Monday, May 11, 2009
New Yorker has an article on psychological studies about kids and patience. How delayed gratification (teaching patience strategies) correlate with success in life for kids. This is probably pretty obvious to most of us. But, now psychological studies are showing how important Patience is (not as willpower, but practices of strategies).
Secret: out of sight, out of mind, and having focusing techniques, and being able to distance from sensory input. Reminds me of Chan meditation and other Buddhist practices. Implications for western education?
(This is a rush, breaking post. Apologies for any mistakes. Clean up with be done later.)
Monday, April 27, 2009
I'm really excited about all the massive increase of money going into the Sciences. The budgets of National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institue of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Department of Energy's Department's Office of Science are all doubled.
American Universities have top notch Scientific research and attract the best talents in the world because of their abilities to provide opportunities for researchers to work. More often than not, all this concentration of talents create a network effect that spawn technologies or companies which indirectly or directly benefit Americans. This ensures that we continue to do that....
In addition, Obama created a new program for energy called Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E, based on the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). As a guy who worked on AI stuff for DARPA, yeah, they fund pretty wacky stuff (like da internet). But, crazy, far-out projects is exactly what the energy sector needs....
So, my hats off to John Holdren, the Science Advisor and Obama's other advisors. They done their country a great service!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The study and teaching of the science of geometry are in the public interest, but whosoever practices the damnable art of mathematical divination, shall be put to the stake.Corpus Juris Civilis, Codex Justinianus,
Book IX, XVIII, 2, 3 (AD circa 650)Taken from Jan Gullberg's wonderful Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
The NPR Radio News crew, "All Things Considered" (with familiar names like Robert Siegel, Melissa Block, Andrea Hsu, etc.) were already at Chengdu (near the epicenter) producing a series for next week about the lives of everyday life in mainland China when the 7.9 Richter Earthquake hit. For a first account of the earthquake, check out their Chengdu blog page. Includes an interview interrupt by the earthquake. By looking at earlier entries in the blog, it looked like a very good series that will be pre-empted by disaster.
NPR Chengdu Blog
Update May/16/2008: A heartbreaking story filed by Melissa Block, the audio is even more heartbreaking.
Where to Donate, see network for good for the latest update.
- Direct Relief International
- Doctors Without Borders
- International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent
- Save the Children
- New charities involved in China, 5/16/2008 (not a comprehensive list, for that, see here and here)
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Still, the crows have proven clever at foiling human efforts to control them. In Kagoshima, they are even trying to outsmart the Crow Patrol. The birds have begun building dummy nests as decoys to draw patrol members away from their real nests.Unfortunately, because of their inability to control the population, cities have been turning to lethal means of control.
.... “Japanese react to crows because we fear them,” said Michio Matsuda, a board member of the Wild Bird Society of Japan and author of books on crows. “We are not sure sometimes who is smarter, us or the crows.”
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
With more than 40,000 still missing and as many as 1 million possibly left homeless, the international community was struggling to deliver aid in the military-ruled country, which normally seeks to shut out foreign officials and restricts their access inside the country.If you want to help, you can donate to World Vision here to provide family survival kits.
Update (May 7, 08):
Other Aid organizations working in Burma (source nytimes.com)
- American Jewish World Service
- American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
- Catholic Relief Services
- International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent
- International Orthodox Christian Charities
- Save The Children
- U.N. High Commission for Refugees (US site)
- U.S. Fund for UNICEF
- World Food Program
- World Vision
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I attended Heidi's concert, this Saturday night in Berekeley. It's held as part of the Trinity Chamber Music Series, and was set in a small, intimate church (that could seat maybe 50 people).
She would first explain the piece, the composer, the context, the mood for about a couple of minutes, then play the piece.
Here's the program:
- Piano Sonata No. 32 - Haydn
- Prelude, Chorale and Fugue - Franck
- Arabesques on Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz - Schulz Evler
- 12 Preludes Book 2 - Debussy
There was a wonderful after-party that was kindly hosted by Heidi's husband's coworker and his family.
Friday, April 18, 2008
In theory, if the performance is that much better, you can take multiple signal points and average them out to reduce noise, and it’ll still be way faster than a regular CCD I think.
So, how does this affect me? Digital camera will take sharper pictures under lower light conditions, since the exposure time of each shot will be much shorter. This is help you take better pictures, but also help machine vision for suboptimal light conditions.
And from a Science perspective, microscopes will be able to take images more quickly. This is important for imaging enhancing technique that require high volume of images, deconvolution, and signal averaging, and other tricks to get by optical limitations. link
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The sleeping student body phenomenon would be oft repeated in my literature class for years to come. “The Scarlet Letter”? Snoozers. “The Catcher in the Rye”? Can’t relate zzzzzz! “The Old Man and the Sea”? Counting sheep. “1984″? Like eating ribs before bed. And don’t even get me started on the whole of British literature. Dickens, Shakespeare? Imagine a roomful of students simultaneously entering REM.I think this post really illustrates the need for seeing and teaching to the conditions of the student. If one can't do that, they are not really reaching the student.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
One of the glaring difference is the melancholy unsustainbility of the recursion is the base case. Since each loop is more artificial than the next. The recursion eventually collapses, and that is the base case for popping out of the loop.
"I am 77 years old and I have never seen this country in such a bad state. It is madness. What we are seeing is the fall of the Roman Empire, only now it is the fall of America, the glory of our Empire. This war is what Parthia was to Rome....How do we educate the future generation to be better participants in democracy? Is it possible to roll back the anti-intellectualism brought around in the 60s? Food for thought.
In this kind of climate, nobody is interested in the critical voice. You ask about the role of the intellectual in America today and I have to say: What role? What intellectuals? There is no room for them in the simplified and dumbed down world of today's media. We used to play a role, and there are still a few left, but we are a dying breed. Nobody seems to be interested in nuance anymore."
Sunday, January 13, 2008
A few years ago, Bill Cosby set off a firestorm with a speech excoriating his fellow African-Americans for, among other things, buying $500 sneakers instead of educational toys for their children....The geist of the study is homogenity of income level of one's peers is what causes the upward spiral of conspicuous consumption.
But notably absent from the Cosby affair have been the underlying economic facts. Do blacks actually spend more on consumerist indulgences than whites? And if so, what, exactly, makes black Americans more vulnerable to the allure of these luxury goods?
Economists Kerwin Charles, Erik Hurst, and Nikolai Roussanov have taken up this rather sensitive question in a recent unpublished study, "Conspicuous Consumption and Race."
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
- Relations sour between Shiites and Iraq Militia (NYTimes)
- Observation of military strategy on the ground by people from the Brookings Institute (NYTimes)
- The most hopeful and latest note is Bin Laden lambasting his lieutenants for being too extreme! (CS Monitor)
* working means a trajectory to reduce Iraqi misery and withdraw troops without causing a tottering State to completely collapse. See Congo for what kind of complete misery Civil War, opportunistic neighbors, and rich resource can cause.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Click on the thumbnail for the side by side comparison (Ubuntu is left/Windows is right):
Here's the whole screenshot in Ubuntu:
Here's the whole screenshot in Windows:
This is going to allow me to read Chinese on web browsers. Chinese on a Windows computer was ugly and difficult to read (especially due to my minimal Chinese skills). Maybe I can finally convince my dad to read Chinese articles online too....
Monday, May 22, 2006
Saturday, October 22, 2005
(awesome photo taken by Steve)
Massive domes of white whirling fog completely shrouding San Francisco and parts of the peninsula for pretty much the whole day, giving the landscape a mysterious feel.... Yet the the sun was completely out. And small, white sailing boats cut along the still yet churning green-blue waters. Against the backdrop of cute houses dotting the tree-lined hills of the Tiburon peninsula. Motion admist stillness....
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
There's more boring stuff I can talk about, but the electronic distribution of text holds lots of promise. Just the possible of requesting dynamically user-specified formatted documents (for example getting books in overlapping Chinese and English translations, or Sanskrit, or anyother way you like) over the server is awesome.
