The FAQ states:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

This bit is highlighted.

This sentence has an obvious meaning, which is wrong. Almost none of the questions here deal with practical questions about actual problems that the OP faced. Rather, this bit is boilerplate text common to various stackexchange sites. On many of those sites the obvious meaning may well be appropriate, but here we should say something else.

Am I correct? If so, what should it really say?

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    $\begingroup$ What if you are a graduate student studying something. Then an actual problem that you face may be anything you don't understand and couldn't figure out. No? $\endgroup$ – MBN Mar 27 '13 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MBN: would this mean that some questions are only valid if the person asking them is actually a graduate student? Also, "practical". $\endgroup$ – Retarded Potential Mar 27 '13 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ Grad. student is just an example of a person with an actual problem that he faces. Obviously it doesn't matter whether the person is a student or not, as long as he asks a questions about an actual problem he faces. $\endgroup$ – MBN Mar 27 '13 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know what you understand by practical, but to me that part is fine too. It is practical to learn various things, so asking a question about it makes it a practical question. For example how to solve a certain type of problems in say quantum field theory. $\endgroup$ – MBN Mar 27 '13 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MBN: So you're saying "actual" and "practical" are fine as they are, because what they really mean is something like "anything you don't understand and couldn't figure out"? Perhaps make that an answer? $\endgroup$ – Retarded Potential Mar 27 '13 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ It is not what I said. $\endgroup$ – MBN Mar 27 '13 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Then I'm afraid I'm not sure what you're saying. Feel free to elaborate on your view in an answer. $\endgroup$ – Retarded Potential Mar 28 '13 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand what is unclear! To me practical doesn't necessarily mean something like "how to paint my fence" or "how to calculate grocery bills". For a physicist, even a grad. student, a practical could (and does) mean something else, a question here, which is considered excellent, could easily be a practical question. Why don't you say what you understand by practical and why it bothers you in the sentence above? $\endgroup$ – MBN Mar 28 '13 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ Very well. I amended the question to include links. While "practical" can be interpreted in an unusual way, surely the obvious meaning is more or less the opposite of theoretical. See also dmckee's showcase below. $\endgroup$ – Retarded Potential Mar 28 '13 at 17:30

I think my answer here says it all (and some of the other answers as well).

Basically, it's a rule that makes sense for the SOFU trilogy, and not for science sites.

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    $\begingroup$ In that answer you suggest: "You should only ask answerable questions that will be useful to others". This sounds sensible to me. $\endgroup$ – Retarded Potential Mar 25 '13 at 18:49

Of course, us experimental types can have practical physics questions.

That's because we're practical people.

Take that you smarty-pants people!


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