AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

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AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Brian McPeak » Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:22 am

Here's the general discussion thread for AVOGADRO'S NUMBER.

I had a great time writing this set-- it was fun to write about some more out-there topics. I do wish we'd had more time to edit submissions and get more feedback on our questions, but I think for an after-ICT diversion it worked out pretty well.

My co-writers/editors were Rohan Nag, Ewan MacAulay, Shan Kothari, Rohith Nagari, Will Overman, Cody Voight, Ophir Lifshitz, Joe Su, and Anderson Wang. I'll give a special thanks to Rohan, who did almost all of the biology and a large portion of the chemistry-- this tournament could not have happened without the time and care he put into this set.
Last edited by Brian McPeak on Mon Apr 11, 2016 5:06 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sun Apr 10, 2016 1:16 pm

This tournament was very good; the trash especially was really delightful, and I can't remember any outright clunkers (though Schindler's tossup on the un-knot was kind of eh). I'd be happy to make more specific comments once I have a copy of the set.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:11 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:This tournament was very good; the trash especially was really delightful, and I can't remember any outright clunkers (though Schindler's tossup on the un-knot was kind of eh). I'd be happy to make more specific comments once I have a copy of the set.
I really disagree with this. The tournament was in my opinion pretty bad overall. Misplaced clues, very obvious tossups, impossible to parse descriptions at times, and no regard for distributional issues - like how much topology does a man need? just made it an incredibly uneven experience. I can talk more about this after ACF Nationals, but I would have liked to see more work and polish from this cadre of writers.

Also, what the hell were the logistics?
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:19 pm

Yeah, I found the set fine, at least in terms of the stuff I know about (science history, trash, "other" stuff), but the logistics were insane and took what should have been maybe a couple hour tournament into an all night affair. Dunno what that was about, but I hope its mistakes aren't repeated.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:34 pm

One issue that could bear on the issue of subdistributions is that we were instructed to use as many player submissions as we could in the submitted packets. That principle made sense, since people who submitted packets were doing us a favor, and because submissions came quite soon before the tournament. While the submissions were mostly quite good, this principle may have led to some distributional quirks. Among the philosophy submissions, for example, 3.5/4 were on 20th century analytic-ish general philosophy of science (Lakatos, demarcation problem, Personal Knowledge which I turned into Michael Polanyi, and a cut submission). This is a problem that arises in every packet-sub tournament, but basically we (or, I should say, I) were ill-equipped to deal with it. This doesn't account for all distributional quirks, of course -- most of the questions on topology were written by us, it seems.

I think all the writers would agree that the set could use several more hours of work, but under the circumstances we faced -- packets coming in piecemeal, not long before the tournament, and a huge group of editors -- I think the end result was not bad at all. Then again, I haven't even looked at the majority of the questions, so what do I know?
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Brian McPeak » Mon Apr 11, 2016 5:06 pm

Here are extensive stats compiled by Ophir. I put them in this thread since they include answers. PM him if you notice mistakes.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Cody » Mon Apr 11, 2016 5:25 pm

These stats are cool as shit.

A tournament such as AVOGADRO'S NUMBER is largely a function of submitted packets. While I was brought on to write CS for the editor's packets after someone else fucked out, I edited some CS (clue content only) and was disappointed to see a packet like Max Schindler's contain two very hard answers (which both had 0 powers and were converted only in 25% of rooms -- separate rooms at that). In general, submissions could've been a bit more conscientious.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by t-bar » Mon Apr 11, 2016 5:28 pm

Cody wrote:These stats are cool as shit.
Agreed.

I think there's an error in the public-facing "Team standings" page, though--according to my notebook, our team got 920 points in 7 games, which matches the PPG column but not the total points column. It's probably just an issue of a column somewhere being sorted incorrectly, but it would be nice to get it fixed.

EDIT: This is fixed. Thanks, Ophir!
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Brian McPeak » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:10 pm

The logistics were horrible and were entirely my fault. It would have been nice if we could have replaced more questions to even out the distribution and caught more misplaced clues. But we had some major constraints (studying for ICT, grad school) and writing a successor to Lederberg was never really the plan.

