I'm talking about this one, posted in min-January. When I came to the site in August, it had been stagnant for a while, and two months later, nothing has changed (not that I would expect something to, but still).

Here's the transcript of it:

Are HgMn (peculiar A type) stars really possess global magnetic fields? See, for example, paper Hubrig et al. 2012: http://arxiv.org/abs/1208.2910

Now, I said in a comment

My interpretation of the question (and of course correct me if I'm wrong) was that @user2579566 was asking if the magnetic fields exist on these stars, due to the ongoing debate in the scientific community. Is that the case, or am I off-track?

And the answer was yes.

Here's the problem, which I found out in August after a long time searching the web: nobody knows. We don't have any evidence that proves the existence of magnetic fields on these stars - which is the whole reason user2579566 asked the question!

I'm worried that the question might eventually get deleted, as low-activity, low-votes (well, this one did decently) questions occasionally are. It might be answerable at some point in time. But at the moment, it isn't. And I'm reluctant to write an answer outlining all the reasons why we don't know one way or the other.

What should we do?


1 Answer 1


As with most science, we don't necessarily seek to prove absolutely, but simply to understand to the best of our current ability. Even general relativity, the basis for much of our beliefs in astronomy is a theory. As such, when someone asks a question like this, sometimes the answer to that question can legitimately be "We don't know" or "We're not sure" (though hopefully with a bit greater detail).

When we have new research challenging old previous beliefs, even if the new research is absolutely correct, it takes a while for that to diffuse through the scientific community through time or repeated experiments. While we may think of an 'answer' as something which is absolute, this isn't how science works and we really shouldn't place ourselves in that situation.

For a question like this, I would take this route:

  1. State that it's an area of active research.
  2. Summary of previously accepted belief, and the evidence that supported that belief.
  3. Summary of the recent research which challenges the accepted belief and that challenge's merits.

If there isn't really new research, but there is still debate:

  1. Introduce belief A.
  2. Introduce belief B.
  3. Compare merits.

Perhaps the asker won't necessarily be satisfied with an answer that isn't definitive. However, an answer that presents two competing theories is far more informative than an no answer. If new research comes out, then the answer can be edited, or replaced. That's part of the SE model, after all.


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