# Defining the boundaries of the “hard-science” tag

Difficulty

As per a suggestion by Monica Cellio and a sort of consensus on the issue, the tag is ready for use. In fact, I decided to use test it out: How can a Type II civilization predict and influence accretion rates from a debris disk to a passing star?.

The resulting question frightened Serban Tanasa off into the woods. This is not a good thing, because it seems to be that most people want answers to their questions.1 I myself would probably not want to take a shot at an answer, because the resulting analysis could take up a lot of space and time. Given that I'm not too concise,2 I would be a bit afraid of the work I'd have to put in.

I asked the question, though, because I wanted (and still want) an answer from a true expert.3 I've come up with some ideas to figure some of it out already, but they would involve a large simulation to test. Given my (nearly lack of) programming skills, that's not feasible. However, I'm willing to bet that there are people who can answer this.

Yet I don't want all questions (or in fact, the majority of questions) using to be hard (i.e. difficult). Were that to happen, all the creativity that so freely leaps around on Worldbuilding would be . . . gone. So I propose that questions should not all be really-hard-and-expert-level.

Hardness-of-science level

We also need a range of questions where the tag could be used. Obviously, all questions on Worldbuilding (that don't purely involve magic) should be grounded in logic and science. But where should questions switch from science to ? It's really up to the user, but there's a chance that the same thing that happened to will happen to : overuse.

How difficult should questions using be? When should the tag be used? What about other boundaries of usage of the tag?

Here are some of my musings since the tag's inception.

So far, there are three questions.

• Serban's is easily the best and most successful. It has a catchy title and focuses on something that is near and dear to us all: blowing stuff up.4
• Mine have been less popular, harder, and, I think, somewhat close to pure science. This is, contrary to what one might think, bad. I love science and using it to solve problems; I think that it's possible that I could solve one or both by boiling it down to the pure science part.

I think, though, that this is just me. I'll be honest: I'm always more interested in the science part of a question than its applications to world building, and that may have influenced my two questions.

1I also don't want Serban to die at the hands of some wild animal.
2I hit the 30,000 character limit in an answer on Skeptics, which set off warning flags.
3Well, besides the part about the Type II civilization. I don't know how many people are experts in that.
4Come on, at some point in your life you've been interested in explosions. Even fireworks.

• (briefly pokes head down from the dense canopy) Offenders delete, you must. – Serban Tanasa Mar 20 '15 at 0:36

My opinion (the main point of which I have stated several times in various places):

The science behind these answers should be hard science, not soft, subjective science. As I said in the original tag wiki, and on the meta post I believe:

This means no subjective sciences like philosophy. Ideally, answers should be backed up by equations, relevant theories, and citations where possible - arXiv can be quite good for citations, though Wikipedia is usually OK too.

arXiv idea stolen from you, HDE...

I count soft sciences as sciences for which there is a great deal of leeway on the "right" answer. People's mentalities and actions, in my opinion, cannot be defined in hard science. They need sciences like sociology and philosophy (and to a lesser extent psychology), whose scientists frequently debate heatedly the correct answer.

The other point I'd like to make is those citations: I think can be answered with top-of-the-head knowledge, but should require more research and demonstration of why your answer works.

I don't think we should be afraid of low votes and low views. If the purpose is not to hoard rep, but to seek an answer to the question up to your exacting standards, it's perfectly ok if it gets tumbleweed badges or whatever, as long as it actually gets addressed eventually.

The larger issue is that even on stack-exchange, most people are either not mathematical/physics literate, or too time-constrained to address the question effectively.

Does it even make sense to ask in Worldbuilding, as opposed to the science forums? Why? Can you break it into a worldbuilding and a science component, and ask (and link) the questions on the two forums?

Even if you have a worldbuilding shading to it, and/or is so cool you think it would fly here regardless, this means that the question needs particularly careful crafting. It needs to be catchy to attract attention from the side-bar, and it needs to be specific and narrow enough that it can be addressed (or a response sketched out) without using a Large Hadron Collider, supercomputers or 12 hours of R/Python/Mathematica programming.

If all interested worldbuilders would dutifully upvote hard-science they like, and perhaps spread the word in the more established hard-science forums, it will eventually attract some skilled answers. Finally, you may need to stake some bounty on it.

I fully agree that unworthy half-baked 3-liner answers for this worthy tag should be mercilessly down-voted and even deleted.

The goal is to have a micro version of the Physics/Astronomy/etc stacks, but with more attention afforded towards the World-building goal. So it is doubly difficult, in that it must be $\Large{\text{both science-grounded and story-telling-worthy.}}$ But that's the best kind, right?

• As for me, I'm obviously a rep hoarder. – Serban Tanasa Mar 21 '15 at 17:17
• I'm obviously a hoarder, too. :-) Actually, I've decided to go with your suggestion and put a bounty on my accretion question. I'm working on an answer, but I'd love others. I absolutely agree with your first point, though - I don't care if my question has zero votes and one view, so long as I get an answer. Well, ideally, I'd like the question to help other people, but still. . . – HDE 226868 Mod Mar 21 '15 at 22:47