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There is a question on main which asks how long a scent can remain tracable.

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I personally feel like this question is off-topic since there seems to be no reason why this question couldn't refer to a mundane, real life scenario. There is nothing for us to add that chemistry.SE couldn't do better.

I'm not 100% sure though and feel like it's valuable to discuss these edge cases more explicitly, so we can make a more confident decision the next time around. I'm also not entirely sure if this specific question could be rewritten to be more on-topic.

How does the community feel about this question?

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The help center article we are working on has this.

For example, questions are welcome that are about:

  • Creation of elements of a world (languages, species, buildings, etc.)
  • Specific effects of events or world elements on that world's society, cultures, and environment
  • Technology and magic

as long as they are not about:

  • Specific actions of individual characters, rather than the world they inhabit
  • Specific character building
  • General writing or storytelling (consider the Writers or Role-playing Games Stack Exchange sites)
  • Software that doesn't directly relate to worldbuilding (consider the Super User or Software Recommendations Stack Exchange sites)
  1. This is about the specific actions of characters.
  2. This is about storytelling and plot.
  3. This is about something tiny in scale. ^
  4. This is about something based in science in real life that is a perfectly reasonable Chemistry question.

^ I know we consider all scales, but this is small in impact as well as in physical size.

Therefore off-topic.

To make on topic? I agree that this particular question can't be made on topic. It hits too many trigger for not being WB, albeit just.

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  • $\begingroup$ I will add one comment here. We did discuss during the definition phase that world altering characters WOULD be on topic. I realize that is not the case with this question but I want to ensure that exception is out there. Think Jesus, or Alexander or Plato or Elminster, or that prophet guy whose name I forget from Warcraft. These people are forces of nature in a way. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Oct 17 '14 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ I think that gets covered by "Specific effects of events or world elements on that world's society, cultures, and environment", but yes, good clarification. $\endgroup$
    – Mourdos
    Oct 17 '14 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ I think as pointed out by Monica the question can be made on topic, basically by turning it the other way around. As it stands the question is a very poor fit here, but is likely possible to turn into a decent question on one of the science SE sites. (I'm not sure which one would be the best fit.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 17 '14 at 21:49
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I think it's off-topic because it's not about the world. I don't think its being a small detail is the issue; worlds are made up of small details and it should be ok to ask about them. But this doesn't seem to ask about building a world.

A question that asked "I want smells to be able to linger for several months; what properties of my world would cause that?" or "if it's implemented by X, what other properties would that have?" would be about the world and thus on-topic.

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I think this is off topic for a number of reasons:

  1. It's not speculative - as you say a "grounded in reality" site can answer it
  2. It's too small scale - world building can theoretically cover things as small as a village or building but this just feels too small
  3. It's not about building a world, it's about research for a plot point within a world.

I agree it's definitely in the gray area though. It's not completely off topic, but I think it is enough off topic that it crosses the line.

I don't think this question can be re-written to fit as there is no way to make it about shaping the world. The question isn't asking about the world-shaping effects of lingering smells, or how to change how long they linger for, or even about the effects of scent on creatures. It's asking for a simple real-world forensics figure.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree, especially point 3 seems to be crucial, how this plot point is handled won't shape the world the story is set in. $\endgroup$
    – overactor
    Oct 17 '14 at 10:09

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