How to Become a Good Science Player

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How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:02 am

I am too lazy to hit copy-paste for the whole thing, so I provide the link instead.

I wrote this article in a little over an hour. It is quite obviously missing the list of good textbooks and journals, which I hope the community can help provide (again?). I encourage people who know more than me about being a good science player to either edit the article themselves or discuss the article in this thread.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:10 am

I like this. I'd suggest Lodish as another bio textbook. For chemistry, I'd suggest:

Physical - McQuarrie (both for stat mech and for quantum)
Organic - Maitland Jones, that named reactions book by Kurti and Czako, mostly internet sources
Inorganic - Miessler and Tarr
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:24 am

For Astro I'd suggest Carroll and Ostlie's An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics. It covers pretty much everything from planetary science to cosmology and a good deal of information can be gleaned from it without much recourse to math and/or physics. It's quite hefty both in weight and price though.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Ondes Martenot » Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:16 am

You might also want to mention some good science websites like hyperphysics and wolfram, which to the best of my knowledge are very accurate.

One of the good things about science is that you can usually find more reliable information online than other subjects, usually on university websites. Again though, a lack of understanding about the core concepts can make these resources difficult to understand.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:25 am

Ondes Martenot wrote:Again though, a lack of understanding about the core concepts can make these resources difficult to understand.
I've been trying to figure out a good way to put into words a post about understanding how to identify what's unique and what isn't about science terms for quizbowl study purposes. (i.e., clues about how system x "can be modeled by a Hamiltonian" are obviously not unique, but that's not obvious to someone who knows zero science)
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:44 am

If your school grants access to it, uptodate.com is a great source of biology information; it's mostly a medical site, but there are good descriptions of cell bio processes as well. Writing and studying off there will give you accurate and in-depth information to learn from.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:28 am

For a lot of people (like me), the quest isn't to become a good science player but a mildly competent science player. I'm not either, but I've occasionally answered science questions before and could probably do okay on ACF Fall level science by this point. Here's some things that I think work:

1. Learn science in the ways you would learn the categories you are good at. You can still match "person's name" to "law" or "thing." With the (good) push away from science rewarding simply word association, this probably will not result in many good buzzes but you can pick up some bonuses and answer things at the end. Alternatively, I've found if you are a decent, say, history player, you can pick up a reasonable amount of backdoor science, especially in terms of scientists and stuff like astronomy/earth science.

2. Write science questions. Even if they are not used (because they are probably not good), you will pick up some clues and more importantly, get a better sense of just what ____ is. This really helped me for previously obtuse stuff to me like Diels-Alder, BCS theory, and the Casimir effect.

3. Pay attention to what your teammates are doing on science and at least be able to scope out answer lines and why they are buzzing. Andrew Hart once taught me a lot about the Zeeman effect.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Auroni » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:44 am

I think that if you are a non-bio science or humanities person, you could derive great benefit from picking up an acclaimed science magazine such as Nature or Cell, which not only presents papers from the latest discoveries but also gives you a fair bit of background on the broad topic which those discoveries contributed to. I believe that they are also written at a level that most people on this site who are used to reading things can handle. The current issue on their website seems to have articles about topics that you might have heard of (stem cells and X chromosome inactivation) along with some topics that are important but you might not have heard of (DNA methylation and demethylation). Reading these articles will be worthwhile to get a basic understanding of these important topics and to learn some potential early or middle clues for them.

I'm sure that there are magazines just like this for chemistry and physics, but I haven't been exposed to them.
Last edited by Auroni on Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:58 am

In most quizbowl theory discussions, I am a huge proponent of the theory that most quizbowl knowledge is the result of independent reading rather than classroom knowledge. I stand by this theory today and believe it to be both a good description and a good perscription.

