I really would like to refrain from whining and so whilst I have been downvoted to -5 or less before, I haven't really bothered to complain about it. I truly do not want to be that person.

However, I would like some criticism to why my question received -3 because in my eyes it is perfectly valid: Proof that the ground pushes you up

It just asks about why the ground is expected to push back when you try to jump; the answer of which is as simple as compression and decompression (hence elasticity) of the surface on a nanoscopic level. I mentioned that I'm new to physics and gave my opinion on what I thought was happening. I got answers and -3 votes but nobody said anything out of the ordinary and when I asked, nobody bothered answering me.

Could somebody please explain what I am doing wrong in my question? Is it the way I asked it, the content itself, or perhaps is it too low-level for the site?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't agree with the downvotes either. But note, the question has been asked before quite a few times, e.g. : How can I stand on the ground? EM or/and Pauli?, so I'm voting to mark as duplicate. Your idea about "magnets" is quite close, but not exactly it. Read theat question. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Dec 20 '13 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ On physics.SE downvoting is a passion. Sometimes there is some personal revenge. i followed the 5 steps many times described in the answer but got downvotes and few constructive criticism e.g Today i got 2. Your question is clear so '+1'. $\endgroup$ – user31782 Dec 20 '13 at 19:41

My guess is, there's a little of both involved:

  • There are lots of resources online, including other questions on this very site, on the topic of how the normal force happens. You haven't given any indication that you looked at any of those resources, and thus it appears as though you haven't put much of any research effort into your question. Any post like that is not likely to be well received.
  • Also, the question is written in a way that's characteristic of someone who isn't familiar with even the basic physics required to understand the answer. (And the fact that you identify yourself as a newbie to physics doesn't help.) Remember that this is primarily an "expert-level" site. Now, that doesn't mean that everyone is supposed to be a physics expert (like a grad student or researcher), but what it does mean is that we expect people asking questions to either already have the appropriate level of physics knowledge required to understand the answer to their question, or to be willing to go out and learn it after they get that answer. Your question is written in a way that kind of implies you're looking for a layperson-level, highly simplified explanation. There's nothing wrong with asking those kinds of questions, but when you want that kind of an explanation, this site isn't meant to be the place to get them.

Corresponding to those reasons, here are some things you can do to improve future questions.

First of all, put some effort into searching for the answer to your question, and show that you've done so. In particular:

  • Type the question title into Google (and/or another good-quality search engine) and look at the top few results
  • Also search a few combinations of key words, and again look at the top few results
  • Identify what physics concepts are involved and look at the relevant Wikipedia pages
  • Look in a textbook or equivalent resource on the appropriate subject. Remember, since this is an expert-level site, you should have the capacity to educate yourself enough to understand the answers you get, and as part of that educational program you should have some textbook-like resource available to you. Make sure to use it.
  • If you're asking a more advanced question which concerns current research, look for relevant papers, including checking on arXiv.
    • And of course, search on this site! Use the search box in the top right to check for relevant keywords and tags, and also, when you're typing your question in the form, look at the suggested similar questions the system shows you.

You don't have to explicitly list all the steps you go through to do prior research - like, you don't have to say which search terms you used - but you should give some indication that you put some effort into this. Basically, if someone reads your question and immediately finds a standard resource (Google search, Wikipedia, HyperPhysics, another SE question) that answers it, you should have found it yourself and already put an explanation in the question of why that resource doesn't give you the answer you want. Bear in mind that this is a requirement of questions at all levels. It has nothing to do with whether your question may be too simple or not.

Another thing (but it's kind of the same thing) that works against you is that you ask a question, present a hypothesis about the answer... and then that's it. It's fine (even preferred) to have your own hypothesis about the answer to your question - as long as your hypothesis is grounded in solid physics, of course - but then you need to go out and check that hypothesis yourself. Maybe it'll be correct, and then you don't need to post the question in the first place. Or if it's incorrect, you'll learn something that might help you better understand the question or its eventual answer. The point is, if you just say "My hypothesis is that XXXX." and leave it at that, it comes across as laziness. If you instead write "My hypothesis is that XXXX, but that doesn't seem correct because Wikipedia says YYYYY," and so on, that shows research effort and makes a better question.

  • $\begingroup$ Honestly, though I considered writing my research sources, I didn't think that it might make me look like I never searched if I hadn't included it. I understand that my dialect isn't advanced for physics because I had said I am new to it, meaning perhaps that I should refrain from asking these questions. While I couldn't find the answer I was looking for before I posted on physics.SE, if I had waited longer it might have been explained to me. I could've contacted my teacher for an explanation, too. I misjudged the level of this site, and so I thought it would be helpful to post that. $\endgroup$ – person27 Dec 20 '13 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ In short, I think next time I should hold back and search for answers from other sources before I ask physics SE; at least until I grow more proficient. Thanks for your explanation. $\endgroup$ – person27 Dec 20 '13 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to respond in a comment but it got too long so I added to the answer instead. See the edit. $\endgroup$ – David Z Dec 20 '13 at 19:26

It's annoying and even upsetting to receive downvotes; I certainly don't like it when it happens to me! However a downvote isn't an insult, and it's not a personal criticism. A downvote just means the downvoter doesn't think the question is suitable for this site. Three or more downvotes stop a question from appearing on the home page, so there is a reason for downvoting i.e. to reduce (perceived) clutter on the home page.

Having said that, I don't think your question warranted downvotes. It is a duplicate, but even I find it hard to spot duplicates for questions and for a new user of the site it must be even harder.

However, one of the key features of the Physics Stack Exchange that we strive to protect is it's high signal to noise ratio. Right from the early days of Usenet a big problem with Physics discussion sites has been that all types of junk gets posted on them, from would be scientists trying to promote their own theories to zealots claiming Einstein was wrong and even people who just like vandalising web sites. The aim of the Physics SE is that all the questions and answers will be interesting and informative to anyone interested in Physics. As a result we expect people to have done some research before posting their question, and questions that are naive tend to attract downvotes as a result. By taking this approach we run the risk of being elitist and putting off newcomers trying to learn Physics. It's a tightrope we have to walk, and I think we generally get it about right though the treatment of your question was a bit harsh.


I'm pretty sure I was the first downvote which was based on the original version of the question:

proof that the ground pushes you up

(Excuse me if this is obvious because I am new to physics)

It has been said that when you try to jump you are exerting your force on the ground and the ground pushes you up. I was wondering if this was an over-simplification or not. If so, what's the full explanation? Otherwise, I would like to know the derivation of this proof.

I had a couple issues with the question. First, you were asking for "proof" and the fact that you don't fall through the ground and that you can jump sure seems like great proof to me. Second, you didn't really ask about the source of the normal force or any details of the interaction. Third, there are many very similar or identical questions on the site and it doesn't seem like you did any effort to search.

The "tool tip" when you hover over the downvote button reads:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

Based on your original formulation and the downvote guidance that my downvote was called for. You've since edited the question and improved it. I don't think the downvote is as appropriate now so I've reverted it.

Also, as an aside, this site is about getting the best answers to the best questions. This is one of the reasons why questions and answers can be edited by anyone. The revision history show you fighting with editors (in my opinion) inappropriately. There are times where edits should be reverted or fixed but I don't see any examples of that in the edits to your question.

  • $\begingroup$ Also, I think there is a certain amount of group-think on the site. Downvotes tend to attract more downvotes and upvotes tend to attract more upvotes. I don't have proof of it but I certainly think it's an effect and following others is a pretty common human bias. $\endgroup$ – Brandon Enright Dec 21 '13 at 1:16

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