I recently asked this question about explaining gravity to a 6 year old and it made it into the "Hot Network Questions" list. It generated a lot of discussion and has some very good answers.

Recently, a moderator commented on the question, saying:

The point of this site is not to educate people, it's to allow people to ask high quality physics questions and get high quality answers.

I'm not sure if the question is of high quality. Probably not. But I've seen similar questions here before:

These are my questions:

  • Is the question off-topic? If so, why? I'd like some constructive feedback on this - I think it will help me ask better questions in the future.
  • Is there any way I can improve the question without invalidating all the current answers?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would point out that the fact that similar questions have been asked in the past (and are not closed) does suggest that your question may be on topic, but it's not a 100% guarantee, and in particular it does not justify it. (That is, "these other questions were on topic therefore mine is on topic" is not a valid argument.) $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ See also this question on the purpose of the site. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidZ: "these other questions were on topic therefore mine is on topic" - I didn't say that. I was just saying I had seen many similar questions - and someone said in the question comments that my question was off-topic. This question asks for clarification: "Is my question off-topic? If so, why?". Can you please answer that? :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, I was just making a preemptive statement because somebody tries to make that argument whenever the topicality of a question is questioned. (In many cases, anyway.) $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ Still, you haven't answered my question :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ I think dmckee covered it. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 12:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would advise you to ask the question you asked here physics.stackexchange.com/q/94471 here parenting.stackexchange.com many questions have been asked on this site parenting.stackexchange.com/search?q=6+year $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 3:59

1 Answer 1


I don't speak for the other moderators, but my concern with this question and the other like it is that very often the answers that such questions attract are not about physics.

In this particular case that are at least a half a dozen answers that are frankly terrible that have received lots of upvotes. "Explanations" in terms of other forces might shut the kid up, but they are bad physics, and on a site about physics that makes them bad answers. Yet, because of the popularity of the question they are voted up, which makes our community look unprofessional.

Brandon's this point almost from the very beginning.

While great, this question is off topic for Physics.SE. It isn't about physics, it's about education and childhood cognition with a few physics metaphors sprinkled in. A large portion of any answer to this question could also answer "How do you explain to a 6 year old?" which makes this question about education. The rest of the answer is about simple gravity / falling / symmetry metaphors which makes this question too broad. – Brandon Enright Jan 20 at 19:55

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. Could you also address the second question? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 7:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't know that there is anything to do to "fix" it, because the fault does not really lie with the questions but with the rush of users not used to our site and whose interest is not primarily about physics. Your question is a victim of it's own success. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ I would add that the writers of several of those bad, highly-upvoted answers have no other reputation on this site. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ @ColinMcFaul You are wrong. Would you show some statistical data about your argument. $\endgroup$
    – user31782
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 12:07

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