Very recently a question and answer of mine was deleted [closed, Edit.] here:

Cooling of a Uniform Sphere with Convective heat loss at the boundary

The question and answer had been deleted by ACuriousMind alone (but this is not a diatribe against ACM).

I answered my own question in the spirit of this link:

It’s OK to Ask and Answer Your Own Questions

The FAQ has contained one key bit of advice from the very beginning: It’s also perfectly fine to ask and answer your own question, as long as you pretend you’re on Jeopardy! — phrase it in the form of a question. So … if you have a question that you already know the answer to…

I have applied "Q&A" that way before.

The standard, stated reason for the deletion was:

Homework-like questions and check-my-work questions are considered off-topic here, particularly when asking about specific computations instead of underlying physics concepts. Homework questions can be on-topic when they are useful to a broader audience. If you intend to modify your question, please read the links above carefully before editing. Note that answers with complete solutions may be deleted!

That definition has never sat with me very well because it's highly subjective. There are TONS of questions that make it through that filter, yet can EASILY be considered homework-like. Conversely, my question asked about a specific physics concept, concisely worded. And I provided a complete answer, because providing a partial one seemed silly here. Many of P.SE's posts make it into Google (and other SEs) where partial answers are of little value.

I believe deleting interesting, conceptual questions with correct, well-presented answers to be absurd - Kafkaesque even and contrary to the spirit of physics.stackexchange.

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    $\begingroup$ Just for precision: The question has not been deleted, only closed, and it has been closed through the standard close review by non-mod members of the site. I have deleted the answer in response to a flag by a user (the flag being that it was a complete answer to a HW-like question, which we delete here as stated in the close reason). $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, thanks. Noted. $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ So are you unclear on appropriate boundary conditions for convective cooling? As worded it basically is a ‘set up the equation I can crank through for an answer’ question. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Jon Custer Your comment truly baffles me. The question is clear and concise. Obviously I'm not 'unclear on appropriate boundary conditions', as I provided also the answer to the question. And 'cranking'? Seriously? $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ The question, as it stands, is asking how to do a thermal diffusion problem in spherical coordinates. The only possibly non-homework aspect would be if the convective boundary condition deviates dramatically from a constant temperature surface. Otherwise it is a straightforward homework problem. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ So what is your question here? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ "That definition has never sat with me very well because it's highly subjective. There are TONS of questions that make it through that filter, yet can EASILY be considered homework-like." If you see questions that aren't closed that you think should be closed, then vote to close them. I don't understand the point of "well these questions got through, so none should too." $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ Gert, you should take the time to understand @JonCuster's comment. Like everybody with <10k rep, Jon can't see the (currently deleted) answer, and is forced to evaluate the question text in isolation. The key thing is that questions (including self-answered Q&As) should be judged in isolation from any answers, and should stand on their own. I appreciate that you were trying to document a calculation that you think is valuable, but the question text as written does very much look like a "do my work for me" thread. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ (That said, I don't see the point in deleting the answer to a self-answered Q&A. The removal if complete answers to homework questions is because of a fairly narrow reason, which does not apply here.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 9:29
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty IMO having access to the answer doesn't really make me think the question is much better of a fit either... It basically runs through the question as if you already know what it's talking about and the terminology behind it. It seems like a less informative version of a textbook derivation that doesn't explain why it is doing anything. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ If you want an "analytical" solution, this is an absolutely standard application of orthogonal functions (of which the simplest case is Fourier analysis) as described in any good text on mathematical methods of physics. The answer to the specific problem should be in any good reference text, e.g. Carslaw and Jaeger: Conduction of Heat in Solids, Oxford 1947, 1959. I can't see any value in copying out some textbook theory on this site. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ All: I apologise for the lack of answers on my part. I'm physically not very well right now. I'll try to reply tomorrow, with a proposal to modify both the question and the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @alephzero This same logic could be used to close the outright majority of quantum field theory questions on this site, but none ever are. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @knzhou: my point precisely. Or look at this one: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/575040/…: every time someone brings up the damped HO, someone pastes the solution to its NEoM, without fail! The same is true with heating/cooling problems: most can (and are here) be solved with Newton's Law of Cooling $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist So what is your question here? Maybe it should be: 'why if so many banal, near-duplicates with often near-cut-and-paste answers make it through the filters, while mine got closed as a HW&E Q&A?' Which is NOT the same as asking 'reinstate my Q&A, please!' $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


I'd just like to chip in on the general idea and rationale behind closing these types of questions.

As far as I can tell, and correct me if I'm wrong, the overarching reason we close questions on StackExchange is to curb the addition of content that doesn't add value to the site. In other words, the goal is to reduce noise. In the more specific case of homework-like questions on physics.SE, there is also an additional "meta-reason" of discouraging people from seeing the site as a do-my-homework place, which might lead to an increased influx of low-effort questions, thus straining the general efforts of maintaining the quality of the site.

How do these rationales apply to the special case of Q&A-style questions? I'm referring here specifically to posts created for the purpose of sharing knowledge, in which the asker already knows the (or at least a) answer to the question.

I'm aware that some maintain that these questions should not be treated as exceptions, so that, if taking the question in isolation would lead to it being closed for lack of context or such, the fact that an answer was provided with said question should not affect its assessment.

However, I don't see why this should be the case. Why should these types of questions not be treated with different standards? After all, provided the Q&A provides any amount of useful knowledge, how does it not add value to the site?

  • The answer being provided with the question makes the context of the question (usually) pretty clear. On a similar note, the question comes with an answer attached. It's an open-and-shut case. It literally does no harm (unless one starts worrying about floods of such posts cluttering the front page... which however isn't going to happen anytime soon).

  • I'd argue that a question being very briefly put is, in the case of Q&A posts, even an advantage. If normally the lack of context would make a post harder to parse and answer in a way that reflects what the asker actually meant to ask, in the case of a Q&A this is not an issue. On the other hand, if someone happens to be looking for that piece of information in the future, the brevity of the question only makes it easier to figure out whether the question deals with what they are looking for.

  • It does not encourage people posting homework to the site. Sure, it might provide a target for someone looking for homework, but let's be honest the site will already be a primary google search result in this regard. At least Q&A questions are more likely to come with knowledgable answers.

On a similar note, I also don't see the point of deleting a self-answer to a question that was closed as homework. I understand why answers to homework-like questions are deleted, but how does the reason behind that policy apply in the case of self-answered questions?

Of course, there will be exceptions to all this, e.g. if the answer is badly put together or just plain wrong, if the asker is trying to promote personal theories, etc. But this doesn't look to be the case here.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know who down voted this and don't see why. Wasn't me, to be clear. $\endgroup$
    – Gert
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Gert that's all right, different people have different opinions (though it would be nice if they'd also voice their contrasting opinions) $\endgroup$
    – glS
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Gert People downvote anything in meta that has somewhat of an hint of opinion, even if everything else is 100% correct. Except when a moderator posts, then it is upvoted through the roof. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ @IsmaelMiguel I don't think that is the case on meta. Opinions are often welcome. Usually the down votes come with disagreement of the opinion. And moderators don't get automatic upvotes, e.g. this recent example. This post specifically is mostly opinion, so I think a down vote just means disagreement, not an issue with correct / incorrect content like on the main site $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist Far from me to say it is wrong. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this (and even upvoted it). From my experience, that's what I've seen. But it's "good" to see a counter-example. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 15:42

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