Questions based on FTL travel or infinite forces can't sensibly be given answers that match the requirements for a hard science answer. Instead they've got to be answered with refutations of the central point, and possibly a soft science alternative or a limit treatment of the question.

Some questions however can start with an impossible premise (or at least a premise so unlikely as to be impossible) and have precise physical consequences that are [Hard-Science] through-and-through.

Is it OK if a question is tagged with [Hard-Science] if the question includes a starting premise that is not hard, but which requires a hard look at the consequences of that event?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide an example of the kind of question you're talking about? I find it hard to imagine one without immediately thinking it shouldn't have that tag. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Nov 12 '15 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ Not any more. The tags generally get edited out quickly if it's not possible to answer sensibly... Which I suppose answers my corollary... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 12 '15 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ Though the question that got me thinking about this is the 'realism of hard light' question. That doesn't have a disconnect between the question and the answers though, as the question is: 'is this possible' and the answers are 'no'.. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 12 '15 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think there is an inherent disconnect between the hard-science tag and implausible premises, if the question is on the form "what would be the effects if X?". We can postulate a universe with planets made out of green cheese and ask what the effects would be on methods of travelling between those planets, and such a question could be answered in a way that meets the hard-science criteria. $\endgroup$ – user Nov 12 '15 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling: At what point can we say a disconnect has occurred? For example a question asking how the world would look if Noether's theorem didn't hold true can't reasonably be answered using the hard science criteria except in a way that's a direct refutation of the premise of the question or a non-answer... Are answers of that kind acceptable? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 12 '15 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Questions specifically on that form are not acceptable, because it would be too broad. (Note: I am not familiar with Noether's theorem.) I know we have some from early during the beta period, but in general, asking "what would the world look like if X?" is "too broad", even if the X is relatively well constrained, because what the question is asking for is too broad. A hard-science question would seem to have to be very clear about the change being made, and in a case like the one you mention, the way to do it would probably be to describe how the replacement laws work. $\endgroup$ – user Nov 12 '15 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling: That was a hasty example and I agree it was too broad, but did it serve to put across the point I was trying to make? If the replacement laws are well defined and the question constrained to the physics of silly putty, but the answer still has to be either a hard refutation of the premise of the question or saying 'we can't answer this in hard science' should it not be a hard science question or should all the answers be hard refutations? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 13 '15 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't really what comments are for, so I'll try to round off here, but yes, if an asker asks a hard-science question and the situation described or asked for is impossible given hard science as we know the relevant sciences, then the answer "that is not possible, and here is why" is absolutely a valid answer. This is little different from if I were to ask, say, on Super User "how do I create an automatically recalculating spreadsheet using nothing but Windows Notepad?" to which the answer is "you can't". An answer can most definitely be a valid answer even if it is not an affirmitive. $\endgroup$ – user Nov 13 '15 at 9:56

This one is pretty straight forward, if it can be answered with hard science, maybe something like the thermo-dynamic implications of tossing a fireball, then yes answer with hard science. This example would require you explain conservation of energy etc but it can be done.

On the other hand if you are talking about a situation where physics just can't apply...and I am having trouble coming up with one, then sure we can recommend the poster remove the HS tag and maybe add science-based or reality-check instead.

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    $\begingroup$ Hard science isn't only physics. We've had hard science questions for economics. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Nov 15 '15 at 0:31
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez Agreed. Hard science can relate to virtually any topic that can be supported with math, science or peer reviewed journals. Good to mention it thanks. $\endgroup$ – James Nov 16 '15 at 15:09

I want to quote the tag wiki:

All answers to this question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Review the tag info before using this tag. Consider alternatively the science-based and reality-check tags. Avoid using this tag as the only tag on a question.

Thus I would say if you can reasonably expect there to be equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, or other such things that can be used to answer your question, then go right ahead and use the tag. Otherwise, if you want people to take a more scientific approach to something that isn't real, you can use the or tags, which I would say have a pretty good record of keeping things rigorously scientific.


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