I am curious to see posts that have polarized readers; that is, posts with many upvotes and many downvotes. So,

Which posts (question or answer) on Math Stack Exchange have a high value of $\min(\text{upvotes, downvotes})$ ?

I exclude meta posts.

I searched the first page of the list of highest scored questions and found:

And I remember this answer:

(I can see the number of upvotes and downvotes in a post by clicking on the number of votes.)

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    $\begingroup$ FYI: the reason you can see the net number of upvotes and downvotes by clicking the number is because you have 1000 reputation, and hence have unlocked the "Established User" privilege. $\endgroup$ Feb 13 at 10:32

2 Answers 2


As already mentioned, this can be done using SEDE.

  • The posts with highest $\min$(upvotes,downvotes): main, meta
  • You can also modify the query to include some additional information about the post (e.g., the post owner): main, meta
  • IIRC the Votes table includes the votes on the posts that already have been deleted - so it is possible to get some stats also about deleted posts: main, meta
  • Since the syntax is the same - it suffices to replace the table Votes by the table PostFeedback, here is the same query for votes coming from the anonymous feedback: main, meta. For more info on the anonymous feedback, see the links in the tag-info. (The anonymous feedback was mentioned in a discussion on this meta about downvoting: How to deal with "discomforting" downvotes?)
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    $\begingroup$ Your SEDE enquiry seems to interpret the minimum of purely down-voted questions and answers as the number of down-votes, rather than 0. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @TheoBendit, I did not realize this problem. (It shows my lack of knowledge of SQL.) I hope it should be fixed in the new version. (For the record, I will include a link to the previous version.) I'll edit the other queries in a similar manner. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 8:58

This information can be obtained from the Stack Exchange Data Explorer (SEDE).

I have almost no experience with SQL, therefore I took the existing query Most controversial posts on the site and modified it slightly to sort the result by the minimum of upvotes and downvotes:

The top three results are

  1. Is this Batman equation for real? (+645/-180)
  2. Integral $\int_{-1}^1\frac1x\sqrt{\frac{1+x}{1-x}}\ln\left(\frac{2\,x^2+2\,x+1}{2\,x^2-2\,x+1}\right) \mathrm dx$ (+270/-99)
  3. Construct a function which is continuous in $[1,5]$ but not differentiable at $2, 3, 4$ (+943/-59)

Your find How long will it take Marie to saw another board into 3 pieces? is #6 in this list.

The SEDE data is updated only weekly or so, therefore the actual current vote counts can be slightly different from what is shown in the query result.

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    $\begingroup$ I will just mention that the query "Most controversial posts on the site" is also listed in the post Interesting queries on Data Explorer on Meta Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ Feb 13 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ That's the better question, @Martin: controversial. Or the word "contentious". The title of this question is hardly clear. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Feb 13 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy How would you quantify "controversial" or "contentious"? $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Feb 13 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ It can be better defined than "Which posts (question or answer) on Math Stack Exchange have a high value of min(upvotes, downvotes) ?" $\min$(upvotes, downvotes) means bost with the minimum of downvotes, or minimum of upvotes. Meaning highly downvoted posts with few, if any, upvotes (if we're minimizing upvotes), or highly upvoted posts with few, if any downvotes (if we're minimizing downvotes). You haven't operationalized that, or you should change your title to say exactly what you mean, Dan. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Feb 13 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy According to my understanding, neither "Highly downvoted posts with few, if any upvotes" nor "highly upvoted posts with few, if any downvotes" has a high value of min(upvotes, downvotes). An example of a post with high value of min(upvotes, downvotes) would be a post with, say, 65 upvotes and 48 downvotes (so min(upvotes, downvotes) = 48). Those are the kinds of posts I was looking for. I may be using the "min" function incorrectly (I don't often use it); if so, please explain. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Feb 13 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ Then using min(upvotes, downvotes), which means, posts with a minimum of either upvotes or downvotes. No problem about your initial phrasing. I'm just trying to help us nail a good title, a bit more clear? How about: "Which posts have a very high number of both upvotes and downvotes.?" $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Feb 13 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ (I absolutely do not understand how the referenced answer could get 270 upvotes ...) $\endgroup$
    – Martin R
    Feb 14 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @martinR Cleo was the first to answer, which explains most of the upvotes. Also, the way they answered created an air of mystery, which some people found delightful and caused them to vote up. The fact that no one else posted an answer with a proof for several days only fueled this. $\endgroup$ Feb 14 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ @MartinR Honestly, it's worth checking out Cleo's profile and answers, as well as the comments beneath them. She was clearly a controversial character, and from a modern MSE perspective, you can see why she has her detractors. But, from what I understand, she could find closed forms (or at least, very plausible closed forms) that computer algebra systems would fail to find, in impressively short time. Commenters speculated that, in refusing to elaborate on methods (which she mostly stuck to), she was inviting a comparison with Ramanujan. Anyway, I found it interesting. $\endgroup$ Feb 18 at 2:25

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