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"Father of Fiber Optics" Wins Nobel Prize

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-must-be-very-proud dept.

Communications 74

alphadogg writes "Charles Kao, whose work in the 1960s laid the foundation for today's long-distance fiber-optic networks, has won a share of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics (PDF). Kao, sometimes referred to as the 'father of fiber-optic communications,' was formally honored by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden 'for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.' Kao's breakthrough discovery in 1966 was to determine how to transmit light over long distances using ultrapure optical glass fibers. This would extend the distance of such transmissions to 62 miles vs. the mere 65 feet allowed under previous technology held back by impurities. The first ultrapure fiber was created in 1970."

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First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29657539)

At least it would have been if I had a fiber optic network.

3 Winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29659021)

The winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics [nytimes.com] are Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith.

The "New York Times" reports, "The mastery of light through technology was the theme of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honored breakthroughs in fiber optics and digital photography. Half of the $1.4 million prize went to Charles K. Kao for insights in the mid-1960s about how to get light to travel long distances through glass strands, leading to a revolution in fiber optic cables. The other half of the prize was shared by two researchers at Bell Labs, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, for inventing the semiconductor sensor known as a charge-coupled device, or CCD for short. CCDs now fill digital cameras by the millions."

I scanned the winners of all the Nobel Prizes in physics. None are African or African-American. Is this lack of scientific accomplishment by Africans due to low IQ?

Japanese IQ equals European IQ, but both are greater than African IQ by about 20 points. Note that Japan is a barren rock lacking natural resources. Yet, the Japanese transformed it into the 2nd richest nation in the world.

Does this low African IQ explain why all societies dominated by Africans are gross failures?

No love for the inventors of the CCD? (5, Informative)

viking099 (70446) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657555)

These guys [about.com] also got the Nobel prize this year for their work on the CCD. That's worth a mention too, I think!

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657811)

We talked about the nobel for work on telomeres yesterday [slashdot.org] . Maybe slashdot editors have decided to string the nobel topics out. Just one a day, otherwise we'll get too excited.

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (2, Informative)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658381)

Umm, the Nobel prizes are not all announced at the same time. The Medicine prize was announced yesterday. The Physics prize was announced today.

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29657843)

Peter Schultz co-invented Fiber Optics so why is he not being honored ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_C._Schultz

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658845)

because Lucy never allowed him to kick the football?

wait.. what?

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (1)

Anynomous Coward (841063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658897)

OK then.
*claps hands*.

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (4, Funny)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659179)

Seriously. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have the glut of amateur porn that's available to us today.

God bless you, sirs.

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (1)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29666981)

Have you noticed how Nobel prizes are going back to inventions done in the 60's, 70's? Maybe they wanna catch these people while they are alive. Or maybe not that much truly groundbreaking and noteworthy under the Sun since the turn of the millenium?

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29668107)

Have you noticed that, with very few exceptions, all Nobel prizes have been for work that is a few decades old? This isn't a new phenomenon, for example the 1943 Nobel in Physics was for research published in 1922. Oh, and it's not just stuff from the '60s and '70s, the Medicine prize was for work done in the '80s.

The Nobel is for work that changed our understanding of the subject in a significant way. You can only accurately judge that a couple of decades after it was originally published. A new theory needs to be independently tested, not falsified as a result of testing, and then have other interesting things built on top of it to be worthy of a Nobel. That simply does not happen with a new theory.

And, before some idiot brings up Al Gore again, the Peace prize criteria are completely different from those attached to the scientific prizes.

Re:No love for the inventors of the CCD? (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#29672171)

George Smith is an alum of my school. Kind of a big deal here. They did good work, they almost single-handedly created an industry.

Think about it. Without the invention of the CCD, we'd take pictures and have them developed. Now we can take thousands upon thousands of pictures on a single 'roll' and print them a few seconds after they're taken. I think it's safe to say that the CCD revolutionized photography, at least for amateurs.

62 miles? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29657573)

Come on guys. We are talking about Science here. Use the system used by any scientist and 95% of the world population. 100km!

Re:62 miles? (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657661)

100km!

