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Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman and Iranian to win Fields Medal, has died (thewire.in)
614 points by urahara on July 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments



I hope to study (non-inter-universal) Teichmueller theory some day, as a side quest on my own journey (which is vaguely directed in some sense toward number theory at present). It's the best way I can think of to honor her memory: to learn to appreciate the ideas that she devoted her life to understanding better.

Here is a picture of her drawing on one of her vast sheets of paper.

https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2014/08/Maryam-Mirza...


Interesting, I don't think I've run into another mathematician who sketches on large sheets of paper like that (not that that means there aren't any). I do know some architects who like to work that way, and it used to be common in engineering (rarer in recent years), but mathematicians seem to always be depicted working either in notebooks, on the backs of napkins, or on whiteboards/blackboards.


I'm an artist who makes math and physics visualization sculptures, I LOVE taking notes on 18"x24" drawing paper with a combination of colored pencil, fountain pen, and gel pen. For long derivations rather than notes/sketches, I prefer 11"x14" drawing paper in two columns because I think it's more comfortable to work with, but it still gives me that bird's-eye view of everything I want if I go back and color code stuff. A lot of my work is done in regular size sketchbooks, though.


I have no idea what math and physics visualization sculptures refers to, but would love to see if you can show us.


Wow, sounds fascinating. Can you share some links to photographs of your work?


Hm... I think a large sheet of paper on a drafting table, with a chair on a low-friction sliding rail, might be a really good way to organize large projects/concepts.


Her work was in (the more visualizable parts of?) geometry/topology.


It looks like her research is here:

http://math.stanford.edu/~mmirzakh/Research.html

And the paper in question that got the Fields Medal might be one of these:

http://math.stanford.edu/~mmirzakh/Papers/VA.pdf

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1206.5574.pdf

It looks like her work involved counting the number of equivalent paths between two points on surfaces that have been punctured.


Curtis McMullen describes Mirzakhani's prize-winning work here

http://www.math.harvard.edu/~ctm/papers/home/text/papers/icm...

and as a talk at 2014 ICM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VC7MZv1JH8w


If anyone needs any background info on her work, there are a number of sources gathered here:

http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2014/08/links-on-mar...

It includes this, a quote that is the best laymen's explanation of her work that I could find:

Mirzakhani became fascinated with hyperbolic surfaces — doughnut-shaped surfaces with two or more holes that have a non-standard geometry which, roughly speaking, gives each point on the surface a saddle shape. Hyperbolic doughnuts can’t be constructed in ordinary space; they exist in an abstract sense, in which distances and angles are measured according to a particular set of equations. An imaginary creature living on a surface governed by such equations would experience each point as a saddle point.

It turns out that each many-holed doughnut can be given a hyperbolic structure in infinitely many ways — with fat doughnut rings, narrow ones, or any combination of the two. In the century and a half since such hyperbolic surfaces were discovered, they have become some of the central objects in geometry, with connections to many branches of mathematics and even physics.


I remember how excited I was when she received the award as a role model for women and immigrants, and a reminder of how great minds can come from places the US considers enemies. My wife (33) spent most of last year being treated for Breast Cancer (now in remission). This news makes me profoundly sad.


I took her hyperbolic geometry class last year (my senior year at Stanford) and she looked perfectly healthy. She even gave me some advice on my grad school offers. What a shock...


I was auditing that same class. I remember a bunch of us coming to her office hours, and her telling us about her work, and life in Iran.

Truly a sad day.


And I remember seeing her daughter once or twice there. A lovely little girl.


I wrote many things just now. There is nothing to say. Life sucks. Deepest sympathy to all her knew or met or were inspired by her.


This actually shook me awake when I read this. It was just a few months ago my aunts where sharing articles (through Telegram) with us, from Iran, about Maryam and her accomplishments. She was brilliant and really did serve as an inspiration to many Iranians all over. May she rest in peace.


What saddens is that I thought (after talking to many cancer institutes) that breast cancer was one potentially favorable case. Alas cancer is random.


Terry Tao wrote a eulogy for her on his blog: https://terrytao.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/maryam-mirzakhani/


Terrible to lose such a notable person at age 40 due to breast cancer, diagnosed when she was in her mid-30s no less.


The 2014 article https://www.quantamagazine.org/maryam-mirzakhani-is-first-wo... , with the IMU video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNuh4uta8oQ .

2008 interview http://www.claymath.org/library/annual_report/ar2008/08Inter... .

"I would like to thank all those who have sent me kind emails. I very much appreciate them and I am very sorry if I could not reply."


An interview with Maryam from 2008 when she was a Research Fellow at the Clay Mathematical Institute -> this is inspiring: http://www.claymath.org/library/annual_report/ar2008/08Inter...


She was absolutely brilliant in so many ways, what a loss.


