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Fictional universe in Avatar


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For the 2009 science fiction film Avatar, director James Cameron
conceived of a fictional universe in which humans seek to mine the
fictional moon of Pandora, which is inhabited by a sentient
indigenous species and multiple fauna and flora. Located in the
Alpha Centauri system,[1] Pandora is a lush, tropical Earth-like
moon of the planet Polyphemus and is covered with rain forests.
Humans travel to Pandora in the 22nd century and discover that it is
occupied by a sapient indigenous humanoid species called the Na'vi.
The clan with which the humans have contact in the film "[lives] in a
giant tree that sits on a vast store of a mineral called unobtanium,
which humans want as an energy supply."[2]
The Pandoran biosphere teems with diverse bioluminescent species
of hexapodal fauna and flora (which form a vast, complex neural
network that covers the entire surface). Their sheer importance lies
in the fact that ultimately the consciously connected Pandoran defeat
of the human invaders is due to the flora and fauna, not the Na'vi. In
order to make the various examples of fauna and flora as
scientifically feasible as possible, they were all designed by
Cameron and his team of expert advisers.[3]

Spirobranchus giganteus, a
species of tube worm common
to many seas on Earth. The
worms quickly withdraw into
their tubes when disturbed.
The Helicoradian in Avatar
resembles it.

Contents




1 Overall development
2 Na'vi
3 Fauna
 3.1 List of fauna

4 Flora
 4.1 List of flora

5 Humans
 5.1 Technology

6 Reception
7 See also
8 Notes
9 References
10 External links






Overall development
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cameron spoke of prioritizing story and character over
the effects technology by explaining, "When they see a Pixar movie, they don't need to know about
the hundreds of artists who slaved away at computers for years to make it. It's just: Do I like this
story? Do I like the characters? I think Avatar will work that way."[4]
Cameron explained his objective to seamlessly translate actor performances into computer-generated
characters, saying, "It evolved from a couple of things: growing up on a steady diet of science fiction,

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imagining alien characters, and being ultimately dissatisfied with what was possible with makeup and
prosthetics, with an actor having to be in the makeup chair for six hours a day. This technology isn't
about replacing or marginalizing actors. It's about allowing actors to transform and empower them to
be as creative as they want to be. And by the way, we did tall blue people with pointy ears here. But
we could easily have done a straight human face if we'd wanted to ... If we had put the same energy
into creating a human as we put into creating the Na'vi, it would have been 100 percent
indistinguishable from reality."[5]
If Avatar is successful, Cameron hopes to explore the other moons in future sequels, books, and
spinoffs."[6][7][8][9]

Na'vi
In Avatar, the Na'vi are a fictional indigenous species that live on the
fictional world of Pandora. They are humanoid in appearance and
are 9 to 12 feet (2.7 to 3.7 m) tall, having pairs of eyes, ears, arms,
and legs like humans, as well as a nose, a mouth, and expressions
recognizable to humans. The Na'vi differ from humans in having
blue striped skin, pointed and mobile ears, large eyes, catlike noses
and teeth, and tails. In addition, they have only four digits on their
hands and feet. While taller than humans, they have narrower
proportions in body frame. The Na'vi were initially conceived to be
more alien in appearance. Cameron recalled that when one of the
main characters, Neytiri, was originally drawn, she had fins, gills,
and other protuberances. In addition to feline features,[11] the species
was redesigned to look more like humans so audiences could relate
to them better. Cameron said that Avatar was more "science fantasy"
than true science fiction and has said that he would explain in the
novel for the film why in the fictional universe the Na'vi look like
humans.[12]

One of the challenges in


designing Neytiri was making
her look sufficiently alien and
yet familiar and appealing
enough to make Jake's
attraction to her natural and
convincing.[10]