The pdf uses SI, read that. And while we're off-topic, guess what Iceweasel does by default when it encounters a popup: it pops up a message telling me it blocked it. And when I disable it, it pops up another message telling me all about it.

Re:62 miles? (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29664587)

You know, it really doesn't matter. It's not like you don't know how to convert the units if you need to convert them... and you probably don't need to know them anyway.

But then, I guess if you ignored "problems" that aren't really problematic, you wouldn't have this beautiful outlet for self-righteous whining*.

*The irony of saying this isn't lost on me, but I'm sick enough of seeing people fucking complain about which arbitrarily-defined system of measurement to use that I'm willing to make myself look a bit silly.

Re:62 miles? (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 4 years ago | (#29678387)

It's actually worse in this case because the numbers chosen (62 miles vs 100) give misleading precision. It's just the result of a reporter punching numbers in a calculator, but he did change the content.

PS: I find it funny, albeit regrettable, that every time someone on Slashdot points out an inappropriate use of imperial measurements there is always a backlash of people who have to defend and justify them, trying to argue that measurements are all arbitrary and the systems are equally useful, when clearly they're not.
Me, I don't mind about looking silly. I'm just interested in peoples reactions ;-)

Why so long? (4, Interesting)

maxrate (886773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657581)

(Zero sarcasim) - Why does it take them so long to officially honor him? It was clear fiber optics were being used like crazy in the 80's.

Re:Why so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29657607)

Because the execs at AT&T and other companies were too busy making billions off of his work, rather than advocating giving scientific credit where credit is due.

Re:Why so long? (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657641)

Because, as we all know, the execs at AT&T and other companies are the ones who determine the receptors of Nobel prizes.

Re:Why so long? (1, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657851)

Because, as we all know, the execs at AT&T and other companies are the ones who determine the receptors of Nobel prizes.

I thought it was the Illuminati? Or is it the Freemasons? Maybe the Jews? Or the Scientologists?

Re:Why so long? (0, Offtopic)

jittles (1613415) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657971)

Ahh Thank goodness us Stonecutters are still unheard of...

Who controls the British Crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do, we do.
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
We do, we do.
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do, we do.
Who robs cave fish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscar night?
We do, we do!

Re:Why so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29663959)

> Or the Scientologists?

Can't be. L. Ron Hubbard hasn't won any Nobel Prizes yet. Though I haven't read his official autobiography, so that might have changed by now. Or maybe he would have gotten several if it wasn't for Xenu's space forces causing troubles...

Re:Why so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29658099)

Joking aside, you've clearly never worked in research at a truly large organization. Depending on the organization's disclosure policies, the scientists and engineers behind some of the most truly innovative research may never be known outside of said organization.

It's totally unlike academic research, which often is more about getting your name on as many papers as possible, even those that you didn't really work on or contribute to in any meaningful way.

So the only way to become aware of many of the scientists and researchers who are behind some truly revolutionary discoveries and work is if the executives of those organizations make an effort to get the word out. Otherwise, you wouldn't know about them and their work, other scientists wouldn't know about them and their work, and the Nobel Prize committees wouldn't know about them and their work.

Re:Why so long? (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659593)

Receptors ? You mean receivers or recipients. Unless you were talking about protein molecules or nerve endings.

Re:Why so long? (1)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | more than 4 years ago | (#29660367)

and definitely they are all tired of making money, and right now they just work forcomunity love????

Re:Why so long? (5, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657773)

It's a truism that you get your Nobel 20 to 30 years after the groundbreaking work that earned it. After all, they couldn't give it to you back then, 'cause back then it was going to the people who earned it 20 to 30 years before *that*.

Re:Why so long? (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657893)



How about if there was one year where there were multiple breakthroughs? Wouldn't that make a massive backlog? This is only slightly more important then the Academy Awards.

Re:Why so long? (1)

StellarFury (1058280) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658027)

20-30 != 43. The criticism is valid, this is an old (even by Nobel standards), really important piece of research that should have been recognized 10 years ago.

Re:Why so long? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658483)

Nobel was known for explosives; however, his committee is known to move like molasses.

Re:Why so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29658527)

lol

Re:Why so long? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29661769)

Which also are known to explode [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Why so long? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#29665009)

Thanks for the citation. Maybe that was mole asses.