Anyway, if you wrote for this, you can fill in your name next to your tossups in the "author" column on the "by tossup" sheet to see your writer stats on the previous page.

(I think that three topology questions -- homology, torus, and unknots-- and two on geometry --forms and geodesics-- is high but not excessive)
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by anderson » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:17 pm

Mitchell Lee (a friend) and I wrote a small amount of math questions for this. I don't have the set, but looking at the spreadsheet, I think the ones that were used are "numbers", torus, Achilles, and Fourier transform. I also sent in a few CS questions which weren't used; I assume that was because they were too late?

If Brian or someone else could send me a copy of the set for practice purposes, that'd be greatly appreciated! I'm interested in the math/CS and I'm sure other MIT people would enjoy the questions as well.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:01 pm

Ophir, these stats are both ridiculous and awesome. It gives me pleasure to know that my many hours of reading Hacker News have made me, if not a 10x CS player, at least a 1.6x CS player.

While I don't disagree that there was some unevenness in the set, I still found it enormously fun to play (logistical snafus notwithstanding). Thanks to all involved for writing and editing this set - three enjoyable science side events in as many years is all I've ever quizbowl-dreamed of.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Mewto55555 » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:12 pm

I'll chime in that I really enjoyed the set as well -- obviously it wasn't polished as much as one would expect at an actual tournament, but it was incredibly fun to play. There were a number of tossups that dropped famous things too early/clunked in some other way, but the bulk of the questions were super fun, which is all one really needs in an event like this. Sorry that some of my questions wound up on the hard/clunky side (I definitely could have used mostly the same clues to point for an easier answerline), though I'm glad my more whimsical questions seemed to be enjoyed. Where else besides here could I submit a tossup on Pokerus!
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by touchpack » Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:08 pm

I think that, for what was basically a guerilla tournament written in a week, this was pretty good. It doesn't hold a candle to a well-curated set like Lederberg 2, but it was still fun to play. I can give some more specific feedback when I see the packets.

Also +1 to the praise for these stats!
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Victor Prieto » Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:00 pm

I was expecting high levels of whimsicality and difficulty, but I was surprised, the whimiscality and difficulty were several orders of magnitude more than I anticipated. I was not expecting a tossup on UNIFAC at "nationals-minus" difficulty. Apparently, when a tournament is announced to be nationals-minus difficulty, it actually means nationals-plus difficulty, with a range of nationals to Fernando Arrabal?

Although I was the author of the tossups on protein-protein interactions, thiols, and deuterium oxide, I certainly didn't name drop far-western blotting right out of power, mention PDI in the second line (!!!), or say the phrase "analogue of water" three lines before the end for those respective tossups. These examples illustrate that game-changing early clue drops happened like at least four times a round (stats somewhat back me up, too).

These things kind of detracted a lot from my personal experience, but there were certainly fun times to be had. I wouldn't go as far to say "pretty bad overall," but it definitely wasn't very good, like Eric said.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by touchpack » Mon Apr 11, 2016 10:09 pm

Victor Prieto wrote:I was expecting high levels of whimsicality and difficulty, but I was surprised, the whimiscality and difficulty were several orders of magnitude more than I anticipated. I was not expecting a tossup on UNIFAC at "nationals-minus" difficulty. Apparently, when a tournament is announced to be nationals-minus difficulty, it actually means nationals-plus difficulty, with a range of nationals to Fernando Arrabal?

Although I was the author of the tossups on protein-protein interactions, thiols, and deuterium oxide, I certainly didn't name drop far-western blotting right out of power, mention PDI in the second line (!!!), or say the phrase "analogue of water" three lines before the end for those respective tossups. These examples illustrate that game-changing early clue drops happened like at least four times a round (stats somewhat back me up, too).

These things kind of detracted a lot from my personal experience, but there were certainly fun times to be had. I wouldn't go as far to say "pretty bad overall," but it definitely wasn't very good, like Eric said.
The other thing that makes those clue drops especially suck is when the rest of the tournament is so hard, I assume when I hear stuff like "PDI" in the 2nd clue that it's going to be a different PDI, not the famous one. Similarly when I heard "this analogue of water," I didn't buzz because it wouldn't make any sense to say that if it was just a tossup on heavy water.

