Special Knowledge


I am sitting with one of my friends at a coffee shop in San Antonio. The staff are easy going and the coffee is roasted on site. It's one of those places you visit to just chat and relax. Or at least that's the way I see it.


My buddy is a lifelong friend that loves analytical thinking and is the perfect ally to discuss things related to the science of deduction. One of the things we discussed as I nursed a Macchiato, was special knowledge. Special knowledge when discussing deductive reasoning could virtually be anything.


In the stories of Sherlock Holmes, he has the following knowledge according to Watson.


Knowledge of Literature – nil.

Knowledge of Philosophy – nil.

Knowledge of Astronomy – nil.

Knowledge of Politics – Feeble.

Knowledge of Botany – Variable.

Well up in belladonna, opium and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.

Knowledge of Geology – Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks, has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.

Knowledge of Chemistry – Profound.

Knowledge of Anatomy – Accurate, but unsystematic.

Knowledge of Sensational Literature – Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.

Plays the violin well.Is an expert singlestick player, boxer and swordsman. Has a good practical knowledge of British law. (A Study In Scarlett)


Of Sherlocks special knowledge, his knowledge about of Sensation Literature is immense. This is the one that I want to hone in on for a moment. Because Holmes is a student of crime, he is an expert on the what things he is seeing on a crime scene. Like a Pathophysiologist that is an expert on diseases Holmes has all of the sensational literature stored away in his memory banks.


How is this helpful to Holmes? When Holmes encounters a crime, he isn't always inventing what may have happened in his head. He is also drawing off of historical events that parallel the current one. So it's not so strange he reaches conclusions so quickly about some of his cases. Some of them could be virtual repeats or at least be similar enough to past ones to guide him/give him a hint as to what has transpired.


How is this helpful to us? If you want to hone your skills and become better at reading people and thinking more like Holmes, you should be spending time reading about things and situations that can help you improve your skills.


That takes me back to the coffee shop. As I am sitting there, a question comes to my mind. I ask my friend, "If I wanted to know how old this coffee shop has been here, without asking the staff, how would I know?" We discussed this for some time. Mind you, neither of us is an expert at what to look for to determine the age of the building or how long the furniture had been in place, etc...

Here are some of the things we figured would be useful in determining the age of space.


The fixtures on the wall - The fixtures on the wall came to mind for the following reason. Fixtures like light switches and plug outlets are usually installed as a finishing touch to any building in the United States. Considering the coloration of the plates as well as the style could give us a rough estimate of the age of the building. For example, when purchasing a newer plate, you would expect the plate to be a little more vibrant or even white if it had been installed within the last 5 years. Of course air quality would need to be considered in making the assessment of the age, but that's only one of the things we would look for.


The glue in under the carpet - If there is any carpet, kicking a small section of it (the carpet) to see if it moves will usually give you a small glimpse into the age of the space. No matter how good an adhesive is, elemental wear and tear accompanied by time can cause the bonds to weaken. So if the building was older, we would expect the bonds of the glue to be weak.


Of course there are more things that we could have explored to reach a conclusion about the age of the space we were in, but it dawned on me that I was pretty ignorant about things I would look for. I began to wonder, "if I was an expert in dating of buildings, what would I see that my friend didn't? What special knowledge would I acquire to make my deductions? Who in my field is exploring or could take me on a tour of what I need to know?"


This brings me to the conclusion. The science of deduction, while dedicated to learning about Sherlock Holmes' thought process, is also about the process of learning and how to learn. It's about coming up with ways to gain insights into things that we normally would bypass. In turn, this makes us more inquisitive about the world around us and how it works. What questions have you pondered about spaces you have walked into the last week? When you encounter someone for the first time, what things can you read on them that tell you who they are and where they came from? What special knowledge or skills do you need to hone to improve your craft? Ask questions, learn, and keep growing my friends.



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