The Best Way to Really Learn Something....

... is to write a book. No doubt you already know that, if you want to insure that you understand technical material, then there is no better way to do so than to teach it to someone else. But writing a book brings your credibility as an authority to a whole new level.

If the thought of thousands of people relying on your writing to fill in their knowledge gaps is not frightening enough, just remember that the book with your name on the cover will be around for many years—probably even after you're long gone. Mess it up and you're toast for at least one more generation.

I've discovered this truism first hand as I have dived into writing my book in instrumentation. No, I did not decide that writing a book on water quality instrumentation was the most effective way for me to shore up my gaps of understanding. I really did fancy myself as somewhat of an authority on instrumentation. Well, I am now about 15% of the way through with the book—I am currently wrapping up the chapter on ORP measurement. And I've come to a fundamental understanding of this sensor that was a little hazy in spots before.

For instance, a pH probe and an ORP probe only differ from the process electrode. Everything else right down to the circuity that powers and reads them these probes is identical. Of course they measure two different parameters. But I did not have an appreciation for the fact that they are fundamentally different sensors. One—pH—is potentiometric and the other—ORP—is amperometric. An electrical engineer might model them as opposite ends of an impedance curve but they really are based on two totally different chemical phenomena.

In the six short weeks since I started writing my book this is what I've learned:

  1. To truly understand something one must be like the obnoxious child who incessantly asks "Why?" after you've answered his every question.
  2. The best way to think my way out of a problem is to go for a run. My pace suffers horribly but I always have an epiphany.
  3. Every time I feel dumb for missing something that should be obvious I find that most other writers miss it too.
  4. Wisdom does not come from knowing the answer. Wisdom comes from knowing what question to ask.
  5. Every time I find the answer to a question another question takes its place.
  6. Every time I make an assumption I discover that the assumption is wrong.
  7. What in God's name did we do before Google?

I have to go now. I have a little problem and my running shoes are waiting for me.