I have just noted that we have a tag. What is its purpose? Does it mean that the answers are expected to be pop science level, that just the question is pop science but the answers can nevertheless be technical for people other than the OP qho can stomach them, or is it meant to characterize questions that are popular level and should attain exclusively popular level answers too?

Is this tag meant to be the converse of the research-level tag?

I am not sure if I like this tag, it will depend on its purpose ...

Do we really nead this tag or should we dispense with it? An additional thought is that Physics SE is not meant to serve a lay audience explicitely, it is according to the faq targetted at academics, researchers, and students of physics and astronomy ...

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    $\begingroup$ This might be the first I'm seeing of this tag; I'm not sure what the point is. There should not be a tag specifying that answers should be pop-science level, because it would be a meta tag and also that is an inappropriate restriction to put on answerers. $\endgroup$ – David Z May 20 '13 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ If anybody tags one of my questions with this popular science tag I will delete it, I warn you ... ;-P $\endgroup$ – Dilaton May 20 '13 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky I agree... And thanks for the help with the edit since I am typing on my smart phone ...;-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton May 20 '13 at 10:41

I think this tag could be used also for all these questions we really enjoy to resolve, like everyday paradoxes (the tea leafs paradox (unfortunately duplicated here, here and there) is one of such paradox I discovered recently with a particular joy for instance), physics of toys (Help understanding a Magnetic Levitation "Physics Toy" among a lot of examples that can be easily found), ... to give some examples

I also think that any other question asking for a popularisation of complicated concept (like this question about Higgs) deserve a specific tag.

Of course the main interest of a popular tag is that it attracts and encourage people ! It's fine for me to have some questions from the civil society, say (I do not know if there's a better english word), like this one for instance.

So, for me

  • popular-science tag is absolutely not a pejorative tag at all

  • popularising science is what every researcher should do sometimes

  • science is good for people

I would be very happy if a scientific journalist for instance cites a popular-science answer from physics.SE.

PS: At the time of writing, I obviously put all the examples I gave under the pop-science banner !

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    $\begingroup$ Hm, for the second application of popular-science you suggest to everyday paradoxes, I thought we have already everyday-life? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 29 '13 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Then make a tag physics-of-toys, and I'll be the happiest man on the Earth :-) More seriously, I do not believe that a bit of overlap between tags is a drama. If there are too much overlaps, synonyms helps of course. I updated a bit my answer about the civil society, too $\endgroup$ – FraSchelle Jun 29 '13 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I have seen a question recently to which I have attached both, I dont think they are exactly the same :-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 29 '13 at 17:07

It's a meta tag, I think it can be safely removed (I'll get to work on it later).

An additional thought is that Physics SE is not meant to serve a lay audience explicitely, it is according to the faq targetted at academics, researchers, and students of physics and astronomy ...

Well, while we aim to serve higher level physics, this is not an argument to not allow lower physics. Otherwise topics like and would be off topic. We do not aim for a large number of low level questions, but neither do we shun them.

