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  • Is non-mainstream physics allowed here?
  • What defines non-mainstream physics?
  • What sort of questions and answers are disallowed by this policy?
  • What should I do if I see a question or answer containing non-mainstream physics?
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Is non-mainstream physics allowed here?

No, questions and answers about non-mainstream physics are not allowed here.

We are not a substitute for peer-review, and cannot evaluate new theories. While some questions can lead to legitimate new theories, the question will need to be specific in order to fit this format.

What defines mainstream physics?

Mainstream physics is physics which has been accepted by a significant portion of the physics community. In the case of modern physics, if a theory has not been published in a reputable journal, it is not considered mainstream.

What sort of questions and answers are disallowed by this policy?

Any post that attempts to work within the bounds of what we have determined to be "mainstream physics" is considered on topic for this site barring any other issues. For example, a question that proposes a new concept or paradigm, but asks for evaluation of that concept within the framework of current (mainstream) physics is OK. Similarly, a wrong answer that makes false statements but claims to work within the bounds of a mainstream theory is also allowed.

On the other hand, if a question or answer uses a non-mainstream theory as its premise and attempts to go forward in that direction, it can be safely closed or deleted.

What should I do if I see a question or answer containing non-mainstream physics?

Firstly, be certain that it is indeed off topic by the above rules. Note that if a post is simply wrong, leave a constructive comment explaining why, and downvote.

If the post is indeed non-mainstream, leave a comment stating the fact and linking to this meta post. For questions, flag or vote to close as non-mainstream. For answers, use a custom moderator flag mentioning that it is non-mainstream.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, I'd add two things: 1) Questions about non-mainstream physics should be ok, e.g. ("Have Podkletnov's antigravity experiments been independently reproduced?", "Why do we believe cold fusion can't work?"). Questions in fringe physics aren't ok ("Where does the square root come from in this mass-formula?"). 2) We should be careful about "questions that propose a new concept or paradigm". Those can be very useful, and generate research-level content, but they can also invite half-baked speculation (like "Are all particles the same string weaving the fabric of the universe"?) $\endgroup$ – jdm Jul 10 '13 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @jdm afaict (1) is not allowed, but I'm not sure. Regarding (2) That's actually OK. While the "one string to rule them all" question wasn't worded too well, it didn't fall afoul of the current non mainstream policy. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jul 10 '13 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding (1), sometimes I come along something in a paper or a pop-sci article, and would like to know whether it's legitimate or not. Say, the Woodward effect, Mallet's "Time machines", and so on. I'd like to be able to ask "Is this mainstream science?" and if it's not, "Where's the author's mistake, why can't this work?". Do you think that's OK? $\endgroup$ – jdm Jul 10 '13 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ Suggestion: Since "non-mainstream" is used both as (a) a euphemism for "crack" and (b) for things like Brans-Dicke theory, $f(R)$ theories, EC theory, etc., which have not been experimentally disproven, but neither have they been proven, ; I think a clarification, that by non-mainstream, whether it is meant (a) or (b) (As far as I know, it is (a)), is required. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jul 16 '13 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Dimension10 Uhh, no. "crack" is a very ambiguous and broad term that encompasses much more than what our policy does. Instead of defining non-mainstream in terms of other jargon, here it is clearly defined. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Jul 16 '13 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth: I was not suggesting that "Crack" is used instead of non-mainstream. What I meant is that, it should be defined with a few examples of what is mainstream, and what is not, is required. E.g., you could add something like, "When, we say non-mainstream, we do not mean theories like Brans-Dicke, or f(R), but things like Heim theory, and pet theories." I know you wrote about non-mainstream meaning "not published in reputable journals", which is quite clear, but I think a few examples would help reiterate, and further clarify, the point. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jul 16 '13 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ "We are not a substitute for peer-review" vs. "For example, a question that proposes a new concept or paradigm, but asks for evaluation of that concept within the framework of current (mainstream) physics is OK" I see a contradiction here, could you show me an example for both? What's the difference between the two? $\endgroup$ – Calmarius Feb 7 '14 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Calmarius The questions on this site are sometimes of the latter form, one asks "does this work within the framework of classical electromagnetism", for example. In the scientific world, that's not a theory needing peer review. It's just a question. However, if you have a new framework to propose, that's a theory needing peer review, not discussion on a website. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Feb 7 '14 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe there is a non mainstream way to discuss the maintream physics, which is to think what will happen if there is not something in the maintream physics. As far as I am concerned, This way could help to think deeper about mainstream physics. $\endgroup$ – qfzklm Feb 24 '14 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @qfzklmthe site is not for discussion. Physics Chat is for discussion, and mostly anything is allowed there. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Feb 24 '14 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ This is concerning. All theories started as speculation. Can't we speculate appropriately? Ask questions? Figure out the nature of the world through thinking? What's so wrong with that? $\endgroup$ – Andres Salas Aug 8 '14 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AndresSalas Feel free to do that in Physics Chat. Speculation invites discussion, and the SE platform isn't really designed for such discussion. Also, this invites a lot of cases where people try to use the site to promote their own crackpot theories. These are detrimental, thus disallowed. Again, mostly anything goes in chat, so that's the place to discuss and speculate -- we do that often, especially in the biweekly (Tuesday) chat sessions. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 9 '14 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ Note that the goal of this site isn't to formulate new theories, it's rather hard to do that in such a way online. We try to make useful information about physics of all levels available to those who need them. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 9 '14 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ this answer is problematic for various reasons, but in short one is that it to some degree reduces objective science to sociology $\endgroup$ – vzn Feb 11 '15 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn old post, but I thought I'd rebut; this website is not for the practice of science (developing new theories) per se; it's intended to act more like a reflection/explanation Q&A of what has already been developed... anyway, scientific inquiry is nuanced enough that judgment or valuation is often involved; the consensus aspect of scientific description is rather inescapable, SE Physics aside. $\endgroup$ – anon01 Jun 19 '17 at 20:32
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This is something one would expect in some "social" or even "humanitarian" branches of science (although i do not say that this is scientific, but it is indeed mainstream presently)