Also, there was a tossup on UNIFAC??? I'd convert it for sure, but damn that's tough!
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Apr 11, 2016 10:29 pm

touchpack wrote:The other thing that makes those clue drops especially suck is when the rest of the tournament is so hard, I assume when I hear stuff like "PDI" in the 2nd clue that it's going to be a different PDI, not the famous one. Similarly when I heard "this analogue of water," I didn't buzz because it wouldn't make any sense to say that if it was just a tossup on heavy water.
Yeah I have to dial back my praise a little to account for the fact that, while there were very few outright clunkers, there were a good number of misplaced or early clue drops, some transparent tossups (demarcation problem), and occasional tortuous language (that methylation tossup changed the pronoun a few times). The PDI one is notable (seriously I haven't heard of the next clues until lipoamide), as is the quantum computer thing for Fourier transform, maybe the leadin to the Hamilton-Jacobi tossup if you'd recently read ACF Nationals 2014, etc. I understand that this set was put together in a compressed timeframe, and given those constraints I think it turned out very well. Given even another week, I'm confident that Brian et al would be able to smooth over those issues.
touchpack wrote:Also, there was a tossup on UNIFAC??? I'd convert it for sure, but damn that's tough!
This was my doing; they combined our packets together, so you had a bye that round.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:42 am

Brian earlier said something along the lines of "if we had 10 more hours, we'd fix everything, but for now, try and fix important things". This is true, because within 10 hours of the tournament, I had fixed almost all of the issues plaguing bio and chem below. That right there is the TL;DR of this somewhat large post (as you can tell, I took this tournament seriously).
---
UNIFAC
I did not have time to replace this (neither did Ewan), as I was working on all the mol bio submissions that I'll get to later. I also overestimated the field’s knowledge here- both Rohith and I had heard of this specific model, so I temporarily left this in with the intent to replace it with something on “furnaces” or “ceramics” and never got back to it. I should have prioritized this or at least directed Ewan to help write something to replace it.
protein-protein interactions, thiols, and deuterium oxide...methylation
These are all my fault. They're idiotic mistakes too, and I have no excuses.
I will say, though, that fixing or thematically unifying Victor's transparent submissions on the first two of those four, respectively, was somewhat difficult, as you can tell by the results. We (editors) disagreed on the order of far-Western, split-ubiquitin, and Y2H clues, although I definitely agree that we shouldn't have just name-dropped far-Western right after power. I forgot to search "disulfide bonds" as an answerline, which is kind of sad, and so I didn't find PDI. For methylation, I was getting functional fixedness and transiently couldn't figure out how to talk about MDH using "this process" so I again left it in place with a mental note to come back to it.

There were 4-5 botched powermarks in bio and chem and 2 miscalibrated answerlines; I take full responsibility for those. I hope (and think) that everyone who buzzed in with "alloys" for "biphasic systems" got their points, and likewise with "liver detox" for "drug metabolism".
---
I think people were rushed to write their packets and wrote on what they knew cold. That said, I'd like to point out the following: of the 40 bio and chem submissions, we had to replace 20 (mostly bio) spread across all submitted packets. Some packets just left one or more categories unfinished. 2 of 20 were replaced for being repeats/overlapping with existing tossups. Several packets were molecular bio-only, which would be ok if they were well-written (at least thematically unified), innovative, or otherwise led to interesting replacements with the same or similar clues. The submissions were mostly none of those things, which is OK but not good- it just took much longer to replace molecular stuff with underexplored areas of the subdistribution.
I am not pointing this out as a defence of what we produced in bio and chem. I am pointing this out to show that we ran out of time with good reason.
---
I tried to equalize tossup difficulty throughout bio and chem, even with the tossups that had insanely hard answerlines. There was no more than 1 hard answerline-tossup per category per packet, with 1-2 moderate and 1-2 easy answerlines. Hard answerline-tossups were restricted to 6-7 lines, while easy-answerline tossups were up to 10-11 lines. I did not regulate the hardness of "hard answerlines" much, leading to the post-Nationals difficulty-feel, and, as stated above, tried to keep submissions, which was all I could do given the time I had.
This difficulty pattern (1-2/1-2/0-1) was not true for the biology in Schindler/Dogra and the chemistry in the Brownlow/Mukherjee packet, which I did not have time to fix. Some might even argue that "purines" is an easy answerline (not really me- it's about your knowledge of salvage and biosynthesis, which aren't that commonly taught in bio or biochem/present in the archives but are reasonably important (in the biochem textbooks) and on the USMLE).
---
I’ll talk about the bio and chem distributions/writing philosophy more if people actually care about that stuff (I do!) as well as what people should take away from what I attempted in bio and some of what I attempted in chem as a lessons-learned post.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Ike » Tue Apr 12, 2016 4:41 am

