This question did get wrongly and prematurely closed:

Can physics get rid of the continuum?

It is a good, valuable, and constructive question that fits in perfectly with the (more theoretical) content and purpose of our site, and has already some nice answers. The answers already there and the interesting discussions in the comments show that the question hits active research areas at the inteface between mathematics and physics. Asking such questions is often very beneficial to make progress, in particular in theoretical physics. It is neither "off topic" nor "not consutructive" or what else one could invoke as a pretext to close it. But maybe the question could (and should ?) be shortened and put straight a little bit as Ron suggests in the comments.

Initial mistagging (soft question only) or too much discussion are NOT legitimate reasons to close the question itself! A better way would have been to retag the question appropriately, make suggestions for improvements (as Ron did for example), move the comments to chat if needed, and then leave it alone.

So can the question be reopened please?

up vote 3 down vote accepted

After editing I've reopened the question, although if it does turn out to generate inappropriate activity, it will be closed again.

  • Aah thanks David, and good to see you ... :-). I agree that we have probably overdone it a bit in the comments, maybe they should be imported to chat such that discussions can take place there ... (I've not yet tried to do this)? – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 18:18
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    Unfortunately there is no moderator tool to mass-migrate comments to chat - but in any case, it's better to start these discussions to the chat room, or move them there early on. – David Z Jul 26 '12 at 18:26
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    Thanks David. I think this is the correct decision. It is always good for the moderators to moderate themselves also whenever necessary; we are all human physicists and prone to opinions on the various subjects. – anna v Jul 26 '12 at 18:39
  • Ok I see, and maybe I can suggest this too to people from time to time if I see discussions I care about getting too long ... :-). By the way does it still hold that asking about short clarifications if one does read a question or answer and not fully understands it is still ok? Anyway, thanks so very much for your great help in this issue which had upset me way too much again. – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 18:40

Reading from the moderator's justification of the closure of the question, he seems to argue about two reasons:

  • Extended discussion and back-and-forth among answers are not suitable to the SE format ;
  • Questions which promote an engaging discussion are explicitly forbidden (FAQ cite).

Both are pretty weak, because the only intrinsic thing about a soft question is its lack of a technical, openly recognizable, single "right" answer, mainly because it's background its too general and/or it involves assuming premises not yet settled by the scientific community as a hole. The fact that the non-uniqueness of answers it may generate could induce further discussion among users, and also that this discussion may take place where the answers are written (and that this is not suited to the site format), is extrinsic to the question itself. Otherwise you should not allow more than a single answer per question for soft ones and eliminate the possibility of explicit non-agreement (and get it removed iff it is recognized as flawed, which would in principle be absurd by definition, unless the answer involves plain crackpottery); or allow nothing more than technical, "textbook" questions and answers, and eliminate the "soft question" tag entirely (even though, it's my personal opinion that there's nothing better than a textbook if you are looking for a textbook answer).

Every mild stance about this, coupled with this kind of ad hoc moderation procedure, will probably involve arbitrary closing some questions and leaving others opened depending on the moderator's judging of how much discussion and typing it may generate among users.

On the other hand, I retagged the question and shortened the main body of the text, so as to make it more concise according to what I was advised by some good will users. But as the background -not the form- of the question wasn't changed, and this is what was actually criticized and qualified as unsuitable, I suppose that won't fit the bill either.

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    See, it is opened. Moderators are reasonable and accept rational arguments here. That is why it is a very good physics site. Welcome and do not be overly influenced by your first contact here. – anna v Jul 26 '12 at 18:43
  • Yeah, welcome and do not worry to much ;-). You see, here are people who try to help getting things straight if they seem to go wrong ... Cheers :-) – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 18:59
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    That's all right. My only suggestion is -isn't there a way to keep both the cleanliness of the Q&A format, but also have a space for public discussion about soft/dubious topics whenever they might arise (i.e. for example, using a "spoiler"-like tag, so that any external visitor who's only interested in the elaborated answers, can skip them)? Perhaps what I'm talking about already exists here and I haven't yet realized. @Dilaton: thanks for bringing this to meta. I wouldn't have done anything about it, if it had been up to me (I'm still getting accustomed to the way things are worked out here). – Mono Jul 26 '12 at 21:47
  • @Mono I think the best thing would be to start it in chat; I see you have enough (20) reputation now. Ah and I see that you are getting additional answers and other people like the question too :-). Maybe you'll even get the "Nice Question" badge if it attracts 10 upvotes ...? – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 22:30

Yes, it should be reopened !

(I write this as an answer because I do not have the priviledge to cast votes to reopen directly ...)


Read the text that accompanies the closure reason

this question will likely solicit [...] extended discussion.

and the section of the FAQ referenced in my comment

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about __”, then you should not be asking here.

The fact that the question is a good and interesting one does not mean that it is well suited to the Stack Exchange format.

The way Stack Exchange orders and organizes posts and comments works very poorly for an extended back-and-forth, and that is exactly what was developing there. And it would only have gotten worse.

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    No, I still disagree. The question can and it already has gotten interesting answers. Why not just move the comments and let people further discuss there? The results of a of this can the be put into additional answers after people have finished discussing? – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 14:37
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    Are you now gonna close every (in particular more theoretical) question about still active and not yet setteled research topics that of course can lead to a little bit of discussion because active researchers themselves are not yet settled about it probably? That would be very very wrong ! – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 14:39
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    @Dilaton We started out allowing these kinds of questions on Stack Overflow--on the basis that they were interesting and popular nonetheless. But eventually the majority of the high rep users came to understand how very badly the site copes with them and how badly they affect the site. I can't (and wouldn't if I could) prevent the users from having their way about this question, but it will cost the site. – dmckee Jul 26 '12 at 14:40
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    So you are really that strongly against theoretical physics and or research-level questions concerning active and not yet settled research topics? This can not be true ...! I see no other users mentioned in the list of people who closed the question, it was you alone. On the contrary, other people wanted to keep it open. – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 14:45
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    @Dilaton This is a questions and answer site. Everything about it is organized around the idea that the questions have answers (and a smallish number of distinct ones, at that), and that one or a few can be judged by the crowd to be better than the others. There are (a lot of!) questions that are "not obvious to an advanced graduate student" that have answers. And there are questions that can only generate page after page of text with no resolution. These are different types of posts. – dmckee Jul 26 '12 at 14:48
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    BTW I think the close reason "not constructive" described as this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion is mainly meant to exclude trolling question that would lead to flame wars for example that can not be answered, and NOT to prohibit any on topic constructive phyics discussion from wich people reading it can learn something. Disallowing any discussion among users about physics before it even started would turn physics SE into static site, dead and useless for people who come here to learn something – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 16:47
  • But the final results of such discussions should then be turned into answers. – Dilaton Jul 26 '12 at 16:53
  • @Dilaton have you ever bothered to read the faq here? It's not meant to be a discussion site like and the comments are meant to correct answers, not create new ones – Physiks lover Jul 28 '12 at 1:09
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    @Physikslover Yes I know ... But if you were not even allowed to ask people for clarification when reading interesting questions or answers, about a point you do not fully understand for example, physics SE would become nothing else than a collaboratively online written textbook. Disallowing any interaction between the members, apart from Q&As, would kill any additional advantage and usefulness Physics SE at present has compared to a written textbook. – Dilaton Jul 28 '12 at 11:28
  • @Dilaton you just don't get it. There is already a site called that caters for what you want, so why not go there? The point of this site was to get away from discussions, with the comments only there to correct mistakes. – Physiks lover Jul 28 '12 at 13:13

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