The following question is sitting with four votes to reopen:


At its core, it can be reduced to the question, "Given a certain speed, how long would it take to get from Point A to Point B?" I am not seeing anyone else, including moderators, point that out. The initial close reason was that it was simply too broad. So if it wasn't, it'd be fine?

I understand that a lot of questions on WorldBuilding rely on mathematics and physics to work, but more often than not it's a gauntlet or series of equations to work out in order to give answers and even then there's a touch of flair. The hard-science tag, for example, still builds worlds.

Simplistic questions like this seem to me to be better suited to Physics SE or maybe Math SE. You could switch "spaceship" with "car" and "star" to "town" and functionally it remains the same. It has the possibility of going into alternative worlds/civilisations but that depth is limited.

With everyone talking about fixing/adding focus to the scope of this network, I think it's necessary to ask: Is this really the sort of questions we want to receive? Cookie cutter math questions? Or am I missing something? I'd like to know how to react to them in the future.


Aspects of why it doesn't quite sit right with me:

  • Even with specifications in order to remove broadness, one could change one aspect of the situation and then frame that as a separate question. I.e. - "How long would it take for a ship to go from the edge of the Milky Way to the other with an Alcubierre Drive?" / "How long would it take for a ship to go from the edge of Andromeda to the other with ion propulsion?"
  • To expand on the former point, one question might have an obstacle (a lake, an asteroid belt) and another might not. You can add more caveats but you're not changing the spirit of the question. Simply add more time to avoid whatever obstacle the author wrote.
  • It's not interesting. It differs from What single element could destroy the world? in that it's answerable with a one liner comment. It's almost as bad as a Yes/No question.
  • It fits more on another network. See How long would it take me to travel to a distant star?
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is worth discussing. I don't have a strong objection to them but equally I can see the argument for them not fitting. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 25, 2016 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree that it's simple. No spaceship travels at the same speed during its entire journey, especially when doing things like slingshot maneuvers. Likewise, askung how long it would take for pioneers to traverse some swath of land is strongly dependent on a number of geographic factors. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Feb 25, 2016 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


It's not a simple math question, but it's also under-specified and so unanswerable in its current form in my opinion.

It's not just a math question because in space you don't go in straight lines at constant speeds. The trip would be affected by at least the following factors:

  • properties of the ship: speed, acceleration, maybe maneuverability, maybe drive type

  • distance and duration of the orbits on each end

  • intervening hazards (asteroid fields, black holes, that space station with the really good bar...)

If these properties were specified I think this would be an answerable and non-trivial question. Without them, we're just guessing.

  • $\begingroup$ So in other words the question is on topic but insufficiently specified? I think I agree with that. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 26, 2016 at 9:58

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