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A well-received question that receives a large amount of upvotes means that the physics community at large likes the question and thinks that it is a meaningful question. Questions with very large numbers of upvotes in questions and answers that are closed seems extremely contradictory with evidence that the community deems it worthy.

For example, consider this highly-viewed, highly upvoted question, with answers that received massive amounts of upvotes.

It is my opinion that this question being an opinion is simply an opinion. An opinion that is clearly outweighed by the community at large. I do not think that this question is "opinion-based," and also the criteria for what is and isn't closed is incredibly vague—so much so that virtually any off-beat question that has some degree of popularity gets closed (I assume by a minority of participants with strong opinions).

What is the point of locking people out of participating in these kinds of questions? And how can such a system possibly be justified when questions are this well-received.

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    $\begingroup$ The question you link became a Hot Network Question as seen in the revision history, which means all metric like views and voting on it are skewed by an influx of non-regular users of the site; using metrics on HNQ as reflective of "the community" of this site is questionable. $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Sep 21, 2023 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind, if the upvotes new users "do not actually count" as being reflective of the community, then it would seem like to me that the upvote system is broken, as you are suggesting that these votes shouldn't "count" in the same way as other votes. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ I am though in agreement that this question is perhaps not the best example of a trend that I have noticed. (I certainly have seen many well-recieved questions that are closed that are not HNQ, so maybe at some point I'll try to collect a list..) $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, that particular question has received both close votes and "leave open" votes in its two (so far) close reviews. There aren't any reopen flags/votes yet, but there could be in the future. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Sep 21, 2023 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ You are making the (common) mistake of conflating upvotes with on-topicness, but in reality the two are actually distinct. Easiest way to think of the two as being separate is using music: Earth, Wind & Fire made some great music over the years, but it'd be kinda weird to find them on Alt Nation. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 21, 2023 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ That supposedly "well-received" question should be closed for almost every reason there is to close a question. It is overly broad, it shows lack of research, it is opinion-based, it makes invalid assumptions ("we didn't do this experiment." Or really? We? Who is we? Some of us took laboratory courses...), and so on... $\endgroup$
    – hft
    Sep 27, 2023 at 0:02

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If the current system of closing questions functions well, why are there particularly well-received questions that are closed? ... And how can such a system possibly be justified when questions are this well-received.

This is like asking why, if the current system of parents explaining nutrition to their children works well, candy is still popular and children would still make poor choices if left to their own devices. Or why, if Wikipedia's system of editing and reversion works well, the admins don't seem to care, when pornography is posted on arbitrary pages, how many people liked seeing it. (Here I am glossing over the fact that I don't in fact think Wikipedia's governance works very well overall - they have many problems, but this isn't one - and that Wikipedia is "not censored" and would allow sexual content that was on topic and appropriate to explaining the subject matter.)

A well-recieved question that recieves a large amount of upvotes means that the physics community at large likes the question and thinks that it is a meaningful question

It means that users of physics.stackexchange.com like the question.

That doesn't mean they're in the right.

Sites have rules, guidelines, principles and mission statements for a reason.

Even Reddit has understood this for at least 12 years.

Q&A sites, like physics.stackexchange.com, have a much clearer and more focused objective than social media like Reddit or discussion forums like Quora. The goal is to produce reference questions and answers that meet guidelines and are helpful to people who use a search engine to look up information.

Site standards are also allowed to change over time. This has happened to some extent globally across Stack Exchange. The "Opinion-based" close reason was added globally more than 10 years ago, and there was a lot of careful thought and deliberation behind it. The user-facing rationale is also described in the help center, which is more or less copied and pasted to every SE site.

For example, consider this highly-viewed, highly upvoted question, with answers that received massive amounts of upvotes.

Putting aside the previous points - that none of this actually matters - this is nothing. The top questions and answers on Physics sit at around +800. The most viewed question is over 850,000 views.

