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Speculative Science

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Update: launched; see this meta post. Renamed to Scientific Speculation based on feedback here and there.


I'm copying this post from meta to keep the site suggestions together.

The scope of Worldbuilding.SE is very broad, ranging from rigorous questions about orbital mechanics to questions about the design of magical creatures. Some users from there have been discussing a more science-focused community here. It's still about worldbuilding, in the sense that questions are about things that don't necessarily exist in our world, but it'd focus more on science and things that can be reasonably extrapolated from current science than pure imagination in its speculative questions.

Clarification in response to this question: in some sense anything that doesn't exist yet is "magic". This includes faster-than-light travel, alien biology, creatures that don't exist, robots with human-level (or greater) intelligence, and so on. And most technology is previous generations' magic. These sorts of things are in scope. What we aim to exclude, because it's had some big challenges on Worldbuilding.SE, is stuff not based on real-world science or reasonable and well-defined extrapolations or extensions thereof. (This is partly pasted from a discussion that preceded this proposal, and I'll invite the participants to further clarify here.)

This community would want to import all open questions from Worldbuilding SE that are not tagged "magic". This might still bring along a little stuff we don't want and will have to clean up, but there are a lot of science-based tags there so specifying the positive list turned out to be verbose. I said "not closed", but if we could get dupes and have them be properly wired up here, that'd be great. If not, better to exclude them than have a bunch of disconnected dupes.

This community would use categories, including one special use we'll describe in an answer (does not require any new features). We don't anticipate using required or topic tags.

This community will need MathJax. A lot of the content we're importing already uses it and we need some sort of science-notation interface.

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General comments (6 comments)

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Category for (WB.SE) "hard science" questions

The Worldbuilding community on SE has a hard-science tag. Use of this tag has special requirements for answerers, as described in a custom post notice:

This question asks for hard science. All answers to this question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Answers that do not satisfy this requirement might be removed. See the tag description for more information.

The label "hard science" is a bit misleading, in that there are many questions about hard sciences like biology and chemistry. What the tag, there, means is that there is extra rigor for answers, and of course the questions must be ones that are possible to answer with that rigor. You can't ask a hard-science question about unicorns, but you can about binary-star orbital dynamics or virus mutations or photosynthesis. (On this new site magic isn't in scope, but we still want to be able to support asking questions with this extra requirement.)

We'd like to use a category for these extra-rigorous questions on the new site. Using a tag was always a bit of a hack and it was hard to moderate. A category has a short description that can link to longer help, we could automatically add notices to individual questions for extra reinforcement, and we would avoid other people overriding authors' intent through tag changes.

I know we just talked, on the Photo & Video proposal, about how using categories to segment Q&A subgroupings isn't a great approach, but in this case the requirements to post are different and I think that's a significant differences.

All that said, we need a name for this category that conveys the intent. We don't want people to think that if their question is about physics it has to go in that category; it's an option for specifying the kind of answers you want. But I don't think "Rigorous Answers" is a great category name either.

Suggestion from comments: Research-Level Q&A.

Note for data import: Imported questions tagged "hard-science" should end up in this category instead of Q&A, with the hard-science tag dropped as redundant.

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General comments (4 comments)
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Alternate approach to data import

The data-import code has now been improved, and it is now feasible to do multiple imports over time if we want to. I've also learned some lessons from the Writing site, which imported ten years' worth of content somewhat indiscriminately (my fault). I'm therefore putting up a different answer to explore an opt-in, not opt-out strategy for import.

For the initial import, how about if we import open, upvoted questions and all their non-negative answers, that are not tagged "magic", and that have any of the following tags?

  • hard-science: these get routed to the "research-level Q&A" category and strip the hard-science tag
  • science-based
  • biology
  • planets
  • physics
  • evolution
  • space
  • xenobiology
  • space-travel
  • spaceships
  • geography
  • climate
  • gravity
  • fauna
  • moons
  • atmosphere
  • orbital-mechanics
  • space-colonization
  • astronomy
  • flora
  • geology
  • chemistry
  • earth
  • weather
  • energy
  • engineering
  • space-constructs
  • artificial-intelligence
  • stars
  • psychology
  • anatomy
  • biochemistry
  • underwater

Other tags of possible future interest, but we ought to review the content more first, include:

  • society
  • technology
  • creature-design
  • science-fiction
  • warfare
  • weapons
  • humans
  • aliens
  • economy
  • environment
  • earth-like
  • technological-development
  • civilization
  • near-future
  • language
  • science-in-society
  • military
  • materials

These lists are the result of a review of the first two pages of the tags list (except for [underwater], added by specific request). The last tag on that list has 231 questions, so going farther produces smaller and smaller collections of questions. Plus, some of those might overlap other tags already on our list, particularly science-based.

How do folks feel about starting with the first list and then, should we decide we've left out stuff we want to have, reviewing other content more selectively for a later import?

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Bystander here. I think I understand now what you want the site to be, but I suggest you need a better name than Speculative Science. When I first saw that, I thought you wanted a place to discuss crackpot theories, perpetual motion machines, and the like.

A name isn't just for you. In fact, the name is probably more important for those that don't already know what the site is about. If someone's first impression is "a bunch of crackpots trying to get their perpetual motion machines to work", you won't ever make a second impression.

I think what you are trying to do is talk about at least basically plausible extensions to currently known science. That's what good science fiction is, for example. "Science fiction" sounds too much like story telling and writing, however. "Extended science" might be accurate but not very catchy, although it's not misleading like "Speculative science". Maybe "Imaginative science"? "Future science"?

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General comments (4 comments)
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Define: Exact Content

Next to Writing SE, Worldbuilding SE was the SE site I used and frequented the most. The issue I'm having is that I'm seeing a lot of the tags (as in probably more than half) that I have used on SE, are being considered for exclusion for this new site.

This leads me to the conclusion that this new site will NOT be the worldbuilding I would like to see, and will in fact aid me hardly at all. (The reason I'm taking issue with this is because all of the questions I have asked on worldbuilding would fit in with the desired content type for this new site, as I see it.)

Because of that conclusion, I would like to see a clear description of what kind of questions this new site will hope to attract, and what kinds of questions - which were accepted on worldbuilding - will not be accepted on this new site. That will help me tell if my interpretation of the desired content type for this new site is correct or not.

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General comments (7 comments)
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Data Import

Update: alternate proposal


We already know that the data import should exclude questions tagged "magic", of which there are about 1800 (it's the fifth-most-popular tag). Reviewing the tag list there, I spotted a few others that we might want to exclude (this is just based on the tag descriptions; I haven't reviewed the many questions):

  • magic, as already noted
  • warfare
  • weapons
  • medieval
  • government (I looked at the first page of questions by votes)
  • religion?
  • worldbuilding-process
  • military
  • law?
  • combat
  • military-defense
  • worldbuilding-resources
  • gods
  • medieval-europe
  • crime

I reviewed the first four pages of tags and these are the ones I would suggest dropping, so I still think it'll be easier to exclude what we don't want than enumerate what we do. (There are many science tags.) At this point the remaining tags have fewer than 100 questions each, so I stopped reviewing.

Does this list look right to others? What should we add or remove?

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General comments (4 comments)
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What should the URL be?

speculative-science.codidact.com is a bit of a mouthful. Is that ok? If not, what should we use instead?

I'd be hesitant to make the main URL what-if.codidact.com, but that might be a reasonable redirect for whatever we come up with.

Update: So far, consensus in comments seems to be that the long name is ok.

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General comments (9 comments)

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