4
$\begingroup$

Mainly I'm thinking of the type of questions that pop up there every week: http://what-if.xkcd.com/

If not, which other SE site do you think it's appropriate for them?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/863/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Mar 20 '13 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ Did you have specific what-if questions in mind? Most of the recent questions there look more like engineering than physics to me. $\endgroup$ – user1504 Mar 20 '13 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ For example: Cesnas in other worlds: what-if.xkcd.com/30. Cooking steaks by athmospheric drag: what-if.xkcd.com/28. Rainstorm's water as a single rain drop: what-if.xkcd.com/12. Trying to cool down the Sun with water: what-if.xkcd.com/14 These questions can be answered by using mainstream physics, and often has rather entertaining or counter-intuitive outcomes. $\endgroup$ – Calmarius Mar 20 '13 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ I would recommend at first to create a separate tag for people who are interested in such questions. Often such Fermi questions as I would call them are good to get a feeling about scales in physics! Maybe you could also state your pro/contra statements? $\endgroup$ – strpeter Mar 20 '13 at 14:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @strpeter a tag for the type of question would be a meta tag, and as such is discouraged. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 20 '13 at 18:49
6
$\begingroup$

If the question is literally just "What if X?" then no, it's not on topic here, or on any other SE site I can think of. A question like that is very open-ended; it's not asking anything specific, and it invites a whole slew of speculative answers.

Now, if you were to ask a specific question about an unusual situation, it should be fine. This week's what-if, for example,

What if you somehow managed to make a stereo travel at twice the speed of sound, would it sound backwards to someone who was just casually sitting somewhere as it flies by?

would be an acceptable question for us. But if you want to ask a question like that, make it clear that you've looked into it and done some prior research yourself, or at least thought about it. If you just posted the question as I quoted it above, it would be only so-so, but posting it as

What if you somehow managed to make a stereo travel at twice the speed of sound, would it sound backwards to someone who was just casually sitting somewhere as it flies by? I would think so, but then it occurred to me that blah blah blah blah so maybe it wouldn't. I can't find anything about this online.

(for example) makes it much better.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

I would like to revisit this, with context to an Area 51 proposal which seems to be attractive.

Stack Exchange Q&A site proposal: Scientific Imagination http://area51.stackexchange.com/ads/proposal/75912.png

The site proposal proposed by a user Krumia, is also based on XKCD What-If book.

The proposal is attractive, but I guess not enough to propose an entirely new SE site for the purpose. So I proposed Can we make “what-if” questions locally on-topic on their respective sites?

I also discussed this in the Physics chat room starting from this message.

I think we can have some support for such questions. Some specific ones which can be answered through little to no discussion but with supportive and established facts.

I would also like to see if the community is willing to accept questions like the ones in the Example Questions list of that proposal.

If all the three Science sites (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) agree to this, the proposal would be closed right here.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ One problem here is that allowing what-if opens the doors for all kinds of terribly tedious personal theories etc. I'm not against it in principle, but it's a very slippery slope. $\endgroup$ – Danu Aug 29 '14 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Danu I agree to that, but for those questions, the "Unclear what you are asking" close vote fits perfectly, because those would be just personal theories, and we don't understand them, so they are unclear. Problem solved. Do you agree to that? $\endgroup$ – user3459110 Aug 30 '14 at 4:08
  • $\begingroup$ Not quite, since I have seen many cases where it is quite clear what the person is asking - it's just about a nonsensical theory! What I'm getting at is that we should not weaken the meaning of non-mainstream being off-topic here. $\endgroup$ – Danu Aug 30 '14 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Danu Can you give me an example of such a 'nonsensical' theory? If it is 'nonsensical', it would probably not be closely/entirely related to Physics, I think; in which case, it would be of-topic. $\endgroup$ – user3459110 Aug 30 '14 at 10:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Danu that's no reason not to have the site. The name "scientific imagination" would certainly be a beacon to people looking to post their theories about how gravity is part of the electromagnetic force, so I'd never dare visit it. But if the proposers are willing to accept that risk, by all means they should be allowed to have a go at it $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 30 '14 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim I am in no way opposing a new site! This post, however, is about replacing that proposed new site with a tag here in physics.se! $\endgroup$ – Danu Aug 30 '14 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Danu Woah! must have missed that. Nope, I'm against things that turn our slow leak into a spillway. $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 30 '14 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim My point exactly: Keep the floodgates shut! ;) $\endgroup$ – Danu Aug 30 '14 at 14:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Danu But I still didn't see the example of a non-sensical theory. $\endgroup$ – user3459110 Aug 30 '14 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @AwalGarg oh yes, sorry, I forgot. An example: Recently we had a question where a user asserted that the Lorentz transformations from SRT were wrong, proposing an alternative (bogus) theory. In the guise of a what-if question, this would suddenly become on-topic, while I definitely think it should never be. $\endgroup$ – Danu Aug 30 '14 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AwalGarg Example: "What if gravity is not actually a separate force, but really just an electromagnetic force due to a third, neutral charge? After all, neutral charges attract all other charges, even themselves, and are weaker than forces between other charges. It's the only logical explanation." $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 30 '14 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim such questions are not even entertained at the concerned proposal. We are talking about logical and possible things, and not wild opinions. $\endgroup$ – user3459110 Aug 30 '14 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Danu such questions are not even entertained at the concerned proposal. We are talking about logical and possible things, and not wild opinions. $\endgroup$ – user3459110 Aug 30 '14 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ @AwalGarg So what you're saying is such questions are not even entertained at the concerned proposal. We are talking about logical and possible things, and not wild opinions. $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 30 '14 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim Yes, what I am saying is such questions are not even entertained at the concerned proposal. We are talking about logical and possible things, and not wild opinions. $\endgroup$ – user3459110 Aug 30 '14 at 14:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .