In German Language and Usage we just had the question German analog for “That's no rocket science”. As a native German Speaker, I do not know which situations this phrase is used in. I understand it means the problem isn't too difficult. But can I conclude something about the time needed to solve the problem? Can it for example be used when simple and almost boring repeated effort is needed to solve the problem?

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    In American English, you would probably say instead, "It's not rocket science." – mkennedy Aug 6 '11 at 18:44
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    @bernd_k... If you want to run with the newest derevation of that phrase, ask the German community to create an analog for "It's not rocket surgery"... A cross of "rocket science" and "brain surgery" that's used in the same way. – Rikon Aug 6 '11 at 21:46
  • @Rikon A translation would not differentiate between these minor variations. – bernd_k Aug 7 '11 at 11:15
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    I'm an American. I'd use either "That's no rocket science" or "It's not rocket science." Both are correct, and sound familiar to my ear. – narx Aug 7 '11 at 17:02
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    As a native English speaker (i.e. I'm English) "It's not rocket science" sounds more idiomatic than "That's no...". But that should probably be a separate discussion. – Dominic Cronin Jan 19 '13 at 22:28

Your understanding is correct. "That's no rocket science" simply means "That problem is easy or straightforward." In other words, you do not have to be a rocket scientist to solve it. It does not really carry any more information than that.

Incidentally "He is no rocket scientist" usually means "He is not exactly dumb, but not too bright either".

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  • Was wondering, is Rocket science really that much tougher than other High Tech disciplines:) I think the phrase should be something like, "It's not trying to find cure for AIDS". At least, there are some guys who already made rockets ;) – Shamim Aug 7 '11 at 7:36
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    @Gunner: that's why we have "it's not brain surgery" as an alternative. Rocket science and brain surgery are on the border of "can do". – MSalters Aug 8 '11 at 9:33
  • I disagree, "that's no rocket science" doesn't simply means "that problem is easy or straightforward." Use of the phrase would generally imply criticism in exactly the same way as "he is no rocket scientist". In saying "that's no rocket science", there's an implication that less than adequate intellect was brought to bear. – Beetroot-Beetroot Jan 8 '13 at 23:12
  • @Gunner - I routinely joke with people that "rocket science" is something from the 1940's, so now we should describe it differently. Whatever! – Dominic Cronin Jan 19 '13 at 22:29
  • @DominicCronin Rocket science is even more relevant to your life now than it would have been in the 40s. – deadly Jan 19 '13 at 23:11

In addition to the usages given by Dima there are a few creative implications to using this phrase.

For example you can use it to suggest that normal Joe could do something himself. "Come on Joe just get in there and do it, it's not rocket science."

It is also used in reference to past scenarios that mystify people but all the clues are there and they just aren't thinking straight. You can imply that they should have thought of that themselves by saying "it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out ..."

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The phrase "That's no rocket science" or "It's not rocket science" refers to activities that are not complicated, and thus aren't difficult to do.

It does not necessarily refer to the time one takes to complete the task.

  • Cleaning a car properly may take two hours, but it's not rocket science (you just follow the steps one by one, and it's easily doable, even though it may take some time.)

  • Deleting an email is also not rocket science (you click once, and it's done).

In other words, the phrase generally refers to any activity that does not take too much "brain" work to complete, no matter how long it takes to do.

It's used often to put down or make light of a task/situation:

A: "Can you help me do this-task-that-is-difficult-for-me?

B: "Oh, just go do it. It's not rocket science. Go figure it out!"

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