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Cougar
2010-Jul-26, 09:36 PM
In his thread regarding "Principles," DrRocket stated:


"There is no need to provide inaccurate explanations, even to the very young."

Clearly all would like to avoid "inaccurate explanations," but I would venture to say that most people posting questions in Q&A do not have graduate degrees, so obviously a graduate-level explanation would probably not be useful or understandable to the questioner. As a simple example, consider the following question:

Is the speed of light constant?

I'm no authority, but I expect that high school physics classes point out in a simple experiment that as light travels through water, for example, its throughput speed is slowed, causing the observed "bending." At the quantum level, however, as I understand it, the speed of light is never slowed. When light travels through a medium such as water, besides being "scattered," it is often (and repeatedly) absorbed by atoms in the medium and then re-emitted by said atoms. The absorption and re-emission takes a slight bit of time, which affects the overall throughput of the light through the water. Nevertheless, in between being absorbed and re-emitted, light is traveling at "c". It never does not travel at "c".

And I expect there is an even more "technical" explanation for this phenomenon that I have no knowledge of and which technically makes the above explanation "inaccurate."

Which just goes to point out, I guess, that "correct answers" are not so much a matter of being "absolute" as being a matter of being in context.

_______________________________

"Speaking and understanding a language... requires not only an implicit knowledge of the grammar of that language... but also an implicit knowledge of the relevant culture." -- Keith Devlin, author of Goodbye, Descartes, professor of mathematics, Dean of the School of Science at St. Mary's College, and senior researcher at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Communication

Ken G
2010-Jul-26, 09:46 PM
I agree-- there is considerable advantage in diversity of answers. I can think of four advantages off hand:
1) questions can actually have multiple correct answers, depending on context, as you say;
2) different answers might connect better with the person asking the question, their education or purpose in asking;
3) even if some answers given are incorrect, they may be incorrect in educationally useful ways;
4) forums would seem to work best in an open environment where people feel free to share their ideas, even if there is danger of being incorrect-- then posters can learn as much as OPers.
So let's give our best answers, and explore what comes of it. But let's also all try not to take it personally if someone offers a correction-- it's not a value judgement, it's an opportunity to probe deeper.

caveman1917
2010-Jul-26, 10:00 PM
Indeed. To your example another layer could then be added about GR, which allows variant speed of light globally.

I agree it is best to give different answers, all have merit, and if some are incorrect or too restricted, someone will come along and correct them. A good opportunity for learning for both the OP and the person that gave that answer.

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-27, 12:56 AM
The recent kerfuffle in Q&A grew out of the following situation, which we'd begun to see too often:

1) Newbie A posts question "is the speed of light constant?".

2) Poster B posts "yes it is".

3) Poster C posts "well, actually, its speed through water, for example, is slower than in a vacuum".

4) Poster B posts "oh, yes, well that's true".

...which is OK so far (i.e. we don't actually mind a post adding detail or a clarification), but then ...

5) ... 105) Posters B and C conduct an in-depth argument over the esoteric details of what it really means that light is "slower" in water. Poster D chimes in with "your question was badly written in the first place". Newbie A is never seen again.


If someone can't see why we don't like 5., nothing I write will change that. (See DrRockets thread, maybe.)


All that's needed is to keep the answers pitched at the correct level; not to assume that the "correct level" is "maximum"; and save the in depth multi-page discussions for a thread in the correct sub-forum.

caveman1917
2010-Jul-27, 01:04 AM
5) ... 105) Posters B and C conduct an in-depth argument over the esoteric details of what it really means that light is "slower" in water. Poster D chimes in with "your question was badly written in the first place". Newbie A is never seen again.

I feel i must respectfully point out that, in the absence of data, you seem to be postulating a post hoc ergo propter hoc.

I could for example think of some Q&A threads in which that didn't happen, yet the OP was also never seen again.

ETA: while it is of course completely up to the administrators to decide board policy, and we simply should follow it, your above qualification seems fallacious.
Don't mistake this for an argument against the policy itself, it's merely an argument against your argument for it.

pzkpfw
2010-Jul-27, 01:14 AM
The dissapearance of the OP (which yes, may or may not be due to the thread) is not the reason why point 5. is something unwanted.

caveman1917
2010-Jul-27, 01:17 AM
In which case i had misunderstood your point. Putting it in italics at the end did make it seem you were making that claim.

