There's always been a bit of fuzz around the issue of on-topic-ness of math (and engineering, but that's a discussion for another day) type questions on our site. Many questions which are in content strictly mathematical would best be answered by a physicist because either the math topic is known mostly to physicists, because the asker is interested in the mathematics mostly as it relates to a physical system, or because the asker wants a physicist's perspective on the math itself.

From one point of view, the fact that a physicist's answer is wanted doesn't matter; math questions belong on Math.SE. This is unsatisfying though, as those who frequent Physics.SE do not necessarily frequent Math.SE, so good answers for the type of question described above may be difficult to obtain if we just post such questions to Math.SE (or migrate them).

What combination of the following strategies should we use to draw attention to their physics-oriented, yet strictly mathematical in content, questions:

  1. Post to Math.SE and advertise the question in chat.

  2. Campaign to get users of Physics.SE to subscribe to the Physics and Mathematical-Physics tags on Math.SE.

  3. Provide a link on Physics.SE to Physics tagged questions on Math.SE.

  4. or any other ideas.

In summary, what can we do to keep strictly math questions off Physics.SE while encouraging our users to answer those questions on Math.SE?

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    $\begingroup$ 1.Post to Math.SE and advertise the question in chat. I like it. There's a feed for physical-chemistry questions from Chemistry, if I remember correctly, so we could do the same for something on Mathematics, too. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 23, 2015 at 21:39

2 Answers 2


Choice (1), linking to the question in chat, is an old standby and usually works pretty well. These links often get starred so they draw attention even after they've rotated out of the main chat window.

Choice (3) is feasible through a community ad, which could link to the relevant tag pages on Math.SE.

Choice (2) could be handled on chat - it'd be a decent topic for our biweekly chat sessions, i.e. highlighting recent physics-themed questions of interest on Math.SE. But the main site doesn't really provide a good venue for this sort of campaign. (By design.)


I never liked how rude the tone here becomes if one asks question about a mathematical concept that is used in a physical context.

Who exactly decided and more importantly why, that mathematical concepts which are used exclusively by physicists nowadays shouldn't be discussed here?

Mathematicians and almost everyone at Math.SE care about different things than physicist. Even if one gets an answer at Math.SE it is seldom satisfactory for a physicists. Many topics that are very important for physicists aren't interesting for mathematicians.

A tag, which makes clear that a question is about a specific mathematical concept that is used in a physical theory/framework, would be a much better solution than writing comments below every such questions: "This belongs to Math.SE" etc. Everyone who dislikes such questions can then block this tag.

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    $\begingroup$ This is answering a different question from the one posted. $\endgroup$
    – DanielSank
    Jul 21, 2015 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ This is entirely a non-issue. Policy is that if one asks a math question in the context of physics, it is accepted here; it is questions devoid of physics that are migrated. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jul 21, 2015 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos while I think this answer is off the mark for the present question, I hardly think it's a non issue. What qualifies as a "math question in the context of physics" is hardly well defined. I've seen plenty of questions which can be templated as "While studying <physics topic> I came to <math expression> which made me realize that I don't understand <math topic>. How does <math topic> work?" In these cases the veil of physics relevance is hardly important and the question really is about math. $\endgroup$
    – DanielSank
    Jul 21, 2015 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank: I think the qualification that Jamal gives in the link I gave is fairly well-defined. Perhaps the application of this is not well-practiced, but that's a slightly different story. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Jul 21, 2015 at 21:06
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Jamal's answer would allow literally any math question imaginable if I say I thought of it because I was doing a physics problem. We should talk about this elsewhere though. I'll hop on the chat room. $\endgroup$
    – DanielSank
    Jul 21, 2015 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ As for mathematicians and physicists approaching topics differently sometimes, this strip comes to mind: smbc-comics.com/?id=2675 $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2015 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ " Even if one gets an answer at Math.SE it is seldom satisfactory for a physicists." <-- citation needed $\endgroup$
    – DanielSank
    Sep 27, 2016 at 6:07

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