-5
$\begingroup$

Because when it comes to real practical advice on specialist experimental techniques I may as well be talking to myself. It seems to be singularly useless.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why do you say armchair? $\endgroup$ – Nikolaj-K Mar 20 '15 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ Because most people here do not seem to be paid for their physics knowledge in real life. Correct me if I am mistaken. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 20 '15 at 14:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Some more link you might want to read: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/2948 meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/5129 meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/6266 $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 20 '15 at 15:04
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Also, the tone you've taken here is not going to help your case. You've got me miffed and I should be a natural ally: getting more experimenters and more experimental questions is one of my long-term goals for the site. Note also that tpg2114 (who answered you below) is a practical hands-on type as well. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 20 '15 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ I just seriously dislike the whole gamification thing which encourages trivia and idiots while marginalizing the rest. When I first came on here I tested the theory by posting one or two seriously crap questions and got most of my 2800 points that way. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 20 '15 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry - 3800 points $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 20 '15 at 15:10
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere Nobody is forcing you to play the game side of it. Focus on asking good questions, and posting good answers to good questions, and ignore the crap and the noise. If you don't like the game, don't play. But that doesn't mean you can't participate if you choose to do so. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 20 '15 at 15:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @dmckee Thanks for digging up those links. Also suggested reading (in particular how to walk the fine line between experimental (good) and engineering (bad) questions): meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/65 meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/6135 meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/5553 meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/4535 $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 20 '15 at 15:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ hi you state Because most people here do not seem to be paid for their physics knowledge in real life. Correct me if I am mistaken. no offence intended but thats a logical fallacy, an appeal to authority is implied here. Your argument here seems to me to be "If a person is paid for what they do, then they know more than you do". I found out the hard way, getting my car brakes "fixed", by a paid trained mechanic, that this ain't necessarily so :) I self study, love doing it and find this site extremely useful. regards $\endgroup$ – user74893 Mar 20 '15 at 23:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Dirk, don't be a dick. Those that regularly participate here do so because they get some value from answering questions they find interesting, not because they're standing by for Dirk to ask some questions on specialist experimental techniques. This is the way things work. You should be smart enough to understand that. Why aren't you? $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Mar 21 '15 at 2:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Although I think it's probably true that most of us here "do not seem to be paid for their physics knowledge", there are in fact quite a few of us who are, especially on the theoretical side. I up-voted your question, because although I agree with others that your tone is off, the question of how to attract and be welcoming toward experts in other sub-fields than the ones we already have is an important issue. (It seems to be a difficult issue for Stack Exchange sites in general for some reason.) $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Mar 21 '15 at 3:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The problem is that people who self study are studying, not doing experimental physics. It's a lot easier to read a book than find a well equipped lab and get access to it for research that takes hundreds of hours of input. There is a huge difference between reading about something and then trying to do it. You come across all kind of problems too trivial for the book to cover but which are show stoppers when it comes to doing. "First prepare your sample to within 1 milliKelvin of the desired temperature...". $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 21 '15 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ As for people standing by to answer my questions, when I do get answers I take time out to answer other people's questions. But it has to be two way. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 21 '15 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it's just me, but I have a tough time imagining self-study and experimental physics overlapping, unless the questions that come from it are just idle curiosities about how one might actually conduct an experiment. My guess is if you are trying to do an experiment outside the confines of a well-funded lab, you're not going to be capable of (or have a need to) get your temperature to within 1 milliKelvin (to continue your example). Self-study of theory seems plausible because all you really need is some pen and paper, maybe a computer to do some crunching. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 21 '15 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ And so people doing self-study-experiments may not be asking the right question or the one that will be the most helpful to them if they dropped in to ask how to get to 1 mK accuracy. Just like somebody asking me a computational question about how to solve for the flow around an airplane would get a radically different answer if that person only has their laptop at home or has access to every machine in the Top 500. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 21 '15 at 17:40
10
$\begingroup$

It's always amusing when (insert branch of physics here) complains about how few (insert branch of physics here) experts there are and we're just overrun with (insert opposite branch of physics here) questions/people. The theoretical folks complain(ed) all the time there was too much applied physics and not enough theory. The people who want homework help complain there is too much advanced physics. Experimentalists complain there's too much theoretical physics. Maybe if I get motivated, I'll go through meta in the past 2 years and pull together all the various times this comes up.

Anyway, I'll address the idea you are raising rather than the (albeit mild-mannered) rant in the text.

Yes, there are disappointingly few experimental physicists on the site. And many experimental questions go unanswered or get threatened with close reasons as being too engineering, or not about physics, or whatever by people who don't conduct experiments.

