Format of science questions

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Post by Matt Weiner »

vetovian wrote: At this tournament, I think 90+% of the bonuses were of the form: "Blah blah, for 10 points each, blah blah; A. (single-answer question); B. (single-answer question); C. (single-answer question)." I guess players must not find the repetitiveness of the format quite as dull as I would. There were a handful of four-part bonuses (5-5-10-10, or 5-10-20-30 depending on number of correct answers) but progressive (30-20-10 or 15-5) bonuses were completely absent. I don't think there was a single bonus that asked for more than one answer in the same prompt. If this is the way people like their quiz bowl, then that's fine, of course, but bonuses used to have a much greater variety of formats.
The 3-part, 10-10-10 bonus with one part being easy, one moderate, and one difficult is the only fair way to write bonus questions. Any other format does not match one bonus to the next difficulty-wise and is reflective of a prehistoric school of quizbowl writing in which you just group three or more questions together without regard to their difficulty and then throw the results at teams and see what happens. If the purpose of the game is to have the more knowledgeable team win while providing an interesting packet for teams of all skill levels to play on, then you have no choice but to write 99 to 100% of your bonuses as 3X10.

I find it really hard to believe that distributing fictitious points in a different (and usually more involved and lengthier) way is in any way "exciting" compared to actually writing snappy and compelling questions within those bonuses. Especially when 30-20-10s are almost always boring "I'll list some random titles and you tell me who wrote/painted/composed them" questions, and 5 or 6 part bonuses are almost always interminable binary matching bonuses that make me want to tear my own throat out.
Nobody brought this up, but I know that there are players here who are very concerned about the quality of science questions. Is there too much emphasis on names, on labels? A lot of the science questions at this SCT reminded me of what I heard at a masters tournament many years ago when I had two teammates who had spent years in physics labs and were quite familiar with various phenomena that got asked about in the questions, because they'd seen these phenomena themselves, but they weren't rewarded with points because they just didn't know what particular name is given to these particular "effects", or even that these effects were named after anyone. Is this a concern?
Didn't Mike Sorice provide a sufficient explanation of this in the last thread about it? Questions ask for things with definite names because to do otherwise is not feasible. We do not have experts in everything moderating games; we cannot ask questions like "explain why Thomson scattering occurs" that would require a great deal of physics knowledge to evaluate open-ended answers, nor, as you imply, do we ask questions like "For 10 points, have you ever seen Thomson scattering in a lab?" which would require moderators to actually be omniscient or telepathic in order to determine whether a given answer is true. Quizbowl can test a wide range of factual knowledge, but it cannot test everything. If you are looking to replace all of your class material with quizbowl questions, you will fail.
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Post by vetovian »

