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I just asked a question about how to figure out how fast a room will cool, and what the name for this type of problem is, so I can do more research, and potentially find the answer to it in the responses, or if someone tells me what type of problem it is, by searching Google for the right phrases and doing more reading. The question was closed as "homework" within seconds. I am not in school; I am currently very hot and trying to figure out how long it will take for the room to cool so I can get some sleep. Open window in hot room, how fast will temperature equalize?

Among other reasons I have found answers here difficult to Google for so I am hoping that by asking the question in my own words, it will be easier for others to find the answer by searching on Google.

I have tens of thousands of reputation points on other sites; I understand how Stack Exchange norms work, in a general sense. I read several pages of linked search results and related questions to see if my question had been asked before; it hadn't, as far as I could tell (all of the other answers I read about room cooling involve AC units.) I also read this question on the meta site, and edited the question I wrote to demonstrate the work I'd done. https://physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/12776/265682

I am just curious about the underlying moderation principle. Why would this question be marked as on-topic, if mine is marked as off topic? How quickly does the temperature rise in a water container submerged in a hot water bath?

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    $\begingroup$ For reference, the completed reopen review. Note that additional voters could still choose to reopen the question. $\endgroup$ – rob May 27 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ IMO, this question is worth reopening (and I voted to do so). If we look at the most upvoted question on PSE, it's also quite similar (not from the physics POV, of course), and I consider that question's acceptance as a reason to reopen this question as well. $\endgroup$ – user258881 May 27 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ "Why would this question be marked as on-topic, if mine is marked as off topic?" I will note that you can probably find many instances of this exact thing happening. Whether or not a question is closed depends on a lot of factors, such as which users see it, who decides to VTC, who accesses the close queue, etc. Especially in this case had the moderator not seen this question then who knows where we would be at? So while looking at closed vs unclosed questions can be used to learn about the site policies, just beware that the policies are not applied equally and uniformly at all times. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist May 27 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ If your question is reopened, answers could talk about the behaviour of gases, the effect of humidity on the heat capacity of air, Newton's law of cooling, etc. But we couldn't give you the formula you want, you'd need to talk to engineers for that. $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring May 27 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ I personally would have voted-to-close as it’s probably better suited for engineering. Your answer already gives the physics principle, but the details on humidity etc make it IMO an engineering problem. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero May 27 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring and also the heat kept in the walls of the building and their black body radatiion is part of the physics $\endgroup$ – anna v May 28 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ "The question was closed as "homework" within seconds. I am not in school" - while your question may or may not have been closed improperly as homework-like, it certainly wasn't closed for being homework per se. FWIW, when I read the question title and the quoted sentence, all I see is that you're complaining that your question was closed for being literally homework. It wasn't. Also, your question has just now been reopened. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri May 28 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ well, it was closed again as five people thought it is an engineering problem. :( $\endgroup$ – anna v May 31 at 13:02
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I can't speak for the moderator who closed the question, but I will point out a part of the closure banner:

Homework-like$^*$ questions and check-my-work questions are considered off-topic here, particularly when asking about specific computations instead of underlying physics concepts. (Emphasis mine)

Your question is asking for a formula or specific computation of the time it takes for something to reach a certain temperature. You are not asking about the underlying physical processes that would cause this to happen. Something that I think would be more on-topic is if you were asking how hot air and cold air come to equilibrium or why certain properties of the air (temperature, volume, humidity, heat capacity etc.) affect the time it takes to reach equilibrium.

Is this view too strict? Possibly. I am just giving my opinion here (I did vote to keep the question closed). IMO I tend to be one of the more stricter users when it comes to question closure. If other users think it should be opened, that is fine too. This is why we have the voting process in place.


In regards to the question you link to, I think that one should have been closed as well. If not for the same reason yours was, for the reason that it is not focused. It asks multiple questions in a single post, which is also a closure reason.

Moving some of my comments on this post to my answer:

Some things to keep in mind

  1. The site policies as well as the users' implementation of them have changed over time, so the older the question the more likely it is that it could have been handled much differently then than now.

  2. You can always find examples of pairs of similar questions where one was closed and the other was not. Whether or not a question is closed depends on a lot of factors, such as which users see it, who decides to VTC, who accesses the close queue, etc. Especially in this case had the moderator not seen this question then who knows where we would be at?

Therefore, while comparing questions can be useful, I don't think we can always just say "well this one wasn't closed, so mine shouldn't be either". For example, there are instances of actual homework questions (nearly a copy and paste from the text book) that just don't get closed for whatever reason. Should we allow all homework questions? I don't think anyone would say so.


$^*$This says "homework-like", not "homework". Therefore, whether or not you are in school is irrelevant here.

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    $\begingroup$ What about this question? With 711 net upvotes, I don't believe it is worth closing, however it also asks for a mathematical model about the cooling of a cup (along with the usual qualitative arguments) and, in this respect, is very similar to the OP's question. So, could you please justify this? $\endgroup$ – user258881 May 27 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @FakeMod I would vote to close that one too... Some things to keep in mind though 1) The site policies as well as the users' implementation of them have changed over time, so the older the question the more likely it is that it could have been handled much differently then than now. 2) Like I commented on the main site, you can always find examples of pairs of similar questions where one was closed and the other was not. While comparing questions can be useful, I don't think we can always just say "well this one wasn't closed, so mine shouldn't be either". $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist May 27 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ For example, there are many actual homework questions that just don't get closed for whatever reason. Should we allow all homework questions? I don't think anyone would say so. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist May 27 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Alright, yeah, so, I don't have any problem with the OP's closure if the most upvoted question is also close-worthy. I was under the impression that the most upvoted question was not close-worthy at all. But your comment clears up the reason why it probably wasn't closed then. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – user258881 May 27 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ @FakeMod at the time the "coffee" question was posted PSE was not invaded by homework questions. Things have evolved since then. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero May 27 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ @FakeMod The coffee-cup question cannot be compared to anything else on the site, since it was the target of an effect that's vastly more distorting than the HNQ -- it was linked to from xkcd. If your interpretation of its metrics (view count, question and answer scores) does not take this into account, then your interpretation is basically guaranteed to be faulty. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 28 at 8:01

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