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I recently created a question on Physics SE and learned that this site is not suited for questions that could be more opinion based. Since this is the case, could you suggest other places where people can ask these more opinion-based questions so as to reduce the number of them on Physics SE?

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migrated from physics.stackexchange.com Jun 20 '14 at 16:08

This question came from our site for active researchers, academics and students of physics.

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    $\begingroup$ Personally I would love to see physics questions that are answered primarily by (expert) opinion become on-topic. $\endgroup$ – BMS Jun 20 '14 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ The whole stackexchange network is basically not suited for opinion-based questions. Maybe something such as physicsforums.com. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jun 20 '14 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ reddit. Or if that's not enough, 4chan . There aren't any "opinion-based" discussions in science because it's not a religion. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jun 20 '14 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Note that the question was What kind of physics research can a high-schooler get involved in and form new discoveries in?. It's a fair enough question, but just not suitable for this site. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jun 20 '14 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft: I disagree, there are plenty of opinions in science: dark matter vs f(R) metric theories; detonation vs deflagration vs both; single vs double degenerate SNIa models; and so on. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jun 23 '14 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos I guess I don't call that "opinion-based," as both sides are arguing for a line of theory. Sadly, most of the questions (or blogs) I see which start with "my opinion of this physics situation" devolve into wild speculation or religion-based pseudointuition. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jun 23 '14 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft: How are they not opinions? There is no evidence suggesting one is correct over the other and both sets of theoretical models can show the results as expected. Choice of which one you believe is, in fact, an opinion. Speculation, wild or not, is also how science advances in many cases, here's 10 examples in astronomy alone! $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Jun 23 '14 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ Much of science comes from opinions and discussions. Look back in history, a lot of what is now accepted facts was once just an opinion of an everyday man. Do not say that science does not have "opinion-based" discussions. Without them, science would come to a standstill. $\endgroup$ – Gummy bears Jun 24 '14 at 5:54
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    $\begingroup$ There's a whole other class of "opinion"-based questions that hasn't been mentioned, namely those asking for expert experience. "Should I use aluminium or tin foil? Should I use a BDT or a neural net for my analysis? Do I have to consider this wierd effect?" Many questions like that have a very clear answer that is uncontroversial among experts ("OMG dont use tin foil"), but unknown to beginners. I would love to be able to ask such questions here or somewhere else. $\endgroup$ – jdm Jul 1 '14 at 8:59
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One suggestion: our chat room.

It's an informal place where a number of regular users can be found from time to time. We discuss all manner of things, and we're quite willing to give our opinions on physics-related issues. Just remember standard chat etiquette - no one is forced to respond to your solicitation for opinions. But likely someone will.

Note that there are scheduled chat sessions every other week, where we try to gather around the same time (and where we sometimes have a site-maintenance agenda).

Also note one needs 20 reputation to participate on SE chats.

Other sites on the internet.

(This space intentionally left blank.)

I don't personally venture out much into the wilds of cyberspace. Hopefully other answers will be posted recommending forums that might match your needs.

A word of caution.

Part of the philosophy of not allowing opinion-based questions on the main site here is that we want to provide objectively correct information, and we can't really verify the correctness of opinions. Throw in anonymity and a lack of face-to-face communication and it's entirely possible to be misled.

For example, you might stumble upon a community of physicists who are disillusioned with academia and who will tell you to study physics on your own without formal training, but you can't tell they're in the minority. Or you might find opinions from mathematicians claiming to be physicists who will tell you to not bother with lab work if you want to be a theorist, whereas another community might give the opposite response. Or you might meet someone like me telling you most of your standard textbooks in physics are garbage, but perhaps those books are actually best for you personally. So wherever you gather opinions, always critically evaluate what you're being told.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't there a minimum amount of reputation needed to enter a chat on Physics SE? $\endgroup$ – okarin Jun 20 '14 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ @okarin yes - 20 (unless the help center is out of date, which it sometimes is) $\endgroup$ – user10851 Jun 20 '14 at 18:34
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I don't know much about it, but isn't Quora less strict on opinion-based answers?

In any case, I personally have strongly mixed feelings towards opinion-based answers. Opinion-based discussions can be very enlightening as well, but they tend to only be that if all the people involved know what they're talking about. When asking for opinions, you most likely don't really know what you're talking about, which is fine because it's the reason you're asking. And what's more: on the internet, you can't be sure the people answering do in fact know what they're talking about. Not to mention the representational value of these people. (see the word of caution in Chris White's answer)

So whenever you're asking for people's opinions, you should be aware of your own (perhaps partially developed) opinion and prejudices and the expectation bias they bring. You have to be very cautious to avoid doing what makes me personally so suspicious of social sciences: connecting conclusions to experiments with bad statistical properties. Physics SE is the only physics website that I'm aware of which has reasonable statistics, where you can have a fair amount of confidence in the bulk of the answers. The system is far from perfect, but it's as close as I've seen. And a big part of the reason, in my opinion, is the 'no-opinions' policy. :)

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