I think I'll just post a picture of a latest e-reader prototype from China. And leave a link for more details, here.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
It's very appealing, except for a full-on raging civil war, pitting Maoist rebels and a Monarchist government. Throw in previous incidents of bus-bombing, tourist detainings, Regicidal patricide, matricide and suicide, and explusions of foreign reporters. All this suggests a later tour date. So, we're most likely not going to Nepal. Oh well....
Right now, all that we have planned is that we'll fly into Delhi, and hang out at Uttarancahl State (that's the brown state in the North) in the low Himalayans for a while.
I'm not sure what to expect....
I still want to watch the movie though.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
In case of earthquakes and big waves, breakdance.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
The article even cites Panksepp speculating about higher cognitive function like humour:
"Although no one has investigated the possibility of rat humour, if it exists, it is likely to be heavily laced with slapstick."I can't tell if he was dead serious or joking with the reporter.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Sigma Xi Magazine has an article by Michael Shermer about using Evolutionary Psychology to bootstrap purpose and thus morality into the Evolutionary Psychology framework. It basically works like a greater and greater integration of collected self-interested.
Shermer adavances several princples:
- The happiness principle: it is a higher moral principle to always seek happiness with someone else's happiness in mind, and never seek happiness when it leads to someone else's unhappiness.
- The liberty principle: it is a higher moral principle to always seek liberty with someone else's liberty in mind, and never seek liberty when it leads to someone else's loss of liberty.
- The purpose principle: it is a higher moral principle to pursue purposeful thought or behavior with someone else's purposeful goals in mind, and never pursue a purpose when it leads to someone else's loss of purpose.
He also includes a helpful figure (just like the food pyramid!).
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Monday, February 07, 2005
In experiments by Alex Weir and his colleagues at Oxford University, a captive New Caledonian crow named Betty was frustrated when she couldn't use a bit of straight wire -- which she'd never seen before the start of the experiment -- to snag food from a tiny bucket. Pausing for an instant after an unsuccessful try, she took the wire, bent it around the edge of the food tub, and then snagged the bucket handle with the hook she had fashioned herself.See the movie here.
link to the Chronicle article
Thursday, January 20, 2005
The paradigm expressed is a tug between emotion and reason (or in brain-speak, the limbic system versus the prefrontal lobes)
David Laibson, an economist at Harvard University, thinks that such experiments underscore the big role that expectations play in a person's well-being. Economists have usually assumed that people's well-being, or “utility”, depends on their level of consumption, but it might be that changes in consumption, especially unexpected downward ones, as in these experiments, can be especially unpleasant.link
Thursday, January 06, 2005
"Make the pain go away! I want my daddy! Make it stop!" she moaned over and over, writhing along the 12th Street sidewalk, slamming hands against cement and walls as she made her way up to Market Street. She picked at abscesses on her arms and face, the blood mixing with dirt to leave brown smears wherever she rolled. She screamed and drooled.SFGate link
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Cognitive scientist, University of California, Irvine;
author, "Visual Intelligence"
I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists. Space-time, matter and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the universe but have always been, from their beginning, among the humbler contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being.
The world of our daily experience - the world of tables, chairs, stars and people, with their attendant shapes, smells, feels and sounds - is a species-specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose essential character is conscious. It is unlikely that the contents of our interface in any way resemble that realm.
Indeed the usefulness of an interface requires, in general, that they do not. For the point of an interface, such as the Windows interface on a computer, is simplification and ease of use. We click icons because this is quicker and less prone to error than editing megabytes of software or toggling voltages in circuits.
Evolutionary pressures dictate that our species-specific interface, this world of our daily experience, should itself be a radical simplification, selected not for the exhaustive depiction of truth but for the mutable pragmatics of survival.
If this is right, if consciousness is fundamental, then we should not be surprised that, despite centuries of effort by the most brilliant of minds, there is as yet no physicalist theory of consciousness, no theory that explains how mindless matter or energy or fields could be, or cause, conscious experience.
