An experiment that was conducted aboard — or rather outside of — the International Space Station, proves that biological organisms can survive the harsh environment of space for extended periods of time. The experiment was designed investigate how human expeditions to Mars could one day sustain themselves, and how the biology of extremophiles — organisms that thrive in conditions that would be deadly to other creatures here on Earth — would fare in the harshness of space. The success of the experiment not only provided surprisingly positive results, it also offers new evidence that life on Earth may have originated from elsewhere in the cosmos.

Earth is a treasure trove of biodiversity, with over 8.7 million known species alive today, and that only represents an estimated 20 percent of all of the existing species that currently exist. But despite the sheer diversity of lifeforms, be it plant, animal, or microbe, we all share a common single-celled ancestor that started to diverge into new species 1.6 billion years ago. And because of that common ancestor, all species have a lot in common when it comes to our DNA: chimpanzees are nearly genetically identical to us; we share 69 percent of our genetic makeup with the otherwise oddball platypus; and we have even one-quarter of our code in common with rice.

Modern science assumes that our consciousness is generated solely by electro-chemical processes in the brain, a fortunate byproduct of billions of neurons recording and processing sensory information as it comes in. But that view comes into question if one take into account stories from ancient traditions of astral travel, and more modern accounts of out-of-body experiences by individuals that live at the edge of reality as we know it. But how can we determine which of these views is correct, or if there is a shade of gray involved somewhere between the two? Perhaps the answer, or maybe an even better question, can come from rare cases where otherwise normal individuals have what might be considered insufficient brain matter to properly function.

Researchers at Harvard University have built a light-sensitive, self-propelled artificial machine-organism, in the form of a tiny robot stingray. The project was done in an effort to test the feasibility of making hybrid replacement organs for human patients, such as bioartificial hearts, that could use natural muscle motions to function, as opposed to the electrical operation that today’s prosthetics require.