It seems there are the beginnings of an edit war going on with how can counting the number of cracks in glass tell you about the speed of imact?.

Now the question has a few problems:

  • It doesn't stand particularly well on its own, requiring reading an external link for background.
  • It doesn't discuss the question in such a way as to guide answers to the desired level of detail.
  • It is partially phrased in the imperative, rather than the interrogative.

However, as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with homework, either in actuality or conceptually. Someone was reading a scientific news article and had a question about the physics behind a phenomenon. It certainly doesn't sound like someone wants a particular problem solved - I read it as asking for the concepts behind some claim.

So why was this tagged as homework? Is the new policy to use to filter out questions certain users don't particularly like?

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    $\begingroup$ That would be a question for @Dimension. Well, I personally don't think it's a homework. Anyways, I've edited the question and also pinged him in chat. (And BTW, Edit war hasn't started yet. But, it might) :D $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ I'll write an answer here soon. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ I thought that the question was going to be closed (he doesn't have any particular doubt). $\endgroup$
    – jinawee
    Sep 23, 2013 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ Chris, that is the impression I have got as well - that it seems to be a question in response to something not understood in an article. $\endgroup$
    – user29350
    Sep 23, 2013 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ This sucks. I clicked on the question because I was really curious what the answer would be. But I wound up here instead. Thanks, Community Police. $\endgroup$
    – zxq9
    Oct 14, 2014 at 22:51

3 Answers 3


My take on this is two-fold:

First, don't start edit wars. If you put something on a question, and somebody later removes it, don't just go back in and put it back again and leave comments about it. Take it to meta, take it to chat, and actually discuss it rather than take it out to 7 revisions. When people disagree, use the channels we have to resolve it face-to-face (or I suppose keyboard-to-keyboard).

Second, I do not think that is a homework question. Not just in the strict sense but in the sense we defined. OP is looking for a physical concept that is not understood to be explained. It's no different than the myriad of questions about how we know gravity exists, why there are only 4 dimensions in space-time, etc.. To me, the OP doesn't understand the physical correlation between impact velocity and fracture in glass and would like an understanding of the concepts behind it.

So I do not think it should be tagged as homework. All that said, I think the question is poorly formed because it doesn't mention what part is confusing, asks answers to go read an article rather than summarize it, and shows very little effort. It should be downvoted, maybe closed, but that's a different conversation.

  • $\begingroup$ Your third paragraph is logically inconsistent. "It's no different than the myriad of questions about how we know gravity exists, why there are only > 4 dimensions in space-time, etc.." How did you jump therew? $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ It's all asking for the physical underpinnings of an observed phenomenon. That doesn't make it homework, it just makes it a question. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ Have you seen the quoted part in my answer ? . $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DImension10AbhimanyuPS this answer pretty well sums up what I wanted to say - with the addition of it seems that if we are going to go down this path, focussing on the nuances of the questions then, we will a) deter members and b) disenchant existing members. $\endgroup$
    – user29350
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @DImension10AbhimanyuPS I've seen the quoted part of your question. My issue with it is that you're inferring far more into what the intentions of the OP are than there is evidence to support. It's a 1 line question that says "How can the number of cracks in glass tell you about the speed of impact?" This being a physics site, I jumped to the conclusion that the person would like to know the physics of crack formation as a function of impact speed. You jumped (what I consider to be further than I did) to interpret it as the person wants to solve a particular question. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Neither of us has enough information to be definitive in what we're concluding is being asked. I think I took less of a leap than you did, but we can disagree there. My points are 1) Because others took the same message I did and you didn't, rather than edit-war it, talk about it; 2) I explained my conclusion and how I got there, I don't think it's homework. So that ties into part (1) -- I'm talking about it and saying I don't think it should have the tag. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @UV-D: The solution is to rename the tag, as I wrote in some other meta post. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114: If you read the quoted part, then read the last line (before the horizontal rule. Re: second comment; (1) I did. (2) And...? $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @DImension10AbhimanyuPS or alternatively, have 2 tags, one for homework and the other for what you suggest. $\endgroup$
    – user29350
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @UV-D: And it so happens that they are one and the same. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @DImension10AbhimanyuPS once again, I disagree, homework - for those wanting to ask a specific homework question from a class; the other for when people are curious. $\endgroup$
    – user29350
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ @DImension10AbhimanyuPS I read that part also and I agree. It shouldn't. But clearly it does, so rather than tag, untag, tag and complain through comments, it should be discussed after the "untag" step. That's all a sign it should be closed as "unclear what you are asking" rather than edited back and forth. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Sep 23, 2013 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @tpg2114: No, I did "tag untag comment tag". Which is what you recommend in your comment. $\endgroup$ Sep 23, 2013 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ tpg2114 is right, the question being asked about is not a homework-like question. The definition of "homework-like" is any question where the value lies in figuring out the answer rather than getting the answer, and that is not the case here. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Sep 23, 2013 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, even v1 of the question clearly states that the OP is looking for an explanation of the physical principles behind this, the "mechanism". It's not a homework question - not in the strict, nor in the broader sense. The original phrasing may have been imperative rather than interrogatory but that could also be caused by bad English. Ultimately though, I think the entire discussion could have been avoided if the OP had explained more thoroughly where exactly the problem lay for them and what kind of answers they were looking for. This should actually still happen to improve the question. $\endgroup$
    – Wouter
    Sep 24, 2013 at 22:42

