I noticed that this question; Is a Terminator stronger than an elephant has attracted votes to close on the grounds that "Questions seeking scientific solutions or explanations are off-topic unless they relate directly to a cited work of fiction"

Now, I'm no big-city lawyer [ *pulls suspender braces *] but I'm fairly sure that Terminators are fictional which leads me back to the question of why this reason was chosen for closure?

I should note that this question has already been closed/reopened on the spurious grounds of being opinion-based.

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    -1 for snarky tone here, sorry.
    – user8719
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 21:02
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    @JimmyShelter - This one is annoying me. It keeps getting closed for spurious reasons.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 21:18
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    Although I understand your reasoning, being one of the users who closed it on one of it's iterations, I can tell you that the close reason was NOT a perfect fit.. It was just the closest description to the real problem. At the time, the question was specifically comparing it to an elephant; an insufficiently defined real world creature v.s. a fictional robot. As it now reads, it's fine, but I took it as the same vein as 'Who is stronger, Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet or a Professional Wrestler?' Answerable, but requiring too much assumption and fundamentally not of any use.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 2:03
  • Now, had there been a scene where the Terminator watched a rampaging elephant go by and stepped back.. Or perhaps ignored it an almost got trampled, it would have made sense to me.. But absent value, it was a trivial comparison in my mind. Again, as it stands, the elephant comparison is an example, and harmless.. but originally, it was not, and hence, at least to me, it fell into Gorilla v Shark. When I helped close it, the reason was 'off-topic' -- regardless of additional description, that was the closest fit I could find for my problem with it.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 2:07
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    +1 for snarky tone here, sorry. Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 15:42

4 Answers 4


This close reason is wholly inappropriate for this question.

The text of the close reason reads:

Questions seeking scientific solutions or explanations are off-topic unless they relate directly to a cited work of fiction.

Pausing to comment that the close reason doesn't make any claim of "scientific fact" but rather "solutions and explanations" (which unfortunately gives the impression that Richard isn't arguing in good faith here), it remains the case that the Terminator franchise is a cited work of fiction.

The problem with this question is the comparison between a Terminator and an elephant. That's what's causing it to attract close votes, and that's to the detriment of what could otherwise be a good question.

Ward's answer here states:

In all the discussion of this question, no one has given any reason why comparing it to an elephant is worthwhile - how it adds to understanding or enjoying the movies.

This touches on what I say above. Remove the comparison and just ask "How strong is a Terminator?" or "How much weight can a Terminator carry?" or "How much weight can a Terminator pull?" and it becomes a good question. If the asker really wants a comparison between a Terminator and an elephant, he can then Google the figures for elephants and do the comparison himself.

But include the comparison as part of the question and it becomes problematical. The fact that it's currently on it's second round of reopen votes should leave that in no doubt.


From Jimmy Shelter's answer:

The problem with this question is the comparison between a Terminator and an elephant. That's what's causing it to attract close votes, and that's to the detriment of what could otherwise be a good question.

This is, indeed a problem. However, the problem, imho, is that people are confusing closing a question for downvoting it.

It seems to me that the controversy isn't over the idea that a question about the strength of a Terminator is appropriate. Instead, the objections seem to be how the question is phrased, rather than the general intent.

In particular, people seem to object to the question being phrased around what seems a relatively arbitrary comparison.

This is absolutely not a reason to close a question. I could see closing it if the phrasing were offensive, or so poor that it was difficult to understand clearly what the OP was looking for. But clearly neither of those apply.

The question is simple, clear, and answerable. The chosen close reason doesn't even remotely apply, and is evidence that at least some of the people closing it were having a hard time finding a close reason that was relevant, which should be a warning sign.

There are certainly flaws in the question. It has no real context, and it would help greatly if the OP could provide reasons why they wanted to know who was stronger. Perhaps they're writing fan-fiction, and envision some encounter between a Terminator and an elephant. Or perhaps they're GM'ing a role-playing game session where such an encounter might exist. Or perhaps they simply had a discussion with some friends, and want to get a better answer than what they were able to come up with.

In any case, adding this context would improve the question.

But again, lacking context isn't reason for closing. Downvoting, maybe, but saying it is off-topic, particularly if that includes the claim that the Terminator franchise isn't a specific work of fiction, is mis-use of the close system.

The originally "Primarily Opinion-based" is no better. The OP is, at its core, asking "how strong is a Terminator", and looking for "how strong is an elephant" as a point of comparison. Both of those are objective, not subjective, and the close reason is simply wrong.

A better question would be "how strong is a Terminator?", and if it were phrased that way, there would be no controversy, I believe. Even Jimmy Shelter's answer above, currently the highest voted answer here, and arguing that it should be closed, admits that with just a very simple change, not only would it be appropriate, it would be good.

So why, exactly, are people picking clearly incorrect close reasons, rather than simply improving the question? Anyone who can cast close votes can also make edits.

Edits should be the first course of action if you feel a question has a problem, and you feel it can be improved, particularly if you feel there's a good question somewhere at the heart, but it isn't quite there yet.

I've gone ahead and made such an edit. I'm honestly disappointed that the only edits previously were grammar changes, when clearly so many people had issues with the basic phrasing.

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    I was going to make such an edit but was cautious because I was unsure of the asker's intent in asking the question; would removal of the comparison change the asker's intent?
    – user8719
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 14:37
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    That's why I tried to include the original intent as a secondary focus in my edits. If they get an answer to the simple "how strong is a terminator", they could presumably do additional research on the elephant strength (perhaps a follow-up question on biology.se), but this way a generous answer could address both, without compromising the quality of the question.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 14:52
  • You had me at "simply improving the question"--- feature request: a different type of 'edit' that can only be accepted by the author. A "clarification request edit"
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 2:32

No, this question should never have been closed and certainly not for the reason given. The question clearly isn't based on scientific analysis, it's based on fictional references to the Terminator franchise of films, TV shows, comics and books.

As such, the VTC reason is wholly inappropriate. Although it's clear that people don't like this question, I fail to see how it's substantially different from other questions about the strength or attributes of a fictional characters such as this, this, this or this.

A simple downvote would have sufficed.


Yes, this question should be closed, and the reason given is acceptable, if not ideal.

In my mind, this would have been a perfect match for the former close reason "too localized:" the person asking thought it was a fun comparison, but so is "can a terminator jump farther than a kangaroo?" In all the discussion of this question, no one has given any reason why comparing it to an elephant is worthwhile - how it adds to understading or enjoying the movies.

I was the first person to vote on this round of closing the question, and I think my reasoning was that it was the best available reason. It is asking for real-world analysis of a fictional entity, which is problematic: in this case, although I think your analysis is basically sound, I don't think it would be possible for the terminator to carry a 1-tonne casket as shown in the movie - I think the center of gravity would be too far to one side and he'd actually tip over.

  • How is it different from simply asking "how strong is X"?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 20:58
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    @Richard - it's the comparison that is the problematic part. If the question were edited to reword it with a focus on "how strong is X", and the comparison removed, it seems to me that it would be less likely to attract controversy.
    – user8719
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 21:01

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