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I've been watching a talk about physics by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and I was left with some questions that were not addressed in the talk's Q&A session. Is it appropriate to ask those questions at Physics Stack Exchange? And, if so, is it advisable to bundle them into a single question with a single background? Or would it be better to split them into multiple related but distinct questions, each with its own copy of the common background?

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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that my answer to this question would also apply here $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 3 '18 at 15:37
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Thank you for asking. Yes, you can ask physics questions here. But do note that:

  • Questions should be as self-contained as possible. Users who did not attend the talk should be able to understand the question anyway, and without the need of relying on external sources (lecture notes, a video, etc.). All the relevant information should be in the post itself.

  • Ideally speaking1, post should contain one and only one question. You can and should open multiple threads, and ask a single question on each one. Of course, you can and should include links to the rest of threads if they are closely related (not only to help draw a more global picture of your concerns, but also for the sake of future readers). But, again, each post should be self-contained, so make sure to include all relevant information (background, context, etc.) in each of them.

  • The standard policy applies to each of the posts. For example, questions should be conceptual as opposed to, say, arithmetical: we want answers to be useful to a broader audience, so we won't flesh out a mathematical computation for you. If you don't understand a derivation, then try to pinpoint the conceptual obstruction, not the arithmetical one. Strictly mathematical questions (how to simplify this formula?) are off-topic, but they may be on-topic on Math.SE.


1: In practice, though, people usually allow several subquestions, as long as they are all part of a single "major question". It's not easy to quantitatively measure how far the subquestions can be from one another without becoming too broad -- it's one of those "you'll know when you see it" situations. When in doubt, just post the questions together and if someone thinks there are too many of them, or they are not related closely enough, they'll let you know. You can always delete some of the subquestions and open a new thread.

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  • $\begingroup$ It should be noted that ooften times we do allow for more than one question in a single post if the set are closely related. If they're distinct enough, they should go in separate posts. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Feb 3 '18 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Yes, thanks. I updated the post. $\endgroup$ – AccidentalFourierTransform Feb 3 '18 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with "When in doubt, just post the questions together". I would rather recommend asking in Physics Chat or here on meta first, if one is unsure, because it can cause problems if a post with multiple unrelated questions goes up and somebody posts an answer before the post is edited. $\endgroup$ – David Z Feb 3 '18 at 23:53
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If you're unsure about asking I recommend asking in the Physics chat room first. The chat room isn't ideal for getting lengthy and detailed answers, but it's a good way to firm up your ideas about exactly what you want to ask on the main site.

You need a rep of at least 20 to post in the chat room, but your association bonus has provided that.

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