I am currently reading a book that has some poor (IMO) science and it is a 'science thriller'. I had a question alone the lines of "can you believe this?" And was wondering how it would be taken. I wasn't planning on naming names but spending time here makes me more aware of some things.

I was wondering if questions like this have a chance, or have a tag "World building fails" or something. Maybe asking for better ways to do it, or just better answers than the ones provided.

I have several examples from this book but the one I wanted to float out there has to do with a marine biologist grad student who made two statements that show the author misunderstands evolution AND Darwin. Partly I wanted to verify my own understanding and partly I wanted to point out a "what was he thinking" moment.

I started really paying attention when one character mentions that -25C = -87F and everyone is OK with that.

I wanted to bring it up here to see if something like this is OK depending on how the question is worded (as a "avoid these mistakes" section) And if it's OK how we want to do it.

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    $\begingroup$ -25C = -87F...? Oh lawd give that man (Or woman. I'm not sexist.) a Google. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Feb 17 '15 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @FeaurieVladskovitz at first I thought it was they used the numbers without negative signs, but 25C = 77F $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 17 '15 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe create a blog about it, write your own posts, invite other people to submit bad science, etc. Of course there are already a few similar "bad science" sites around so you might be better off contributing to one of those. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 17 '15 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB Ya, but we are about world building and while this idea won't work, (maybe I'll try chat) I was looking for a way to have a place related to say "Don't do this". I didn't go into the details but the evolution conversation I reference is REALLY bad, the author trying (and failing) to be scientific. So far no reason for it other than to show the authors 'smarts'. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 17 '15 at 14:02

While that kind of critique can be fun, it's not really what the Q&A site is for. On the other hand, go wild in chat -- things are much less formal there!

A question that describes a premise and then asks a question based on that premise is on-topic whether that premise is your own or somebody else's. If you want to ask a question about evolution in a world with certain properties, go ahead. On the other hand, if your goal is more to point out flaws in an existing work or ask science questions that aren't really worldbuilding per se (like equivalences between temperature scales), this isn't the best place for that.

Finally, while it's fine to ask questions based in existing worlds, please make sure you provide enough information in the question for people who haven't read that book/seen that movie/played that game to understand what the question is about.


As usual with late night US time questions, Monica beat me to an answer, and I agree with her. I do want to add something though.

I was wondering if questions like this have a chance, or have a tag "World building fails" or something. Maybe asking for better ways to do it, or just better answers than the ones provided.

That's not what tags are for at all. A tag is generally good if it reasonably fits in a statement like "I am an expert in tag-name". It might sound a little contrived with the exact tag name, but it shouldn't make you want to look at the person in question and ask "are you for real?". A good tag also should be usable as the single tag on a question. We are already stretching that by having the , , , and so on tags. There is a certain precedent there, however; RPG has its , SO has the tag, and so on (both of those specific examples serve a purpose quite similar to our in the context of their respective sites).

There is no reasonable way for a person to say with a straight face "I am an expert in world building failures" (okay, maybe there is, but it doesn't really mean what you are implying for the tag to mean). And it makes little sense as the only tag on a given question in terms of question categorization. Hence, it pretty much fails both criteria. That makes it a bad tag proposal.

Additionally, the two specific examples that you mention:

  • a marine biologist grad student who made two statements that show the author misunderstands evolution AND Darwin.
  • one character mentions that -25C = -87F and everyone is OK with that.

aren't worldbuilding questions. They are either background-facts checking failures on part of the author, or deliberate characterization. For example, maybe the grad student was made up with a flawed understanding of evolution, and the statement made is a reflection of that rather than the author's lack of understanding of the subject.

  • Worldbuilding SE isn't an "anything goes" site. Our site scope is quite broad, but this site still isn't where you drop just about everything and the kitchen sink. Questions asked here should relate to worldbuilding and some things are explicitly off topic. Like...
  • Character building as a topic is explicitly and specifically off topic. Character building questions tend to only be really useful to the person originally asking them, whereas we strive to create a resource useful not only in the moment but also for years to come. What is considered good and bad questions across the entire network pretty well reflects this.

For actual sciences questions about the real world around us, the other sciences sites quite possibly may be better fits than Worldbuilding. What Worldbuilding adds on top of sites like Physics, Biology, Astronomy, Space Exploration, Earth Science and the whole slew of others is essentially a place to ask the hypothetical questions that have no real counterpart in the sciences (most of the sciences sites tend to scoff at hypothetical questions or questions with preconditions that don't match our real world; consider What if the speed of light were 100 times higher? for just one example that almost certainly would be shot down at Physics), as well as perhaps the cross-disciplines questions. I still feel that just because a question can be shoehorned into worldbuilding doesn't mean it necessarily should be.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, you tend to beat me with excellent answers to questions that get asked earlier in your day when I'm still snoozing, so it all balances out. :-) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 17 '15 at 19:20

Eh, I'm not sure if it would be on topic for this site, but I would probably love the Scheiße out of that tag, if only to read it, laugh at it and feel mildly pleased with myself every once in a while.

And then ask myself: "If they can get their book published, why can't you?"

To which the answer would be: "Because you never finish any book you start writing."


I would like that tag.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd think you'd love the schadenfreude of the tag... ;) $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 17 '15 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner I think so too ;P $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz Feb 17 '15 at 2:46

I think if the question is asked in relation to what you are building it would be fine (to offer a counter point).

"I saw _______ in x world, that seems wrong, can someone explain why?"

That feels like a legitimate question to me.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes I agree with that. However, I know what is wrong and mostly want to share it :) I might just have to figure out the chat thing. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 17 '15 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, but on the other hand, SE does say one can answer one's own question. So I can ask "In what ways does Starkiller Base make zero sense and defy logic and astronomy and screw up the whole universe just by existing even though it was blown up?" and then rant, right? ;-> $\endgroup$ – Dronz Feb 9 '16 at 0:22

It's not technically what the site is for. But...

If you can phrase the question so that it reads as "would this factor be possible in this world I'm building" instead of "does this factor make sense in said given world", then it's perfectly on-topic here.

If you can't be bothered, use chat.

  • $\begingroup$ yes, Part of the reason I asked here first is because I couldn't think of a good way to ask the question without me looking like the ignorant person. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 17 '15 at 13:54

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