# C'mon, let's rescue the "clockwise" question

The recent question on the precise meaning of "clockwise" has received a ton of close-votes and downvotes (partly, I think, because of the original tone of the question). As @babou and I have argued, this is a valid, nontrivial, on-topic, valuable question, and it should really be pulled out of the administrative hole it's in. So: c'mon, upvote it and unclosevote it!

For Manishearth's benefit, I quote my comment to the question:

"Clockwise" is an important, ubiquitous technical term in the physical literature, and it is perfectly fine to have questions about their specific meaning and the conventions that surround such technical terms. Conventions are not physical insight but they are a crucial part of transmitting and understanding it.

As for the "ubiquitous", babou did the numbers to find that

The word "clockwise" is used more than 800 times on physics.stackexchange.com according to the very approximative figures of google (I used: clockwise site:physics.stackexchange.com). This adverb must have some relevance to physics.

Yes, the question is about conventions. But asking what the common conventions in physics are, and how to use them, is what we have a tag to begin with.

• Jul 26 '13 at 2:31
• @CrazyBuddy What's the difference? Jul 26 '13 at 10:22
• Clockwise = deosil. Counter-clockwise or anti-clockwise = widdershins. Case closed. Jul 30 '13 at 21:06

Oh, FSM!

In a sense the question turns on the same (mis)understanding that leads to ask why a mirror reverses left and right but not up and down: one party views the clock from their own POV, the other promotes the clock to effective personhood and looks from its POV. In either case if they would say what they mean they could agree.

In any case, this is why physicist and engineer use "into the wall" and "out of the wall". The usual clock rotates into the the wall, and the deal in most card games rotates into the table. Alas when you say that in other company people think you are even weirder than is actually the case.

On reviewing the question I think there are some good answers there, and would not oppose re-opening, but I am among the crowd that feels "Physicists don't use that term other than casually because we have a more precise vocabulary; it's an English question", so I am not going to use my moderator super powers to re-open it either.

• I'm with you on this; I'd rather let the community handle it unless there is a clear meta consensus for keeping. Jul 21 '13 at 20:41
• Hrmf. There seems to be a thirst for question blood but no responses to our argumentation. I'll give this a bit of time and nominate for reopening. Jul 21 '13 at 20:46
• @EmilioPisanty I don't see much argumentation, valid, nontrivial, on-topic, valuable question is a tautology if you're using it to justify keeping a question open -- if you feel that a q should be open, the other things are implied. In this case, the close voters probably should give clearer arguments and then you can see if they can be countered. Jul 22 '13 at 5:06
• @EmilioPisanty Much better now :) Jul 22 '13 at 11:54

I do not know whether the question needs reopening. Trying to sponge a mess will often spread it to a worse mess. The real problem is that it became a mess to begin with.

The point is that it was a perfectly valid question, asked candidly by a user who wanted to be sure in the face of some opposition.

It is about an adverb often used technically by physicists, on this site too (as I tried to show).

All three respondents were in agreement with this. My own answer was probably hard to follow as I had misread John Rennie's answer (because, as I explained later, he was using the more complex to explain the simpler, in my view. I now understand his intent and reason).

The problem was, and is often, with the downvote system. There was absolutely no reason to downvote this question. It was unjustified technically, and it was rude to the poster.

Voting on scientific issues is a rather strange idea (whether for or against). Voting without having to justify the vote is just an open door for the kind of mess we have seen. I know that has already been discussed.

The best way to clean the mess, and many other questions, would be to write a common synthesis of what was said. But if we start on that path, we will not finish soon.

We also have individually the possibility of rewriting the existing answers.

But we will still be treating a symptom, not the illness.

If something is not worth seeing, it should not be there. If it is nevertheless kept, it can only be as an example of what is not worth seeing. But that is useful only if a reason is given, even an anonymous one. The reason is needed by the public as much as it is desired by the author.

• I don't think the voting on scientific issues is strange, at least not in SE terms. We shouldn't vote on the issue, rather we vote up if "The question shows research effort; it is clear and useful" and vote down otherwise. To me, that doesn't mean we should vote based on on- or off-topic, interesting or boring, revolutionary or textbook. Jul 26 '13 at 1:58
• My comment is not to be interpreted as disagreeing with your sentiment. Just the line that we are voting on scientific issues "for or against." We aren't voting for or against the scientific principles in a question. Jul 26 '13 at 1:59
• I am not sure if I agree with @tpg2114's criteria for voting question. Of course, a question has to be clear and well written enough such that the audience can understand what the OP wants to know and is interested in. But to me it is much more important that questions are interesting from a physics point of view, than that they conform to artificial criteria about the form of the question and research effort is not always important for good well informed questions. I suspect judging questions according to non physics superficial bureaucratic criteria is what underlies many capricious Jul 26 '13 at 9:05
• from a physics point of view not justifiable downvotes and even leads to bad closures of interesting physics questions ... Jul 26 '13 at 9:06
• @Dilaton The judging criteria I laid out is what the mouse-over tips tell you when choosing to vote up or down on something. The SE model shouldn't be built around the idea that somebody finds something boring so it's downvoted, even if it's a good question about a topic that isn't interesting. For example, if I found GR/SR questions uninteresting and downvoted all of them, that wouldn't be very good at all. Jul 26 '13 at 9:41
• @tpg2114 sure, I did of course not mean that one should up/down (or even close) vote questions according to the criteria if one likes/dislikes the topic :-D, that is not what I said and it would be really bad. In fact I have learned to be a bit more careful what I ask about on the main page than I initially was. Jul 26 '13 at 9:56
• @tpg2114 what appears when hovering the mouse over the voting arrows is not the best criterium how to vote and it should certainly not be the only one on a physics site. Do you know if this text can be adapted on each site? For example much more important would be to consider if the questions is reasonable from a physics point of view. Maybe I should write a feature request on MSO if it can not be changed at present ... Jul 26 '13 at 11:06
• @Dilaton You're free to suggest it get changed. You might want to start with a proposal for what it should say for physics.SE on this meta before taking it to MSO. It's better to go in fully informed with a solution than to ask if something is possible without knowing the details of how you want it to work. Jul 26 '13 at 11:19

I find the question to be fair and John's Rennie's answer to be appropriate.

The word clockwise can only be used along with a well defined axis, and had to clarified to the user. I see no reason, why such a question must be closed, as cross products requires an unambiguous definition of the word clockwise.

I request reopening of the question,

• Gosh, all the reopen votes have evaporated but I have now put down a new one ;-) Jul 28 '13 at 11:34