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Thread: What's the problem with "black hole" threads?

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    I'm not weary of "defending the mainstream". I'm weary of the frequency with which answers of the form "Here's what I think!" turn up in Q&A in general and black hole threads in particular.
    It's not nearly as bad as it used to be - I wandered off for a few years when Q&A had turned into a sort of teenage debating society - but it's still something of a mystery to me (it's not like instructions aren't clear, or no warnings have been given), and I'm sure it's at least a minor source of annoyance for the mods.

    Grant Hutchison
    I can't say this is an overwhelming problem for the moderators (or at least for me), but what you describe is much more the problem than any particular topic, such as black holes. Some people treat Q&A as they treat any other sub-forum, and think that it is a place for debate. It isn't.

    Here is part of the sticky "for the natives"
    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek View Post
    This section of the forum is for astronomy and space exploration questions with straightforward, generally accepted answers.

    Questions that are likely to lead to extended discussion about the correct answer, or that have no clearcut correct answer, should be posted in the forum most appropriate to the topic of the question. If a question does lead to such discussion, it may be split off or moved entirely to a more appropriate forum by a moderator. Since it's hard to tell how a discussion will go, posting such questions will generally be treated as a judgment matter and not a rule violation.

    Questions taking issue or raising concerns with the mainstream viewpoint should be posted in the ATM forum. Posting questions along these lines will generally be treated as a rule violation.

    Anyone is welcome to answer questions, but any answer should accurately reflect the generally accepted scientific mainstream. Some speculation is permissible if it is clearly indicated as such and if it can be traced to peer-reviewed science, i.e., if there's currently no clearcut mainstream answer, but mainstream scientists have proposed a possible answer that has yet to be verified or widely accepted.

    Answers should be polite, respectful, pertinent to the question asked, and geared to the questioner’s apparent level of knowledge. Since the Q&A section will provide the first impression of our forum to many new arrivals, posters should be on their very best behavior. For the same reason, moderators will monitor this subforum closely to ensure that that is in fact the case.

    Members providing an answer based on their own pet hypotheses that have little or no support in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, no matter how well it might address the question, will be dealt with severely.
    If anything, since that was written in 2010, I would say we have gotten a little more strict about the "some speculation is permissible" aspect.

    More than anything else about Q&A, I would like the membership to take heed of this.
    Last edited by Swift; 2018-Mar-12 at 03:34 PM. Reason: typo
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  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    We're patiently waiting until that other thread reaches the Chandrasekhar Limit. Then we'll let it implode as a practical example for the black hole threads.
    Actually I think that thread contains some of the more interesting discussions on this entire forum. It's certainly much more interesting than the standard black hole fare. If you want to know the problem with black hole threads, it is this: you have questions being asked by people who have nowhere near enough background to even know what they are asking, being answered by people who have nowhere near enough background to know how to answer them. So very quickly appears a kind of exchange of opinion, which is frowned upon.

    The fact is, even black hole experts have no real idea of what are these objects they are talking about, and to see this you only need to look at the debates between experts like Hawking and Thorne and so forth. Hawking (sad to see him go) had a recent paper where he argued that chaos ensues beneath an event horizon, making it unpredictable like weather, an idea that was downright ridiculed by some other experts. Thorne holds that a black hole singularity is completely real, and that the matter that falls into a black hole completely vanishes into the warp of spacetime it produces (not that GR mathematics predicts this, but rather, that this should be taken completely seriously as what actually does happen to that matter). And some other experts hold that there is a kind of wall of heat just underneath the event horizon that would incinerate anything falling through, but those who don't buy that reject it completely. They all have arguments why they are right, and why the others are wrong, and obviously no one has any data. So we expect this forum to give meaningful answers when the experts cannot even decide? There's the problem with black hole threads, unless you don't regard the frontiers of speculation as a problem.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Mar-15 at 02:55 PM.

