Split topic on CO science

Old college threads.
evilmonkey
Yuna
Posts: 964
Joined: Mon Sep 25, 2006 11:23 am
Location: Durham, NC

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by evilmonkey » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:07 pm

Jerry has said that he would prefer more questions on things like "momentum, mass, or density". Ted has argued that he wants more questions about authors like Dante, Flaubert, and Garcia Marquez. These are all things that even a mediocre player like myself would be acquainted with. The commonality, therefore, is that those who have done academic work in a discipline seem to believe it most worthwhile to write hard tossups on easy answers (Although the literature people seem more willing to accept some hard answers, a fact which reflect the difference in nature of those canons).

Meanwhile, those outside a discipline who nevertheless have a keen interest in a discipline are advocating for answer lines like "Rosa", "Munif", and "flare stars". These are things that your average mediocre player (me) has not generally encountered.

As I've said, I'm a mediocre player, so I'm not going to delve into what knowledge quizbowl should reward. However, the similarity of the arguments made on each side was so striking to me that I felt compelled to point it out.
Kyle wrote: Nevertheless, it's odd to see that many of the topics that get absolutely the most play in courses about the modern Middle East (for example, the Tanzimat, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh, the Caliphate conferences, Mustafa Kamil, Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd Party, Young Egypt, Hasan al-Bana, the French Mandate in Syria, the Arab Revolt, the Iraqi Revolution of 1958 and the associated military actions, etc., etc.) tend to come up only at very high-level tournaments if at all.
Also, on an unrelated note, this. I am well acquainted with most of these things. Several of them I've encountered in multiple classes across the history and political science departments. As far as I can remember, the only tossup I can remember getting on any of them was the lone question I got at the original Gaddis, on the Tanzimat reforms.
Bryce Durgin
Culver Academies '07
University of Notre Dame '11
Texas A&M '15

User avatar
ThisIsMyUsername
Yuna
Posts: 803
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:36 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:41 pm

grapesmoker wrote: Really, you don't think "allegro" is a technical term? Or that "clarinet playing in 7/8 time" (or whatever) is a technical description? To you it's not! But to me, other than the fact that I know that a clarinet is a thing you blow into, this means absolutely nothing. I have no idea what to make of any of this information or how to conceptualize an "allegro" movement in any meaningful way. It's as if I were telling you that "momentum" is not a technical term because people have an intuitive understanding of momentum. The fact that you've internalized those terms so completely that they don't even strike you as carrying specialized information is exactly why you're such a good music player.
No, "allegro" and clarinet are not what I call technical terms. "Playing in 7/8 time" is because it describes meter, a concept that requires musical understanding. But "allegro" really is just a performance direction to play fast, and a clarinet really is just a thing people blow into. When a clue says "the first movement of this piece is marked allegro and has a clarinet solo", I'm not getting any kind of special technical information; I'm getting the same information as you: the opening is fast, and a particular type of thing that people blow into is playing a solo. If we tried to conceptualize this clue, we'd conceptualize the same thing: a clarinet playing quickly. That's why that clue would not be very helpful. The only advantage I have over you from musical education is knowledge of when the clarinet was invented, so I'm not going to buzz on a clarinet clue and say "Palestrina" for the same reason no one's going to buzz on a lit plot clue about someone being run over by a car and say "Chaucer". Otherwise, all of my advantage is in how much music I've listened to: I know which pieces in the canon have clarinet solos, because I've listened to them, and I know what pieces are marked "allegro" from seeing it on the sheet music or on the track listing name. Someone who knows nothing technical can listen to the piece and read the track listing, learn nothing technical/conceptual about music and still learn those facts.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” - G.K. Chesterton

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 2998
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Brooklyn

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Auroni » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:47 pm

You're overestimating the number of people who knows what "allegro" means.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
ThisIsMyUsername
Yuna
Posts: 803
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:36 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:49 pm

No, I'm sure many people do not realize it simply means "fast". That doesn't make "fast" a technical concept the way "chord" is.
Last edited by ThisIsMyUsername on Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” - G.K. Chesterton

User avatar
ThisIsMyUsername
Yuna
Posts: 803
Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:36 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:49 pm

Accidental re-post: please delete.
Last edited by ThisIsMyUsername on Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '19

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” - G.K. Chesterton

User avatar
Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
Chairman of Anti-Music Mafia Committee
Posts: 5640
Joined: Wed Jul 26, 2006 11:46 pm
Location: Columbia, MO

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:50 pm

Allegro is absolutely a technical term.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
"I won't say more because I know some of you parse everything I say." - Jeremy Gibbs

"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:09 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:No, I'm sure many people do not realize it simply means "fast". That doesn't make "fast" a technical concept the way "chord" is.
The fact that you have to define "allegro" in terms of small words people know makes it musical jargon. Plus you're using a very simple tempo marking that most people with six months of middle school orchestra would understand. I don't think anyone who doesn't have a reasonably-sized music background has the faintest concept of what something like "poco andante" or "allegro non troppo" means unless they're able to translate from Italian, and even then it's not clear to someone like me, who is technically competent in music jargon but doesn't have the same giant store of classical music knowledge, what the heck the difference is between "molto vivace" and "vivacissimo."

"Transistors" and "capacitors" are scientific jargon in the way that "allegro" is musical jargon and "sonnet" is literature jargon. They are terms that we expect people that have passing familiarity with the subject to understand, but they are still technical terms. With just about every non-science subject, once you get to that second level of jargon (technical terms defined in terms of technical terms we expect reasonably interested people to understand) you're able to comprehend things at the level that a quizbowl question requires, no matter what difficulty level you're writing for. With science, pretty much, the more difficult the question, the more inaccessible the technical jargon needed to understand what's going on in the question. That's why Jerry's angry about random named things in the middle of questions - they break down two or three levels of technical jargon into some named thing that may or may not have anything to do with the actual answer.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

Tower Monarch
Rikku
Posts: 360
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Tower Monarch » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:12 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: When a clue says "the first movement of this piece is marked allegro and has a clarinet solo", I'm not getting any kind of special technical information; I'm getting the same information as you: the opening is fast, and a particular type of thing that people blow into is playing a solo. If we tried to conceptualize this clue, we'd conceptualize the same thing: a clarinet playing quickly.
Granted I have no idea what parts of music you have studied, but if I open the Orchestration (the subject of at least one class in every Music Department I've heard of) book lying next to my bed, I can find a laundry list of technical aspects of the clarinet that musicians would know and others would not. You would not conceptualize that clue in the same way at all. Jerry would be thinking of a woodwind sound in general, while you or Dees, having listened to many varied pieces closely and often alongside sheet music, have the ability to distinguish the timbre of a clarinet from that of the twenty other commonly used woodwinds. How does that not give you a technical advantage? Any textbook on orchestration or composition in general will have asides on how the clarinet or generally "instrument X" has been used to create certain images in various pieces. You have access to that information and others don't.

This is a good thing, but it also means that writers who have not mastered this information must find a way to handle it appropriately.
Cameron Orth - Freelance Writer/Moderator, PACE member
College: JTCC 2011, Dartmouth College '09-'10, '11-'14
Mathematics, Computer Science and Film/Media Studies
High School: Home Schooled/Cosby High '08-'09, MLWGSGIS A-E '06-'08

User avatar
magin
Yuna
Posts: 955
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:50 pm
Location: College Park, MD

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by magin » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:56 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I don't buy what Cameron says at all - with science and music, we've really gotten to a point where you can't "coach up" writers other than the handful of two or three expert writers. The only people who are going to meet the standard proposed are the people who are both (1) a very good qb writer in general and (2) an expert in the subject (meaning every subtopic of science)
I want to respond to this, because I don't think this is true, at least regarding music. As John noted, the music I wrote/edited for ACF Nationals featured very few technical clues; this was by design, since I have very little technical knowledge of music and therefore don't trust myself to use technical music clues well, and since those technical clues are incomprehensible to the vast majority of players. However, it appears that players, including those with the deepest, most technical music knowledge, enjoyed the music at Nats.

I focused on composers and common links (and a few instrument tossups) because for most pieces of music, there are a very small number of unique clues that I'd be confident players can buzz on (obviously not true for massive symphonies, but definitely for smaller-scale works). I think it's impossible to write more than a few good tossups on those individual works without using a bunch of technical clues; otherwise, you end up reusing the same few clues over and over, which lends itself to easy fraud.

The solution, then, is limiting tossups on works to ones rich with many good clues, and writing the rest of your music tossups on common links, composers, and instruments. It's just much, much easier to find one good clue for a bunch of pieces than it is to find eight good clues for one average piece of music. I think the pressure for technical music clues comes from people trying to write good tossups on an individual piece without repeating many past clues; since there aren't that many unique clues per most pieces of music that can be expressed without that technical knowledge, you get people that don't have technical knowledge trying to write clues that incorporate technical knowledge, which is like trying to write a tossup in a foreign language you barely understand. That's not necessary and frustrates both players with technical knowledge and players without, pleasing no one.

