What do rocket scientists say when they want to say that something isn’t hard?

An idiom that entered the English language (or at least the U.S. dialect of it) in the latter half of the twentieth century is "it's not rocket science", meaning that something is not hard.

But what do rocket scientists say when they want to say that something isn't hard?

I actually ask this question of a mechanical engineer who works on the Sea Launch project. The answer: "Heck, most rocket science isn't rocket science."

Comments (28)
  1. Peete says:

    Where I come from, the alternative is "It’s not brain surgery!"… In fact, a TV program called Brainiac pitted a bunch of rocket scientists against some brain surgeons to do a notional "difficult task"… unfortunately I didn’t see who won!

  2. Gabe says:

    I’ve actually seen some brain surgeries. Generally speaking, it’s not rocket science.

  3. whatever says:

    a TV program called Brainiac pitted a bunch of rocket scientists against some brain surgeons to do a notional "difficult task"… unfortunately I didn’t see who won!

    They all got blown up in caravans, probably.

  4. Rob H says:

    How about "it’s just rocket science"?

  5. N. Velope says:

      In the cartoon Kim Possible, her father is a rocket scientist and her mother is a brain surgeon (who accepts cell phone calls from Kim during surgery).  

  6. MS says:

    I think what rocket scientists might say is "Well, it ain’t trying to pick up a date for Friday night!"

    (I might have stolen that from Jim Gaffigan)

  7. Nick says:

    I’m actually friends with a rocket scientist who used to work for JPL.  According to him, being a rocket scientist isn’t actually that hard.

  8. Coppertp1 says:

    The updated saying is "It’s not rocket surgery" – rocket scientists and brain surgens are more common these days, but rocket surgens are quite a rarity.

  9. divil5000@hotmail.com says:

    I know a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon. The former says "it’s not brain surgery" and the latter says "it’s not rocket science".

  10. Mike Dimmick says:

    My friend and I now say "it’s not quantum mechanics!" after I failed my Electronic Systems Engineering degree by not being able to understand that particular subject (and therefore unable to complete the Semiconductors and Optical Electronics courses).

    I transferred to Computing Science instead, which I did complete.

  11. Gabe says:

    What they should really say is, "It’s not open-heart surgery!"

    It turns out that brain surgery is just a guy poking around with a stick mostly. Many times the patient isn’t even asleep.

    Open-heart surgery, on the other hand, is extremely complicated and difficult. Many times it requires making the patient technically dead, coordinating many different people and machines.

  12. George Jansen says:

    NPR did a piece on this a few Decembers ago. It seems to me that I heard it on the same auto trip on which I heard a piece on the late Burl Ives, if that helps anyone locate it.

  13. Brian says:

    A friend of mine (a rocket scientist) has a t-shirt that says, "Actually, it is rocket science"

  14. Cooney says:

    All I know is that the next time I print business cards, they’re going to say ‘Rocket Surgeon’. That or Laser Inspector, 2nd class.

  15. bitmonk says:

    I dated a female rocket scientist once.  This question, Raymond, is not the way to win a rocket scientist’s heart.  Also, if I had to venture a guess, it would be:

     "Oh, C’mon, this isn’t even rocket science."

  16. Mikkin says:

    "There was a young fellow from Trinity,

    Who took the square root of infinity.

    But the number of digits, Gave him the fidgets;

    He dropped Math and took up Divinity."

    — George Gamow

  17. /df says:

    A few years ago, an American pundit was being interviewed on BBC radio news about some slightly technical issue — maybe WMD, or air transport security?

    "You don’t have to be a rocket scientist – although actually I am one – to see that …"

    Thus scooping the opportunity, surely desired by anyone with a technical education, to use that phrase on national radio.

  18. Iain says:

    Rocket science isn’t hard – if you throw something hard enough it will fly. Rocket engineering however …

  19. Master Zap says:

    Heh, the CD my now "dead" band – Beat Symphony – made was actually called "Rocket Sceience".


  20. jim says:

    How about "It’s not exactly debugging sporadic memory corruption problems in an embedded multi-tasking environment"?

    Gah. I wish I had an easy job like brain surgery or rocket science.

  21. poochner says:

    I think of "rocket surgery" as repairing a rocket, such as astronauts do on the ISS (using rocket loosely).  That’s a lot harder than rocket science.  I’ve heard it used in practice as repairing a system while it is in use.  Consider repairing the atmosphere system on a space craft while you still want to breathe.

    "Brain science" is understanding how the brain works.  IMHO, that’s an order of magnitude harder than brain surgery.

  22. poochner says:

    when I said "in practice" I did not mean by rocket people.  More computer oriented guys talking about swapping out system drives without dropping the users.

  23. GS says:

    … and in Russia we say "It’s not nuclear physics". Rockets have never been used that way here.

  24. JB says:

    "What do rocket scientists say when they want to say that something isn’t hard?"

    "I swear it’s never happened before…"

  25. Thom says:

    Geeze, it’s not like trying to get a date!

  26. Dave says:

    It’s not basket weaving

  27. Tanveer Badar says:

    ‘Its not heart surgery’.

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