Cougar
2010-Jul-27, 02:35 AM
The recent kerfuffle in Q&A grew out of the following situation...
5) ... 105) Posters B and C conduct an in-depth argument over the esoteric details...

5) ... 105) ! LOL! Thanks for the explanation. This is kind of a difficult situation, and I certainly do not envy you mods.

caveman1917
2010-Jul-27, 02:35 PM
Now this (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106241-Travel-Backward-in-Time-by-Exceeding-the-Speed-of-Light?p=1768150#post1768150) is an interesting reaction by a newbie, concerning the subject matter at hand.

grant hutchison
2010-Jul-27, 02:42 PM
Now this (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106241-Travel-Backward-in-Time-by-Exceeding-the-Speed-of-Light?p=1768150#post1768150) is an interesting reaction by a newbie, concerning the subject matter at hand.Although I notice that sdsperth, who asked the original question (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106241-Travel-Backward-in-Time-by-Exceeding-the-Speed-of-Light?p=1767414#post1767414) on that thread, has not returned to the discussion. BadTrip (whose response you link to) took up the reins so seamlessly I confess I didn't notice the switch until now.

Grant Hutchison

caveman1917
2010-Jul-27, 02:49 PM
Yeps that true, but BadTrip is also at 6 posts now (all in that thread it seems, so one might just equate him with the OP). It just seemed quite interesting to point this one out, with all the discussion and speculation. It's of course only one example, but still :)

Tinaa
2010-Jul-27, 11:52 PM
Quite a coincidence.

caveman1917
2010-Jul-27, 11:55 PM
Quite a coincidence.

I'm not sure i'm getting what you're saying there.
What exactly is a coincidence?

mugaliens
2010-Jul-27, 11:58 PM
Is the speed of light constant?

I appreciate your detailed analysis of the varying factors. All things considered, Cougar, I'd have to give the high school, if not very generic answer: "Yes, but only in a vaccuum. It's transmission through various forms of media, such as air, water, and glass, is significantly slower, which also results in its bending, more properly known as 'refraction.'"

I think that answers it accurately, yet simply, while avoiding the "dissappearance of newbie A" syndrome,, as well as explanations of how Lorentz force, Gauss' law, and Ampere's law affect the electrons, which in turn affects the behavor of light through matter.

Cougar
2010-Jul-28, 01:53 AM
It's transmission through various forms of media, such as air, water, and glass, is significantly slower, which also results in its bending, more properly known as 'refraction.'"

And I guess you could get into it more if the newbie comes back with, "That explains the "bending," but if the glass is colored blue, what makes the light come out blue?"

Ken G
2010-Jul-28, 03:45 PM
I feel i must respectfully point out that, in the absence of data, you seem to be postulating a post hoc ergo propter hoc.

I could for example think of some Q&A threads in which that didn't happen, yet the OP was also never seen again.
I had the exact same reaction. I think we can all agree that the [5...105] scenario is to be avoided. But I would offer a different version of what I see also happens on Q&A:
Q: How do we know the speed of light is really constant? (A profound question that touches on what science is, how we measure things, what theories are, what coordinates are, and how all that is cobbled together into the theory of relativity.)
A1: We did some experiments (see Michelson-Morely) and that's how it turns out.
A2: (Adds more of what is in the parentheses above.)
A1: (gripe to mods with accusations of ATM, not caring about the OPers educational level, being bullying or intimidating, etc. etc....)

In other words, the main problem I see in Q&A is that the questions are often much more profound than canned dogmatic responses can address. So we either satisfy ourselves with that type of answer and accept that the question is not really answered, but we can all pretend it has, or else we attempt a better, more probing, and more interesting answer-- even though it will likely lead to something of a debate. When questions are at the frontiers of what we know and understand, it seems strange to imagine they can be satisfactorily addressed without some debate. All the same, I completely agree that when the debate become repetitive, impolite, or overly technical, then (and only then) is the forum not being served. Should we not endeavor to walk the line, where the debate is embraced and encouraged, yet we each police ourselves (to help the mods not have to do it) to avoid the counterproductive elements?

