My feeling is that we will have a lot of "Basic explanation of xxx [theory | principle | ..." questions.

What is your opinion about that ?

Mine is that we should not hesitate to point to wikipedia (or equivalent) and close. The question can then be asked again about a more specific point.

If we post long answer explaining basics things again and again, then we should better edit Wikipedia. This is a Q&A site, not an encyclopedia.

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    $\begingroup$ I have to agree with Jonathans' answer. I asked a question on here which has a wikipedia page and received an excellent answer that I found more satisfying than the wikipedia entry. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2010 at 14:10

2 Answers 2


Actually this is not only a Q&A site, but a source of knowledge that most people should access through search engines and arrive at the question directly that is relevant to their search term, so it is kind of a encyclopedia.

Wikipedia is great if you already understand what your trying to learn. Many of the physics pages contain "jargon" which you must read the page about that which contains more "jargon" and you end up reading 30 pages to understand one page.

In an answer I think that the answer should just be a link to a wiki article, but a link to the wiki article followed by a relatively-basic explanation, to which the asker can comment on and ask for more clarification or more depth.

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    $\begingroup$ Why not, but then we will have to explain QM, SR, GR and their friends, again and again. $\endgroup$
    – Cedric H.
    Nov 2, 2010 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ Why not what? You will not have to repeat yourself, you just close it as a duplicate and then a link is put on that question to the original. Also physics is still being understood, new theories and evidence for and against existing theories could be come at any time? $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan.
    Nov 2, 2010 at 21:43

People often ask general questions without even bothering to search Wikipedia (or Google).

I think it should be firmly discouraged (voting down/closing + writing this rule in FAQ) as:

  • It reduces level of this SE.
  • It is simply wasting time of others.
  • When question is general it is difficult to choose the right level and focus on the part of the asker's interest.

Of course, when someone finds Wikipedia article vague/complicated/not-existent or points to a specific part which (s)he does not understand - the question is relevant.


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