--

Proper prior preparation positively prevents percussive polysaccharides.

Re:Why so long? (3, Insightful)

sootman (158191) | more than 4 years ago | (#29660257)

I imagine they also want some time to see if the discoveries prove to be truly useful in the long term. I'm sure there was plenty of neat stuff being done in the 60s/70s that was neat at the time but how much of it are we still using? (I know there's plenty, my point is there's also plenty that we aren't.) Also, they want to make sure they don't wind up giving the prize to the inventors of Thalidomide [wikipedia.org] or anything.

Re:Why so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29661231)

.. Also, they want to make sure they don't wind up giving the prize to the inventors of Thalidomide [wikipedia.org] or anything.

Oh, I wouldn't say that. Perhaps you should re-read the URL you posted yourself. There are lots of active clinical trials using Thalidomide treating a fairly broad range of very serious medical conditions, including many forms of cancer.

Re:Why so long? (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 4 years ago | (#29663063)

And maybe time will prove it useful. For now, it's better known as "the biggest medical tragedy of modern times."

Alfred Nobel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29661985)

It's a truism that you get your Nobel 20 to 30 years after the groundbreaking work that earned it. After all, they couldn't give it to you back then, 'cause back then it was going to the people who earned it 20 to 30 years before *that*.

Originally Nobel (a former arms dealer BTW--which is where the money for the price comes from) wanted the prize awarded to the most important research done in the last year. It's since become a kind of "lifetime achievement" award.

Re:Why so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29657867)

They were hoping he died before they had to hand over the cash.

Re:Why so long? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659125)

Actually I am surprised at this win. Not that it wasn't great but Nobel's tend to go more theoretical work than this. Making very pure fibers seems more engineering than science to me.
I do think this is a good choice but I think the reason it took so long was that really only now did the committee understand just how important that was. Heck Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce never got one and they where the fathers of the integrated circuit.

Re:Why so long? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659177)

Sorry my bad Kilby did get his in 2000. Noyce died in 90 so he never got one.

Charles Kao != Father of Fiber Optics (5, Interesting)

AniVisual (1373773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657593)

or so the comment in the article says

"Father of Fiber Optics" is not Kao but Narinder Singh Kapany. http://www.explainthatstuff.com/fiberoptics.html [explainthatstuff.com] http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=Father+of+Fiber+Optics&btnG=Google+Search&meta=&aq=f&oq= [google.ca] I can`t believe news didn`t name him

From one of the linked articles,

1950s: In London, England, Indian physicist Narinder Kapany (1927â") and British physicist Harold Hopkins (1918â"1994) managed to send a simple picture down a light pipe made from thousands of glass fibers. After publishing many scientific papers, Kapany earned a reputation as the "father of fiber optics."

1960s: Chinese-born US physicist Charles Kao (1933â") figured out how to make a very pure fiber-optic cable that can carry telephone signals over long distances.

Re:Charles Kao != Father of Fiber Optics (2, Interesting)

bwohlgemuth (182897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658003)

And don't forget what the British Post Office did back in the 1960s as well (which my stepfather was a part of). City of Light [amazon.com] is a nice read about the history of Fiber Optics.

Re:Charles Kao != Father of Fiber Optics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29660349)

Should have gone to Aharonov [wikipedia.org]

Re:Charles Kao != Father of Fiber Optics (1)

the Atomic Rabbit (200041) | more than 4 years ago | (#29661779)

Read the technical discussion from the Nobel committee [nobelprize.org] . It was Kao who showed that purified glass fibers had the required properties for replacing and eventually replacing coaxial fibers. He didn't invent the concept of glass fibers or fiber waveguides (that actually goes back more than a hundred years); but before his work, few believed that they would ever be practical for telecommunications.

Re:Charles Kao != Father of Fiber Optics (1)

bondjamesbond (99019) | more than 4 years ago | (#29663603)

We all know that fiber optics were first discovered aboard the crashed UFO at Roswell!

Re:Charles Kao != Father of Fiber Optics (1)

mk_is_here (912747) | more than 4 years ago | (#29665545)

Maybe "Father of Long Range Fiber Optics" or "Father of Practical Fiber Optics"?

