Yesterday the question How do non-mechanical solid-state optical switches work? was closed as off-topic. I don't quite understand why, as questions about physics lab equipment are considered on-topic. In this particular case it is more about identifying a physical effect and therefore of interest for a broader community.

Furthermore I think it shouldn't be migrated to electronics.SE, reverseengineering.SE or likewise, because devices like the described one are usually produced by high-tech companies which employ physicists to a large extent, hence it is quite likely that someone active on this site knows an answer to this.

The question is also not too broad – it wouldn't have 0 answers then. I would start a reopen voting if I had enough reputation on this site, because I think this question has great potential to attract a high-quality useful answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Since Wikipedia (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_switch )has answers with further links, I’m really not sure just how good the question really is. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ How is this not an engineering question? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ I read somewhere in the meta that usually if you have to cross-reference datasheets to answer a question, it's probably an engineering question. You directly linked a datasheet and asked people to attempt to identify its mode of operation, instead of identifying which physical principle you wanted to know more about. $\endgroup$
    – prolyx
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 1:03
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster By that reasoning, either on Wikipedia or in some book there are the answers to virtually all the questions and this site can well be closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 9:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It is indeed not the best question one could ask about this topic, but being answerable by a Wikipedia article this question is not an exception. The article about the magneto-optic effect is rather abstract, therefore answering the question on a less mathematical level or with a practical application would definitely be valuable. $\endgroup$
    – A. P.
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 9:33

1 Answer 1


I agree with you: while most questions about engineering are off-topic for us, we make an exception for engineering-like questions about experimental apparatus. I've retagged and reopened the question.

  • $\begingroup$ This seems like a distinction without a difference. Most components of "experimental apparatus" are not used only in laboratories. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ I strongly disagree, @alephzero. Most professional physicists are experimentalists, and an experimental physicist’s perspective about how some specific hardware accomplishes some task is different from an engineer’s perspective in subtle but important ways. Conversely, there is an instinct among non-physicists and among near-physicists to trivialize engineering concerns; this instinct is bad hygiene and leads to bad science. If I were in charge here (which I am not) our site’s question population would resemble an experimentalist’s day-to-day set of problems more than it currently does. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 17:19

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