I find the argument that "if we all had 10 hours more for this tournament, everything would be fixed," misguided, at least in terms of what I want to see the editors to do next time. Let me explain:

We've known about the existence of this tournament for a while. This tournament was originally announced much earlier, and even if the team packets were hard to control, that's not a good explanation of what happened with the editor's packets. So let me back up for a second - a lot of my issues with this tournament are with wording, misplaced clues and just a general misunderstanding of how quizbowl and the English language works. If I'm understanding Victor's post correctly, editors were definitely making questions worse. Almost all of my negs resulted from impossible to parse descriptions of what was going on. At multiple points Billy got really confused and couldn't buzz because he just had a hard time doing the mental gymnastics to arrive at the answer. Many tossups didn't pin things down enough to get you toward the answer. These are not things that are going to be fixed if you just gave everyone ten hours to do something.

Allow me to give two hypotheticals about this tournament's purpose: If the editors wanted this to be on the quality of Lederberg 2 where you can "definitively" determine a science champion, this was such a crappy experience. I can't believe that the editors actually thought this though, but on the off chance that it was, the editors should really dispel the notion that they could or would have produced one with just ten more hours of work. In this case then, a lot of the problem is terrible planning of how much work needed to get done and just suspect decisions - why on Earth would you produce 24 questions per a round of shittier questions instead of 20 tossups per a round of better questions? If the editors wanted something like a guerrilla tournament, I think this tournament was more like that, and I will agree with Billy that it was "pretty good" and in fact probably better than just a plain old guerrilla tournament. But the editors absolutely failed to advertise that it was a guerrilla tournament in almost every way possible! That's the big problem with this set: it was supposed to be some grand science event but really just didn't come through at all! Look, I would have LOVED this tournament if it was just science history + philosophy of science + trash + "think of all the whimsical things you can write about" or some combination of of those four things, and we'll call it a "science" tournament. The fact that the only discussion in question specific discussion is something incomprehensible to me about star destroyers tells me that other people wouldn't mind the same thing! But this tournament tried to be as serious as Lederberg, was as sloppy as a guerilla tournament and wasn't nearly as whimsical as my proposed extravaganza!

I rarely like to blast at folks and come off like a jerk, but this tournament got under my skin. At multiple points, I considered just leaving - though I freely admit that logistics were responsible for a lot of this feeling. Andrew Wang told me that he just almost got up and left to drive back down home. Even now, I can't tell if the editors really put in a lot of hard work or if it was just slapdashed together! You've seen my posts from last year, I hate ripping on people for no reason for writing tournaments, but somewhere down the line of this tournament, there is a problem - one of which might be that this tournament was held on ICT weekend and you couldn't request extra help from people not playing this tournament since it was produced right around nationals time. I encourage every writer here to continue to produce science questions whether it be for NAQT, ACF, the next regular difficulty tournament, etc.- after all quizbowl still needs more science, but don't put out such an uneven experience; or if you are going to, just admit it's a guerrilla tournament and there won't be any editing.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Victor Prieto » Tue Apr 12, 2016 8:17 am