  3. #33
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    To be fair, most of the black hole questions in Q&A are couched in terms of the simple mathematics of the Schwarzschild metric, outside or in the vicinity of the event horizon, to which there are standard answers readily available in basic textbooks.
    I don't actually remember any questions about the information paradox, the "firewall" or the nature of the singularity, though I'm sure they occur. But the guidance on answering such questions seems to be pretty clear, too - don't state anything speculative as if it is a fact. I'd think (for our purposes here) "when relativists argue" is as good a definition as any of "speculative".

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  4. #34
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    Yet questions about solutions to the Schwarzschild metric are unlikely to produce threads that get closed, so don't seem to be what you are talking about.

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Yet questions about solutions to the Schwarzschild metric are unlikely to produce threads that get closed, so don't seem to be what you are talking about.
    No, that's exactly what I'm talking about, why I'm puzzled, and why I opened this thread.
    Really simple questions which can be answered straight out of introductory textbooks at the mathematical level of the Schwarzschild metric, which nevertheless end up in people being suspended for offering replies based on personal opinion, speculation or ATM claims.

    It's as if someone started a thread asking how many legs birds have, and got answers to the effect that, "Wings should count as legs, so I'd say four" and "I would follow Aristotle in stating that some birds have no legs, and I can provide evidence to show that no bird has ever been observed to have legs."

    Grant Hutchison
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  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Yet questions about solutions to the Schwarzschild metric are unlikely to produce threads that get closed, so don't seem to be what you are talking about.
    Questions that have relatively well accepted answers, often in terms of one of the basic metrics, are precisely the ones producing a lot of speculative answers. More complex ones actually don't often seem to.

    Usually it is as simple as people putting together a number of things from popular descriptions of black holes rather than going back to the theory. Time dilation near the event horizon and what it 'really' means for installing matter is a common one. More recently it was the definition of various horizons. There has also been tidal forces, accretion rates, jet formation. Just from memory all of these topics have produced some scientifically sketchy commentary. Grant has been fairly heroic in tackling them.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    No, that's exactly what I'm talking about, why I'm puzzled, and why I opened this thread.
    Really simple questions which can be answered straight out of introductory textbooks at the mathematical level of the Schwarzschild metric, which nevertheless end up in people being suspended for offering replies based on personal opinion, speculation or ATM claims.
    The very last black hole thread that was closed by the moderators started out in the OP asking about the firewall below the event horizon.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    There has also been tidal forces, accretion rates, jet formation.
    All the kinds of things that the experts argue about!
    Just from memory all of these topics have produced some scientifically sketchy commentary. Grant has been fairly heroic in tackling them.
    Of that I have no doubt.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    No, that's exactly what I'm talking about, why I'm puzzled, and why I opened this thread.
    Really simple questions which can be answered straight out of introductory textbooks at the mathematical level of the Schwarzschild metric, which nevertheless end up in people being suspended for offering replies based on personal opinion, speculation or ATM claims.
    The very last black hole thread that was closed by the moderators started out in the OP asking about the firewall below the event horizon.
    Again, not what I'm talking about.

    Grant Hutchison
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  10. #40
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    My mistake, I see that you are not talking about the majority of closed black hole threads, you are talking only about black hole threads that sounded like they were not looking for speculation, but received speculation anyway. I get that this is regarded as a problem in Q&A.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Mar-16 at 02:33 AM.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken G View Post
    <snip>
    What occurs to me, though, is that many questions get asked in Q&A that are clearly going to require speculation. The person asking the question doesn't always know the difference.
    The "problem" as I see it (the reason for closing the threads) is almost always not the question, but some of the "answers".

    I don't see how any question "requires" speculation (at least as CQ defines speculation). As I've said repeatedly (including in this thread in post 13), sometimes the mainstream answer is "we don't know". Also, as has been pointed out, in such a case I don't think there would be any problem with someone referencing some of the more mainstream speculations, particularly if they reference them with mainstream sources.

    But that isn't what gets people in trouble. What usually gets them in trouble is their own pet ideas and speculations.

