Are Jool's moons' orbits stable? has had some focused attention; that the bodies are fictitious rather than hypothetical is the reason that the question needed to be closed if I understand correctly. I think that's to weak of a distinction to be voting to prevent answers from being posted, but in this case the fictitious bodies are in the Kerbol system and Space Exploration SE has a rich set of questions and answers based on the behavior of bodies in this system.

Space SE is an active site for learning about space. Just two examples, searches for "KSP" or "Kerbal" will find many more.

This comment under my answer says:

Well, will you look at that, another question where you were wasting people's time

Of course the most time spent on this post by anyone other than myself was 1) purely voluntary and 2) mostly centered on the commenting and closing and inevitable reopening of the question.

Question: But I'm curious, is there any evidence at all that anybody's time has been wasted by me? Have anyone's actions been anything less than voluntary? Is perhaps the most time spent really related to the rapid closing and (presumably and hopefully, (needs one more reopen vote)) reopening of the question, rather than on reading it?

I'll note that when there were 4 close votes I quickly added an answer to make sure that an answer could exist. My preference is to let other people answer, but unfortunately there was some effort to prevent others from answering.


I don't think you're "wasting people's time" with that particular question, although I suppose people who are only interested in real-world space exploration and who consider games and fiction to be "waste of time" might disagree. While I somewhat understand the sentiment that comment likely came from,* I personally don't agree with it and I also find its tone quite inappropriate.

That said, I also don't think your question is on-topic for this site. I do think it's close to the border line, and that it might be possible to ask a closely related question that would be on-topic here,** but that particular question as you've asked it really has no relevance to space exploration outside the specific game you're asking about. Thus, it's a gaming question, not a space exploration question.

It would be a perfectly good question for Arqade, though, and I'd be happy to try to answer it there.

*) For better or worse, you like to ask a lot of questions. Some of them are great questions — ones that many people find interesting and which attract good answers that will contribute to making this site a useful knowledge base on space exploration. Not all your questions are always so great, though, and sometimes one can't help but wonder if they're really all questions that you personally need an answer to, and can't find one easily already, or whether you're really just asking questions for the sake of asking them. That's not something Stack Exchange really encourages — even the help center says that "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" (emphasis mine) — and I can see how a regular user could get frustrated if they kept seeing lots of what they considered to be trivial or pointless questions asked by the same user. That doesn't excuse the user rudely lashing out at you like that, of course, but it does explain it some degree.

**) Such as something like "What makes a Laplace resonance stable? Why aren't e.g. the moons of Jool in Kerbal Space Program stable under realistic gravity, when the actual Galilean moons of Jupiter are?" Ideally, IMO, such a question should also provide enough information about the Jool system in KSP (specifically the masses and full orbital elements of the moons and Jool itself) that it could be answered by an expert in orbital dynamics who was not also already familiar with KSP.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 24 at 18:34

I think fictitious subject matter clearly crosses a line. Our guideline for questions in the past has been that the fictive elements should be supporting information for the main question and not be part of the base question itself. Yes, this line can be fuzzy in certain creative hypothetical scenarios, such as ones I have been guilty of getting a little carried away with: How easy would opening an Apollo capsule following dry landing be?