Deeply saddened to hear this news. I have immense respect for people like Maryam and Vera Rubin. They could have used their incredible genius to earn riches. Instead they devoted their lives to further math and science. When it was declared that Maryam won the Fields Medal I read the summary. I could barely understand even one word of the summary leave alone the actual work. People like Maryam amaze me. I am just a ordinary mortal working in a tech company. If God had asked me I would have told him to take my life and let Maryam live so we could have progress in math. Life is so unfair. I can't image how much math's progress has suffered with her passing. Deepest condolences to her family. RIP.


What a tragic loss for the mathematics community and her husband and young daughter. Deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues, and students.


This was terrible news today. It made me genuinely sad. I hope she rests in peace while all the humanity honors her.


Oh no :/ Such a terrible loss..


I cried a bit. Life is unfair


I feel sadness for her family, specially her spouse and daughter - sucks losing your mom and wife. As for Maryam herself, nothing to cry about I would think. She shined brightly, lived a full life, and here we are all wishing her RIP. I think she did fine.


What a sad day. Too soon.


RIP, very sorry to hear this news.


Sad news


It's immensely disappointing that this comment section has has an abundance of comments on iranian socio-political issues, while completely devoid of any discussion on dynamics on moduli spaces.


I agree with you but this tar is so sticky that any trace of it, even one brought up to negate it, will only attract more of the same and start the cycle all over again. Therefore I need to detach this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14776588 and mark it off-topic (as of course I mark my own comments that go into this). You're welcome to post another comment upthread that's on topic and tar-free.


Can you remove my comment altogether? It's getting downvotes because in light of you cleaning up the rest of this thread my comment here is no longer relevant.


Suggestion: Have threads marked offtopic start "collapsed". People can open them if they wish (and the browser will remember it), but they start closed.


This (edit: or something like it) is on the list.


Any typical human can form opinions on politics; it takes more work to say something meaningful about mathematics.


Can we get a black bar for this?


This definitely needs one.


I'll ask it differently: why are we not getting a black bar for this?


How tragic.


This is such sad news. RIP.


Iranian here, one point I really want to mention is following despite our theocratic regime, really I have to mention, Iran is not Suadi Arabia or anything like that. Girls and Boys do get the almost exactly same education, they have great opportunity to be a successful scholar in any branch of science they want (yes, It is like USA, your parent demographic will decide which university you most like end up into. But this issue is the issue of most part of the world and we cannot blame Iran, USA or any specific country for this, we should blame the system).

She got her bachelor degree from one of our top universities (Sharif University) and went to Harvard from there and there is plenty of science-eager students like her are there waiting for an opportunity to become next Maryam Mirzakhani.

Come to Tehran. I know you hear a lot of bad thing about Tehran and Iran from Right wing political media outlets. But believe me, you are going to see Paris of the middle east and whole new generation of liberal people who believe in personal freedom and freedom of speech.

It really bothered me when I saw her talking about how people of USA think about Iran as desert and all women wearing an abaya. No they are not, we are a new generation and we are different and although our regime tries its best to suppress us, we are the future of Iran.


I'm sure you meant well but you sparked a political flamewar with this generically off-topic comment. Now instead of talking about a fine mathematician people are going on about terrorism and how whichever side they identify against is the one to blame for wars.


I didn't wanted to started this flamewar. But i have to discuss this because my country is under attack from insane right wing mentality when in our country we have great opportunities and great universities. Even Mirzakhani addressed this issue. You can search about it. When she talks about how people in Western countries think about Iran as jungle which every men burns USA flags every day and chants "death to America", when it is not true at all.


(Edit: the above comment has been edited to say "I didn't wanted to start this flamewar". Originally it said "I wanted to start this flamewar". Probably this was just a language misfire and that's fine, but since there were objections below I should make clear that my reply was posted prior to the edit, as you can see from the bit that I quoted.)

> I wanted to started this flamewar. Because my country is under attack from insane

I respect your country. Nevertheless this violates HN's rules and if you do it again we will ban you.

The only place to keep Hacker News as a place for things that gratify intellectual curiosity is to keep it free of nationalistic indignation, however justified. It's always justified, and it's always off topic here.


At least by my reading, 0xFFC's comment wasn't particularly nationalistic. He or she wasn't putting Iran above other nations or expressing loyalty or devotion to the Iranian state (in fact by calling out "the regime" I'd say it was the opposite of that). I understand wanting to avoid flamewars, but I think you're putting the blame on the wrong person here.


It isn't a question of blaming a person. It's a question of where the flamewar started, and it's clear that it started with the off-topic, generic, nationally-themed comment that began with Iran, went straight to an opposition to Saudi Arabia, etc. I didn't say this was intentional—on the contrary. It would be nice if unintentional fires didn't burn as hot as intentional ones, but the opposite is the case.

The way we moderate threads like this is rooted in many years of experience with the dynamics of internet forums. It was predictable that a comment like that would provoke a flamewar (as indeed we got, leading all the way to the Godwin-lite of 9/11). Commenters here need to learn about this dynamic and be less negligent if they want to keep commenting here—otherwise the site will end up in flames.