Matt Weiner wrote:
vetovian wrote: At this tournament, I think 90+% of the bonuses were of the form: "Blah blah, for 10 points each, blah blah; A. (single-answer question); B. (single-answer question); C. (single-answer question)." I guess players must not find the repetitiveness of the format quite as dull as I would. There were a handful of four-part bonuses (5-5-10-10, or 5-10-20-30 depending on number of correct answers) but progressive (30-20-10 or 15-5) bonuses were completely absent. I don't think there was a single bonus that asked for more than one answer in the same prompt. If this is the way people like their quiz bowl, then that's fine, of course, but bonuses used to have a much greater variety of formats.
The 3-part, 10-10-10 bonus with one part being easy, one moderate, and one difficult is the only fair way to write bonus questions. Any other format does not match one bonus to the next difficulty-wise and is reflective of a prehistoric school of quizbowl writing in which you just group three or more questions together without regard to their difficulty and then throw the results at teams and see what happens. If the purpose of the game is to have the more knowledgeable team win while providing an interesting packet for teams of all skill levels to play on, then you have no choice but to write 99 to 100% of your bonuses as 3X10.
Then count me as having crawled out of a prehistoric cave and not understanding this argument, if it is an argument. Assessing difficulty level is always subjective. If you have a link to a longer essay that explains to the uninitiated why "you have no choice but to write 99 to 100% of your bonuses as 3X10", then point me to it.
Matt Weiner wrote: I find it really hard to believe that distributing fictitious points in a different (and usually more involved and lengthier) way is in any way "exciting" compared to actually writing snappy and compelling questions within those bonuses. Especially when 30-20-10s are almost always boring "I'll list some random titles and you tell me who wrote/painted/composed them" questions, and 5 or 6 part bonuses are almost always interminable binary matching bonuses that make me want to tear my own throat out.
These are straw men: I don't like 5 or 6 part bonuses either, and the VETO guidelines specifically state not to use them, as well as not to use "given the title [and nothing else], name the author." Now that we've dispensed with those, what about, say, snappy single-prompt bonuses that ask for a list of things, say three for 10 each, or six for 5 each? Or what about having just one of the bonus prompts ask for two or three things at the same time?
Matt Weiner wrote:
Nobody brought this up, but I know that there are players here who are very concerned about the quality of science questions. Is there too much emphasis on names, on labels? A lot of the science questions at this SCT reminded me of what I heard at a masters tournament many years ago when I had two teammates who had spent years in physics labs and were quite familiar with various phenomena that got asked about in the questions, because they'd seen these phenomena themselves, but they weren't rewarded with points because they just didn't know what particular name is given to these particular "effects", or even that these effects were named after anyone. Is this a concern?
Didn't Mike Sorice provide a sufficient explanation of this in the last thread about it?
Possibly. I haven't read every thread on this website. If you could give me a pointer to that thread, I'd appreciate it.
Matt Weiner wrote: Questions ask for things with definite names because to do otherwise is not feasible. We do not have experts in everything moderating games; we cannot ask questions like "explain why Thomson scattering occurs" that would require a great deal of physics knowledge to evaluate open-ended answers, nor, as you imply, do we ask questions like "For 10 points, have you ever seen Thomson scattering in a lab?" which would require moderators to actually be omniscient or telepathic in order to determine whether a given answer is true.
I wasn't trying to suggest asking questions like that. Rather, I was thinking that what might be more rewarding to people who know their science from experience is questions along the lines of: if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens? For askability, one would need a good short description of the answer; maybe quantitative answers would work best. Above, I gave an example of a quantitative physics question from the NAQT SCT that was feasible and did test actual scientific knowledge, not names.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?
How would you make that pyramidal?
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Post by vetovian »

Bruce wrote:
if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?
How would you make that pyramidal?
I should have said that I was thinking about bonuses, not tossups; hence, pyramidality wouldn't be required.
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Post by Captain Sinico »

After all, it's a fine idea to write bonuses accessible only to people who've operated a specific piece of lab equipment?

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Post by vetovian »

ImmaculateDeception wrote:After all, it's a fine idea to write bonuses accessible only to people who've operated a specific piece of lab equipment?
Just as it's a fine idea to write literature bonuses accessible only to people who've read a specific book.
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Post by The Time Keeper »

It seems like it would be a million times easier to learn enough about a specific book without reading it to get points on a bonus than it would be to learn about specifics of certain lab techniques in order to get points on your hypothetical bonuses. I don't see how this is equivalent.

Unless you're talking about all those lit bonuses in which the only hope you'd ever have to earn any points would be to read the entire work, of which there are roughly none.
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Post by DumbJaques »

Maybe the fact that I fall roughly into the Faulknerian Idiot Manchild category when science gets beyond high school accounts for me not understanding this, but what was it that your alleged uberscientist grad students had trouble with, exactly? I fail to see how you could possibly call for much more specific, complex questions that require intense labratory experience because the more general, background information wasn't really gettable. On a more personal note, I'd like to think that the general grad student population isn't out there playing around with explosive substances without being able to get more on an organic chem bonus than I can. This frightens me.