Joseph LeDouxNYTimes link
Neuroscientist, New York University;
author, "The Synaptic Self"
For me, this is an easy question. I believe that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness, but neither I nor anyone else has been able to prove it. We can't even prove that other people are conscious, much less other animals. In the case of other people, though, we at least can have a little confidence since all people have brains with the same basic configurations. But as soon as we turn to other species and start asking questions about feelings and consciousness in general we are in risky territory because the hardware is different.
Because I have reason to think that their feelings might be different than ours, I prefer to study emotional behavior in rats rather than emotional feelings.
There's lots to learn about emotion through rats that can help people with emotional disorders. And there's lots we can learn about feelings from studying humans, especially now that we have powerful function imaging techniques. I'm not a radical behaviorist. I'm just a practical emotionalist.
Edge link (120 Contributions)
Monday, December 27, 2004
Because, as Zurek says, "the Universe is quantum to the core," this property seems to undermine the notion of an objective reality. In this type of situation, every tourist who gazed at Buckingham Palace would change the arrangement of the building's windows, say, merely by the act of looking, so that subsequent tourists would see something slightly different.link
Yet that clearly isn't what happens. This sensitivity to observation at the quantum level (which Albert Einstein famously compared to God constructing the quantum world by throwing dice to decide its state) seems to go away at the everyday, macroscopic level. "God plays dice on a quantum level quite willingly," says Zurek, "but, somehow, when the bets become macroscopic he is more reluctant to gamble." How does that happen?
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
First, the good news. Initial reports of the screen quality left me quite unprepared for the actual thing. The screen is unbelievable. Not quite paper, more like a dull plastic like look. My first impression of the device was that it was not an actual working unit, but a plastic mock up made for stores. With high contrast black text on a reflective background, the screen has a readability rivaling actual paper. The weight of the book is also quite a shock. About the weight of a long paperback, the book will be both easy on the eyes as well as very easy to hold and carry around.official Sony product link (in Japanese only)
Monday, December 20, 2004
Mr Campion draws parallels between the “scientific” historical materialism of Marx and the religious apocalyptic experience. Thus primitive communism is the Garden of Eden, the emergence of private property and the class system is the fall, the final gasps of capitalism are the last days, the proletariat are the chosen people and the socialist revolution is the second coming and the New Jerusalem.And
Science treasures its own apocalypses. The modern environmental movement appears to have borrowed only half of the apocalyptic narrative. There is a Garden of Eden (unspoilt nature), a fall (economic development), the usual moral degeneracy (it's all man's fault) and the pressing sense that the world is enjoying its final days (time is running out: please donate now!). So far, however, the green lobby does not appear to have realised it is missing the standard happy ending. Perhaps, until it does, environmentalism is destined to remain in the political margins. Everyone needs redemption.link
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Smart still retains its association with novelty, in keeping with its sense of immediacy, such that a smart scholarly project does something new and different to attract our interest among a glut of publications. In fact, "interesting" is a complementary value to smart. One might praise a reading of the cultural history of gardens in the 18th-century novel not as "sound" or "rigorous" but as "interesting" and "smart," because it makes a new and sharp connection. Rigor takes the frame of scientific proof; smart the frame of the market, which mandates interest amid a crowd of competitors. Deeming something smart, to use Kant's framework, is a judgment of taste rather than a judgment of reason. Like most judgments of taste, it is finally a measure of the people who hold it or lack it.
The promise of smart is that it purports to be a way to talk about quality in a sea of quantity. But the problem is that it internalizes the competitive ethos of the university, aiming not for the cultivation of intelligence but for individual success in the academic market. It functions something like the old shibboleth "quality of mind," which claimed to be a pure standard but frequently became a shorthand for membership in the old boys' network. It was the self-confirming taste of those who talked and thought in similar ways. The danger of smart is that it confirms the moves and mannerisms of a new and perhaps equally closed network.link
This reminds me of another quote from Huston Smith's book, Forgotten Truths: "Truth, Elie Wiesel has reminded us, is betrayed by its repetition. Insofar as things have been said, there is no need to resay them. Is there anything respecting our thesis that has not been said and needs to be said?"
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Mark Slouka's humorous article on the value of idleness from the November 2004 issue of Harper's Magazine. Equal part praise of idleness, and critique of modern American society. Ends with a social implication of a society in perpetual busyness.
QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY
On the virtues of idleness
Ah, but here's the rub: Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, requisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press. How does it do this? By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due. Which is precisely what makes idleness dangerous. All manner of things can grow out of that fallow soil.And another teaser:
Leisure is permissible, we understand, because it costs money; idleness is not, because it doesn't. Leisure is focused; whatever thinking it requires is absorbed by a certain task: sinking that putt, making that cast, watching that flat-screen TV. Idleness is unconstrained, anarchic. Leisure - particularly if it involves some kind of high-priced technology - is as American as a Fourth of July barbecue. Idleness, on the other hand, has a bad attitude. It doesn't shave; it's not a member of the team; it doesn't play well with others. It thinks too much, as my high school coach used to say. So it has to be ostracized.link
Note: There's a cute addition, History of the England, written by Jane Austen.
Updated Note: There's an enhanced 2.0 version, which could be found here. You do need Windows Vista, Windows XP with .Net 3.0, or Quicksilver. link....
So, the scan of this Diamond Sutra Scroll was found in a sealed desert cave in Dunhuang, Chinese Central Asia, along with 40,000 other scrolls, hidden and perserved. Alone with carvings, statues, and paintings.
Here is the website that is the hub for Curator, Historians, with an emphasis on digitisation. It's called, The International Dunhuang Project (IDP), which is an interesintg website on its own.
This website seems to be rich with resources and links based on discovery from Dunhuang, but 2 image archive links I suggest is:
For the more limited image archive, but more User-friendly, Tour-like format, with Curator commentary, try: link
For high-res images database, try: link
Ms. Schiltz and other patients like her are the beneficiaries of an astonishing new technology that allows one set of sensory information to substitute for another in the brain.link
Using novel electronic aids, vision can be represented on the skin, tongue or through the ears. If the sense of touch is gone from one part of the body, it can be routed to an area where touch sensations are intact. Pilots confused by foggy conditions, in which the horizon disappears, can right their aircraft by monitoring sensations on the tongue or trunk. Surgeons can feel on their tongues the tip of a probe inside a patient's body, enabling precise movements.
Friday, December 10, 2004
A simpler summary:
Scientific American: String Theory revision of the recurring Big Bang
A lengthier, more technical summary:
Scientific American: A Recycled Universe
Okay. You say, I heard it all before. However, conversely, if there's enough people who are known to never participate in violence with the crowd (like women and children), the crowd's behavior will be moderated. [Skip to 3:00 for that part]. link
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
A tantalizing quote:
In effect, as Dr. Witten put it, an extra dimension of space can mysteriously appear out of "nothing."link
The lesson, he said, may be that time and space are only illusions or approximations, emerging somehow from something more primitive and fundamental about nature, the way protons and neutrons are built of quarks.
The real secret of string theory, he said, will probably not be new symmetries, but rather a novel prescription for constructing space-time.
"It's a new aspect of the theory," Dr. Witten said. "Whether we are getting closer to the deep principle, I don't know."
As he put it in a talk in October, "It's plausible that we will someday understand string theory."
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
For more bizarre details, check out this AP wire release:
Questions Linger About Yuschenko's Illness
Update: It's official. Doctors have tested for dioxin, and it came back 6000 times normal levels. Doctors are exploring ways to eliminate the dioxins in his body. Since Dioxin settles in body fat, they are talking about liposuction or even using Olestra. However, his film stars looks will not come back. link
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Most people, most of the time, just want to get along. They'll accept a little inconvenience, ignore a few insults, and smile at people they hate if it allows them to get on with their lives. Most people on both sides of your issue just wish the issue would go away. If you're not careful, those apathetic majorities will get together and craft a compromise. And where's your revolution then?link
So your first goal as a violent extremist is not to kill your enemies, but to radicalize the apathetic majority on your side of the issue. If everyone becomes a violent extremist, then you (as one of the early violent extremists) are a leader of consequence. Conversely, if a reasonable compromise is worked out, you are a nuisance.