If most of you (where by you I mean all of us) look at your reactions closely, you'll notice that in most cases where you don't like a moderation decision, it's because you sympathize with the comment that was moderated. (In the case of a political comment, that means sympathizing with one side more than the other.) But when we ask someone not to start flamewars or ask them to stop continuing a flamewar, such moderation posts are quite orthogonal to the content of the argument. That is, I can sympathize 100% with the content of a comment and sympathize 100% with its author's feelings and still post exactly the same as if those numbers were 0 rather than 100. (Edit: this is a slight exaggeration, but in a way that's a separate topic.) It's just the nature of the job, and the same would be true for anyone else after they'd done this enough thousands of times.


>I respect your country. Nevertheless this violates HN's rules and if you do it again we will ban you.

Genuinely asking, which rules?

Sorry i need to clarify what I meant by country. I don't respect flags and idea. So we can both agree i am not nationalist. I don't respect the idea of iran or USA or etc. I respect humanity.

By country what I meant was the people. Out people (take for example students m) are under fierce attack of right wing mentality as terrorist when there is literally 0 terroric attack related to iran happen in USA in any last 20 years(50 years?).

Yet i cannot visa and i am waiting for almost 1 year even considering i have full scholarship from UIC.

But Suadi Arabia which literally where every terroristic attack rooted from in last 20 year is not in the ban list.

So , genuinely asking. I am nationalist, or i am trying to present a logical question?


These rules: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html. Especially the rules regarding civility, politics, and intellectual curiosity, which are the most important ones. Nationalistic flamewar—which you started—is the essence of all that we don't want here, regardless of how well-intentioned you are.

Life-and-death questions of national identity are far stronger and more important than the things that gratify intellectual curiosity. For that reason, we all (and you in particular) need to bracket those stronger topics and stronger emotions when commenting here. To do anything else is to give up on having a site dedicated to intellectual curiosity at all, and given that that's the raison d'etre of Hacker News, we can't allow that.

It's time for you to stop commenting now and really take this in.


dang, this is literally the first time I recall ever seeing a mod respond like this, and I've seen some pretty off-topic comments before.

The comment was pretty darn civil, we've had political discussions all the time, and you know better than I do that not every well-received comment in HN sparks "intellectual curiosity".

Furthermore, for the life of me I don't see the "flamewar" that was started here. It seems more like you started the flames by threatening an immediate ban. So I'm a little shocked to see you reply like this. You could've just said the comment is off-topic and deleted it quietly, but to suddenly call it a nationalistic flamewar... I don't see how you expect people to take that.


"Threatening an immediate ban" is not accurate. I led with https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14776923. The commenter responded with "I wanted to started this flamewar", which they subsequently edited to say "didn't wanted" (presumably this was a language misfire). Moderation replies can indeed look pretty bad when the comments to which they're replying have been edited to say the opposite of what they originally said!

When I showed up the thread was already full of angry arguments about Hezbollah and 9/11. Perhaps you haven't seen those comments? Some of them are probably flagged by now. I scolded all the users who were doing this and ended up banning the worst couple of offenders, so there shouldn't be any question of favoritism here. And yes, obviously the original comment wasn't nearly as toxic as the ones that followed.

What you guys seem to be missing is that the comment that sparks a flamewar is responsible for what it sparked. It's not as if these dynamics aren't well understood and predictable. The provocation wasn't intentional (that's why I led with saying "I'm sure you meant well"), but it was negligent, and commenters here—all of us—need to learn not to do that. I've had to learn this myself, it took me a long time, and I haven't mastered it yet.

You guys are right about one thing, though: I haven't done a good job of explaining how I intervened in the thread, to judge by how much pushback my comments received. When that happens, I take it as a sign of something wrong in my approach. In this case the reason is that I was running out the door on my way to a workshop, and moderation in haste is never a good idea. Now I'm running back to the same event (late!) so my last half-dozen comments may not be much better, but I hope I've at least given more background explanation.


(Sorry for the long reply -- if you're short of time, feel free to just skip to the arrow on the bottom since that's the most crucial part.)

> "Threatening an immediate ban" is not accurate. I led with https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14776923. The commenter responded with "I wanted to started this flamewar", which they subsequently edited to say "didn't wanted" (presumably this was a language misfire). Moderation replies can indeed look pretty bad when the comments to which they're replying have been edited to say the opposite of what they originally said!

Okay, fair enough, but honestly I feel like as a mod, in the context of the grammar errors and the nature of the rest of the comment (as well as the fact that you wouldn't expect for someone to so quickly admit "I wanted to to start a flame war"), you could've/should've probably realized it was a language issue. Did it honestly not strike you as odd that you'd get a response like this, and did you honestly not expect this might be the case? (Not an actual question I'm expecting a reply to -- I just mentioned it since I think it's worth thinking about.)

> When I ask someone not to start flamewars and they respond by not receiving the feedback and instead saying that they wanted to do it, this is usually a sign that an account doesn't mean to use the site as intended.

