I am a low-rep user with a faint grasp of physics. I recently asked a question (which itself was downvoted, no qualms) and in one of the answers was bombarded by references that pertain to interpretational aspects and did not appear to be mainstream. Now I had asked something which could be called a standard textbook doubt, and I have no desire to go anywhere beyond the operational utility of quantum mechanics. Should such philosophical answers be allowed?? I am not interested in reading stuff from people who push forward marginal opinions and speculative theories. Shouldn't such answers be somehow discouraged? Another issue is that these answers sometimes get upvoted, for whatever reasons (eg comment in an answer to my most recent question ).

One possibility is that I am wrong everywhere and that the answer is totally relevant and I am just assuming. In that case i would offer apologies. But how do I judge when I am bombarded by an answer that cites 5+ journal papers with the only explanations provided are highlighted abstracts.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could you link to the question? $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ physics.stackexchange.com/questions/8062/… $\endgroup$
    – yayu
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I meant edit the link into your original post here. But that works too ;) Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 6:38

2 Answers 2


The way to discourage answers is by downvoting them. So if you thought the answer was not helpful, just downvote it. (It's polite to leave a comment explaining why, as you did.) Keep in mind that a good answer will match the level of the question so that the asker can understand it. If an answer to your question is too complex or confusing, that can be a valid reason to downvote it even if it's technically correct.

Of course, if other people find it useful and relevant, they can upvote it. That way each answer gets judged by the community. If the answer is totally relevant and you just don't see it, others probably will, and they'll upvote it, so your downvote won't matter so much. Conversely (actually contrapositively, I guess), if an answer does get a lot of downvotes then that probably means you weren't the only one who thought it wasn't helpful.

As the question asker, you also have the ability to accept an answer, which is a way of indicating which answer was most useful for your question specifically. So if you don't like an answer, don't accept it.

If you're asking whether there should be more extreme measures than downvoting... well, no, at least not for this sort of case. There are moderator flags and the like but that's just for spam, or answers that are completely irrelevant to the question, not even on the same topic at all.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, except maybe deleting an answer which is at -10 or so... that would be acceptable IMHO $\endgroup$
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 20:14

I have had a look at this question, which just seemed rather longwinded to me. I also learn that it once had a different form. There is an art to getting the right answers at the right level on SE (and generally I suppose). I am not sure what form of the question was answered by who.

One issue with several physics topics (like foundational QM) is that there are different mathematical formulations of the same material, as well as different interpretations of some of it. What happened in this particular case is that the original question asked about the formulation in a standard textbook. Clearly that question can be answered. So also could be answered about other formulations which have certain advantages, or which some researchers like. Of course different mathematical formulations have to be shown to be equivalent, so assuming that, other formulations are relevant to the question in a sense. However you were not interested in non-standard (or at least non-textbook) answers to the question.

Also in this case the person answering had only just learned of these techniques themselves and so could only provide references rather than explain anything line by line.

So that is what happened.

A broader issue (which was in another remark) was about the legitimacy of providing "answers" not appropriate for the OP, but which are appropriate in some broader SE sense. The quote was

In general, even if it were suitable only for Albert Einstein it has to be posted here

I quite like the quote, but I dont know what the SE policy is on this one. One can see both sides of the argument on this.

This was stated because of the concern that any duplicate would be closed. Consequently even Albert Einstein would get his duplicate question closed in favour of yours, and so he would want to see all the other mathematical arguments presented as Answers to your question. On the other hand maybe Albert Einstein would also need to learn how to ask his duplicate question in a way that it doesnt get closed, by refering to your question and then saying "I would like to see much more mathematics and philosophy than discussed in these answers." Maybe that wouldnt get closed, but you see the dilemma.


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