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The NEURON & NEURAL SYSTEM:
A 21st CENTURY PARADIGM

by JAMES T. FULTON


A detailed description of the neural system of animals is presented.  It employs a new electrolytic paradigm that provides a more sophisticated framework than the chemical concept employed under the old paradigm.  The focus is on the circuits and mechanisms causing a phenomenon, rather than on reporting the phenomenon.  The subject is presented at the histological and cytological level based on the new, and COMPREHENSIVE

ELECTROLYTIC THEORY OF THE NEURON.

in a series of web pages to be augmented by a series of individual guides via the left navigation panel.

Last update:              Activa™: See Citation Page

The new paradigm describes the neuron as containing a three-terminal active electrolytic device formed by the junction of real semiconducting bilayer membranes (lemma), as the foundation of The Electrolytic Theory of the Neuron. A new Neuron Doctrine in axiomatic form is available. It replaces the largely conceptual doctrine of the past.

This theory is a replacement for the previous paradigm based on a two-terminal device (the axolemma membrane alone) formed of a putative permeable membrane subject to the Nernst Equation and supporting the flow of alkali ions through the membrane according to Hodgkin & Huxley, as the foundation of the chemical theory of the neuron.

The old paradigm of the neural system based primarily on chemical mechanisms is no longer tenable.  While the dominant paradigm during the last half of the 20th Century, neuroscience has been held back through reliance on this concept.  The primary signaling functions within the neural system are based on its electrolytic character.  (Electrolytic = involving the transfer of electrical charge in a liquid environment.)  The flow of electrons through an active electrolytic semiconducting device is the fundamental mechanism in the new paradigm, and is highlighted by the logo of this website.  It is only the secondary functions, providing electrical power to the electrolytic circuits, that are fundamentally chemical in nature.  It is these secondary functions, based heavily on stereochemistry, cellular surface physical chemistry and the permeability of the matrix surrounding the neurons that provide control of the neural processes.

     Core Portions of this web page, and supporting documentation

     The Unique Chemistry of taste (gustation) and smell (olfaction)

The neuroscience community has suffered from a two-faceted quandary for many decades.

  • Why have no reaction products ever been isolated from the taste and smell mechanisms?
  • What is the chemistry employed in taste and smell?

Without knowledge of this chemistry, no suitable theory of taste and smell has evolved.

The taste and smell modalities do not employ what is conventionally known as valence chemistry, combining both ionic and covalent chemistry. It employs the lesser known coordinate chemistry. This chemistry involves short term linkages, and does not generate residues. Based on this chemistry, and the concept of combinatorial analysis as used in these sensory modalities, it is possible to explain the operation of these modalities in detail as shown in the following documents:

     RELATED MATERIAL BASED ON THIS THEORY

This 21st Century electrolytic paradigm has proven extremely successful.  Its success, particularly in describing the visual, auditory & olfactory/gustatory system of humans, overshadows any criticism generated within the context of the old paradigm.  Several recent medical breakthroughs could not have been achieved in the absence of this new paradigm.  The current understanding of the operation of the central nervous system, in the visualauditory and smell  contexts, would not be available without this new paradigm.

The new paradigm has provided a totally new understanding of the operation of the heart and particular the cardiocytes of the heart.

A particularly intriguing success has been the elucidation of the complete echolocation system of the bottlenosed dolphin (See callout on the right). This new understanding has provided new insights into the teaching of blind children in their intrinsic auditory echolocation capabilities.

The theory and descriptions of the neural system to be presented here, based on the new 21st Century paradigm, is quite extensive. To manage the volume of material to be considered, the site has been subdivided into four major sites:

  1. NEURON CONCEPTS  This Part. It focuses on the neuron as a component and its use in neural circuits in general.
  2. VISION CONCEPTS  A site dedicated to the description of the visual sensory input to, and the related data extraction by, the overall neural system.
  3. HEARING CONCEPTS  A site dedicated to the description of the hearing sensory input to, and the related data extraction by, the overall neural system.
  4. OLFACTORY CONCEPTS  A site dedicated to the description of the sensory systems of taste and smell and the method of processing this data within the neural system.