That said, I think even in the above example it is pretty clear the subject of the main question (Apollo contingencies) is fully in the realm of reality. I don't think the instructive value of orbital mechanics is enough to justify the clearly fictive subject matter in your question (Jool's moons' orbits). Our site is not primarily an educational resource; it is primarily a knowledgebase for real subjects of Space Exploration. If our mission here were to develop engaging educational materials, I think you could make a better case for including fictive but instructive materials like this.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. How KSP or a similar game relates to reality, sure, but the question asked was less focused on space exploration. Orbital mechanics to a degree is included, but I don't think game based orbital dynamics of moons and planets is. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 21 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ I'll give this some thought. I don't understand how a knowledgebase is not also an educational resource. Presumably the reason to make a knowledgebase is that people will then use it to gain knowledge. Perhaps gaining knowledge is different than gaining insight or understanding, but my goodness aren't most of the answers to questions tagged with our most popular tag orbital-mechanics with 1370 questions really providing insight and understanding? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 22 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ I also think that a lot of new users come to this site specifically to gain insight and understanding as well as to simply retrieve a few factoids from a dry knowledgebase. An exercise for a moderator might be to do a global comment search for things like "thanks for your explanation" or "now I understand" to see how often users even go out of their way to make such notes. Separately, I just wrote this. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 22 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ Short response because I'm on my phone. The point of educational material is to teach a particular subject in an ordered and thorough manner to fully acquaint the reader with the subject matter. The point of a knowledge base is to provide answers to specific queries as a resource for the user to reference, not as their introduction to and familarization with the broader topic. While a knowledge base can certainly be educational, its primary purpose is not to broadly instruct the reader. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Jan 22 at 3:43

I think there is some concern as to the scope of this site, and it is a reasonable concern. Because the tone we set for the questions might make a difference in attracting experts.

We are very lucky to have quite a couple of either active or former personell in the industry or government agencies which regularly produce incredible answers. Its those kinds of experts I'd like to think we'd want to attract (which doesn't mean we don't want to also attract amateurs, but a healthy dose of actual experts is a big plus for the quality of the site. The question of catering to "noobs" or "experts" is probably as old as the original Stack Overflow itself, and a regular point of drama on Meta SO.).

Which begs the question if they would be attracted if our front-page was full of question like the one we are discussing now. Unfortunately, I don't think the question sends the best signal.

This site is about real-world space exploration. Not about Sci-Fi, not about Fantasy, but the real world. KSP is a game. Its popular, and it uses realistic-ish physics. At least realistic enough that from time to time, we will come in contact with KSP on this site. That ain't bad. But that doesn't make KSP per se on-topic. I know I have argued before for question regarding KSP being on-topic, and that stance is unchanged -- if the question itself is about real space-exploration.

I gave one of the more popular answers on What can the KSP game actually teach about spaceflight and orbital mechanics, and what are its limitations?. I think that question is perfectly on-topic, because it deals with KSP as it relates to the real world. Its still a question about real space exploration, because it asks which real concepts KSP can help teach.

Similarly, Are patched conics (and by induction, KSP) "useless" for simulating ion propulsion? is about the real world. At its core, you could strip KSP completely from the question, and keep it as an inquiry as to the limitations of patched conics. Questions about the limitations of patched conics and the regime in which they are applicable are clearly also on-topic here.

However, just because some questions about KSP are on topic, and because questions about orbital mechanics are (mostly) on-topic, that doesn't mean that all questions that are about KSP and orbital mechanics are on-topic. Your question is purely and solely about the game. It would be a rather good fit an Arqade.

To give you another example: The phase angle to go from Low Kerbin Orbit (LKO) to the Mun is 96.5°. That doesn't make the question "What is the correct phase angle to transfer from LKO to Mun intercept" on-topic here. It might be on-topic on Arqade, but not here. What would be on-topic here is asking "How can I calculate the phase angle in patched conics", with only giving KSP as context/background-information.

The question could of course be made on topic, if you would focus it differently. A bit of prior research would have helped. The instability of Jools moons once put under 3- or n-body is very, very well known among KSP enthusiasts (another hint that Arqade might have been better, you'll find more gaming enthusiasts interested in KSP there).

From that, one could have developed an interesting question asking about what makes systems unstable and which kinds of systems are stable under patched conics and which are unstable. KSP could just have served as an example of one such system. By focusing on the orbital mechanics and the theory, instead of just asking a gaming question, this might have been a good question here. As I can see, you already managed to bash out another on-topic question regarding Jacobian coordinates from what you have researched.

