I recently posted Orbital Pizza Delivery.

It got closed as off-topic. It was claimed that it was more properly related to Physics.SE.

Yet, the questions below seem fine, even when dealing mostly with physics (including some high-level theoretical physics, in one case):

Is it possible to build a catapult strong enough to launch a person to the moon?

Air resistance speed limits on a broomstick

Feasibility of compressing matter to electron degeneracy

How many pillows would you need to survive a fall from a church tower?

And so on.

I don't understand why my question is off-topic, when I have similar examples of "physics-based" questions on the site. Granted, they don't deal with re-entry specifically, but they still deal with real-life physics applied to hypothetical scenarios.

What I did wrong?

I greatly expanded the question since I posted this meta. Please have that in mind.


3 Answers 3


Opinion: I think the main issue with your question (and scores more like it) is that you are not actually asking a question about the fundamental nature of a fictional world. A quick review of our Tour reveals that we're here to help writers and game designers and worldbuilders with problems pertaining to the creation of fictional worlds and settings: everything from the physics underlying your reality to the entire universe you want to build. You didn't show us anything to indicate that you are trying to build a fictional world, thus, your question really isn't on topic here. The key take-away term here is "universe you want to build".

There has long been a simmering debate over "real world questions". I at least am of the opinion that real world science questions are on topic so long as there is reasonable and demonstrable fictional worldbuilding context to justify the question being here in this forum. This is what gives us direction. Otherwise, real world science questions should be addressed to real world science forums.

Your query, for example, shows no reasonable or demonstrable worldbuilding context. Just "having a space station up there" is not sufficient context. After all, in the real world, we've got a space station up there from which a pizza could conceivably be launched Earthwards with delectable results!

There are other issues that could be legitimately raised with your question: did you google heat of reentry and typical pizza baking methodologies? A standard brick pizza oven easily heats in the 700 to 800 deg F range. 3000 to 5000 deg F is cited as fairly normal heats of reentry. That's enough to cook a pizza. (Your question could be closed for lack of basic research.) You don't provide enough information about pizza protection or heat venting, though you hint at box design issues. (Your question could also be closed for lacking detail or focus.)

Revised Opinion: You've added some good background, which can only help in drawing out creative answers rather than just a couple numbers and equations. You've also altered the question in a good way with the addition of This, however, raises a question - Is the heat from re-entry enough to cook a pizza? Is it even possible to build a container able to capitalize that heat and cook the pizza inside?

Now you're no longer asking "what is the physics" but rather "how can I apply the physics to a cultural (& therefore worldbuilding) problem!" Well done!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've greatly expanded the context and backstory. But no matter, I got the picture. Thanks for your time. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Feb 26, 2020 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Sar Backstory isn't necessary, you just need to show that you need the question answered to build your world. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Feb 26, 2020 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @T.Sar - Much more on board with your revision. And it looks like your query will eventually be reopened. I'd be happier at least with some kind of technological framework: what exists, what you'd allow or disallow within this scenario. As it stands, you've got a clever back story, but still the question remains the same. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 26, 2020 at 19:52

As one of the VTC's, I should probably at least chime in...

As originally worded, the question was more or less "I dropped a pizza from orbit; what happens to it?", which struck me as much more of a physics question that a world-building question. Rewording it along the lines of "how can I accomplish this" helps significantly. (I note also as I write this that there are 4 votes to reopen, so I would read that as 'the edits helped'.)

That said, I think there is a somewhat fine line in many cases between "world-building" and straight up physics. The degree to which a question involves fantastical elements (even if based in reality, i.e. "science fiction") has an effect, since such questions are more clearly not better suited to one of the more "grounded" networks.

(I'd also argue that the pillow example is dubious and possibly also should have been on physics.SE.)

  • $\begingroup$ In your opinion, would you still VTC the reworded question? $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Feb 26, 2020 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ "Is it possible to build a container able to capitalize that heat and cook the pizza inside?" ...probably not, the revised question doesn't have that "better suited for physics.SE" feeling. $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Feb 26, 2020 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ I see. Thank you for your time! $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Feb 26, 2020 at 20:09

There was no reason to close your question due only to it being about physics. As the help center states, questions may include "everything from the physics underlying your reality to the entire universe you want to build".

However, I see a different reason for closing it.

Again, from the help center:

Keep in mind the following when asking about actions or events in your world.

  • Events: Questions need to include the setting/situation and the event or, the result you are trying to get to and the setting/situation.

Your event (a pizza in orbital re-entry) didn't include any setting or situation. Therefore it appeared to not be a world-building question, just a physics question.

I see in the comments that you were trying to make an "orbital pizza delivery system" for your world, but that information wasn't provided in the question.

Furthermore, your question may have appeared to some to be a copy-paste of this xkcd comic, which is the same question, but with steak instead of pizza.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your time. After reading your answer, I've greatly expanded the question to include some extra context. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Feb 26, 2020 at 18:50

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