Ike wrote:We've known about the existence of this tournament for a while. This tournament was originally announced much earlier, and even if the team packets were hard to control, that's not a good explanation of what happened with the editor's packets. So let me back up for a second - a lot of my issues with this tournament are with wording, misplaced clues and just a general misunderstanding of how quizbowl and the English language works. If I'm understanding Victor's post correctly, editors were definitely making questions worse. Almost all of my negs resulted from impossible to parse descriptions of what was going on. At multiple points Billy got really confused and couldn't buzz because he just had a hard time doing the mental gymnastics to arrive at the answer. Many tossups didn't pin things down enough to get you toward the answer. These are not things that are going to be fixed if you just gave everyone ten hours to do something.
You're kind of assuming that people submitted good questions here, which is kind of a big leap. Yes, the tossups on PPI, thiols and D2O had mistakes, and in my opinion were in better shape than when I submitted them. However, the editors sure as hell fixed issues with my tossups on iron-sulfur proteins, thiols, and surface plasmon resonance. I imagine that the editors had a mixed bag of stuff when they got them, and I don't think they were just pointing at random clues and saying "let's move this up four lines" or "change the wording to be more confusing" without any reasoning.

Honestly, I alluded to this in my first post: I'm pointing my finger at the people who wrote submissions for the tournament. People submitted ridiculous stuff and are shocked at the result? You get the tournament you submitted, folks (although now I see the Ike team apparently didn't write a submission?). Rohan even said that there were packets that didn't bother finishing some categories. I mean, I'm combing through the submitted packets now, and tossups on the Cabibo angle, anyons, unknots and van Emde Boas trees, are you kidding me? Obviously, I'm cherry picking some outliers (also stuff outside my categories, maybe anyons or something is really easy, I dunno). It's more dependent on the clues and not the answerlines, but people mostly submitted questions that Claude Shannon Memorial would have classified as "CO" or "nowhere" difficulty. I was trying to be conscious of this in my submission. My two hard and cool tossups were on pulses and SPR, which I think landed somewhere around nationals and CO difficulty, respectively.
Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin wrote:Several packets were molecular bio-only, which would be ok if they were well-written (at least thematically unified), innovative, or otherwise led to interesting replacements with the same or similar clues. The submissions were mostly none of those things, which is OK but not good- it just took much longer to replace molecular stuff with underexplored areas of the subdistribution.
Sounds like people wanted to hear lots of molecular bio, then.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Galadedrid Damodred » Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:23 pm

touchpack wrote:I think that, for what was basically a guerilla tournament written in a week, this was pretty good. It doesn't hold a candle to a well-curated set like Lederberg 2, but it was still fun to play. I can give some more specific feedback when I see the packets.

Also +1 to the praise for these stats!
This post basically sums up my feelings: fun overall, but with some glaring issues. Of the areas that I study for quizbowl, I thought the astronomy was the most consistent in terms of answerline difficulty and clue order. Looking at the questions in that category, it didn't seem to venture very far outside the quizbowl canon, but if that means better questions at Nats-ish difficulty than so be it. The physics, on the other hand, seemed to span the whole spectrum from very basic questions that made power almost a given in a field of this quality (e.g. adiabatic, diffraction) to very difficult questions that didn't do much to justify their inclusion (e.g. anyons, decoherence).

I'll post about a handful of specific questions in the other thread, but I thought that in general there were too many questions that either
(a) failed at being pyramidal with one or more early clues, thus leading to "undeserved" early buzzes or 1st/2nd sentence buzzer races;
(b) needed to move the power mark up a bit (for example, de Gennes does not belong in power in a Bogoliubov tossup at this level); or
(c) were too confusing and difficult to parse, as others have stated.

I hope that the editors of this set will continue to work on science for future tournaments, because the overall quality of questions in this 20% slice of the distribution has gone up significantly in recent times and a larger pool of writers will help that trend to continue. However, in my opinion this tournament should not be held up as an example of how to write hard science questions going forward.

Is there any way that this kind of stat-keeping might become standard? It's the most incredible advancement in quizbowl that I've seen since Quinterest.
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Re: AVOGADRO'S NUMBER General Discussion

Post by Emperor Pupienus » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:59 pm

When will this set be posted???
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