How often does this even happen? Do you people ever immediately admit they want to start a flame war? Again, see above. (Again, not necessarily expecting a reply -- just letting you know this is what I'm thinking as I read this part of your comment.)

> When I showed up the thread was already full of angry arguments about Hezbollah and 9/11. Perhaps you haven't read those comments? Some of them are probably flagged by now.

Those comments deserved to be burned with fire. But that's not really an excuse for such a public e-slapping of a different user who put a pretty civil comment whose entire goal was to promote something a peaceful view. (Yes, I have read your rebuttal to this... addressed below.)

> And yes, obviously the original comment wasn't nearly as toxic as the ones that followed. What you guys seem to be missing, though, is that the comment that sparks a flamewar is responsible for what it sparked. It's not as if these dynamics aren't well understood and entirely predictable.

Responsible to some extent, yes, but (a) you can't generally expect users to understand and predict these dynamics as well as a moderator like you, and (b) one is not entirely responsible for everyone else's response to a situation. Moderating such a comment (editing/deleting/etc.) is completely fine. But to go out of your way to publicly shame him in such an unprecedented and strong fashion that so many of has had not even seen before is what struck me (and I suspect others) as utterly disproportional, especially when the topic is kind of sensitive. Not trying to suggest that you should make this a regular thing, but I think if at least if it had been a regular thing, it'd have been less problematic.

However, one additional important (and non-meta) thing I want to note regarding "sparking a flamewar" itself is below.

> If you read that original comment fairly you won't miss the obvious (if unintentional) provocations it contained.

2 things:

First (less important), I only see one potential example of this, which is the use of the term "Right-wing media". <biased>I think it requires a bit of a thin skin to be insulted by someone saying that "$direction-wing media" is portraying my country and people inaccurately, especially given what we regularly see on HN, but whatever.</biased> I don't see anything more than that, so the pluralization of "provocations" and calling them "obvious" does bother me.

====> Second (VERY important), I do think your initial response was excellent. But in your second reply you suddenly went off the mod-rails and provoked a far more awful response when you started calling him "nationalist". Until this point, no particular person had been targeted, and the entire chain had been civil. (Again -- I very much admired how professional and otherwise excellent your initial reply was.) Yet you suddenly derailed and single-handedly flamed him like this. That was just awful and I really did not expect to see it from a mod who's trying to teach users how to avoid provoking others. It honestly made it that much harder to take the rest of what you said seriously and, IMO, completely sent across the wrong message.

> You guys are right about one thing, though: I haven't done a good job of explaining how I intervened in the thread, to judge by how much pushback my comments received. When that happens, I take it as a sign of something wrong in my approach. In this case the reason is that I was running out the door on my way to a workshop, and moderation in haste is never a good idea. Now I'm running back to the same event (late!) so my last half-dozen comments may not be much better, but I hope I've at least given more background explanation.

This is a great response here (and I agree that running out while typing a mod comment is not a great idea!) and yes it definitely helps. But my worry is less about the explanation for your response and more about the response itself -- see the last point above.

Cheers~


I've now had time to read this. I appreciate your dedication to HN, to having a good community, and your wanting to see a fellow user treated fairly. In this we agree. But I'm not seeing a lot to agree with in your analysis.

When you say that I "could've/should've probably realized" that a commenter meant the opposite of what he posted, consider what you're asking for at scale: that we understand what commenters mean regardless of what they say. It may have been obvious to you what that particular comment meant (but did you read it before he edited it to say the opposite, and understand it the correct way? If not, then the luxury of hindsight is at work here.) Different things are obvious to each of us. The things that are obvious to me are easy, so the question is, what about the things that aren't obvious? Translate what you're saying into a general moderation strategy and apply it to those cases and it turns into a requirement to be a mind reader. That I can't do.

In your analysis of the original comment you skipped over "Iran is not Saudi Arabia or anything like that". To me that means you're not reading the comment nearly closely enough to assess how provocative these things are. Perhaps this national swipe happened to align with your own politics and so was less visible to you qua national swipe (I'm sure that's true for most readers here). Nevertheless a national swipe is clearly what it was, however unintentional, and the point we're trying to make over and over to HN users—including our esteemed users from Iran, who are as welcome here as all others—is that it doesn't matter how unintentional that is or even how accurate it is. When you post like this, the flames that result burn the same way as any others. If we don't want HN to be a war zone, we all need to take care of it.

It seems like part of what surprised you is that I told the commenter directly that if we would ban him if he continued to ignore the moderation request. HN has a lot of comments coming through the firehose. I post a lot, but the total of what I post is negligible (a good thing!), so it's unsurprising that you hadn't seen a comment like that before. It's actually pretty standard:

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20%22we%20will%20ban%2...

