I have noticed a tremendous wealth of 'homework' style questions on maths SE ranging from simple concepts such as finding variance in some context or very difficult but solvable integrals. All these questions are rarely downvoted and have a healthy number of answers.

However, physics stack exchange is fairly sterilised of homework questions. Even challenging and interesting mechanics question will quickly be blocked.

Why can't we be more like maths SE and tackle whatever comes our way unless the answer is clearly a simple calculation.


2 Answers 2


Because this is a different community centered around a different topic, responding to different pressures, in a very different internet environment, and which has made different choices over a very long period.

In short, the general feeling around here is that homework and homework-like questions diminish the value of this site for many people who are interested in much more technical content, and that diluting that content with drudgework would drive away many highly-qualified users and therefore strongly diminish the usefulness of this site as a resource.

The longer answer is that this topic has a very long history of discussion on this meta, which is documented on this tag. Very many opinions have been voiced over the ~six years this site has existed, and it is not a simple discussion. Given how you phrased things, one place to start could be this question (which is pretty close to a duplicate of this one, to be honest).

Finally, since you specifically compare against maths.se, you should keep in mind that the existence of MathOverflow changes the equation dramatically, in terms of the outlets for technical content available to professional research mathematicians versus what is available for physics. (The existence of a MathOverflow equivalent for physics is another long-storied discussion which you should brush up on before diving into it.) The situation over on math.se is simply not comparable to the environment this site is in.

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    $\begingroup$ I think, also the existence of the physoverflow changes the equation dramatically. This leads to the obvious question, why the MO can exist inside the SE network, and why the PO not. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ We can continue this discussion in chat if you absolutely insist. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Different community, different choices - OK. But what do you mean by different pressures, very different internet environment? Whatever difference in pressures and environmental factors exist here seem to be the result of those choices, not their cause. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by different internet environment? (This is not sarcasm or contradiction, it's a genuine question.) $\endgroup$
    – Helen
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Helen I thought this was plenty clear from the answer. The biggest factor is the existence of MathOverflow. For whatever reason, maths got two SE(-like) sites and physics only got one. Many of the expectations that are placed on MO instead of MSE (which then allows MSE to get mired in routine drudgework if it so desires) are placed on PSE with no other place to go. It's just simply not comparable. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ If then the second paragraph of your answer is the answer to the question "what different environment", then I'll have to agree with @sammygerbil that what is described there sounds like the result of choices, not their cause. The existence of two math sites though sounds like a cause; unless it was a result, of course :) $\endgroup$
    – Helen
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Helen MO was not set up just because MSE was "too homeworky"- MathOverflow was started a good deal earlier than MSE (Oct '09 to Aug '10; PSE is roughly contemporaneous to MSE). There is a long history of trying to set up a physics analogue to MO, thus far without meaningful success the way I see it. The reasons for that make a worthwhile question (in no small measure because the Theoretical Physics beta and its closure are pretty ancient history now) but this comment thread is not really the place to discuss it. It is the result of broader choices - not everything revolves around hw. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ PhysicsOverflow offers users of this site a place for discussing high-level questions. It is outside of the StackExchange network but it was founded by SE users with the aim of being equivalent to MathOverflow. There is nothing to prevent high-level users of PSE from using both sites, as users of MSE/MO do. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @sammygerbil This has been discussed extensively in the chat link above; please take further discussion of PhysicsOverflow there. I will say this, though: trying to pretend that PO as it stands today is equivalent to MO is highly disingenuous. On traffic alone, easily-accessible figures show that PO has about 2% of the traffic (Qs/mo) that MO does, and half of that is imported from PSE. Nothing prevents users from using both sites, but pretending that PO can fill in the shoes of MO at present is disingenuous. This is not the place for that discussion though - add an answer, or take it to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 18:08

PSE people are more interested and involved in theoretical aspects of physics.Moreover,they provide enough hints and ideas to approach the problem. Physics is more of a conceptual subject. Mathematics involves problem solving much more than physics. I hope that helps.

  • $\begingroup$ this is really how i feel but i thought the question would be interesting anyway $\endgroup$
    – user86425
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ I do not think this is true. Many users here are interested in practical problem-solving. Mathematics is highly conceptual : instead of jumping into a problem as a physicist often does, a mathematician carefully defines the relevant concepts (ring, field, group, tensor, manifold, brane, homotopy, etc) involved, and constructs theorems and lemmas. We physicists are often far more vague about our concepts, many of which we cannot define (energy, mass, photon, etc). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 18:14

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