You’d be hard-pressed to find another book that starts with an image of the author jumping off a pier, fitted with a waterproof cap covered in electrodes, ready to get a rare snapshot of the human brain on water. Blue Mind is the brainchild of Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, a marine biologist, ocean advocate, and Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences. Several years ago, Blue Mind started out as a summit bringing together ocean scientists, brain scientists, tech experts, and ocean advocates. Now, Blue Mind is a book about the brain on water and it’s climbing the New York Times Best Seller list. As waterpeople, you should know about Blue Mind.
As a neuroscientist, I’m trained to read journal articles and books with a hard-nosed, fine-tooth comb in order to poke holes in the arguments and details of scientific pieces. And even with that mindset, I can say that Nichols is gutsy and brilliant. Summarizing how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) works in a little over four pages — in layperson’s terms no less — is something that most neuroscientists wouldn’t, and perhaps couldn’t, attempt. That’s like asking someone who’s only surfed for two weeks in their life to paddle out at double-overhead OB and get barreled. Yet Nichols gets barreled and he does it better than most brain experts I’ve seen, heard, or read. The utility of what Nichols does is that he connects the dots for us across research fields, making connections between the latest neuroscience research and recent findings in ecology, marine biology, psychology, and even eco-psychology. And the great part is: it’s not all science. Peppered throughout the book are personal stories about his own water experiences, as well as linkages to philosophy, poetry, and, of course, surfing.