However it strikes me as very odd that positive branches of science (physics, mathematics, biology etc..) have to take such "measures" to guard a forum or a community from error or "heresy" or "non-mainstream-ness" (if i may use such a term).

It seems as if mathematics or even physics is a result of voting of which law is valid and is not a matter of natural reality.

It is as if some very wicked (but clever) person can divert the innocent viewers of this forum and make them believe other physical laws (by a mere manipulation of text and voting systems) hold in natural reality.

Of course in such a case "extreme measures" must be taken, the "natural" processes must be guarded from falling from their natural/realist (or should i say mainstream) status by voting them down or up.

Thank you.

UPDATE:

A recommendation:

Changing the forum's name to "mainstream physics" , since a definition of "mainstream" is in place it would indeed be valid and reflect the site's purpose and content.

Instead leave "physics" site name as non-reflecting the site's purpose and content.

It would lead to misunderstanding as encompassing talks / theories and discussions about actual physics (as in nature ) and hypotheses about physics etc.. instead of "mainstream physics" as some people want to frame it as THE PHYSICS (please nothing personal here).

Of course changing the name would immediately make apparent the fact that it is non-encompassing all physics or formulations or alternative hypotheses except what is sponsored (with a grain of salt) as "mainstream". This would beat the purpose of the mainstream (but not of physics) as trying to frame the talk around physics (and science)

One should not buy into that or accept that framing merely on mainstream authority.