Writing on music answer lines that have tons of potential clues produces tossups that everyone can play without needless frustration. You don't need a huge grounding in music to find those clues, just a willingness to perform a tiny bit of research.
Jonathan Magin
Montgomery Blair HS '04, University of Maryland '08
Editor: ACF

"noted difficulty controller"

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:43 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: First, I don't think what scientists learn is nearly as uniform as Jerry is making it out to be, at least relative to literature; it largely dependent on what field and/or type of schooling you're involved in. In graduate school, the "shared canon" of things that all biology-related PhDs learn becomes vanishingly small as people specialize and specialize further. My immunology background, for example, is largely dwarfed by my classmates who specialize in T-cell activation or whatever. But, as someone who knows as much immunology as the average guy, I can at least say that I've HEARD of T-cells and understand to some extent what they do, and that knowledge is largely rewarded in quizbowl.
To some extent this is true in every discipline; of course you specialize. Maybe this is less true in biology, but I thought everyone had to learn some basic things like immunology, some anatomy, genetics, neuro. It's definitely true in physics (mechanics, quantum, stat mech, and e&m are the cornerstones).
I think writing a question on Cities of Salt or Rosa is similar to writing a question on CTLA-4 (which is something T-cell related that I'm told is important. Don't ask me further). Someone who has an undergraduate education in biology will have either never heard of it or will have heard of in passing, someone who specializes in immunology will most probably have heard of it, and someone who studies T-cell activation will absolutely know it. With a tossup like Cities of Salt, I'm under the impression that someone who has an undergraduate background in literature probably hasn't heard of it, but that someone that specializes in Middle Eastern literature or Middle Eastern studies will most probably have heard of it. Whereas writing a tossup on Flaubert is like writing a tossup on T cells - which can be written so that people specializing in immunology do better than people specializing in biology, and biologists do better than historians that aren't Chris Ray. And I'd much rather the bulk of a tournament that I play have tossups on T-cells, rather than tossups on crazy specific T-cell related things that only 2 people in the field know. There's way too much stuff in the shared undergraduate canon that can and should be asked about without resorting to these kinds of tossups, and I think what Ted, Andrew, and John are saying is there's plenty of things like that in the literature canon too.
I don't necessarily disagree with this, but I think there's an important difference between "people who read widely" and "people who specialize in an extremely narrow sub-area of a technical field." If anything, reading a lot of different books from different literatures is going to expose you to a lot of different authors in a way that narrowly focusing on immunology is not necessarily going to expand your horizons of bio knowledge.
Where's the filter? What's to stop me from going to the classics section of Barnes and Noble, reading something completely at random, and writing a tossup on it? I think it makes more sense to reward people for reading and learning things that are actually important in the field that the questions are being asked in.
I didn't say "pick a random thing and write on it." I mean, it's not like that tossup on Cities of Salt was a particularly random choice. I'd heard about the book, then one day I was in a bookstore and saw it on sale, and then later I thought "hey, it would be good to have some Arabic literature in this set and I have a major work of Arabic literature on hand." My assumption was that people would be sufficiently familiar with major works of Arabic literature that they would get it; you can correctly fault me for overestimating what people would know, but it's not like I picked some random thing off the shelf and decided to make everyone's life miserable.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
The Toad to Wigan Pier
Tidus
Posts: 528
Joined: Mon Oct 10, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier » Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:57 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: First, I don't think what scientists learn is nearly as uniform as Jerry is making it out to be, at least relative to literature; it largely dependent on what field and/or type of schooling you're involved in. In graduate school, the "shared canon" of things that all biology-related PhDs learn becomes vanishingly small as people specialize and specialize further. My immunology background, for example, is largely dwarfed by my classmates who specialize in T-cell activation or whatever. But, as someone who knows as much immunology as the average guy, I can at least say that I've HEARD of T-cells and understand to some extent what they do, and that knowledge is largely rewarded in quizbowl.
To some extent this is true in every discipline; of course you specialize. Maybe this is less true in biology, but I thought everyone had to learn some basic things like immunology, some anatomy, genetics, neuro. It's definitely true in physics (mechanics, quantum, stat mech, and e&m are the cornerstones).
Some biology programs(mine for example) only have 2-3 required courses and the rest of the major is electives. For example, I know next to nothing about anatomy and human biology as those classes were not required.
William Butler
UVA '11
Georgia Tech 13

Tower Monarch
Rikku
Posts: 360
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Tower Monarch » Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:09 pm

The Toad to Wigan Pier wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: First, I don't think what scientists learn is nearly as uniform as Jerry is making it out to be, at least relative to literature; it largely dependent on what field and/or type of schooling you're involved in. In graduate school, the "shared canon" of things that all biology-related PhDs learn becomes vanishingly small as people specialize and specialize further. My immunology background, for example, is largely dwarfed by my classmates who specialize in T-cell activation or whatever. But, as someone who knows as much immunology as the average guy, I can at least say that I've HEARD of T-cells and understand to some extent what they do, and that knowledge is largely rewarded in quizbowl.
To some extent this is true in every discipline; of course you specialize. Maybe this is less true in biology, but I thought everyone had to learn some basic things like immunology, some anatomy, genetics, neuro. It's definitely true in physics (mechanics, quantum, stat mech, and e&m are the cornerstones).
Some biology programs(mine for example) only have 2-3 required courses and the rest of the major is electives. For example, I know next to nothing about anatomy and human biology as those classes were not required.
On the other hand, subjects like Mathematics do follow the Physics track that Jerry outlined: Algebra, Analysis, Geometry/Topology, and a fourth elective are how most graduate programs I've looked into do it, while every single undergrad major or minor has the core of 3-4 terms of calculus, 1 term of (multi-)linear algebra and differential equations. The only real variations on the undergrad side come when it's time to choose pure vs applied, but pure undergrads do the three subjects I listed above (often 2+ courses in each) along with some electives (like probability and discrete mathematics).
Cameron Orth - Freelance Writer/Moderator, PACE member
College: JTCC 2011, Dartmouth College '09-'10, '11-'14
Mathematics, Computer Science and Film/Media Studies
High School: Home Schooled/Cosby High '08-'09, MLWGSGIS A-E '06-'08

Susan
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 1813
Joined: Fri Aug 15, 2003 12:43 am

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Susan » Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:05 pm

The Toad to Wigan Pier wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: First, I don't think what scientists learn is nearly as uniform as Jerry is making it out to be, at least relative to literature; it largely dependent on what field and/or type of schooling you're involved in. In graduate school, the "shared canon" of things that all biology-related PhDs learn becomes vanishingly small as people specialize and specialize further. My immunology background, for example, is largely dwarfed by my classmates who specialize in T-cell activation or whatever. But, as someone who knows as much immunology as the average guy, I can at least say that I've HEARD of T-cells and understand to some extent what they do, and that knowledge is largely rewarded in quizbowl.
To some extent this is true in every discipline; of course you specialize. Maybe this is less true in biology, but I thought everyone had to learn some basic things like immunology, some anatomy, genetics, neuro. It's definitely true in physics (mechanics, quantum, stat mech, and e&m are the cornerstones).
Some biology programs(mine for example) only have 2-3 required courses and the rest of the major is electives. For example, I know next to nothing about anatomy and human biology as those classes were not required.
I think the commonalities in undergrad bio programs are more like definitely biochemistry and genetics and a strong likelihood of cell bio, evolution and ecology, and possibly some sort of anatomy/physiology business (like Will, though perhaps more surprisingly given my field, I never took anything like this), plus the assumption that everyone has taken some sort of introduction to general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics.

To continue riding the immunology pony, the comparison I'd like to draw would be between immunology courses for undergrads versus, say, African literature classes for undergrads. I'd suspect that the immunology course would be more consistent from school to school than the lit course.
Susan
UChicago alum (AB 2003, PhD 2009)
Member emerita, ACF

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:38 pm

Tower Monarch wrote:The only real variations on the undergrad side come when it's time to choose pure vs applied, but pure undergrads do the three subjects I listed above (often 2+ courses in each)
It's also worth considering that pure and applied mathematics are alike mostly in name; I can't think of a similar distinction in lit/English curricula, but it's certainly not like "math" splits into "applied/pure" as "World literature" splits into regions/languages or something.
Andrew Watkins

Tower Monarch
Rikku
Posts: 360
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Tower Monarch » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:11 pm

I've come to realize that in many of these subjects, it's not necessarily the curriculum taught that matters as a gauge for what players know but the material in the standard textbooks. People touched upon this in the How to Become a Good Science Player thread and Jerry has long (over my college career of 3 years at least...) espoused the doctrine that physics clues should come from sources like Griffiths or Landau/Lifschitz. I think something that scientists realize that non-scientist writers of science questions don't always is that there is a canon of textbooks in most sciences (including math). Rather than represent the limit of the quizbowl canon, these should be the jumping-off point from which you start doing what Andrew and Ted have suggested in literature: make sure a tournament (and on the small-scale each packet) represents both the academic canon and occasional enrichment topics that are "interesting" or "worth knowing."
Cameron Orth - Freelance Writer/Moderator, PACE member
College: JTCC 2011, Dartmouth College '09-'10, '11-'14
Mathematics, Computer Science and Film/Media Studies
High School: Home Schooled/Cosby High '08-'09, MLWGSGIS A-E '06-'08

User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1222
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:51 pm

Certainly as much as most qb writers walking this planet, I have a willingness to pour a fair amount of energy into researching any subject I choose before writing.

