On the question Why is the center of a torch beam visible even through an opaque body like my finger?, the OP started a bounty stating

I really need this material to answer my entrance examination for BSc. and I can't find this answer anywhere online.

I don't really think we should be answering entrance-exam questions on Physics.SE. However, since the question now has an open bounty on it, I couldn't cast a close vote on it.

I've flagged this for a moderator's attention, but I have two questions that I'd be interested in knowing the community's opinion about:

  • This is more of a conceptual question (the type of question we "like") than a question about how to work through a specific problem. The rationale for closing homework-like problems is that they're not really useful to future users, whereas more conceptual questions often are. If an OP asks a conceptual question that is based on a homework/exam problem, should it still be closed under this rationale?

  • Should bountied questions be immune from close votes? Is this something that we can control for our stack only, or is it "baked in" to the whole StackExchange ecosystem?


[moderator hat off: personal opinion]

We don’t close homework-like questions based on where they are from. We close homework-like questions when they are about doing some single-purpose computation (what is this coefficient of friction, where have I lost my minus sign) versus conceptual questions (why does energy work like this, why do approach A and and approach B give conflicting results).

One use of this policy to prevent rules-lawyers from keeping low-quality questions open by saying things like “This question isn’t homework! I’m not a student! I have an abiding personal interest in this hypothetical coefficient of friction!”. But another use, more important in the long term, is to encourage askers to re-frame their questions in ways that are acceptable to us. This is probably more helpful to the askers in the long term than an answer to their immediate question, though the fraction of low-effort homework-askers who engage in this way is pretty small.

That is, we have an origin-free definition of what makes a question homework-like, which we tend to use to close or improve bad questions. I don’t think it’s consistent with this policy to close a good question because additional information has been revealed about its origin, so I think the linked question should remain open.

  • $\begingroup$ Why should they bounty depend on the origin though? If the user had just said they want more attention and better answers the bounty would have been fine, right? $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 4 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ One compromise we previously used to deal with on-topic homework questions, if the user admitted they were for an assignment, was to close the question and temporarily delete any complete answers, then (manually) restore the answers after a couple of weeks. That way the site eventually got the useful content, while reducing the chances we were enabling a student to misrepresent their intellectual effort. That compromise action been rare in recent years, because the number of homework-ish questions which survive the roomba without a good answer is vanishingly small. ... $\endgroup$ – rob Mar 4 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ ... To have a question temporarily "featured" via a bounty which says "I need this for an exam" feels like the exact opposite of the spirit of that compromise. $\endgroup$ – rob Mar 4 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ As a highschool student, I could not agree with your middle paragraph more. I have learned a lot through Physics SE, but the most important would be that I learned how to ask precise questions and show my research (not saying that I am perfect at this, but I have definitely improved) $\endgroup$ – Jonas Mar 5 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ The question was not a homework question, but a question that came up during a discussion with my professor. I asked the question as my professor(future) is a good friend of my current one and told me that I need to learn the answer to this for a test. $\endgroup$ – abrn2195 Mar 6 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ So as long as the OP doesn't say it in the bounty it's ok to go back up? $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 7 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist The mod team seems to agree that once the "this is an exam question" bell is rung, it can't be unrung. $\endgroup$ – rob Mar 7 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ +1 Ignoring the origin is good. Here is another reason why. As stated, this is a conceptual question, the kind we “like”. In this case, it also seems like a very general question, the sort that is bound to come up among those curious about physics. If it is bound to come up anyway, we should not close it just because it happened to come up in an exam somewhere. $\endgroup$ – Brian Drake Mar 7 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ +1 I do believe we have moral commitments with this sort of web site in addition to the real reason why we are here, which is to have fun and earn meaningless points. But (a) we are not in a good position to evaluate academic honesty or dishonesty, being not at the affiliated institution and not knowing anything about the student or their situation or constraints, and (b) the question and its bounties are not the right place to enforce—this is a code-of-conduct issue, not an issue with the question per se. I think this can be adjudicated, but it shouldn't be adjudicated via the HW policy. $\endgroup$ – CR Drost Mar 10 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ @CRDrost Do we really have moral commitments outside of how people are treated on the website? I wouldn't feel even a little bit guilty if someone asked a very nice question about the chain reaction that I answered and they used it to build a bomb. It is not on me, it is on them. Why should we get involved in the business of deciding what is a good purpose to ask a physics question and what is not a good purpose -- as long as the question is good. $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. Mar 10 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ I mean, we agree on this topic and I’m not enthusiastic to follow you into territory where we disagree. I will only point out that you can feel this way because we already do a pretty good job of abiding by those commitments, so that you can easily disentangle yourself. It is not hard to imagine a more “4channy” Phys.SE where half the questions are about the physics of pipe bombs for maximum lethality and there appears to be an implicit agreement about who’s “gonna pay” that goes ever-unsaid where you would likely feel more conflicted about being someone “from that website.” $\endgroup$ – CR Drost Mar 11 at 3:04

Such questions should be closed as soon as possible, at least in the short term. It is academically dishonest under all student codes of conduct I know for a student to seek online help in solving exam questions so there is no reason not to act on questions identified as such - because the OP says so, or because there is some clear indication the question is in fact an exam question

Most exams - unlike assignments - are expected to be done without help or consultation with anyone. We tolerate assignment questions where some conceptual issue is at stake, discourage complete answers to assignement questions and will delete such answers at least temporarily, and rightly do not tolerate obvious assignments questions (including screenshotted questions). All of this should apply a fortiriori to exam questions, with measures for immediate action: one can always reopen the question later if there is a case for reopening.

