A recent question on the site, Is there any anti-gravity material?, has been generating a lot of controversy as to whether it is appropriate or not. I'm personally a little torn on how a question like this should be handled, so I would like to pose the following questions to the community:

  1. Is the question as currently written inappropriate for the site? Should it be closed? If so, which of the existing close reasons (exact duplicate, off topic, not constructive, not a real question, too localized) applies to it, and why?

  2. If yes, how could the question be written differently so that it would be acceptable? Or do you think we should not allow any questions about the possibility of a material that responds negatively to gravity? And why?

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Related: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/863/2451 and links therein. –  Qmechanic Mar 20 '13 at 12:56

3 Answers 3

Maybe too simple is not quite the right category to exclude the question about anti-gravity. If the the problem is simple or not mostly depends on your level of knowledge in physics which can range almost from zero to graduate studies level.

Looking at the question the person asking it writes:

I am thinking of making flying vehicles which is made up of anti-gravity material so that it will not experience any gravity on it and can easily take off and more fuel efficient. Is there any such thing?

So it is implied that some thought went into this, but that is simply not true. Just typing "anti-gravity" into Google or Wikipedia and the first hit is a nice and well written article mentioning that no such material has been found and that there is currently a reward of 1 million US dollars for anybody finding such a material.

So in my opinion it is an abuse of this site to ask questions where it is obvious that no own thought or effort went into it at all. This is similar to the current disapproval of homework-like questions without any own effort. The physics part of stackexchange is in this aspect not so different to the other stackexchange sites. A question like "I am thinking of creating my own OS but have trouble finding a processor which has a Ruby compiler builtin, is there a workaround?" would certainly be downvoted or deleted because it clearly shows that you did not read anything at all about an operating system.

It could be added to the FAQ of this site that question with show no own research effort will be closed.

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I will duplicate here (some of) the comments I left in the physics moderation chat room:

I think this goes right to the heart of "Are there questions that are too simple?" On Stack Overflow, Joel started us off with the Logo turtle question and the assertion that there are no such questions. But recently Jeff disagreed, and there seems to be a multi-site consensus forming that "no research, no effort" may mark a question too simple to grace our august pages.

With that in mind I am leaning toward too simple as currently formulated. That said, we have entertained some questions about physics for which there is sparse experimental evidence or theoretical support. If this could be turned into a discussion of any actual claims or reports about anti-gravity experiments made in reputable (or even kinda-shady) venues, then I would not feel any need to close it.

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I'm not necessarily against having "too simple" as a reason for closing questions, but I don't think there's any current policy that would support that. We'd really need to have an in-depth discussion about the possible need for such a policy, and how exactly to draw the line. As per Alexander's answer, "not enough prior research" might be a better (and more objective) criterion. –  Nathaniel Mar 12 at 10:21

Categorizing a question as "too simple" is not the way to go. Along the same lines, thumbing down somebody for a poorly formulated question is also not cool. If you don't want to answer, leave it alone, why berate somebody who is just here to learn? Some people don't do their homework, so what? Just point them in the right direction and call it a day. The question posed does allude to dubious experiments and dodgy science, but that does not mean that the question should not be explored?

I would request re-opening that thread and editing the question if need be.

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"thumbing down somebody for a poorly formulated question is also not cool" I will respectfully and firmly disagree with this statement. Quality questions are as important as good answers and we need a mechanism to maintain the aggregate at a high quality. By all means, help to improve the question. By all means, come along and remove or reverse the vote after things have been fixed. But, please vote poorly formed questions down. –  dmckee Nov 3 '11 at 15:56
    
I am relatively new to SE and perhaps I am unfamiliar with how things work around here, but I still don't see the purpose of voting a question down. What purpose does it serve? Please don't misunderstand, this is a genuine question that I have. The reason I ask is because questions show up exactly as a stack i.e. LIFO. PS: @dmckee : Thank you for your opinion. –  Antillar Maximus Nov 3 '11 at 16:05
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Down votes give you a stronger mechanism to differentiate good and bad content. In particular they distinguish between the merely uninspiring (no vote) and the real stinkers (down). On a more mechanical level, net negative scores triggers some site changes (de-emphasized presentation, removal from the front page (at -3?), earlier deletion by high rep users) and feed into a mechanism for automatically identifying and blocking consistently bad users. Down votes are a good thing. –  dmckee Nov 3 '11 at 16:13
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I agree with dmckee, and I'd also point out that one of the major goals of Stack Exchange is to establish a high quality repository of information. It's kind of like Wikipedia, except that the choice of which articles (answers) get written is driven by what questions people ask. Bad questions are actively harmful to that goal because they tend to confuse people and propagate incorrect information. –  David Z Nov 3 '11 at 19:42

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