Walter Lewin: I have not been made for Quora

User, Professor of Physics at MIT from 1966–2009, has just quit Quora after being edit blocked.

This is his farewell video.

Several of the topics he broaches on have been mentioned elsewhere, including:

  • The place of humour in scholarship
  • Quora vs Google
  • Lazy do-my-homework questions on Quora
  • Not feeling appreciated by Quora for the contributions he has made

There’s several things to discuss about this, but I’ll let you all tease them out in comments.

Oh, and he’s being actively courted by YouTube users to join Physics StackExchange instead.

What were the last years of the Byzantine Empire like in Constantinople?

Stop reading this, and go upvote Michael Pothoven’s answer to What were the last years of the Byzantine Empire like in Constantinople?


I’ll wait.

One of the conundrums of early Ottoman Constantinople is that there were many churches that were left alone after the Conquest, and not converted into mosques. The norm was that if a Christian city resisted a Muslim siege, all its churches could be converted to mosques; if the city surrendered, its churches would be left alone.

I don’t remember where I read this, but the solution to the conundrum I’ve seen proposed is that by then, Constantinople was so sparsely populated, that its outer suburbs were effectively separate settlements, surrounded by farmland. And those suburbs, cut off and living from subsistence farming, could easily have organised their own surrenders to the Ottomans, ignoring what was happening downtown.

Michael Pothoven paints a depressing picture of the last days of Constantinople. The detail I’ve given here, I find even more depressing.

What is the most ridiculous reason you’ve been edit banned on Quora?

Hello, Olivia. I’ve noticed you post a couple of things on Race & Ethnicity, but I’m flattered you’ve noticed me enough to A2A me this.

I’ve only ever received a couple of warnings. My story on my first warning, which *I* thought was ridiculous, is recounted in a two-parter:

What happened next? by Nick Nicholas on The Insurgency

My first BNBR warning by Nick Nicholas on The Insurgency

My friend Jennifer Edeburn and I have discussed this since. I see the argument for it; it’s Tatiana Estévez: “Having people insult each other as ‘banter’ doesn’t create a good atmosphere” by Nick Nicholas on The Insurgency. I think it’s silly. But there you have it.

John Gragson thought that was even more chickenshit than the warning he got, as he commented at…. He got a BNBR warning for *that*. The irony, the irony.

And then of course there’s the moderation actions against Michael Masiello, Habib Fanny, Gigi J Wolf, Lara Novakov, Red Subijano, and Jeremy Markeith Thompson, that prompted my deactivation (and later on, most epic comic strip), as laid out in Nick Nicholas’ answer to Do you believe Quora moderation is doing a good and responsible job of maintaining this site’s policies? Why or why not?

There have been bans for formatting: I have seen a user who consistently used way too many bolds and caps and italics (her stuff read a bit like a ransom letter) get banned. (Don’t remember her name, but she was Indian, and posted a lot on Hinduism.) A very dim view was taken by Quora management in the Top Writer lounge, against a current teen user who used red colour in his posts. (“Severe violation.”) The ransom letter user was annoying, but “banned for formatting”… yeah, that looks bizarre.

There’s plenty of ridiculous-looking reasons about. Yes it can be argued that we only ever get one side of the story. Yes it can be argued that moderation needs to be “rule-bound” (translation: robotic) if it is to scale to deal with the population of Quora. Yes it can be argued that the guidelines are clear. (I’d argue against that: many of them, you could drive a truck through.) Yes, it’s Quora’s site, and they owe nobody any first amendment rights. Or anything, really.

And I still get to find some of the reasons for moderation sanction silly.

There are modern Greek bibles on called FPB (Filos Pergamos Bible) and NTV. When were these published, and what does NTV stand for?

The Filos Pergamos Bible is the 1993 translation by Spyros Filos, published by Pergamos publishers:

As discussed at… , my assumption is that the NTV is the “Four Professors’” translation of the New Testament, which was published by the Bible Society in 1967. But I don’t know that for a fact, and I don’t know what NTV stands for (New Testament Version? Neohellenic Translation Version?):

In Ancient Greek, how common is this declension? It’s in the second declension group but called “attic declension.”

To add to the others:

The Attic declension is indeed specific to Attic: it represents a sound change specific to that dialect, whereby V̄ο > V̆ω, where V is any vowel that can be long. So Doric νᾱός, Ionic νηός, Attic νεώς.

As Robert Todd said:

Personally, I didn’t memorize these. I pick them up in continuous reading and apply the following mental adjustment to the “ο” stem second declension specimens – it it’s ο, ου, α then ω, if οι then ώ.

With λαγώς, you’re also seeing some vowels being merged together.

This is an annoying peculiarity of Attic, and Koine dropped it like a stone; abandoning the Attic declension is in fact a major source of Doric words in Koine.

I don’t even go as far as Robert in my memorisation: I just think “Oh, an omega is there. Attic Declension. I’ll treat it like an omicron. Or an omicron upsilon. Whatever works.” They really are just second declension nouns with a long final vowel.