The attitude I can't agree with is "we shouldn't have debate, or any effort to probe into a question, because it always turns off the OPer." If that were true, why is the OPer asking such a profound question in the first place? I assume it's because they would like to dig into it a bit. On the other hand, I can certainly understand why moderators can get awfully tired of having to intervene in counterproductive arguments.

Ken G
2010-Jul-28, 03:51 PM
Although I notice that sdsperth, who asked the original question (http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106241-Travel-Backward-in-Time-by-Exceeding-the-Speed-of-Light?p=1767414#post1767414) on that thread, has not returned to the discussion. BadTrip (whose response you link to) took up the reins so seamlessly I confess I didn't notice the switch until now.
That's a really big issue too-- it is so common for the OPer to either exit, or merely lurk (only the mods know), but for someone else to pick up the reins of the question. Do we really want that second person to always start their own Q&A thread every time they have a follow-up question? Would they? And if they did, would the discussion continue, or would new responders appear who are not privy to the context of the question?

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-28, 04:59 PM
...the main problem I see in Q&A is that the questions are often much more profound than canned dogmatic responses can address.

Looking at science through a philosophical "filter", all questions will "seem" profound.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-28, 06:05 PM
I really, really don't want this conversation to start again. I don't think anyone will convince anyone else of anything.

Cougar
2010-Jul-29, 01:57 AM
I really, really don't want this conversation to start again. I don't think anyone will convince anyone else of anything.

Well, that's a rather pessimistic position. :(

________________________________________
"Pessimism as a belief not only becomes a passive set of predictions about the future
but also plays a dynamic role in ensuring the deteriorating quality of tomorrow's world." -- H.J. Morowitz

caveman1917
2010-Jul-29, 02:06 AM
I do see the point though. We are at such a lack of data, all we have is our opinions we personally hold. And with no evidence to show either way, i don't think anyone will give up their opinion.

And it's a subject that can easily derail into ad hominems slinged around.

Is there really no way to get some data on this? There should be some statistics available i would think. Can't anything be extracted from the forum software, such as the 'dissapearance of OPers' relating to the number of posts in the thread, and that sort of thing?

I think even a client-side script could be written to data-mine that sort of information. But i'm not sure that sort of datamining would be appropriate, and it surely would be easier to extract it server-side.

ETA: i figured i might just as well ask this to the moderation team: Is it possible for data on this to be made available? If not, are we allowed to datamine it ourselves? (which would be doable, but quite a project though).

Gillianren
2010-Jul-29, 03:19 AM
Well, that's a rather pessimistic position. :(

This will be the third or fourth go 'round, depending on how you count it. Has anyone's mind changed yet?

Ken G
2010-Jul-29, 05:13 AM
Is there really no way to get some data on this? There should be some statistics available i would think. I asked for essentially the same thing on the other thread on Q&A, but no one could provide any. Anecdotal evidence on both sides of the question is all we had, so I remained unconvinced that accusations like "intimidating" and "bullying" OPers with insufficiently dumbed-down or insufficiently vanilla debate-free discussions were valid explanations for new member losses. We even had some member losses because of perceived discouragement of probing debate!

But in my view, there were really two very separate debates going on. The moderators were really just saying avoid repetitive, technical, fruitless, and impolite debates, not substantive debates relevant to the OP. So that isn't a request that requires any data, it's a no-brainer. It was more a group of veteran members who wished to extend the interdiction to include any kind of probing or debate-inciting responses. It sounded to me like they were basically saying they didn't want to see any answers they didn't understand themselves.

Swift
2010-Jul-29, 07:44 PM
<snip>
The moderators were really just saying avoid repetitive, technical, fruitless, and impolite debates, not substantive debates relevant to the OP. So that isn't a request that requires any data, it's a no-brainer.
I can only explicitly speak for myself but EXACTLY! It fundamentally doesn't matter to me if this happens in 1% of the threads, 10% or 50%. It is a behavior we would like to discourage. If the changes we've made drop it from 1% to 0.1% or 0.9%, it is an improvement.

Len Moran
2010-Jul-29, 10:51 PM
Looking at science through a philosophical "filter", all questions will "seem" profound.

Looking at the nature of reality through a science “filter”, all questions will “seem” somewhat simplified.

R.A.F.
2010-Jul-30, 12:07 AM
Looking at the nature of reality through a science “filter”, all questions will “seem” somewhat simplified.