I will refer to this question as an example of situations where this can happen.

Moreover I have to say that several colleagues of mine have had unfortunate experiences in this matter (though not on PSE). The administration then has to contact the site, get the question taken down (usually too late), get user info from the site, etc. Most sites will gladly comply and take measure against the user for violating this or that policy. It is not pleasant for any party involved.

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    $\begingroup$ Note that in this particular case, the bounty was added after the question had been open for three weeks. Your points about delaying or temporarily deleting answers are well-taken for timed exams, or even take-home exams, where a student might have a couple of days. $\endgroup$ – rob Mar 5 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ About your last paragraph: as I explained here, and was criticized for that, certain strategies to fight cheating, like this one, are rather naive and doomed to failure. Because for one site that will take measures against a certain user, there will be many other, that you even don't know exist, in languages that you don't know, who will happily allow this kind of cheating. And what about cheating rings among students? And those who offer paid services to solve the exam? $\endgroup$ – Massimo Ortolano Mar 5 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MassimoOrtolano I don't disagree and some learned painful lessons but it's still not right to avoid closing questions because a test is poorly conceived or because students might have illicit access to other resources. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 5 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ How was it concluded that this question was indeed about cheating? $\endgroup$ – Buraian Mar 8 at 10:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Buraian The OP indicated in the bounty description that this was for an entrance exam. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 8 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it was 'academic dishonesty' in the sense that it was for ongoing exam but rather it was in preparation for his exam ( I may be wrong) but I think it's best to give benefit of doubt $\endgroup$ – Buraian Mar 8 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Buraian regardless as a policy such explicit exam questions should be closed at least temporarily. $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 9 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like an incredibly bureaucratic task. How do we find out when the exam ends? There are take-home exams that go on for multiple days many a time. Do we go based on the average period of exams known to us? Or do we swing in the other direction and put a safe-side 15 days "lock" on the question? Also, I don't think there is anything in the policy that obliges us to take care of this problem, it is upon the student and if the relevant administration finds their post, they can take whatever action they want against them. Why should we concern ourselves with this big mess? $\endgroup$ – Dvij D.C. Mar 10 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DvijD.C. are you suggesting we should ignore overt attempt at plagiarism? $\endgroup$ – ZeroTheHero Mar 11 at 1:00

I will straight and give my opinion and tell I disagree with the Question being closed. (Note that I think the OP deleted parts of the original question because I cant find it anymore, or maybe I missed it out)

  1. I had the same question when I was a child and so when I asked my science teacher in grade 6, she told me that our body is actually translucent. That of course was the incorrect answer which I soon realised when I got into grade 8, when the laws of reflection and all were thought. So I agree with your first bulletin that it was sort of a conceptual question and deserved to be there.

  2. You also talked about the importance of keeping homework questions off the site as it is useless for future visitors, especially if it involves numerical (especially numerical). I agree, but this specific question definitely shouldn't be counted as "not really useful for future visitors" because a lot of viewers of the question had the same misconception as my teacher did. So I think despite it being possibly an HW question, it still does not qualify for the original reason that this site agreed to keep away HW question, which was so that we shouldn't be providing answers to separate, separate problems as it is of very little use to anyone besides the OP (Unrelated to what you asked, but his questions shouldn't also be considered lazy as he seemed to been all across the internet to find the answer for a somewhat fundamental question)

That's all I got as an opinion, most of which I only developed from Micheal asked

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    $\begingroup$ Please note that the question was never closed. The bounty specifying the question was for an exam was removed. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 10 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Oh i thought the reason for the bounty being removed was to close the question. $\endgroup$ – Adil Mohammed Mar 10 at 19:17

I don't really think we should be answering entrance-exam questions on Physics.SE. However, since the question now has an open bounty on it, I couldn't cast a close vote on it.

I think otherwise, I am for answering questions related to problems in entrance exams. If I recall, the fundamental goal of this site was to help as many people as possible, right? If so, then answering and discussing questions which come in entrance exams on this site really does help.

While the reason for studying may not be of interest or so, giving answers will lead to a better understanding of the physical world for the asker.

Furthermore, We shouldn't dismiss questions based on where the questions is from but rather the 'spirit' of the question. Of course, the context may give us an impulse to judge the spirit, but we need to keep our biases aside and be open to new ideas instead of following rules if we want the site to become better.

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    $\begingroup$ "If I recall, the fundamental goal of this site was to help as many people as possible, right?" This isn't the goal of the site. If this was the case then closing questions wouldn't be a thing. I think Rob's answer and the comments on it does a good job at explaining how the site works, and the compromises in place $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 5 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ I took it from this meta post $\endgroup$ – Buraian Mar 5 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ You're using that out of context. That was stated in terms of helping just the asker vs. having posts that help others as well. You seem to be using it as a justification that any question on the site should get an answer. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 5 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ yes , you've stated the context of the linked post correctly but have misinterpreted how I am applying it here. The linked post in the subject body of the question is fairly decent and I can imagine it being useful to other people whether they are also learning of it for entrance exam or not. Even if the years change, the concepts tested in exams of bsc and highschool stay more or less same (unless maybe there is a sudden educational revolutoin worldwide, which I don't see happening) $\endgroup$ – Buraian Mar 5 at 12:27

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