Also, the point that quizbowl != coursework still stands. If I can learn the name of some equations or techniques from hearing them come up, surely a grad student in science can manage the task. And to add the above point about accessibility in your ludicrous "obscure lab apparatus readings vs. rough outline of some third best known Tolstoy work" example, anyone can go out and read a book, or read a book summary, or whatever. Assuming you don't spend your nights browsing the order catalog for your university's science department, you really have to have been in a lab doing a certain experiment according to your example. Nobody asks questions where you need to have owned a specific first edition of the Secret Sharer or something to get it.
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Post by vetovian »

Dolemite wrote:It seems like it would be a million times easier to learn enough about a specific book without reading it to get points on a bonus than it would be to learn about specifics of certain lab techniques in order to get points on your hypothetical bonuses. I don't see how this is equivalent.
As far as I can see, we all agree here that it's completely standard in quizbowl to have questions about certain "effects" that can be demonstrated in the lab. And that's the quizbowl topic we've been discussing. I would rather change the emphasis from "given the setup and the result, name the effect" to "given the setup, describe the result". Fortunately or unfortunately, you can learn this stuff without having to enter a lab.
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Post by DumbJaques »

I would rather change the emphasis from "given the setup and the result, name the effect" to "given the setup, describe the result".
Dude, if I'm reading a round and I need to judge whether or not someone accurately described the result of Raman scattering, game freaking over, I don't care what's printed on the page to help me. Seriously, you don't see the problem with this? Unless you mean asking specific questions like "the goofballeryon undergoes this process when exposed to Dickwad radiation, the act of sticking to other goofballeryons and then exploding" I can't understand your point. If you do mean this, I'm pretty sure there are already science questions written that go into specifics like that and still ask for gettable, specific term answers, which seemed to be what you were complaining about. Specifically, those are the bonuses I zero.
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Post by AKKOLADE »

DumbJaques wrote:Dude, if I'm reading a round and I need to judge whether or not someone accurately described the result of Raman scattering, game freaking over, I don't care what's printed on the page to help me.
This is true for myself and I'm certain many others who act as moderators. How can you have these questions when people who are determining if an answer is right or wrong don't know if the answer is right or wrong?
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Post by Important Bird Area »

Canadian stuff was fairly well represented, but once again, it seemed to be concentrated in geography, AND for some reason the territories still received a disproportionate amount of geographical attention.
I interrupt the lab science discussion to expand on this point. I haven't seen the questions from this SCT, but I think that these proportions will always be true to a certain degree. Start with the following:
1. Geographical diversity within packets is a good idea.
2. Places with low population density will tend to have a comparatively high number of geography answers in the canon, roughly proportional to surface area, while places with higher population density will have more history, literature, social science and so forth.

Combining these two means that big, thinly populated regions will receive "disproportionate attention" in geography. All else equal, for a largely American audience an American history tossup and a Canadian geography tossup will be more accessible than an American geography tossup followed by a Canadian history tossup. I think this has very little to do with Canada in particular; as you note, it operates within the country to privilege the north over Ontario and Quebec. Similarly, I would suspect that Russian geography tossups skew towards Siberia, while history focuses on European Russia. Compare the relative abundance of Australian geography with the recent discussion that Robert Hughes is too difficult to be the first part of a bonus.
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Post by vetovian »

