# Tag questions that want science to pick up the pieces

A lot of people seem to be asking questions about what would happen if the laws of science suddenly reasserted themselves after some absurd thing happens. Three recent questions I found right off the bat are:

The absurd thing could be the result of some hitherto-undiscovered science, technology indistinguishable from magic, handwavium, or just magic itself. It doesn't matter.

There seems to be a bit of a hole in the topics covered by the various , , , and tags. There's always been ground not covered by the false science-magic dichotomy here.

We could tag questions like this with but with another tag along the lines of , , or some other name you may like better. (God forbid I should ask for a tag split!)

One might argue that already covers it. But the problem I've seen with alone is that people want to work the cause of the absurdity into their answers, explaining the absurdity with science or proposing some alternate condition that continues afterwards.

This sometimes results in terrific answers (like the one to A Box That Scrambles Particles) but it actually misses the point.

OP started that question with "I have a box". I interpreted that as a cue to let the ("black") box do what it does and let science do what it does. To accomplish this, one should use a mental guillotine to chop the the absurdity away from its aftermath, and concentrate on the aftermath.

I recall a tag (possibly only proposed; couldn't find it in the list), but that's too general, and encourages people to ask for writing advice. Other tags like or were really about something completely different.

• I'm not sure what question you're asking here, or what speciifc proposal you're making; could you clarify? Also note the first sentence of the [science-based] tag wiki excerpt: "For questions that require answers based on hard science, not magic or pseudo-science, but do not require scientific citations." So "working the cause of the absurdity into their answers, [or] explaining the absurdity with science" is pretty much exactly what the OP is indicating that they want in answers by using the [science-based] tag in the first place.
– user
Jan 20 '18 at 11:34
• See also Should our default position be that answers should be science-/logic-based, rather than magic-based? (from way back when we were still trying to figure out what Worldbuilding SE should be) and A hard-science ultimatum which is a bit more recent.
– user
Jan 20 '18 at 11:35
• @MichaelKjörling False dichotomy. They're only asking for science after a certain point. It doesn't matter what the tag is. It doesn't matter what caused the absurd thing to happen. It's clear from the actual question that disbelief has to be suspended and then restored. Jan 20 '18 at 13:08
• @MichaelKjörling To re-iterate the proposal, I want some sort of "science-as-janitor" tag. If it helps, think of what happens to those cartoon characters that run off a cliff and keep running in the air when they suddenly realize there's nothing under them. Jan 20 '18 at 13:12
• I wouldn't recommend adding another meta tag (in this context, "meta tag" does not mean "tag on meta", but rather more like "a tag that doesn't describe the content of the question"). If anything, we've been having quite a bit of discussion about getting rid of meta tags. See the linked search for some examples.
– user
Jan 21 '18 at 12:36

# These questions are structured properly

In my opinion, the is entirely appropriate here. Every question should come in the format $$\text{assumptions} \rightarrow\text{question}\rightarrow\text{conditions}.$$ The assumptions part makes a question not 'too broad'. The question itself must not be 'off topic'. The conditions make the question not 'primarily opinion based.'

The assumptions are, in my mind, somewhat separate from the question. The assumptions don't have to be scientific for to be appropriate. This tag acts more like a condition for what sort of answers you want.

# If these questions were more scientific, they would be too broad

Imagine someone asked, "How could the Sahara recieve 300 mm of rain a year and what would happen to the flora and fauna?" with the science-based tag. That is two questions, and it is too broad. But what if you split it into two questions? First you ask, "What would happen in the Sahara if it started raining?" and then "How could it start raining in the Sahara?". These questions could be both and both sufficiently scoped. So it might seem that you need to assume 'magic' to answer the first question, but the desire might be to simply get both answers.

This is actually particularly relevant in the case of the particle scrambling box question. This might be phrased as a two part question, where the first says, "Assume a box." Now, once the science based effects are determined in this question, a follow-up question can delve into how to achieve these effects in a science based manner, "How do I build a strong force damping field?" (Not that that is a super science-based question itself, but it's just an example). So you see in this case, you need to ask the question about the box's effects to determine the 'conditions' of your second question, "How do I build a box that achieves this effect?".

# Conclusion

In my mind, is a condition on possible answers to the question, not a description of the assumptions, or even of the question. For example, if you didn't add the science-based tag to "What sort of substance could a humanoid release to befuddle those around them?", then the answer could be 'pixie dust.' The serves as a condition that prevents the question from being 'primarily opinion-based.'

• My only problem with this is that answers to such questions all too often go off the rails and try to apply science to the assumptions. They try to answer a question that wasn't asked. And there isn't any recourse, because you asked for science, and you got science. Jan 22 '18 at 0:13
• @Spencer Well, I think that is a problem with the answer. I try to police that in the comments, the best I can. You have to answer the question that was posed with the assumptions that come with it. A lot of people think a question is stupid and try to say that in an answer (and I'm guilty too). But that isn't how this site works, and that should be discouraged. Jan 22 '18 at 2:08