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I believe there is an argument for a separate group for experimentalist. I have found the standard physics group to be far too theoretically oriented and where easily answered trivia comes to dominate discussion. To the extent that working physicists (and engineers) such as myself find it almost useless from a professional POV.

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    $\begingroup$ Question related to an older proposal that didn't make it: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/720 $\endgroup$ – dmckee Oct 2 '15 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Since one of the commenters below mentioned that your questions tend to get lumped in as "engineering," you might want to check out: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/6135 and meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/5553 and maybe weigh in there. We want to encourage experimental but not "Help me turn my leaf blower into a hovercraft!" questions. It's a very fine line to walk and one that we probably haven't figured out how to do yet. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Oct 2 '15 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ I don't blame you for feeling that the site isn't any help at the research level (it never helped me much with mine either), but it always saddens me to see another experimenter go away because there aren't enough experimenters. Of course, you've given it more than a fair shake so no complaints. That said, I doubt a specialist proposal is going anywhere, but will join in enthusiastically if it ever launches. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Oct 3 '15 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ This does not seem to be specific to experimental physics: it is research-level physics, experimental or theoretical, that is doing rather poorly on this site, unfortunately. It is true, and very annoying, that the site is vastly dominated by really elementary questions. To me, it seems hard to understand why a site such as MathOverflow works as fantastically as it does for mathematics, but that all attempts at a corresponding site for physics seem to fail (yes, I know about PhysicsOverflow, but it does not appear to be very successful either). No interest from most professional physicists? $\endgroup$ – Yvan Velenik Oct 4 '15 at 10:01
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    $\begingroup$ @YvanVelenik Math Overflow is strongly committed to only accepting content at a very high level. They are ruthless about closing things that don't rise to the standard. (Shog9 once called the Physics moderator "kittens in comparison" to the Math Overflow mods.) As long as we accept basic questions, we're going to get basic questions. We can't have it both ways. On the other hand Physics is arguably much tougher than Mathematics. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Oct 4 '15 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ @dmckee: Sure. But this does not explain why it is so difficult to gather a sufficient number of professional physicists to create a working research-level site. All explanations of this fact I have seen should apply as well to MathOverflow, and the latter site is a huge success. $\endgroup$ – Yvan Velenik Oct 5 '15 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ It's a lot easier to ask a dumb question in physics than maths. The bar for stupidity is set higher. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Oct 5 '15 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere: not so sure about that. You should have a look at mathematics.SE: you can find questions there that are probably a match for the worst here.... In contrast, even though the quality of questions at MathOverflow also wildly fluctuates, of course, really poor questions remain open only rarely. $\endgroup$ – Yvan Velenik Oct 5 '15 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Yvan Many mathematicians I've met have the right personality/priorities for hanging out on websites and sharing math tidbits. It really is something to do with the subject. On the other hand I cannot possibly imagine any faculty from my department contemplating participating in this -- or any other -- site. There is no more efficient means to getting work done than what they are doing (arxiv, conferences, meeting others face-to-face), and they aren't interested in being on-call experts without anything in return. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Oct 6 '15 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ The only reason I hang around is that very occasionally I find something useful on one of the Exchange sites. Mostly electronics though... $\endgroup$ – user56903 Oct 6 '15 at 7:07
  • $\begingroup$ I am an experimentalist. Data is life. It troubles me that this post makes claims about the usefulness of this site for experimentalists, but offers absolutely no data to support the claim. Could you link to a few experimental posts which were closed/ignored/downvoted? $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 7 '15 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank physics.stackexchange.com/q/163723 I can provide more if you want $\endgroup$ – user56903 Oct 7 '15 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ @DanielSank physics.stackexchange.com/q/189411 $\endgroup$ – user56903 Oct 7 '15 at 8:57
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    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere: First of all, I think you should put those in the main question and delete the comments. Second, I note that the questions are written in a way that predisposes them to being ignored: bad punctuation and grammar, and vague appeals for general information, sometimes with multiple questions. Asking a single specific question usually works better. In any case, these are interesting and I'm reading through them. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 7 '15 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisWhite, Going a little more granular, I think theorists are a little more of the math mindset than experimentalists when it comes to informal websites. I am a theorist's theorist, but I would love to see more experimental Q's. $\endgroup$ – Aabaakawad Oct 9 '15 at 19:13
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As an example of the issue Dirk raises, I'll point to This recent question. Now, perhaps it is not the cleanest of questions, but it did come up today. It was put on hold as off-topic, with comments about how it would be best for engineering or materials. Now, given that it was tagged solid-state-physics and superconductivity (and applies to them), and that materials-science is also a reasonably used tag here on Physics SE, I think this is pretty indicative of the general feeling around here. It is pretty hard to argue with Dirk, but I also think that Physics SE should be the place for his experimental questions, as well as questions like this.