In developing the theory presented here, it was found that there was no satisfactory treatise on the BASIS OF THE NEURAL SYSTEM. The main work was stymied by this situation. The state of the neuroscience literature was found so inadequate in 1995 that a diversion was necessary. This diversion resulted in the publication of two new books:

  • "Biological Vision: A 21st Century Tutorial" on the detailed operation of the human visual system. It is accompanied by a more extensive text on the internet, "Processes in Biological Vision."
  • "Hearing: A 21st Century Paradigm," A single extensive volume on the operation of the human hearing system. Even this volume is supplemented by two additional chapters available on the internet.

Both of the highlighted texts are available for purchase on their respective sites.
"Biological Vision: A 21st Century Tutorial"
"Hearing: A 21st Century Paradigm"
The texts can also be purchased through your local bookseller, on Amazon.com, or from Trafford Publishing in Bloomfield, Indiana.

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     BACKGROUND ON THIS SITE

The portion of this site related to the more general aspects of the neuron is still under development. However, extensive discussions of the neuron have been provided in Chapter 4 of the visual sensory site and Chapter 3 of the hearing sensory site.

The development of this site is being carried out in parallel with the development of the new text, "The Neuron & Neural System: A 21st Century Paradigm." However, the expansion in academic activity and academic inquiries based on the two previous books has resulted in a significant diversion of the authors focus from this third text.

Two fundamental findings and one major discovery related to the neuron have resulted from the overall effort:

  • The morphologically defined neuron is not the fundamental element of the neural system from a functional perspective.
  • The functional aspects of the neural system are entirely electrolytic in operation.

    • The chemical transport of simple ions, or heavy molecules, at the synapse separating neurons does not play a role in the signaling function of the neural system.

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     Discovery of the ACTIVA

The discovery of the active electrolytic semiconductor device, the Activa™, provided the key to the understanding of the operation of the neuron and the rest of the neural system. It placed the functional role of the various morphological and cytological structures in proper perspective and provided the correct interpretation of the operational phenomena involved.

The Activa is a unique biologically based structure that exhibits "transistor action" The term "transistor action" is a term in the Patent lexicon to define a unique quantum mechanical mechanism. The Activa, US Patent #5,946,185, is the electrolytic (biological) equivalent of the man-made transistor.

Go to MAJOR CONCEPTUAL CHANGES introduced by the Electrolytic Theory of the neuron. These conceptual changes have opened a new perspective on the neural system that has created an entirely new paradigm related to the understanding of the neural system. Go to MAJOR NEW DISCOVERIES introduced by the Electrolytic Theory of the neuron

    Table of Contents of the Text

A preliminary Table of Contents to the work tentatively titled "The Neuron and Neural System" can be accessed using the tab at the upper left, Table of Contents.

The theory presented here is far more complete and mathematically rigorous than any other presented to date. It takes issue with many concepts that have become dogma over the years through indiscriminate repetition in textbooks and journal articles. Many of these poorly defined dogmatic positions are compared with a more explicit position based on the theory.

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     MAJOR CONCEPTUAL CHANGES

The main work introduces three major paradigm shifts affecting concepts held true for the last 50 years, a super extended period considering the rate of changes in other scientific technologies. The second shift redefines the fundamental nature of the neuron. It calls for a extending the Neuron Doctrine of Cajol beyond the realm of morphology to include electrophysiology.

A restated Neuron Doctrine [10.8.1]

  1. The neuron is the fundamental biologically sustainable unit of the nervous system. It is the minimum viable cellular structure.
  2. Each neuron contains one or more fundamental functional (signaling) units internally and one or more external fundamental units connecting it to an orthodromic structure.
  3. Each fundamental functional unit consists of an active electrolytic semiconductor device, an Activa, supported by its peripheral electrolytic components.

One premise that is fully documented in Chapter 8 [8.7] is that all known synapses are electrolytic in origin and contain an Activa.

If the reader accepts the above premises and the shifts in thinking described, it is suggested that he will be amply rewarded. Many previously undefined phenomena become quantifiable and a large group of new performance descriptors become available.

