightning, UFOs, Tunguska and other anomalous lights, Fireshine Press
  17. ^ A Unified Theory of Ball Lightning and Unexplained Atmospheric Lights
  18. ^ Ball lightning 'may explain UFOs' By Jonathan Amos
  19. ^ Fort, Charles. (1923). New Lands. New York: Boni & Liveright.
  20. ^ Keel, John. (1968). “Is the ‘EM’ effect a myth?” Flying Saucer Review 14(6).
  21. ^ Lagarde, Ferdinand. (1968). Flying Saucer Review 14(6).
  22. ^ Devereux, Paul. (1982). Earthlights. Wellingborough: Turnstone Press.
  23. ^ Persinger, M.A. (1975). Geophysical models for parapsychological experiences
  24. ^ Persinger, M.A., & Lafrenière, G.F. (1977). Space-time Transients and Unusual Events. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
  25. ^ Ergon BachUFOs from the Volcanoes Hermitage; First Edition edition, 1993 ISBN 1-55779-062-0
  26. ^ Roll, W.G. & Persinger, M.A. (2001). "Poltergeists and hauntings". In J. Houran & R. Lange (Eds.), Hauntings and poltergeists: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, pp. 123-163.
  27. ^ Persinger, M.A. (1979). "ELF field mediation in spontaneous PSI events: direct information transfer or conditioned elicitation?". Psychoenergetic Systems 3: 155-169
  28. ^ Persinger, M.A. (1987). "Spontaneous telepathic experiences from Phantasms of the Living and low global geomagnetic activity". Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 81: 23-36.
  29. ^ Persinger, M. A. (2000). "The UFO experience: A normal correlate of human brain function". In D.M. Jacobs (Ed.), UFOs and abductions: Challenging the borders of knowledge. University Press of Kansas: Lawrence. 2000, pp. 262-302.
  30. ^ Persinger, M. A., & Koren, S. A. (2001). "Predicting the characteristics of haunts from geomagnetic factors and brain sensitivity: Evidence from field and experimental studies". In J. Houran & R. Lange (Eds), Hauntings and poltergeists: Multidisciplinary perspectives. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, pp. 179-194.
  31. ^ Braud, W.G. and S.P. Dennis. (1989). “Geophysical variables and behaviour: LVIII.” Perceptual and Motor Skills 68: 1243-1254.
  32. ^ Brovetto, P. and V. Maxia. (2008). “Some conjectures about the mechanism of poltergeist phenomenon.” NeuroQuantology 6(2): 1-8.
  33. ^ Roll, William.G. (2003). “Poltergeists, Electromagnetism and Consciousness.” Journal of Scientific Exploration 17(1): 75–86.
  34. ^ Budden, Albert. (1998) Electric Ufos: Fireballs, Electromagnetics and Abnormal States Darby: Diane Pub Co.
  35. ^ Phenomenal World by Joan D'Arc
  36. ^ a b Gary Bates (2005). Alien Intrusion. New Leaf Publishing Group. pp. 84–87,114–115,157–160,164. ISBN 0-89051-435-6. 
  37. ^ a b "History of UFOs". Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. World Almanac Education Group. 2006. http://history.com/minisite.do?content_type=Minisite_Generic&content_type_id=57838&mini_id=57826. 
  38. ^ Hugh Ross, Kenneth R. Samples, Mark Clark (June 1, 2002). Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at Ufos and Extraterrestrials. NavPress Publishing Group. ISBN 1-57683-208-2. http://www.amazon.com/Lights-Sky-Little-Green-Extraterrestrials/dp/1576832082. "While numerous mystical explanations have been proposed for UFOs, ufologists identify two distinct "otherworldly" hypotheses: the extradimensional hypothesis (ETH) and the interdimensional hypothesis (IDH)." 
  39. ^ "UFO Hunters - History of UFOs". the History Channel. http://www.history.com/content/ufohunters/history-of-ufos. 