DumbJaques wrote: Maybe the fact that I fall roughly into the Faulknerian Idiot Manchild category when science gets beyond high school accounts for me not understanding this, but what was it that your alleged uberscientist grad students had trouble with, exactly?
I thought I explained this above:
vetovian wrote: A lot of the science questions at this SCT reminded me of what I heard at a masters tournament many years ago when I had two teammates who had spent years in physics labs and were quite familiar with various phenomena that got asked about in the questions, because they'd seen these phenomena themselves, but they weren't rewarded with points because they just didn't know what particular name is given to these particular "effects", or even that these effects were named after anyone.
Then,
DumbJaques wrote: I fail to see how you could possibly call for much more specific, complex questions that require intense labratory experience because the more general, background information wasn't really gettable.
This sentence is full of misunderstandings, one of which is that I'm calling for "questions that require intense lab[o]ratory experience" -- which I'm not, and I don't know how anything I said would suggest that, unless you're convinced that experimental science cannot be understood without hands-on experience -- but if that were the case, then why does it come up regularly in quizbowl?
DumbJaques wrote: Also, the point that quizbowl != coursework still stands. If I can learn the name of some equations or techniques from hearing them come up, surely a grad student in science can manage the task.
I agree with that, but it's irrelevant. I believe, and I don't think it is unreasonable opinion, that science questions in quiz bowl should test actual science knowledge. In particular, when there are questions about some phenomenon that occurs in a lab (as there always are), players who are intimately familiar with the phenomenon from actual lab experience should have an advantage on the questions over someone who's memorized some labels. Just as someone who's intimately familiar with a work of literature from close reading of a text should have an advantage, on questions about that work, over someone who's just heard some stuff about the text.
DumbJaques wrote: And to add the above point about accessibility in your ludicrous "obscure lab apparatus readings vs. rough outline of some third best known Tolstoy work" example, anyone can go out and read a book, or read a book summary, or whatever. Assuming you don't spend your nights browsing the order catalog for your university's science department, you really have to have been in a lab doing a certain experiment according to your example. Nobody asks questions where you need to have owned a specific first edition of the Secret Sharer or something to get it.
I fail to understand the analogy with owning a specific edition of some book. Quizbowlers today listen to questions describing Young's double-slit experiment and are able to answer them (invariably with either "Young", or "Young's double-slit experiment") even though most of these players have never seen the experiment done.
leftsaidfred wrote:
DumbJaques wrote: Dude, if I'm reading a round and I need to judge whether or not someone accurately described the result of Raman scattering, game freaking over, I don't care what's printed on the page to help me.
This is true for myself and I'm certain many others who act as moderators. How can you have these questions when people who are determining if an answer is right or wrong don't know if the answer is right or wrong?
If you're able to make that judgment about what a Raman scattering question would require, then you understand Raman scattering better than I do. I'll give some different examples below. Maybe I need to repeat:
vetovian wrote: For askability, one would need a good short description of the answer; maybe quantitative answers would work best.
I referred (in a link) to the 1996 Philly Experiment where questions like the kind I'm complaining about came up. Here is a good example from the first round, which was written by the team that won the tournament:
11) Give the following terms from fluid mechanics, FTP each.
c) The fact that the pressure of a fluid drops when its
speed increases is known as this effect.
_Venturi_ effect
In my office, I have a copy of White's Fluid Mechanics. This book has 700+ pages and is used as a textbook for graduate-level courses in fluid mechanics. "Venturi effect" is not even in the index.

But there is an article about the Venturi effect in the Wikipedia. The article mentions that the theoretical maximum pressure drop is given by (density / 2) * (v1^2 - v2^2). So a question about the Venturi effect could ask a question that would use knowledge of that formula somehow, say given numerical values for v1 and v2 and density, what's the maximum change in pressure?
DumbJaques wrote: Unless you mean asking specific questions like "the goofballeryon undergoes this process when exposed to Dickwad radiation, the act of sticking to other goofballeryons and then exploding" I can't understand your point. If you do mean this, I'm pretty sure there are already science questions written that go into specifics like that and still ask for gettable, specific term answers, which seemed to be what you were complaining about.
Yes, those are the kinds of questions I'm complaining about: the ones that ask for the name of "this process". Taking your example, if the goofballeryon explodes then it must leave some other particles as products. So rather than asking for the name of the process, we could ask what particles are left after the goofballeryon explodes (or what's the single most massive product, if there's more than one).
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Post by DumbJaques »

Four bullet points:

1)
if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?
This sentence is full of misunderstandings, one of which is that I'm calling for "questions that require intense lab[o]ratory experience" -- which I'm not, and I don't know how anything I said would suggest that, unless you're convinced that experimental science cannot be understood without hands-on experience -- but if that were the case, then why does it come up regularly in quizbowl?
You are aware that you are the same person who wrote both of these things, right? Also, thanks for highlighting my spelling error with those fun brackets, your argument gets automatic points. I'm not convinced of whatever the hell you were talking about, but I am convinced you proposed asking a question about what happens when you do something really specific on some specific piece of lab equipment. Also, you reference only one "misunderstanding."

2) Your argument involved a call for a bonus on a calculation for the Venturi effect, which made me laugh until I got worried that you could calculate the Venturi effect and maybe blow me up. On a more practical note, if the elusive Venturi effect isn't even in your textbook, who the hell is going to list-study it? Like we need to differentiate between people who can plug numbers into the Venturi equation and people who know what it is?

