I have noticed some "non-mainstream" (it may be rude to say crackpot) questions and answers recently such as:



Currently, I am flagging these as "spam" because they are pretty much like advertisements but isn't it better to have a more specific flag associated with these, like "Non-mainstream"? Since "Spam" usually refers to answers like "me too! I would like to thank so and so website for leading me here" or "me too! So and so company can help you!" etc.

So, has this "Non-mainstream" -flag been proposed before? And what are your thoughts about it?


Yep, this has already been proposed here, and it'll be implemented as soon as we have custom close reasons enabled. That might be happening later this week.

Incidentally, the spam flag should only be used for actual spam, by which I mean purely promotional posts with no relevance to the site. Things like

CIALIS VIAGRA PRON xxx.example.com!!!!1!!

OK, I'm not very good at writing spam, but you get the idea. Posts about non-mainstream theories are not spam (in the sense of the flag) unless they link to some crackpot website promoting the theory and the purpose of the post is clearly nothing more than promotion of the site. Without that link, if non-mainstream posts are questions, flag them as off topic; if they are answers, downvote them.


What demonstrates a complete rejection of an idea better:

  • A unilateral decision by a moderator to delete a answer
  • A hail of downvotes from the community placing the answer deep in negative score territory. (And with questions a hail of downvotes plus a community close.)

Further, given the number of times a week one moderator or another is accused of "doing it wrong" do you really want to encourage a culture in which we are aggressive about deleting content?

We also have a class of users who regularly offer correct answer to basic questions generating some rep for their account while at the same time promoting some--shall we say--"unusual" point of view on a more advanced topic. Downvoting rather than deleting their off-the-mainstream answers also serves to hold their rep down lest it fool a naive reader ("Oh look that guy has a pretty good rep, he must be on to something").

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    $\begingroup$ To be honest, I don't think that last one works well. Due to the rep ratio of upvotes (+10) to downvotes (-2), users would have to "promote unusual points of view" five times more actively than they offer correct answers for this to kick in. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 2 '13 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I've been watching a couple of selected users who I consider to be in this category. The steady downvoting of their unusual stuff is not going to prevent them from gaining (say) close privileges, but it has been holding them back on getting there. Way back. At some point I suppose we're going to have to issue long running suspensions for these users, but I've been trying to avoid it. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jul 2 '13 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Holding them back by how much? How much rep have they won and how much have they lost? Is the latter as much as even 10% of the former? Unless it's above 20%(=2/10), I don't think the mechanism makes any real difference. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 2 '13 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty My favorite example has received more downvotes than upvotes (so more than 20%, especially as many of this user's posts are questions not answers); is averaging substantially less than 1000 net rep per year and hasn't been gaining significant rep since an early rash of giving good answers to basic questions. It does make a difference. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Jul 3 '13 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I guess it can make a difference. It still sounds like a pretty extreme situation for only a ~20% slowdown to me, though. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jul 4 '13 at 1:10

I realize that non-mainstream physics is off-topic, but I would hope that moderators err on the side of inclusion; I went through all of the OP's links and learned a lot imagination/conjecture-wise, without being swayed into joining any shady physics cults ;)

Particularly, sourced rebuttals and elucidations present in answers on those topics do a lot to show me what is going on with some of the higher reaches of physics without climbing those crags myself. I'm not exactly sure how you would get the same result without questions of this kind to complete such a "Socratic method".

Say what you will about the wackiness of this question for example, but I learned a lot from the comments and the sole answer, and it was equally worth it to untangle what the OP was asking despite it being ill-formed, and, if the answerer is right, pointing at a non-mainstream theory (braneworld).


Since Physics SE is about mainstream physics, you can flag such questions as off topic and it is best to clearly state in a comment on the question, that and maybe why you are sure it is not mainstream.

Concerning answers containing non mainstream physics, it is a bit more complicated since for answers there is no off topic flag reason. In this case I always chose the flag option to call for moderator attention and say in the text field that this answer promotes non mainstream physics and is therefore off topic. Leaving a comment below the answer does not hurt too.

