Elon Musk has just announced his latest big idea: a rocket that will be capable of taking people from any city to any other city on Earth in under one hour.

Musk says the reusable spacecraft – codenamed “BFR” – should have a cost per seat “about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft.”

The announcement came as he was outlining another grand plan: to send people to Mars in 2024.

How does Musk think so big?

The answer is that he uses a creative thinking technique called “first principles“. Musk advises that we “boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there.”

Musk explained his use of first principles thinking in deciding to launch his company SpaceX:

“I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, OK, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. And then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around 2 percent of the typical price—which is a crazy ratio for a large mechanical product.”


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