I think that science is the one area where this isn't true (which also explains why it's usually a scientist like Andy Watkins or Auroni Gupta on the other side of that debate with me). Perhaps it's because science is so objective: cells, molecules, and alfven waves all work in only one way, and to be a good scientist you have to know what that one way is, so everybody learns the same thing in science class no matter where they take it.

Pretty much every science buzz I've ever had is the result of something I learned in class (compared to at most 5% of my history or RMP buzzes being the result of something I learned in class, and I think I'm being generous there). Sometimes this is the result of a science class I took in college, more often it is me remembering something from AP Bio or AP Chem in high school. I think AP Bio has gotten me more buzzes than any other class I took ever, which is impressive if you consider what a small proportion of my buzzes biology questions are.

So, take science classes if you can.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Edmund » Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:07 pm

I would recommend the BIOS Instant Notes series of books. They are absolutely hopeless and counter-productive if you wish to learn science as a subject, but excellent for learning quizbowl science. The same is true for any book with "Introduction to..." in the title. As a career scientist trying to turn myself into a quizbowl scientist, before ICT this year I got a bunch of these out of the library on subjects I have never studied for my subject but thought I could improve on quickly (particle physics, cosmology, biochemistry), made an effort to try to remember what things are called and I felt that this really helped.

I would recommend Atkins for all-round physical chemistry - pretty much everything with a name in the subject is in there. I would also recommend Clayden ahead of Maitland Jones for organic chemistry simply because it's a more fact-oriented textbook. I have found Greenwood & Earnshaw's Chemistry of the Elements to be a godsend in terms of inspiration for writing but it's rather meaty for learning.

As with any subject, I think that looking up questions that you were disappointed not to get in practice is an excellent way to round out a science education.

I wonder if anyone has any suggestions on improving on maths? It strikes me as harder to just open a textbook and pick out some key words, as compared to the sciences proper.

edit: One other thing just occurred to me, which is mainly of relevance to novices or people without a scientific educational background: find and read a popular history of science. I would recommend Science: A History by Gribbin. Not only does this pay dividends when science clues lean towards the biographical or historical, it also gives a clear idea of the structure of science and the major discoveries on which modern science is founded, and helps to see the context and connections between different fields.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:28 pm

Edmund wrote:I would recommend Atkins for all-round physical chemistry - pretty much everything with a name in the subject is in there. I would also recommend Clayden ahead of Maitland Jones for organic chemistry simply because it's a more fact-oriented textbook.
Clayden was my organic textbook, but a lot of things that are treated as easy in Clayden are "quizbowl hard" according to some people. On one hand, you'll learn more and "harder" clues out of Clayden, without having to read a harder textbook; on the other hand, those "harder" topics are less useful at lower levels.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Tower Monarch » Tue Jul 12, 2011 7:33 pm

Edmund wrote:I wonder if anyone has any suggestions on improving on maths? It strikes me as harder to just open a textbook and pick out some key words, as compared to the sciences proper.

edit: One other thing just occurred to me, which is mainly of relevance to novices or people without a scientific educational background: find and read a popular history of science. I would recommend Science: A History by Gribbin. Not only does this pay dividends when science clues lean towards the biographical or historical, it also gives a clear idea of the structure of science and the major discoveries on which modern science is founded, and helps to see the context and connections between different fields.
Honestly, in a way you answered your own question. Taking out "Math" questions that are directly related to CS or Physics, the vast majority of questions I've seen are primarily historical. Therefore, non-science-oriented players can really start picking up some late buzzes on a few math questions by reading even short bios on people like Cauchy, Euler and Legendre.
On the "real math" front, some good texts would be:
Analysis books by Walter Rudin
Algebra books by Michael Artin
Basic Probability: Grinstead and Snell's book (I'm showing my bias for Dartmouth College and for free books) available here: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/teachi ... /book.html

If you want to get enough math in you to understand the texts you will write out of, read Morris Kline's "Mathematics for Nonmathematicians" as it provides a great grounding and can be read by anybody (hence the title).
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by nadph » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:27 pm

More online stuff:

It seems you can unofficially view "Baby Rudin" (i.e. his Principles of Mathematical Analysis) here (please don't make this fact known to publishers, otherwise the kind soul who posted this will probably face litigation). Compared to Real and Complex Analysis, it probably is more accessible (though this is not saying a lot when it comes to Rudin).

