2015 ACF Fall general discussion

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Lighthouse Expert Elinor DeWire
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Re: 2015 ACF Fall general discussion

Post by Lighthouse Expert Elinor DeWire »

An issue we had at my site was the "population size" question. People thought that "population" should be acceptable outright, and that word forms for "size" should be taken.
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Re: 2015 ACF Fall general discussion

Post by gaurav.kandlikar »

The Last 21 Stanley Cup Winners wrote:An issue we had at my site was the "population size" question. People thought that "population" should be acceptable outright, and that word forms for "size" should be taken.
It looks like this happened at more than one site (it was answered correctly with no hesitation in my room, so I didn't think much of it till after the event). This confusion arises primarily due to a mismatch between the colloquial and the technical definition of "population". In ecology, "population" refers to a group of organisms that is described by any number of parameters (e.g. phenotypic diversity, allele frequency), and "population size" is one of the parameters. I stress this difference between colloquial and technical definitions every time I teach ecology- even at the introductory level, to give a sense of the technical subtleties of the field.

I do concede, however, that the colloquial usage of the term (e.g. "the population of the town is 1000") really muddies the waters, and in retrospect regret that the answerline may have been too harsh.

I exchanged an email with Shan about this, which I'll edit into this post if I get his permission. (done, see below)

Here's the question for reference:
The rate of growth of this parameter is equal to the first eigenvalue of the Leslie matrix. This parameter is predicted to oscillate in a set of dynamics that requires estimation of conversion efficiency and attack rate. The “effective” version of this parameter is smaller than the absolute form due to nonrandom mating. Genetic drift is strongest at small values for this parameter, which is required to be infinitely large for Hardy-Weinberg dynamics. In logistic growth, the long-term maximum for this parameter is the carrying capacity. For 10 points, name this parameter that describes how many individuals are in a population.
ANSWER: population size [accept effective population size; accept size after “population”; prompt on “N”]
Gaurav wrote:I am curious: would you have written the answerline of the "population size" tossup to accept "population"? We had a protest where someone buzzed in with "population" at H-W , was prompted, and didn't come up with size- I ruled against it on the grounds that "population" is not a parameter, but am curious to know what you think. I guess this is because of the difference between the colloquial usage of "population" vs its usage in ecology.

Anyway, would be interesting to hear your take on this since I haven't really thought like a quizbowl-player in some time now.
Shan wrote: In my room, I also had a player buzz with "population" at about the same point. I chose to take it* for the reason you mentioned -- basically, that a colloquial usage of "population" denotes population size. I don't know how common it is for lower-level biology classes to emphasize the terminological gap between the common and technical uses here, so I would lean towards being generous. A lot of times, discussions of logistic growth or Hardy-Weinberg may mention things like "population growth" or "infinite populations" without being clear that the name of the parameter is population size.

That said, I think it's always permissible to accept only the technically correct answer(s), as you did -- it's just that sometimes it's kind of harsh. This is a situation where either choice is defensible.

*I wouldn't normally exert my moderator's discretion in this way, but this was the losing team in an asymmetric game]
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Re: 2015 ACF Fall general discussion

Post by Ike »

That said, I think it's always permissible to accept only the technically correct answer(s),
This may be taking something out of context, but I strongly disagree with this. While there are cases where the only acceptable answer should be taken is the technical one, generally speaking, I support a policy of "give points when you know what they're talking about." Broadly speaking, I think being more lax is the way to go. As someone who knows a little bit about ecology to have literacy of the subject, but nothing more than that, I think Shan's ruling is correct - there are going to be a bunch of players who have very, very, limited knowledge of ecology, and this tossup is going to leave a sour taste in their mouths, since it appears so hypertechnical. Also, it's also entirely plausible to me that when the tossup says parameter over and over, a player will infer "this tossup is clearly talking about 'population count,' so when I say _population_, the question assumes that I'm not going to be dumb and neg it with the overall concept of population, but rather the _population_ implied by _population size_ as in the saying 'population of town is 20.'" Therefore, I would just give it to them.
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Re: 2015 ACF Fall general discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Ideally, if you're looking for a term of art rather than a constellation of related words, you should say so. This is probably easier in bonuses than tossups, which seems to caution in favor of Ike's reasoning above when it comes to the "population size" tossup.
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Re: 2015 ACF Fall general discussion

Post by shrey96 »

Santa Claus wrote: There was a question in particular that I felt could use some tweaking: the tossup on exoplanets used a first-line clue on the presence of methane in their IR spectrum, which is something that occurs in all large gas giant-sized objects that have not undergone nuclear fusion i.e. both exoplanets and brown dwarves. It is also notable for being a stock clue for brown dwarves that has appeared in almost literally every college question on them since 2009.
Hey, I wrote this question and you're totally right in that brown dwarf should've been acceptable on an early buzz - I was trying to use a spectrum clue that I was reading a paper about a few weeks before, but stupidly didn't realize that brown dwarves also have methane lines. My apologies. On a slightly different note, the stock clue that I hear for brown dwarves quite often is TiO/VO lines, which is applicable to the spectra of exoplanets as well - maybe the lesson here is that leading into tossups about brown dwarves and exoplanets with spectral features isn't a great idea given that they're so similar.
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Re: 2015 ACF Fall general discussion

Post by Chaac and Ayyy »

Granny Soberer wrote:My apologies about the behaviorism tossup -- I should have made it clear that the question was not looking for a particular institution.

Re: Ike's point about the lit, while I agree with his vision for what Fall literature should look like, I don't think his characterization of the set is accurate. I made a point of having my questions draw from works that players were likely to have encountered (e.g. the Tagore and Genji tossups, the bonuses on Satanic Verses and "The Library of Babel" with hard parts from the texts), and I think the lit as a whole did a good job of that. The South Africa question is non-ideal, to be sure; I had initially edited it to mostly draw from Master Harold, and I'm not sure why it was changed.
Because you mentioned "psychological approach" in the opening line of the tossup, I believe it was appropriate to use "this school" throughout the rest of the tossup since it was referring back to psychology, i.e. "this school (of psychology)". Substitutions like "this field/branch/approach" could be used in the future to avoid confusion, but might be too broad and make players believe its referring to a general field or school of thought. Great question though!
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