Suggestion for new forum


by pmb_phy
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pmb_phy
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#1
Jul25-04, 10:08 AM
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I would like to make a suggestion for a new physics forum. There are topics which always come up in all discussion forums and newsgroups. That's the purpose of a Frequently Asked Question page. Since people will always want to discuss these things, especially newbies, and since the same topics being disucssed often gets on people's nerves, then a solution (not "the" solution since there could be other solutions to this same problem) to this problem is a new forum whose purpose it is to discuss these topics on an on going basis. In that way, since the purpose of the forum is to keep these discussions going, then there will be no desire to lock a thread, which can irritate the people who want to keep discussinbg the subject. Perhaps we can call it the Frequently Asked Question's Forum. This should not be thought of as as a place where FAQ topics which arise should be moved to though.

It would also be advisable to have an FAQ pafe of our own which defines the sides to topics/FAQ's in which there are two sides of a debate in an unbiased way.


I was thinking about this due to the number of recent threads on the subject of the speed dependance of mass. For example: The following threads are either on that topic or have discussed it

In the General Physics forum

amateur gravity questions

In the Special & General Relativity forum

Does relativistic mass have a gravitational component?
Gravity - ve velocity ?
Dought regarding equivalence principle
Speed Increases mass
Energy

And that's just since I was able to start using the internet again.

There is one rule of thumb that one might suggest as proper etiquette in the case of these mass discusssions is to first speify what you mean by "mass" in the very first usage of the word in a thread in the relativity section and do so in an inoquous manner i.e. instead of telling someone that "mass does not increase with speed." say "(rest) mass does not increase with speed." The rest of your ussage of the term "mass" will then be implied. Aftger all, that's what authors do in modern relativity texts and that's a nice goal, i.e. while posing in the relativity forum try to be as precise as a textbook author.

Thoughts/suggestions?

Pete
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pmb_phy
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#2
Jul26-04, 11:52 AM
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I see people complain about long never ending threads and discussions when they happen. Now you're telling me that when it comes to discussing how to eleminate such a problem you all want to remain quite? What's up with that???

Pete
chroot
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#3
Jul26-04, 12:45 PM
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Pete,

It's an interesting idea, and I haven't ignored it -- I just haven't had the time to post a complete reply. I actually am rather warm to the idea, I just worry that few people will bother to respond to frequently asked questions when they are quarantined that way. Why would a regular poster want to browse the FAQ forum when he knows there are nothing but FAQs there?

- Warren

pmb_phy
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#4
Jul26-04, 06:00 PM
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Suggestion for new forum


Quote Quote by chroot
Pete,

It's an interesting idea, and I haven't ignored it -- I just haven't had the time to post a complete reply. I actually am rather warm to the idea, I just worry that few people will bother to respond to frequently asked questions when they are quarantined that way. Why would a regular poster want to browse the FAQ forum when he knows there are nothing but FAQs there?

- Warren
As I mentioned above, my idea was not to quarantine them in anyway. It was meant to provide a space for them to freely occur.

Pete
chroot
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#5
Jul26-04, 06:21 PM
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Well, they already freely occur, don't they?.

- Warren
pmb_phy
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#6
Jul26-04, 07:47 PM
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Quote Quote by chroot
Well, they already freely occur, don't they?.

- Warren
That has not been my impression in the past. Often in the past there seems to have been pier pressure to stop discussing certain topics since they've been discussed at length before
chroot
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#7
Jul26-04, 08:28 PM
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On the contrary, I've noticed that most of our members do not mind helping people with the same problems repeatedly. Just take a look at the homework help forums.

- Warren
Nereid
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#8
Jul26-04, 09:20 PM
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Pete does have a point though. Some quite good threads get hijacked; some disappear because some time passes between posts (I've a good half dozen that I want to return to, when I've thought and researched enough, but who cares, and can I find them again?), some wander most annoyingly (yes, it's all good stuff, but sometimes I just want to follow the thought).

To me, the tough question is 'how to implement such a thing?' Most times I end up pretty much where we are today - dear old PF!
pmb_phy
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#9
Jul27-04, 05:10 AM
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Quote Quote by chroot
On the contrary, I've noticed that most of our members do not mind helping people with the same problems repeatedly. Just take a look at the homework help forums.