It is intended to provide clear information about what happens when we've let someone know that they're breaking the rules and ask them to stop, but instead of receiving the feedback they argue and make protests. Why do we do this? Because for some users, it's better this way. For whatever reason, some people don't respond well to polite coaxing but the clear line, "if you do this again, we will ban you", actually works for them in the sense that they then proceed to use the site as intended. When dealing with thousands of users one soon learns that different 'channels' work for different people and one tries to select the channel that's indicated in a situation. Probably this was the wrong selection here, but (short of being a mind reader) it's impossible to make correct selections at scale when a comment says the opposite of what it means. Had I encountered a comment that read, "I didn't want to start a flamewar", I would not have switched to channel B; I would have stuck with channel A (polite coaxing), given a fuller explanation, and said something like "Please stop".

As for my having been in haste, to me that's the root cause of the misunderstanding because with more time to reflect I could have adjusted my reaction to be subtly different. Yet this too has a systemic aspect. HN has a small number of moderators and we all work weekends. HN never stops, but we have to. (We don't stop as much as we should, but that's an occupational hazard and a different story.) Sometimes moderating in haste is unavoidable because the alternative would be never being available to do anything else in life—and I assure you that would not lead to HN being better. So while it's bad to moderate in haste and we don't like to do it and we generally avoid it, trying to avoid it completely would be a mistake.


Thanks dang. The note about scale makes sense; I can't really tell how I would've read the comment before the edit, but it seems plausible that I would've read it similarly to you. And the point about how people respond: it makes sense, thanks. The couple of remaining issues I have:

First: it bothers me that you responded to everything EXCEPT what I had clearly indicated to have been the most important part of my last comment (I marked it as "VERY important")! I can't tell if that means you agree with it, or if you disagree with it, or if you have no idea what to say, or if you forgot to respond to it, but it was literally the only part of my comment that I really hoped for a reply to (which I mentioned in the first line), reproduced here:

>> Second (VERY important), I do think your initial response was excellent. But in your second reply you suddenly went off the mod-rails and provoked a far more awful response when you started calling him "nationalist". Until this point, no particular person had been targeted, and the entire chain had been civil. (Again -- I very much admired how professional and otherwise excellent your initial reply was.) Yet you suddenly derailed and single-handedly flamed him like this. That was just awful and I really did not expect to see it from a mod who's trying to teach users how to avoid provoking others. It honestly made it that much harder to take the rest of what you said seriously and, IMO, completely sent across the wrong message.

Second:

> In your analysis of the original comment you skipped over "Iran is not Saudi Arabia or anything like that". To me that means you're not reading the comment nearly closely enough to assess how provocative these things are.

Interesting! I'm not sure if this is a case of a misunderstanding. I didn't skip over it at all, but rather it never struck me as provocative at all, and it still doesn't. Let me put the context around the quote, because I think it is crucial:

>>> despite our theocratic regime, really I have to mention, Iran is not Suadi Arabia or anything like that. Girls and Boys do get the almost exactly same education, they have great opportunity to be a successful scholar in any branch of science they want

"Despite our theocratic regime" indicates pretty well that this isn't intended to be an Iranian-Saudi fight. There was no hint of the topics that usually come up when that topic arises (notably terrorism and funding of such). The author is clearly not happy with his own government either (again: "despite our theocratic regime"), so the nationalism accusation seems off too. The quote "anything like that" is clearly intended to refute the counterargument "OK, they're not the same, but they're pretty darn close right?". Best as I can tell, Saudi Arabia is pretty clearly chosen here as a point of comparison because it is much more likely to be well-known to and well-understood by the readers, and everything stated after it is merely drawing comparisons using as unbiased- and undisputed-facts as possible. You could honestly substitute any countries here with similar facts ("Italy is not Greece, we haven't defaulted in our history [I think this is true? not sure]", "Turkey is not Iran, despite our Muslim heritage we don't require women to have head coverings", "Britain is not America, we don't allow people to carry guns in public", etc. are some I can think of) and I would feel the same way: it's not provocative at all, it's just stating a well-known, pretty undisputed fact to draw a comparison to illustrate differences that are clear to the writer but not the reader. (If you still find the comment provocative despite all this, I guess we can agree to disagree here. Again, this entire issue is secondary to my first comment above.)

Thanks for the replies!


I'm sorry I neglected to reply to that bit. I guess I just don't share your perception at all? I didn't call him a nationalist and didn't flame him. I wrote, "The only place to keep Hacker News as a place for things that gratify intellectual curiosity is to keep it free of nationalistic indignation, however justified." This phrasing is deliberately general (i.e. about HN as a whole) and impersonal (e.g. "nationalistic indignation" as a genre). Not only did it not target a person, it was specifically worded not to target a person. I also recognized that the feelings behind these comments are justified, as way of making clear that (a) anyone in the commenter's place would feel the same way, but (b) HN's rules nevertheless require not posting those feelings in a way that constitutes flamebait. People on the other sides of these conflicts also have justified feelings. It's hard to remember this, but civil discourse requires that we remember it.