3)
leftsaidfred wrote:

DumbJaques wrote:

Dude, if I'm reading a round and I need to judge whether or not someone accurately described the result of Raman scattering, game freaking over, I don't care what's printed on the page to help me.


This is true for myself and I'm certain many others who act as moderators. How can you have these questions when people who are determining if an answer is right or wrong don't know if the answer is right or wrong?


If you're able to make that judgment about what a Raman scattering question would require, then you understand Raman scattering better than I do.
This is about the time I stop understanding you. You fail to answer both of our legitimate criticisms in any way, and more disturbingly appear to insinuate that one or both of us was claiming advanced knowledge of Raman scattering. What.

4)
Yes, those are the kinds of questions I'm complaining about: the ones that ask for the name of "this process". Taking your example, if the goofballeryon explodes then it must leave some other particles as products. So rather than asking for the name of the process, we could ask what particles are left after the goofballeryon explodes (or what's the single most massive product, if there's more than one).
Remember when bonuses had three parts, so they could ask about an effect, its results, and something else that only someone with precise knowledge of said effect would know? I think they should bring that back. Seriously, unless every science bonus is "name these 3 effects ftpe" I don't get what you're arguing against. All I've been able to glean so far is that for some reason, grad students in physics who you played with like 11 years ago couldn't remember the names of effects so you want questions differentiating between people who can do things with the Venturi Death Effect and people who just read about it one time when they were list studying that "Crazy science stuff that never comes up, ever" category on wikipedia.
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Post by grapesmoker »

This argument is patently retarded; using questions from 1996 to illustrate it is doubly so. What the hell are we talking about anyway? If you study physics (as I do) then you encounter all sorts of effects on the way, and you learn both their names and what they're about. Seriously, are we going to have questions like "calculate the second-order energy shift due to the Zeeman effect?" That would be dumb. Calculating things using the Venturi effect, whatever that is, is also dumb. Quizbowl is not class. Quizbowl science, as long as people who actually understand the mechanics of the game have anything to say about it, is going to focus on things that have names, including effects and other stuff that anyone who is a physics student (and certainly graduate student) should know. End of discussion.
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Post by Irreligion in Bangladesh »

Also, lest we forget, computational questions remove one of the pillars of pyramidality -the fact that in depth knowledge should be rewarded. It simply doesn't happen in most computational questions, because it usually ends up rewarding whoever has the best mind for numbers, and quizbowl is not the place for that.
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Post by dschafer »

styxman wrote:Also, lest we forget, computational questions remove one of the pillars of pyramidality -the fact that in depth knowledge should be rewarded. It simply doesn't happen in most computational questions, because it usually ends up rewarding whoever has the best mind for numbers, and quizbowl is not the place for that.
You seem to automatically associate "computation" with "non-pyramidal", which I think is rather unfair. Any question, computation or otherwise, can be either pyramidal or non-pyramidal. A computation question along the lines of "What is 123 * 456?" or "Find the kinetic energy of an object with mass 3 kg and velocity 8 m/s" is non-pyramidal, and I don't think questions like this belong in the same packet as standard pyramidal tossups. However, it is certainly possible to write a good, pyramidal computational question that can hold its own in a pyramidal tournament. This year's JIAT, I thought, contained some good computation questions that rewarded those with "in depth knowledge" more than those with a "mind for numbers". For example, from the JIAT finals this year (I think I wrote this one):
JIAT 2006, Round 14 wrote: Pencil and paper ready. A student wishes to determine the number of diagonals in a dodecagon. This value can be found by finding all the diagonals which start at a given point, remembering that the diagonals can go anywhere that is not the given point or directly next to it. Note,
however, that this method will count each diagonal twice in this 12-sided polygon. FTP, how many diagonals does a dodecagon have? You will have 10 seconds.