And, yet, I have come to the point where I have little desire to attempt to write music or science anymore...because the level of whining that will come from the usual bunch of special-interest experts has reached a fever pitch. The entire paradigm of criticism that I see with these two subjects has, in my opinion, gone beyond what is productive for realistically improving the game - and gone into the realm where we may as well not have "tossups" on these things anymore - we should just ascertain who knows more about the subject and automatically give them 10 points.

Because, hey, you know...if you played that tossup, someone like me might have memorized a clue that isn't terribly important to understanding the nature of bremstrahlung - and I might undeservedly manage to get that question. Have to nip that in the bud.
Ryan Westbrook, no affiliation whatsoever.

I am pure energy...and as ancient as the cosmos. Feeble creatures, GO!

Left here since birth...forgotten in the river of time...I've had an eternity to...ponder the meaning of things...and now I have an answer!

Magister Ludi
Tidus
Posts: 677
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:57 am
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Magister Ludi » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:10 pm

grapesmoker wrote: I think there's an important difference between "people who read widely" and "people who specialize in an extremely narrow sub-area of a technical field." If anything, reading a lot of different books from different literatures is going to expose you to a lot of different authors in a way that narrowly focusing on immunology is not necessarily going to expand your horizons of bio knowledge.
Mike Cheyne, this is why Jerry's standard is hypocritical. A biology grad student specializing in immunology is a person "who specializes in an extremely narrow sub-area of a technical field" while a comp lit grad student specializing in Portuguese literature whose reading focuses almost exclusively on Portuguese works of literature is a person "who reads widely" and should be rewarded for their brave choice to dedicate themselves to such a broad and expansive topic.

He claims we need to write more science questions "like that tossup on "fields" that focus on understanding basic but important concepts and fewer questions on ungettable bullshit" because we should reward understanding basic yet important concepts that are critical to the backbone of the science curriculum's. However, he vehemently objects to literature majors asking for just a few more questions on basic yet important topics in our field. While discouraging people to write science questions on narrow topics that will likely only be encountered by a Phd student in that specialty, he strongly endorses lots of literature questions on something only a Phd candidate in a very small sub-field of Comparative Literature would likely be familiar with.
Ted Gioia - Harvard '12
Editor ACF, PACE

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6558
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Cheynem » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:25 pm

Thanks for the explanation, Ted. I guess the central argument would be as John mentioned earlier--should double standards exist for different topics?

(For what it's worth, history questions generally fail to reflect what I learn in class, although since I do not study political or military history, that is to be expected, I suppose. I feel like I've gotten the most buzzes by thumbing through some political history books for fun as opposed to questions on the admittedly very difficult to toss up stuff I've learned in class like historiography and cultural history)
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
The King's Flight to the Scots
Auron
Posts: 1451
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:11 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:34 pm

Cheynem wrote:Thanks for the explanation, Ted. I guess the central argument would be as John mentioned earlier--should double standards exist for different topics?

(For what it's worth, history questions generally fail to reflect what I learn in class, although since I do not study political or military history, that is to be expected, I suppose. I feel like I've gotten the most buzzes by thumbing through some political history books for fun as opposed to questions on the admittedly very difficult to toss up stuff I've learned in class like historiography and cultural history)
As a non-history major who'd still like to learn to write better history questions, I'd be interested to hear a more in-depth explanation of what exactly history majors tend to study.
Matt Bollinger
UVA '14, UVA '15
Communications Officer, ACF

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6558
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Cheynem » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:44 pm

I could tell you what I study, but these would not make very good history questions because they are kind of niche and hard. The CO tossup on "The Cheese and the Worms," which if you will recall, I did not answer, would be an example, though, as would stuff less on politics or military (there are, of course, plenty of historians who study specific political events and military engagements, but I do not). In regards to history I studied helping me at the two nationals last year, I answered "Prester John" and the Harriet Jacobs question specifically because of things I've studied, and I don't even know if they were classified as history.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Scipio
Wakka
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 4:12 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Scipio » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:18 pm

If my experience is the typical one, "history majors" and "history graduate students" study different things; or, rather, study the same things but in different ways.

As an undergraduate, I took a series of upper-level classes (and as a PhD I teach these) which treats the complete history of one particular area in one particular time; for example, the High Middle Ages, or the Early Modern World, or the Ancient Near East. For these, textbooks tended to be used and in-depth historiography, primary and secondary, took a back seat; I assign my students T.P. Wiseman's Clio's Cosmetics in my Rome class, for example, and one or two in-depth studies were all that were required of me in such classes when I took them (The Cheese and the Worms was one, which is why that question was inspired even though Jeff Hoppes was all over it), but the rest deals with the actual persons/trends/events.

As a graduate student, historiography predominates; to put it somewhat crudely, at that stage we don't learn "what happened", but what scholarship has to say about the topic in question.

What this therefore means is that history questions which ask about an person/trend/event are perfectly appropriate for rewarding what History majors do study and what PhD students theoretically have studied. To write it such that the latter gets the points before the former, you would lead in with historiographical opinion about a person/trend/event, then to specifics about the person/trend/event itself.

Does that make sense?
Seth Lyons Kendall
University of Memphis, 1993-1997
University of Kentucky, 1997-1999, 2000-2008

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3174
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:20 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:
Cheynem wrote:Thanks for the explanation, Ted. I guess the central argument would be as John mentioned earlier--should double standards exist for different topics?

(For what it's worth, history questions generally fail to reflect what I learn in class, although since I do not study political or military history, that is to be expected, I suppose. I feel like I've gotten the most buzzes by thumbing through some political history books for fun as opposed to questions on the admittedly very difficult to toss up stuff I've learned in class like historiography and cultural history)
As a non-history major who'd still like to learn to write better history questions, I'd be interested to hear a more in-depth explanation of what exactly history majors tend to study.
I instantly recoiled in horror upon reading this question, because it seems to assume that "better" history questions must be more in line with what historians do. For reasons I have listed in this thread and elsewhere, I think that would lead to an inferior playing experience for all but a small minority of historians. I hold out hope that you merely want a more diverse basis for your history writing, and not that you want to adopt Jerryist principles in the history distribution.

I am not a historian and have taken only 2 classes in college categorized as "history", but my understanding is that like all fields, you do not learn "history" per se. You end up specializing in one particular thing (say, role of frontier women during the Indian wars of the 19th century) and you learn all about that. You may be completely ignorant of things in other fields (e.g., Chinese ministers during the Song dynasty) and still be considered a "brilliant historian" in your specific field.
Last edited by Skepticism and Animal Feed on Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

User avatar
Auroni
Auron
Posts: 2998
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Brooklyn

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Auroni » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:24 pm

I assume that Matt meant that component of "what history majors tend to study" that overlaps with "what happened." In other words, better clues about factual events, instead of impenetrable historiographical clues.
Auroni Gupta
UIUC
ACF

User avatar
Scipio
Wakka
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 4:12 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Scipio » Wed Aug 03, 2011 4:07 pm

I assume that Matt meant that component of "what history majors tend to study" that overlaps with "what happened." In other words, better clues about factual events, instead of impenetrable historiographical clues.
Granted, but what he actually asked for was "a more in-depth explanation of what exactly history majors tend to study", which is what I attempted to provide.

I admit that I've been watching this thread with some interest. After the COLT (which was awesome, by the way), Borglum and I discussed ways that neither history nor literature questions really reward what experts actually know about these topics; he mentioned, for example, how exasperating it was that Kelly McKenzie regularly beat him to literature of which the latter spent twenty minutes memorizing plots and characters, as opposed to the months the former spent studying it in great detail. My own favorite example of this is how Kelly beat me to a question on Zeno the Isaurian, for which he memorized biographical clues but about whom I had written a twenty-page article.

However, I don't think the solution to this predicament is to write only questions whose answers are graduate-level historiography or literary criticism. I think it can far more artfully be done by selecting answers which any self-motivated amateur will eventually get, but lead in to them with clues that might reward the Ph.D. in American Literature or Roman History or Astrophysics; this is not exactly a ground-breaking opinion, as it has been voiced repeatedly in this thread. If it is done for one field, however, it should be done for all of them; please don't ask for tossups on "fields" and then bludgeon me with tossups on the Slap of Anagni.

