Consider this question: What is charge actually? How to define it?

In the question, the asker explicitly specified that he wanted an intuitive explanation of charge, without using "quantum mechanics or advanced particle models." The response by PhotonicBoom fit these criteria well, but the one by JamalS referenced QED.

On one hand, I feel that high-level answers on "low-level" questions (e.g. JamalS's answer) do not respond to the question, since the user explicitly did not want a complex answer. On the other hand, the answer provides insight to other members of the community. Is it acceptable to provide answers which surpass the difficulty level requested by the user?


Questions and answers on Stack Exchange site are not just for the asker. Posts will remain around, be indexed by search engines and visited by many people over the years (Google is responsible roughly one-quarter of all Physics SE traffic).

So, yes, answers that lie outside the OP's skill range are acceptable. You can assume the OP won't accept them, but the crowd will still judge them.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Playing devil's advocate a bit, what would you say to an extremely esoteric question being given a good intuitive answer that is too low-level to be of use to the OP? Is this just as acceptable? Also, since we are completely disregarding aimed-for level, should two questions that ask the same thing but at very different levels always be closed as duplicates? $\endgroup$ – user10851 Apr 5 '14 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisWhite I'm going to punt and let the crowd answer that one. Personally, I don't often vote for answers that miss the level mark by more than, say, one order of magnitude, but that's just me. Particularly I rarely see lower-level-than-the-question answer which I think are "useful" (in the word the tool tip uses). $\endgroup$ – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Apr 5 '14 at 4:45
  • $\begingroup$ I note the use of your word "acceptable". And I would agree. I don't think that over-the-top answers should be deleted, in any way shape or form. However if they don't answer what the question poser asked, which includes the level that the question poser asks or implies (only sometimes this can be inferred) then I fail to see how it could be considered a 'useful'/ 'suitable' / 'good' / 'pick-your-favourite-adjative' answer. As such I would, in certain cases, downvote such an answer as 'not useful' to the question asked. $\endgroup$ – Flint72 May 14 '14 at 13:25

But other questions shouldn't necessarily be automatically closed as dupes.

I answered one simple question on the reason light slows down in a medium, with a simple classical picture of the absorption and delayed retransmission.

The question was marked as a dupe and the accepted answer on the dupe link immediately launched into a calculus notation packed answer about Poynting vectors. For the person asking the question this is not only about as useful as an answer in Chinese - it gives the impression that mere mortals aren't supposed to ask questions about physics.

So unless this site is simply going to be the Phys Rev Let hangout, we need to allow simple questions and answers

  • $\begingroup$ Which question? If a question has wrongly been closed as a dupe without being a dupe, it should be corrected. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Apr 6 '14 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic - not really important, and I found another dupe with a better version of my simple answer. It was just that in physics there is more than one "best answer" even if there is a single "correct answer" - depending on the questioner. $\endgroup$ – Martin Beckett Apr 6 '14 at 19:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .