It's been on hold twice. I got a ton of downvotes and VTC's and not that many useful comments to build on: I think I had 4 VTC's the first time around before I got a helpful comment. It's been modified over and over--why exactly do I need to edit it and how should I do so? I'm specifically looking for input by the VTC'ers. I need to edit this so that there aren't any more problems in the future and so I don't get any more VTC's, delete votes, or downvotes. I understand it's not on topic; I don't understand why. I get it needs to be edited; I don't know how. I was trying to simply post a piece that would help others calculate things for their own worldbuilding. If you're going to offer criticism . . . make it constructive, please.

The question is this one:

How much energy would be released in a collision of planets of matter & antimatter?

  • $\begingroup$ I assume you are aware that your question on main started a discussion here. As I understand, there is nothing in our rules to support the closure of your question. Either we need to reopen your question or change the rules. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    May 4, 2018 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ if you search around on meta you should be able to find a variety of questions that talk about this exact issue. the argument is that your (and others members) questions come across as essentially physics questions. (don't shoot me, just passing on the gist of the argument). check out the question that Vincent shared as well as others. worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5980/… $\endgroup$ May 4, 2018 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ Have you tried running your question through the Sandbox here on meta? It would provide you the feedback you are wanting on how to make the question more palatable as ontopic to other users. You can also try the Worldbuilding Chat if you want a more informal discussion on it. $\endgroup$ May 5, 2018 at 13:27

1 Answer 1


It's fair to say that your original question has raised some vigourous debate as per Vincent's comment. I personally didn't engage in that debate directly but I did follow it closely, and you'll note that I did attempt to make an initial edit to get this question going in the right direction.

Ultimately, the problem that most people have with this question in this forum boils down to 'fitness'. In its original form, it was poorly worded and looked like a simple physics question, to which most people will say 'well what difference does it make to your fictional world?' leaving you with a question that can be answered simply by plugging in the Earth's mass into E=mc^2 which would be considered too lightweight by the Physics SE crowd, but off topic here.

Despite this, the question about a large planet colliding with the sun was NOT closed as being off topic. On the surface, they would appear to be similar insofar as both could essentially be answered by some form of physics, but this question brought with it some sense of speculation that (respectfully), yours didn't.

Another way of putting this; your question originally asked for a value, not an effect. The other question actually asks whether the sun would dim or brighten, how long the effect would last for, what it would look like from the standpoint of the Earth.

If you were to follow the same principle, then your question needs to be edited to ask about effects; how far away would the collision be visible? how quickly would the planets collide, and would the energy being generated at their contact plane be sufficient to either slow (or even reverse) the effect of gravity? Would it appear like a supernova, and does the energy created by a matter / antimatter reaction generate cosmic rays or pure radiant heat? Can other planets in the system where this happens survive, and what impacts would it have on the habitability of those planets over the long term? Would it (for instance) vaporise or sterilise all planets within the solar system in which the collision takes place?

Why did I first try to edit your question in the first place? Because it's actually a GOOD question if you look at the spirit of what you're asking. Every bit as good as the question about planets colliding with a Sun. BUT, if all you ask for is a number, you haven't intrigued anyone. You haven't asked them to extrapolate outcomes from the numbers they can derive. You haven't asked them to speculate.

That is ultimately what the people on this site love doing. Inspire us to imagine new effects in the context of our engineering / analytics / economics / biological / physics / chemistry / etc. backgrounds, and we'll jump at the challenge.

Could this have been pointed out a little better at the outset? Probably. But, for people capable of providing answers to impossible or crazy situations, we seem singularly unable to articulate what sort of questions we like. This is in part because we rule by committee, but I also think it's because the scope of this site is somewhat ambiguous to begin with.

It is important to note that you should take most of what I say with a grain of salt; my first (and only) attempt to ask a question on worldbuilding failed catastrophically and ever since then I've constrained myself to answers, which (for the most part) seem to be far better received. That said, my personal view on how to fix your question would be to focus on the effects, not the math.

Put a hard-science tag on the question by all means, but the answer shouldn't be a number of joules; it should be an impact. That would at least satisfy the world-building element, and allow people to come up with their own ideas about how such a collision would occur, and how your world would experience it from afar (however far away that is as defined by your brief).

Of course, as a final warning, don't just cut and paste all the sample questions from my 5th paragraph into a single question post. We still work on 1 question per post, but (hopefully) these questions give you a method for expanding your question into a series of related questions that can all provide some value across different contexts of your story.

In short; persist with it. I'd really like to see some answers to some of the questions postulated above and it's an interesting concept to be sure. Yes, there is still some subjectivity to this question and I cannot guarantee that if you follow my advice you'll be better received, but I for one would like to see what happens if you try.

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    $\begingroup$ "we seem singularly unable to articulate what sort of questions we like." I believe that most of us with VTC powers are aligned far more often than we are unaligned. There is an objective basis for the decisions, but it is not simple to state that boundary. It has shades of gray arranged on a fractal edge, and questions can step into and out of it on a single sentence change when they get close to that edge. As you say, the scope of WB is somewhat ambiguous. But ambiguous does not mean capricious. That's key to remind other users when they get frustrated. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 7, 2018 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM this is a very good point you make and particularly like the image of the 'fractal edge'. I guess what I really meant was that we're very good at telling people what we don't like, and we're good at telling people if we like a specific question, but being able to define generally what's good has been a challenge, which is why I guess we have the sandpit for questions too. That said, I'm not convinced that our VTC alignment has been as tight in recent times, and the fact that these questions are starting to appear with increased regularity seems to prove that. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    May 7, 2018 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ Starting to appear? Methinks you have not reviewed the Meta history enough! Your perception of frequency seems — to use an analogy — skewed to measure weather when you are discussing climate. :-) You seem to be right about the increase (annecdotal, though I haven’t formally counted), but I perceive it as a local maxima, not an unusual spike overall. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 7, 2018 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ The fact that even some high rep users are not willing to ask questions is a problem. We want others to keep asking questions but we don't dare ask our own questions for fear the community will close them. I am aware of a few other users who feel the same way. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    May 7, 2018 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM you are indeed correct that I'm only referring to my anecdotal experience since looking at Meta, which hasn't been for long. Local Maxima it may be, but I do find some commentators (in WB AND Meta) to be somewhat more strident in their positions than others and more willing to frame their comments as if they're addressing personal failings rather than technical or factual errors. I have no idea if that's a recent phenomenon, but it does add to the problem of scaring new people off IMHO. Perhaps (as a community) we need as much guidance in comment writing as question writing? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    May 8, 2018 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ @TimBII Maybe. But unless we go to "all questions start out on hold," I have no idea how to convey to new users that their question going on hold is not a bad thing -- they are upset first and maybe read comments later. If you have a solution, I'm interested. I've tried many variations with no success. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM it would take some doing from a programmatic perspective, but what about review comments? In-line comments that show up as tooltips that allow people to highlight a section of the question and suggest a change. Also changing 'on hold' to 'in review' would send a better semantic message to the OP, and finally, have easier reactivation, like only 3 votes to reopen. That's some initial thoughts but to me the real benefit would come from the first because it appears to address the problem part of the question, not the whole thing like current comments do. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    May 8, 2018 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ @TimBII Doing review comments is what the sandbox is for. As for the "on hold" text, I think that's baked into the SE platform, not something WB can unilaterally change. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    May 8, 2018 at 2:21

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