For those of us who would like to gain high-level competence in any profession, it’s helpful – at the least, and perhaps critical – to explore many of the branches of the tree of knowledge.

Professional athletes study nutrition and most probably keep up on the latest research in fitness. One of my colleagues has kept up on the latest developments in his technical field, but he has also indulged a long and sustained interest in astronomy and the new telescopes and other devices that make it possible. Obviously, his understanding of astronomy is enhanced by his years as a mechanical engineer.

My understanding of the activities of groups of people along the spectrum of political units (local, state, national, regional, etc.) is enhanced by my knowledge of boundary-energy concepts in metallurgical thermodynamics. I see the necessity to have border patrol and a military as part of the “cost” of expending the energy to maintain the boundaries of our governmental units.

My hobby of mushroom hunting and mycology has informed a new understanding of environmental damage categories in metallic and polymeric materials. I see fungal damage as a type of corrosion.

Of course, we can reach a point where we know enough to be dangerous. If we know that such a point of knowledge acquisition exists, we can take steps to limit the damage we might cause.

The key branch of knowledge here is epistemology. I like to say it’s about knowing HOW we know what we think we know.

071322-Aliya-1.jpgFig. 1. How do you see the “Tree of Knowledge”? For each tree shown, which branch represents the philosophical discipline of epistemology?