By the way, I would like to add that I don't intend this as a criticism of Ryan, whom I think applied the standards of difficulty fairly uniformly across the disciplines. My own lack of knowledge meant that I found most of the questions at this tournament to be impenetrable, but all of them were (to me, at least) equally impenetrable, something which I imagine took a great deal of time and skill.
Seth Lyons Kendall
University of Memphis, 1993-1997
University of Kentucky, 1997-1999, 2000-2008

Magister Ludi
Tidus
Posts: 677
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:57 am
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Magister Ludi » Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:40 pm

Cheynem wrote: (For what it's worth, history questions generally fail to reflect what I learn in class, although since I do not study political or military history, that is to be expected, I suppose. I feel like I've gotten the most buzzes by thumbing through some political history books for fun as opposed to questions on the admittedly very difficult to toss up stuff I've learned in class like historiography and cultural history)
Like Seth pointed out, literature questions don't reflect what literature majors actually study but merely the topics we study. We don't sit around memorizing plot summaries all day. And I wouldn't want to write a question on Quentin's tone in The Sound and the Fury, the rhythm of Emily Dickinson's verse, or Shakespeare's representation of race in The Tempest. If you wish there were more questions on the topics you study in history class, like more social history, than that makes sense to me.
Ted Gioia - Harvard '12
Editor ACF, PACE

User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1222
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:14 pm

No matter how you slice it, getting a PhD or becoming an expert in some field of study is a very inefficient way to acquire qb-relevant knowledge. People need to stop living in la-la land and accept that.

It's no surprise that you can be a brilliant historian or scientist, who is stupendously well-read and intellectually curious, and be practically useless at quizbowl. The insistence on some correspondence between academic performance/standing and quizbowl performance is the great fundamental attribution error of this game. The history of these debates has been a history of people attempting to find a linkage, a nexus, between those two ideas that simply doesn't exist.
Ryan Westbrook, no affiliation whatsoever.

I am pure energy...and as ancient as the cosmos. Feeble creatures, GO!

Left here since birth...forgotten in the river of time...I've had an eternity to...ponder the meaning of things...and now I have an answer!

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3174
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:08 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:No matter how you slice it, getting a PhD or becoming an expert in some field of study is a very inefficient way to acquire qb-relevant knowledge. People need to stop living in la-la land and accept that.

It's no surprise that you can be a brilliant historian or scientist, who is stupendously well-read and intellectually curious, and be practically useless at quizbowl. The insistence on some correspondence between academic performance/standing and quizbowl performance is the great fundamental attribution error of this game. The history of these debates has been a history of people attempting to find a linkage, a nexus, between those two ideas that simply doesn't exist.
Amen. I will fully plagiarize this post (along with John Lawrence's earlier post) when I finally write my quizbowl manifesto.

My folk psychology theory is that quizbowlers are prone to playing a game called "shout out all possible arguments in favor of my position." That is, when an HSQB poster decides to argue in favor of position x, he states all arguments that can be made in favor of x, without pausing to think if any of them fit with his larger set of principles or if any of them would, if applied widely, be disastrous.

I think that somewhere, some time ago, some quizbowl player was arguing against the sort of trivial subjects and answers that you see in bad quizbowl: against trash, against things like "how many people signed the declaration of independence", etc. And at some point, the argument of "well that's not studied in school" was thrown in there. And it took a life of its own.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

User avatar
Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat
Rikku
Posts: 435
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:16 pm
Location: Midland, MI

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:41 pm

I'd like to point out that, although there is a pretty uniform science curriculum that covers many important topics, there are plenty of important, interesting, tossup-worthy topics that are rarely if ever seen in classes. For instance, I would like to think that the silicone chemistry I work on every day is important, and I believe that only two silicon chemistry classes exist at colleges in the U.S. A number of my friends work on a process which produces extremely pure silicon, which goes into computer chips and solar panels. Do I think that a tossup on the Siemens process would ever be a good idea? Absolutely not, but I thought silicon chemistry [EDIT: with "silicon" as the answer line] important enough to include in last year's VCU Open. Do I expect see more than one tossup on it again? No, and that is fine, since it is a very specialized topic and there are plenty of equally important non-core topics out there.

I agree that the majority of science answers should stick to things taught in core classes that most chemists/physicists/biologists/etc. will encounter. I also think that the majority of answers in literature and other categories should stick to topics likely to be encountered in core classes at any good university. All subjects will have important and interesting topics that don't show up in common classes, but the topics that come up in core classes are (hopefully) taught more frequently because they are more important. The more important a topic, the more frequently it (or at least a component of it) should show up, no matter what difficulty the tournament is.
Last edited by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat on Thu Aug 04, 2011 7:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Michael Hausinger
Coach, Bay City Western High School
formerly of University of Michigan and East Lansing High School

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:04 am

The problem with tossups on silicone chemistry is that besides the writer himself there are almost certainly zero people in the game who know anything about it and would be able to answer a question on the Siemens process. This is the same reason you shouldn't write tossups on flare stars; in my 5000+ page Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics, flare stars merit exactly two lines in an otherwise extremely detailed entry on variable stars. That's not the equivalent of "not-terribly-well-known-but-still-reasonably-important writer." That's "fringe subtopic within an already fringe sub-area of a highly specific technical discipline." It's like instead of asking for Guimaraes Rosa I asked for a character from one of his short stories.

And the reason you can't write questions on "the tone of Emily Dickinson's poems" is because it's nearly impossible to get people to actually say that in the context of the game. But by all means, you should write questions on Emily Dickinson that reward things like knowledge of her tone and whatever else you think is relevant about her work.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat
Rikku
Posts: 435
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2007 1:16 pm
Location: Midland, MI

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat » Thu Aug 04, 2011 7:24 am

Quantum Mushroom Billiard Hat wrote:Do I think that a tossup on the Siemens process would ever be a good idea? Absolutely not
Jerry, the answer to the tossup was "silicon," which I think is a perfectly reasonable answer line. I guess that wasn't clear. The point I was trying to make is that there are very important topics out there in science that aren't covered in schools, but are worth asking about in some fashion. Just because it is important, though, doesn't mean an extremely little-known topic should be the answer line of your tossup.
These sorts of "not-terribly-well-known-but-still-reasonably-important" topics can and should come up, in all areas, but only once in a while while the rest of the tournament is made of "pretty-well-known-and-important" topics.

Out of curiosity, how many people in quiz bowl do you think have read a book by Guimaraes Rosa?
Michael Hausinger
Coach, Bay City Western High School
formerly of University of Michigan and East Lansing High School

User avatar
women, fire and dangerous things
Tidus
Posts: 601
Joined: Mon Feb 16, 2009 5:34 pm
Location: Örkko, Cimmeria

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Thu Aug 04, 2011 9:49 am

I haven't read The Devil to Pay in the Backlands, but I know enough about it to be able to answer a question on Guimaraes Rosa before the giveaway.

Incidentally, is this posted somewhere and/or making the rounds by email?
Will Nediger
-Proud member of the cult of Urcuchillay-
University of Western Ontario 2011, University of Michigan 2017
Emeritus member, ACF
Writer, NAQT

User avatar
theMoMA
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5686
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:00 am

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by theMoMA » Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:24 am

I agree with Bruce and Ryan in this sense: writing as if quizbowl had to be congruous with certain curricula is wrongheaded. I think my position is a little more nuanced. We should be asking about things worth asking about. In my mind, that requires an balancing two key considerations: mainly, is the potential answer interesting and important, and is it answerable? All of these things are somewhat nebulous categories, but to me, a great answer is unquestionably all three (it's something that definitely interests people, is definitely important, and that players definitely know enough about to create an ideal buzzing distribution).

The curriculum can't always tell you what's interesting, important, or answerable. But the categories of "things that are important and answerable in a particular category" and "things that come up in the academy for people who study that particular category" overlap to a certain degree, and we should take advantage of that. I think that too often, the "interesting" prong blinds us to the practical realities of answerability. Then we have sets that are too hard, despite how many potentially interesting or important things might come up. Simply seeing whether people who study Subject X care about Answer Line Y has value. Not determinative value, in my mind, but value nonetheless.

So no, I'm not calling for people to derive all answer lines from a syllabus. I like to branch out and find under-asked-about answers as much as anyone, and I enjoy when others do so as well. But I do think that we should be looking to the core knowledge areas in the various categories for guidance on a substantial chunk of our answer lines. And I also think that Jerry's position that science is the only category in which we should look to core knowledge, while filling up the other areas with the equivalents of flare stars, is laughably hypocritical.
Andrew Hart
Minnesota alum

User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1169
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by setht » Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:27 am

Could someone post the flare stars tossup? Also the bonus on protostars with a part on Kelvin-Helmholtz contraction and the bonus on AGN (I think) with a part on magnetic fields that mentions the Blandford-Znajek mechanism.

Thanks,
-Seth
Seth Teitler
Formerly UC Berkeley and U. Chicago
President and Chief Editor, NAQT
Emeritus member, ACF

User avatar
Scipio
Wakka
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 4:12 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Scipio » Thu Aug 04, 2011 10:43 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:No matter how you slice it, getting a PhD or becoming an expert in some field of study is a very inefficient way to acquire qb-relevant knowledge. People need to stop living in la-la land and accept that.
I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting "Get Ph.D.; become quizbowl god". I think what Jerry is suggesting for his field is that "It's a damned shame that my dctorate in physics doesn't really help me get physics questions, due to the answers selected". I think Ted and Andrew are making similar suggestions about theirs.
No Rules Westbrook wrote:It's no surprise that you can be a brilliant historian or scientist, who is stupendously well-read and intellectually curious, and be practically useless at quizbowl. The insistence on some correspondence between academic performance/standing and quizbowl performance is the great fundamental attribution error of this game. The history of these debates has been a history of people attempting to find a linkage, a nexus, between those two ideas that simply doesn't exist.
The War (boxing) wrote:Amen. I will fully plagiarize this post (along with John Lawrence's earlier post) when I finally write my quizbowl manifesto ...

