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The question How is Accio a safe spell? is closed with the following close reason:

Questions seeking scientific solutions or explanations are off-topic unless related directly to a cited work of fiction. There are several other Stack Exchange sites dedicated to answering questions on non-fictional sciences. For more information, see What is our actual policy on science questions? on meta.

Yet the question seems to squarely fit the exception for questions that are "related directly to a cited work of fiction". The question reads as follows:

Why couldn’t Newt use ‘Accio’ to retrieve all his beasts?

‘Accio’ only works on inanimate objects. While people or creatures may be indirectly moved by ‘Accio-ing’ objects that they are wearing or holding, this carries all kinds of risks because of the likelihood of injury to the person or beast attached to an object travelling at close to the speed of light.

JK Rowling’s New Website

It says that Accio-ed objects travel at close to the speed of light. Why do such objects not wipe out mankind from the face of the Earth (relativistic Kinetic Energy and air friction/ drag ju-ju)?

I know that electricity doesn't work well near magic, but it can't explain the above scenario.

This seems to clearly be a question about a work of fiction, namely Harry Potter. The question seeks to understand how certain objects in Harry Potter act contrary to how they should act according to science. That is, that according to science these objects should be destroying everything yet in the story they don't.

It does not seem to be asking for the science to be explained; it presupposes the science and asks what mechanism within the story allows science to be overridden. In fact, the questioner even suggests a potential resolution, and that resolution is a fact relating to the fictional setting rather than a scientific fact. Though the questioner rejected that resolution, it should still show that what is being sought is an explanation of Harry Potter rather then an explanation of science.

Moreover, in the two existing answers there is barely a reference to science. Both answers use information from within the stories to address the question. If the question can be answered from the books rather than from science then it is likely not a question about science.

Additionally, the user who asked the question is one of the top users of the site (by reputation), and therefore presumably aware that science questions are off-topic. This is not some new user who may have asked a science question not knowing any better; the fact that the question was posted at all should be enough to grant the benefit of the doubt unless it is very clear that it is actually a science question.

Repeated attempts to have the question reopened have failed. Can someone explain why this question remains closed when it seems to be asking about how something works in a fictional story, and the current answers address how it works in the fictional story? If not can it be reopened?

  • Related Chat discussion. – Alex Apr 9 at 1:45
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    In its current form it appears to be seeking a scientific explanation for how magic works. It could be on-topic if you reframed it to simply ask whether the quote is accurate in-context of what we see (e.g. "Do things actually move at the SOL when accio'd" – Valorum Apr 9 at 6:23
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    "This is not some new user who may have asked a science question not knowing any better" - You might want to note that this user has a highly variable history when it comes to questions. Ask around in chat, but they've had multiple questions deleted in a very high profile way, as well as asking questions that have resulted in suspensions and other sanctions. The fact that a user has a high rep doesn't insulate them from asking bad questions. – Valorum Apr 9 at 6:26
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    @Valorum 1/3 I'd say it's not seeking a scientific explanation for how magic works, but an explanation for how the magic deals with science. The line in the linked answer that defines what questions are on-topic states: Any question that is asking for an answer within the context of a fictional universe, even if that question requires real-world science information, is on-topic. The line that defines what questions are off-topic states: Questions which are explicitly asking for an out-of-universe explanation of the science from a work of science fiction or fantasy should be off-topic. – Alex Apr 9 at 6:46
  • 2/3 Given that this question is "asking for an answer within the context of a fictional universe" and is not "explicitly asking for an out-of-universe explanation of the science" it should be on-topic. The question essentially is that in our world objects traveling at that speed destroy everything, so how does everything not get destroyed in the Harry Potter world? That question can be better answered by a Harry Potter nerd than a physicist. – Alex Apr 9 at 6:46
  • 3/3 I did not suggest that having high reputation insulates someone from asking bad questions. I suggested that it would indicate that a user is aware that science questions are off-topic. If this particular user has a history of asking improper questions despite having enough reputation to know better, I am happy to be corrected on that point. – Alex Apr 9 at 6:49
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    Again, I'd stress that as written, the question is (imho) off-topic because it asks us to explain how magic allows things to happen that defy underdstanding (answer, because magic). There's a decent question there, but the one that's being asked isn't it, and fighting a running battle to preserve a bad question is not something that's conducive to good site etiquette when it could just be changed to a better question and preserve the kernel – Valorum Apr 9 at 6:50
  • @Valorum Sure, an answer may be based on "because magic", but that doesn't mean there's not a more detailed explanation of the magic. And in this particular case, the top answer wasn't "because magic", but that the question was based on a false premise. – Alex Apr 9 at 6:52
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    @Valorum I don't think there's an obligation to change a question to a different question just because the different question is "better". A question's on-topicness or off-topicness stands on its own merits (i.e. how it fits the criteria of topicality), not on how much better the question could have been. – Alex Apr 9 at 6:54
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    There's a marked difference between changing the question to a different question and changing the focus to something on-topic. – Valorum Apr 9 at 6:58
  • @Valorum The discussion is not about whether there is a more on-topic focus. The discussion is about whether the current focus is on-topic. If the current focus is on-topic then an edit is unnecessary. – Alex Apr 9 at 7:12
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    as you've said, there have been repeated attempts to both open and close the question. Consensus shouldn't be about 'last man standing' or who can shepherd the most meta votes for/against a particular question when there's a viable alternative available – Valorum Apr 9 at 7:31
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    @Valorum Viable alternatives don't address the issues at play. Editing a borderline question is not a compromise or a middle ground between the two points of "on-topic" or "off-topic"; it is actually the same as saying that the question is off-topic. Either way the question can't be asked. (And it can deviate from the author's intent.) – Alex Apr 9 at 7:46
  • It's funny that I came to know about the meta post after the original question got locked. – Captain Cold Apr 10 at 7:34
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The question is definitely on-topic given that JKR herself tries to use real-world science to justify things in magic universe. It's implicit in the question that I am looking for answers from the canon, but if this is an issue, I can explicitly mention that by adding one sentence (unfortunately, the post is locked at this point, so I can't edit it).

