What does the “rocket science” refer to in this question about a startup?

Typical Y Combinator Interview Questions says:

Where is the rocket science here?

The question might be simple for Americans, but I am outside USA, and I haven’t found a reliable answer. I need clarification because I plan to translate it into Chinese for knowledge-sharing.

I guess from posts containing rocket science that it may mean silver bullet (a term used in saying “no silver bullet” from a book named The Mythical Man-Month).

Can I say that rocket science means something over-complicated that still makes people feel like it’s magical, although it is a step-by-step science?

Note: one commenter has pointed out that “silver bullet” is not “a complicated implementation”. so my guess is misleading.


Back in the 1950s and 1960s, when ballistic missile design was the cutting edge of military technology, and first the ‘missile gap’ and subsequently the ‘space race’ commanded national attention, the ‘rocket scientist’ was a cultural icon in the US.

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(Never mind that the creative imaginations in the missile and moon programs were mostly engineers rather than scientists; to the public they were all ‘scientists’, heirs to the team which produced the atomic bomb.)

‘Rocket science’ came to symbolize arcane mathematical and technological understanding.

Rocket science itself has faded into the background these days; but it has left behind the fixed phrase             

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meaning “X does not require specialist knowledge; anybody can understand the principles and perform the necessary actions”.

“Where’s the rocket science?”, then, means in this context “What technological or methodological breakthrough have you achieved which will distinguish you in the marketplace from your competitors? What have you got that they ain’t got?”

Source : Link , Question Author : pimgeek , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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