Ummm...that doesn't make sense...

caveman1917
2010-Jul-30, 12:22 AM
So that isn't a request that requires any data, it's a no-brainer

You're right. And i wasn't asking for the data for it to be scrutinized to argue about policy. But the whole thing did get me interested into what would actually be the relation between those kind of factors, as they had been brought up so many times before -- without backing. In the end, policy is policy, and i wouldn't waste much time arguing about it. I was only asking to satisfy my own curiosity :)

I would like to re-ask, in the understanding that this isn't to argue about anything -- i'm just really curious, if there is an answer available to this?


i figured i might just as well ask this to the moderation team: Is it possible for data on this to be made available? If not, are we allowed to datamine it ourselves? (which would be doable, but quite a project though).

Tinaa
2010-Jul-30, 12:45 AM
You are welcome to mine all you want. I don't think any of the mods have the time.

Ken G
2010-Jul-30, 02:41 AM
Looking at the nature of reality through a science “filter”, all questions will “seem” somewhat simplified.
Yes that makes perfect sense, and I would take it a step farther-- it is in the nature of science to simplify, so that's fine, and it is in the nature of this forum to follow science's simplifications, so that's also fine. But even within those simplifications, there remains considerable profoundness to explore, so what would be a shame is to be satisfied with the superficial answer, even within science's simplifications. That holds even despite the truth in R.A.F.'s statement. I think a lot of Q&A OPers understand that better than some people give them credit for, which is why they ask those darn profound questions in the first place.

forrest noble
2010-Jul-30, 03:45 AM
Some people are bent to adversarial thinking regardless of their knowledge level. For these people there generally is only one mainstream answer to most questions and if you should explain something contrary to their ideas, regardless of your source or link or the education level that you wish to address, some will simply say "that's completely wrong. Please ignore this posting........" Reality really works like this .......................... (their explanation). If one finds or believes that an explanation is incorrect or is far from mainstream there are much better ways to address it such as saying for example, "My understanding in accord with these links is this ...................... then explain your perspective or "knowledge" concerning reality. To totally contradict another posting without providing a link(s) is not only bad manners, it can lead to resentment by some and confusion by others. Another tact would be simply to ask the poster for his source(s) -- if he can't provide any that should stop his objectionable postings on this thread. If he/she ignores your request and continues posting uncorroborated statements/ answers then the report button would seem appropriate. If people are overly rude, or sarcastic report them. It may not do any good but if the violation is blatant in the moderators opinion, at least a warning might be given.

Spoons
2010-Jul-30, 06:59 AM
This will be the third or fourth go 'round, depending on how you count it. Has anyone's mind changed yet?

I think we have seen a slight adjustment in many posters, where they give consideration to ways to avoid creating a stir, checking with the OPers whether they've had their questions answered, whether they'd like more detail, others piping up with related questions. Not to say that this never happened prior to the discussion threads of the past few months, but if you do read the Q&A section a bit you might notice a slight change. Maybe that's just my perception, and then maybe that's all it's changed, but that is still an improvement too.

I'm more interested in why if you have no interest in a conversation would you wade into it? It would seem to only add something you appear to dislike to your subcriptions list, though I suppose you can delete it from there if you choose.

Throughout all these different threads, I do take an interest in them, because they impact on somethign that I enjoy, and I notice in every thread that the communication between parties seems to improve, at least a little bit, and at least one member takes something valuable away from it. How could that be a bad thing?

caveman1917
2010-Jul-30, 08:17 AM
It sounded to me like they were basically saying they didn't want to see any answers they didn't understand themselves.

Then how can one learn? Baffling...

Ken G
2010-Jul-30, 11:29 AM
I think we have seen a slight adjustment in many posters, where they give consideration to ways to avoid creating a stir, checking with the OPers whether they've had their questions answered, whether they'd like more detail, others piping up with related questions. Not to say that this never happened prior to the discussion threads of the past few months, but if you do read the Q&A section a bit you might notice a slight change. Maybe that's just my perception, and then maybe that's all it's changed, but that is still an improvement too.I think you're right, there may have been a slight change for the better there.