I think that somewhere, some time ago, some quizbowl player was arguing against the sort of trivial subjects and answers that you see in bad quizbowl: against trash, against things like "how many people signed the declaration of independence", etc. And at some point, the argument of "well that's not studied in school" was thrown in there. And it took a life of its own.
I grouped these two together because of the similar point that they make.

In fact, Bruce's theory about the origin of this divide is not far off the mark. Back in the bad old days (when there was once this question, in its entirety :"What is the age one can get a Moped license in Tennessee"), it was decided that trivia was not what players of this game wanted; what they wanted was substantive knowledge. The question became "What distinguishes trivia and fluff from 'substantive knowledge'?", and the answer was decided: since almost everyone then involved with the game were either students or faculty coaches, "substantive knowledge" became the sort of stuff you eitherdo learn in the classroom, or ought to learn in the classroom. Hence, the "Academic" in the Academic Competition Foundation, and its successor, the Academic Competition Federation.

Look, I'm not necessarily in favor of the position "ask about only stuff that comes up in my classes" (though I repeat that, if we do this for science, we really shouldm do it for everyone), precisely because of the proviso that things that ought to come up in classes but don't are fair game. So, I've never heard of the War of Mantuan Succession, but that doesn't make that question bad; quite the contrary. Likewise, this insistence on having science conform to what scientists actually study has practically driven out Science History, a former source of many points for me and a subject that was one of my doctoral exam fields and which I will be teaching this fall (so, I not only learned it but teach it in the Academy). But I think it's worth asking what informs our criteria of what ought to be asked about in quizbowl and what not, and, importantly, what makes a question "real". Having quizbowl questions grounded, if not tethered, in the academy seems to make more sense than a sort of Potter Stewart "I know it when I see it" free-for-all; what do the rest of you think?
Seth Lyons Kendall
University of Memphis, 1993-1997
University of Kentucky, 1997-1999, 2000-2008

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:03 am

I think science history is a worthy subject generally but would not like it to occupy science space in the distribution. Obviously, it's a tough thing to choose "which of the twenty questions gets booted in favor of one on science history?" I think replacing trash with other academic (with a strong bias to, perhaps, "intellectual history") probably is a decent way to work it in. I think a lot of the backlash against science history was its tendency towards biography. While the Haber-Grignard rivalry over who could develop the worse poison gas during WWI was certainly important to science, Grignard being the son of a sailmaker wasn't. I'd love to see good science history in an appropriate place in the distribution, but by its nature it's more history than science, and would probably frustrate players of either were it to take out a question.
Andrew Watkins

User avatar
Birdofredum Sawin
Rikku
Posts: 400
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:25 pm
Location: Mountain View

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:27 am

I've been following this discussion with some amusement, largely because it so neatly reprises the post-2005 ACF Nationals debate about science (and, in particular, the debate about whether there is any legitimate place in the game for questions on science history: I thought yes, for reasons which tally with those put forth by Andrew Hart and Ted in this thread; Jerry thought no, for basically the same reasons as he has offered here). I had been under the impression that I failed to persuade anyone of my position back in 2005, and that the Jerry-esque perspective on science's privileged position in the game had become hegemonic, which makes it nice to see the push-back here.

I want to reiterate a point I made in the Announcements forum, for fear that it may have gotten lost in the shuffle over there. One of the charms of this debate flaring up now is that it coincides with Andrew Hart's law tournament, which happens to be a perfect instantiation of the kind of quizbowl Jerry claims to want. Jerry's position, as I understand it, goes something like this: "(1) All students of science learn more or less the same core things in their standard curricula. (2) Quizbowl should principally ask about those core things that science students learn in their standard curricula, because asking about other things is unfair." (To be honest, I'm actually not entirely clear on the normative aspect of Jerry's argument--i.e., I don't know, and have never known, exactly why he thinks it is improper for quizbowl to ask about things that don't come up in the standard science curricula. I'm not sure that Jerry has ever done a great job of explaining this normative argument, which is perhaps why people like Ted are now accusing him of hypocrisy: failing to see any good argument for the normative position here, they assume that Jerry is "really" motivated only by a desire to maintain his edge in this category. Note that I am not myself accusing Jerry of hypocrisy; I'm just observing that I don't grasp his normative point.)

Anyway, emerging from that digression, my point here is as follows: Jerry has always offered this argument in terms of science questions (which is perhaps why he gets accused of hypocrisy, or at least of partiality, so often). But it is completely generalizable, as some of Jerry's critics have observed. That is: The position can be stated "(1) All students of [x] learn more or less the same core things in their standard curricula. (2) Quizbowl should principally ask about those core things that [x] students learn in their standard curricula," where "x" can be "history" or "literature" or what you please. (Obviously there are differences between how "standard" the "standard curricula" are in different fields, but I don't see those differences as posing a radical objection to this argument.) The question for Jerry then becomes: Why shouldn't your position be applied equally to every field? (This is essentially a "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" argument.)

This brings me back to my observation about Andrew Hart's law tournament, which (as I have noted) happens to be an ideal instance of Jerry's position. As it happens, all students of law do learn more or less the same core things in the standard 1L curriculum. And, as it happens, Andrew Hart's tournament principally asks about those core things (in fact, it almost exclusively asks about them). I therefore suggest that, rather than continuing this debate, anyone who leans toward Jerry's position should take a look at Andrew Hart's law questions and ask themselves: Is this what I think quizbowl should look like? If not, is it possible to offer a principled explanation of why the non-science parts of the game shouldn't look like Andrew Hart's law questions, but the science parts of the game should? (Note, again, that this is not meant as criticism of the law tournament, which I enjoyed as a novelty one-subject vanity tournament; my point about it is that, if we take Jerry's views seriously, all of quizbowl ought to aspire to the condition of Andrew Hart's law tournament.)
Andrew

Ex-Virginia, Ex-Chicago, Ex-Stanford

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3174
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:31 am

A key component of my argument against having the quizbowl canon track what is learned in the academy is my belief that, outside of science, there is very little standardization as to what people read.

This belief is, in large part, colored by my experience in high school and college. My high school had two English teachers: Miss M was a feminist, Mr H was a proud Irishman. If you took Miss M's AP Literature class, you read exclusively books with a strong female protagonist. This is what she liked, and thus what she assigned. If you took Mr H's AP Composition class, you read almost exclusively poems and essays by Irish or Scottish authors, because he wanted to promote Gaelic culture (or at least culture from places that dislike the English, whom he disliked and frequently savaged in class).

What was the result of this arbitrary curriculum, so obviously designed to further the ideological agenda of my teachers? Well, in both classes virtually all students got a 4 or 5 on the AP exam. It seems that they could get away with teaching whatever they wanted, because students didn't need a broad base of knowledge to succeed in the field. It was more important that we knew how to analyze a text, rather than be familiar with a specific text. Granted, this was at an extremely low level, but I bet that something similar holds true for whatever it is that English majors or English PhDs do: beyond a small canon of hyperimportant texts, you can do a good job without having a broad base of knowledge.

Thus, my suspicion is that English teachers and Literature professors across the country, much like Miss M and Mr H, probably also teach and assign that which they like, because they can get away with it without hurting their students.

My brief experience with history classes in college was similar. First, beyond extremely generic core classes like "American Civilization" or "European History", the existence of survey classes seemed to be determined largely by what faculty members were interested in teaching. UChicago happens to have a lot of Assyriologists, so there were survey classes about the ancient near east. At a university with a different set of faculty members, the survey course offerings probably would have differed.

But even in a survey class, I found that a lot of what was taught was basically whatever the professor happened to be interested in. The guy who taught my Islamic History class was an expert on the Fatimids specifically, and Islamic Egypt generally. Guess what, almost every time he talked about a trend in Islamic history, he used an example from Egyptian history, often Fatimid history. If a Persian specialist was teaching that class, I'd have learned a completely different set of anecdotes. The guy who taught my "19th Century American Civilization" class managed to go the entire class without once mentioning Andrew Jackson: he was far more interested in telling us about what early female intellectuals were writing about instead.

My point isn't that I got a bad education; I'm sure my education was just fine. My point is that it's possible to get a good education and end up knowing a completely different set of things than somebody who got that same education at a different school, or even at the same school from a different teacher. Because for a lot of these subjects, the important thing is how you analyze information, not whether or not you know information. You learn a methodology, and then apply it to whatever small field you're goaded into by the highly specialized nature of the academic market.

Quizbowl, which tests knowledge rather than mastery of a methodology, is obviously at odds with this.

