I asked a question "How to use the born rule to find..." and it was closed for being a homework-like question. Now this was not a homework question. It's also not the case that I am lazy. I own multiple QM texts and have read through them trying to figure out how to solve these kinds of problems. I've also gone through physics grad school and I never learned how to solve these kinds of problems, which is surprising because of how simple they are. I suspect you do learn how to solve these kinds of problems if you go into certain fields like QM information. But in any case I think it is true that nowhere do typical QM texts cover how to answer these kinds particular kinds of problems. This feels like a very frustrating catch-22. Also, to make it even clearer that this was not a homework question, it was a follow-up to this question.

Can someone tell me how I can re-word the question? I thought I was being helpful by drawing a diagram and making a specific example that was complex enough to capture the salient points of how to solve these kinds of problems, but I realize that kind of specificity may make it look like a homework problem.

  • $\begingroup$ Did people comment on why they thought it was a homework question? $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2015 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ No, although I can see why it would look ostensibly like a homework question: I gave a diagram of a particular Stern-Gerlach setup and wanted to know how to calculate the probabilities for each outcome. $\endgroup$
    – user1247
    Mar 24, 2015 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ Make sure that |<homework|question>|^2 < 0.05 $\endgroup$ Mar 24, 2015 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ I think that adding some of the words from this question to the target question should make it clear that this is not "homework" and worthy of an answer. For example, you could add something like "for the simple case of ... I would do ..., but I am stumped when I add ... and it doesn't seem that the QM text by ... covers this kind of complication. Is there a 'chain rule' for this kind of thing?" If you do that, I would vote to re-open. $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Mar 26, 2015 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ Hi I'm totally self study, just in case this helps, 3 books that went through problems in good detail and really taught me a lot were: squires, tamvakis and schaum. Generic titles are problems and solutions in Q. M. . All on amazon (UK site). Apologies if you have already read them. Regards $\endgroup$
    – user74893
    Mar 29, 2015 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ I own Schaums and it does not contain any problems with non-trivial Stern-Gerlach combinations. I've looked at the others and not found what I'm looking for, but I haven't read them cover to cover. $\endgroup$
    – user1247
    Mar 29, 2015 at 17:25

2 Answers 2


There are a few different reasons this can happen, but in this case, your best bet is probably to follow the same advice we give to askers of homework-like questions: show what you've tried and change the question to ask about the specific physics concept that you're confused about as you try to work through the problem yourself.

Despite the fact that our homework policy is called a homework policy, the recommendations we give there are not so different from the expectations we have of all questions on this site.


The main problem with that, that most of the homework questions have a very low quality, is asked by an unknown user who never gets again back. I think it would be very improductive to provide them essentially a free, unpaid problem solving service, despite I must mention: the math SE does this, they solve nearly every question if its quality is enough to decipher them.

Another problem with such questions that they confront academian ethics. Many of the well-respected site users are educating undergrad physicsists as their daily job, and enforce their ethical system doing that. They surely won't take part its exact opposite as their hobby.

Despite none of these problems are exactly mentioned in @DavidZ 's reasoing and his refered meta posts, I think these are the reasons why homework questions aren't really liked here.

The site users don't have any opportunity to check if your question was a actually homework question, or only it looked as if it would be. Thus, the exact meaning of the "homework questions policy" is that "homework-looking questions policy". Not the hw is forbid here, but asking questions looking hw questions.

After your question was closed, theoritally you could "fix" and reopen it. Practically, your chances are nearly negligible for that. And getting useful answers after that are doubly negligible, because most view hits the youngest questions.

But the rules you confronted here, are relatively easily cheated. Most of the long-term close-voters here doing his task highly algorithmically, and most question can be formulated to avoid their close reasons.

In your place I did this:

  1. I would read DavidZ's link, here is how you shoud formulate your hw question to survive.
  2. I tried to edit and reopen the question.
  3. After it doesn't happen, silently deleted the closed question,
  4. And later I would ask this again, in a heavily transformed form, which avoids the rules of the close-voters.

Good luck!

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    $\begingroup$ A homework question is clearly defined in the relevant post linked all the time: it's a problem in which the value lies in the method of solving; it does not need to be from a textbook to be homework. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Mar 26, 2015 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ Also, there have been over 300 questions that were reopened, which is about 10% of the non-duplicate closed questions. I don't think I'd call 10% "negligible." $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Mar 26, 2015 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Sorry for the so late reaction. Divide the number of the 1) at least once without moderator intervention reopened, 2) currently open and 3) not deleted queestions 4) with an accepted answer, by the number of the 1) closed or deleted questions 2) who was at least once in the reopen queue. The result will be at most 2-3%, and this is the real efficiency of the reopening mechanism. The hard truth is that we have a lot of robo-closers there and until there is a such big mass of crap to fight with, few will be really annoyed on that. But a lot of good content is also lost. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Sep 13, 2015 at 3:53

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