54 (12 times 9 over 2)
In my opinion, this question is pyramidal; as a combinatorics specialist, I would have gotten it after dodecagon, and I would expect most math specialists to be able to as well. The way to calculate the number of diagonals in a polygon is well known to someone familiar with geometry and combinatorics. On the other hand, someone less familiar with it still can get the answer. As the question progresses, more and more information is given which makes the question easier and easier, until (given 10 seconds to find (12*9)/2), I would expect any good HS team to have someone who can get it. This is a toss-up that involves computation, but which nonetheless rewards superior knowledge far more than it does computational speed.

One of the parts of HS quiz bowl I miss most in college is computation tossups; when written well, they add another dynamic to the game, while maintaining the accepted balance between knowledge and speed.
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Post by cvdwightw »

I totally agree with Jerry; if you study science, you learn both the names of things and what they're about. Imagine you show up to an organic chemistry midterm and your first problem is "explain the mechanism of that reaction we learned on Monday of week 3". Sure, it probably wants a unique reaction (and asks for what it's about), but no one except for a couple of premeds who study every single detail in their notes is going to get points. People ask for names because (surprisingly) they identify things.

Also, let it be known that you can actually incorporate laboratory knowledge into your science questions. For example, look at the "hydrazine" question I wrote for ACF Regionals (UCLA A MIT A packet Tossup 1). The first sentence tells you, "hey, if I worked in a lab that made stuff out of silicon, I might use this as an anisotropic etchant". Now, I'd wager that clue is absolutely useless to at least 95% of players. But to people who do work in those kinds of labs, these kinds of clues are immediately helpful. I think this kind of laboratory-based lead-in is much more effective and allows for more of a sense of accomplishment when you get it based on lab experience than asking an entire question on "what would happen if you did such-and-such a thing in your physics lab". It also provides (at least for a time) a new group of science lead-ins that people haven't heard over and over again, while making these questions accessible to people who have heard of the compound/technique/effect but haven't studied it directly.

Also, I do think that computational math does have a place in college quiz bowl. However, this belongs as the middle part of a bonus, where it's testing more along the lines of "do you know how this law/concept works" rather than "can you do this math". Also, the question should have easy numbers so that it can be done without pencil and paper the in requisite five seconds. A decent example would be the Stefan-Boltzmann bonus from SCT.
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Post by vetovian »

styxman wrote:Also, lest we forget, computational questions remove one of the pillars of pyramidality -the fact that in depth knowledge should be rewarded. It simply doesn't happen in most computational questions, because it usually ends up rewarding whoever has the best mind for numbers, and quizbowl is not the place for that.
As I clarified above:
vetovian wrote: I should have said that I was thinking about bonuses, not tossups; hence, pyramidality wouldn't be required.
Also,
DumbJaques wrote: 1)
if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?
This sentence is full of misunderstandings, one of which is that I'm calling for "questions that require intense lab[o]ratory experience" -- which I'm not, and I don't know how anything I said would suggest that, unless you're convinced that experimental science cannot be understood without hands-on experience -- but if that were the case, then why does it come up regularly in quizbowl?
You are aware that you are the same person who wrote both of these things, right? Also, thanks for highlighting my spelling error with those fun brackets, your argument gets automatic points. I'm not convinced of whatever the hell you were talking about, but I am convinced you proposed asking a question about what happens when you do something really specific on some specific piece of lab equipment.
If I understand you correctly, you're saying that being able to answer a question of the form "if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?" requires intense laboratory experience. That's a ridiculous claim, because much of what is taught in science classes (including those without a lab component) is either about what happens if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, or more generally about principles that would allow you to predict what would happen if you did such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment. No lab experience required to understand it.

And you defend quizbowl bonuses of the form "If you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, then such-and-such happens. What is this effect called?" If players are expected to answer questions like that, then why should they not be expected to answer questions like "If you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?"? One answer I'm getting is: being able to answer such questions requires intense laboratory experience. I don't think that's a serious answer, and I dispensed with it in the previous paragraph. A more thoughtful answer I'm getting is: it's too hard for a moderator to judge the correctness of an answer that's given. I agree that that's a fair concern. In particular, the "what happens?" part would have to be rather specific, such as "What particle is the decay product?" or "What is the pressure at this point?"

And you reminded me of an oversight of mine:
DumbJaques wrote: Also, you reference only one "misunderstanding."
The other misunderstandings were:
- that I am calling for "much more specific, complex questions";
- that the questions I'm complaining about ask for "more general, background information".