According to Entertainment Weekly, "The Na'vi can commune with animals on their planet by
literally plugging their ponytails into the creatures' nerve systems. To become a warrior, a Na'vi must
tame and ride a flying creature known as Ikran."[11] The Na'vi also use this neural bonding system,
called 'Tsahaylu', to mate with a "life partner", a bond that when made, cannot be broken in the Na'vi's
lifetime.[13]
Conceived for the film was the Na'vi language, a constructed language often spoken by the actors
when they played Na'vi characters. The Na'vi language was created by linguistics professor Paul
Frommer of University of Southern California. Frommer designed the language so it could be spoken
by human actors, and it combines syntactic and grammatical rules from other existing languages. The
professor created over a thousand words for the Na'vi language and taught the actors who played
Na'vi characters to speak it for the film.[14] When communicating to humans in the film, Na'vi
characters (especially Neytiri) sometimes speak in accented and broken English.

Fauna
James Cameron's core idea for the Avatar 's fictional creatures was for them to be "superslick and
aerodynamic, and be like a race car with racing stripes."[15] Neville Page worked on Avatar as the
lead creature designer. He adapted Cameron's conceptions of the fauna into design that served three
purposes: look expressive, function with animation technology, and be believable enough for
audiences.[16] He and creature designer Wayne Barlowe sought to base the design of Pandora's

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creatures on race cars, but they struggled to adapt the concept. Page drew on his education in
automotive design, recognizing the irony that race cars were based on real-life animals in having
"bone lines." Existing automotive designs drew from seashells, turtle shells, and insects, and the
creature designers returned the design to the fictional creatures. They found the biggest challenge in
designing most creatures to give them organic appearances since they lacked excessive skin texturing.
Some creatures were also designed to have special breathing holes located in the trachea, copying
how cars have intakes.[15] Challenges that the creatures posed for visual effects technicians were to
create believable "walk and run" cycles for six-legged creatures and believable flying for creatures
that had four wings.[17]
The fictional creatures are not connected telepathically according to Cameron and the designers.
However, even though they discussed the idea of the creatures being part of Pandora's "Worldmind,"
they preferred to interpret the creatures as having heightened instincts. Page explained, "Animals are
hooked up to this planet. We're the ones who are detached.... The way I dealt with it was, We have so
much rich [material] here to reference, that we don't have to dream up a whole new process of animal
awareness."[15]
The fictional moon has less gravity than Earth, so the creatures' larger sizes match their environment.
Most Pandoran wildlife are hexapodal, or six-legged. The fauna and the flora are also bioluminescent,
which is seen in creatures on Earth, such as fireflies and algae. The aforementioned breathing holes,
located on multiple parts of a creature's body other than the mouth, are similar to spiracles in some of
Earth's animals.[18]

List of fauna


Direhorse (Pa'li in Na'vi) is a bioluminescent hexapodal equine-like animal. It is scientifically


known as Equidirus hoplites. [19] The Direhorse was conceived and designed by Cameron and
Stan Winston Studios. The Direhorse is grey with blue stripes and stands thirteen feet tall,
fourteen feet long. The Na'vi "break" a Direhorse by connecting the fleshy tip of their hair to
the animal's antennae. Cameron described the creature as a "six-legged alien Clydesdale with
moth-like antennae".[20]

Great Leonopteryx (Toruk in Na'vi) is an airborne predator native to Pandora. It is


scientifically known as Gavilandora maxima. The fierce beauty and nobility of the leonopteryx
gave the species a place in central Na'vi lore and culture. It is celebrated in dance, song, and
with elaborate totems that symbolizes both the fear and respect accorded to the creature. The
leonopteryx is considered crucial to the Na'vi sense of destiny and interconnectedness. Prior to
the events of the film, it had only been tamed five times, and Neytiri tells Jake that the riders
(Toruk Makto) brought peace among the Pandoran tribes. The Great Leonopteryx and the
Banshee were designed with bright colors. Page based the colors on Earth's birds, poison dart
frogs, and Monarch butterflies, though he altered the patterns so that their inspirations would
not be so obvious to moviegoers.[21] The skull and crest shapes appear to be derived from
pterosaurs from the genus Tapejara.

