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May 20th, 2012

Rocket Science and Brain Surgery

I've been thinking about the phrases "It's not rocket science" and "It's not brain surgery." What do these statements have in common?


The implication is that the task in question is easy, and thus that rocket science and brain surgery are hard.

Science is hard.

I wonder how that belief has affected our perceptions. Does it keep kids from choosing science as a career? Does it dissuade them from taking science electives? Does it make it easier for them to give up on science?

It's not like it's common to say:
"It's not a persuasive essay."
"It's not spelling."
"It's not like signing a yearbook or birthday card." (Which to me is much harder than science.)

Although it's pretty common to say
"Easy as pie." (Have you ever tried to make a lemon meringue pie?)
"Easy as ABC, 123, do re mi, baby, you and me."

Reading and writing and 'rithmatic.

What about science? If we keep telling each other--and our kids--that it's hard, it will be.
Good teachers can make science accessible and fun.
And easy.


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Jacqueline Houtman
I'm a freelance science writer based in Madison, WI. I also write sciency fiction for kids. My award-winning debut novel, THE REINVENTION OF EDISON THOMAS, was published by Front Street/Boyds Mills Press in March 2010.

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February 2016


  • 21 Apr 2015, 21:32
    I thought The Fourteenth Goldfish might work, but apparently the grandfather learns how to reverse aging and becomes a teenager. Speculative elements not allowed on the list. I'll look into Life on…
  • (Anonymous)
    21 Apr 2015, 17:27
    Hi Jacqueline. Suzy G. here. I just got these 2 new titles in at my library: "Life On Mars" by Jennifer Brown and "The Fourteenth Goldfish" by Jennifer L. Holm. Haven't read them yet, but they look…
  • 25 Sep 2013, 21:30
    A more up-to-date listing can be found on my website:

  • (Anonymous)
    25 Sep 2013, 21:14
    According to your page nothing has been going on since 3 Feb 11. Is that true? Did the world stop and I haven't been informed?

    Not to be a pest

  • 10 Oct 2012, 21:08
    Thanks for your comment, Beth.
    It's actually a shower curtain (brand new, never used for a shower). It's the same one they use on The Big Bang Theory. I think I got mine through ThinkGeek.

    Good luck…
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