Or should only substantive questions be allowed?
If not, is there another place to ask reference questions?
Actually, I would like to ask reference questions, so I will make this a feature-request,
even though it began as a simple request for information.
I would be quite happy if reference questions were kept in a separate location or category.

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[feature-request] is for proposed changes to the SE software, not about topics allowed on the site. –  David Z Jan 23 '11 at 0:05
    
Also, what kinds of questions do you have in mind? –  David Z Jan 23 '11 at 0:06
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I think it should be okay. I had some questions of this sort that I haven't asked because I wasn't sure they were proper. This would be things like "What was the first paper which gives the solution to the obscure and little known xxx problem?" With tags, it should be solvable. –  Carl Brannen Jan 23 '11 at 0:31
    
can you provide some examples of such reference questions in your question? It's hard to understand what exactly it is you are asking, without examples. –  Jeff Atwood Jan 23 '11 at 11:21
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For example, I published a paper that gave the force of gravity for a non rotating black hole exactly in Newtonian form. That is, I showed a Newtonian force system whose orbits were exactly those of the Schwarzschild solution in Schwarzschild coordinates. (And I also did the Gullstrand-Painleve coordinate problem.) I had a conversation with an old GR prof and he hinted that it had been published before. So was it or not? –  Carl Brannen Jan 31 '11 at 22:32

1 Answer 1

It can be sometimes be notoriously hard to find correct references. For example, I was going to mention a certain theory of extra dimensions in a paper (this is experimental particle physics). A colleague pointed out to me that the paper I was quoting was pretty derivative, and that there has been done equivalent, but more comprehensive work a couple of years earlier, although the theory had a different name back then. The newer paper wasn't quoting the older one (directly), and without expertise in this sub-field, I would have had a hard time finding the other papers. Now not everyone has a helpful colleague who seemingly knows all the literature, so I think this site can be a pretty good place to find references.

I'd even go further and say, this site is pretty good to find ideas. I know such-and-such, but who said that and why is this so? This site helped me twice: here where I was pointed to a standard reference which I knew superficially, but didn't know that it answered my question, and here I had a silly idea, wondered if someone smarter had already thought about it, but I didn't know what to search for, and I got a tip that got me started.

We just have to make sure that

  1. This doesn't invite lazy people to let us do there homework for them ;-) and
  2. The references stay recent as the field develops and new papers come out. This can be done by posting new answers, or using the edit function (which seems rarely used).
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