62 miles in the 70's (5, Interesting)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657603)

That's pretty impressive. Anyone have a good link on what today's longest fiber's are capable of? I'm not talking about max distance with repeaters or anything. I'm talking about the max distance for a single fiber from beginning to end. Most of what Google gives is just information about the longest cables that presumably start and stop in many different locations/countries...

Re:62 miles in the 70's (5, Informative)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657665)

The equipment I work with can do about 90 miles. Say 7 dBm transmit, -30 dBm receive. If you use around 0.25 dBm attenuation per kilometer at 1550 nanometers, that'll get you to around 150 km.

This is at 2.5 Gbps.

I don't know if that's a lot or not, but that's around where we max out.

Re:62 miles in the 70's (2, Insightful)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29657699)

Anyone have a good link on what today's longest fiber's are capable of?

When I posted this I was thinking in my head "distance" but i failed to mention that.

Other capabilities might be interesting as well, such as max bandwidth for a single optic cable, ect...

Re:62 miles in the 70's (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 4 years ago | (#29665461)

We run 40Gbps rings in a metro area network. That's one wavelength. There's also a 10Gbps wavelength and several 1Gbps rings as well. We still have 62 wavelengths (theoretically, although maybe not supported by our equipment) available.

http://www.fujitsu.com/us/news/pr/fnc_20090608.html [fujitsu.com]

AM fiber is capable of sending all RF spectrum from 50MHz to 870MHz over one fiber. Next generation transmitters and receivers will run up to 1GHz or more.

Re:62 miles in the 70's (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658775)

There are amplifying fibers that theoreticaly don't have an upper bound on the distance they can carry digital signals without corruption. But I don't know about any on the field application of them.

Re:62 miles in the 70's (1)

Kz (4332) | more than 4 years ago | (#29660975)

that's what repeaters are made of.

that, and a laser to pump the energy needed for amplification, a power supply for the laser, (long!) wires for the power supply....

Re:62 miles in the 70's (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29672471)

No, no, optical repeaters are deployed reasonably often- I used to work for a company that made them. They're not quite as good in some ways as repeaters that turn the signal back into electricity and then back into light again, because they don't retime the signal, so if you go far enough down the fibre the bits in the signal sort of blur together (in several various ways). You can get around that though by lowering the data rate, so I don't think there's an upper limit on distance with pure optical paths.

Transmission. (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658023)

Transmission through Purity, Purity through Physics!

Re:Transmission. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29659465)

Thank goodness I just watched V for Vendetta a couple of nights ago so that I could get your comment. :-)

Re:Transmission. (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29661037)

Physics through math? [xkcd.com] =P

Re:Transmission. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29664393)

Curious question, actually. Math is definitely purer; but, unlike all the previous steps, physics -> math is where you lose empirical evidence entirely. It isn't obvious that you'll be able to infer which of the internally consistent mathematical structures the world is actually operating under(if indeed it is operating under one) without looking at it at some point. In all the previous cases you could, in principle at least, actually infer one from the other. With math, you could likely get physics as one possible special case; but actually picking the right one might be dodgy.

(incidentally, the octopus in that strip has enormous verve)

Fiber optics took about 20 years to arrive (3, Informative)

Terje Mathisen (128806) | more than 4 years ago | (#29658271)

I did my MSEE thesis in 1981, working on mono-mode optical fibers. This was still pretty cutting edge at the time, but the first semi-automatic splicing units had started to arrive.

The most fascinating feature of very pure optical fibers is that they have two minima not too far apart:

At around 1200 nm the frequency dispersion is very close to zero, which means that a single pulse traveling along the fiber will suffer minimum smearing, which maximizes the possible bandwidth.

At around 1500 nm the optical damping (i.e. sum of scattering & absorption) has a minimum, which means that by using this frequency you can maximize the distance between repeaters.

Anyway, it took about 20 years (i.e. around 2001) before mono-mode fibers become standard in all new installations here in Norway, it seems like this is the normal time to go from lab prototypes to SOP.

