A user recently asked if a certain computation she/he saw in Weinberg's QM was in error:

Rate of change of a normalised wave function

I've found other typos/errors in the same book, and I think having a single question in which users write "answers" in which they point out an apparent error (and then get feedback on whether or not it is an error) might be useful.

Would such a post be allowed on this site? I imagine that it could be tagged "education," but I'm not certain.

If such a thing existed, I would be concerned that if someone were to want to point out a new error, then her/his concern would get lost if there were a single location for a particular book's errors, but perhaps that location could simply serve as a place to compile all of the errors, and when new errors are posted as new questions, they can simply be added to the master location.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I feel like this would be a hopelessly specific effort, even if the spirit behind it is good. $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Sep 1 '14 at 21:32
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Isn't that what Errata are for? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 2 '14 at 1:35
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Yes. If only every book's author maintained a webpage with errata and had a team of thousands of people to provide feedback about whether proposed errors were in fact errors. In any event, I'm in no way married to this proposal. If the user base deems this to be a bad idea, then so be it. $\endgroup$ Sep 2 '14 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ I have yet to see an author that didn't keep an errata on their websites (not saying it doesn't happen, just that I haven't seen it). And I do not believe that it takes "a team of thousands of people to provide feedback about whether proposed errors were in fact errors," maybe 3 people outside the author might be necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 2 '14 at 2:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos If you can find such a site for Weinberg's QM book, that would be helpful. My comment about thousands of people was not meant to claim that such a number of people is necessary, but rather that having a large user base contribute possible errors would be extremely useful. $\endgroup$ Sep 2 '14 at 2:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @joshphysics: This scribd site contains the errata to the 1st edition: scribd.com/doc/237878142/…. All I did was search "Weinberg quantum mechanics errata" and it came up. <insert shrug emoticon>. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 2 '14 at 11:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And for good measure, here's a guy who has a list of errata for Weinberg's QFT book: usna.edu/Users/aero/brsmith (which also came up with the aforementioned Google search phrase). $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 2 '14 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Well apparently I dont know how to read. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Sep 2 '14 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ I'm really completely neutral on the on/off-topicness of such questions, but I feel it's important to point out that this site's UI just doesn't seem work for such things. Most textbooks have scores of mistakes, and scrolling through so many differently-formatted answers, together with their comments, and having to click to another page at some point (breaking any searchability), just seems like too much of a pain. Errata should be collected, by authors and/or publishers, but in a single, well-formated, concise, vetted, ordered, and searchable document. $\endgroup$
    – user10851
    Sep 6 '14 at 3:14

I guess I should get the obvious out of the way:

Such a question would not be on topic on this site.

I say that for several reasons : It's not a question about physics concepts. It will become a "big list" type question that gets populated over time. It's something that will require constant maintenance as new versions of the book come out, as new errors are found, and so on. It's also not a good fit for the "I have a question" and "Here is the answer" format; it's more of a thing for a wiki or a blog or something along those lines.

All of those things make it off topic from what we have discussed and decided before.

Now the less obvious part, and what I consider your question to really be:

Should such a question be on-topic here?

And here I will say that No, it should not be.

It's a great idea, it's a noble cause, and it's something that would be helpful to people who study that subject. However, the scope of the site is more narrow than that and we're not here to be a repository of every single idea, topic, or fact that somebody studying physics may want answered. I don't think expanding the scope of the site to include a single, curated errata for a text book is a good idea.

However, I am in favor of people coming in and asking questions that say "My book says X but I think it should be Y" provided there is an explanation as to why it should be Y. Just like we were discussing with the "check my work" questions. Because the answer could be "Well, if it really were a negative sign, this would be a production term and not a dissipation term -- so we know the book is incorrect." In other words, we can provide physical (or logical/intuitive) reasons to help the questioner understand why what is there is right or wrong and how to diagnose potential errors using logic, reasoning and physical insight.

That can't be done easily in a "big list of errata" format. So while a single list would make it easier for somebody to find the errata of some book, I think it doesn't serve the purpose of what we're trying to do here, and it's better to have the questions about potential errors come in as they are now.

Looking through the list of topics in the Help Center, I would not be comfortable adding "Potential errors and mistakes in your textbooks" to the list of topics that we say people should stick to.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1: I find myself agreeing with essentially everything you've written. In retrospect, it should have been pretty clear that such a question would be considered off-topic. After your response and considering the comments, I wouldn't support a centralized errata question. Thanks for your long, reasoned response. $\endgroup$ Sep 2 '14 at 23:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd also add the slippery-slope argument: If we do it, why not for Sakurai, Jackson, Goldstein, etc. And if we do it for them, why not for the less "standard" (as if you can call the other set "standards") books e.g. Gasiorowicz, Griffiths, Marion-Thornton, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Sep 3 '14 at 14:05

You must log in to answer this question.

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