The question Sonic boom equivalent for speed of light barrier seems to have provoked much debate in terms of whether this question is appropriate, in level and content, for this StackExchange site. Views seem to range from "definitely yes" to "definitely no", with some advocating that it belongs on the pop. sci. SE site.

So, I thought I'd gauge the community (in particular the more active members) on whether this question really belongs here. Depending on feedback, it could potentially remain open as is, locked, closed, or deleted.

What are your thoughts? Please cast your desired vote on the answer (and leave a comment with your brief explanation ideally).

  • $\begingroup$ Note that this question is slightly more general than it purports to be. Hopefully we can use it loosely to set a precedent. $\endgroup$ – Noldorin Dec 4 '10 at 16:19

Yes, this question belongs here

(Up-vote if you agree, down-vote if you disagree. Please leave short explanation in either case.)

  • $\begingroup$ What's the difference between upvoting this answer and downvoting the other one? $\endgroup$ – kennytm Dec 4 '10 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @KennyTM: I wanted to tally the 'for' and 'against' votes separately, but you just reminded me that votes can be viewed that way anyway, by clicking the vote number! $\endgroup$ – Noldorin Dec 4 '10 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Up-vote from me. For one thing, the answer isn't totally obvious and deserves an explanation (as do many other seemingly pop-sci/sci-fi questions). For another, it is related to a nice physical phenomenon. $\endgroup$ – Marek Dec 4 '10 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Noldorin: Splitting the votes requires some minimum rep. I think it is 1000 on graduated sites, and I can't do it here with 500+... $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 4 '10 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ I'm upvoting, because as I said in my comment to dmckee, this question is so close to being a good question about Cerenkov radiation that I kind of hate to lose the potential of having that good question on the site. But it is a tough decision. If the ability to edit the question did not exist, I would certainly agree with closing it. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 5 '10 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee: 750 here (-> faq) $\endgroup$ – Tobias Kienzler Dec 6 '10 at 15:52

The particular question in question is tricky. I was an early defender, but I am partially convinced by Daniel's arguments.

Properly formed it is a good if rather basic question, and xenon provided a perfectly good if rather basic answer. Unfortunately the question (especially the original text) is a little shaky.

This basically boils down to another crack at "What is the proper level of discourse on physics.se?". Coming with a largely Stack Overflow background (note that I did not participate in the definition and commitment phases) I just dove in to answer it (and found I'd been beaten to the punch).

My recommendation for pop-sci questions that get at real physics: edit the questions to render it more sophisticated. NB: Don't render it into something that can't be answered without a lot of math, just strip off any Star Trekism and other pernicious pop-sci influences.

This leaves us free to clobber junk science questions without ruling that amateurs are not welcome in our midst.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea about editing. Normally I am very reluctant to edit another person's question or answer, other than to retag it or to fix minor spelling/grammar errors... but this one is just so close to being a good question that it's quite tempting to fix it up. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 5 '10 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ @David: Well, my assumption is that there is a good question already present, and were just going to remove distractions... That's because I also don't want to change the core meaning of something that is attributed to another person. $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 5 '10 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ Good point, I never thought about it that way. I left a comment on the original question suggesting that the OP fix it up, but if that doesn't happen, and the community comes out in support of your idea, I'd be OK with the question being edited. (+1, by the way) $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 5 '10 at 3:05

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