I just found this site and was thrilled since I have a big and broad general interest in applied science and politics. However, when seeing some questions and answers involving magic and other not only imaginary but unreasonable scenarios, I understood that there is something else to this SE-site than what I initially thought.

Extending on Worldbuilding versus Writers?, and Should our default position be that answers should be science-/logic-based, rather than magic-based? there does seem to exist a positive view on separating these things, and that there is some overlap between Writers and Worldbuilding.

How about is we sharpened the division of labour among these two sites, and only allow science-based and rational questions and answers here? This does seem to be the main function wanted by the participants here even if them being fictional writers, while the mix-in of magic and pure fantasy might discourage people like me with a purely scientific/rational interest that might actually provide some significant value in this symbiosis. Would it be possible to let Writers handle the magic stuff?

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    $\begingroup$ Particularly the second question which you cite was born out of people answering with magic-based solutions when we didn't know what kind of answers the asker wanted, and the consensus that emerged was pretty much don't assume that magic is okay; let the asker ask for magic-based solutions if they want those. That doesn't make magic-related questions any more or less on topic on the site. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Oct 21 '14 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ If only a subset of a site's traffic is of interest (which happens for a lot of people on a lot of sites; no shame in that), you can use tag filters to find the questions of interest and/or ignore the ones not of interest. Maybe following the science-based tag (along with specific sciences, like biology, as applicable), or ignoring magic, will give you a better experience here? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Oct 21 '14 at 12:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio That could be seen as a solution, but I'm afraid this would at most only be a superficial fix in aspect of the general culture that I feel would benefit both this sites current users as well as a broader audience. It's not that I think this site contains things that I'm not interested in and want to hide for that reason, it's that I think that the mix of fantasy and magic together with rational scientifically-based exploration of plausible scenarios is a mix that will simply not perform well. It's like mixing chocolate with ketchup. Good on their own, but they just don't mix well $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio gave a good solution to your problem.....on the side, why wouldn't your questions about science and politics fit on preexisting sites like Politics SE or any science SE? $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Oct 21 '14 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Shokhet Politics and the sites under science are localized, and do not have the theoretical/speculative interdisciplinary format that we find here and. Sure one could make a new site, but I see some issues in that it would look very similar to this site, except the varying flavour of magic and fundamental unrealism. As for Monicas answer, I previously suggested why this would not be a good solution and I don't see that you brought any new argument to the table motivating your statement that it's a good solution. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 22 '14 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex Fair enough. $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Oct 22 '14 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ Although I have answered to disagree with your conclusion, I like your thinking and I'm looking forward to seeing your questions and answers on main and meta. Just like on Stack Overflow, we need people who will challenge answers that are not backed up and ensure our content is relevant and accurate. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Oct 22 '14 at 9:14

Writers is about the theory and practice of writing, that's a completely different subject from worldbuilding and magic questions would be off topic there.

This site is here for people who are building worlds. While many worlds are rooted in "hard science" many others are not. You also have a huge gray area, for example Star Wars I would classify as "fantasy in space" but many people would argue it is science fiction. Far future "hard" sci-fi can also delve into a wide range of possible subjects some being more plausible than others.

Reducing the scope to purely hard science questions reduces how many people the site is useful for and also prevents the use of science-based reasoning applied to non-science worlds. Ragnarok may not actually ever happen, but we can still use science to work out what would happen to the solar system if the Sun did disappear for 3 days.

What I suggest is that people with no interest at all in magic or soft questions should follow the tag. Within that tag you will find very few questions that do not interest you while the site as a whole can still embrace everyone who is interested in building worlds. Whether those worlds include fantastical elements or not.

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    $\begingroup$ "Ragnarok may not actually ever happen, but we can still use science to work out what would happen to the solar system if the Sun did disappear for 3 days." I wouldn't mind this question, we can imagine that the sun would disappear due to some unknown phenomena, and then we can use science and logic to evaluate the consequences. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex Exactly :) And that's what is happening in the magic based questions. A lot of the questions are either "given these constraints help me work out what happens" or practical questions about the actual process of world building. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 21 '14 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Alex worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/2629/… $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 21 '14 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ But as I commented on the other answer here, we have questions like worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/2918/… as well, where I think this rationale is lost. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 9:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex Not everyone is going to like every question. We closed a previous "magic cannons" question for exactly the reason you cite but this one already has some interesting answers. You should note that we've had at least one person asking why there aren't more magic questions...some people like speculating about consequences of magic, some people like speculating about consequences of science. There's no reason this site can't support both those groups (especially since there are people like me interested in both). $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 21 '14 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ I do understand the argument about coexisting interests here, but I do fear that the de-facto culture here in reality would have a very tangible effect of unattraction and demotivation to those that do not have an interest in magic. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 9:50
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    $\begingroup$ The de-facto culture here is that answers should be science based unless the question asks for magic. We also have the tags to allow people to filter out things that do not interest them. I'm sorry that you feel this way but fantasy worlds are popular in a lot of different mediums and need building too. Eliminating them would remove a lot of interesting questions and answers from this site. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 21 '14 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ In regards to the culture, I do not think it would be enough with selective filtration for all parties to feel at home here. I have nothing against the subject of magic and fantasy, and do absolutely not want to "censor" this domain, but do feel that this SE has it's foundation in a more universal domain of applied interdisciplinary science in which it could bring more value in it's pure form, where it could attract a broader audience with higher scientific expertise. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think we're going to need to agree to disagree here, feel free to come into the chat and say hi to people though...and I hope you do stick around and ask/answer the science based questions. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 21 '14 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ I have to agree with Tim B, but we do appreciate you taking an interest in the welfare of the site. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Oct 21 '14 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ @DonyorM I do have to admit that I have a personal interest in this as well, but my rationale about the greater good is even though sincere. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex Try backing area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/75912/scientific-imagination $\endgroup$ – Mourdos Nov 25 '14 at 14:36