Although rational in many ways, the idea of considering human beings as something apart from nature is dangerous. Evolution has shaped all organisms, us included. Moreover, we are all shaped to live in particular environments. If animals are kept under unfavourable conditions their health tends to deteriorate, they typically behave oddly and appear discontent. People living in modern societies show similar ailments, as witnessed by the incidence of various maladies, including mental disorders. I believe it is possible to alleviate these problems by creating living conditions closer to those our genes are adapted to; but in order to do so, we need to accept our biological inheritance.link
Friday, October 15, 2004
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Thursday, October 07, 2004
The reality is that only about 5% of consumers make ethical decisions in their purchasing habits. Innovation by business alone will not be enough to tackle the overwhelming problems of our time, from climate change to global poverty. If we were to wait patiently for business to deliver the goods, we would all be underwater before long.In a world where consumerism is the underlying social and economic force, yet most people orient purchases detached from effects of production, unless it is factored into the price. (Examples: European governments factor in overall cost for using gasoline, as oppose to indirect subsidized gas prices in the US). Here's a Database to check up on your favorite Coporation. Responsible Shopper Database on Companies: link
New Economics Foundation
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
The big bang is often described as an event that occurred long ago, a great explosion that created the universe. In actuality, the theory says nothing about the moment of creation, which is a job for quantum physics (or metaphysics). It simply states that as far back as we can extrapolate, the cosmos has been expanding, thinning out and cooling down. The big bang is best thought of not as a singular event but as an ongoing process, a gradual molding of order out of chaos. The recent observations have given this picture a coherence it never had before.
From the perspective of life on Earth, cosmic history started with inflation--a celestial reboot that wiped out whatever came before and left the cosmos a featureless place. The universe was without form, and void. Inflation then filled it with an almost completely uniform brew of radiation. The radiation varied from place to place in an utterly random way; mathematically, it was as random as random could be.
Gradually the universe imposed order on itself. The familiar particles of matter, such as electrons and protons, condensed out of the radiation like water droplets in a cloud of steam. Sound waves coursed through the amorphous mix, giving it shape. Matter steadily wrested control of the cosmos away from radiation. Several hundred thousand years after inflation, matter declared final victory and cut itself loose from radiation.
Scientific American: Four Keys to Cosmology. Some additional proofs needed to explain the full out the big bang theory. link
Scientific American: Was Light Faster in the Past?
If matter in motion is too slow for light, why not make the speed of light faster and faster into the past? Throwing out heavyweight Einstein and his near constant speed of light is no easy task. Yet that is the burden of the new iconoclasts. Maybe they can make a cosmos with wildly varying speeds of light, and maybe they can keep the gas uniform, but they give no clear reward for so denying our well-tested Einstein on this theorist's journey into the past. Their strongest argument is the very flatness of space: it turns out that a cosmos with a changing speed of light must be a flat one and a uniform one as well, if energy is to be conserved. There is much more to be said about the untested physics of these variable vacuum light speeds. More than one form of theory is out there, to say nothing of the myriad options opened by multiple dimensions.link
Was the big bang really the beginning of time? Or did the universe exist before then? Such a question seemed almost blasphemous only a decade ago. Most cosmologists insisted that it simply made no sense--that to contemplate a time before the big bang was like asking for directions to a place north of the North Pole. But developments in theoretical physics, especially the rise of string theory, have changed their perspective. The pre-bang universe has become the latest frontier of cosmology.link
The new willingness to consider what might have happened before the bang is the latest swing of an intellectual pendulum that has rocked back and forth for millennia. In one form or another, the issue of the ultimate beginning has engaged philosophers and theologians in nearly every culture. It is entwined with a grand set of concerns, one famously encapsulated in an 1897 painting by Paul Gauguin: D'ou venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Ou allons-nous? "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" The piece depicts the cycle of birth, life and death--origin, identity and destiny for each individual--and these personal concerns connect directly to cosmic ones. We can trace our lineage back through the generations, back through our animal ancestors, to early forms of life and protolife, to the elements synthesized in the primordial universe, to the amorphous energy deposited in space before that. Does our family tree extend forever backward? Or do its roots terminate? Is the cosmos as impermanent as we are?