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I would like to discuss the policy around asking questions which are intended as setups for a joke. I searched through the meta, and didn't see anything about this directly, so I would like to gauge the community opinion on this.

For an example of what I am talking about, see today's question Two cats on a roof. This question was asked and answered at the same time by the OP, and it is clear that the question is indeed a physics related joke.

Although it is related to physics, I don't think such questions and answers are really useful to the purpose of this site, which is to share knowledge of physics concepts; not to share physics humour. The only reason I second guess it at all is because both the question and the answer seem to have a net positive reception. I assume this is just because people found it "fun"; but having more community opinions on this would help clear up how we should approach such questions and answers.

Please, if you have an opinion one way or another on this, I would be interested in hearing your opinions and seeing what the community consensus is.

I had expected this to be a duplicate, but the closest I could find was Policy regarding intentionally counter-productive users, which isn't really the same situation.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: We hate fun $\endgroup$ – rob Dec 17 '19 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ It should be noted that a positive score should not be the metric for allowing a post to remain on the site. Many new users without an understanding of the site's dynamics and intentions can give a positive score to a post without that post actually being a good fit for the site. I have seen a number of times where a question with a score higher than 20 was shown to be off-topic or otherwise unfit and was subsequently closed. Usually because it is not about physics or is an interesting homework problem asking for a full solution $\endgroup$ – Jim Dec 17 '19 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim That seems worth turning into an answer. $\endgroup$ – rob Dec 18 '19 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ @rob it's not really an answer to the question. My comment didn't address the issue of joke posts, it just clarified a separate issue within the question $\endgroup$ – Jim Dec 18 '19 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ The post in question is gone. Quotes would be nice $\endgroup$ – Mars Dec 27 '19 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ Is there a place for a community wiki faq with all of the (as @pm-2ring described them below Aaron's answer) "good mnemonic" jokes? I can't be the only person who finds a good mnemonic helpful, and the funny ones stick better. Apologies if there is one and I missed it .. $\endgroup$ – Will Crawford Dec 27 '19 at 23:58
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Although it is related to physics, I don't think such questions and answers are really useful to the purpose of this site, which is to share knowledge of physics concepts; not to share physics humor.

I will say that the question itself doesn't point to it being a joke. And as I've seen many people discuss on meta before, a question should be judged on its own, not based on the answers it has/may receive/received. With that being said, I would choose to judge it like any other question. It appears to me to be an unclear homework problem. More information is needed, and it doesn't ask about understanding any physics concepts. Therefore, it deserves to be closed on those grounds alone.

The only reason I second guess it at all is because both the question and the answer seem to have a net positive reception. I assume this is just because people found it "fun"; but having more community opinions on this would help clear up how we should approach such questions and answers.

Since the answer by the OP shows that the post was intended to be a joke, I agree with you that this adds an additional "off-topicness" to the question. However, there isn't anything that says good public reception should prevent a question from being closed. If that were the case then many other types of questions sound be allowed that are actually quite good questions, yet not on topic for this site.$^*$ Overall, I think the question should have been closed, and physics jokes are not a valid use of this site. That is what the chat, social media, etc. are for.

In addition, I have also flagged any non-serious answers to the question, since they are not answers to the physics problem. The fact that the OP replied with a joke should not be grounds for other users to post poor, joke answers.


$^*$ For example, the really tricky/interesting physics problems that get a lot of good attention for the challenge. Yet the only thing that was posted was the question without any initial work, questioning understanding of physics concepts, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Note: closed questions can't reach HNQ. $\endgroup$ – rob Dec 17 '19 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @rob Yes you are right. For some reason I was having cognitive dissonance where I knew it was closed yet thought it was not at the same time. Will edit :) $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Dec 17 '19 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ It was both closed and not-closed until the smaller cat said $\mu$. $\endgroup$ – rob Dec 17 '19 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @rob Stop it, that is too much fun $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Dec 17 '19 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, it's just a silly pun. OTOH, it has mnemonic value: after hearing this joke many years ago I've never forgotten that $\mu$ is the coefficient of friction. ;) $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Dec 17 '19 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Right. I don't hate the joke. A question on Physics SE is just not the place for it. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Dec 17 '19 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ If you've heard the joke before, the question actually reads very much like a joke... $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Dec 17 '19 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ I tend to agree that it's off-topic, as I indicated in a comment on the OP's self-answer. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Dec 17 '19 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos This is true. That is why I discussed it from both points of view in my answer $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Dec 17 '19 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Anecdotally, I've never heard this before and also always remembered that the coefficient of friction was mu. $\endgroup$ – JMac Dec 17 '19 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JMac I have heard this joke, but I had forgotten about it, and thus remembered this fact without the joke :) $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Dec 17 '19 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ What kinda gets me about it is that OP says in the question "I've tried to figure it out, but I can't figure out any way to tell which cat falls off first." as if they are trying to frame it as a legitimate question... but they also chose to post an answer with the question since they both have the same timestamp. I'm not sure the benefit of lying about not being able to solve the question in the question body. $\endgroup$ – JMac Dec 17 '19 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Niels laughs the physics laugh: R dR dR d(theta) $\endgroup$ – niels nielsen Dec 18 '19 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @nielsnielsen how are you pronouncing d(theta) there? $\endgroup$ – Will Crawford Dec 24 '19 at 18:09
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    $\begingroup$ @WillCrawford, "arr dee arr dee arr dee theta" $\endgroup$ – niels nielsen Dec 24 '19 at 19:10

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