Hammerhead Titanothere (Angtsk or angtsk in Na'vi) is a large hexapodal herbivore with


a head shaped like a hammer.[22] The creature, which resembles a cross between a rhinoceros
and a hammerhead shark, is angered easily.[20] Its hide is impervious to human ammunition,
though firing on it is known to anger it. It has a massive, low-slung head with boney projections
on either side of the skull similar to Terran hammerhead shark. Soft ungulate mouth is
protected by a rigid, beak-like jaw structure. It is scientifically known as Rhinoquadruculus
hammercephali.

Hexapede (Yerik in Na'vi) are hexapodal deerlike creatures. [20]

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Mountain Banshee (Ikran in Na'vi) is an airborne predator who lives in mountainous territory
on Pandora. Na'vi warriors attempt to bond with a Banshee, a dangerous and required rite of
passage. They are cousins to the Great Leonopteryx and they are scientifically known by
Xenobiologists as Pterodactylus giganteus. A Banshee bonds to a Na'vi warrior for life. They
are four-winged creatures that like the Leonopteryx and Direhorse, have a biologically
produced carbon fiber flexing on the skin. Neytiri had a Banshee named Seze.[23] Page spent
the most time designing the Banshee for the film so it would be convincing when it flew or
perched. The designer said, "The hardest thing of all was having a Na'vi on top of it and flying
it. You had to backwards engineer it. It was like designing and engineering an aircraft."[24]
Barlowe, who contributed to the Banshee's design, was influenced by manta rays and skates as
well as relatively little-known pterosaurs and plesiosaurs that had "many, unique aerodynamic
and hydrodynamic" characteristics.[15] Like the color scheme for the Great Leonopteryx, color
schemes based on Earth animals were used for various Banshees, though Page was inspired by
Art Nouveau prints to warp the schemes so they would not look familiar to film audiences.[21]

Prolemuris Blue, hexapodal creatures based on Earth's lemurs. They have two eyes, small
nostrils, and their two upper arms are partially fused. Like most Pandoran creatures, it has a
queue on the back of its head.

Thanator (Palulukan in Na'vi) is a large hexapodal land predator.[25] Cameron personally


designed the creature.[26] Its appearance is similar to a panther; Cameron describes the
Thanator as "a panther from hell". The director explained how the Thanator is the most
fearsome creature on Pandora, "The Thanator could eat a T-Rex and have the Alien for
dessert."[20]
Viperwolf (Nantang in Na'vi) is a hexapodal nocturnal carnivore.[27] Cameron described the
Viperwolves, "[They are] hairless with shiny skin that looks like overlapped armor. Most
disturbing are its paws, which are like leathery hands."[20]

Flora
Flora on Pandora are of a tropical type several times taller than that existing on Earth. Many, if not all
plant and animal species have bioluminescent properties.[28] It is also proposed that most species of
flora are only able to grow in the presence of unobtanium. The flora specimens seen in the film were
all designed by Jodie Holt, a professor of botany at the University of California, Riverside. According
to Holt, Pandoran flora are able to communicate with each other through signal transduction and are
larger in size than Earth flora due to a combination of factors such as the atmosphere on Pandora
being thicker, gravity weaker and due to the fact that there is a strong magnetic field.[3]

List of flora


Helicoradian (Loreyu in Na'vi) is a carnivorous plant that has red spiral-leaves. The plants are
up to 3-4m tall and, when touched, they curl and collapse into themselves instantly.