  • $\begingroup$ Leaving a comment together with the flag is actually important to avoid too many such flags being wrongly declined by people who do not automatically see that the flagged post is about non mainstream physics and therefore not welcome here. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 19 '13 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ Just because an answer is wrong is not a reason you should be flagging it. That's what downvotes are for. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jun 20 '13 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky I am not talking about wrong answers and questions, but about nonconstructive trolling posts. Bei trolling I mean what is written in the wikipedia entry under the term internet trolling or flaming. I am momentarily not able to insert links. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ I refuse to believe that things has gone so far by now, that nonconstructive trolling often by laypeople who have no clue what they are talking about, about legitimate mainstream physics, certain researchers, etc has to be tolerated here on physics SE. If it would be tolerated here, this would degrade physics SE to being no better than any unmoderated physics blogs, forums, or discussion below popular news article, where not knowledgable enough people often bunch up to spit and spat on legitimate physics topics and throwing stowns on physicists working in these fields, as soon as certain $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 2:43
  • $\begingroup$ Keywords are mentiond. I guess you should know what I am talking about, at least if you follow physics blogs from time to time... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZaslavsky and non mainstream physics has allways been off topic as far as I know. Or did I miss something and this has now changed too? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 2:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Non mainstream physics is still off topic, and probably always will be. However, wrong physics is a different matter. About trolling: No, the Wikipedia definition says is a person who sows discord on the Internet by trying to start arguments and upset people. We don't try to guess a person's intentions when they post non mainstream stuff. And a layperson posting wrong stuff is NOT a troll; they are working in good faith. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ If someone is saying wrong things about mainstream physics; that is not non-mainstream by the definition used here. If I say that "the stress energy tensor in general relativity is the metric tensor plus the kronecker delta", that is wrong, but not non-mainstream (as it is about GR). If I post "GR is wrong, use <theory> instead", or "mass and length are equivalent", that is non mainstream. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Manishearth the definition of trolling says it is come here to upset people, instead of getting or delivering correct information. You really say it is ok for people to come here with the only purpose to annoy and upset physicists? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Yes, that's the definition of trolling. How do you know the intentions of the poster? Basically, trolling implies an understanding of the poster's intentions. We really can't just assume that. On the other hand, N-M physics is something that can be objectively determined by looking at the post -- no need to research the user. It's not OK for people to do that. But having assumptions about a user sneak into policy -- that's not good either. I'm just against the usage of the terminology "trolling". $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ You seem not to understand what I mean, I dont mean posting wrong things or misunderstand things, but upseting physicists by attacking them or their work, way of thinking, etc in an agressive manner. Example of such trolling about mainstream physics as I often observe it is for example posting answers and questions here with the corresponding tags that are nothing but opionated hate speach about the topic of people wirking on it. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Attacking a physicist is a personal attack and is deleted for that reason. Attacking their work usually is non-mainstream physics. If, however, a physicist's work is disputed in mainstream physics, saying that "X is wrong because reasons" is OK. Aggressiveness, again, can have problems and can be deleted for being offensive. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, "String theory is complete BS and a total waste of time", is an attack, and can be deleted as such. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ Enough promote this unjustified negative and sometimes even attacking attitude. But this does not make it right. Agreed that it is better to stop here, because you obviously will never understand what I am saying so further discussions are not constructive ... :-/ $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 20 '13 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @dilaton uh, no it can't. The scientific method works, but for that you need irrefutable experimental evidence. And even then you can only be sure to a certain level of accuracy. Also, the claim isn't that ST isn't testable, it's that ST isn't practically testable to a high level of accuracy (i.e. to the extent that GR has been tested) in the near future. Yes, there have been tests. However, if those tests are enough to conclusively say that "String Theory is correct" -- that's a subjective matter that people disagree on. And I respect their opinions on that. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jun 20 '13 at 16:03

I don't see how non-mainstream is the same as crackpot-ism. If everyone keeps repeating mainstream teachings it's just religion. Were Galileo's views main-stream? Now, I know this isn't a place for publishing research. But especially considering the various equally valid interpretations of quantum mechanics: There seems to be a strong bias towards the Kopenhagen interpretation on stackexchange.

Majority vote or having read something in a main-stream book has nothing to do with scientific evidence.

The result of this anti-non-mainstream-policy is that for example renowned physicists like Nobel laureate 't Hooft giving scientific good answers are downvoted simply because what he is talking about is relatively new and not yet mainstream. (Not that it should matter who the answerer is. It just goes to show that the assumption that all non-mainstream posts are basically from 10 year old know-it-alls, is wrong.)

Mainstream orthodoxy and dogmatism have always stood in the way of scientific progress!

Why not simply a non-mainstream tag instead of a non-mainstream flag?

  • $\begingroup$ I suspect you're interpreting the non-mainstream closure reason as broader than it is used in practice, and in my experience the kinds of nonmainstreamness you're describing don't get closed. There is at present no in-system way to audit this but this google search returns the non-deleted closed questions under that reason. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 28 '17 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Do have a poke around that list; if you do find the kind of questions you're describing ─ good science done honestly but a bit off the beaten track, while keeping in mind that we're not a venue for peer review ─ then that would be problematic, and I would encourage you to post such a list as a separate thread on this meta. However, I think you'll mostly be half horrified at the kind of stuff that gets posted, with the other half agreeing that it needed to be closed. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 28 '17 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ (Similarly, it may not have been obvious as to the kinds of questions and answers OP was referring to; see the edited question for publicly-accessible screenshots of the kinds of post under discussion in this specific thread.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jun 28 '17 at 16:10

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