To the extent that science is different, it's because there are more things that people HAVE to know to be competent at what they do. So these things ARE taught, because teachers can't get away with not teaching them and focusing on their pet interests instead.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

User avatar
Scipio
Wakka
Posts: 179
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2003 4:12 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Scipio » Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:02 pm

Bruce makes some interesting points, and certainly those who take my survey classes get different anecdotes than those who take classes of others. However, I would submit that the 'normalizing' force in history classes and probably English ones as well is the textbook. I may omit discussion of, say, Christianity in the Late Empire, but I assign reading which covers it. Based on my own work consulting for textbook publishers, I suspect most textbooks used in Western Civ classes across the Academy will cover much the same things, and indeed will be unable to be published without doing so. I similarly expect all US History classes will do likewise. The ubiquity of Norton Readers leads me to suspect further that literature classes using them produce a basis of knowledge on which one can anchor, but not necessarily confine, quizbowl questions.

As history classes progress, and the focus becomes narrower in upper level classes, I would bet that this standardization becomes even more apparent. After all, the ability to participate in the historical enterprise as it is practiced in the United States practically requires that members of the same fields basically know the same things (so we can present at conferences and discuss presentations intelligently), and teach them. No Classical Historian, for example, will not know who Epaminondas is, and I submit no class on Ancient Greece will fail to discuss who he was and what he did. I would be thunderstruck if it did not work that way for Americanists as well, and if it likewise did not work that way in Literature.

Therefore, there might be substantial variation in the in-class presentations in History survey classes, but the readings will compensate; that variation begins to vanish in upper-level classes. For this reason, I don't think it is therefore as untenable as Bruce might to suggest that it is viable to connect history/literature questions with classes on these subjects, and branch off from there.
Seth Lyons Kendall
University of Memphis, 1993-1997
University of Kentucky, 1997-1999, 2000-2008

User avatar
The King's Flight to the Scots
Auron
Posts: 1451
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:11 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:03 pm

Bruce wrote:This belief is, in large part, colored by my experience in high school and college. My high school had two English teachers: Miss M was a feminist, Mr H was a proud Irishman. If you took Miss M's AP Literature class, you read exclusively books with a strong female protagonist. This is what she liked, and thus what she assigned. If you took Mr H's AP Composition class, you read almost exclusively poems and essays by Irish or Scottish authors, because he wanted to promote Gaelic culture (or at least culture from places that dislike the English, whom he disliked and frequently savaged in class).

What was the result of this arbitrary curriculum, so obviously designed to further the ideological agenda of my teachers? Well, in both classes virtually all students got a 4 or 5 on the AP exam. It seems that they could get away with teaching whatever they wanted, because students didn't need a broad base of knowledge to succeed in the field. It was more important that we knew how to analyze a text, rather than be familiar with a specific text. Granted, this was at an extremely low level, but I bet that something similar holds true for whatever it is that English majors or English PhDs do: beyond a small canon of hyperimportant texts, you can do a good job without having a broad base of knowledge.
This is not really true at the collegiate level. The problem is that you're comparing high school students, who took one or two AP literature courses, to collegiate English majors, who took 30+ credits worth and will naturally have a much wider range of knowledge. At virtually any institution you are required to take several survey courses which go through the history of literature and teach a basic "canon" of texts, which overlap very significantly across institutions.

More importantly, it's completely untrue that you can be a good English PhD without having a broad base of knowledge. To get into grad school, you have to take a Literature GRE whose main focus is exactly that broad base of knowledge--matching passages to works, theories to critics, even (gasp) titles to authors. Actually, it's remarkably like ACF Regionals. Despite the sophistry put forth in this thread, there is absolutely a sizable literary "core" that you will learn and will be expected to know as an English major at any given institution.
Matt Bollinger
UVA '14, UVA '15
Communications Officer, ACF

User avatar
cornfused
Auron
Posts: 2160
Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2006 3:22 pm
Location: Des Moines, IA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by cornfused » Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:14 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:More importantly, it's completely untrue that you can be a good English PhD without having a broad base of knowledge. To get into grad school, you have to take a Literature GRE whose main focus is exactly that broad base of knowledge--matching passages to works, theories to critics, even (gasp) titles to authors. Actually, it's remarkably like ACF Regionals. Despite the sophistry put forth in this thread, there is absolutely a sizable literary "core" that you will learn and will be expected to know as an English major at any given institution.
Seconded - helping a friend study for the English GRE was just like studying for quizbowl, except there was a particular extra breed of question (basically, match the following passages devoid of place or character names to their authors based on style alone) that was awesome but would likely be impossible to implement in quizbowl.

The canon, as defined by the GRE, is a lot closer to the size of the quizbowl canon at a Regionals or slightly easier level - not ACF Fall or smaller as defined by some people in this thread. I'm not sure where I stand on this debate, but I agree that English scholars are expected to get a decently sizable amount of knowledge of the canon in addition to depth in their own specialty.
Greg Peterson

Northwestern University '18
Lawrence University '11
Maine South HS '07

"a decent player" - Mike Cheyne

Batsteve
Lulu
Posts: 35
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 9:59 pm
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Batsteve » Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:25 pm

setht wrote:Could someone post the flare stars tossup? Also the bonus on protostars with a part on Kelvin-Helmholtz contraction and the bonus on AGN (I think) with a part on magnetic fields that mentions the Blandford-Znajek mechanism.

Thanks,
-Seth
Unless I changed them at the last minute for some reason, these should be the final forms of the questions.
CO wrote:Their namesake phenomenon is similar to that seen in RS Canum Venaticorum stars, however in these objects the cause can not be shown to be a binary companion, and these stars show similar behavior to BY Draconis stars.. These stars are typically several orders of magnitude more active in the U-band than V-band. The first known being V1396 Cygni and AT Microscopii. Based on a 1998 event, Barnard’s Star is considered by some to be one of these objects, though intervals of hours or days are more typical for these objects. Their activity is caused by magnetic reconnection in their atmospheres, similar to those causing sunspots. Consisting largely of Class M red dwarfs, examples include Wolf 359, Proxima Centauri, and Luyten 726-8. For 10 points, what are these stellar objects that experience unpredictable increases in brightness over a timescale of minutes?
ANSWER: flare stars or UV Ceti variables

The Orion nebula is an example of one of these regions. For 10 points each:
[10] Identify these dense clouds which are characterized by recent star-formation activity. They are named because they contain ionized hydrogen. 
ANSWER: H II regions
[10] Found with H II regions are these compact clouds containing cosmic dust and molecular gas, which are thought to give rise to protostars. They are named for a Dutch-American astronomer. 
ANSWER: Bok globules [or clouds] 
[10] This doubly-eponymous mechanism suggests that a star contracts to maintain hydrostatic equilibrium as it radiates energy over time. 
ANSWER: Kelvin-Helmholtz mechanism

Answer some questions about the physics of black holes, for 10 points each.
[10] This is the solution to the Einstein Field Equations for a simple rotataing black hole with no electric charge. Inside the ergosphere, any object must rotate with the black hole, a fact which is exploited in the Penrose process.
ANSWER: Kerr metric [accept Kerr vacuum]
[10] The Kerr metric can be expressed using these coordinates, a generalization of the Schwarzschild metric. Interestingly, they show that the singularity inside a Kerr black hole is actually a ring, whose size depends on the mass of the black hole.
ANSWER: Boyer-Lindquist coordinates
[10] The Bladford-Znajek process is a method for removing energy from a black hole using the phenomenon. The B-Z method may how Quasars are powered, and along with beaming this phenomenon also explains why their relativistic jets stay mostly collimated.
ANSWER: Magnetic Field [accept B field, accept basically any descriptive answer involving Magnetism]
As sort of an open question to physicists, what are some appropriate pronouns for answerlines like "magnetic field"? I used "phenomenon," but that may have made it sound like I was looking for a process rather than a thing.
SteveJon
Unaffiliated

User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by cvdwightw » Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:48 pm

theMoMA wrote:But I do think that we should be looking to the core knowledge areas in the various categories for guidance on a substantial chunk of our answer lines. And I also think that Jerry's position that science is the only category in which we should look to core knowledge, while filling up the other areas with the equivalents of flare stars, is laughably hypocritical.
The problem with this is that, essentially, nothing on the edges of the CO canon is core knowledge in any reasonably non-specific area. Furthermore, somewhere over half of all questions at CO were written by someone who has zero firsthand knowledge of what "quizbowl-obscure" topics are actually important in a field or subfield. To put it mildly, canon expansion at the fringe of the canon (as opposed to "filling in the gaps" of the canon) is largely driven by a scattershot process in which non-experts attempt to guess what things are interesting and important enough to be asked about. To blindly assume that the direction of canon expansion is or should be guided by people who can reward academic study of extremely specific areas is to ignore how packet sets are constructed.