Obesus rotundus (Rumut in Na'vi) is a tree that looks like a puffball tree.[3]

Pseudocycas altissima (Tsyorinawll in Na'vi) is a plant that looks like a tall Earth cycad.[3]

The Hometrees (Kelutrel in Na'vi) are great enough to house hundreds of clan members. The
trees are honeycombed with natural hollows and alcoves in which the Na'vi sleep, eat, weave,
dance, and celebrate their connection to Eywa. Adult Hometrees are more than 150 meters tall,

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and roughly 30 meters in diameter.[29]




The Omaticaya inhabit a Giant Hometree, standing roughly 460 meters tall. A
distinguishable feature of the movie landscape, the tree itself is central to the movie story
arc. Like many sacred sites on Pandora, the Giant Hometree sits above a large deposit of
unobtanium. It is destroyed by the humans using rockets, which leads to the Na'vi clans'
alliance against the humans.

The Tree of Souls (Ayvitray Ramunong in Na'vi [Cameron: Vitraya Ramunong]) is a tree
where the Na'vi are able to communicate with the biological network that exists throughout
Pandora. Cameron described the Tree of Souls as "a big input-output station" and was inspired
to design it by bioluminescence that he encountered during night diving.[26]

The Tree of Voices (Utral Aymokriy in Na'vi [Cameron: Utraya Mokri]) is the most important
tree to the Na'vi after the Tree of Souls. It is smaller but its appearance is similar and it too is
illuminated. Neytiri tells Jake that it allows the Na'vi to hear the voices of their ancestors. It is
destroyed in the bulldozer attack by the humans.

Woodsprites (Atokirina in Na'vi) are seeds of the "holy tree", appearing similar to airborne
jellyfish.[20]

Various plants and trees that look like Earth's ferns, palm trees, mosses, grasses, bamboo, and
succulents. Several forest plants of Pandora resemble the earth's zoanthid soft corals, which can
be bioluminescent as in the movie.

Humans
In the Avatar universe (set in the year 2154), humans have achieved
a highly advanced technological society dominated by powerful
corporations and industries. One of Earth's most powerful
corporations is the Resources Development Administration, a quasigovernmental organization that possesses a monopoly over all
resources in the Alpha Centauri system. The corporate administrator
for the mining operation, Parker Selfridge, is an archetypical
capitalist.
Also, according to Jake, humans have "destroyed all the green" on
Earth, suggesting that there is very little, if any, plant life left. Earth
is apparently so politically unstable that the services of the U.S.
Marine Corps are regularly in demand; Colonel Quaritch brags about
serving three tours of duty in Nigeria, and notes that Jake is a
veteran of an operation in Venezuela.

Of interest to the humans is


Pandora's reserves of
unobtanium, a valuable
superconducting mineral
valued at "20 million a kilo".
The name is a reference to
mythical materials used in
engineering which are scarce
but have better properties than
real materials.

Humans are capable of advanced genetic engineering, and can grow


Na'vi bodies, modified with human DNA to allow a geneticallymatched human operator to control them through a mental link.
Humans have also developed neuroregeneration technology, but in 2154, neurogeneration is still
extremely expensive and is not covered by Veterans Affairs benefits. Thus, RDA is initially able to
use Jake's desire to regain the use of his legs as leverage against him.

Technology
As with many science fiction films, many space vehicles, aircraft, ground vehicles, weapons and
technologies were created to fit the story. Many were patterned after historical or contemporary

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technologies.[30] Concept artist Ryan Church based many drawings on aerodynamic research from
previously classified NASA and DARPA technical papers. Unlike the movie Aliens which employed
one drop ship from de-orbit to ground combat, several vehicles cover specific roles of utility
transport, gunship, and base resupply. This is similar to the specialization of aircraft and helicopters in
the United States military since the Vietnam war.


AMP (Armored Mobility Platform) suit is a MK-6 combat vehicle that is worn and
controlled as a large "mech" motorized suit.

Samson is a ducted fan VTOL utility aircraft similar in appearance and role to the Vietnam-era
UH-1 Huey or contemporary UH-60 Blackhawk.

Scorpion Heavily armed gunship counterpart to Samson. Similar in role and appearance to the
AH-64 Apache or Hind gunships.