I'd also like to quote Alex's comment which I believe clarifies the things better:

Given that this question is "asking for an answer within the context of a fictional universe" and is not "explicitly asking for an out-of-universe explanation of the science" it should be on-topic. The question essentially is that in our world objects traveling at that speed destroy everything, so how does everything not get destroyed in the Harry Potter world? That question can be better answered by a Harry Potter nerd than a physicist.

Another of Alex's comment which is worth a look:

Imagine if someone asked why the quaffle doesn't always fall to the ground during Quidditch matches because of gravity. You could answer "because magic" but that would be pretty lame. That doesn't tell us how the magic deals with gravity. Is there simply no gravity in Harry Potter? Are Quidditch matches played on an anti-gravity field? There are any number of options. However, a good answer might say that (as mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages) indeed it used to fall until shortly after 1711 when it was bewitched to fall slowly.

Guys, think it through.

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    Elements are on-topic but not the bit about whether it's scientifically plausible. We're not physicists, we're specialists in science fiction – Valorum Apr 10 at 11:55
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    @Valorum Did I ask whether it's scientifically possible? I asked: How is it made possible in-universe? An example answer can be: Because Accio creates an aura around objects to negate relativistic effects as mentioned by Rowling in this interview (or, as mentioned in this chapter of book 9).. – Captain Cold Apr 10 at 12:37
  • But then we're back at "magic takes care of it" which disregards the science entirely – Valorum Apr 10 at 12:51
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    @Valorum If you disregard it, majority of Harry Potter questions would become invalid because lots of explanations offered by the canon are magic in general. – Captain Cold Apr 10 at 15:27
  • Asking how magic works is always tricky since it palpably doesn't. Asking how it takes care of sciencey things is even worse because it patently can't. The fact the people keep pointing at the rider "unless related directly to a cited work of fiction" as being evidence that they're allowed to ask sciencey questions is where the problem occurs. – Valorum Apr 10 at 17:55
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    @Valorum 1/2 Asking how magic works is perfectly fine. Imagine if someone asked why the quaffle doesn't always fall to the ground during Quidditch matches because of gravity. You could answer "because magic" but that would be pretty lame. That doesn't tell us how the magic deals with gravity. Is there simply no gravity in Harry Potter? Are Quidditch matches played on an anti-gravity field? There are any number of options. However, a good answer might say that (as mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages) indeed it used to fall until shortly after 1711 when it was bewitched to fall slowly. – Alex Apr 10 at 19:15
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    2/2 That's an answer that explains how magic deals with science. That's precisely why there's an exception to the off-topic reason for questions that reference a specific work of fiction. As you said, "we're not physicists, we're specialists in science fiction". These are questions that a physicist would not be able to answer while a science fiction specialist would, and that is exactly why they are on-topic. – Alex Apr 10 at 19:15
  • @Alex Wow. What an example. +1. – Captain Cold Apr 11 at 0:35

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