  40. ^ Reece, Gregory L. (August 21, 2007). UFO Religion: Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Culture. I. B. Tauris
  41. ^ Jacques Vallee (1980). Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults. New York: Bantam Books. 
  42. ^ Steiger, Brad, Blue Book Files Released in Canadian UFO Report, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1977, p. 20
  43. ^ John Ankerberg & John Weldon, The Facts on UFO's and Other Supernatural Phenomena, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1992, pp10
  44. ^ Steven J. Dick (1999). The Biological Universe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 313–320. ISBN 0-521-66361-X. 
  45. ^ David Hatcher Childress (1990). Anti-Gravity and the Unified Field. Adventures Unlimited Press. pp. 134. ISBN 0-932813-10-0. 
  46. ^ Hilary Evans (1979). UFOs: The Greatest Mystery. Chartwell Books. p. 91. 
  47. ^ Andrew Collins The New Circlemakers: Insights Into the Crop Circle Mystery A.R.E. Press, 2009, ISBN 0-87604-549-2
  48. ^ Tonnies, Mac. (2010). The Cryptoterrestrials: A Meditation on Indigenous Humanoids and the Aliens Among Us ISBN 1-933665-46-7
  49. ^ Geley, Gustave. (1924). L’ectoplasmie et la clairvoyance. Paris Alcan.
  50. ^ Keel, John. (1975). The Mothman Prophecies. New York: Tor.
  51. ^ Brunstein, Karl. (1979). Beyond the Four Dimensions: Reconciling physics, parapsychology and UFOs. New York: Walker and Co.
  52. ^ Favre, François. (1978). “Caractère généraux des apparitions”. Revue de Parapsychologie 6 (July).
  53. ^ Houran, J. and R. Lange. (2001). “A Rasch hierarchy of haunt and poltergeist experiences.” Journal of Parapsychology 65: 41-58.
  54. ^ Rogo, Scott. (2006) [1977]. The Haunted Universe. San Antonio: Anomalist Books.
  55. ^ Spencer, John. (1994). Gifts of the Gods? Are UFOs alien visitors or psychic phenomena? London: Virgin Books.
  56. ^ From Missouri's Project Identification to Washington State's Yakima "UFO" Research
  57. ^ Otto Oscar Binder What we really know about flying saucers Fawcett Publications, 1967, p.155
  58. ^ Karl P. N. Shuker The unexplained: an illustrated guide to the world's natural and paranormal mysteries 1996, p. 135
  59. ^ Andrew Collins The New Circlemakers: Insights Into the Crop Circle Mystery 2009, p. 55
  60. ^ The Cryptid Zoo: Atmospheric Beasts
  61. ^ Reece, Gregory L. (August 21, 2007). UFO Religion: Inside Flying Saucer Cults and Culture. I. B. Tauris. pp. 17. 
  62. ^ Andrew Collins The New Circlemakers: Insights Into the Crop Circle Mystery 2009, pp. 54-60
  63. ^ Jerome Clark UFOs in the 1980s Apogee Books, 1990, p. 317
  64. ^ Karl Shuker Dr Shuker's Casebook cfz, 2008
  65. ^ Monnerie, M. (1977). Et si les ovnis n’existaient pas ? Paris : Les Humanoïdes Associés.
  66. ^ "Ritual Debunker Abuse", the Hierophant, Fortean Times issue 216 (November 2006), page 13.
  67. ^ Méheust, B. (1978). Science-fiction et soucoupes volantes - Une réalité mythico-physique, Paris: Mercure de France
  68. ^ The Truth is: They never were saucers
  69. ^ Heuyer, G. (1954). Note sur les psychoses collectives. Bulletin de l’Académie Nationale de Médecine, 138, 29-30, 487-490.
  70. ^ Jung, Carl Gustav (1958). Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies.
  71. ^ Many newspapers, e.g., New York Herald Tribune, Stars and Stripes, July 30, 1958
  72. ^ Jerome Clark, Encyclopedia of strange and unexplained physical phenomena, Thomson Gale Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8103-8843-X ISBN 978-0810388437 p.329

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