Dragon gunship large four-post ducted-fan VTOL heavily armed transport and gunship which
can deliver AMP suits through drop doors.

Valkyrie is a space shuttle-like transport which delivers cargo and passengers to the surface. It
has VTOL capability by swiveling its fusion engines, and like the C-130 Hercules was adapted
as a bomber to drop daisy cutter bombs out of the rear cargo ramp.

Hells Gate is a secure forward operating base with airfield, comparable to Khe Sanh.

ISV Venture Star is an interstellar transport using antimatter propulsion systems to enable
interstellar travel. The ISV Venture Star is one of twelve similar ships travelling between the
Sol and Alpha Centauri A systems, commissioned by the RDA as mineral carriers. Based on the
designs of scientist and author Charles Pellegrino, and deceased scientist and author Robert L.
Forward. Charles Pellegrino served as a science advisor on the film.[31]

Reception
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly writes, "Cameron turns Pandora into a vertiginously
suspended forest landscape...Jake and the sexy tribal princess Neytiri (Zo Saldana) wow us with their
fluid, prancing movements, but there's no subtext to their smoothly virtual faces."[32] Carol Kaesuk
Yoon of the New York Times wrote that Avatar "has recreated what is the heart of biology: the naked,
heart-stopping wonder of really seeing the living world."[33]

See also


Na'vi language

Notes
1. ^ Although not mentioned in the movie, Polyphemus was discussed in the book James Cameron's Avatar:
An Activist Survival Guide by Maria Wilhelm & Dirk Mathison. ISBN 978-0-06-189675-0. See
Polyphemus in Wikia
2. ^ Josh Rottenberg, "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World," Entertainment Weekly #1081
(December 18, 2009): 51.
3. ^ a b c d Kozlowski, Lori (January 02, 2010). "Inventing the plants of "Avatar"". Los Angeles Times.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-avatar-q-and-a2-2010jan02,0,5033714.story?
track=rss. Retrieved January 03, 2010.
4. ^ As quoted in Josh Rottenberg, "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World," Entertainment

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Weekly #1081 (December 18, 2009): 48.