I think that this process results in "amateur" science writers invariably choosing answers or clues because they "have a name" or some other such nonsense; while "amateur" literature writers have resources like graduate reading lists that at least help them make guesses as to what is important in the academic world (although my guess is that a number of "amateur" literature writers less well-read and meticulous than Jerry do pick answers because they "have a name"). I suspect that Jerry's position more or less aligns with this, though (for the reason outlined in the previous parenthetical statement) I don't think that his conclusions about scientific exceptionalism logically follow from this position.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:53 pm

I'll try to summarize my points in a concise way in response to Andrew's points. First, a clarification:
Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I want to reiterate a point I made in the Announcements forum, for fear that it may have gotten lost in the shuffle over there. One of the charms of this debate flaring up now is that it coincides with Andrew Hart's law tournament, which happens to be a perfect instantiation of the kind of quizbowl Jerry claims to want. Jerry's position, as I understand it, goes something like this: "(1) All students of science learn more or less the same core things in their standard curricula. (2) Quizbowl should principally ask about those core things that science students learn in their standard curricula, because asking about other things is unfair." (To be honest, I'm actually not entirely clear on the normative aspect of Jerry's argument--i.e., I don't know, and have never known, exactly why he thinks it is improper for quizbowl to ask about things that don't come up in the standard science curricula. I'm not sure that Jerry has ever done a great job of explaining this normative argument, which is perhaps why people like Ted are now accusing him of hypocrisy: failing to see any good argument for the normative position here, they assume that Jerry is "really" motivated only by a desire to maintain his edge in this category. Note that I am not myself accusing Jerry of hypocrisy; I'm just observing that I don't grasp his normative point.)
The normative aspect that I'm pushing is that expertise in a field should be conducive to answering questions from that field. I think this is a non-controversial point, and one that I think both Ted and Andrew Hart accept. The way many science questions are written now, especially at high difficulty levels, simply doesn't do that; they are either written on topics that are incredibly fringe (and I think my comparison above to what "flare stars" represent in the overall scheme of physics knowledge is pretty accurate) or they are written in such a way that doesn't help someone with expertise answer the question. A good example of the latter is the Auger effect question from round 3; I know how the Auger effect works and have derived it in class, but all my knowledge is useless against someone who has read the Wikipedia article and knows that Coster-Kronig means it's time to buzz. The reason it's feasible to do something like this within physics as long as people stick to the "named thing must be written on" philosophy is because the set of such named things is relatively small in the discipline. Thus, it's pretty easy to memorize associated words and phrases in a way that's totally impractical in other disciplines.

The accusation of hypocrisy appears to come from Ted's argument that I'm refusing to apply the same standards of expertise to e.g. the study of literature. More specifically, Ted's argument is that I myself have written questions that were allegedly so hard that they eliminated any advantage he might derive from his expertise in literature. I maintain that this is not so for the reason that I didn't choose figures that were peripheral or particularly obscure; I picked writers and books that were fairly prominent examples of their respective traditions. And over the course of the tournament, many of the top teams did answer those questions; they were generally answered by people who also read a lot of books, just like Ted does. My claim is that, empirically, the two situations are just not analogous and that one could quite easily learn about someone like Aleixandre or The White Tiger by being interested in Spanish literature generally and paying attention to literary happenings, whereas people do not learn second-order analogues of eponymous effects because they are interested in physics.
Anyway, emerging from that digression, my point here is as follows: Jerry has always offered this argument in terms of science questions (which is perhaps why he gets accused of hypocrisy, or at least of partiality, so often). But it is completely generalizable, as some of Jerry's critics have observed. That is: The position can be stated "(1) All students of [x] learn more or less the same core things in their standard curricula. (2) Quizbowl should principally ask about those core things that [x] students learn in their standard curricula," where "x" can be "history" or "literature" or what you please. (Obviously there are differences between how "standard" the "standard curricula" are in different fields, but I don't see those differences as posing a radical objection to this argument.) The question for Jerry then becomes: Why shouldn't your position be applied equally to every field? (This is essentially a "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" argument.)
I think it's perfectly fine to apply that to every field, and why not? The one constraint I would put on this is that you have to pick answers that make good questions. That's why "the tone of Emily Dickinson's poems" is a bad answer, but there's nothing bad about writing a question that draws on criticism clues about the tone of the poems. If you want to write a tossup on "alexandrines," go nuts. If you're writing a history question, draw on some famous historiography. I guess the other restriction would be something like "people should plausibly be able to get those questions by the end," but I'm happy with putting that restriction on science questions as well, and in fact, this would preclude a fair number of the problematic questions I've seen over the years.
This brings me back to my observation about Andrew Hart's law tournament, which (as I have noted) happens to be an ideal instance of Jerry's position. As it happens, all students of law do learn more or less the same core things in the standard 1L curriculum. And, as it happens, Andrew Hart's tournament principally asks about those core things (in fact, it almost exclusively asks about them). I therefore suggest that, rather than continuing this debate, anyone who leans toward Jerry's position should take a look at Andrew Hart's law questions and ask themselves: Is this what I think quizbowl should look like? If not, is it possible to offer a principled explanation of why the non-science parts of the game shouldn't look like Andrew Hart's law questions, but the science parts of the game should? (Note, again, that this is not meant as criticism of the law tournament, which I enjoyed as a novelty one-subject vanity tournament; my point about it is that, if we take Jerry's views seriously, all of quizbowl ought to aspire to the condition of Andrew Hart's law tournament.)
I'm not sure it would be possible to do this; as far as I can tell the reason Andrew's tournament sounds the way it does is because of the nature of the subject material. I wouldn't want to play a whole tournament of law bowl (and didn't) but I don't see either history or literature or indeed any other discipline turning into that.

Coda: I want to reinforce the original point that I've been trying to make all along. The way many science questions are written right now is analogous to writing tossups on novels that are nothing but lists of characters, or tossups on writers that are nothing but lists of novels, with the additional complication that there are maybe 100 answers total (at best) to choose from. I would like to see questions that are written in such a way as to reward understanding and knowledge of the material, which would be roughly analogous to knowing the plot of a novel rather than memorizing characters. Moreover, we solve the problem of limited answer space by expanding into commonly used but also gettable technical terms, which should allow both scientists and nonscientists to answer the questions, the former before the latter.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6365
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:09 pm

Batsteve wrote:As sort of an open question to physicists, what are some appropriate pronouns for answerlines like "magnetic field"? I used "phenomenon," but that may have made it sound like I was looking for a process rather than a thing.
"This property" would probably have made a lot more sense. "Phenomenon" made me think of a process so I couldn't figure out what was being talked about in time.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:14 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:To be honest, I'm actually not entirely clear on the normative aspect of Jerry's argument--i.e., I don't know, and have never known, exactly why he thinks it is improper for quizbowl to ask about things that don't come up in the standard science curricula.
I don't know what Jerry's reason was, but I'll give my own. Optimal tossup resolution is generally achieved when someone very deeply involved in a subject knows a tremendous amount about it. Of course, an astrophysicist and a nuclear physicist might know different super-duper advanced things about the magnetic field, and so a leadin from astro or nuclear might privilege one or the other, but those people will get the tossup. Science periphera erases those advantages: Jerry is as likely to get that question as anyone else able to read Wikipedia or Wired or something. (Perhaps Jerry is at a disadvantage due to his lesser free time to read Wired.)

Now, of course, is the question of whether quizbowl ought to reward academic engagement with science or Wired-style engagement. I'd argue the former; to me it's self-evident, but I think that the former is a much more serious and meaningful type of learning. I can learn words and the names of things from Wired; I can understand relationships through truly learning science. That's what is, to me, more important.
Andrew Watkins

Tower Monarch
Rikku
Posts: 360
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 6:23 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Tower Monarch » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:16 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I don't have any problem with a fellow like Jerry moaning and groaning on some questions like flare stars - I totally get that, it's frustrating on a gut level while you're playing.

But, I think the practical extension of Jerry's position is that: the only way we would be happy with science questions is if the editor is Seth Teitler, Mike Sorice, or Jerry himself. Almost every single other writer - even very knowledge science folks like Gautam - just can't meet the standards that are being proposed, at least across a range of several science genres. I'm not saying the standard is wrong (though, I could argue that, I'm not doing so here) - I'm just looking at the practical consequences.

