When might it be reasonable that a question is closed as off-topic because it "does not appear to be research-level mathematics" while one of many narrow special cases of that question, posted separately, gets 7 up-votes and its only posted answer gets 13?


closed as off-topic by Andrés E. Caicedo, Bill Johnson, David White, John Pardon, Daniel Moskovich Aug 5 '13 at 14:05

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about MathOverflow or the software that powers the Stack Exchange network within the scope defined in the help center." – Andrés E. Caicedo, Bill Johnson, David White
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    $\begingroup$ Could you be more precise regarding what you are talking about? It seems it is something specific not a thought-experiment. (But I can imagine it being reasonable; that the one is closed and the other not.) $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 26 '13 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ I think I know what it is about, now. Still it might make sense to be more specific. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 26 '13 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ @quid and Michael: Would it be possible for one of you to share an example? Or would that be inappropriate somehow? $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 26 '13 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ Why is this question getting buried so fast? $\endgroup$ – Ricardo Andrade Jul 26 '13 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ I hesitate to cite an example, since whenever I do that here on meta, lots of people want to change the subject and argue about the topic of any cited postings. Yes, it's possible. It happened. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Jul 26 '13 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ @RicardoAndrade: for the specific one I then thought was meant see Michael Hardy's comment on S. Carnahan's answer. For the abstract situation, the example of S. Carnahan expresses better than I could what I had mainly in mind. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 26 '13 at 23:46

I can't provide a characterization of such situations, but it is not hard to come up with new ones. For example, a question like "What can you say about algebraic curves with nodes?" would be rightly closed, while a well-written question about the existence of a plane curve of a certain degree and a certain number of nodes may be well-received.

In general, it helps if the question appears to have had a substantial amount of focused mathematical thought behind it.

Edit: In response to comments, let me refine my example. If someone asked the question "What do nodal algebraic curves generally look like?" together with the text "I sketched the graph of $y^2 = x^3 + x^2$ and was startled to find it looking like a fish." it would be rightly closed.

Regarding the specific situation, it looks like Neil Strickland's comment answered your question (inasmuch as it could be answered) in two sentences. Your later question was substantially better than the first one. In particular, because you were seeking a specific characterization, it was an actual mathematical question, not just a special case of the first question.

If someone is calling you names on MathOverflow, we moderators would be interested in hearing about it. On the other hand, if there was a heated email exchange out of the public eye, I don't think it is reasonable to bring it up here.

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    $\begingroup$ This question is a narrow special case of this question. The narrow special case currently has seven up-votes and a posted answer has 13. The more general question was closed as not research-level mathematics. Conceivably this could be viewed as similar to the hyphothetical, but one of those voting to close said it's a high-school-level question. Now everybody figure out what graphs of some such.... $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Jul 26 '13 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ ....functions look like when they were in high school (including me, in ninth grade). They also learned about natural numbers $1,2,3,\ldots$ in kindergarten. Therefore the theory of the natural numbers is kindergarten-level stuff. In ninth grade I quickly figured out what the graph of the tangent function looks like, and I remain far from convinced that mathematicians understand that graph's geometry. I will soon attempt to publish a result about that. That a referee might say it was done 50 or 250 years ago (the latter by Euler?) is of course possible. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Jul 26 '13 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ In individual instances one can find the gross shape of such graphs by methods that are easily and quickly applied by high-school students, but that doesn't mean that results about the relationship between the form of the function and the properties of its graph are high-school-level stuff, nor that they are so easily obtained. The person who said it's high-school-level stuff also told me I'm either an idiot or begin wilfully obtuse if I hesitate to agree with that. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Jul 26 '13 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHardy you present this situation more drastically then it was, as far as I can oversee. With negative effects for you and others. Maybe or not your original question was received harsher than it deserved. Maybe or not your original question was not well written. But good for everbody the second try worked a lot better. I'd say, let us move on. $\endgroup$ – user9072 Jul 27 '13 at 0:45

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