My question is kind of related to this one, in terms of people sometimes answering with this couldn't happen answers.

In writing some questions for the WorldBuilding.SE, sometimes I am looking for answers in which a reasonable answer is this couldn't happen (with a clear explanation of why included).

However, I've noticed a few questions, mine included, that do rely on the suspension of disbelief in situations that clearly would never happen, but asking about possible consequences anyway.

I'm not talking about or [tag questions, which usually clearly state it is a world in which magic exists, but rather a non-magic world where the laws of physics have been suspended somewhat, for a specific reason, and what other possible consequences would be a reaction of this.

In a lot of the cases, it is clear that the OP knows it is not a realistic scenario, but simply wants to know what a world like that would be like anyway, maybe just out of personal curiosity.

This still attracts a lot of comments and sometimes answers of this would never happen, which are unproductive based on the OP.

Is there any way a new tag could be added to address this? So that each of these posts isn't edited hours later with I know this isn't possible in the real-world, but...

I realize the irony that it is potentially a question looking for science-based answers, where the question asks you to ignore science for it's very existence, but it could potentially get rid of this-wouldn't-happeners.

And it's kind of outside the realms of the speculative tag, as it is not necessarily asking for an anything can happen answer in an anything can happen question.

I realize from the questions that keep coming up in similar questions that this issue has been addressed multiple times (Yo dawg, I heard you like meta, so I put some meta in your meta...), such as trying to use science-fantasy but as far as I've looked there hasn't been a solid solution yet.

Could we possibly decide on something so that anyone else asking could be linked to it? There seems to be a lot of uncertainty around this issue.

EDIT: I really should have initially added an example.

I can't really speak for others on their behalf about whether they want to have this tag, so I'll use my own question about a space elevator as an example.

I've made it clear in the question (I hope) that it's not the possibility of the space escalator/elevator I'm after, but rather if one did exist, could a human potentially use it.

There is only one good answer who seemed to understand what I was asking for, which was that you needed to take the reality of the wind into consideration when using the fictional elevator/escalator.

A lot of the comments address the possibility of such an escalator/elevator, which is not what I was looking for. If I could have added a tag letting people know that the conditions are set in stone but the considerations of those conditions are what I'm seeking, it would have possibly saved a lot of those people's time.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any examples? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 21 '15 at 13:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TimB perfect example - my city question. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 21 '15 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode that's perfect, because easily over half of your question is trying to get across to people that you are not looking for the realism of the scenario, but rather the consequences. $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Apr 21 '15 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtOfCode I think the problem was that you put reality-check tag onto your question - which means you are asking "is this possible/plausible" not "assuming it is possible/plausible" what are the consequences. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 21 '15 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ In other words - that question shouldn't have that tag :) $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 21 '15 at 13:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TimB I believe that's what this post is about - what tag I should use instead. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 21 '15 at 13:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just remove reality-check from the post and you're sorted no need to replace it with another tag... $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 21 '15 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB But how does that help? People are still going to add comments saying that the premise is flawed. I don't think people should need to add 3 paragraphs to their question in order to tell people not to bother answering if they don't agree with the initial conditions. $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Apr 21 '15 at 13:44
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I agree that this is a problem, and have my question as an example. It was a question about the effects of decompression on humans, and all of the comments were about how implausible the scenario was. I agree blowing out the windows on a space ship is not the best way to fight fires, that's not the point. All I can really suggest is stating in bold that you know the situation is implausible. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Apr 21 '15 at 15:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In my mind, the problem is mostly that the original setting of a question may not be completely scientifically accurate, but the poster is still looking for answers that try to keep suspension-of-disbelief to a minimum. So they attach one of the science tags and then get hit with either: "That can't happen." or "Since you already [hand-wave], you may as well [HAND-WAVE AND LIGHT OFF A WORLD-ENDING FLARE to signal that you hand-waved] $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Jun 12 '15 at 21:12
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm personally adding a suspend-disbelief tag to one of my own posts. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Woodman Feb 22 '16 at 20:59

Whenever I see a "non-" tag I cringe a little, because tags are meant to indicate areas of expertise. Somebody might be an expert in or or or even in conducting s (though I admit that's a little farther out), but what does it mean to be an expert in ?

I think of tags more as categorization, not scoping. The best way to limit the kinds of responses you're looking for is to say so in the question itself. If you say that you are looking for answers consistent with these premises, then "that couldn't happen" isn't an answer (and should be flagged as such).

  • $\begingroup$ I know, and I did try to explain in my own question that I wasn't looking for the possibility of the scenario, but still people persisted. The 'non-reality-check' tag idea is probably not feasible, but I think the issue is quite a widespread one that people would like a simple solution to. $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Apr 21 '15 at 13:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Honestly, this remind me of a typical on some other sites when you ask how to solve a problem on Windows, and you mostly get answers to use Linux. I strongly support Linux myself, but that's still not an answer. Some people overlook details on questions, and others simply don't care. So you should be ready to get those answers. Make your question as clear as possible and downvote/flag answers that do not answer it. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jan 20 '16 at 7:44

You know, this is happening because a bit of misunderstanding about how tags work.

