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A lot of the most popular questions (viz. those with many views and highly voted answers) here on Physics SE (main site) are simple questions: Why does the cream of an Oreo stick to one cookie? Why is a steel ball more likely to break glass than a pillow is?

They can be answered simply, with basic mechanics, or they can be answered in depth with numerical estimates and attempts to model quantities with equations (kind of like the xkcd what-if articles).

When answering questions, are we expected to:

  • Give the greatest detail that exists, and mention edge cases

  • Simplify as far as possible

  • Or use our discretion to judge the OP's background and answer accordingly?

I'm somewhat new here... have I misunderstood our objective while answering?

Edit: I've changed the words used to describe 'popular science-like' questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Re: most popular questions (many views + votes), those are usually come from thousands of HNQ visitors that can only upvote from assoc. bonus rep but don't have enough rep to downvote, thus the skewed voting. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Jun 8, 2018 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. That's a minor point. More importantly, they're 'popular science', i.e. everyday, relatable stuff which everyone sees and upvotes thinking 'hey, me too!', and because the answers are frequently not technically rigorous. But I don't mean to insult them, because they actually attract some incredible answers (look at Floris's top voted posts, they're awesome). $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Jun 8, 2018 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ Fair point. David Z's answer is correct that there's no expected level of detail, though a good answer is an answer that can cater to everyone, from beginner to advance :) $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Jun 8, 2018 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. That's right; I really like answers that are divided into a brief outline and a detailed description. The outline can cover the fundamentals, the description goes deeper. $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Jun 8, 2018 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ "How detailed should answers be"? Strongly resisting the temptation to add a single-word (joke) answer: "Appropriately" !! $\endgroup$
    – 299792458
    Jun 8, 2018 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDarkSide That's a legitimate answer; I wouldn't consider that a joke. That's technically the essence of point three in the question: measure the OP's background and the complexity of the question, and respond appropriately. $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Jun 9, 2018 at 4:15

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In most cases, you can answer a question anywhere along the spectrum from concise to intricately detailed, and it can be a valid answer. So you're not "expected to" do any of these things. You can write an answer with whatever level of detail you find reasonable. If a question winds up with several different, correct answers at varying levels of detail, that's generally a good thing.

Of course, voters may consider a detailed answer to be better than a concise one, or vice versa, and vote accordingly.

By the way, this applies to all questions, not only to the simple, popular ones you mentioned.

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