Robert Ash of UIUC has published an online algebra textbook, along with some other textbooks, on his personal page.

Georgia Tech has published an complex analysis textbook here. It's not very rigorous, but this shouldn't be a problem if you're interested in just learning various topics. From a first glance, it seems to cover some physics things as well, such as RLC circuits and other oscillatory problems.

Recent Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft has compiled a few lecture notes he likes, and made some textbook recommendations, on this page. (I got the link for the complex analysis textbook from the above, for example). While some of the later stuff is important but probably not very accessible (I haven't looked), the early physics discussions seem pretty good.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Edmund » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:45 am

Mechanical Beasts wrote:
Edmund wrote:I would recommend Atkins for all-round physical chemistry - pretty much everything with a name in the subject is in there. I would also recommend Clayden ahead of Maitland Jones for organic chemistry simply because it's a more fact-oriented textbook.
Clayden was my organic textbook, but a lot of things that are treated as easy in Clayden are "quizbowl hard" according to some people. On one hand, you'll learn more and "harder" clues out of Clayden, without having to read a harder textbook; on the other hand, those "harder" topics are less useful at lower levels.
Maitland Jones remains one of the worst purchases of my life. It's much too "cute" and has very light substance. I think that extends to using it for quizbowl. If you want "quizbowl easy" organic chemistry, pick up a high school textbook, presumably?
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by The Ununtiable Twine » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:28 am

As far as math and physics texts that I find to be the most useful for quizbowl, I can throw in a few:

If you want the most basic of backgrounds in theoretical math, you might want to pick up Foundations of Higher Mathematics by Fletcher and Patty. This book goes over some naive set theory and then proceeds to introduce the reader to combinatorics, groups, cardinalities, and advanced calculus. It's a freshman text so it's designed to be readable.

A number theory text that encompasses just the entire number theory canon is Fundamentals of Number Theory by LeVeque. The stuff in this book comes up all the time, well OK, not all the stuff comes up, however, most of the number theory topics in the quizbowl canon can be found in here and investing a little time in this book can make number theory a bit more manageable for teams. Might be a little bit of a tough read but there are still things that you can pick up from here in spite of that.

My favorite for complex analysis is Functions of One Complex Variable by Conway, but perhaps a little more readable is Complex Analysis for Mathematics and Engineering by Mathews and Howell. The reason I give for reading from this text is that it's easy to read for non-math people.

The last math book I'll mention is Basic Abstract Algebra by Bhattacharya, Jain, and Nagpaul. I find this text to be more understandable than Hungerford, for example. There may be better texts than this one but it's pretty concise and all the algebra that will ever come up at any level is in here.

If you pick up these books as well as Munkres and Rudin you can get just about everything in the pure math canon. Of course it would take years to make the topics second nature to your team but you're not necessarily looking for that. As of now, you can pretty much ignore chapters 9-13 in Munkres (except for maybe one or two things) because no one in quizbowl ever seems to write about algebraic topology, which is probably the most unfortunate thing about the math canon in today's game.

As far as physics goes:

Introduction to Quantum Mechanics and Introduction to Electrodynamics by Griffiths are pretty readable and should allow you to get questions on all difficulty levels.

For classical mechanics, I recommend Marion's Classical Dynamics as most of the more advanced concepts from mechanics mentioned in quizbowl are in there. Goldstein works just as well and also has chapters on chaos theory which can get you a few points throughout the year.

For general relativity, I recommend A First Course in General Relativity by Schutz. I find this to be an easy textbook to read because there are entire pages filled with words and I find the explanations are pretty good. Surely, Weinberg is the better text but it features material that is more advanced and so for the average quizbowler it's surely the tougher read.

