This question was published yesterday Why is lead radioactive? and within a day it has been viewed 2000 times. From its view count alone we can assume that this question is mulled over by most people and have questions regarding the radioactivity of lead. Because the questions premise is wrong Chemistry.SE community has voted to close (Now its 4 votes) it. My question is whether its good to close down a question to which world wants to know the answer

  • $\begingroup$ It's okay to make your meta question about that specific post it you'd like. General rules of thumb are helpful, but it's easier for people to voice their views for the specific case. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you do elect to make it specific, please leave a link to this meta question in the comments of the main question. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ @jonsca thanks for the help. i have left a comment regarding this meta in main question $\endgroup$
    – Eka
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:25

4 Answers 4


I mostly agree with MARamezani, just because questions are popular it does not mean they belong to the site or should not be closed.

In this specific case, however, I would argue differently. Just because a question is based on a wrong premise, it does not mean it is not worth asking. The wrong premise must come from somewhere. I truly believe that debunking a myth, like ringo and loong did in this case is far superior to closing it down, preventing it from getting more attention.

For the same reason, I answered a question today, that was based on an outdated concept and premise (Which d orbitals of sulfur take part in the pi bonds of SO3?).

For the same reason I wanted the scope of extended (Should we extend the scope of textbook-erratum?).

If we consider questions that are based on misconceptions, outdated and/or false information to be off topic, we can never expect those to vanish and I always thought that was the case.

On a side note, I do think this question should have been closed, but not for this reason. I think it is a much better fit for physics though. That being said, imagine the question would have been:

Is Lead (Pb) radioactive? Radioactivity refers to release of alpha beta gamma rays. What property of Lead would it make it so?

Would you still have voted to close this question for the given reason?

  • $\begingroup$ So, should the question remain closed or be reopened? $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ @MARamezani Reopen or migrated to physics. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ But, but...but "... preventing it from getting more attention."? How does a closure prevent it from getting attention? Also, I rather followed the bigger SE communities' models in dealing with questions like it, so I didn't consider migration. Maybe a flag for migration would call the Asguardian hammer of Jonsca. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ I think the current close reason is incorrect. Radioactivity isn't offtopic. Maybe as you said, the presentation of the question must change a bit. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 5:15

I apologize for creating this controversy. And I give you all the liberty to edit my question to make it better. Sorry once again.

  • 13
    $\begingroup$ There is nothing you should or can be sorry about, you did not do anything wrong at all. The network is a place, where people come to seek help and it shall be granted. Also the 'controversy' it created is necessary for the community to developed. And that being said, you probably did us all a huge favour. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 6:10

As suggested here and here, the question ‘why is lead radioactive?’ is ambiguous and should be edited to clarify the actual problem.

For example, one question could be:

Why is lead radioactive?
Lead is considered the heaviest stable element. Nevertheless, various lead isotopes are radioactive. They are subject to $\alpha$, $\beta^-$ or $\beta^+$ decay, or to electron capture. Which properties of lead radionuclides are the cause of the radioactivity?

However, this question is not really specific to lead, and the answer is mainly related to nuclear physics. I suppose, such a question is what some users had in mind when they wrote their comments, answers or voted to close.

A slightly different question may be:

Why is lead radioactive?
Lead is considered the heaviest stable element. It is used as a shielding material against radiation. Nevertheless, any ordinary piece of lead is itself radioactive. What is the cause of this radioactivity?

This is the question I had in mind when I wrote my answer. It may lead to further radiochemical questions: Where do the radionuclides that are found in lead come from? How do they get into lead? Why are some radionuclides removed when lead is purified and some are not? Can radionuclides escape from lead or lead compounds? Why do some materials contain enhanced activity concentrations of lead radionuclides? What are the potential radiological consequences caused by lead radionuclides?


Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: I haven't seen the case here yet. But on meta.SE, you'll see some very interesting instances of...well, I recommend clicking on this:


Some people there go whining about why a question with xk views and y upvotes just gets closed or locked1. The problem is,

Popularity isn't always equal to quality

Sometimes a question gets upvotes because of its popularity, not quality. SE sites are there for having a quality-oriented source of expert questions, not just some popular questions like:

Does benzene have a resonance structure?

How do I figure out how many electrons are in each shell?

(I used chemistry non-real examples, as I'm not targeting anyone)

Questions with a flawed premise are most-likely unanswerable. If Loong was able to answer the question well, that doesn't mean someone can answer the other ones incoming. According to the broken windows theory, we should stop these from coming in the future, if we want to preserve the quality of the questions.

Edit: I also thought it would be nice if I linked to some of the meta.SE posts about this very issue.

etc etc.

1: Actually, those questions from SO were questions that asked long before the changes done to the SE model, and that's why they're there for "historical reasons". But, all in all, the point was to not not close a question just because it's popular.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't abuse MathJax! On the specific case I am of completely opposite opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, but @Martin I wanted to emphasize my point. The sentence is simply the gist of this answer. Also, getting a question closed isn't something that bad. It'll no longer get further answers. What are your counter-arguments? I'd like to hear them please. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 13:29

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