I have posted this answer to this question, and it was deleted as a "complete answer".

I don't think can be counted as a complete answer, as I left out all the mathematical details to the OP.

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    $\begingroup$ Honestly, I don't think this is a homework question -- I think it should be reopened. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2020 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Re "I don't think can should be counted..."?: Do you mean "I don't think it should be counted..."? Or "I don't think it can be counted..."? Or something else? Please respond by editing your answer, not here in comments. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2020 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty It might not be assigned homework, but it certainly is an exercise, and the question isn't really asking to understand any physics concepts. $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2020 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty Even if you might not think it is a homework like question (which it is, IMO), it should still stay closed because it is more relevant to Math SE than to Physics SE. So, even if it's reopened, ideally it should be migrated to Math SE. $\endgroup$
    – user258881
    Jun 26, 2020 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @FakeMod Actually I disagree, I do think the question has enough physical context to be on topic here. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jun 26, 2020 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that this reads like an exercise, and for me the conceptual content is quite clear, as is the physics context. (And, in any case, closing as HW because it belongs in MSE instead of migrating it is hardly helpful to OP.) $\endgroup$ Jun 26, 2020 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty The question as phrased now is borderline but it would easy be converted into a conceptual (and probably quite good) question. The current answer of the OP however is not terribly helpful, although I don’t think it is a full solution: the OP does make a valid point that if one provides too many details it’s a full solution while if one provides a general comment it’s not that useful. In any event, IMO this is a bit of a storm in a teapot. $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2020 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Zero I agree about the storm in a teapot =). $\endgroup$ Jun 27, 2020 at 18:28

2 Answers 2


If the answer is "it's not possible", then you have supplied a full solution. However, if you think the answer should be there then raise a custom flag explaining why you think so. A moderator will review it and decide if your answer should come back or not.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this roughly covers why I deleted the answer. I could post my own answer here but I'm not sure I'd have very much to add beyond what you wrote here. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jun 26, 2020 at 19:30

I missed the original question, answers, as well as this discussion. I just discover them now, after the request for reopening vote.

I have read more than once all related material and I think this is a good case to discuss a little more in general, with respect to this specific case, how the site policy about homework-like question is implemented. Notice that I am not discussing the policy itself. Just its application.

The first observation is that it is not clear to me why this question was originally classified as homework-like. It is true that the form of the request was apparently stressing more the mathematical side of the problem and that the OP wrote that he/she tried to obtain a function relation without succeeding, thus exposing the question to the possible classification of homework.

However, I think that in a case like the present, the border between homework-like and conceptual question is not well definite. And even the border between Physics and Math is not always clear. Physics SE contains many accepted questions and answers on QM or GR topics which could easily be classified as pure math.

Let me explain better my point of view.

The original question was analyzing a particular case, by trying to obtain an answer by brute force. That is something in the direction of a homework-like question. However, it is not difficult to see how it could be recast in the form of a perfectly admissible conceptual question for the Physics site. It would be enough to stress i) the interest in Physics for obtaining a phase space portrait of classical motions and ii) the fact that the case of the damped harmonic oscillator is an example of the more general question about the conditions on the motion which allow to get a functional dependence of the velocity on the position.

Was this the intention of the OP? We cannot know. Maybe it was a real homework or the OP has not enough experience to drive the attention to the underlying conceptual problem. But even if the original question was really originating from a homework (please, take onto account that the tag homework was not put by the OP), still I do not see why people answering to the question could not have been able to provide a conceptual, general answer. By the way, this could be the simplest method to avoid providing a complete answer to the specific problem. In this respect, I think that a behavior more consistent with the reasons for our policy against home-work like questions, in a borderline case like the present, would be not to close the question if there is any chance that it could trigger good conceptual answers. I would rather check the kind and quality of the answers.

  • $\begingroup$ "However, it is not difficult to see how it could be recast in the form of a perfectly admissible conceptual question for the Physics site." This could be said about any question closed for violating the homework-like question policy. Therefore, this reason cannot count towards keeping the question open / reopening the question. It is the job of the OP to recast the question in the form of a perfectly admissible conceptual question for the Physics site, and then the question can stay open / be reopened. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ "I would rather check the kind and quality of the answers." Same thing here. I could take a question well-deserving of being closed and still type up an excellent, eloquent answer that hits all of the concepts without supplying any solutions to the problem at hand. The question would still need to be closed. Questions should be judged based on the question itself, not the answers one thinks it could/should obtain. Deciding on opening / closing in this regard is very subjective, and would be hard to be consistent with. "Why do you think my question can't get good answers, but that one can"? $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist There are questions such that everybody would judge them as homework-like and others where such classification is doubtful or in any case subjective. I am only interested to discuss this last kind of question. Notice that there is an evident asymmetry: borderline questions may be closed even in the presence of excellent answers, while poor or even wrong answers remain forever (the only penalty being the number of downvotes). I am not sure that this is the best way to improve the quality of the site. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, there are borderline cases. But I don't think how to decide which side of the border they belong on is the potential for it to be edited to be better or the potential of it to get good answers. Also, if borderline questions have good answers and are closed, then the answers still remain for all to view. If bad answers are posted then they should be down voted, and all users will see that the answer is bad because of those down votes. Bad answers that have down votes doesn't hurt the site. Bad answers that are up voted is the issue. I don't see any problems in the asymmetry you quote. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2020 at 15:19

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