I think An Introduction to Thermal Physics by Schroeder is a great choice for thermodynamics because it's a very readable undergraduate text and most of it is understandable with just some basic physics background. Just about all the thermo topics that come up in the canon are explained in here.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:13 pm

Edmund wrote:
Mechanical Beasts wrote:
Edmund wrote:I would recommend Atkins for all-round physical chemistry - pretty much everything with a name in the subject is in there. I would also recommend Clayden ahead of Maitland Jones for organic chemistry simply because it's a more fact-oriented textbook.
Clayden was my organic textbook, but a lot of things that are treated as easy in Clayden are "quizbowl hard" according to some people. On one hand, you'll learn more and "harder" clues out of Clayden, without having to read a harder textbook; on the other hand, those "harder" topics are less useful at lower levels.
Maitland Jones remains one of the worst purchases of my life. It's much too "cute" and has very light substance. I think that extends to using it for quizbowl. If you want "quizbowl easy" organic chemistry, pick up a high school textbook, presumably?
For my purposes, yeah, though it was free, I can see where you're coming from. I don't know if there are any dedicated high school organic textbooks, and the organic chapter at the end of a high school textbook isn't too useful. I'd suggest Solomons and Fryhle, then (it was the organic textbook I used in high school).
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Tower Monarch » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:24 pm

I probably shouldn't enter the organic chemistry discussion, but in terms of writing (as opposed to learning) and studying questions, I have found it useful to consult books with the word "Advanced" in the title for some early clues, especially on reactions. These texts are usually more desk references than textbooks, so again they aren't great for learning, but your college library should have a couple options. Some of the ones I have access to are Advanced Organic Chemistry Parts A and B by Francis Carey (who also wrote a normal Organic Chemistry) and Advanced Organic Chemistry by Warren. Whenever I wonder where Regionals and Nationals writers got their lead-ins, I can usually consult one of these and figure out what's going on.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Tower Monarch » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:34 pm

Also, I realize that there are probably plenty of people who will read this thread/the wiki article that are not already well-grounded in math and physics to read the upper-level books in those subjects and in Physical Chemistry. For them, I would suggest the Stewart Calculus book(s) (it comes in all sorts of varieties and is everywhere, so there should be some good used deals) and maybe Strang's Linear Algebra (if only because it's also a popular choice and should be available used), though I haven't found huge readability differences in Linear Algebra books. For physics, you probably want a little more background than the AP Physics exams (their review books are usually pretty comprehensive for the basics) before you jump into something like Griffiths (I definitely made this mistake and got little out of it at first), so pick up a book like University Physics by Young(?) and make sure you understand all of its topics first.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Edmund » Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:04 pm

Serious Games Showcase and Challenge wrote:I think An Introduction to Thermal Physics by Schroeder is a great choice for thermodynamics because it's a very readable undergraduate text and most of it is understandable with just some basic physics background. Just about all the thermo topics that come up in the canon are explained in here.
I should take a look. For understanding chemical thermodynamics I would absolutely recommend E. Brian Smith's Basic Chemical Thermodynamics, even to the non-specialist, but I think for these topics in quizbowl, the relevant chapters of Atkins are probably more useful. Or else just say "Clausius-Clapeyron equation" every time.