I'm late to the party but I want to say this.

The original phrasing for this question closely matched a very common pattern seen in real homework questions:

[Statement of a homework or other textbook problem.]

Solve this please.

There are a number of variations of this (see e.g. this or this or this question) but they generally give a feeling of entitlement: the OP demands (even if they do it politely) that some expert drop what she's doing and give him exactly the explanation - without overdoing it and using only the right hints - that will get them an A.

I do not think this should have the homework tag on it, but I can definitely understand a certain trigger-happiness on the part of the people that wanted that.


Dimension10 has given the link to where the policy is laid out clearly in David's answer:

What kinds of questions are considered homework questions?

A "homework question" is any question whose value lies in helping you understand the method by which the question can be solved, rather than getting the answer itself. This includes not just questions from actual homework assignments, but also self-study problems, puzzles, etc.

On the other hand, questions that come up in the course of doing a homework problem, but are separate from the main point of the problem, might not be considered homework questions. There's a bit of a judgment call to be made, depending on the context of the problem. If you're not sure, it's probably safer to treat your question as a homework question and later find out that it isn't, than the other way around.

Which points out that the dividing line is rather vague, and therefore could make most of the questions here homework if we relied on this definition, rather than our own personal view based upon common experience

As I understand it, the whole point of the homework tag is to enable people to filter out the tedious unoriginal questions found in most text books. Therefore, I don't think any problem thought up by someone for themselves should be tagged homework, unless it's universally recognized as a standard text book problem designed for students.


It turns out that the main purpose behind the homework tag is to prevent students cheating on their homework assignments, which should make things considerably clearer on when to tag a question as homework: Does this question look as if it could be given to a student by a teacher as a graded exercise?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, actually, the point of the homework tag is to help keep people from cheating on their assignments. It tends to catch textbook questions as a side effect, which is good, but that's not why it was invented. Also: "therefore could make most of the questions here homework if we relied on this definition" is not what the policy says at all. There are (lots of) questions that are clearly not homework-like. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Sep 24, 2013 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ To me it seems very clear. If the question said "there are 10 cracks in my window. What was the velocity of the object that made them?" then it would fit this definition, but it doesn't, it says "how can counting the number of cracks tell you about the speed of impact?" Homework-like questions give you a specific example to work through, whereas non-homework-like questions do not. That, I think, is what's meant by a "question whose value lies in helping you understand the method by which the question can be solved, rather than getting the answer itself". $\endgroup$
    – N. Virgo
    Sep 24, 2013 at 2:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ IMO, the main purpose of the homework tag as an anti-cheating device, should be added to your answer in the home work policy link I've given. It clarifies things significantly : Does this question look as if it could be given as a graded question to a student by a teacher? $\endgroup$ Sep 24, 2013 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Larry Sure, that could be useful. Perhaps we could work out how best to add that in, sometime soon in Physics Chat - not that it should be complicated but it's always good to put things out for community comments before modifying a well-established piece of policy or site text like this. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Sep 25, 2013 at 0:20

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