I do not think that this question is "opinion-based,"

I don't think this is your true objection, given how you have phrased the rest of the post here to complain about the policy generally. If it is, then you should have posted about the specific question, given concrete reasoning opposed to the closure, and not ranted about established network-wide policy.

and also the criteria for what is and isn't closed is incredibly vague – so much so that virtually any off-beat question that has some degree of popularity gets closed

I think "opinion-based" is easy to understand as a closure reason. The question clearly asks "should I trust it", which is blatantly a matter of opinion. Whether you "should" trust any given thing at all is a matter of personal values. Further, the answers clearly offer opinionated advice.

However, I would have voted to close this question instead as off topic. It is either about philosophy ("how do you know that true things are true?") or politics ("why should we be able to trust published research without attempting to replicate it ourselves?").

It is also clearly not focused; there's no way to answer "what is the process to get science knowledge by ourselves?" that isn't either a completely unhelpful "uh, do the experiments yourself anyway I guess?" or else a complete treatise on the scientific method.

A properly focused, on-topic question in this sphere would look more like "How can I do an experiment at home to verify [insert here: one, specific, clearly understood scientific principle]?" - and OP would have to be prepared to be told that it isn't feasible.

What is the point of locking people out of participating in these kinds of questions?

The point of locking people out of participating in these kinds of questions, is to lock them out of participation. This is intentional, and a good thing.

The reason for doing so, is because it is beneficial to the goals of the site to do so. Considered in a consequentialist framework: not locking people out of participation encourages more such questions; and a site full of such questions is ipso facto not useful as a searchable reference on an objective topic. Such questions dilute search results and attract other unwanted behaviours, such as treating the site like a discussion forum. Physics is about as "hard science" as it gets, so these principles are especially important here.

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    $\begingroup$ It is your opinion that this question /should/ be interepreted such that "should" has some special philosophical or political meaning. The use of /should/ in my last sentence is neither of these things. If I asked "why should electrons fall by gravity" -- you wouldn't invoke politics or philosophy. It is my opinion that your opinion on this is a bad opinion because it blatantly misinterprets a question that can easily be rephrased as "What is the general principles that physics knoledge becomes accepted to the point of being considered facts in textbooks?" $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ Ah. So you haven't come to understand policy; you've come to argue. I am not interested; I deal with this often enough on Stack Overflow as it is. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ I was just addressing a particular point of your answer first. (I don't think this question was closed reasonably, which you disagree with. But I agree that this just a particular example and not the central point.) Overall, I was looking for an answer that tries to actually give good reasoning for why it makes sense that what seems to be a much smaller number of people get to overrule what a much larger majority think on a topic. It seems more likely to me that questions that get attention are more likely to reach a larger minority of dissenters by their sheer popularity. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ (And these small number dissenters are the ones who close the question.) $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ Putting it another way: why are the votes of people who vote to close it the people who get to say if it is "candy/garbage", and not the people who upvote and downvote the question? $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Because the reputation system has recognized them as more experienced. All of this can be undone just as easily, anyway. There is an entire body of meta FAQ about question closure that you should be familiar with before trying to raise complaints like this one. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2023 at 23:07
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This is a good point but I think you are confusing a general good question with a good question for this site.

I agree the question is interesting and it comes as no surprise (to me at least) that it should be popular: philosophers of science have asked similar questions (especially since the end of WWII) as the distance between verifiable experimental results and everyday experience continues to grow. (Paraphrasing here) Michael Polanyi asked why does society believe in science but not in black magic. The OP is asking a not-so-black-and-white version of this: when (or why) should we believe in established science.

The problem is that such important questions are a poor fit for the site: they cannot be answered using physics arguments or laws of physics. In fact the question is applicable to chemistry, biology, and a lot of other disciplines grounded in experiments. IMO such questions about philosophy or sociology of science should go to PhilosophySE, which is “for those interested in the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge”, amongst other things.

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