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This question was recently bumped to the top of the front page by a new answer: Books that every layman should read. I originally wanted to just recommend the new answer be deleted, but the question is so bad that I think it should be closed as primarily opinion-based, and then put under a historical lock. Or something to that effect.

What are people's views on this one?

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  • $\begingroup$ I just given the wikipedea link for the details. Is it ok or should i provide the details in the answer? $\endgroup$ – user31782 Jan 8 '14 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @anupam That is the sort of answer called for in the current policy. However, the question itself is flawed, as I see it: it is too broad to be useful, and in any case the complete set of answers would need to be reworked. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jan 8 '14 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ No, it's fine. People who are looking for a popular science book usually look for a popular science book on physics, not a popular semi-classical gravity book or a popular AdS/CFT book. On the other hand, for technical books, specific books (to which I mean stuff like books on String Theory, as opposed to a book on all of Physics) are much more common than books on all of Physics. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jan 8 '14 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ We now have the new books policy, so I see absolutely no point in people going after old open book questions to close them. Instead, moderators should put the banner from Shog9 into the open ones and put the banner and reopen the closed ones. I voted to leave open on the question in the question. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jan 8 '14 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton If you perceive a blanket attack on resource recommendation questions, consider other examples. Old books questions are broken windows; if they cannot be reworked to fit the policy - which is always a lot of work, and in this case can hardly be done - then they should be closed and put under a historical lock. Leaving non-compliant old questions open is a no-go. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jan 8 '14 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty the additional examples you link to are perfectly fine books questions too. And I personally dont like the SE specific term broken window, too often it is misused to enforce absolutely rigid zero tolerance policies by excluding any wise case to case judgement and reasonable discretion. And I dont agree that old books questions can not be solved or that it is not worth it, in particular as new questions asking the same thing are always closed, leading to nothing but closed loops of closed questions which is a very unfortunate thing to happen. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jan 8 '14 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton "Broken windows" is highly non-SE-specific, as Wikipedia will tell you. Regarding old questions, I don't see where the complications are. They either can be salvaged, or they can't. If they can be salvaged, then they need to be brought to standard (which, as the edit histories and deleted answers will tell you, is not a trivial amount of work. (cont.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jan 8 '14 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ If they can't be fixed then they should be put into historical lock: the content is still available, but it indicates similar questions will be ill received. The issue here is this question, not general platitudes (which were discussed here), precisely to give input on edge cases instead of having a rigid policy. This question looks useful, but it isn't for these reasons. If you have more specific reasons why you think it should remain open, please do voice them. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jan 8 '14 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ @EmilioPisanty I know the SE arguments always brought forward against such questions. But IMHO it is very unfortunate that Physics tries to align itself with this SE specific point of view instead of taking other high-level sites such as MathOverflow for example as a role model to set up its guidelines and policies. High-level, rather academic in spirit sites see neither a problem in questions that are a bit broader and can have several answers, nor in reference requests, etc ... On MathOverflow and the former TP.SE they never have had an issue with such questions. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jan 9 '14 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ The response here seems to be pretty conclusive, so I'm going to go ahead and put the historical lock on the question. Emilio, perhaps you'd consider accepting the corresponding answer? $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 11 '14 at 5:06
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I vote the historical lock. I don't think the question has any real value, but some future non-physicist people might find it useful.


Update (sorry for delay, had things to do)

AFAICR, the new resource recommendation policy clearly states that

Resource recommendations must ask for descriptive answers. It's not enough to ask for a list of books that cover topic X-- a simple Amazon search can provide that.

Instead, you should ask for recommendations, which specify:

  • What the book covers
  • How it covers it — is it rigorous? Intuitive? How is the writer's style?
  • What are the prerequisites?

and similar questions.

The post being discussed does not request any of these topics, it simply asks for a list of books. The vast majority of the answers to the question also appear to fail the recommended answering policy:

...the answer should be substantive, and give as much information about the book as possible. Try to explain the style of the author, as well as listing the topics it covers well and the topics which it isn't so thorough with. Try to list the prerequisites too

Anupam and Satwick's answers at least mention topics covered, but don't really hit the other points (where the book isn't thorough or the prerequisites).

Given that it does not really fit the model of the Stack Exchange network (which has a general ban on list questions anyway) and that it does not even fit our book policy, the only two options I see are (a) complete deletion and (b) historical lock.

I do not believe that (a) should be considered just because there is the possibility that someone could find some of the books are useful. Thus, the only good option is the historical lock.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with this, pretty much. I already said as much in chat. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jan 9 '14 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ "but don't really hit the other points (where the book isn't thorough or the prerequisites).". I didn't get you here, what kind of prerequisite a layman is supposed to have? I didn't talk about these two points in my answer 'cause the book is exactly written for a layman, there aren't any prerequisite. I couldn't find any single line in the book where it is not thorough from the view point of a layman. $\endgroup$ – user31782 Jan 10 '14 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ @anupam: there can be math in some layman books, the book can be written at the 8th grade level or the college level, it could be poorly translated, could be not translated, and so on for prerequisites and general info. Did you mention how thorough it was? What is thorough about the book? (How is the thoroughness of a non-physics book judged?) Certainly your answer goes beyond the request of a list, but I really wouldn't call it a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jan 10 '14 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ i don't agree with you on the points (1)"there can be math in some layman books", (2)"the 8th grade level or the college level": a book written especially for a layman has no level, moreover a particular physics book can be of different levels depending upon the institution in which someone studies ,it would be ambiguos to assign a level to a book in general. (3) "could be not translated" : i don't know in how many languages it is translated so i cannot provide this info , i only know about the original version which is written in English and i provided the download link [cont] $\endgroup$ – user31782 Jan 10 '14 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ for that version.(4)"Did you mention how thorough it was?": I am not supposed to provide my personal opinion, since the book is popular it should be consider as thorough, moreover acc to the link you provided for the current policy does not mention that an answer should explain the thoroughness of a book.| I agree on your last point :my answer is not a good answer. $\endgroup$ – user31782 Jan 10 '14 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @anupam: You are entitled to disagree with me. I stated how I feel about the question and answers and am not at all interested in a debate about opinions. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jan 10 '14 at 14:23
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I see absolutely no point in people going after old open book questions, as we have now the new books policy. Instead, open old books questions should be flagged for moderators to put in Shog9 s banner, and closed old book questions should be flagged to put in the banner too and reopend.

There is nothing wrong with the question in this meta question, even on MathOverflow and TP.SE which have / had much higher standards than a for all levels sites such as Physics, such resource questions are / have been highly tollerated depending on the exact issue at hand.

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    $\begingroup$ If you perceive a blanket attack on resource recommendation questions, consider other examples. The problem with this specific question is that it falls foul of everything in the link in my second bullet point. Even if it gets revived, virtually all of the answers are so far from policy-compliant that we might as well simply start again. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Jan 8 '14 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ such resource questions are / have been highly tollerated depending on the exact issue at hand. Precisely! The "exact issue" here is that the post does not conform to our rules on resource requests. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jan 9 '14 at 17:22

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