It's not the case that I singled 0xFFC out for harsh treatment. I was much harsher with the commenter who went on tilt in response, and I posted those replies at the same time (possibly sooner in fact, since I vaguely remember going through the thread bottom-up). Moreover, when he didn't stop, I didn't merely say "if you do this again we will ban you"; I went ahead and did ban him—a far harsher response. So I'm not sure why you feel so strongly that my reaction was unbalanced and inequitable. I certainly make mistakes and am happy to learn when people point them out, but I'm not seeing it here.

I agree with you in one way, though, and it's actually the most important thing. The way I reacted provoked a huge discussion about moderation. Any time that happens, the moderation was just wrong. (That's also why I've erred on the side of posting lots of explanation, despite its verbosity and complete offtopicness.) Therefore I need not to react that way in the future, and I will make adjustments in the hope of not provoking those sorts of objections again.

It's not always easy, though. I took heat from other side in this case too, not so visibly, but actually stronger. However much we don't want to—and we really don't want to—we end up standing in the middle of the firefight when people flame each other about things like this, and people on both sides of the conflict go away thinking we're against them, secretly hate their countries, and are in favor of their enemies. That sucks.


> I'm sorry I neglected to reply to that bit.

No worries, thanks for responding this time.

> I guess I just don't share your perception at all? I didn't call him a nationalist and didn't flame him. I wrote, "The only place to keep Hacker News as a place for things that gratify intellectual curiosity is to keep it free of nationalistic indignation, however justified." This phrasing is deliberately general (i.e. about HN as a whole) and impersonal (e.g. "nationalistic indignation" as a genre).

Honestly, this doesn't even pass the laugh test. Just look at what little sense this makes:

1. You said the OP was making a "swipe" at Saudi Arabia, when (a) the OP was simply using it as a reference point, and (b) literally no one else's reply to that comment took any issues with what was said about Saudi Arabia (whether in terms of accuracy, or in terms of civility/offensiveness, or anything else). And the replies about Hezbollah and whatnot were to someone else's comment entirely. But you still thought it was somehow provocative... okay, fine. Now here's the ironic part:

2. At the same time, the OP felt the need to immediately defend himself by saying "i am not nationalist" in a direct reply to your comment where you used the phrase "nationalistic indignation". This means he himself (a) felt your comments were directly targeting him, and (b) that you had accused him of being a nationalist. Someone else took it the same way too, and replied that his comment wasn't nationalistic. And now you, a moderator who seems to be trying very hard to understand things from others' perspective, are suddenly claiming that you in fact "didn't call him a nationalist", and that your statement was in fact "deliberately general (i.e. about HN as a whole)", not about the OP. In other words, he made a comment, you thought it was offensive to Saudi Arabia, no one else had an issue with it, but your view stands. Okay, fine, let's go with that. Then the opposite happened: you made a comment, which made him go into a personally defensive mode directly about what you said, someone else also defended him for the same thing, and now you're denying that you were accusing him of nationalism and that it was just some general statement about HN. I'm assuming you're writing this all with a straight face, but being completely honest with you here, it's so ironic and goes so directly against what actually happened that I'm having quite a hard time even reading it with a straight face, let alone being remotely convinced by it.


From what I would guess, you didn't see a flamewar because off-topic comments have been heavily downvoted and downmodded, pre-empting that situation. I do agree dang's lengthy responses here are unusual -- maybe Saturdays allow for more time to deliberate. But the mod action here seems consistent to what's applied on a regular basis on HN. The difference is that we're getting an explanation for actions we likely take for granted on an average day.


I agree


I have to agree with the others who commented and say I don't think 0xFFC violate the spirit of the rule. We are better off for his comments.


I would like to add that I also don't see anything wrong with his posts. It is a humanizing comment about the people of a country


Dang I respect your work a whole lot and appreciate all that you put in to keep HN a place i like coming back to. But the comment above was totally unwarranted and uncalled for in my opinion. I flagged it (of course, just as a token symbolism).

Promoting self censorship just because a topic is unpopular is not a theme that I associate HN with. Flame war aside I am happy that some sane discussion and information around the topic came to light because of the comment that started this. Not only that in the context of story and the current time I did not find it off topic at all.


I'm very disturbed by your comments. 0xFFC has not been uncivil, nationalistic, or even particularly political. He was merely pointing out that Maryam was representative of a society that is more diverse and tolerant than many people imagine -- an issue that she herself cared about and occasionally addressed. That is fair and on-topic social statement; his only nod to politics was the words "despite our theocratic regime", which I'd also add is a perfectly fair comment.

And yet you slap him down and not davidf18, whose response is, in fact, overtly nationalistic and entirely off-topic.

I would kindly ask you to rethink how you moderate this.


> And yet you slap him down and not davidf18, whose response is, in fact

On the contrary I scolded that user not once but twice, and more harshly, in accordance with the comments themselves.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14776948

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14776963

(and later banned him: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14778558)

Even if I hadn't, though, it's entirely bogus to conclude that moderation responding to one commenter means implicitly endorsing an opposing commenter.


Okay, but I really wanted to show a broader issue which targeted us (Iranian students who have trouble getting visa from USA, when some terrorist can do).