There is an Introduction to Organic Chemistry by Hornby and Peach in the Oxford Chemistry Primers series that does an excellent job of bridging the gap between school and university level organic chemistry. It covers a lot of useful quiz stuff like nomenclature and basics of elimination and substitution reactions.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Tower Monarch » Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:04 am

I'm aware this thread has died down, but I thought for the sake of completeness I'd add a few more resources:
For Computer Science/Discrete Math:
  • Knuth et al's Concrete Mathematics - Knuth's Art of Computer Programming series is somewhat like the Landau/Lifshitz of Computers, so it's not very readable for non-majors, but this review of all mathematics useful in comp. sci. is extremely accessible to anyone with familiarity with discrete math
  • The article already has the standard Algorithms book by Cormen (my intro to comp sci prof) et al, and I highly recommend it for studying and writing purposes
  • Tanenbaum's Operating Systems is one of the standard core textbooks for C.S. major in the U.S.
  • Tanenbaum's Computer Networks is also a good choice to represent that section of C.S., though I'm not sure if it's as standard in usage as his O.S. book
  • For AI topics, I believe the standard intro with Common LISP is the Russell/Norvig Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
  • To complete the core C.S. curriculum, you'll want a text on Information Theory, where I'm not sure a standard exists, so I use a classic by Robert Ash
I have found that a great source of additional cluespace, if not answerspace, in the sciences is engineering, especially electrical engineering, so here are a few texts there:
  • Computer Architecture is actually still a Computer Science topic, but on the engineering side of things. I like Stallings' Computer Organization and Architecture and you can yet again get Andrew Tanenbaum's Structured Computer Organization.
  • Fundamentals of Electric Circuits is a readable Charles Alexander & Matthew Sadiku text while
  • Thomas L. Floyd has two readable Electrical Engineering books: Principles of Electric Circuits and Digital Fundamentals
Someone with experience in mechanical or chemical engineering could probably suggest good texts that will offer a practical perspective on the theories found in books like Griffiths. Again, I think the clues from engineering will become more and more relevant in quizbowl as good science writers search for quality lead-ins and canon expansion.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Black-throated Antshrike » Sun Jul 24, 2011 4:38 am

If you are looking to improve on physics, I would highly recommend reading any books written by Richard Feynman or about his works. The stuff in the books are normally quite entertaining especially since he was so eccentric and that helps non science players retain facts better. Also the textbook I had for my senior Modern Physics class helped immensely with quizbowl.

http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Physics-Sc ... 573&sr=1-7

This book will teach you just about everything that will come up in a normal difficulty physics question and its very easy to read.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:16 pm

There is no mention of physiology (probably because of the overlap), but I found that Vander's Physiology to be a good textbook.

Also, we used "The Immune System" by Parham for my immunology class. It has worked well for me for quiz bowl, and is not very big.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by gaurav.kandlikar » Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:38 pm

For what it's worth, I like the NCBI's bookshelf website. It's pretty nice if you want to read about common bio topics in a lot of different textbooks.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by mhayes » Sun Aug 14, 2011 12:36 am

I'm very late to this thread, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few books for studying computer science.

Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein pretty much covers the algorithmic side of computer science. For a much more readable textbook, however, I'd recommend "The Algorithm Design Manual" by Steven Skiena. I can't think of an algorithms-related tossup that couldn't be had from studying the material in these books.

From a computational theory perspective, Michael Sipser's Introduction to the Theory of Computation is a must read.

For operating systems knowledge, Operating System Concepts by Silberchatz et al. should cover it.

For programming languages, I'd recommend Programming Languages: Principles and Practice by Louden.

Of course there are other topics covered in computer science (i.e. Software Engineering, Architecture), but the aforementioned topics seem to be the major focus from a quiz bowl perspective. Of course, computer science isn't one of the major science topics in quiz bowl, but ACF Regionals and Nationals have their fair share of these questions.

ETA: I'm now seeing that someone has previously mentioned a few other CS texts. I also recommend those books, especially Norvig's AI text.
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Re: How to Become a Good Science Player

Post by fluffy4102 » Fri Aug 26, 2011 4:48 pm

Pszczew wrote:There is no mention of physiology (probably because of the overlap), but I found that Vander's Physiology to be a good textbook.

Also, we used "The Immune System" by Parham for my immunology class. It has worked well for me for quiz bowl, and is not very big.
I would recommend Guyton for physiology and Janeway for Immuology.
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