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In my answer to this meta question I argued that the decision of whether or not a question should live on Physics SE is best approached by judging whether answers to that question would be likely to come from and be useful to other physicists. At the time, we were discussion questions with engineering or experimental flavour. However, I would argue that this approach should be used for all types of questions.

Recently, a question about moving poles around in the complex plane was migrated to Math SE, presumably because it was judged too mathematical for Physics SE. Interestingly, not only did my answer to that question use physics concepts to answer the question, but another Physics SE user commented that the question should be here rather than on Math.

I think this illustrates the point I was trying to make in the meta post linked above. Because the question was answered with physics, the nature of the information contained therein is relevant and interesting to other users of this site. Certainly one could have been given a purely mathematical answer, but a physics one was given and was deemed helpful.

Q: Should that question be migrated back to Physics SE? This suggests the further question: should we allow posts to accrue some answers before migrating/holding/closing them in order to see if physics will emerge where we may have expected pure math?

EDIT: Apparently the original reason for that question to be on Math SE was that the OP cross posted it on physics and math.

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    $\begingroup$ What defines "a physicist?" There are some answerers who do not have even a BS in physic (some still in HS!). There are some answerers who have advanced degrees who are not in research or academia, are they still physicists? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 1 '14 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ "On hold" can be a temporary state in which everyone agrees on what the question should be (and edits+reopens accordingly), or decides that there is no way to fix it for this site. Waiting defeats its purpose. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Oct 1 '14 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos: Nothing about the question here relies on the definition of "physicist". $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 1 '14 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank: "Because the question was answered by a physicist (me), the nature of the information contained therein is relevant and interesting to users of this site" indicates that when a physicist answers a question, it is useful to the physics community. I contend that this relies on a definition of physicist. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 1 '14 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos: I could just reword that to say "Because the question was answered with physics, the nature of the..." and then we avoid this unpleasant discussion of what "physicist" means. In fact I have just made the edit. By the way, your suggestion that folks outside of academia or research may not be well described as physicists bothers me a lot. I would be happy to argue with you on chat :) $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 1 '14 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank: Then you'd be opening a new can of worms. With that statement, any question that can be even loosely answered "with physics" would be on topic here. Including science fiction, video games, etc. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 1 '14 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos: Can we not say the same thing about the questions? You inserted the word "loosely" somewhat arbitrarily there. Nobody said anything about "loosely". One should hold answers to a high standard just like questions, of course. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 1 '14 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank: That's what we try doing: closing questions that aren't really physics questions. Note also that I never made a suggestion that those outside of academia & research are not physicists. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 1 '14 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ The specific question is related to meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/5713/2451 $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Oct 9 '14 at 20:52
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This suggests the further question: should we allow posts to accrue some answers before migrating/holding/closing them in order to see if physics will emerge where we may have expected pure math?

Absolutely not. That defeats the entire point of putting posts on hold.

Also, this is a site for questions about physics, not questions which are best answered by physicists or questions where the answers are going to be useful to physicists. It's been that way for a long time, and I don't think the latter should be the sole criterion for judging whether a question is appropriate here. If we do that, it opens the door to a lot of "soft" questions that we know we don't want on the site.

Regarding this specific case, that question ordinarily wouldn't have been migrated. It's a special case because the OP posted it on both sites, Math and Physics, essentially simultaneously. We don't want the same questions to be simultaneously cross-posted on multiple SE sites because it splits answerers' effort and hides useful answers for people who find it on one site but not the other, so one or the other version of the question was going to be migrated. I coordinated with one of the math moderators and we decided to send it to their site rather than here. I think the essential nature of the question is mathematical, and while it does have a physical context such that it ordinarily would be on topic here, given that it should only continue to exist on one site or the other, we thought that site should be Math.

There's nothing wrong or even unusual about providing a physically-motivated answer to a question on math.SE, by the way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Didn't know that about the question being posted in both places. Also, the statement that the site is not for questions which are best answered with physics directly answers my question, so thanks. Will probably mark this as the accepted answer if nobody else chimes in. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 1 '14 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds good. FWIW there are kind of three separate issues here: the general issues of whether posts should be allowed to get answers before being put on hold, and whether the potential answers should be used to judge topicality, and the specific issue of whether this particular question should have been migrated. I think people mostly agree on the general issues, but for this specific question, there is some contention and it's possible we may wind up bringing it back. (I say possible because reversing a migration is technically tricky) $\endgroup$ – David Z Oct 1 '14 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ The first two issues are tightly related. It is because I think that answers define (at least by 50%) the post that I suggested that posts should be allowed to sit a bit. The third issue is definitely distinct, however, which is why I separated it in the question. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 1 '14 at 17:19
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Concerning OP's specific question: The question was originally cross-posted within 4 minutes on both Phys.SE and Math.SE. A request from a Math.SE moderator to merge the two posts lead to the migration to Math.SE in the first place. Today I asked the Math.SE moderators if we exceptionally could get the post back, to which they agreed. It is now again on Phys.SE.

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