I don't buy what Cameron says at all - with science and music, we've really gotten to a point where you can't "coach up" writers other than the handful of two or three expert writers. The only people who are going to meet the standard proposed are the people who are both (1) a very good qb writer in general and (2) an expert in the subject (meaning every subtopic of science)
Despite Ryan Westbrook's objections, I would like to incorporate Jerry's recent summary to strengthen what I said before: I believe any writer willing to put in the time can write a quality science question (ie one that will not spawn threads like this one) by following the same approach that literature question writers have been using for years now. Using Jerry's analogy to titles in literature, the approach is to focus on plot clues, equivalent to things like derivations and implications that are studied in classrooms and in independent readings in science, rather than listing works by the author (the analog of eponymous effects). Yes, this is harder than skimming wiki articles and copy-pasting in names, but finding memorable plot elements is much harder than skimming a bibliography and yet this has become standard to literature.
Responding directly to Ryan, I'm saying that (1) is required and (2) is not. I am nowhere near the science expert that Gautam, Andy, Eric, etc (people you excluded), and I am still confident that if I spend enough time on it, I can write a packet's worth of quality science questions. I guess in your extension they might not be "happy," but I think they will be satisfied when they are able to buzz in the first half of my question and overall conversion by the end is high.
Cameron Orth - Freelance Writer/Moderator, PACE member
College: JTCC 2011, Dartmouth College '09-'10, '11-'14
Mathematics, Computer Science and Film/Media Studies
High School: Home Schooled/Cosby High '08-'09, MLWGSGIS A-E '06-'08

User avatar
Lagotto Romagnolo
Tidus
Posts: 530
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:43 pm
Location: Alexandria, VA

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:17 pm

The War (boxing) wrote:I think that somewhere, some time ago, some quizbowl player was arguing against the sort of trivial subjects and answers that you see in bad quizbowl: against trash, against things like "how many people signed the declaration of independence", etc. And at some point, the argument of "well that's not studied in school" was thrown in there. And it took a life of its own.
Agreed, on all counts. I also agree with Matt's post on literature; I've seen prospective English Lit grad students fret over memorizing a wide variety of poets, titles, and in some cases, lines from poems (take a look at this: http://www.ets.org/s/gre/pdf/literature_in_english.pdf). But I feel that these authors and topics have already established themselves as the center of the ACF Regionals-level canon. At ACF Nats and above, our goal is to challenge players by exploring either the outer reaches of the canon or very deep specialized areas within the canon, and we can't rely as much on questions about the 'Great Books'. Instead we turn to literary works that may be taught at one program but not another. No question, there is a trade-off between "rewarding the core of knowledge" and challenge. When you write for ACF Nats or CO, expectations tend to shift towards the latter. So we have to extrapolate from the curriculum. This is the point at which having an PhD in English lit for work on a specialized topic offers less and less qb ammunition.

edited for further discourse
Aaron Rosenberg
Langley HS '07 / Brown '11 / Illinois '14
PACE

Magister Ludi
Tidus
Posts: 677
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:57 am
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Magister Ludi » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:55 pm

EDIT: double post
Last edited by Magister Ludi on Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ted Gioia - Harvard '12
Editor ACF, PACE

Magister Ludi
Tidus
Posts: 677
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:57 am
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by Magister Ludi » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:55 pm

grapesmoker wrote: The normative aspect that I'm pushing is that expertise in a field should be conducive to answering questions from that field. I think this is a non-controversial point, and one that I think both Ted and Andrew Hart accept. The way many science questions are written now, especially at high difficulty levels, simply doesn't do that; they are either written on topics that are incredibly fringe (and I think my comparison above to what "flare stars" represent in the overall scheme of physics knowledge is pretty accurate) or they are written in such a way that doesn't help someone with expertise answer the question. A good example of the latter is the Auger effect question from round 3; I know how the Auger effect works and have derived it in class, but all my knowledge is useless against someone who has read the Wikipedia article and knows that Coster-Kronig means it's time to buzz. The reason it's feasible to do something like this within physics as long as people stick to the "named thing must be written on" philosophy is because the set of such named things is relatively small in the discipline. Thus, it's pretty easy to memorize associated words and phrases in a way that's totally impractical in other disciplines.

The accusation of hypocrisy appears to come from Ted's argument that I'm refusing to apply the same standards of expertise to e.g. the study of literature. More specifically, Ted's argument is that I myself have written questions that were allegedly so hard that they eliminated any advantage he might derive from his expertise in literature. I maintain that this is not so for the reason that I didn't choose figures that were peripheral or particularly obscure; I picked writers and books that were fairly prominent examples of their respective traditions. And over the course of the tournament, many of the top teams did answer those questions; they were generally answered by people who also read a lot of books, just like Ted does. My claim is that, empirically, the two situations are just not analogous and that one could quite easily learn about someone like Aleixandre or The White Tiger by being interested in Spanish literature generally and paying attention to literary happenings, whereas people do not learn second-order analogues of eponymous effects because they are interested in physics.
Your approach is a double standard because you assume when someone answers a science question on the Auger Effect from a doubly-eponymous effect they're answering that question from Wikipedia knowledge, while when someone answers a question on Reinaldo Arenas or Rosa or Munif they must be answering it from real knowledge despite evidence to contrary. When I tell you objectively that Dallas's two hours of studying Wikipedia lists got him four European and World lit tossups at the playoffs of ACF, while myself and every the other literature major who I spoke with got practically no questions in those categories on books we've read (or even encountered) you dismiss it as an anomaly. I think these two situations actually end up playing remarkably similar.

If in some bizarre world I was writing a tossup on the Auger Effect, I could want to include lots of clues on doubly-eponymous effects in an effort to reward a scientist with real knowledge of those effects. But objectively it ends up rewarding people who read the Wikipedia articles. Perhaps, as someone who isn't actually in the field I thought this was a relatively well-known topic within the discipline or as Jerry's says "[a topic] one could quite easily learn about someone like {doubly-eponymous effect] by being interested in the [Auger Effect]." Perhaps I could even find a couple grad school syllabuses that have my soubly-eponymous effect listed. But the people actually within the field would beg to differ with my appraisal of that effect's importance within their own field. Accordingly, by writing almost of all the European and World literature tossups on these fringe topics you could very well be trying to reward people who have real knowledge of those subjects, but in reality rewarded people who scan Wikipedia and have superficial knowledge. Objectively the people with the most knowledge within these disciplines were unhappy with those questions and did not feel they were an accurate reflection of what is important in their field. For example. I've taken two classes on Latin American literature and have read seven Brazilian novels yet I've never encountered Rosa, which is not to say he is unimportant or that he is never studied in academia. But I think it is safe to say while someone outside the discipline may think Rosa is someone "you could learn about quite easily" the people actually within the discipline have some sense of what are topics likely to be encountered—and by likely I don’t mean mentioned in a grad school syllabus but on a number of survey classes across the country.

Andrew and I are saying that Jerry’s approach is not actually the way to reward people with real knowledge within the field even though you might think it is (just like I might think using clues on doubly-eponymous effects is the way to reward people with physics knowledge). It isn’t a more legitimate way to test knowledge to ask questions oriented towards rewarding people for reading the most obscure books someone will ever be assigned. For example, it might surprise you to learn that I’ve been assigned several Arabic novels but that doesn’t mean I want questions on the Israeli Candide, The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist. In fact, asking questions geared towards the most obscure books one might be assigned in a world lit class is the stupidest way to reward real knowledge because they’re the books you’re most likely to forget. I’ve been assigned Garcia-Marquez in several classes and often revisit or reread his work because people are constantly talking about him or comparing something to him, while good old Saeed has yet to be mentioned in any setting outside of that one day of class. I may be mistaken, but I think Andrew Hart has taken classes in Spanish poetry yet he didn’t care for the Aleixandre question.
So practically speaking your many, many attempts to reward fringe knowledge of world literature on topics such as Juan Carlos Onetti, Munif, or Rosa have been received poorly and have yet to hit a single person who has read the book in question. And almost all literature students studying topics like world literature have argued this method does not reward the kind of books that are central to their discipline. Yet, you are infuriated by our claim that we would prefer many fewer questions on fringe topics and think a decent number of tossups should be reserved for core topics like Achebe, Vargas Llosa, Gordimer, etc. Is that too much to ask considering your call for all science questions to be guided by academic standards?
Ted Gioia - Harvard '12
Editor ACF, PACE

User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: Split topic on CO science

Post by cvdwightw » Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:38 pm

Tower Monarch wrote:I believe any writer willing to put in the time can write a quality science question (ie one that will not spawn threads like this one) by following the same approach that literature question writers have been using for years now. Using Jerry's analogy to titles in literature, the approach is to focus on plot clues, equivalent to things like derivations and implications that are studied in classrooms and in independent readings in science, rather than listing works by the author (the analog of eponymous effects).
You completely missed Ryan's point. It's fairly trivial for me or anyone else with literally no connection to "what literature people study in the academic world" to go out and read either a presumably-notable book or a summary of said book, and then write a question using plot clues that the top literature players would find passable (perhaps not great, but not worthy of scathing denunciations). It is a decidedly non-trivial task for someone with minimal exposure to science or music to write a half-decent question using "plot clue equivalents" in that field, let alone one that would meet the music mafia's standards.

Ryan's argument (and correct me if I'm mistaken) is that in science and music, it takes a lot of effort to even start figuring out the descriptive knowledge necessary to write a decent question in the subject, and people have a tendency to complain about the content of questions rather than/in addition to the importance of the answer choices. In other areas, e.g. literature or history, it takes minimal effort to develop enough knowledge to be able to competently describe the answer choice and specialists are much more likely to rail about ridiculous answer choices than about clues that don't reward their in-depth knowledge. So, in essence, it's a far more judicious use of everyone's time to try to "coach up" a developing QB writer in literature or history (where it's easier to become competent and a writer that's merely competent is passable) as opposed to science or music (where it's more difficult to become competent and a writer that's merely competent is trashed on the boards for not having deep enough knowledge of the subject or sufficient skill to effectively communicate deep knowledge to experts).
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry

Locked