    Anyway, as I also already noted, I don't see any of this as a big problem, but more of a coincidence that a couple of black hole threads got shut down in a row.
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  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    The "problem" as I see it (the reason for closing the threads) is almost always not the question, but some of the "answers".
    I'm not criticizing closing threads, that's a moderator decision and the basis for it is spelled out pretty clearly. In fact, this forum is way more lenient about leaving threads open, some forums will close a thread the first time someone posts something that doesn't come straight from a textbook. And I also realize that Q&A is intended for to-the-point answers, not debates or extended discussions. That all makes sense. All I'm saying is that some questions can't be answered from a textbook, because textbook authors are deliberately avoiding those questions, as they are beyond their scope.
    I don't see how any question "requires" speculation (at least as CQ defines speculation).
    Well in the original language in the rules, the key element seemed to be support from mainstream conclusions. We don't want pet theories, I get that, but even mainstream science engages in speculation-- that's why the black hole experts disagree with each other so often. And we can't even have the same standards, not being experts, and wanting to do more than just cite abstracts of papers we don't necessarily understand anyway.

    What I'm saying is, it is impossible to rule out speculation in an answer, without also ruling out entire classes of questions that I see being asked here all the time. To clarify what I mean, here are some examples from the current first page of Q&A. Two different posters asked if new discoveries of variants of type Ia supernovae that could have occurrence rates that depend on z could alter models of expansion acceleration, or even remove the acceleration. (This calls for speculation because although the current consensus about acceleration has not changed significantly, more data is being compiled and it is hard to predict what impact this will ultimately have. It is not uncommon for the discoverers of the variants to expect larger significance than those who did not discover the variants, leaving the outcome uncertain at present.) One poster asked where the energy goes when the CMB redshifts. (This calls for speculation because it depends on what model of the universal expansion will ultimately be supported by data, and what coordinate language is chosen to attribute causation. The common answer that GR doesn't conserve energy globally is too glib, because there are ways to attribute total energy in GR and sometimes you hear things like the global energy of the universe is zero. If one takes that latter approach, one says the photon energy goes into some form of gravitational potential energy, or some inflaton field, depending on who is answering the question.) Another poster asked if stars could orbit a central planet in a geometric array, and although the array they had in mind wouldn't work, it was pointed out there have been speculated the possibility of having "Klemperer Rosettes." (The question calls for speculation because it is essentially a sci fi topic, asking how plausible are various sci fi scenarios.) Another poster wondered if knowledge of the mass of the Higgs boson, and verification of the Higgs mechanism, could be used to develop new technology exploiting gravity or inertia. (The question calls for speculation in the form of futurism, and is also calling for speculation in the sense that the answer requires knowledge that is not always common-- indeed the answers given missed the key point that neither the mass nor gravity of common objects comes from the Higgs mechanism.)

    Anyway, that's a lot of detail about various questions being asked, I'm just saying that it is not at all uncommon to get speculative answers on Q&A, both because the answerers are not all experts, and because the questions themselves are sometimes impossible to address without some speculation. I think the posters are mostly looking for authoritative insight, which is not quite the same thing as absence of speculation!

    As I've said repeatedly (including in this thread in post 13), sometimes the mainstream answer is "we don't know".
    That's almost always the mainstream answer. But it's not the insight they are looking for. That's what I mean about ruling out speculative questions-- when the answer is "the only thing we can say without violating forum rules is we don't know," that's more or less identical to just canceling the question (which is indeed what some forums do).
    Also, as has been pointed out, in such a case I don't think there would be any problem with someone referencing some of the more mainstream speculations, particularly if they reference them with mainstream sources.
    Yes, indeed. Ergo black hole firewalls, and so on.
    But that isn't what gets people in trouble. What usually gets them in trouble is their own pet ideas and speculations.
    I know, and again I'm not criticizing and thread closures, only the idea that "speculation" is some kind of eleven letter word.
    Last edited by Ken G; 2018-Mar-16 at 05:05 AM.

  13. #43
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    still confused about the threads

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