I noticed this question which seemed like an honest good faith question (although the asker is clearly not yet competent with using LaTeX).

They clearly state how their mental models work, and it’s already clear that their mental models are vague and not very sophisticated: "I know that energy is equal to the work done and work is equal to the multiplication of force and displacement caused my the force in the direction of the applied force."

They then articulate what area of problem solving they are having conceptual issues with: "But when friction is involved, things seem to be unclear to me..."

And they articulate exactly what the two contradictory views are that are consistent logically with their mental model.

They then say that doesn't make sense and at this point anyone with a good understanding of mechanics can not only know how to answer their question; they can also clearly see where the source of the confusion is for the OP.

This is in my opinion, a good conceptual question, albeit not the most beautifully formatted, and also probably elementary.

I was shocked that the given closure reason was "This question needs details or clarity."

What details are lacking? Four different users thought the question was coherent enough to answer.

I might add for context, this question had a single downvote almost as soon as it was asked. I think a good faith downvoter probably looked at the lack of LaTeX and elementary flavor of the question and thought to themselves "this looks like homework", but ultimately that is not why this was closed.

What would need to be done for this question to be opened? I want the OP to have constructive feedback on how to ask and not to feel like they are being alienated/pushed away by the community. It feels wrong that a question with five upvotes and three downvotes, and four answers is suddenly closed due to "lack of details" and not a single comment was made by any of the users saying "your question is unclear because ..." or even just a comment asking "what are you asking?", etc...

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    $\begingroup$ Four different answers to the same question is not an indication for the question to be coherent. Rather it shows that even after several answers users still felt like their interpretation of the question doesn't have an answer yet. To me, a clear question doesn't leave room for that many interpretations. $\endgroup$
    – A. P.
    Jan 7 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ Why precisely this was closed is slightly moot in this case: this is clearly an example of “please answer this question for me” and I would VTC as “check-my-work”. $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


Why is this question unclear

It's unclear at least because it starts out with OP asserting that something false is true: "I know that energy is equal to the work done..." No. No, it's not. (As I commented on the question, the net work is the change in kinetic energy and the individual work due to any individual force is the negative of the change in that individual potential energy.)

Therefore, the rest of the question is moot, since the user begins from such a confused and unworkable place.

To me, this seems like a questioner who just hasn't read their textbook carefully. They are asking a confused question with a false premise, and that is likely not helpful to anyone else.

This website isn't about sorting out one person's confusion.

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    $\begingroup$ I think a very large number of questions on physics.stackexchange have false assumptions or false premises being the root cause of confusion. I don't think there's anything wrong with that as long as the OP is extremely forthright about their assumptions, and quickly adjusts their mental models / thinks critically and in good faith when their wrong assumptions are made clear. $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ Re: "...that is likely not helpful to anyone else". As the question currently stands, I could believe that many grade schoolers or first year college students who aren't majoring in technical majors might run into the same mistake. The pattern is "memorize the correct statement from the teacher". "Think critically about this statement". "Realize they no longer know which forces apply" and this question perfectly embodies that. $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ There are about a thousand different questions (good, bad, and ugly questions) about the work-energy theorem on this website. We don't need one more bad/ugly question about it. $\endgroup$
    – hft
    Jan 7 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ If this question was truly a repeat it would've been possible to cite an example that perfectly characterized what the OP was asking and address as is the norm in many other communities. I went to the search bar, I see a lot of different questions about "work due to friction" but somehow nothing of the immediate few links explicitly spells out "total work = kinetic_energy + heat due to friction" (I'm sure there are answers that do but they are just somehow not accessible unless you know what to look for). continued: $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ A few links down from (work friction) in search I find: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/619342/… where a power argument is given that explicitly explains that power goes into kinetic energy and heat via friction. Someone might have been able to cite this example and close the question as duplicate, but even then, the OP asks about work (it's possible they don't even KNOW what power is) and others with the same question might get stuck $\endgroup$ Jan 7 at 3:51

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