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  Proposal: A new, three-tier model for physics Q&A sites on StackExchange?

+ 2 like - 0 dislike

I Propose: A three-tier model for physics SE sites.

Many physics-related questions fall into the following three categories:

(1) graduate student- / post-doc- / research- / professional-level questions;

(2) undergraduate- / undergraduate-level questions;

(3) laypersons'- / popular- / semi-popular-level questions.

Therefore, to cater best to all three categories - while maintaining the highest signal/noise ratio, I'm suggesting the following:

(1) A professional set of sites for category (1) -


Theoretical / Mathematical Physics [this site] (which, if the site - hopefully - grows over time and gains further membership, may be divided into arXiv-like sites (Astrophysics.SE; Condensed Matter.SE; General Relativity & Quantum Cosmology.SE; High-Energy Physics.SE; Nuclear Physics.SE; Mathematical Physics.SE; and Quantum Physics.SE))


Experimental Physics (Q&A's specific to experimental physics)

(2) The current Physics.SE site for undergraduates / undergraduate-level questions; (Nb: please see below)


(3) Science for general- / layperson's- / popular-level questions.

Update: point (2)* of the above proposal is withdrawn.

[*"(2) The current Physics.SE site for undergraduates / undergraduate-level questions;"]

Upon consultation with Theoretical Physics SE members, an alternative proposal - if / should one be agreed upon - shall be presented. (Preliminary proposal: 'Undergraduate Physics SE': A Q&A site for college and university undergraduate students in Physics.)

Update: If anyone disagrees with the above-proposal please feel free to share your opposing views / objection(s), or disagreement.

(I'm aware that my: a) direct usage of SE sites is very limited / non-existent, and b) my academic background is limited to undergraduate level, so I will not respond to any specifics / criticism of such than to state that the above-proposal is a) specifically a 'meta-'-level issue, and b) for 'Theoretical Physics SE'-committed members only.)

[Note: This is not for everyone at this forum- only the inevitable few who seem always to lurk around internet forums or similar sites: I do not respond to disrespectful / offensive / inappropriate / rude or otherwise derogatory comment/s / feedback / interaction of any kind. PLEASE SHOW RESPECT AND COURTESY WHEN EXPRESSING YOUR VIEWS, OR PLEASE REFRAIN FROM EXPRESSING THEM.]

This post imported from StackExchange at 2014-05-08 10:59 (UCT), posted by SE-user UGPhysics

asked Sep 10, 2011 in SE.TP.discussion by UGPhysics (155 points) [ revision history ]
edited May 8, 2014 by dimension10

1 Answer

+ 1 like - 0 dislike

I almost completely agree with this.

  1. This is PhysicsOverflow.
  2. This is PhysicsUnderflow.
  3. This is PhysicsNoflow.

What do I mean? First of all, let me clarify that when I proposed the Popular Science proposal on Stack Exchange, I did it mainly with the intention of saving Physics Stack Exchange. But I later found out that this is impossible. 

But anyway, now that we have PhysicsOverflow, and we will hopefully have PhysicsUnderflow, the question as in the context of Erflow (this is the word I will hereby use for PO, PU, etc.) is should we have a site for popular physics?

My answer is absolutely not.

The issue with a popular-science-only site can be seen from quora. Quora isn't a popular-science-only site but it is almost completely popular science (I mean in the science-related categories, of course). On quora, "experts" and knowledgable people tend to ignore the popular science posts to a large extent, which makes it a good example of the problems with a popular-science site.

On quora, where experts are generally outnumbered by the laymen and where the experts generally refrain from posting, and most importantly, voting, in the popular science questions (which form the majority of posts there). Therefore, a large section of the site behaves almost identically to a very large popular science Q&A with some different features.

If you look at any popular science thread on quora, you will see that both completely wrong answers and right answers get about the same average of votes. This is because the layman majority who vote have no clue about the topic itself. They will vote on answers saying "Ah, this is informative", but they can't actually assess the answer. This is even more obvious when the answer is a repetition of common myths among laymen (e.g. time is discrete in quantum mechanics, and other such lies).   

These laymen come to learn something in physics, just to have a "general idea about other fields too" (I have observed many laymen say this. And this attitude is perfectly fine as long as they don't consider themselves as qualified enough to assess, and thus vote on, the post.  

What I have said here is said in a much more coherent and convincing manner by @annav here on meta.Physics.SE:  

a) Most of the people voting will be non physicists

b) few knowledgable physicists will be consistently checking every day

This will result in arbitrary votes and even wrong ones, not exactly cranks but half informed people pushing successfully their half informed opinions.

Truth in science is not arrived at by consensus of the hoi polloi.

answered May 8, 2014 by dimension10 (1,985 points) [ revision history ]

A nice idea. But for now, let's focus on improving the site to a more professional level, OK? And then we can move on to creating other physics sites.

Nice job on the new blue color scheme for the PO icon, but that f***ing logo is still getting on my nerves :D

I tend to agree with the sentiment of this answer. I might be able to contribute to a physics undergraduate Q & A site. I'd upvote this answer if I was able...

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