The Seven Secrets of How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist

Jim Longuski: The Seven Secrets of How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist pdf

“This is a book for the The Seven Secrets of How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist PDF armchair thinker. There are no equations, no syllogisms, and no exercises with the solutions at the back of the book. It is written not for rocket scientists (although they might enjoy it, too) but for the non-rocket scientist.

Before I wrote this book, I asked a number of people what they hoped to find in a book about how to think like a rocket scientist. “Do you want to know what rocket scientists actually think about and have it translated into ordinary language?” I asked, and everyone said, “No.”

“Then would you prefer to know the methods that rocket scientists use—not the content—expressed in a way that you could apply to your everyday life?” And then everyone said, “Yes.” The book you are holding does just that. (Mostly.)

Let me tell you the first secret about rocket scientists. They are not in it for the money. They are in it for the fim. They are the biggest dreamers on Earth because they dream on a cosmic scale. And they love sci-fi books and movies. Sometimes, the dopier the movie, the better they like it.

That’s why I start Part I with “Dream.” Dreaming about space travel is what makes rocket scientists tick. I end with Part VII, “Do,” because the best part about rocket science is when those dreams come true. I give seven secrets of how to think like a rocket scientist as active verbs: “Dream,” “Judge,” “Ask,” “Check,” “Simplify,” “Optimize,” and “Do.”

I talk about how we can all use some of the thinking techniques that rocket scientists learned from the extraordinary challenges of space exploration. This doesn’t mean that rocket scientists are all geniuses or that they never make mistakes. They have been humbled often enough by catastrophic explosions, destruction of billion-dollar satellites, and loss of life.

A great deal of effort is put into avoiding mistakes because mistakes are so costly. But some of the greatest lessons came from the worst failures. The best known rule of thumb in the space business is Murphy’s law: “If something can go wrong—it will!” Space history revolves around the struggle of beating Murphy’s law.

In this book, I have written several short chapters about each of the seven secrets of how to think like a rocket scientist. I illustrate the principles with anecdotes, quotations and biographical sketches of famous scientists, ideas from sci-fi, personal stories and insights, and occasionally a bit of space history. At the back of the book, I give, not the solutions to brain teasers, but instead a list of imagination builders: my list of the greatest science fiction movies of the twentieth century. (The jury is still out on the twenty-first century.) I also provide a Recommended Reading and Bibliography list….”



  • Chapter 1: Imagine It
  • Chapter 2:Work on the Big Picture
  • Chapter 3: Aim High
  • Chapter 4: BS!
  • Chapter 5: Brainstorm
  • Chapter 6: Create Desire
  • Chapter 7: Tell a Story
  • Chapter 8: Sleep on It
  • Chapter 9: Think JFK


  • Chapter 10: Get Real
  • Chapter 11: Play Games
  • Chapter 12: Simulate It
  • Chapter 13: Run a Thought Experiment
  • Chapter 14: Know Your Limits
  • Chapter 15: Weigh Ideas


  • Chapter 16: Ask Dumb Questions
  • Chapter 17: Ask Big Questions
  • Chapter 18: Ask “What If?”
  • Chapter 19: Ask: “Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?”
  • Chapter 20: Ask Just One More Question


  • Chapter 21: Prove Yourself Wrong
  • Chapter 22: Inspect for Defects
  • Chapter 23: Have a Backup Plan
  • Chapter 24: Do a Sanity Test
  • Chapter 25: Check Your Arithmetic
  • Chapter 26: Know the Risks
  • Chapter 27: Question Your Assumptions


  • Chapter 28:Keep It Simple, Stupid
  • Chapter 29: Draw a Picture
  • Chapter 30: Make a Mock-up
  • Chapter 31: Name the Beasts
  • Chapter 32: Look at the Little Picture
  • Chapter 33: Do the Math
  • Chapter 34: Apply Occam’s Razor


  • Chapter 35: Minimize the Cost
  • Chapter 36: Minimize the Time
  • Chapter 37: Be Mr. Spock
  • Chapter 38: Make It Faster, Better, Cheaper (But Not All Three!)
  • Chapter 39: Know When Bigger Is Better
  • Chapter 40: Let Form Follow Function
  • Chapter 41: Pick the Best People
  • Chapter 42: Make Small Improvements


  • Chapter 43: Learn by Doing
  • Chapter 44: Sharpen Your Axe
  •  Chapter 45: Correct It on the Way
  • Chapter 46: Do Something
  • Chapter 47: Don’t Ignore Trends
  • Chapter 48: Work on Your Average Performance
  • Chapter 49: Look Behind You
  • Chapter 50: Learn from Your Mistakes

Language: English
Pages: 148