Terje

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29658607)

I like the fact that Nobel prizes is awarded to those who actually contribute to everyday life of mankind.

I don't like to see the Nobel prizes offered to theory physicists.

Re:Good (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29659657)

Yeah, I could also never understand what they were up to with this crazy guy and his photoelectric effect!

http://www.ammslimosucks.com/ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29658655)

http://www.ammslimosucks.com/ [ammslimosucks.com]

Sadly, (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659349)

He forgot to patent the idea of "transmitting electromagnetic signal across very long distances over cylindrically shaped medium". Otherwise he could have just given up physics and collected the royalty, forgetting about this petty Nobel Prize.

Shares of the Nobel Prize (3, Insightful)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659529)

If this goes on, in a few years they'll be giving hundredth of the prize...
Why not go back to the days where the prize was given to a single person that embodied a change?

And maybe something modern as well instead of some 50 years old stuff...

Re:Shares of the Nobel Prize (3, Informative)

Late Adopter (1492849) | more than 4 years ago | (#29661919)

The Nobel Prize in Physics has never been awarded to more than 3 people, and that was first done in its third year, in 1903, to Becquerel and the Curies.

YOU FAIL iT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29659709)

erosio8 of user

Invented by aliens. (2, Funny)

Sans_A_Cause (446229) | more than 4 years ago | (#29660759)

I'm pretty sure I heard on Art Bell that fiber optics weren't invented on Earth. They were discovered in the Roswell crash. Kao should return this prize.

Re:Invented by aliens. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29662121)

Art bell is still alive?

Re:Invented by aliens. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29666991)

A ridiculous post and conclusion, indeed.

'bout time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29660889)

While he figured out how to stretch the distance, he didn't get to increasing the bit rate...hence the lag in getting his prize.

Congratulations, winners. (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 4 years ago | (#29665843)

Well done, and thank you.

Why 62 miles? (1)

Higgs_Bozon (1506197) | more than 4 years ago | (#29666063)

What's the limiting factor here?
Why not 63 or 64 miles? or 58?
Something to do with the speed of light?

Re:Why 62 miles? (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#29668033)

Because 100km is nice round number that lose its meaning when converted to outdated units.

Re:Why 62 miles? (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29668197)

The quality of the cylinder. With a fibre-optic link, you have a tube of glass. You put a photon in one end, it travels along, and then it comes out the other end. If it is perfectly straight and you aim perfectly, then the photon travels straight through the glass. In this case, you could just use a laser and skip the whole glass thing. If you aim slightly off centre, or the path is curved, then the photon will hit the inside wall and, using the power of total internal reflection, bounce back. It may bounce quite a lot of times over the length. The next photon you send in may bounce a different number of times (because it went in at a very slightly different angle) and this is where the problems start. Both photons will be going at exactly the same speed, so if they have different paths with different distances, they will take different amounts of time to reach the far end. The longer the fibre, the greater this difference can be. This limits the transmission rate through the fibre, because you need to delay photons (or small groups of photons) sufficiently that you can tell the order in which they were sent. If you send one, then send the next one, and the second arrives before the first, then you have a problem. You could say this is to do with the speed of light: if it were infinite then this problem would not exist.

The other problem is that total internal reflection relies on the photons hitting the inside of the glass at quite a sharp angle. Impurities in the manufacturing can result in places where photons fail to reflect and just leak out (you can see this by shining a light in one end of a drum of fibre optic cables in the dark and watching the entire length glow slightly). If you are sending individual photons this is a big problem, but you're probably sending little bursts of them. When you do that, some proportion will be lost over each unit length of the fibre and after a certain distance insufficient will be left to be detectable at the far end.

The only good thing to come out of Harlow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29667891)

I live in Harlow (close to Nortel too) and fibre optics are the only thing we've contributed to society ever IMO. Unless you count teenage pregnancies and knife crime ;)

Where's mine? (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 4 years ago | (#29679041)

So, the initial technology was invented in the 50s. Some guy came up with an idea for ultra pure glass in the 60s. The first ultra pure fiber optic cable was made in 1970. Almost 40 years later I don't have a fiber optic internet into my home in Dublin (the capital city of Ireland). What gives?
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