Thank you again

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    $\begingroup$ This site has a problem in that it attracts (at a rate that is high enough that it would compromise the site's usefulness if left unchecked) questions which have very little to do with physics. Mostly, these are pet theories of people with no training or understanding of the standard framework their 'theory' is meant to replace. They can usually be proven wrong with a few sentences referring to some experiment, but the posters will typically be very aggressive and will rarely enter constructive discussions. The existence of this policy is thus a site-protection measure. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 14 '14 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ To see a sample of such questions, try this Google search. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 14 '14 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ i agree with you, i am not saying this is not so, all i am saying is that this is not the best way to handle this or answer this. And in fact the positiveness of physics can make much easier to answer these questions very constructively. Apart from that i have many pet theries (as i think almost evryone outthere) and that i think this is good $\endgroup$ – Nikos M. May 14 '14 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see how the measures are extreme. As Emilio said, these posts are a problem. However, it's easy for someone to argue that their post is "mainstream" as a matter of opinion, so we need a concrete definition that can be objectively tested against. That's what this policy provides. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth May 14 '14 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth, "extreme measures" is quoted on purpose, of course they are not extreme literally but just given an emphasis on what i described as a wrong approach $\endgroup$ – Nikos M. May 14 '14 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty, 'i' is on puspose, 'i' is not important, this is what i want to express and i cant see how this makes it more probable for rant that ANYONE else (which might capitalize it) $\endgroup$ – Nikos M. May 14 '14 at 13:05
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    $\begingroup$ The main point, I think, is that this site is meant as a place to discuss physics. It is not meant as a place to discuss with all comers why their pet theories are not physics, and particularly so if they get intransigent about it (which happens alarmingly often; constructive answers are possible, but constructive discussions depend on the OP). Thus, we reserve the prerogative to close questions which fall outside of what we're here to discuss. If you feel this is extreme, you are free to propose alternative measures and see if people are willing to put in the time to make them work. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 14 '14 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty, maybe we have (or i have) a misunderstanding of what this forum is and is after. Maybe this is true, still demonizing people just because they want to learn more or want to check their own understanding, is not sth i agree at all. The result is creation of groups of people that are assumed as elite by their own votes. Anyway this can be harsh so i leave it there. i still dont see the misunderstanding of the 'i' capiltalization or not (assuming you mean in a negative sense). $\endgroup$ – Nikos M. May 14 '14 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ @NikosM. Proper capitalization, spelling and punctuation will in general help people take you seriously. In the end, of course, that is completely up to you. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 14 '14 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ I am really not very interested in debating this point. I have tried to explain why it is there and you can take or leave that explanation as you wish. If you want a warmer reception, I might suggest forming a complete picture of what the problem is before you accuse people of being closed or elitist (but again that is up to you). If you feel you have a more complete solution to the problem (which exists, and which you have not yet addressed), by all means propose it, in a thoughtful and respectful manner, to the community, and see what people think. Have a good day! $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty May 14 '14 at 16:50
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty, again you are wrong, you are constantly confusing form with content. Taken seriosuly or not is a matter of content. i did provide a solution, change the name to "mainstream physics". After all you have a rigorous definition of mainstream and this IS what you want to talk about. But you dont want that. You want to talk about "mainstream physics" BUT make it look as though you are talking about "physics". i proposed a solution along your lines. You will be surprised at how much mainstream you will look after that $\endgroup$ – Nikos M. May 15 '14 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ "mainstream physics" is a horrible and silly name. Besides, in that case "no homework" would be a better name or "no homework/no non mainsteam physics/no engineering/no pure math/no black magic/ no politics/...". And the word Physics in this context already implies that it must have some acceptance. When I take a Relativity course I don't expect to be told that aether is real, when I read a Physics journal I not interested in some magical theory, etc. $\endgroup$ – jinawee May 16 '14 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ @NikosM. I've read through everyone's statements and I think there indeed is a misunderstanding about the function of this website. If we were a physics forum and what we wanted was what you seem to believe we want, then your "outrage" would be well deserved. However, Physics.SE is not a physics forum. We are not here to discuss physics; to have open discussions about the current state of research or the validity of (un)accepted theories. Our objective is essentially to teach/inform people of where physics is at.... $\endgroup$ – Jim May 23 '14 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ We are a question and answer website. Ask a question about something in physics and we will tell you how the currently known physics would answer it. Our "mainstream physics" limitation is instituted because where physics is at is by definition limited to accepted physics. Any new or unaccepted theories may be completely correct, however they are not within the current understanding of physics. New/unaccepted theories may be unproven, they may need ironing out, or they may still be in development. But since we are only here to basically tell you what current physics thinks of an issue.... $\endgroup$ – Jim May 23 '14 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ then that necessarily excludes non-mainstream physics. On a general physics discussion forum, they often accept the alternative or "crackpot" theories. And I agree to your point about Galileo and Copernicus. But this site wouldn't be the place for those theories at that time either. Our purpose is to explain how what we think we know is the truth of nature works. We are not a place to discuss whether that truth is right or whether someone else's ideas are better. This site is a compendium of the knowledge of current physics, but not the source of it. $\endgroup$ – Jim May 23 '14 at 19:01

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