# Discussion of Ferrie's question on the non-statisticality paper

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Chris Ferrie posted a question about the recent paper The quantum state cannot be interpreted statistically. In the comments followed a question about the merits of the paper per se, rather than Ferrie's question. Then Moshe came and deleted the whole thing.

Well, I didn't like the discussion that followed (Lubos Motl's comments were particularly unhelpful), even though I participated in it, but I disliked Moshe's action even more. The discussion was off-topic, but I feel it was important to have.

My question is, what should one do in situations like this? Is it appropriate to ask a question debating the merits of a paper as a whole? I for one would be interested in hearing what the community thinks that are the specific problems with this paper.

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Few clarifications:

1. On the general issue: Comments in SE sites are treated as provisional text leading, when useful, to changes in the answers. The answers are the permanent and valuable record to be preserved as the output of this endeavor. This general philosophy of SE, as I understand it, is aimed at inhibiting excessive discussion. I was skeptical at first, but I see now how this attitude prevents runaway arguments, personal insults, trolling, and all the other pleasures of blogs, forums and the like. For those who enjoy this kind of thing, these internet forums are still there.

2. To the specific issue: in this incident, one user came with insulting comments, a few others told him he was wrong. None of of those comments included anything of interest to a third party, not even an off-topic discussion on the merits of the paper. I would have preserved such comments, or part of such comments, which included a substantive point on the physics of the paper, whether or not they were related to the original question. Given that the original comments were unhelpful and offensive, and that the followup comments included nothing but direct response to the original comments, I felt that deleting the whole thing was the only sensible thing to do.

3. A new question about other aspects of this paper is welcome. But, keep in mind our FAQ - this is not a place for an open-ended debate or discussion. This is a place to get help with specific and answerable questions, preferably of a technical nature. I think there could be an interesting question along the lines you suggested, but whomever asks it would have to read the paper and think about it first, in order to be able to come up with a specific rather than a generic question. Such questions are more likely to lead to a useful discussion, which is the reason they are generally encouraged on SE sites.

As always, feedback is appreciated. This is not my site, and I am doing what I think is the will of the community.

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answered Nov 19, 2011 by (2,405 points)
I participated in that discussion, and I'm happy that it's no longer there. It wasn't particularly pleasant to be involved in it. Does this happen often though, or was it a one-off?

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This is the first such exchange so far, hopefully not something we will have to witness routinely.

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I certainly hope so. My apologies for my part in that.

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Nothing to apologize for, some comments were perfectly reasonable, and deleting them should not be perceived as somehow being punitive. It just made no sense to leave any part of the discussion, which would not even be intelligible for anyone who did not see the whole thing.

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Well, you deleted a comment of mine that was not part of the discussion, but just a general remark directed at Ferrie. I'm not complaining, since it was off-topic, just letting you know.

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About 3: I agree with you; I dislike open-ended questions like [this](http://theoreticalphysics.stackexchange.com/q/531/172); but I feel that asking a more specific question would just be asking "Is this paper wrong?" in disguise. But again, when a new paper comes up people in my lab love to get and discuss exactly this question; and it is a discussion that is often interesting and valuable. I'm just not sure it's fit for this site.

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@Mateus, I apologize. I found the comment you refer to and indeed in my haste I did delete one comment which was not part of the discussion. Could you please re-post it? For your convenience, it is “While not directly related to your question, this paper bothers me by the identification they do of the "statistical interpretation of the quantum state" with the interpretation of a state as incomplete knowledge of λ, which I have never seen anyone advocating.“

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@Mateus, As for point 3. I think a respectful and substantive discussion of a new result is very much desirable. The question is how you achieve that, given that such level of discussion does NOT take place in blogs and open discussion forums. Not sure what the complete answer is, but certainly controlling any flareup of personal insults and name calling is part of the story.

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The other part, according to SE philosophy, is to make sure we are discussing *something* - so questions of the form “what’s up with this or that” are discouraged (question you linked is borderline). More specific questions, even if their intent is similar, ensure that the OP has the qualifications and devoted enough effort to formulate a question, so that at the very least they can appreciate the answer. It also gives some focus to the discussion. I for one am not too concerned with discussion spilling over, but a completely unfocused discussion has a tendency to turn into a pissing contest.

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I did try to ask a good question about it, but I was not satisfied with the result. My main motivation for doing so was to have an online resource with a clear and correct review of the paper I could point people to. [A recent blog post by Matt Leifer](http://mattleifer.info/2011/11/20/can-the-quantum-state-be-interpreted-statistically/) does the job, so my motivation is gone.

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Thanks for salvaging my old comment, but I do not wish to repost it, it's no longer relevant.

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Yeah, that is an excellent post. I hope this place will become a valuable resource, distinct from things that already exist. Discussions of one personal opinion (and a few responses) of a highly publicized paper is not a gap we need to fill, I agree.

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Sure, it is too bad the question was not answered, at least not yet. I hope it is not because of all the noise around it.

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