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I know that this place does cannot peer review the many "pet theories" out there. These things get asked here quite a lot. Information about this is detailed in the wiki.

What I am asking is: should we have something for those who do not do mainstream physics? Or should it be a separate site altogether?

I really want to see alternative theories and thought experiments easily (and this is a good platform for it, though I know this this is intended to be a Q&A site - though the Q&A style could only be reserved for the mainstream physics).

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No. Part of the appeal of Stack Exchange sites is their reputation for quality. When you come to an SE site you know you're going to see (mostly) good content, for a certain definition of "good" that is fairly well associated with the mainstream of whatever the subject of the site is. And this is not arbitrarily chosen; we select for this particular kind of content because people want to see it. Opening up the site to non-mainstream physics (in the sense that I think you mean) would trash our reputation.

Now, it may be true that the platform would be a good one to use for discussing non-mainstream physics. If you think that's a niche that needs to be filled, you're welcome to find some software equivalent to what SE runs (there are several options) and start your own site.

But the reason we're not going to do it here is for the protection of the community.


Let me point out, though, that pretty much anything is fair game in our chat room.

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  • $\begingroup$ Okay, thanks. At least I know where to go in future. I cannot seem to find people who are on my level and understand me (unlike here). I really know a lot of the theory, but need to brush up on my equations. $\endgroup$ – Graviton Jun 26 '14 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ good = mainstream? and alternative = dangerous to the community? I can't help but notice this sounds a lot like dystopian thought censorship. ;) Any way we can get this looked at or reconsidered? Alternative thoughts are what keep the mainstream thoughts in check, and that is where alternative thoughts derive their importance and value - which really cannot be replicated any other way. "Selecting" for the most harmless of ideas, wholly for the purpose of maintaining a spotless reputation, is something I expect from slimy politicians and CEOs. That, by itself, is a tarnish to this forum's rep. $\endgroup$ – Giffyguy Apr 25 '15 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Giffyguy when you say "alternative" what you're actually talking about is "wrong" or "nonsensical", and promoting wrong or nonsensical information is dangerous to the community. Such information has no value to science, except as a history lesson. Science doesn't select which ideas are mainstream to protect anyone's reputation, nor does it select ideas which are harmless. It selects ideas which are correct. (In the long term, at least.) If you want to be part of a site where non-mainstream (remember, this means "wrong") ideas are encouraged, go ahead, but that will not be this site. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 25 '15 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ By definition, competitive thinking is wrong? Nonsensical? Dangerous? Of no value? These statements do not help your position. I do like the idea of science "[selecting] ideas which are correct. (In the long term, at least.)" However, the problem is that this is paradoxical. Science can't predict which ideas are correct in the long term, without being able to foresee future discovery. We can only work with what we have, and right now there is no complete picture that won't be affected by future discovery. $\endgroup$ – Giffyguy Apr 25 '15 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Giffyguy I'm not talking about competitive thinking. Please pay careful attention to what I'm writing. Anyway, if you'd like to discuss this point more fully, the place to do so is in Physics Chat, not here in the comments. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 25 '15 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ This is the appropriate place to discuss this, since it is on topic for this answer as part of meta. If you want to separate the definitions of competitive thought and alternative theories, you'll need to explain yourself more fully. You'll also need to address the paradoxical nature of science "[selecting] ideas which are correct. (In the long term, at least.)" So far, everything you've said appears to make the case for dystopian thought censorship, which is frankly disgraceful. Exiling these conversations from meta to the chat room is not the appropriate solution. $\endgroup$ – Giffyguy Apr 25 '15 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ Rather than disallowing non-mainstream theories, I think the better approach would be to have a neon warning/caution banner at the top of non-mainstream posts. That would appease both sides, by allowing people to express their views even if they are perceived as non-mainstream (people are also free to downvote), while simultaneously helping to mitigate any perceived damage to the community that could result from promoting non mainstream ideas. Perhaps the flagging system could accommodate this? Hmmm, an interesting logistics challenge ... $\endgroup$ – Giffyguy Apr 25 '15 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ It would be intellectually honest and clarifying to have a statement to the effect that if physics.stackexchange.com had been around in 1905, it would have excluded discussion of special relativity. $\endgroup$ – James Bowery Jul 26 '17 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @James it's true that special relativity would have been off topic at the time, but there's no reason to call out that case specifically in the answer. $\endgroup$ – David Z Jul 26 '17 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ I think there is good reason to use that exemplar: Such an illustration will drive home, using the mythic vocabulary of our culture, the exact boundary between "mainstream" and "non-mainstream" physics in a way that will be immediately perceived as entirely fair across the board -- from casual readers to obsessed crackpots. $\endgroup$ – James Bowery Jul 26 '17 at 22:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesBowery Is that even the case? The meta post on mainstream physics says "In the case of modern physics, if a theory has not been published in a reputable journal, it is not considered mainstream." Einstein's papers on special relativity were published in 1905 in a very reputable journal, so special relativity would have been on topic. $\endgroup$ – Chris Feb 12 '18 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough. Carver Mead points to a better exemplar in Einstein's 1912 paper published in a journal of sanitation. youtu.be/XdiG6ZPib3c?t=1576 $\endgroup$ – James Bowery Feb 12 '18 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris On second thought I think you're right. Once Einstein's 1905 papers had been published, it would have been fair game for readers to ask questions about the content of the papers here. What I meant in my earlier comment (but didn't say properly) is that asking about that bit of science before the publication of the corresponding paper would have been off topic, and also that questions that stray too far from the published material (e.g. something that would constitute a followup publication) would also be off topic. $\endgroup$ – David Z Feb 12 '18 at 23:14

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