Although the PARADIGM SHIFT related to the neuron is completely supported by the data in the literature, it is so significant that most of the hypotheses found in journal material must be considered obsolete until they are reinterpreted. Most neuron related hypotheses in current textbooks must also be considered obsolete. The PARADIGM SHIFTS, AS A GROUP, lead to a larger set of FUNDAMENTAL PREMISES that form the foundation of this work.

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     MAJOR NEW DISCOVERIES

The list of new discoveries based on the Electrolytic Theory of the Neuron is long. These discoveries refute many earlier ideas and relegate them to the "ash can of history." These discoveries are highlighted below.

  1. The neural system is only one of the major functional systems of the body. However, it-and its close affiliation with the glandular system-makes it a dominant system.
  2. The neural system can be described as multilayered.
    • The physical layer is lowest--morphological and histological level.
    • The Functional layer is next--physiological level.
    • Additional layers can be defined within the Central Nervous System.
      • The operational layer--awareness, alarm, analytical, volition and command modes
        • The operational layer can only perform non-transcendental mathematics.
        • The operational layer employs pattern matching as a primary tool.
      • The decision making layer--cognition within the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
  3. Each neuron consists of two major portions evolved from a stem cell during morphogenesis.
    • Every neuron contains multiple internal compartments filled with electrically isolated plasmas.
    • Every neuron contains a portion dedicated to homeostasis and a compartment dedicated to signaling.
    • The compartment containing the nucleus is associated with homeostasis and is ultimately powered by glucose.
    • Multiple compartments within each neuron are dedicated to electrolytic signaling. The signaling portion is powered by glutamic acid (glutamate)
  4. The neural system of biology employs electrolytic signaling instead of chemical signaling except in its implementation of command signals where neuroaffectors are secreted.
    • The external and internal walls (lemma) of neurons are formed of electrically specific bilayer structures.
      • The external lemma of a neuron are divided into functionally discrete sections.
        • Most of the external lemma is electrolytically insulating.
        • Specific areas of the external lemma form electrically semiconducting regions described as diodes.
      • The internal lemma of a neuron are divided into functionally discrete sections.
        • Most of the internal lemma are electrolytically insulating.
        • Specific areas of the internal lemma form electrically semiconducting regions described as diodes.
      • When the special lemma sections forming diodes are brought into juxtaposition, they form an active electrolytic semiconduction device known as an Activa.
    • The neural system of biology can be subdivided into seven major functional blocks.
      • Signal generation, signal processing, signal projection, signal manipulation, cognition, command generation & command affectation.
    • The neural and glandular systems of biology merge at the point of neural command affectation.
    • The affectation neurons release a broad range of organic and inorganic materials, many of which are frequently classified as hormones.
    • Affectation neurons are the interface with the paracrine, endocrine and exocrine portions of the glandular system.
  5. Phylogenically, the neural system has evolved into two distinct Sub-kingdoms; the Chordata that employ phasic signal projection of neural signals, and the other phyla that employ time-delay neurons to coordinate the multiple muscles involved in swimming and multi-leg locomotion.
    • The giant axon of squid is a time-delay neuron that does not generate actual action potentials.
    • Virtually any neuron can be caused to generate action potentials under parametric electrical stimulation in vitro.
  6. The neural system of Chordata consists of a central nervous system CNS),generally within a bony cranium, and a peripheral neural system (PNS).
    • All members of Chordata have a functioning cerebral cortex (telencephalon) although in lower species it may consist of merely the cap on the terminal end of the spinal chord known as the diencephalon (old brain).
    • The PNS performs signal generation, signal processing and signal affectation. Signal projection within the peripheral system is by neurons supporting serial transmission of information.
    • The CNS performs signal manipulation (analysis), cognition and command generation. Signal projection within the CNS is by parallel transmission of information over parallel neurons supporting serial transmission.
    • Information projected within the CNS cannot be effectively captured using individual electrical probes.
  7. Every neuron of the neural system contains at least one active electrolytic device known as an Activa.
    • The Activa is a PNP type three-terminal electrolytic liquid-crystalline semiconducting junction device.
    • The Activa is completely analogous to the three-terminal solid-crystalline semiconducting device known as a transistor.
    • The Activa is powered by a chemical process known as electrostenolysis that converts Glutamate into GABA with the release of CO2.
    • The signaling portion of the neuron does not rely upon oxygen for its operation.
  8. A closed form mathematical description of the sensory transduction process used in vision, hearing, olfaction and most likely all other neurosensory transducers.
