This is from a meta level positive rant I temporarily appended to an answer to a question about performing the Cavendish experiment at home. I realized how few lab type experiments we reference here, and how useful they would be for students.

"Editorial (I'll move this positive rant to meta soon) - given the obviously widely varied audience on this site, I would very much like to see more questions like this one relating to amateur or home experiments. The analysis of the data and possible sources of errors in these experiments is often subtle, and is very instructive. To have real physicists and other clever students publicly criticize some aspect of an experiment that is actually being done at home or in a school lab provides something that many students may never get otherwise. The social network framework will help many newcomers from different countries learn what real science is in a way that yet another dose of imperfectly understood theory never will. And it's fun too."

You see my point? Maybe we can make a "doable experiment" tag, and have sort of lab teams or something in chat rooms, making suggestions or something. Any ideas?

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    $\begingroup$ The site is obviously not "research level" right now. It is much more like math.stackexchange than mathoverflow. On the other hand, there are plenty of pretty advanced questions on math.stackexchange. So that may not be a lethal problem. Physics may also be naturally more fragmented, I don't know. The question is really what we want to do with it. The site may change or bifurcate, who knows. One big success so far is the nice level of discourse and politeness. One way forward will be to try to elevate the discourse. The other might be to be creative with what we already have. $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2010 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ Important point, that is one big difference between physics and math. $\endgroup$
    – Mark C
    Nov 10, 2010 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Mark: What exactly is that big difference? I am not aware of anything except the math being more abstract and rigorous and physics more intuitive and applied/testable (very vaguely stated). In particular, there is no difference in fragmentation: math has dozens of major fields in it and so does physics. At the same time: there is only one math (as in almost any two field are somehow connected) and so there is only one physics. I really see no difference. $\endgroup$
    – Marek
    Nov 19, 2010 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Marek Why the contentious question? (At least it seems contentious.) Looking back, I see you are reading my comment as a reply to SIGoldberg1's comment, while I was in fact replying to his question. I have included my reply below, but it is not edited to reflect this new realization. $\endgroup$
    – Mark C
    Nov 19, 2010 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Marek Regarding everything beyond your second sentence: That is not even what he or I are talking about. I know that you are a graduate student in theoretical physics; in that case, physics is indeed nearly the same as mathematics. We are talking about experiment. Real physics deals with the real world as well as models, and a complete physicist is a good deal more practical than is often thought of the type. Studying physics should give you a deep intuitive understanding and help you approximately predict real world phenomena without having to labor through tedious calculations. $\endgroup$
    – Mark C
    Nov 19, 2010 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Mark: okay, I see I misunderstood you (but you didn't quite made yourself clear) but the same can be said about your comment: you misunderstood me completely. What I said was meant in regard to all of physics and not just theoretical. Yes, the main difference is in that physics is testable and intuitive and I had already written that in my original comment. And, as a matter of fact, although I like the math a great deal, I consider myself a physicist with intuition (even if it is quite not perfect all the time). $\endgroup$
    – Marek
    Nov 19, 2010 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Marek The comment about theoretical physics was an aside; that was coming from the point of view that you understood the object of my comment. $\endgroup$
    – Mark C
    Nov 19, 2010 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


I like this idea. How about ?

With the assumption that such experiments are

  1. Reasonably safe, or at least have very obvious risks with straight forward mitigating strategies
  2. Require mostly equipment that is easily obtained (with perhaps one or two more specialized tools)
  3. Require limited---and clear---analysis of the results

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