I have noticed that some stack exchanges sites have different policies as compared to the stackoverflow.com. e.g. Math.SE has completely different policies for comments and home-work questions.

What is the policy of Phys.SE for asking beginner level questions, that is can unintelligent persons ask questions here?
Is this site mainly for expert level questions?

Edit: I am not talking of home-work type questions. suppose I want to ask a very simple, basic question which is a result of a simple logical failure or a misunderstanding or ignorance. I do some research but do not get the answer. Are those question on topic.

  • $\begingroup$ I would point out that what you're asking here, i.e. whether questions of a certain type are on topic, is different from what prompted you to ask this, which was a discussion over why a question was downvoted. Whether something should be downvoted is a completely separate issue from whether it is on topic or not. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 21 '14 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ that discussion was not about the policy of downvoting. That discussion was emerged from your statement "This is a site for expert-level questions, not basic logical failures." Now I have asked this question to be clear about the policies of this site. $\endgroup$ – user31782 Apr 21 '14 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ No, that entire discussion was about reasons for downvoting. It's even right in the question title, "Why this question is downvoted...?" If you thought it was about deciding whether to close questions or not, sorry for the misunderstanding, but you were mistaken. Nowhere in that discussion did we bring up the issue of reasons for closing questions. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 21 '14 at 13:57

The fantastic thing about the Stack Exchange generally, and the Physics SE in particular is that it gives you access to people who are expert in their area. This is an extraordinary resource, and I would have loved it to be available back in the 70s when I was a teenage science nerd.

But working physicists are busy people with mortgages to pay and families to feed. If you want them to answer your question then you have to make it interesting and rewarding to answer. That means putting in the Google legwork to research your question and work out what the important physics behind your question is and how best to phrase the question. We see a lot of beginners' questions that give the impression little effort has been put into them, and in these days of the Internet there is no excuse for this. It gives the impression the OP doesn't really care, and in that case why should busy physicists make the (considerable) effort to write a detailed answer? Asking on the Physics SE shouldn't be the first option - it should be the last option and only used after easy options like blog articles have failed to provide an answer.

I'm not a fan of banning questions, and if beginners want to ask questions that they have not thoroughly researched then let them ask. However they shouldn't be surprised if the questions are ignored by the more experienced members of the site. Such questions also attract downvotes, though my own view is that this is rather petty and I only rarely downvote.

Re homework: this discussion has rumbled on and on. If someone wants to learn some physics in order to do their homework then I'm happy to help because I think learning physics is good. If they're just trying to get their homework done then I would probably vote to close.

  • $\begingroup$ You got me wrong. My question suppose is I want to ask a very simple, basic question which is a result of a simple logical failure or a misunderstanding or ignorance. I do some research but do not get the answer. Are those question on topic. As you are talking of the whole SE network see this question of mine on Math.SE. Although I did some research but I got downvoted because its a beginner question. Mostly People downvote the beginner question even if OP has done the research himself. $\endgroup$ – user31782 Apr 20 '14 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Anupam: I would not have downvoted you, but I would have voted to close and pointed you to references on set theory. If you asked a similarly basic question here (and I knew of a good blog article on the subject) I would VTC with a comment pointing you to the blog article but would not downvote. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 20 '14 at 13:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just FYI set theory does not define the term Number of things. Its a long story. That question is not worthy of being closed. I gave you this specific example because that question has been asked after a lot of research. If these kind of questions are not allowed on Phys.SE then its ok, this was what I wanted to make sure. $\endgroup$ – user31782 Apr 20 '14 at 13:31

Not at all! We've got 2014 questions. And I bet most of the users have average intelligence.

About the homework, there are tons of posts here on meta. You can see that unlike Math.SE, where no effort is required at all, here you must have worked and only the conceptual part. No questions like: Why is my solution wrong?, I'm stuck, how do I continue?...

The important thing about questions is that you must have thought about it, and a Google search before asking would be useful. Of course, some understanding of the fundamental concepts is necessary, you can't ask to explain how to calculte a Feynman diagram when you even don't know quantum mechanics. But some questions are good if they can be explained easily, even if it's covered in textbooks, like: Is energy conserved in GR?, What is negative temperature?...

I'm sure there are still interesting basic questions yet to asked.


You must log in to answer this question.

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