  9. The equation is known as the excitation/de-excitation equation (E/D) or the photoexcitation/de-excitation equation (P/D) in the case of vision.
    • This equation provides a complete solution to the transduction process for any stimulus intensity. It includes the empirical solution suggested by Hodgkin many years ago as a special case.
  10. A closed form mathematical description of the action potential generator circuit that does not require the solution of multiple differential equations.
    • The underlying circuit employs a switching type relaxation oscillator that involves a different mathematical treatment of the attack part, and the decay part, of the action potential waveform
    • The closed form solution and switching characteristic shows the analysis by Hodgkin & Huxley, and built on by many subsequent mathematicians, is no longer viable.
  11. The signal processing within all neural systems employs primarily analog signaling.
    • Neural system signal processing involves the same techniques as man-made analog computers.
    • The neural system does not employ any binary circuits that can be likened to a digital computer.
  12. Signal projection over long distances within the neural system of Chordata employs phasic signaling, involving the use of action potentials.
  13. Action potentials are generated and encoded by ganglion neurons & decoded by stellite neurons
    • Action potentials are generated by ganglion neurons using a switching type monopulse relaxation oscillator.
      • The action potentials may be generated as individual pulses or as streams of continuous pulses
      • The action potential pulses are monostable, they do not exhibit two (binary) stable states.
      • The action potentials employ a place-code of the pulse-to-pulse time-delay type
      • A place code contains more information than the rate code previously proposed by others.
      • The action potential pulse streams are totally deterministic and based on the analog signal they encode.
    • The analog information encoded by the action potential pulses are decoded by stellite neurons (which include the morphologically defined stellate neurons and others).
      • The analog signal reproduced by the stellite neuron is a deterministic reproduction of the signal encoded by the ganglion neuron
      • The qualtity of the deterministically reconstructed analog signal meets the requirements of the neural system.
    • Specially configures stellite neurons are used to compare the temporal arrival times of two action potential pulse streams originating in the neurosensory transducers for purpose of source location within the external environment.
      • The same stellite decoding circuits are used to determine the location of auditory sources and the position of visual objects in multidimensional space, stereopsis.
      • The dimensions of these signals are the X, Y, & Z coordinates of space relative to the observer, and the intensity and frequency (wavelength) of the source.
  14. The human visual system, like that of all other members of Chordata, employs four individual spectral absorbers, including one in the ultraviolet that is only partially used in the larger mammals.
    • The spectral absorbers of chordate vision have peak wavelengths of 342, 437, 532 & 625 nm.
    • The ultraviolet vision of humans is truncated at 400 nm by the absorption characteristic of the lens of the eye.
    • The ultraviolet vision of humans is important when observing colors in the 400-437 nm region, such as paintings by the "Dutch Masters" in an art gallery situation.
    • The Scotopic Visibility Function is a sub-set of the Photopic Visibility Function after shutdown of the long wavelength (red) spectral channel at low light levels.
  15. The visual system of humans and other members of Chordata employ signal summation in the brightness channels and signal differencing in the chrominance channels.
    • The chrominance channels employ signal differencing as conceptualized by Hering and described graphically by Munsell.
    • Only the brightness channels employ signal summation as promulgated by the CIE based on the hypotheses of Young and of Helmholtz.
    • The Chromaticity Diagram based on the Electrolytic Theory of the Neuron provides a deterministic orthogonal foundation for the Munsell Color Space
    • The Chromaticity Diagram based on the Electrolytic Theory provides an orthogonal foundation for the CIE Uniform Color Space currently evolving under CIE encouragement.
  16. The auditory frequency selection process within the cochlea employs the Marcatili Effect, discovered during the late 1960's.
    • The Marcatili Effect describes the separation of auditory frequencies as a function of the curvature of Hensen's Stripe within the cochlea.
    • Frequency selection does not depend upon the mechanical stiffness or physical width of the tectorial membrane within the cochlea.
  17. The olfactory/gustatory modalities sense the dipole potential of individual stimulant molecules when captured in a stereo-chemical relationship with the appropriate receptors.
    • There are less than 25 receptor types in the olfactory modality and only four receptor types associated with taste.
    • Both modalities employ matrixing to sense and report to the brain a wide range of chemicals.
  18. The enteric and cardiac systems of the viscera have frequently been described as containing a mini-brain. In fact, they contain a complete mini-neural system including sensing, memory, decision making and action causing neural elements.
  19. The major group of cells in the heart have historically been named myocytes but are more properly labeled cardiocytes. Each cardiocyte incorporates a neural, a contractile and a housekeeping capability.

