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Rocket Science vs Brain Surgery – Who’s Really Smarter?

December 23, 2021

Written by Clay Smith

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I don’t know about you, but I am ready for the holidays and don’t want to write anything serious. So, we are devoting our time today to answering one of life’s great questions – are neurosurgeons or aerospace engineers smarter?

Why does this matter?
”It’s not rocket science.” “It’s not brain surgery.” I’ve noticed no one ever says, “It’s not emergency medicine,” alas. This Christmas edition of the BMJ is committed to answering this age old question. So, who really is smarter?

“It’s not being a mom of seven children…”
This was a comparison of aerospace engineers and neurosurgeons who all took Cognitron’s Great British Intelligence Test (yes, this is a real thing apparently). Turns out, the answer to this question is more nuanced than one might think. If you’re looking for problem solving, the neurosurgeons won. But if you want mental manipulation and attention, the aerospace engineers beat out the brain surgeons. Compared to the general population, neurosurgeons were faster at problem solving, but memory recall was slower. So, the brain surgeon can figure out what to do in the OR but may not remember your name. That’s not a bad trade off. The authors propose that maybe we should just say, “It’s a walk in the park.”

Oh well, if they did a test on who could intubate upside down using duct tape, I think we all know who would win 🙂 .

“It’s not rocket science” and “It’s not brain surgery”-“It’s a walk in the park”: prospective comparative study. BMJ. 2021 Dec 13;375:e067883. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-067883.

What are your thoughts?