  • $\begingroup$ Whoops, I just wanted to start removing the tag from the few questions but then I noted that @Qmechanic has applied it too. So maybe we should wait and see what he has to say a out it. A possible use for people interested more in technical questions could be that by this tag pop science questions can be ignored by ignoring the popular science tag. So maybe it is not that bad as I first thought ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton May 20 '13 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ BTW @Manishearth lower level and popular questions are perfectly ok here, and since some time they and people gaining rep and therefore (moderation) priviledges from them even dominate the site. So they need no special protection. It is rather the higher level stuff that is no longer so well received and appreciated . $\endgroup$ – Dilaton May 20 '13 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: I think we've been through this before, from my view (reviewing stuff and generally looking at new questions), this doesn't seem to be the case. There seem to be plenty of QM/QFT questions, and well as a lot of string theory (and other BSM stuff); much more than a year ago. Most of the HW seems to get closed (though we try to wait a bit sometimes for the community to close vote) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth May 20 '13 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ I hope the popular science tag will not be removed. $\endgroup$ – Prathyush Jun 30 '13 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Prathyush Care to elaborate why? In it's current form the comment isn't really useful for meta discussion. Also, I'm sort of OK with the tag being used for a fixed set of popsci topics (like relativity, etc). Not for "layman's terms" questions. (And currently it's being used for anything and everything a layman would ask, including questions that don't specifically ask for LT) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 30 '13 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ it should be used as described in the other meta question proposing level-filtering and it currently does. There may already be people for which it is importent to filter stuff, so I agree with @Prathyush that it should no longer be removed. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 30 '13 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @dilaton (a) I already know your reasons, I asked Prathyush because he may have had an interesting point. (b) I'm very against that use of the tag. There's not much difference between that and [beginner] on SO, so it isn't allowed for the same reasons. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jul 1 '13 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ I think the tag must be applied in situations where the OP is looking for an answer without the burden of a full technical explanation. Questions on topics like confinement for instance can have answers at varied depths, and popular science tag should be used to separate highly simplified non technical questions, from the ones seeking for technical details. If used this way I think the popular science tag will be useful in organization. $\endgroup$ – Prathyush Jul 1 '13 at 8:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Prathyush I see. Unfortunately, the tag as stated is really broad as it applies to many, many questions. (See blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/08/the-death-of-meta-tags). The second thing is that this definition is not immediately obvious from the tag name, which can lead to further confusion. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jul 1 '13 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ Also, using tags like this for ignore-filtering is open to abuse; because applying the tag to any question is almost as effective as deletion, except that any 500 rep user can do it (with a chance of not being noticed) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jul 1 '13 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ I do see a possibility of abuse. Ideally, I would like a dynamic interface, with customizable main page,featured questions, favourite tags and so on... on the left side displayed using a nice scroll and active questions on the right side with bottomless scrolling. $\endgroup$ – Prathyush Jul 1 '13 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth what do you mean that ignore-filtering of a tag is as effective as deletion? I do not understand this, since only the users who ignore the corresponding tag in their preferences will see the corresponding questions grayed out or no longer at all, whereas the large majority that has not set this preference in their profile still sees questions with the specific tag. This holds for tags like quantum-mechanics etc too, so from your point of view ignore-filtering of any tag should generally not be allowed, or what I am getting wrong? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 8 '13 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ If some users ingnore in their profile the quantum-mechanics tag, they will not (or only grayed out) see new questions with the quantum-mechanics tag, and if questions get retagged with quantum-mechanics, they will disappear from their field of view too. But this does not affect the view of other people who have not set this preference, so I really dont see why ignoring a tag can be compared to deletion. Is this not the intended purpose of setting preferences, and why should (the possibility to) ignore tags in accordance with the personal preferences be bad in the first place? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 8 '13 at 13:31

May 21st 2013: So far less than 20 questions have be tagged . It seems that the popular-science tag has mostly been non-systematically attached to questions, where either:

  1. OP explicitly asked for a simplified layman explanation, or

  2. OP's question was spurred after reading/watching a pop-sci source of information (i.e. different from a physics textbook or physics journal).

Update July 8th, 2013: So far around 80 question have be tagged . It is a meta tag still without a precise unanimous definition yet. Different users seem to have different opinion about what it means. Some user seems to use it to brand/mark questions negatively. Moreover, retagging activity is beginning to be disruptive to the main site front page.

If these issues are not properly addressed, I recommend that the tag is burninated.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this answer Qmechanic. So what would be your advice about what we should do with this tag? Concerning its current use, point 1. seems to be a reasonable and clear, whereas point 2. looks slightly more controversial since the source that inspired the question does not always make it unambiguously clear if the OP expects a technical answer or not, this probably depends more on his background (guessable from the (non) technical language he uses to formulate the question). Another possible usage would be to filter questions according to the level, similar to research-level ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton May 21 '13 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ I updated the answer $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Mod Jul 8 '13 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, now I no longer agree with this answer, since many people think this is good and useful suggestion, and burnicating that tag would strongly counteract this proposal. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 8 '13 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ I have to apologize to you, of course should all three tags in this suggestion be well defined enough to fullfill their purpose as suggested by Jesse. Are you really strictly against his suggestion of level filtering? When reading it for the first time I thought that it would be nice if maybe you could help fleshing out an unanimous definition in the tag wikis for all 3 level tags (if the current ones are not good enough), $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 8 '13 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ and help with the appropriate and slow (non disruptive) retagging since you have the best judgement and overview in physics and more general things I think. Most of the question would need no level tag at all, as I understand Jesse's proposal. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jul 8 '13 at 18:59

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