Policy Reference: A proposal to finalize the "are real world questions on-topic" debate
Enlightening Comment: A proposal to finalize the "are real world questions on-topic" debate
Problem Statement: The discussion of Real World Questions has had a tumultuous history. Generally, I approve of the existing policy and the premise that the OP needs a worldbuilding reason to do so. In other words, if it's "just a Real World question," it belongs on another Stack. However, I believe it's time to clarify what a "worldbuilding reason" is.
In times past (see the Enlightening Comment and my answer that it's attached to), we've basically required people to attach some meaningless statement like "I'm building a world!" to their Real World question. As Secespitus pointed out, that's awfully shallow. In other words, it's a loophole that allows any question to be asked on the Stack.
Now, to be fair, some Real World questions seem to be accepted as inherently worldbuilding questions. Questions of celestial mechanics are the easiest examples. It's like Justice Potter Stewart's statement about hard-core pornography... we have trouble defining what a worldbuilding question is, but we know one when we see one... Kinda.
I'm therefore asking for a policy clarification in support of Real World questions that would better define when such a question is appropriate here and when it is not.
Proposed Clarification: A Real World question is appropriate when there is a worldbuilding dependency on the answer to that question. That dependency must be identified as it can (and probably would) affect the answers.
"Worldbuilding Dependency" means that the response to the query depends on an understanding of both a real world phenomenon and the fictional world rule or system the OP is trying to develop. The result will be answers that combine the real world and the fictional world. A legitimate answer that is strictly the facts of the real world demonstrates the query had no worldbuilding dependency, and the question should have been asked elsewhere.
In other words, "I'm building a world!" is no longer a viable excuse for asking a Real World question. The OP must now provide real context of an actual problem being solved that can't be answered (or would likely to be closed) on another stack.
Example question without context: Can a gas giant have an axial tilt of 28°?
Example question with unacceptable context: I'm building a fictional universe. Can a gas giant have an axial tilt of 28°?
Example question with acceptable context: In my universe planets spin on average much more quickly than they do as observed today in the Real Universe. I'm worried that such a fast spin will keep gas giants from having an axial tilt of 28°, which I need for my story. Given that the average planetary rotation in my universe is 125% greater than in the observed universe, would a planet like Neptune in a solar system like ours still have its axial tilt?
If I've used a meaningful example, what I've demonstrated is that the OP has (what I define as) a valid concern that the rules of their world might conflict with the Real World in a way that they can't easily rationalize, and so need our help.
To summarize: I'm proposing that Real World questions remain valid if and only if the OP can describe a dependency on a rule of their fictional world that requires the question to be asked on Worldbuilding rather than on a more appropriate Stack such as Astronomy.
Voting this question up means you support the clarification as proposed.
Voting this question down means you object to the clarification.
Answers to this post should express opinions for or against that help the community understand the pros and cons of supporting or objecting to the clarification.
Comments to this post should only ask for clarifications to the post, not state arguments for or against. That's what answers are for.