Update 19/08/2015 I just recently found the thought-experiment tag which is identical to the one I was discouraged from in my proposal below. Did something change in the arguments?

I would like to bring this issue to your attention and it would be very nice to know other position and comments on this, I think something useful can come out of this.

Motivation: After reading many questions and comments I have seen that several questions are oriented to better understanding the principles and corollaries of a theory.

The problem I see is that they receive lots of comments which point out irrelevant observations, I mean in relation to real purpose of the question.

Specifically, comments adding information from other areas of physics, or pointing out the infeasibility of the experiment. Nevertheless, when discussing about a certain theory, pointing a paradox or drawing conclusion from it, even if the scenario proposed includes other phenomena not explained by this theory, the relevant discussion might not always need the detailed knowledge of those phenomena which might render this scenario impossible, and the question still be a very valid one.

Example: Let us think about Einstein's famous gedanken, or thought experiment, of the relativistic train and the 2 observers.

This question is aimed to better understand consequences the theory of relativity and is completely valid. Comments or answers focusing on how the mechanisms for switching light on would work, or how the persons can not see something passing at these speeds, etc., all are arguably valid but out of scope in this case.

Here the point is, assuming all conditions imposed in the scenario, and not contained in the theory, hold: how do the we explain/understand the consequences and their relation to the theory postulates?

Conclusion: Using this tag would have the benefits of:

  • clarify the type of answer desired: this separates questions wanting details, numbers, technicalities, from those exploring underlying principles, or reflecting misunderstandings of a theory.

  • preventing out of scope comments and answers: the people will only contribute with posts of relevant aspects, when they have a clear idea of what they are talking about and not bring to attention their knowledge on tangential-to-question subjects.

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    $\begingroup$ First, that's a meta tag. Meta tags are bad. Second, you can already formulate the question in a way that asks for a specific subset of answer. Nevertheless, there is inherently nothing wrong with people providing an answer that is outside the intended scope of the OP, since it might very well suit others reading the question/answers better. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Aug 9 '14 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind that should probably be an answer. $\endgroup$ – David Z Aug 9 '14 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ Just an FYI to @rmhleo: Downvotes on Meta.Physics.SE reflect disagreement with your proposal & does not affect your rep on the main site. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Aug 9 '14 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ Tags are meant to give the type of physics, not the type of question $\endgroup$ – Jim Aug 9 '14 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ FYI, the thought-experiment tag was created on Oct 24 '13, roughly a year before this meta post. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Aug 19 '15 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic I did not know this by then, that is why I made the proposal. But this makes me wonder, what is the actual difference? Couldn't someone just say "there is already one like that"? $\endgroup$ – rmhleo Aug 19 '15 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I guess that nobody noticed the overlap before you today. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Aug 19 '15 at 14:33

First, that would be a meta tag, unrelated to actual content of the question. As has been discussed here on meta at length, such tags are bad because they tell you nothing about whether or not the question might interest you, and thus convey no useful information.

Second, you seem to imply that this tag should restrict the "allowed" answers to the one the OP wishes to hear. That's not how we roll, since the primary goal of answering a question is not to tell the OP what they wish to hear, but to answer the question in a way that is useful and relevant to everyone asking themselves the same or a similar question. And it is wholly possible that though the OP wishes not to hear technical discussions of this particular Gedankenexperiment, answers/comments providing these could be of use to others thinking about them. After all, proposing a Gedankenexperiment is somewhat contingent on that it is not, in principle, impossible to realize.

Third, OPs are already allowed to ask for a particular "species" of explanation - at least, I see nothing prohibiting that. But I think it is not something we should encourage by creating such a tag, since if you do not know the answer to a question, how could you ever compentently predict of what kind the actual answer resolving whatever problem occurs has to be? For example, there are many questions - thought experiments and otherwise - that ask things like How can it be? asking for an explanation of a supposedly occuring phenomenon, and the answer does not explain the phenomenon at all, but instead shows that the very premise of the question is flawed, which can very well be a quite technical and "non-intuitive" thing to show. But these are the real answers, not the argumentative answers the OP might have expected.

tl;dr: Meta tags are bad. Also, it should not be forbidden to provide answers outside of what the OP thought/said they were seeking.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since there is already a similar tag (thought-experiment) I would think is not really a meta tag, and has been used (in 82 questions so far). So judging by the votes here, and the facts I just mentioned, there must be some mixed opinions on the subject to say the least. $\endgroup$ – rmhleo Aug 19 '15 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Also, while I understand that a tag's purpose should not be preventing certain users from responding, I can think of objective scenarios where this is the case. Normally a tag will provide scope information about the question, which already informs the others what the intention of the question is, and the type of expected answer. For example, the homework-and-exercises tag clearly states scope, rather than physics subject clarification. Similar is the case of others like soft-question tag, resource-recommendations tag, terminology tag, research-level tag. $\endgroup$ – rmhleo Aug 19 '15 at 14:51

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