Way back when, I wrote an answer about whether or not asking questions about not-yet built aspects of quantum computing were okay. To quote my answer:

I would argue that these sorts of questions should be on-topic, but that there is a line.

I think a good rule of thumb is: if it involves non-mainstream physics, no. If it involves mainstream physics, and even more so if the idea has been discussed, yes, it's probably on-topic.

Recent events have reminded me of this, and made me think that this should be made semi-official, to wit, questions about non-mainstream physics will be off topic. The new close reason (kudos to Physics.SE for the great wording) is

We deal with mainstream quantum computing here. Questions about the general correctness of unpublished personal theories are off topic, although specific questions evaluating new theories in the context of established science are usually allowed. For more information, see this meta post.

I will again quote Physics.SE:

We are not a substitute for peer-review, and cannot evaluate new theories. While some questions can lead to legitimate new theories, the question will need to be specific in order to fit this format.

If you are asking a question along the lines of

can we use string theory out of a spray can to solve world hunger and quantum computing gimme teh codez

(even stuff less blatantly bad) it will be closed once the close reason goes into effect.

This close reason has been put into effect as of 7.15.18. Please feel free to use this close reason on any question. Thank you for your comments and responses!

Note: Questions or answers that are extremely non-mainstream, or of very low quality, may be deleted at the discretion of the community and moderators.

To be clear, I still stand by what I wrote in that answer - questions about not-yet built stuff is okay, I just believe that we need to make it very clear that non-mainstream physics isn't allowed here.


3 Answers 3


This is a good idea. Questions and answers here need to be about quantum computing, which I suggest should be understood to refer to the mainstream understanding of quantum physics and computing. Questions that ask us to answer based on some personal, non-mainstream, unpublished theory that contradicts existing literature or existing science are off-topic, as they're not really about quantum computing as it is normally understood; they're about something else.

To provide some context, it might be helpful to compare to the policies on related sites. Physics.SE requires that questions and answers be based on mainstream science, and I think their FAQ provides an excellent summary of what that means and why it is important to the functioning of the site.

I can see value in establishing principles for dealing with the situation in advance. CS Theory Stack Exchange lost an excellent moderator partly because of frustrations dealing with a related issue. Establishing a clear policy and clear expectations might help avoid driving away experts and professionals. So it seems reasonable to set expectations and establish community norms about this.

I can also mention a few supplementary principles that other sites have developed that I've found helpful and that may be relevant and applicable here as well. If nothing else, it may be helpful to be aware of how they've grappled with these issues.

  • It is not our goal here to make broad advances to science in a single post. (1)

  • Reviewing manuscripts or new theories is out of scope and not the purpose of this site. We're not a substitute for peer review. (1, 2)

  • Self-promotion or advertising of new theories, papers, or ideas is also not what this site is for. (1)

  • We judge questions and answers by their content, not by judging the user. We have certain guidelines to ensure quality and expect all questions and answers to follow these guidelines. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)


I'd like to add a couple of points which I believe are mostly uncontroversial:

  • Papers from shady or predatory journals like the Beall's List journals would also classify as non-mainstream sources. Such posts may be removed at the discretion of the community and moderators. When we say "published", we really mean "published in a reputable source".

  • It should also be obvious from here that viXra isn't an acceptable source. We won't be answering questions based on viXra papers. And answers citing viXra papers as their main reference, will most likely be removed.

There are some exceptional cases but those will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.


I do not like this idea! Galileo and Einstein and Boltzmann were not mainstream, would you have wanted to ban them too?

People don't like when their questions get closed.

Do you have any examples that indicates it's even of any value to consider this new close reason?

Edit: First of all it is against SE rules to "name call" people, so you should refrain from calling them "crackpots". In case you are unaware, "crackpot" is not a nice term, it is a derogatory term and should not be used on an SE.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, but they were discussed. People took their ideas seriously, even if it was thought that they were wrong. Therein lies the difference between Galileo and the crackpot dude who mails everyone in the department with their theory of everything. $\endgroup$
    – auden
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ First of all it is against SE rules to "name call" people, so you should refrain from calling them "crackpots" $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ Comparisons with Einstein and Galileo are just about a sure sign somebody is a crackpot, though. They laughed at Einstein, but they also laughed at Bozo the clown. And there are a million times more Bozos than Einsteins. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ @knzhou: I wonder if there's any examples of why we need to up our moderation so urgently? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ I've given a few examples in comments above. The real reason this is a problem is that a crackpot does not play by the normal rules; they have no interest in the subject itself, but will just constantly detail conservations towards their personal theory of everything. Every day on Physics.SE there are about five potential long-term crackpot users that come in with a long treatise on why "Einsten was wrong!!". They're scared off by a flurry of downvotes, snarky comments, and question closure. It would be very bad if this wonderfully efficient machine stopped, and your SE hasn't even started it. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ I see, but right now I don't have a problem with any of the examples you gave. I think we should wait patiently (and keep our eyes on this Meta post to get feedback from other users). $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ @user1271772 Of course, it's fundamentally up to you and the other users of this SE -- I'm just stopping by to say what it's like elsewhere. For every 10 straight-laced standard scientists, there is 1 curious scientist interested in foundations, playing with the axiom of QM, and so on, but there are 1000 people with zero technical background who think QM proves homeopathy or the like. It's a pretty fine balance including the 1 but not the 1000. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ @knzhou. I see. Just to confirm I'm understanding it right, you mean for every 10 "standard scientists" there's 1000 people who are somewhat disruptive to the SE? Meaning that there's 100 disruptive people for each non-annoying one? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ @user1271772 The point is that scientists are extremely rare. How many people would you say are in the quantum computing community? My field (particle phenomenology) is ~1000, let's be generous and say quantum computing is ~10000. Compare this to the ~1000000000 people who speak English. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ But those 10000000000000 people are not "crackpots" right? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ Of these people, there's a significant fraction of the population that just is really strongly predisposed to believe that they're right and everybody else is wrong, without any particularly good reason, say 3%. (I run into these people often. I open my mouth at a dinner to talk about the LHC and occasionally somebody will declare they know it's all a scam.) And a significant fraction of those get obsessed with proving all science wrong, upending the ivory tower, etc, enough to try to spread their theories in public, say 3%. This gets neatly to my 1:100 ratio. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ Even these people remaining are not "crackpots". There are probably a good hundred thousand people walking around in American right now who fervently believe, without any mathematical training, that they know how quantum mechanics really works and why the scientists are covering it up. They're totally harmless and mostly good people, like everybody else. You just don't want to give them a platform, or else you'll spend all day listening to them. Given that there are no post or comment limits, and it's much easier to post polemics than content, one crackpot can drown out 10 good users. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ I do agree it's not a huge problem now, but it is something this SE needs to think about going forward! $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ Points taken. I just didn't want to rush into making a "policy" which closes their questions, before such a thing is really necessary. My preference is to take it slow. To be welcoming at least in these early stages. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 23:50

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