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    $\begingroup$ And I've voted to reopen it. When you see things like that, you can either nominate it to reopen so it gets in the queue or post about it here on Meta so attention is drawn to it. If enough people agree, it will be reopened and (hopefully) answered. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Oct 2 '15 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ I notice that the referenced question has been re-opened. But it is still not tagged "experimental-physics". Maybe, if we can about these things, we should start doing that? $\endgroup$ – Floris Oct 5 '15 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ It was the 1148th question to have the experimental-physics tag applied, which doesn't really suggest to me a burning need for an independent community. $\endgroup$ – rob Oct 5 '15 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Floris What, and tag literally everything else as "theoretical physics"? Why are we assuming that a site called "Physics" means "theoretical physics unless you mark your question otherwise"? $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 7 '15 at 8:53
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Consider this: if experimentalists are not motivated to post here, where their questions would be well received (given that they are, in fact, about experimental physics), what would make them motivated to post on a separate site which would have even less of a community at first?

Given this I think starting a new site is less productive than trying to improve participation here.

(I'm assuming that by "group" you mean a Stack Exchange site.)

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    $\begingroup$ The problem is that stuff I post gets lost in the garbage within hours of posting. There is no way for the minority of experimentalists to see it. I know from experience that I have missed other peoples posts on experimental physics that I could have helped with, but only seen months later. $\endgroup$ – user56903 Oct 2 '15 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere: Well that's kinda the point of tags; you can mark them as favorite or ignored and even search for the posts by tags. If you've missed questions, then you should start using more of this site's features. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 2 '15 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, I have seen a variety of posts (I believe some from Dirk) that were not well received since they were considered too 'engineering' for Physics SE. Perhaps that is mainly a wording issue in the question and can be overcome. There is a definite gradient pointing away from experimental issues. The existence of that tilt also suggests that there aren't so many experimentalists around. A deeper problem is that the more specific a question on an experiment, the less likely it is, in general, that there is someone with just the right experience around. $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Oct 2 '15 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster I think some context is usually all that is needed to change the questions from engineering to experimental physics, in general. Obviously I can't say that without seeing specific examples, but if it's clear that the intention is an experiment and not a "hobby," it's much easier to keep it open as experimental. We have similar policies about math-based questions -- we would close a "How to solve this ODE" question unless it's made clear that the ODE is physics-based and physicists are most likely to have knowledge of that domain. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Oct 2 '15 at 17:10
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Anyone can start a new SE site on Area 51. However I suspect your chances of ending up with a viable group are small. It take a lot of commitment to get a Stack Exchange site going and I doubt there is enough interest from experimentalists for the site to succeed. Still, you will never know unless you try.

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  • $\begingroup$ I recall there being a proposal on area51 for experimental physics that (obviously) didn't catch on $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 2 '15 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ It's possible people didn't see it. Just because a lot of people get put off of using this space, doesn't mean they're not out there. $\endgroup$ – Magpie Oct 2 '15 at 13:23
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Good suggestion. It's been obvious for a number of years that the culture on physics stack exchange is not representative or welcoming of ideas in condensed matter, computational or experimental physics, at all.

The theoretical questions and answers are not a problem in themselves, but for the apparent sense of entitlement I see among the established order of the 'community' who seem to want to impose their culture on everyone who seeks to ask and answer physics questions.

If the current community are not willing to share this space with others, then all we can do is set up a new one which is more inclusive of those interested in solving real world physics problems, beginners and those "layman" who should be able to have somewhere to ask conceptual questions on physics. I'd support an area 51 proposal like that.