And remember Mirzakhani was in a position exactly like myself in one day. She was from iran, finished her bachelor and was applying to USA universities.

I bet u she had trouble getting visas because of what we discussed already.

Anyway in respect to HN and to show my good intention i am not going to comment in this topic any further, thank u and RIP Mirzakhani.


Thank you for giving your perspective on this, I for one appreciate it.

I also don't see how you've violated the guidelines (which btw. are called "guidelines" and not "rules", but that's another issue). Where you mentioned politics, you were merely stating facts or personal experience.


Iranian-American here ... I think the days where Americans hold anti-Iran sentiments are long past. At least, amongst educated types. There's a lot of curiosity about Iranians and the culture. For example, I just went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas and was surprised to see an exhibit of contemporary Iranian art (i.e., modern art made by young artists recently living in Tehran, NYC, London, etc). The Iranian restaurants, even in Texas, are packed, and half the guests are non-Iranian, American born people.

Probably going through the experience of becoming jaded about our own government helped. We (USA) are now one of those countries where people have to say "don't look at the government, the people are decent." So people here with an ounce of curiosity about the world understand the same as to Iran. And then you have more people who even understand the role the US played in destabilizing Iran which put it on trajectory to its current regime.


Let's hope this translates to on-ground political changes. The current neo-liberal plan for the decapitation of the Middle East does not bode well for the world.


[flagged]


See this is the issue. When looking at the support of terrorist organizations, you need to look at it from both sides.

America and NATO have waged wars in basically every neighbour of Iran except a few. They've been directly helping Saudi Arabia with selling them a crazy amount of weapons. Saudi Arabia is a state that has many times threatened Iran.

All these support for different factions are a geopolitical game. Criticizing Iran for playing the game doesn't make sense as the second they stop their statehood is threatened.

I just would like to add that I hope they stop, but I know why they don't.

Now about the nuclear weapons. This is simply not the case anymore. Let's tackle what you said about that one by one.

- Iran is developing nuclear weapons. - No they aren't. The agreement they made with 5+1 clearly puts Iran under a magnifying glass of scrutiny. The EU and the white house have said countless times that Iran is keeping their side of the deal up.

- Threatening Israel. - This is true, however, Israel is the only country that hasn't signed the NPT. Yes they can technically make nuclear weapons now since they haven't committed to not making it, but at the same time saying Iran threatens them is an understatement. There have been dozens of Israeli officials that have threatened Iran with war. AIPAC has been seriously lobbying in the US to go to war with Iran. So it's not one sided, it's not like Israel is this shining rainbow and Iran is the evil fire nation.

Let's stop looking at stuff in black and white.


Talking about 9/11, it was funded by Saudis and done by Saudis. Iran had nothing to do with it, and yet mr.PRESIDENT's first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia. Doing all the weird sword dancing. Oil talks over security.


[flagged]


This is appallingly off-topic and you are vandalizing this thread with political flamewar. Please stop.


I work just hundreds of feet from Mirzakhani's office. She wasn't a terrorist.


I didn't down vote you, but you may find this[1] long read of how CIA and British Intelligence destabilized Iran in 1953. When its democratically elected President Mosadegh was trying to nationalize the Oil resources. Thereby setting a chain of events which might have set it a few decades back at least.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-...


That'd be like the Pilgrims calling the Native warriors 'terrorists' ... well 'barbarian'.

I don't condone Hamas, nor do I care for Islam, but no one comes close to contemporary Israel when it comes to inhumane and brutal war-crimes. I mean to drop Phosphorous on armless people ? That should take some cruel heart. It's not just Israel, US used depleted Uranium in Iraq, and before that Napalm in Vietnam. The brutality and the mass silence towards such blatant war crimes is stunning.


Throwaway accounts used for political flamewar are particularly not ok here. Would you please not do that?


Are you able to read with comprehension? It doesn't seem that way. I am talking about Iranian people, not the government. And don't make me pull out a list of atrocities committed by the US government.


> Are you able to read with comprehension?

Regardless of your political proclivities, personal attacks like this will get you banned here. We've had to warn you about incivility before, so please don't post like this again.


I don't think this is the time or place to post something like this, but I feel compelled to respond to it now that you've brought it up. I agree that Iran is a much more liberal society and that its young population is eons ahead of the Saudis. I also understand that it's frustrating to see it bundled in the media with cultures and ideologies that's is not representative of the country. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"Girls and Boys do get the almost exactly same education, they have great opportunity to be a successful scholar in any branch of science they want", "yes, It is like USA" or "Paris of the middle east" is completely untrue.

Women are continuously harassed in university's for how they dress and many professors treat them with contempt. The notion that they get the same education or experience in college is simply not true.

And even after they graduate most job postings for roles beyond secretaries literally say "Women need not to apply"

Now I know Iran is much better than many other countries in the region and I know it's frustrating to see it represented unfairly in the media. But it's important to have a realistic perspective on the country and understand that it still has a LONG way to go. If what you're saying was true people like Maryam and thousands of other Sharif graduates wouldn't leave the country for European and American universities.