- Warren
As an example of what I mean consider your own criticism, and that of others, of my posts on mass. On numerous occassions you expressed an extremely strong desire for me to not bring the subject up and I've never brouight t up unless I thought that the people participating in the conv. should know something, not the people who post a particular remark, but those who are reading it.

I'll post examples later today

Pete
Les Sleeth
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#10
Jul30-04, 06:23 PM
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Quote Quote by pmb_phy
As an example of what I mean consider your own criticism, and that of others, of my posts on mass. On numerous occassions you expressed an extremely strong desire for me to not bring the subject up and I've never brouight t up unless I thought that the people participating in the conv. should know something, not the people who post a particular remark, but those who are reading it.

I'll post examples later today

Pete
I sympathize . . . I've dreamed of a forum called "Physics for Dummies," where there's no judgement about what one knows or doesn't, and where one can ask LOTS and LOTS of questions. Of course, it would take a mentor with the patience of a saint.
chroot
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#11
Jul30-04, 06:25 PM
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Les Sleeth,

This is a sort of "physics for dummies" site... we don't chastise people for asking questions, do we?

- Warren
Les Sleeth
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#12
Jul30-04, 08:35 PM
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Quote Quote by chroot
Les Sleeth,

This is a sort of "physics for dummies" site... we don't chastise people for asking questions, do we?

- Warren
First . . . yes, there some great people here ready to help. I wouldn't want to give the impresson of complaining. My wish is not something I feel anyone has the right to "expect," not in the slightest.

So how do I put this. There are quite a few people here who know more than the average person about physics. For the person who doesn't know much, it can feel uncomfortable to ask potenially dumb questions in front of others, and/or feel like one is wasting people's time with such questions. Also, not everyone who responds is polite with their comments, which can make it even more intimidating to ask questions.

Some people are so uniformed they need very basic foundational help. If they ask "what is energy," they might get told "the capacity to do work." But it might be that this layperson is looking at energy like it's "stuff," and "work" like a job. So sometimes a person needs to be led from the very beginning, have their misconceptions dealt with, and be allowed to ask all the naive question they want.

Arriving for the first time here at PF, just looking at the forum categories might be daunting to some. So imagine you are shy, don't know much, but love what you've been hearing on science specials on TV, and then come to PF hoping to learn. And behold, there is a forum called Physics for Everybody (or something like that). The sticky inside encourages you to ask all the dumb questions you want.

It's just an idea I am putting out for consideration. I'm not willing to argue in favor of it because I don't know if anyone besides me would use it But it does seem to me that most science thinkers believe the world would be a better place if everyone improved their science understanding, so possibly offering a safe, ego-supportive avenue for the absolute beginner here at PF might contribute to that.
chroot
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#13
Jul30-04, 08:57 PM
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Thanks so much for your perspective, Les Sleeth. It actually is a very good idea. Point of fact, maybe physics newbies are not sure where to post their questions anyway -- the Quantum Physics forum gets more than its fair share of random questions, for example. Perhaps a "Physics Newbie" and a "Math Newbie" forum would be a good addition to the site. I will post a poll on it. Thanks again for your contribution.

- Warren
Gza
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#14
Jul30-04, 10:25 PM
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But it does seem to me that most science thinkers believe the world would be a better place if everyone improved their science understanding, so possibly offering a safe, ego-supportive avenue for the absolute beginner here at PF might contribute to that.
Coming from the sci.physics group to this place is like moving from a cardboard box to a 500,000 sq. foot 100 room mansion. Try asking any question there without getting verbally abused for not knowing something. I really agree with chroot in the sense that this is the most beginner friendly site on the net. That's why contributing to it wasn't even an afterthought in my opinion (i'd even contribute more if I wasn't so broke ).
pmb_phy
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#15
Aug23-04, 02:33 PM
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Quote Quote by chroot
Well, they already freely occur, don't they?.

- Warren
No. Case in point - Your recent closing of a thread in Special & General Relativity is a perfect example of why I wanted a new forum. I.e. so you wouldn't complain or close threads on topics I like/want to discuss.

In this and many other forums I keep seeing people say that E = mc[sup]2[sup] is an identity and not an equality. I've never gotten down to the root of why they think that. So I started a new thread to ask them. That thread is E = mc^2: Identity or equality at
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=40271

I was not doing anything in that post by trying to see why people consider E=mc2 as an identity rather than an equality. You claimed it was spamming and you then summarily closed it. That is not spamming. That is asking a question. I simply don't understand why people do that and I've never asked them before and I've never seen anyone provide a proof or anything of the sort. In fact I've never done this anywhere on the internet since I've been posting.

