This question was closed as off-topic. It's in the middle of being re-opened, but there's no point in fighting to close or re-open until a consensus is reached.

It can't be answered because of a fundamental flaw. In short, it asks answers to calculate the area of a city, but only says how thick the perimeter is, leaving the area contained ambiguous.

However, math is on-topic here.

We have a tag devoted to it, , as well as which often overlaps. We have questions devoted to , and dozens of questions relying on mathematical formulas for answers.

Why is finding the area of a polygon any different from calculating how structurally strong an object would need to be to survive a trip through an ergosphere, or how to get two asteroids to follow each other in stable ellipses?

Don't get me wrong. The question is flawed, and an answer could point that out, but I don't think it's any less fit for the site than other mathematics questions with worldbuilding applications.

Math is math.


2 Answers 2


That question is not a math problem

That question has several problems. First off, many people seem to have dismissed the question assuming it was 4th grade math problem. But carefully reading, it is not. It is asking for the area of a square, where no dimension of the square are given, and no internal clues.

So this isn't the case, like the ergosphere question you linked in TimB's question's comments, where there is math to be done and the user is not capable of doing it.

This was explained repeatedly in the comments to John, including by you. John has a history of absolutely refusing to consider critiques of his questions. I have responded to this history by not bothering to critique, and just closing his questions instead. Why waste the time?

So, it is likely that the combination of author and question lead to closure.

You raise a good point about math

Your good point is that, while most people, perhaps, can't solve that ergosphere problem, most people can solve basic 4th grade math. But, just because most people can doesn't mean everyone can. The conclusion is that we should not run people off the forum for asking 4th grade math questions. If they legitimately need help with 4th grade math for Worldbuilding puroposes, we should give those question equal time along the near-impossible ones.

However, while this is a good point, I'm not sure it is necessarily applicable to the site. I only remember seeing one other question like that....asked by JohnWDailey, of course.


It's off topic for a number of reasons but the main one is very simple:

It isn't actually about world building.

He's already built the city, he's asking a very simple math question with no actual relation to trying to build a world. Imagine if I asked a question saying "I have 10 pennies each 1cm across, what is their total surface area?"

That is basically the same question - it even has missing information (thickness) making it impossible to answer. Would it be a worldbuilding question though? Clearly not.

Math is not on topic here

Worldbuilding is on topic here. A question having math or not having math does not make it on or off topic. The important criteria is whether it is about building a world.

Other bad points to this question

There are things that are most likely causing it to get down votes but are probably not enough to get it closed by themselves:

  1. It's a pure "do my math for me" question. It doesn't ask "how do I calculate this", it asks "calculate this for me". The answer is unlikely to be useful for anyone other than the original asker.

  2. It shows no attempt at doing it themselves. What has he already tried? Why did it work or not work? At what point did he get stuck?


The question is not about worldbuilding. It does not require any worldbuilding knowledge or skill. The question is unlikely to be useful to any worldbuilders in the future.

The question is correctly closed and should remain so.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you address why this is different from any more complex physics question? I understand the "bad points" and I'm not saying in any way that this is a good question, but this is applying math to a context that is as related to building a fictional world as any other math question on here. See my example: We have a hundred or more orbital-mechanics questions that are just as equally applied to building a fictional world and yet they are not off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It all comes back to my main point. He's already built the world. He's not asking for worldbuilding skills or expertise. He's asking people to do basic math for him. If he can't do the math then that's a shame and I've no problem with him asking for help...however it is not a worldbuilding question so this is the wrong place for him to ask for that help. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ Link to a specific question and I can go into more detail on why it's different, there's too many variables to discuss the hypothetical beyond what I've already said. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 22, 2017 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ For instance, this. It's a better fit for the site, but at the very core, it asks answers to do a calculation (in a world that's already been built, eliminating that reason). Of course it's not as easy as filling a polygon but it's just as on-topic - or not. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 22, 2017 at 23:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No, it's asking answerers to do a calculation required to build a world (in this case In a hard science setting). That calculation also requires specific worldbuilding knowledge such as in this case knowledge of physics, orbit, tidal forces, etc. This isn't asking about a world that has already been built. It's asking how to build an element in the world. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 23, 2017 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ The original question we were talking about above probably could be edited and made to fit within the site. Considering it is bad for many reasons and the author has shown no interest in improving it (and a track record of not being interested in improving their questions) it is unlikely anyone is going to waste their time trying to salvage it though. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Feb 23, 2017 at 9:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ there is no guideline or restriction on the site that says questions have to focus on a world that has been built as opposed to an element, or vice versa. I agree that it's a bad question but I strongly disagree that this is not about building a fictional world just because they've already finished part of it. $\endgroup$
    – Zxyrra
    Feb 23, 2017 at 14:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra I agree with your last point and I would suggest that Tim agrees with you too. Perhaps he could have said it more eloquently but building a particular aspect of a world is certainly on-topic. There is a fair amount of annoyance with the poster in this situation as others have mentioned. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Feb 24, 2017 at 19:07

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