My question was closed as off-topic because I was trying to be sure whether something was a typo or not. It involved no physics concept.

Now, I think physics.stackexchange should be broader in their mindset. The goal should be to promote physics learning overall. This could come in the form of identifying typos in a book too (without discussing any physics concepts).

The answer (or rather comment) to my question saved me some days of time and promoted my physics learning. I hope my question can be reopened and the community turns more liberal about it.

What do you all think about it?

  • $\begingroup$ Why should your question be reopened? What would a full answer to it accomplish? (FWIW, I am sympathetic to your point about allowing questions on textbook errata). $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Don't we close questions that are unproductive? As I mentioned, seeking clarification of typos is not unproductive. Also, closing such questions sends a bad signal that will prevent people from posting such questions. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ When you make a proposal for changing our policies, you should a) show awareness of prior discussion e.g. by linking other relevant questions on this meta and b) make an argument for why what you're proposing would be beneficial for the site and our goals as identified elsewhere. For instance, we generally demand that questions should be self-contained questions about physics - needing access to a specific book to even understand the question contradicts that goal, this is clearly neither self-contained nor about physics in the abstract. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ It may well be that there is an argument to be had here, but currently you make no proper argument - you just say you'd like for our site to change. You may well feel that way, but meta is about discussion and convincing others. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ "Don't we close questions that are unproductive?" Yes, but that doesn't mean that if a question is closed that it is unproductive in general. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ The flaw with this question is you did not use the rule book to show how ridiculous it was for your original question to be closed. For example, you should have quoted the literal description in the 'textbook-erratum' tag: "For questions about whether the asker or the asker's reference material is mistaken." which exactly justifies your original question asking about a confusing mistake in a book, and shows precisely that the people who closed it are ignoring the very clear and irrefutable description in the tag. $\endgroup$
    – bolbteppa
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ @bolbteppa Or it shows that the tag description needs to be clarified to describe when such questions are on topic. Tag descriptions are not the same thing as policy. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 0:06
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sure the OP will receive an apology for having had his question closed when he was only following what appeared as appeared as irrefutably clear instructions that his question was precisely in line with a tag that has been used as far back as 2011 for similar questions. $\endgroup$
    – bolbteppa
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ Undeleted my question. It could be of some use to somebody. It's still closed. :( $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Well lets hope "the community turns more liberal about it" now that their own guidelines are supposedly contradicting themselves - anybody who's studied general relativity knows how confusing it could be when a book discussing a tensor equation references a section on tensors which does not contain the tensor it's supposed to be referencing but contains other tensors (and in this case even commutators of tensors, and the tensor being asked about can also be seen as arising via commutators, I mean wow...). $\endgroup$
    – bolbteppa
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 0:31
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    $\begingroup$ @bolbteppa Just because there's a tag for something it doesn't mean that anything that can fit with the tag is on topic. We have a tensor calculus tag, but it doesn't mean we would answer a pure math tensor calculus question. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't reference any old question, I referenced the OP's specific question. $\endgroup$
    – bolbteppa
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ @bolbteppa How did you reference OP's specific question? You're just pointing to an overly vague tag. It literally says "For questions about whether the asker or the asker's reference material is mistaken". I could justify asking about a biology text or paper error, if the only thing that was considered was the tag description. Just because the tag says that, it doesn't make OP's specific question on-topic. It doesn't mean our guidelines contradict. It just means the tags don't outline the complete bounds of what is on-topic with the tag. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ Are you really arguing that you could misinterpret the tag to ask a biology question even though a biology question is literally off-topic: "Physics Stack Exchange is for active researchers, academics and students of physics and astronomy" as part of your defense for actually ignoring (and insulting) a very clearly stated tag that has been in use for nearly a decade? I think the case has been proven at this stage that the closure of this question is and was indefensible. $\endgroup$
    – bolbteppa
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ @bolbteppa Then vote to reopen the question. If other users agree then it will be reopened. You're also welcome to post an answer on this post to collect your argument. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 1:35

2 Answers 2


This question is based on a bit of a false premise.

Errata related to the concepts seems to be accepted as on-topic. See here.

The difference in this post is that you're not asking about a concept, you're asking about "what's happening" with the lack of mention of "$^{(4)} R$ in Box 8.4 (pg 202)". It's not clear what conceptual difficulty you're having.

I guess the best way I can put it is, someone can't really explain the physics behind what is happening in $^{(4)} R$ in Box 8.4 (pg 202), because that's not really a physical phenomenon, it's some sort of diagram/figure/equation printed in a textbook.

If you spelled out what was in that box, and why it didn't doesn't seem to fit your understanding of the underlying physics, and were looking for some clarity on something the book said, that's potentially on topic. Though since we seem to have figured out it's just a reference to the wrong spot in the textbook, it might not make a ton of sense.


JMac has done an excellent job at addressing your specific question that was closed. I want to address my issues with this part:

Now, I think physics.stackexchange should be broader in their mindset. The goal should be to promote physics learning overall.

This is a very subjective goal. What is "physics learning overall"? Each user will have their own idea of what "physics learning" entails and what promoting it actually involves. For example, what if I think that it is actually better for you to spend "some days of time" on this issue in order for you to develop better work ethic needed for your physics goals?

This leads to more issues. For example, working through homework problems is very useful for introductory physics students, as it helps the student learn when/how to apply physics definitions, challenges their existing physical misconceptions, etc. Does this mean that this site should become a homework help site? Would we have more "promotion of physics learning overall" if we supplied homework solutions? Or maybe the current homework-policy already promotes "physics learning overall" because it doesn't feed answers to students, which might hurt them later in their physics goals. Two users attempting to "promote physics learning overall" might implement this goal in different ways, which would lead to inconsistency in what stays and what goes.

What about pure mathematics questions that are better suited for Mathematics SE? One could argue that pure math questions "promote physics learning overall", so why don't we just combine PSE and MSE? There exists engineering, chemistry, biology, puzzle, etc. questions that "promote physics learning overall", so let's bring all of those in too. That would promote learning in all of these subject areas.

Of course I am taking this ad absurdum, but it is just to show how such a subjective goal can lead to so many different conclusions. I think the real issue here is that you don't think the question should have been closed, and so instead of learning more about the site policy and the reasons behind it you just conclude that PSE is not in favor of "promoting physics learning overall".


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