So there you are - You refuse to allow certain topics to be discussed if they come up often. And that is why I want a new forum. Hasn't it ever occured to you that some people are interested in a particular subject and enjoy discussing that one topic? Is that beyond your imagination? I think not.

Pete
chroot
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#16
Aug23-04, 02:49 PM
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Quote Quote by pmb_phy
On numerous occassions you expressed an extremely strong desire for me to not bring the subject up and I've never brouight t up unless I thought that the people participating in the conv. should know something, not the people who post a particular remark, but those who are reading it.
Except today. You know very well that your most recent thread was going to rapidly degenerate into yet another flame war with DW that would require still more moderator effort to clean up and control. You're arguing a semantic issue that has seen plenty of "air time" here already. All of the moderators here have agreed that measures need to be taken to stop these kinds of discussions, and thus they will be stopped.

- Warren
pmb_phy
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#17
Aug23-04, 04:46 PM
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Quote Quote by chroot
Except today. You know very well that your most recent thread was going to rapidly degenerate into yet another flame war with DW ..
It can't happen. I don't respond to his posts anymore. On the few occasions that I have I deleted them. I'm not interested in what dw has to say. I never was.

The rest of your comment is your personal opinion and it does not reflect reality unless someone chose to turn it into semantics. I was unsure why people say what they do. I wanted to know if they do this because they're defining mass in a different way. You incorrectly assumed that my intent was otherwise.

In any case you're proving my point here.

pmb
Moonbear
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#18
Aug23-04, 07:08 PM
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Based on Les' perspective, it seems it's not so much an FAQ forum that's needed (afterall, how would someone know their question is an FAQ if they are new and haven't had time to scour thousands of old threads?), but more just a place for those who are beginners to ask their basic questions. I guess what this brings to my mind is something like the homework help topics, but where you can't assume someone has the benefit of a teacher and a homework assignment as a starting place. For example, it would be a good place for someone who is attempting to teach themselves to ask questions. I don't think this is limited to just the physics topics, but to others as well. While we don't get as much traffic in the biology topic, certainly there are people who may just be reading along who aren't biologists and who don't plan to be biologists, and who may not even have taken a biology class, who just need to ask about defining terminology, or clarifying basic concepts. Maybe a subtopic of something like "Beginner Questions" within each of the major topics would be helpful to address this? Or maybe a better way of phrasing it would be something like, "Basic Physics" "Basic Biology"..."Basic (whatever topic)" This is different from General topics, which can be catch-alls for things that don't fit into specialized areas but are not necessarily more basic in what they cover.

The potential problem, however, is that it may put a lot of additional burden on the mentors moving posts back and forth into and out of these topics. For example, someone might have a very thoughtful question that merits serious discussion, but because they are intimidated about their level of knowledge, may put it into the beginner topic. Or, someone who thinks they know more than they do, may continue to post really basic questions in the main forum for a topic. I guess the main function such a topic would serve might be to get some people who are otherwise intimidated to jump in and ask questions when they aren't sure of their own level of knowledge in the subject. The other benefit is it might tell the more expert reader to beware when they enter those threads that these are beginners asking questions, to please have extra patience in addressing potential misconceptions and misinterpretations, and to break down their explanations into clearer thoughts than they might answer if they assumed the person posting should have more knowledge on the topic. And of course someone with generally more experience may also realize a question is better suited to the beginner topic even if they aren't a beginner if they are just asking for some minor clarification of something, or maybe inquiring about something more peripheral to their area of expertise, in which they have somewhat less experience.

On the other hand, I don't think such a thing would address PMB_PHY's request. To some extent, maybe, but a question that has been asked and answered too many times is likely to continue to be asked and answered many times once it scrolls past the first screen or two of the new subtopic as well. In my experience, the answers to most frequently asked questions in science are usually contained in textbooks. I don't think we need to replace the use of textbooks, but rather provide a place where someone can say, "I read ___ in this book, and don't completely understand the concept." Or, "I found ___ on the internet. Is this correct?" Or, as in PMB_PHY's example above, this would serve as a good place to ask, "I've seen this term/equation/constant/etc. used in two different ways by people here. Are these both generally accepted uses? Is there a convention that determines which of these definitions I should use?"


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