5. ^ Josh Rottenberg, "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World," Entertainment Weekly #1081
(December 18, 2009): 48.
6. ^ Josh Rottenberg, "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World," Entertainment Weekly #1081
(December 18, 2009): 51.
7. ^ Carroll, Larry (June 29, 2006). "'Titanic' Mastermind James Cameron's King-Size Comeback: Two SciFi Trilogies". MTV. http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1535402/06292006/story.jhtml. Retrieved
October 18, 2006.
8. ^ Murphy, Mekado (December 21, 2009). "A Few Questions for James Cameron".
http://carpetbagger.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/a-few-questions-for-james-cameron/.
9. ^ Eric Ditzian (December 21, 2009). "James Cameron Talks 'Avatar' Sequel Plans". MTV.
http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1628605/story.jhtml. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
10. ^ Duncan, Jody (January 2010). "Avatar". Cinefex (120): 138.
11. ^ a b Rottenberg, Josh (December 18, 2009). "James Cameron Talks Avatar: Brave Blue World".
Entertainment Weekly (1081): 48-51.
12. ^ Germain, David (December 21, 2009). "'Avatar' creator Cameron shares alien shop talk". Associated
Press via Google News. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jXOYzLx6QscSpCcZrBlfjmJ5mGAD9CNRKEG0. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
13. ^ Staff (January 4, 2010). "Avatar fans promised alien sex scene on DVD". The Daily Telegraph.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-news/6931166/Avatar-fans-promised-alien-sex-scene-onDVD.html. Retrieved January 7, 2010.
14. ^ Bowes, Peter (December 11, 2009). "The language of Avatar revealed". BBC News.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8408245.stm. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
15. ^ a b c d Anders, Charlie Jane (December 9, 2009). "Pandora's Creatures Were Partly Based On Cars". io9
(Gawker Media). http://io9.com/5422677/pandoras-creatures-were-partly-based-on-cars. Retrieved
December 27, 2009.
16. ^ Cohen, David S (December 27, 2009). "'Avatar' unleashes a new kind of creative". Variety.
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118013112.html. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
17. ^ Desowitz, Bill (December 21, 2009). "Avatar: The Game Changer". VFXWorld.com (AWN, Inc.).
http://www.awn.com/articles/visual-effects/avatar-game-changer/page/4%2C1. Retrieved December 27,
2009.
18. ^ Choi, Charles Q. (December 21, 2009). "How much real science is in Avatar?". msnbc.msn.com
(MSN). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34515704/ns/technology_and_science-space/. Retrieved
December 27, 2009.
19. ^ "Direhouse". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. http://www.pandorapedia.com/doku.php/direhorse.
20. ^ a b c d e f "A Look Into the Making of Pandora for AVATAR". IESB.net. S&S Media Services.
December 6, 2009. http://www.iesb.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7872:a-lookinto-the-making-of-pandora-for-avatar&catid=41:news&Itemid=71. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
21. ^ a b Anders, Charlie Jane (December 10, 2009). "Those crazy color schemes are from the ocean floor
and Art Nouveau". io9 (Gawker Media). http://io9.com/5423086/those-crazy-color-schemes-are-from-theocean-floor--and-art-nouveau. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
22. ^ "Hammerhead Titanothere". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox.
http://www.pandorapedia.com/doku.php/hammerhead_titanothere. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
23. ^ "Mountain Banshee". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox.
http://www.pandorapedia.com/doku.php/banshee_mountain. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
24. ^ Kennedy, Gerrick (December 4, 2009). "'Avatar' designer on Jim Cameron, banshees and those nagging
'Delgo' comparisons". Los Angeles Times. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2009/12/avatardesigner-asnwers-the-delgo-criticisms-its-so-apples-and-oranges-.html. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
25. ^ "Thanator". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. http://www.pandorapedia.com/doku.php/thanator.
Retrieved December 27, 2009.
26. ^ a b Maher, Kevin (December 8, 2009). "Avatar: pictures of James Camerons fantastic new world". The
Times. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article6947527.ece.
Retrieved December 27, 2009.
27. ^ "Viperwolf". Pandorapedia. 20th Century Fox. http://www.pandorapedia.com/doku.php/viperwolf.
Retrieved December 28, 2009.
28. ^ "Video:Pandora Discovered". 2009-12-08. http://www.pandorapedia.org/doku.php.
29. ^ "Avatar: Pandorapedia - Hometree". 2009-12-08. http://www.pandorapedia.org/doku.php/hometree.
30. ^ "Avatar's hardware was all based on real-life stuff". io9. http://io9.com/5423083/avatars-hardware-wasall-based-on-real+life-stuff.
31. ^ http://www.charlespellegrino.com/

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32. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (Dec. 25, 2009/Jan. 1, 2010), "But What About Avatar? James Cameron's 3-D epic
didn't make our top 10 lists. But critic Owen Gleiberman praises its visual artistry", Entertainment Weekly
(1082/1083): p. 84
33. ^ Kaesuk Yoon, Carol (January 18, 2009). "Luminous 3-D Jungle Is a Biologists Dream". New York
Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/science/19essay.html. Retrieved January 19, 2009.

References


Fitzgerald, Lisa (2009). The Art of Avatar: James Cameron's Epic Adventure. Abrams. ISBN
0810982862.
Wilhelm, Maria; Mathison, Dirk (2009). Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and
Social History of Pandora. It Books. ISBN 0061896756.
Wilhelm, Maria; Mathison, Dirk (2009). James Cameron's Avatar: The Movie Scrapbook.
HarperFestival. ISBN 0061801240.

External links




James Cameron's Avatar at Wikia


Pandorapedia.com
"The Tet Zoo guide to the creatures of Avatar" at Tetrapod Zoology

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