Physics Stack Exchange routinely closes questions that presume "non-mainstream science". I do not know their policy with regard to whether answers based on "non-mainstream science" should be flagged for moderator attention, nor have I had occasion to flag such an answer on that stack exchange.

However, recently an answer appeared to a question on EESE which appears to me to be based upon and promoting "non-mainstream science". If I felt the answer to the question were merely wrong, I would simply downvote. I think this site is open to people who make errors, and the remedy is to simply vote down the bad answers and vote up the good. I'm not always happy with some of the answers that are accepted or with which answers receive up votes, but voting is the means we use to resolve these issues. We don't struggle endlessly to ensure that our opinions of the best answer prevail.

This case, I think is a bit different from a simple case of error. I think the author is quite aware that his answer is based upon "non-mainstream science"

The above electromagnetic theory is not the classical electromagnetic field theory. Classical electromagnetic field theory do not accept the advanced wave, because it Violation of causality. But there are lot of scientists believe the advanced waves are real objective existence. The above electromagnetic field theory is the mutual energy theory developed by shuang-ren Zhao

"Mutual energy theory" and the writings of shuang-ren Zhao have found a home with the publisher Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP). Wikipedia describes SCIRP as a predatory publisher of questionable quality.

The company has been included in a list of questionable open access publishers,... Beall states that "This publisher exists for two reasons. First, it exists to exploit the author-pays Open Access model to generate revenue, and second, it serves as an easy place for foreign (chiefly Chinese) authors to publish overseas and increase their academic status."

I have a sense that some subtle promotion is going on, i.e. the promotion of "mutual energy theory" or its developer. But is the promotion so odious that it rises to the level of spam? Is up/down voting where this sort of answer should be left? Or, should other action be taken with respect to answers like this? Should contributors flag answers like this? If so, on what grounds?

The specific answer that prompts these questions is here, but I am more interested in the general principles of how to deal with this sort of thing, than I am in the outcome of this particular case.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Math - Hi, I also felt this looked like a promotion, and before I saw this Meta question, I just left a comment on that answer. There is also more background that is a concern, but which I don't want to reveal publicly (sorry for that). Let's see how things develop in that specific case. Voltage Spike has kindly explained the general mod position here in an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – SamGibson Mod
    Apr 29, 2022 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ For this specific case, looks like the same user also posted some answers on Physics.SE, and the most downvoted one is about a similar topic, and it seems they are also heavily affiliated with the paper (Mutualenergy Group). \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew T.
    May 3, 2022 at 13:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW I used to be a mod on Physics SE (though I'm not active there these days). From what I remember, the close reason you're talking about was meant mainly for questions which are thinly veiled attempts to promote or spark discussion of non-mainstream science by misrepresenting them or the scientific community's objections to them. (In other words, a particular type of troll question.) There was no analogous moderation policy for non-mainstream answers; those we would handle by just downvoting them. \$\endgroup\$
    – David Z
    May 7, 2022 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


The usual route to dealing with answers that are problematic is downvoting the answer. Generally mods only delete answers that are bad/problematic answers, not answers that are wrong, the voting system should handle that. This doesn't always work on question that don't see a lot of traffic, but it is what it is. You can always explain why you don't think the answer is right in the comment (and be nice about it).

The other thing is, is this widespread? or is this a single instance.


I agree with Voltage Spike's answer.

I'd add that we are fortunate because we are dealing with engineering, not pure science, so we can safely assume that "correct" answers should be formulated on the basis of mainstreams theories.

This is the basis of standardization and engineering, especially professional engineering, which is based on standards and widely-adopted conventions of some sorts.

We accept hobbyists-level simplified answers as a mean of educating and not scaring-off newbies, but that usually involves "lie-to-children" sort of simplifications, or some sort of intuitive analogy approach. That is not problematic wrt your question, since no-one would likely use some strange non-mainstream theory to answer such questions.

Are we concerned that some non-mainstream theory is actually correct and we disparage it by downvoting answers based on that? I think we should not. Unless a question is posted asking explanations about a non-mainstream theory (which could be on-topic), using experimental or non-well-validated or non-standardized theories to explain things should be regarded as off-topic, since an answer here is required to be (ideally) high-quality, hence comprehensible by experts of the trade.

If someone posted a complicated explanation based on some obscure theory, this should be downvoted (possibly kindly explaining the reason, as Voltage Spike suggested) because professional engineers (let alone engineering enthusiasts) shouldn't be required to be top-level researchers in a niche field to understand EE things.

This completely avoids the problem of non-mainstream theories usage.

After all one could well explain how a simple RC circuit works by renaming resistors as (say) "impeditors" and capacitors as "storagistors". That's a simple change in terminology and doesn't affect theory at all. Would we accept such an answer? I don't think so. Mainstream terminology is part of our trade and so are mainstream theories and conventions.

After all if a non-mainstream theory or approach is correct and is found to be useful it could end-up being accepted and used, maybe in years to come (and it will become accepted on EE.SE). If not, then it's either wrong or maybe not that useful.

I see much more trouble for sites that deal with pure science a lot more than us. For them refusing to deal with a non-mainstream theory could be a more sensible issue. After all relativity theory was not so well-received the moment that Einstein published it.

Of course there are also credibility issues to consider (like that SCIRP you mention), but these are somewhat tangential to the issue.


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