The above list of MAJOR NEW DISCOVERIES will be annotated as to the principle webpages discussing each of these ideas in the future. An attempt will also be made to place these statements in a comprehensive framework. In the meantime, an extensive set of descriptors describing the visual system has been prepared. The descriptors are able to describe the vision process and the neural system to a totally new degree of accuracy and precision.

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     ARCHITECTURES of the NEURON and of NEURAL SYSTEMS

To understand the operation of the neural system, it is important that a framework be developed describing that system functionally. This work begins with a description of the Neural Architectures of biology. The block diagrams of the system define a series of functional stages within the system and support a variety of operating modes and subdivisions.

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     The MINI-NEURAL SYSTEMS of MAMMALS

In exploring the sensory modalities, and the neuro-affectors of the neural system, it became clear that two distinct mini-neural systems existed within the overall neural system of the mammals. These subsystems were found in the cardiac system and the enteric system, as described anatomically. Both of these systems were found to be more than just mini-brains (as they have frequently been described); they are complete mini-neural systems including sensory, neuro-affector modalities as well as the computational capability usually associated with the central enrvous system (albeit on a smaller scale).

Sections of this website are under development to describe these mini-neural systems. Unfortunately, the discoveries emanating from the Electrolytic Theory of the Neuron have been so broad and detailed that documentation is slow. Anyone specifically interested in these systems is invited to contact the author for beta-versions of the relevant materials.

  1. Cardiac Mini-Neural System A site describing the complete neural subsystem of the cardiac system, including the unique cytology of the myocytes (more adequately described as cardiocytes).
  2. Enteric Mini-Neural System A site describing the complete neural subsystem of the digestive tract.

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     SIGNATURE WAVEFORMS OF THE NEURAL SYSTEM

     NEW TEST PROTOCOLS required by the new paradigm

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     PATHWAYS TO SPECIFIC SUBJECT MATTER

This work has become so extensive, a theme-based Table of Contents is useful. The following links will take the reader to the major subject matter.
The Section numbers are current (Aug. 2016) but the page numbers within the URL's are subject to editing.
At the end of each cited document is a detailed Table of Contents, List of Figures and an Index providing greater specificity

* PBV; "Processes in Biological Vision" James T. Fulton (2004)

     PROBLEMS WITH THE LONG HELD CONCEPTS AND THE LITERATURE

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The discovery of a new fundamental element within every neuron, and also forming every synapse and every Node of Ranvier obviously causes conflicts with the previous literature of the academic community. While a great deal of the empirical literature supports the new Paradigm, it obviously brings into question the teachings of many text books and Pedagogical undertakings. The following paragraphs will synopsize the faults found with the previous material based on the discovery of the ACTIVA and its accompanying ramifications.

     Marmarelis vs Popper as the framework for the Scientific Method

Marmarelis has recently offered a broader Synergistic Approach to the Scientific Method than that espoused by Karl Popper (1902-1994). Where as Popper focused almost entirely on the use of Deduction as a methodology for developing a conceptual hypothesis for guiding the experimentallist, the approach of Marmarelis focused on the Inductive process to arrive at a more sophisticated null hypothesis before transitioning to the experimental phase of hypothesis verification. The two advantages introduced by the Marmarelis approach are the requirement that the investigator;

  • Listen to what the available data is telling him, and
  • Insure that his mathematical framework is adequate for addressing the data.

