# Did this question get closed too quickly? Doesn't it actually have a good answer that's now impossible to post?

Why aren't Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor credited as the discoverers of gravitational waves in 1974? was first written a bit enthusiastically and I made some small edits summarized in this comment:

+1 There is a good question in here, possibly here in Astronomy SE but perhaps in Academia SE. But the leading and confrontational language such as "but so what?" and "Why the double standard?" tends to turn people off and result in closing rather than answering. If you are really interested in finding out the reason and not just complaining, it's better to remove those and just stick to the question in an objective way. I'll make a (hopefully) helpful edit to keep the question's focus.

The OP has been active for a little while in other SE sites as well and based on their question activity in Physics they can ask some good questions.

I think this is a great question, and I think it can have a good and instructive answer as well.

But we unfortunately have some knock-on close votes after the edit, including one that's accompanied by the accusatory comment:

Unfortunately, you cannot vote to keep open. You can merely decline to vote to close. You can vote to reopen if it is closed, which it should be. This is a question asked in bad faith. (my bold)

Of course

1. There really is a "stay open" vote recorded when we click it, and it has a real effect, though it's second order as explained there.
2. We can not get inside other users' heads and should be very careful to accuse a user of asking in bad faith without hearing from them first and using comments effectively to address a concern.

In this case the OP drew an interesting comparison between these two astronomer's discovery of a binary pulsar and pulsars in binary systems can speed up (presumably) due to gravitational wave radiation, and the discovery of certain peaks or in high energy collision cross-sections that happen to occur at the energy and with the decay products that Higgs predicted.

The question can have an excellent answer. Higgs and Englert didn't discover the Higgs Boson!**

A subatomic particle with the expected properties was discovered in 2012 by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. The new particle was subsequently confirmed to match the expected properties of a Higgs boson.

On 10 December 2013, two of the physicists, Peter Higgs and François Englert, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their theoretical predictions.

An examination of the blurb about Higgs and Englert's Nobel Prize makes this very clear:

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 was awarded jointly to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider."

The situation is very similar, almost symmetrical(!) for Hulse and Taylor's Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1993 was awarded jointly to Russell A. Hulse and Joseph H. Taylor Jr. "for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation."

So while the OP perceived there was a mismatch in the way that "giving credit for discovery" was aloted and asked about it, they could have received an answer showing that in fact it wasn't the case.

However, for whatever reason the close voters couldn't see this and at least some of them wanted the question shut down and all answers prevented.

I think the insta-close should be reserved for serious problems, things that are causing the site harm.

In this case the question was closed after only 10 hours. The OP was responding to comments and could have responded further if we'd given 24 or 48 hours for the discussion to take place but a pre-judgement was made by pre-crime that "This is a question asked in bad faith." and now neither I nor anybody can post an answer.

In my opinion, this insta-close was a bad choice, the question is sound, reasonable and has a good answer. But I'd like to hear what others think:

Question: Did this question get closed too quickly? Isn't there actually a good question here and should the OP have had a chance to respond to comments before the five answer-blocking close votes were cast?

• That five people thought that question was bad in only ten hours on a site that doesn't receive all that much traffic is a big sign that the question was indeed a bad question. The notion that there are no bad questions is 100% BS. Jun 12, 2021 at 17:20
• If you had posted an answer using Peter Higgs and François Englert as an analogy, I would have downvoted that answer as a bad analogy. Hulse and Taylor did not develop the underlying theory. It was Albert Einstein who provided the theoretical background. The Nobel Prize committee never recognized Einstein for that monumental body of work. He did win a Nobel Prize, but it was for one of his lesser discoveries. Why that happened is a different question, one that has been asked and answered multiple times across the SE network. Jun 12, 2021 at 17:37
• @DavidHammen Reread the OP's question, and then see how you have once again misrepresented what I've said The OP"s question forwards the analogy, so an answer must start by explaining why the analogy doesn't work. That's what I outline here and would have done more fully by way of an answer post if given the chance. The OP would then have an opportunity to consider the inappropriateness of the analogy.
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 22:47

I agree with the answers posted by James and David Hammen, but there are some facets I don't think have been discussed yet or stated explicitly:

1. The analogy you draw isn't great. Higgs and Englert - as well as the host of other folks working on the same problem - were theorists, and made predictions which were subsequently confirmed by the LHC. Hulse and Taylor were observational astronomers, just like the folks at LIGO, not theorists - their work didn't have anywhere near as strong an influence on the direct detection experiments of LIGO and other groups, and they didn't lay any theoretical groundwork. I wouldn't say there's symmetry here, as you put it, and I wouldn't say it's an excellent answer.

2. Choosing Nobel laureates is a inherently a subjective process, which is why there have been controversies over the years (e.g. the recognition of Lee and Yang's theoretical work in the 1957 Nobel Prize, but not the experimental work of Wu and others, or the decision to omit Jocelyn Bell from the 1974 Prize while including her supervisor Anthony Hewish). Even so, it's possible to make educated guesses about the rationales behind those decisions, but this question even goes beyond that. It asks why Hulse and Taylor weren't recognized - and they certainly were! The OP then effectively wanted to know the 1993 Nobel committee chose a particular phrasing. That's not something we can say with any certainty, unless a member of the committee decides to swing by our site 28 years later and was allowed to write about the decision. I'd bet you anything that won't happen, and while I'd love to be proven wrong, I don't think I am.