The tag already does pretty much what you want:

The science-based tag should be used for questions that require answers based in hard science, not magic or pseudo-science.

Strictly science-based questions and answers are likely to be about subjects which are at least equally appropriate on the science sites (Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Astronomy, Space Exploration, ...), and can generally be asked there.

In fact, Worldbuilding SE overlaps with quite a few other sites on the Stack Exchange network.

Writers SE deals primarily with how to write. Worldbuilding SE deals with the world in which your story is set. There are ways to worldbuild that have nothing to do with writing per se; consider role-playing games for example. That's not writing, but it's very much something that requires worldbuilding to be successful. I think there was a proposal for a storytelling SE, which would be about what to write, but as I recall it was pretty much shot down because it was felt that such a site would be completely opinion-based almost by design.

We have had discussions (though I can't seem to find the meta post) before about a corresponding "magic-based" tag, but the suggestion has been argued against on good grounds (and some people have also extended that reasoning to also cover the science-based tag). For the time being, you can either hide tags which you feel are not what you want out of the site, or follow the science-based tag (as suggested by Tim B) as that will give you questions and answers that appear to be what you are after.

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    $\begingroup$ I would say that Worldbuilding has a unique approach to applied science covering a broad range of SE-sites, where it has a format where we can construct questions that would be completely off-topic on most localized SE-sites. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 9:35

No, Writers doesn't want to handle magic and "pure fantasy." It handles how to write. I actually think magic is on-t. I for one like magic questions and find them interesting. I'll admit that pure magic questions aren't very good for this format because you can just say "a wizard did it." But we have very few of those, if any.

To the contrary, recently we have had several questions that combine history or physiology with magic. Questions like "Would we see cannons in a magic-using society?" are perfectly legitimate, and should be allowed.

  • $\begingroup$ And I would say that that question is a good example of the kind of question I do not like. To evaluate the value of cannons we would need to have detailed knowledge about the properties of the "magic" and the world itself. To throw in a rudimentary "let's say that..." and expect a generalizable answer above this is not going to work in any rational way. If the foundation of knowledge we need to answer a question is magic, it's just not going to go anywhere. $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ ...in comparison to the question about the sun disappearing, where we only need to know the fact that it is gone, or possibly also how it goes (implosion, explosion, evaporation, etc...) $\endgroup$ – Alex - Stop it SE Oct 21 '14 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Alex the question actually did supply a well defined magic system, the dnd one. Also the question has received several good answers. A general SE principle is that if a question received good answers, then it is generally ok (not always true but I think it is on this case). And we do allow answers that don't have magic. Just say so. If you don't like magic, add it to your ignored tags. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Oct 21 '14 at 9:46

Although I am very much in favour of magic and alternative physics questions being part of the site, they still need to be well defined and answerable. The questions that would put off someone with a scientific mind are those that are vague and attract opinion based answers. If questions are not clear then we close them, so the only magic questions that remain are those that can be answered with a logical, rational approach similar to how science approaches the real world.

Fictional worlds, whether used for artwork, writing, role playing games or computer games, require suspension of disbelief. The users of such worlds know that the worlds are not real, but effort is made to make the worlds believable for them. For hard science fiction worlds, this requires scientific accuracy. For softer science fiction and fantasy worlds, there may be aspects that are not consistent with science as we know it, but such worlds can still be very well received if they are internally self-consistent.

Answers here need to take a rational approach and be backed up. However, this backing up is with evidence or logic that matches the question - not always science. Magic questions that have answers that are well thought through and persuasive appeal to many of our experts in scientific fields, who have a general interest in consistency and skepticism which goes beyond applying it to real world science. They thus add to our pool of experts rather than causing us to lose them.


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