Unsurprisingly, I am going to take issue with most of what Eric said. The issue is that I don't think he's right about the content of the questions.
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:I feel like this tournament went back to the classroom in the absolute exclusion of finding some interesting leadins. Alternatively, this tournament a lot of the time seemed to go back to the classroom - the high school classroom. Let me give you some examples.
This is maybe one thing that I would agree with. You're right, very many of the things that I wrote for this tournament were not "sexy" and I make no apologies for this. I think I've spent a fair bit of time explaining why this choice was made; yes, it was not mind-blowing. You want that, we've got a tournament for you called ACF Nationals, which I promise will be full of exciting science. For this particular set
the idea was to a) give good players with solid classroom knowledge the chance to buzz early, and b) make the questions in general somewhat more accessible to the field. I don't know how to write sexy tossups on work or kinetic energy or particles in a box; maybe they are possible but I'm not convinced that the best use of my time is to figure out how to do that.
I think evaluation of this tournament's science should be made in light of the above information. Did this tournament achieve its goal in terms of what it set out to do? I think it did. Your complaint seems to be that it had different goals than what you were expecting (though I'm not sure why, because it's not like this was a hidden secret or anything) but I don't think this is a valid criticism.
The Particle in a box tossup is one of the best examples of this. I solved the particle in a box tossup in intro chemistry, so I'm delighted to see it come up (and I solved it again on the car ride home to stay awake). But the really interesting things about the particle in a box, to me, were the applications that it had, like understanding why solutions of solvated electrons are blue,
This was not a chem question; I know nothing of solvated electrons. All the information in this tossup was basically taken from Shankar's QM book, which didn't mention them either. I guess I could have spent a lot of time looking for novel applications of particle-in-a-box, but again, I submit that this is not a good use of my efforts. I think I wrote a good question on a basic, important topic in physics.
its application to the hydrogen atom and the atomic nucleus, its application to models of solids, etc, etc.
The hydrogen atom is a distinct system from PIAB; it has a completely different potential, so I'm not sure what you're going for there. Yes, periodic PIAB is generalizable to a lattice model (the Kronig-Penney system) but I don't see any good reason for putting that in rather than actual basic information about PIAB that you would know from class. That was a conscious decision on my part.
Furthermore, I would have loved to hear something new about the particle-in-a-box (what happens when you add relativity? I've always wanted to know), which I think is a function that leadins should serve.
So you want me to solve relativistic PIAB for you? If that information had been readily available to me, I would have used it. It wasn't, and I'm not about to sit down and solve the thing just so I can provide you with one fresh clue. This is not a reasonable demand.
I also disagree with your claim about what leadins are for. They are for distinguishing between different levels of knowledge, and I think this question did that throughout. If it can be done while teaching you something truly novel, I am totally for that, but this was not the goal of these questions
I'm a little confused why the entire tossup talked about how to solve the thing, rather than its applications - I personally would rather test people for the applications early than whether they remember that the energy levels are proportional to n squared.
I think I've explained this: it's because I wanted to focus on basic things that I thought were important, rather than relatively superficial things. PIAB is a toy system and doesn't generalize too well to actual applications; it's presented in intro quantum as a canonical model system to illustrate the notion of probability currents, the wave function, eigenenergies, etc. Yes, the n-squared dependency is
important; you wouldn't ask "why does this question on Shakespeare ask about tertiary Shakespearean scholarship instead of whether players remember lines from sonnets," and I'm not sure why you're asking for it here.
The best example is the work tossup, which I realize has been beaten to death. But its worth mentioning that a handicap of this back to the classroom approach is that you risk giving away the answer too early.
Graduate student and all around excellent science player Eric Mukherjee answers tossup, declares it easy.
Come on you guys. Take a second to step outside your expert experience, which is considerable, and view this question from the perspective of someone who is not a scientist. I'm happy to admit that this was a difficulty miscalculation on my part, but I don't think it's so terrible at all that this happened; yes, advanced students in the sciences should
be able to first-line such tossups. Hell, I'm even ok with people who are just majoring in it doing that.
the fact that a particle in a box has a length scale, the fact that a type of light scattering has a dependence on the wavelength (what else was it going to be, particle size?) all have this problem.
This is absurd. I've already addressed the length-scale issue, and I'll do so again: every
relevant QM system has a characteristic length scale. You can't get anything from the mention of those words, and if you buzzed there, you got lucky. Just as well, the scattering clue doesn't tell you anything about whether the answer is "wavelength" just by itself; if you've ever solved a scattering problem, you should know that there are many dependencies on many different parameters and you can't just go 1-to-1 on these things. Context matters.
-Should "interplanetary medium" be acceptable for "interplanetary dust"?
Promptable, but not acceptable; dust was specifically indicated by the clues of the question.
-I really like the kinetic energy tossup, as it went back to the advanced physical chemistry classroom.
Just to point out, that was a pure physics tossup.
Let me conclude by asking you guys to evaluate the questions in the context in which they were written and relative to whether or not they met their stated goals, not relative to whether or not they met your
goals for novelty.