Want to Boost Your Mental Health? Head For the Sea, Not the Mountains

Many people feel a profound connection to water, whether it's oceans, rivers, or lakes. Now, science might have found an explanation.  

Albert Einstein in a rowing boat circa 1930. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)
Albert Einstein in a rowing boat circa 1930. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

In cities all over the world the importance of green spaces are being recognized and taken advantage of. The advantages of parks are many, and include better social connections, more chances for recreational activities, and the chance of a brief escape from the concrete jungle. Some green spaces, like New York’s Central Park, are famous for the scope of their reprieve from the stresses of the modern world.


But, it seems blue is the new green.

In a recent study by Nutsford et al, a better way of reducing stress in urban populations is proposed, and found, in blue spaces. For the purposes of the study, blue spaces included watery places such as lakes, oceans, and rivers; but did not include manmade structures such as fountains.

Using national databases to determine the prevalence of green and blue space around the city of Wellington, New Zealand, the scientists were able to determine how visible each space was using a variety of methods including the location, how busy the area is, and even the topography of the region, taking things such as being stuck in a tall building surrounded by other ones as a limiting factor to how much green you can see.

The data on the visibility of blue and green spaces was then compared to answers given on the New Zealand Health Survey, which included data not only on psychological distress, but also on the socio-economic status of the population. These studies, of health and the visibility of blue and green spaces, were then compared. The results were clear: more blue lead to less stress.

Oddly, the tests showed no relation between the visibility of green space and lowered stress. This was suggested to be related to the vast amount of green space New Zealanders get to enjoy regularly. While the authors note that other studies have pointed towards the notion of blue space reducing stress, they could not rule out the notion that “blue space” was perhaps merely a better indicator of true escape from societal stress than green space. 

But wait! What if this is just an odd random thing?

To help show that this association was not random, the researchers found an interesting statistic to compare with blue spaces alongside the psychological distress one. The rate of tooth loss, a supposedly unrelated statistic. The idea being that tooth loss is associated with income and other social factors and is not thought to be associated with blue space. If there is no relation between the two, then it would suggest that the previous findings were not tied to socio-economic findings. As expected, there was no strong relationship between visibility of blue space and tooth loss, helping to validate the findings.

So, while the researchers stress the need for further study, their findings show “an association between increased blue space and reduced psychological stress,” even when accounting for other factors. This is a fantastic finding, as any way of reducing stress in our increasingly fast-paced and often psychologically ill world is needed.

Such news would not have shocked Einstein, who loved the sea and sailing on it all his life. Late in life, when he was a professor at Princeton, he was known to be a holy terror in his boat, and was known to capsize often. For Einstein, blue space was a needed retreat from stress, even if it meant undoing some of his reputation as a genius for needing to be constantly rescued. Perhaps the challenge is what he liked—his persistence is legendary, after all.  

So is blue nature the new green? Maybe not for the residents of drier climes but in places where it is feasible, increased visibility of blue spaces might be a great benefit—or what you could also infer from the study is to try to expose yourself to a different landscape than the one you're used to, as is the case of the New Zealanders with all their lush overload of greenery. While there is more to learn about this phenomenon, I for one am going to take a break and visit the lotus pound now. 

U.S. Navy controls inventions that claim to change "fabric of reality"

Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.

U.S. Navy ships

Credit: Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
  • Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
  • While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
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CRISPR therapy cures first genetic disorder inside the body

It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.

Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

UFOs: US intelligence report finds no aliens but plenty of unidentified flying objects

A new government report describes 144 sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena.

Photo by Albert Antony on Unsplash
Surprising Science

On June 25, 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a much-anticipated report on UFOs to Congress.

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