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Physics Stack Exchange moderators often close questions because they seem them as "homework-like", asserting that it fosters independent learning. However, this practice may inadvertently discourage young enthusiasts from exploring their curiosity. Moreover, those spending all day closing posts, may have an abundance of free time, rather than promoting a genuine learning environment. For many lacking access to a physics teacher or resources, this forum serves as a vital resource for knowledge. Striking a balance between maintaining quality and nurturing curiosity is essential, ensuring that the platform remains a valuable resource for diverse learners seeking guidance in their physics journey.

P.S Obviously this post is gonna be taken down and censored by the moderators

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    $\begingroup$ Physics Stack Exchange moderators often close questions.... Inaccurate, it's predominantly the users with $\geq$3,000 reputation who do the closing around here. Obviously this post is gonna be taken down and censored by the moderators Also inaccurate. It was moved to its proper location (on Meta site) and while it is likely to attract downvotes, it probably won't be closed or deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ This post is so false, I know because I answer many and they don’t get closed. It depends on clarity and level of effort in your attempt. Literally just look at the posts ~today~ that were closed in the homework tag vs. which werent. Checkout this physics.stackexchange.com/questions/795518/… vs. physics.stackexchange.com/questions/795521/… $\endgroup$
    – JohnA.
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 16:33

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As someone that spends time closing many of these questions, there is nothing wrong with questions that are “homework-like” in an absolute sense. The problem is when the question either displays absolutely no effort on the part of the asker or is merely a computational exercise. The former case include questions that want the community to do homework for the user with no effort. This is obviously inappropriate and is the most infamous problem. The other, more subtle, issue is that users fail to identify the concept with which they are struggling or that a future user could learn about in the question. This makes the question very difficult to answer well, and it further makes the questions less useful overall. This obviously has a lot of overlap with the details or clarity flag. In the latter case, there is little that anyone else can learn from the question since it merely shows a broken step in a derivation or problem. At worst, it would just be a large pile of math with no context that is useless unless you happen to need that exact thing for some reason.

A good homework-like question, by contrast, needs to give background for the problem in question, properly contextualize the user’s knowledge and efforts on the problem, and clearly identify a valid conceptual issue that the community can address. Such questions, despite being ostensibly a homework question, do just fine.

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This question shows a couple of misunderstandings about how this site operates and its mission. But there is also a grain of truth.

First: the “homework closures” you mention are not done by moderators. They are done by the community. The community can also easily reverse a closure, so when that doesn’t happen it means the community agrees with the closure. The moderators are largely irrelevant for homework closures.

Second: the purpose of this site is not to help an individual by answering their question. The goal is to answer general questions that many users will have. Questions about calculations are likely only helpful for the individual user rather than many users, so they are discouraged here. Users can go to other sites, like physicsforums.com for homework help. There is no need to duplicate that effort here.

For the grain of truth: I do agree that many questions closed as homework questions are actually conceptual questions, so they shouldn’t be closed as homework. The community is often too quick to do so.

However, for most of those homework-like conceptual questions, the underlying conceptual question is a duplicate and should have been closed as a duplicate instead. I would prefer that the community close them as duplicates, linking to the previous answer, but that requires finding the original. It takes less effort to close as homework if the question fits that mold. So questions that could be closed under either reason will typically be closed as homework.

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I am one of those uses @Dale mentioned that is in favor of closing homework like questions on physics.stackexchange.

It is ironic that one of the biggest uses of Stack Overflow is for homework like questions. I use it all the time to find out how to solve simple issues in my code. Though recently, I find chatGPT is even better.

This reflects a difference in how programming and physics are done. Professional programmers need to solve little homework like problems all the time. The purpose is to get a job done. We already understand the concept. We might need help with the syntax. Or a reminder about details.

The primary users of the physics site are students at levels varying from high school to grad school. Simple exercises are homework. Doing homework yourself and thinking about how to do it are major tools to learning the concepts well.

Understanding the concepts is the biggest service we can provide. So we answer questions about concepts even for homework like questions.


We do also get people with problems to solve, people who are curious, people with their own theories, and so on. Some of these are closed where an answer would be helpful.

Some should be closed. Some people don't have enough understanding of physics for us to be able to straighten out their misconceptions. Some don't want to understand. They may want to be the genius that revolutionizes physics with a new idea. They have an idea that satisfies them, and just want us to understand its brilliance. Some may be convinced that physics is wrong for religious reasons.

In my view, there are two types of question that are unjustly closed the most.

First are questions that are not clearly posed. These are difficult. If you don't understand what a question is asking, how do you answer it? But sometimes it is possible to pick out the concept that someone is confused about. You can explain it.

Second, questions that disrespect physics in some way. This can be trivial, even a poor choice of words.

A question like this is likely to be closed and down voted: I see this. It shows that this law is wrong. What is right?

This question is much more likely be answered: I see this. I am confused. Doesn't it contradict this law?

Some questions that say physics is wrong are from people we cannot help. They should be closed. But we are too quick on the trigger sometimes.

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    $\begingroup$ Mostly unrelated to the PSE content, but since you mentioned it... My boss uses ChatGPT all the time for coding whereas I just use API reference docs. The difference between is I've been writing code for like 20 years now (~10y professionally and ~10 academically before that) and he's been doing it for like 5. I am now wondering if frequency of LLM usage is correlated to length of time coding. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ I believe my first program was in 1972. I started writing professionally around 1990. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 20:42

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