Let's say that any given question have a determined amount of "hardness". A question is hard when it obeys the constraints of the real world, and is soft when it doesn't. That said, Hard/Soft is not a binary thing, it is more like a sliding scale.

We have three tags at the moment that modify the "hardness" of a question: , and .

implies the basic constraint-checking, sanity-based tests that goes with every more-or-less world concept. It's about checking the basic concept to see if it works, on works that cohesion is important. A reality-check question is harder than a non-reality-check question. While it checks the concept, it doesn't check for the science involved on the question - you could tackle magic in there, and everything would be fine.

is different. This tag explicitly indicates the use of real-world science. If this tag is applied to a question asking about "is X possible?" or "Given that X exists, is Y possible?" answers of the type this can't happen in a hard-science-based setting are perfectly reasonable. doesn't open space to pseudoscience answers, magic or handwavium - it is harder than . Something that fails reality-check would automatically fail science-based.

is the Skeptics.SE mode for Worldbuilding. This tag makes explicit the need for equations that match real-world phenomena, without room for any non-physic answer. It's like science-based, but must be backed up by references and math. This is, than, harder than . Something that fails science-based also fails hard-science.

So, putting science-based or hard-science in a "this is possible"-like question is more-or-less like strapping reality-check to it.

You need to keep in mind that the science-based tag is not for something that looks like science, nor science-fiction. Science-based is for questions that want scientific answers. If you don't need the level of constraint that those tags deliver to the question, don't use them. You can create a question with other tags, like or .

If you want answers that don't adhere to real constraints and instead focus on your concept, you should do your tagging differently.


My though is that this is something that can be solved via a downvote and a comment explaining that the op did not ask if it was possible. I suspect others will disagree, but we need a discussion on when it is appropriate to challenge the frame of the question like this and when it is not. These kind of meta questions (speifically re this is not possible) make up a not insignificant number of of our 'problem' meta questions.

  • $\begingroup$ I fail to see what this answer seeks to add to this discussion. Did you mean to post it as a new meta question instead? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 20 '16 at 13:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Actually I agree here - the point is that there isn't a need for a new tag because if a user challenges the viability of the assumptions of the question without the reality-check or hard-science tags, they haven't read the question properly. Downvoting is entirely appropriate. Users have to remember that a downvote isn't a personal affront, it just means that you didn't get it right, and should edit it if you care about getting it right. $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 21 '16 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @IStanley Would two questions, one with reality-check/hard-science and one without but otherwise identical, be considered duplicates? $\endgroup$ – Damian Yerrick Jan 26 '16 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @tepples, I would say they were separate questions, but the wording of the questions would be different - if I was asking for confirmation that this is scientifically feasible, I would be asking different questions to if I was asking whether the premise "worked" as a concept. It's a grey area, sure, as it relies on the clarity of the question, but remember that a question is considered a duplicate if it would (validly) take the same answer as an existing question. In this case, the answers would not be the same, by definition (one looking for a reality-check, the other not) $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 27 '16 at 9:11

Maybe "thought experiment"?

Would get rid of the "non" and put a positive context to it. What if questions that are impossible in practice have a long and honourable history in science.

I agree something like this would be useful.It is fairly common for the most difficult part of answering to be determining, if I should pretend the scenario makes sense as written, point out a modified scenario that actually does, or simply tell straight out that it is impossible. It would be nice if you could just use tags to make that determination.

Of course all this assumes that the person asking the question knows how to use the relevant tags properly...


Suspensions of disbelief can be considered a skill or specialty. In writing, it can be hard to get right, making something consistent and plausible while being completely impossible, or in the case of an alegorical tale, not distracting the reader with the un-reality of it all.

So for a positive thing to be an antenym of reality-check, how about suspension-of-disbelief and synonym unreality-check (as opposed to non-reality-check)?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Trying to get suspend-disbelief going $\endgroup$ – Caleb Woodman Feb 24 '16 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't that more about storytelling than worldbuilding, however? Asking about how to maintain suspension of disbelief would seem to be more on-topic for Writing than it is for us. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 10 '16 at 11:59

Did we ever agree that something like "suspended-disbelief" would be a good tag? I just noticed this question which is marked both and . The opening remarks make it clear that science-based in not appropriate, and as a fantasy based scenareo he explains that he's looking for plausibly in exactly the way I described in the earlier answer here on meta.

So shall we move on or what?

  • $\begingroup$ How on Earth is this an answer to this question? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 10 '16 at 12:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't see consensus for that. (I'm also not convinced this is an answer to this meta question; it sounds like a new question.) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Apr 10 '16 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry @MonicaCellio I thought this was a meta discussion, not a Q/A. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 10 '16 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ I did try to indicate my uncertainty. Meta is looser than main and yes it's a discussion; it looked on first read like you were going off in a new direction (for which a new question might be better), but I guess you're proposing this as an answer to the request for a non-reality-check tag so it fits. Sorry for the confusion. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Apr 10 '16 at 22:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .