I once saw a question that I think was titled "Do irrational numbers really exist?" and it later got deleted. I think the person who asked it had a real question. I think that person had an intuition for a number system where there are infinite numbers but no infinitesimal numbers so 1 divided by any infinite or negative infinite number was exactly 0 in that system. They probably also learned that a rational number is a number that can be expressed as an integer divided by a nonzero integer. They asked something like "Isn't square root of 2 rational because it can be expressed as an infinite integer divided by another infinite integer?" I don't remember seeing any other Stack Exchange question that appears to be by somebody who has the intuition for a number system where there are infinite numbers but no infinitesimal numbers and 1 divided by any infinite or negative infinite number is exactly 0. However, the person who asked that question probably is not the only person who has the intuition of that kind of number system. Wouldn't it be useful to undelete it so that people can see that somebody actually for real had that kind of confusion but close it because it's unclear.

Some people with a lot of experience teaching students using a student centered approach might be really great at figuring out what confusion somebody had that led them to ask a question like that. Maybe they could write comments to find out what the author of the question is really confused about and then eventually the question might get reopened.

Maybe quite a lot of Stack Exchange users have a real question but have a bad habit of asking unclear questions but have the potential to learn how to put a lot of effort into a question and the best way to make them do that is to give them an incentive to do that. Could one way to do that be to create another point system distinct from the reputation point system, where every user starts with 30 points for the entire Stack Exchange network and each day, the number of points increases by 1 until it reaches 60 and cannot go higher and they can only ask a question when they have at least 30 points to pay to ask it? That way, everyone is limited to one question a month and it forces people to ponder questions all on their own before asking them. Also when it's done that way, if we also allow people to re ask a fixed up version of a question they already asked before that got deleted or got some answers none of which solved their problem, then after they gain enough experience asking enough questions, it will come to them very naturally to make their question clearer because they will figure out that the reason they didn't get that great an answer on an earlier question is because the person writing the answer couldn't figure out what their question was because they didn't make their question clear.


I don't have any link to the question alluded to, but it is easy to imagine why it was deleted: the same question has been asked before, e.g.

Irrational numbers impossible?

Non-existence of irrational numbers?

Are all numbers rational?

If it had been reasonably written, perhaps it would be duped. Maybe it had a lot of issues that induced readers to vote to delete.

So to address your question,

  1. I seriously doubt it had anything to do with people having problems with the question itself.
  2. It was probably rather the way it was asked and the relevance of the question in the context of an existing body of questions.
  3. Elimination of questions is more often due to quality of content, rather than choice of subject matter. (The former is quite often mistaken for the latter. Even your question is reminiscent of previous meta posts I think I've seen, but I cannot find a good one. Perhaps our resident expert on meta content will lend a hand...)
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Actually, if you are a moderator and search for deleted posts, you can find a few questions about the existence of irrational numbers. Of course none of them are suitable for the site, since they are not mathematical in nature, and from a mathematical philosophy they seem to miss the point by focusing on "finite physical reality". $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jul 10 '19 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ I think in the first of the 3 questions you linked, I think maybe the author had intuition for the hyperreal number system and had intuition for the the inexistence of irrational numbers so they assumed that only the notations that eventually repeat represent a number. They spoke of a terminating decimal as not repeating because if you don't write the zeros at the end, you don't get a string of digits that repeats for ever. I think the confusion of the author of the second question was making the logical fallacy that since a random number has the property that for any string of digits, that $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ string of digits appears somewhere, the sequence of all the digits after the decimal starts again somewhere after the first digit. The confusion of the author of the third question was in thinking a rational number was any number that could be expressed in fraction notation. I think the author of each of those questions had a different question so it's a good thing those questions weren't deleted entirely. The first 2 of them had an answer that solved the author's problem. I think the author of the question I mentioned that got deleted had a different question. I think that although they $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ didn't make it clear, their question was "How is it possible that irrational numbers exist? It can be shown using $1 \div \infty = 0$ that every number can be expressed as an integer divided by a nonzero integer." $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 18:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Timothy Like I said, the burden would have been on the new questions's asker to both write a clear question and justify why it's different from the ones above. Failing one of those may have led to deletion, I don't know. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Jul 10 '19 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe quite a lot of Stack Exchange users have real questions that they are putting so little effort into. I'm wondering if using my idea where each person gains 1 point a day until they reach a maximum of 60 points and can always ask a question when ever they have at least 30 points to pay to ask it, it could work really well. Sometimes people have ideas that never get out there. If the question only gets closed but not deleted, the asker will eventually be able to ask another question that links it explaining why its answers did not solve their problem. Also, after they gain more experience, $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ they might figure out what the person who wrote the answer could not figure out about what they were confused about and figure out that their best chance of not delaying themself another month to get an answer that solves their problem is to figure out how to explain what they're confused about. Also because that plan allows them to ask a question that's a fixed up version of one they asked before, they might eventually figure out how to ask it again making it clearer what their confusion is, and then they'll really help the Stack Exchange community by helping them figure out what $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ misconceptions people tend to have in general. Also, Jonathan Fischoff who probably had a real question as described in the answer at math.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… would be able to eventually ask another question in a clearer way if their problem hasn't already been solved. If their problem has been solved by an answer from an earlier question, it might be worth indefinitely leaving that question closed but not deleted so that the community can see that somebody really had that question and then their problem got solved, even though they $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ will probably never ask another question based on it because their problem was already solved. Then somebody else who has the same question might at first ask one and then see that it's marked as a duplicate of the already existing closed question and then later, they might figure out to ask a clearer version of that question explaining what their confusion is and why none of the answers to that question solved their problem. $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 10 '19 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe if I had discussed only the part of the point system and the possible frequent general tendency for people to not put much effort into the question, it would have been more suitable for the main meta site than the mathematics meta site but I also had a question about a the problem of questions getting deleted a possible solution on how to have the author eventually able to ask a clear version of a question they had. Before I posted this question and saw how it went, with the knowledge and experience I had before I posted it, I had enough experience to think a question like that would be $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 11 '19 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ unlikely to be suitable on the main meta site but with less experience on this meta site, there was a higher chance that a question like that but with the additional details of a question that got deleted might be suitable on this meta site. $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 11 '19 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that question was necessary to delete. Maybe some day way later, that person could solve their own problem and then answer their own question and accept their own answer. That would be a quite valuable contribution. It helps people learn how other people think and learn and makes them better at answering other people's questions. Also, that question wasn't very unclear to me. I can tell that they probably had the intuition of a number system where $\infty$ exists and $1 \div \infty = 0$. $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Jul 30 '19 at 2:53

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