I had asked: A game of boxes with rotating gears which was closed due to it being a "homework/check-my-work" question.

The question is NOT homework, it's an original question I had come up with. Moreover the question itself isn't "check my work" since part it is completely unclear to me how to address. And it isn't that elementary since I had done a fair bit of research on systems with balanced angular momentum already on the site and couldn't find anything at all to help met address it.

The question is about experimental design, and it feels (to me) like a solid conceptual question that is worth exploring.

Nevertheless, the community closed it because it appeared to be homework/check-my-work?

How do I change this question so it meets the communities standards?

Improvements I think I can make:

I can remove the tidbits about the wizard and make it much more direct, i thought that would have a humorous effect and make it more pleasant to read but perhaps not

I could add additional informations about the internal state of the boxes, [ex: the angular moment = K, the wheel has mass distribution ... ] but these don't REALLY add any value to the question in my opinion.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just a correction: It is not simply homework questions that are disliked on this site. It's homework-like questions. The phrasing is: "Homework-like questions and check-my-work questions". So, a question may very well be made-up and not homework and still be homework-like and thus closed. $\endgroup$
    – Steeven
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ ok i understand $\endgroup$ Commented May 18, 2020 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


I think you need to reframe the question somewhat.

If this is something you came up with yourself, it would probably be best to remove the whole puzzle aspect and weird framing. It makes it seem like it's something you've found somewhere else and are just looking for the solution to it.

I think the big thing that makes this like a homework and exercise question, is the question itself:

"How could we design an experiment to differentiate between the two?"

To me, this reads like you're just looking for a solution to an exercise presented to you, and not asking a conceptual physics question. I would at least frame the question as:

Would there be any way to tell all three apart?

Now you're asking a question about physics concepts. It's not just "How do I solve this?"; but instead, "Can this even be solved with physics?". Based on this meta question, as far as I can tell that is really what you are concerned about.

Presenting the question as if there is a known solution, and you just want it, is more of a physics exercise question than an actual question about the physics concepts, even if the answers might give you insight into the physics concepts.

  • $\begingroup$ Fair point, I'll make changes to make it more clear what my intent is, but I do wonder: why does it matter if the question looks like "how do I solve this" vs "can it be solved" after all to a reader, they'll either read it and recognize it is doable (and perhaps answer), or read it and think "i don't know" and move on, your answer implies that the question was closed because of its tone rather than its content. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @frogeyedpeas The issue is that with the content you gave us, it looks identical to an exercise-type question typed out. You basically presented the problem, showed "here's where I get stuck", and then asked "how do I solve this?". There isn't really any way to show this wasn't just a question assigned to you, and you weren't just looking for someone to tell you the answer. I can't guarantee the changes will make it on topic either, just much more likely in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ Let me know if this, in your opinion, conforms closer to what the site is looking for: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/552586/… $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ It's better, but not quite there yet IMO. In its current form after you edited, now you're just asking how to solve part of of the problem, which ismmore focused (that's good) but still has the same essential issue. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ Can you explicitly state what the issue with the question that needs to be fixed? Because at this current time I don't know actually know how to improve the question from here in a truly meaningful way. And this question has never been asked before on this site. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ I'll post an answer about that. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 21:37

With respect to the original version of the question, I agree with what JMac's answer said. Now that it's been edited (currently on revision 5), the question is definitely much closer to being suitable for this site, but I don't think it's quite there yet.

The issue, as I see it, is that you're still asking how to do a part of the problem. While that's technically better than asking how to do the whole problem, it doesn't really make a difference as far as our policy is concerned. To get a sense of why, consider a hypothetical case where someone has a homework question that asks how they can tell the difference between a solid box and a box with two counter-rotating wheels. They know that no-effort homework/exercise questions aren't allowed here, so they invent a third box with a single rotating wheel and post a question asking how to tell the difference between the boxes, showing their work on the easy parts (which they invented) to distract from the fact that they haven't put any effort into the "hard part", i.e. the actual problem they're tasked with solving. That question would be written much like v5 of yours. Now, I'm certainly not saying I think you did that, and I'm not even saying I think this is common, but I am saying that our homework-and-exercises policy would be full of holes if it allowed the modified question but not the original.

With that in mind, what I think you need to do to make the question comply with our policy is, at a minimum, show some progress and ask a specific conceptual question about the part of the question you are working on. That means that, instead of just asking how to tell the difference between the two boxes ($B_1$, solid, and $B_3$, counter-rotating wheels), come up with some experiments you can perform on the boxes and follow them through to figure out whether they would reveal a difference between $B_1$ and $B_3$. If, in the process of doing this, you get stuck and you can't tell whether an experiment would be effective because you're unsure about some physics concept, then ask your question about that.

For example, you might think about putting each box on a rotating platform, but then it might occur to you that you might inadvertently put $B_3$ on a platform in such a way that the axes of rotation of the wheels are perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the platform, and maybe you don't know how to tell whether that would affect the torque required to rotate the box. If that is the case, you should go do a bit of research about how to calculate the things you need about rotation on perpendicular axes, and if your research points you to things which you don't understand (but think you should be able to understand), or if you can't find a particular piece of information you need, then you can come back and make your question about that. (If this winds up being a hint, then I guess you can consider it your reward for patiently discussing the question on meta. I honestly don't know if this will wind up being relevant to how to solve the problem, though; I just picked something you could try that I thought would make a good example of my point.)

  • $\begingroup$ I have thought about a couple ideas such as colliding the box, twisting it, etc... but i can prove that all these strategies DO NOT WORK. It is not that they have ambiguous results and i'm stuck, I know enough to prove that they are simply unsuccessful. If I can't find a strategy with ambiguous results then am I really not allowed to ask the question at all? What if someone else has the same question, they won't be allowed to ask it either, and if they somehow do manage to find my question all they'll find is a closed question. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's pretty much the idea. If all you can ask is how to solve the problem, or for ideas of how to solve the problem, then that's simply a homework help question, not a conceptual physics question, and is off topic for this site. We do have a list of other sites, some of which focus more on homework help and might be more suitable for your question. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ This is not true of this site at all. For example look at the highest rank unanswered question on the website: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/72817/…, the template is clear: the user outlines some question. They state clearly what they do understand, and they state very clearly a problem that they DO NOT understand how to solve. This person probably has explored every "reasonable" strategy to them in whatever that area of research and is now stuck and their asking for a "how to approach". $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ I have confirmed almost identically to that template, the difference between my question and that question is my question involves much more elementary things. I'm not asking a research level question. But you can't say that "how to approach..." questions are off topic here. They are clearly very welcome. If my question is really that trivial that you think it doesn't belong here, then you can say so, and perhaps I will be frustrated, but I will have to accept your answer. . $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ If you think it would be better, I am happy to receive a criticism of "you didn't show enough effort, put down all your failed strategies and why they don't work" and maybe thats fair (and im doing that right now). But I can't seriously accept that "how to approach" is off topic, quantumcomputing.stackexchange, math.stackexchange, algorithms.stackexchange etc.. ALL accept that format, it would be very unusual for physics.stackexchange to refuse it. I get that you want to get rid of cheaters and get rid of ppl asking whats already been asked and get rid of low quality content. I'm happy to help $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2020 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @frogeyedpeas That's a pretty aggressive response. I'm reluctant to provide further guidance on this matter if that's going to be the tone of our exchange. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 0:44
  • $\begingroup$ I apologize, im just a little frustrated. $\endgroup$ Commented May 18, 2020 at 0:46

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