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    $\begingroup$ Lay people are welcome to ask conceptual questions under the current rules on Physics. But they should try searching the site first and despite the complaints of many "how do I do this problem" is pointedly not a conceptual question. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Oct 2 '15 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ First, there is no civil society where is it considered acceptable to barge into a community, restate their aims for them, and demand that they acquiesce to your restructuring. Second, that restructuring doesn't even apply here, since all physics is welcome here. I say this as a computational physicist. Third, if you want to leave, then just do so. You're not garnering any support for your cause by announcing your intent to break away with all the melodrama of an opera singer taking an entire act to die. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Oct 2 '15 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ Not to discourage you, but note that there have been multiple incarnations of a "layman physics" and "physics homework" proposals at Area51 that have all failed due to lack of interest. Some of them are linked in other Meta posts here, if you're interested in searching (I believe they get deleted from area51 so you can't find dead proposals). $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 2 '15 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ We are very welcoming of computational physics questions; in fact, I want more of them. But we don't want "Hey, my code is broken can you look at it?" type of questions. Likewise, we would love to have good experimental questions but we don't want random people to come in and ask how to build something. Some of the most active users and moderators on the site are either computational or experimental practitioners. $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Oct 2 '15 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ I could ask a question right now on diffraction correction of ultrasound velocity in a semi free field environment. But it would be pointless. That's partly because me and the PhD candidate who are working on this as part of an application in chem eng are right are the forefront of research and I doubt anyone here could do more than suggest google. Just not enough people in the world know the answers (if they exist) and they are not to be found here $\endgroup$ – user56903 Oct 2 '15 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @DirkBruere That's true for any research-level question where you are on the forefront of the topic. The likelihood that somebody here could answer a question I have about the my active research is pretty slim too. Because if it had an answer, it wouldn't be the cutting edge! $\endgroup$ – tpg2114 Oct 2 '15 at 21:24
  • $\begingroup$ I feel certain there will come a time, when you grow up, that you'll regret writing childish nonsense like this in public. $\endgroup$ – Alfred Centauri Oct 4 '15 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri Yeah, probably he/she will. I wonder if there will come a time, when they grow up, when folks here who currently VTC experimental/applied questions will regret their naive nonsense. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 7 '15 at 9:20
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    $\begingroup$ This "answer" is an emotional mess, but there is a culture here that favors certain types of physics (not overwhelmingly though), then looks for "reasons" to justify the bias. This is hardly an oppressive environment though. All groups, everywhere, have their culture, and it is self-reinforcing by encouraging self-deportation. The culture here favors my theoretical bent but disfavors my interdisciplinary bent (geophysics, physical chemistry, etc.). No worries. $\endgroup$ – Aabaakawad Oct 9 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah the reason is the space is run by theorists. $\endgroup$ – Magpie Oct 10 '15 at 4:33
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisWhite what are you talking about? Nobody is "barging" in - people want to leave that's what the question is saying and what the answer is agreeing with and it's because of crappy attitudes like yours that this is so. $\endgroup$ – Magpie Oct 10 '15 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ @AlfredCentauri back at you. $\endgroup$ – Magpie Oct 10 '15 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Aabaakawad no, there are worries. StackExchange is a useful resource. If the site called "physics" is "theoretical physics" by convention, that denies an enormous would-be user base from using the site. There will never be a separate experimental site. It would never get enough traction precisely because this site exists. For that reason it is a big deal whether or not this site is nice about experimental type questions and In my experience, it's not really. Really relevant experimental physics questions get closed as "engineering" all the time. It's gotten better, but it's been a long fight. $\endgroup$ – DanielSank Oct 13 '15 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielSank, as mentioned elsewhere, the fact that five votes to close trumps any number up votes or signs of interest AND that there is not a corresponding way to vote "keep this open" until after the fact, are real design flaws, which bizarrely disfavors high traffic Q's because there is more opportunity to collect 5 votes. You can get an effect similar to the way the Tea Party can shut down govt despite their small numbers. $\endgroup$ – Aabaakawad Oct 13 '15 at 8:16

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