It's unfortunate for sure, but we want experimental physics questions just as much as other areas. We simply don't have the people here yet in a critical mass to make it work well. We have the tags for it, we have a few people excited to answer questions about it, but it also has to be questions about experiments we can answer. I would love to answer questions about experiments in fluids (analyzing results, measurement techniques, etc) but I would be completely useless to answer particle physics experiment questions.

So there are two things that people who want to discuss experimental work should do. First, get other people who conduct experiments involved. If you are actually conducting experiments, odds are good that you have colleagues you share lab space/equipment with. Get them on the site too so that way we start building an experimental sub-community.

In the mean time, the second thing you can do is be proactive in defending your question and make sure you include the on it. Don't say:

"What kind of filter should I use to record XXXnm wavelengths?"

and leave it at that. Because to many people, that would be off topic (and to the rest of us, a poor question). Instead, say:

"I am designing an experiment to measure Y under conditions X. I know it radiates at A, B, C frequencies and I want to capture phenomenon D which occurs primarily at wavelength XXXnm. How do I set up my camera to record this?"

because then it clearly communicates that you're looking for an answer to a physics experiment and not just trying to come up with some new app that's a Instagram-Clash of Clans-selfie stick integration tool (this post hereby counts as me establishing priority for copyright on such a tool!).

It opens up some good avenues of discussion because experts can give advice on the experiment overall -- maybe there's better ways to set it up or other things to consider (like maybe all the glass in the world happens to filter that particular wavelength and you need to do something special). And experimentalists who are researching how to conduct similar work can find the answer here and say "Wow, a place to ask/answer experimental questions? Awesome!"

Having an awesome repository of questions and answers is what draws theoretical (and for better or worse, homework) questions and experts, so let's build up the same repository for experimental ones.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Cool answer, I respect your patience. $\endgroup$ – Nikolaj-K Mar 20 '15 at 14:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I did not expect to have to tag something "experimental physics" any more than anyone else tags their stuff "theoretical physics". It should be obvious from the question. Maybe a different tag is needed: "professional physics" for those whose questions need answers for real life applications rather than just curiosity or fun. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 20 '15 at 14:39
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere: You are implying that all professional physics is experimental physics. This is wrong, and an insult to theoreticians. Whether experimental-physics should be used or not (it is kind of a meta tag, after all) is a tangential issue, but it certainly would raise visibility of experimental questions if more questions started to appear in that tag. Once it is sufficently populated with good questions, we could discuss abolishing it in favour of more specific tags. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Mar 20 '15 at 15:15
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere Ideally that tag wouldn't be needed because it is a meta tag. But my recommendation to add it is really just a suggestion to be proactive until the sub-community is established and there are reviewers within it who can take care of experimental-type questions in the review queue. Until that happens, help out those 3000+ rep users by making it very, blatantly obvious that you are asking a question about experimental methods and that you're aware of the differences between experimental and engineering, that you've read the policies, and so your question is on-topic. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 20 '15 at 15:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ A friendly, passive-aggressive "Hey look, this is an experimental question!" through using the tag is a much better idea than angry ranting when close votes start showing up because people think you're looking for shopping advice or something. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 20 '15 at 15:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Probably. But I am currently working, right this second, on stuff directly related to questions I post. Bottom line being, if the answers I can supply are better than the ones I'm getting (assuming I am getting any at all), it's not worth my time. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 20 '15 at 15:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere "I am currently working, right this second, on stuff directly related to questions I post" I actually think that this may be one of the reasons for the site attracting relatively few active experimenters. The stuff that comes up predictable we already know how to handle. It's the surprises that send us looking for outside help, and we'd like to find it faster than the site can reliably provide it without more experimenters participating. Cue chicken and egg, or vice versa. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 20 '15 at 15:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere We've talked about what motivates people before and we've also talked about why most experts don't ask questions and I think you're just in an unfortunately place where you fall into the "I come here to get answers to my questions" category of user but there aren't enough "experts who do nothing but answer questions" in your area to help yet. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 20 '15 at 15:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There's not a problem with being a user who consumes answers more than contributes answers, but it's just unfortunate in your case that there aren't enough producers to help you. So like I said in my answer, you can work to raise the number of contributors to build up the critical mass needed, or you can give up on trying to build the community. You wouldn't be the first, nor the last, to move on and I doubt anybody would fault you for it. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Mar 20 '15 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ I can't explain in too much detail what I am doing for commercial reasons, but I have managed to measure the time of flight of a sound pulse in gas to 1 part per million over 60mm and we are now investigating effects of milliKelvin temperatures on the results. In length terms we are measuring to around 50nm $\endgroup$ – user56903 Mar 20 '15 at 15:47
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Maybe you could also tag your questions with the "research-level" tag, if they are for research. The tag does not limit to theoretical physics and seems to describe your problem: very specialized knowledge needed. $\endgroup$ – Martin Mar 21 '15 at 0:29

You must log in to answer this question.