3. If there are significant problems with a question, it should be closed, and sooner rather than later. If someone thinks it can't be fixed, that's totally fine - close away. If someone thinks it can be - and uhoh falls into this category this time around - it should still be closed so we don't get answers that misunderstand or misinterpret the question, because the requisite edits stand a good chance of invalidating them, and fixing the subsequent debacle can be a pain in the neck. I have a couple of flags on Worldbuilding I have to resolve because a question wasn't closed quickly enough, and they're not simple to resolve. Of course, this is all moot if a question simply can't be fixed - see point 2, and what other folks have written in answers to this meta post.

• The OP compared the cases of rotating pulsar discovery to the Higgs particle discovery (using "discovery" flexibly here) and my proposed answer starts from where the question was asked. My answer in a nut shell is that GW weren't discovered or seen in the first case of recognition and the Higgs wasn't discovered in the second. In both cases the major recognition was to contributions that lead to a better understanding, to gravitation in the first and Higgs mechanism in the second. I still think it would make for a pretty good answer to the OP's question.
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 15:50
• Since I'm prevented from posting a real answer there, I've only partially fleshed it out above, just enough to illustrate that answers are possible. Anyway, let's see what happens next. Thanks for your thoughtful answer!
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 15:51
• Upon second reading I certainly do appreciate the points you make about the problems caused by answers that might no longer match the question after the OP responds to the comments (or similar scenarios). I wonder how often those kinds of problems actually happen here in Astronomy SE compared to high question-rate or soft-question sites like Worldbuilding?
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 16:02
• @uhoh I don't have numbers, but I suspect it's quite a bit higher on Worldbuilding thanks to a higher question rate and, yeah, more answers per question. But it's also certainly an issue that can and does happen across the network - the case on Worldbuilding stuck in my head because it happened just the other day.
– HDE 226868 Mod
Jun 12, 2021 at 19:34

This was a poor question and appropriately closed.

I downvoted and commented (however Prof Rob's comment was the same as mine so I deleted my comment). The downvote was for "Lacking research effort", as minimal research would have shown that the Hulse and Taylor were credited, in the most public way possible, by the award of a Nobel prize for the discovery of a neutron star binary radiating GW.

I also downvoted as "Not useful". The tone was not merely "enthusiastic" but conspiracy theory, with the implication that "Big Science" was shutting out the little guys.

I didn't vote to close at first. Perhaps an answer could be written that would challenge the framing of the question, however later and after reflecting on the question I did vote to close. The only possible answer to the question is "I think they were sufficiently recognised", or "I think they weren't sufficiently recognised". This is ultimately a matter of opinion and I voted to close on that basis.

• I still don't understand why immediately blocking the possibility of anybody posting an answer is the best thing to do. The only guaranteed effect of question closing is answer prevention. What harm would have been done letting the question stay open a day or two to allow answers and importantly to allow the OP time to respond the comments and the edit I'd made. Why was answer prevention the best course of action above all other possibilities?
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 15:01
• Because, having thought about it, I think that only an opinion can be expressed as an answer. Either "I think you are wrong and Hulse and Taylor were appropriately recognised" or "I think you are right and this is unfair". It might be possible to write a great answer on the history of Gravitational Waves, or the formal and informal processes of recognition, but such a response wouldn't answer the question. Hence the vote to close. Jun 12, 2021 at 15:07
• Have you read the answer that I've included above in my question that I've been prevented from posting as an answer there? I think it's pretty fact-based. We have to be careful when we think we can be sure that nobody can write a fact based answer just because we can't think of one ourselves off-hand.
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 15:08
• As for allowing answers: I hoped to prevent poor answers. As for allowing the OP to respond, the OP already has, in comments, before the question was closed. Jun 12, 2021 at 15:10
• Indeed I don't think it answers the question. It is a good answer to a different question from the one that the OP posted Jun 12, 2021 at 15:12
• But it's the OP that gets to make that call, right? Why deny them an opportunity to see my or any other answer and have a chance to think about it? Why was answer prevention the best course of action above all other possibilities?
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 15:15
• @uhoh I have heard and read many times that there is no such a thing as a bad question. That is BS. There are bad questions. There are also questions that aren't necessarily "bad" questions but nonetheless are not a good fit for StackExchange. Questions across the SE network are supposed to have definitive answers. A question that allows diametrically opposed opinion-based answers is not a good question for this site. Jun 12, 2021 at 17:00
• @DavidHammen your comment puts words in my mouth that aren't there. It raises a false flag that I've suggested something that I haven't, and deems to explain something to me that I've said probably 100 times myself. I wonder if you are really commenting in good faith here or if you are trying to divert the discussion so that a self-gratifying comment can be posted that sounds clever and admonishing?
– uhoh
Jun 12, 2021 at 22:43

You don't like closed questions, period, @uhoh. Other people don't have a problem with closure. I looked at the question multiple times before I decided to join the herd and vote to close. Closing poorly asked questions can improve the quality of a site.

As an extreme example, the Earth Science SE was getting inundated with "Identify this rock!" questions before deciding to make those questions off-topic. Those questions were driving our experts away.