How would you imagine an Iranian traffic jam? Picture it in your head.

Now watch this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-RjSXqUpSM


> How would you imagine an Iranian traffic jam?

Like this: https://vimeo.com/9827433


More and more Americans understand that anti-Iranian sentiment here is mainly due to propaganda, not any rational considerations. Iran should be a natural ally of the US.


The Iranian hardliners do a lot to stoke that flame too. Much like us, they have a polarized society. Their support for Hezbollah, Hamas, and other problematic groups complicates things too. Add to that the fact that it would be tough to repair the rift with Iran, while managing our Saudi relationship.

All that said, I think it's a worthy undertakings to normalize relations with Iran. And selfishly, I look forward to the day when I can freely visit Persia as an American.


Honest question, how does Iran's support for Hezbollah and Hamas directly affect Americans? I'd argue that Saudi Arabia's support for ISIS and Al-Qaeda had more/actual negative effects on Americans.


[flagged]


Iran had nothing to do with 9/11. Perhaps you're thinking of Iraq, which also was not behind 9/11, but a similarly named country that we happened to go to war with shortly after 9/11.


[flagged]


Boy I hope you never get in a position of power where you also have access to history books.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Cyclone


There's no street called "Broadway Ave" in NYC, so I think you might be full of shit.


Definitely not as dry-cut as you make it to be - with those same strokes then the US is sponsoring terrorism abroad with its role.

And you keep mentioning the fact you were "a couple miles" from 9/11, as if this somehow adds credibility to this directly-unrelated topic...


[flagged]


[flagged]


Are these supposed to make Israel sound good? Because to me, it sounds like Israel is doing the dirty, inhumane works for the US.


[flagged]


Since you haven't stopped despite repeated requests, I've banned this account until we get a guarantee that it won't do political flamewars again.

I suppose I need to add that this isn't any kind of position on Israel, Iran, the U.S., terrorism, 9/11, bombs, or wars. It's just a position about what sort of threads aren't ok on Hacker News. One could flip all the political bits in your comments and its status for HN purposes would be just the same.

My colleagues and I have a lot of empathy for the feelings of loyalty and love that drive a person to fight these battles. The feelings are important and the issues are important—much more important than Hacker News. Nevertheless the moderation job here is to protect HN as (1) a community and (2) a web forum dedicated to what gratifies intellectual curiosity. Nothing threatens that more than political battle, so we have to be proactive about this.


Please stop.


[flagged]


[flagged]


I'm down-voting you (and not only you, to be fair) because you are hell-bent on creating a discussion against Iranian politics in a thread about the tragic, early death of a brilliant mathematician who happened to be an Iranian-American (and also, more notably, a woman). It's not the time nor the place.


I didn't downvote you, but my guess would be the 9/11 remark, which doesn't seem to connect with the rest of your argument.


[flagged]


You've done more than anyone else to take this thread into flamewar hell. If HN can't discuss Maryam Mirzakhani without degenerating into a shitstorm about "the terrorist act of 9/11", then we've failed. It's time to stop this now and never do it on HN again.

We all have strong emotions about the life-and-death issues that affect our nations, tribes, and families (or feel like they do). Mostly such issues are off-topic on HN and their mesmerizing power needs to be resisted—or else every thread can easily become about nothing but that. Considering how fire consumes everything in its path the term 'flame+war' is strikingly apropos for the phenomenon, and every HN user is responsible for containing it.


As an Iranian, I can't wait for the day where the online post of my death – should I become half the person Maryam Mirzakhani was – mutates into an argument about Iran's ties to terrorism and 9/11.


You are either being purposely obtuse or don't see the hypocrisy of your statements regarding supporting terrorism and the US.


> You are either being purposely obtuse or don't see the hypocrisy

Personal attacks and incivility will get you banned here. Please don't post like this regardless of how unfair or wrong you think someone else is.


The majority of 9/11 attackers were Saudi:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijackers_in_the_September_11_...

Iran is our natural ally in the region.


I hope you're right. I have met quite a few Iranians here in the States and it often leaves me feeling very sad that government & media rhetoric is so negative and narrow-sighted.

Another example of how the macro reality we create can become massively misaligned with ground-level truths.


Iran was a natural ally until the US dropped the gold standard and now it's in the middle of a proxy war with Russia for control of the trade of its oil and gas resources. That has led to a pretty massive disintegration of culture and governance. Go ahead and compare photos of Tehran in the 70s vs today.



How is it that brilliant, genius people who truly help our world become a better place die young, while people who bring nothing but destruction and war, live for decades?


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14776536 and marked it off-topic.


"Only the good die young" is a good sentiment to write a song around but reality and statistics don't back it up.


"Only the good die young" is the result of bias: the bias of people not giving a damn, not noticing or else soon forgetting, when the bad die young.


Because cancer does not care.




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