The fact that other fictitious situations are on-topic doesn't make this one on-topic. If fiction can be on-topic, then that doesn't make any fiction on-topic here. Star Wars and Star Trek aren't on-topic here, either, despite the latter being clearly about exploring space. That doesn't mean we need to discuss Picards decisions here. Or where the holodeck on the Enterprise-D is (I recognize this is hyperbole, but still).

I don't think the tone of the comments you received is fair to you.

However, you sometimes can rub people the wrong way and I would lie of I said you are always the most easy person to argue with. You have very strong feelings about being right and about what is right for this site, and don't necessarily see the points others try to make and to tell you, which might have led to some penned up frustration with other people.

Especially your meta questions usually have a very clear agenda and try to convince others of your stance, and don't always appear to seek consensus or to understand others. Our last meta interaction where you simply dismissed my opinion because I have less rep than you (or asked less question than you) certainly wasn't very enjoyable for me and felt very disrespectful and did make me stay away from Space SE and especially Meta for a while. I can see that this kind of rubbing people the wrong way might lead to them becoming more aggressive towards you over time. The way you interact on Meta can seem intimidating and not exactly welcoming of others.

  • $\begingroup$ In several press conferences, employees of NASA or private space firms have been asked if they played KSP, and some answered with "Yes". That said, the probability that "our front-page (would be) full of question like the one we are discussing now" is zero. I don't know how to use SEDE but if someone does one can count how many times my questions are answered by the "quite a couple of either active or former personnel in the industry or government agencies which regularly produce incredible answers… (w)e are very lucky to have”. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 23 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ It will probably turn out to be a factor of 20 to 50 larger than the number of my questions that ask specifically about Kerbal. Your closing two paragraphs are well taken, I've heard this before. I'll say that I simply don't know how to rub people the right way or the wrong way, I don't know how to "rub people" at all. I don't want to get too personal about myself and lack the vocabulary to expand on that if I wanted to. I try to be transparent and compelling don't see how that is having an agenda. But since you've taken the time and energy to write such a thorough and thoughtful post... $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 23 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ I really will see what I can do about this. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 23 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ and I won't ask any more orbital mechanical questions about the fictitious Kerbol system here (Arqade has been recommended as an alternative) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 23 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I appreciate that you took my last paragraphs well. I wasn't sure if I should include them, because I don't particularly like to air grievances in public. I'll respond later a bit more to your comments, but right now I have to help someone move, so I'll be out for today ;) $\endgroup$ – Polygnome Jan 23 at 9:13

I felt it was clearly off topic but was wary of mentioning it and earning a tumbril ride. So I added kerbal-space-program to my list of ignored tags. Time wasted, < 2 minutes. Time saved in future!

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your candor. This comment below (at)AntonHengst's much more informative answer than mine explains why so many people find KSP simulations and issues to be a valuable educational tool in orbital mechanics. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 21 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ Which is a shame. There are many question relating to KSP that are perfectly on-topic. I know I argued for KSP questions being allowed, but its a shame to see one of our top experts being pushed out of a tag because of the long ongoing effort of a few to constantly increase the scope of Space SE beyond actual space exploration. That being said, I can certainly see why such question lead you to ignore the tag. I know I'm tempted to even after I argued for KSP-related questions being able to be asked here... $\endgroup$ – Polygnome Jan 22 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Polygnome thanks! But I'm really not able to contribute in matters of KSP or orbital mechanics (though I do enjoy reading questions about the latter and learning what I can) so no harm done. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jan 22 at 21:24

As demonstrated by you being easily able to answer it yourself in an attempt to prevent it being closed:

A thousand times YES.

In fact, I think this question should be added to the "case" for an insufficient research (insta)close reason.

And now you continue to waste people's time by dragging it into Meta.

  • $\begingroup$ The purpose of posting on-tpoic Stack Exchange questions is to provide the opportunity for good answers to be posted. A given user's' motive for posting a given question is off-topic. That's all. c'est tut! (or is it s'est tut?) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 21 at 10:19

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