Spoons
2010-Jul-30, 11:33 AM
Yes, I don't think it was ever a critical issue, and it was blown out of proportion at times, but the important thing is that there was a degree of improvement, probably largely due to a better understanding of what people want and expect. Awareness is always a positive thing. The point being, the communication has beared fruit, and I don't think it should be discouraged, while at the same time civility is key.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-30, 06:49 PM
I'm more interested in why if you have no interest in a conversation would you wade into it? It would seem to only add something you appear to dislike to your subcriptions list, though I suppose you can delete it from there if you choose.

Well, of course that presupposes that I use the "subscriptions list" tool at all. I do, of course, note which threads I've posted to, but I do that by actually visually looking at the page.

However, I think it is a matter of time before someone gets suspended over all this. In fact, I've already seen one comment which I reported. I won't go into detail about my opinions about some of the changes, though I will be both impressed and surprised if they're still there in a month or whenever we actually do stop having this conversation. I don't think it has changed the attitudes, though it may have changed the behaviour some. And if it's made life easier on the mods, so much the better.

Nereid
2010-Jul-31, 12:09 AM
I do see the point though. We are at such a lack of data, all we have is our opinions we personally hold. And with no evidence to show either way, i don't think anyone will give up their opinion.

And it's a subject that can easily derail into ad hominems slinged around.

Is there really no way to get some data on this? There should be some statistics available i would think. Can't anything be extracted from the forum software, such as the 'dissapearance of OPers' relating to the number of posts in the thread, and that sort of thing?

I think even a client-side script could be written to data-mine that sort of information. But i'm not sure that sort of datamining would be appropriate, and it surely would be easier to extract it server-side.

ETA: i figured i might just as well ask this to the moderation team: Is it possible for data on this to be made available? If not, are we allowed to datamine it ourselves? (which would be doable, but quite a project though).(bold added)

It's actually not too hard to get some data, even without access to server statistics or even what mods only can access. The main issues - such as they are - are the amount of time one is willing to put in to collecting the data, and the extent to which BAUTians (who have been involved in these discussions) are willing to discuss that data, especially wrt quantitative aspects, statistical reliability (or whatever), and so on.

The responses to my earlier efforts to examine at least some subset of the questions being asked by gathering data ('evidence'), presenting it, and discussing it were so, um, short of my expectations, that I, for one, think that evidence - concrete, objective, verifiable, quantitative evidence - may be irrelevant. :cry:

slang
2010-Jul-31, 12:40 AM
In my experience (after asking a few people in private), some people who sign up to ask a question, tend to be a little hesitant to post after they got their answer. In the eyes of a regular poster it might be very normal to post a "thanks, the answers from bautizens (sorry Gillian, it's probably not in a dictionary :P) X, Y and Z really helped my understanding", but apparently it's not so obvious to some newbies to post something like that. Why, I don't know. But simple disappearance from a thread does not indicate that the OP didn't get a satisfactory answer to his question, nor does it indicate dissatisfaction with any continuing discussion. Another angle not to ignore: the OP isn't the only one who reads the thread, and any (or some of the) ensuing posts. They too may benefit from a more complete answer, even though the OP's question was already satisfactorily answered.

Gillianren
2010-Jul-31, 02:28 AM
. . . Sorry Gillian, it's probably not in a dictionary . . . .

Neither was American, once. Now, it's needed. I would capitalize it, though.

mugaliens
2010-Jul-31, 03:13 AM
And I guess you could get into it more if the newbie comes back with, "That explains the "bending," but if the glass is colored blue, what makes the light come out blue?"

Aha! The question which inspires more answers and continution of the thread! Seriously, I'd simply take it from there. I feel a somewhat gradual approach is more appropriate than dropping a semester's worth of material into the thread in one post (thought I myself have certainly frothed along quite a few times myself in times past).

mugaliens
2010-Aug-03, 07:42 AM
Yes, I don't think it was ever a critical issue, and it was blown out of proportion at times, but the important thing is that there was a degree of improvement, probably largely due to a better understanding of what people want and expect. Awareness is always a positive thing. The point being, the communication has beared fruit, and I don't think it should be discouraged, while at the same time civility is key.

Uh, ok. So this means... What?

One of these days I may paint these results on some rocks, so please be both very, very acruate, as well as well-intentioned with respect to putting forth a decree.

And what is your decree? ???

Yeah. This to my local. Please wait a while as to further answer.

Spoons
2010-Aug-03, 07:52 AM
To issue a decree certainly isn't my role. Did you misread the word "degree" in my post?