In essence, do not offer a hypothesis based on linear algebra or linear differential equations if the data is clearly nonlinear. Accept the fact that nonlinear differential equations are required to describe the data adequately. Similarly, do not assume the process is stationary with respect to time, if the data is demonstrably nonstationary.

Finally, do not assume a process is based on a specific physical framework, such as chemistry, when the data is telling you and the laboratory measurements are employing techniques outside the realm of chemstry.

A further discussion of the Marmarelis approach is available.

By expanding Popper's Deductive portion with Marmarelis's Inductive portion, the Synergistic Approach of Marmarelis leads to much better Null Hypotheses and more rapid scientific advances.

This work continues to employ a definition of falsifiable (or refutable) derived from Popper. It does not derive from the common English concept of forgery but from the philosophical perspective of academic logic. The less than ideal term "to falsify" was used in the original translation of his work from the German.

Falsifiability or refutability is the logical possibility that an assertion can be contradicted by an observation or the outcome of a physical experiment. That something is "falsifiable" does not mean it is false; rather, that if it is false, then some observation or experiment will produce a reproducible result that is in conflict with it. This discussion centers on the availability of experimental evidence showing the Chemical Theory of the Neuron is refultable.

In modern usage, Popper's assertions can be stated as follows.

  • A Theory, to be scientifically valid, must be empirically testable (falsifiable) in the laboratory. Otherwise, it falls outside the realm of science. Such an untested theory is called a "null hypothesis." If the empirical investigation shows it is valid, it is accepted as useful and the hypothesis is recognized as a valid theory (at least for the time period).
  • If the empirical investigations of the period (or a later period) develop data in conflict with the null hypothesis, the hypothesis is refuted and must be discarded or restated (based on the new data).

In many pedagogical situations, a null hypothesis in conflict with the complete data set is allowed to stand as a "first order theory" while a new null hypothesis is proposed as a more advanced or second order theory. This situation is not always highlighted or even honored within the academic community.

     Falsification (or Refutability) of the Chemical Theory of the Neuron

The chemical theory of the neuron is founded on the application of the Nernst Diffusion Equation to a putative biological membrane exhibiting a bidirectional porosity continuum, and subsequent tweaks to it by Donner and by Goodman to make it satisfy individual empirical data samples.

A series of key experiments provide more than adequate falsification of the chemical theory (null hypothesis) of the neuron. The porosity of the biological membrane is clearly discontinuous, thereby falsifying the basic assumption. These experiments and the relevant background associated with them are presented on a separate web page, the Falsification of the Chemical Neuron

     Falsification (or Refutability) of Computational models of the neuron of Hodgkin & Huxley

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The common electro-physiological models of the neuron have depended on the theory (null hypothesis) that the action potential of the chordate neural system is describable by a potential function that is a stationary and continuous function of time throughout its duration. Figure 6 of the first Hodgkin & Huxley paper (1952a) clearly showed the response of their experimental specimen, the giant axon of the squid, was not stationary with respect to time and exhibited separate attack and relaxation time constants. This situation alone falsifies the use of stationary and continuous linear differential equations to explain the observed output waveforms. With the discovery of the biological transistor, the Activa, and the incorporation of the Activa into a relaxation type (switching type) oscillator circuit, the Hodgkin & Huxley hypothesis becomes totally untenable. This places virtually all of the previous computational models of the neuron of Hodgkin and Huxley in jeopardy. They assume continuity between the rise and fall portions of the output waveform.

The problems associated with computational modeling of the Hodgkin and Huxley framework for the neuron generating action potentials are addressed in a separate document, the Falsification of the computational models of the Hodgkin and Huxley neuron.

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     A CAUTION

Because of the revolutionary nature of some of the material presented, students subject to examination by their institution are encouraged to review the Cautions Page before proceeding.

     MAJOR CONCEPTUAL CHANGES

The theory is far more complete and mathematically rigorous than any other presented to date. It introduces three major paradigm shifts affecting concepts held true for the last 50 years, a super extended period considering the rate of changes in other scientific technologies.


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