I'm asking for questions on the same subjects, describing the same experimental setups as existing bonuses that you like, but I have a problem with bonuses that test knowledge of what person's name is associated with some phenomenon instead of testing knowledge of that phenomenon.
DumbJaques wrote: 2) Your argument involved a call for a bonus on a calculation for the Venturi effect, which made me laugh until I got worried that you could calculate the Venturi effect and maybe blow me up. On a more practical note, if the elusive Venturi effect isn't even in your textbook, who the hell is going to list-study it?
It could be in something like the Oxford Dictionary of Physics. Maybe the writers found it in a source like that.
DumbJaques wrote: Like we need to differentiate between people who can plug numbers into the Venturi equation and people who know what it is?
Yes, that is what I'm saying (except that the relevant equation here is Bernoulli's). A person can know White's Fluid Mechanics textbook inside and out yet still not be able to name the Venturi effect from a description. But a person who knows Bernoulli's equation and how it applies to the situation described can plug numbers in and get a quantitative answer. We don't want computations to be too complicated, so in the case of the Venturi effect it might be a bit of a challenge to write a question with numbers that are easy to work with, but it's worth a try.

DumbJaques wrote: 3)
leftsaidfred wrote:

DumbJaques wrote:

Dude, if I'm reading a round and I need to judge whether or not someone accurately described the result of Raman scattering, game freaking over, I don't care what's printed on the page to help me.


This is true for myself and I'm certain many others who act as moderators. How can you have these questions when people who are determining if an answer is right or wrong don't know if the answer is right or wrong?


If you're able to make that judgment about what a Raman scattering question would require, then you understand Raman scattering better than I do.
This is about the time I stop understanding you. You fail to answer both of our legitimate criticisms in any way, and more disturbingly appear to insinuate that one or both of us was claiming advanced knowledge of Raman scattering. What.
"Advanced" knowledge is relative: You both know (or claim to know) enough about Raman scattering to be able to state confidently that a question that asked about what happens in Raman scattering would be too difficult for you to judge correctness of the answer. But as I said:
vetovian wrote: For askability, one would need a good short description of the answer; maybe quantitative answers would work best.
Final bullet point:
DumbJaques wrote: 4)

Remember when bonuses had three parts, so they could ask about an effect, its results, and something else that only someone with precise knowledge of said effect would know? I think they should bring that back.
That sounds reasonable to me, too. Just cut down on parts that ask "name this effect".
DumbJaques wrote: Seriously, unless every science bonus is "name these 3 effects ftpe" I don't get what you're arguing against.
I don't follow this logic. I'm arguing against only a certain type of question that comes up in science bonuses. I don't mean to suggest that every science bonus is of that type.
DumbJaques wrote: All I've been able to glean so far is that for some reason, grad students in physics who you played with like 11 years ago couldn't remember the names of effects so you want questions differentiating between people who can do things with the Venturi Death Effect and people who just read about it one time when they were list studying that "Crazy science stuff that never comes up, ever" category on wikipedia.
Well, to be precise, neither teammate was a grad student at the time of the tournament. But anyway, couldn't remember the names of effects is just the wrong idea: they never learned the names of some of these effects, because hardly anybody uses those names; some of the effects, like the Venturi, are just special cases of other physical principles. And yes, I want questions differentiating between people who actually understand the Venturi effect and people who just read it in a list.
grapesmoker wrote: This argument is patently retarded; using questions from 1996 to illustrate it is doubly so.
As I said, I don't have the SCT questions, but some of them reminded me of questions from 1996.
grapesmoker wrote: What the hell are we talking about anyway? If you study physics (as I do) then you encounter all sorts of effects on the way, and you learn both their names and what they're about.
As I said, it is not necessarily true that you learn their names. See: Venturi effect.
grapesmoker wrote: Seriously, are we going to have questions like "calculate the second-order energy shift due to the Zeeman effect?" That would be dumb. Calculating things using the Venturi effect, whatever that is, is also dumb.
But is it as dumb as describing the Venturi effect and asking what the name is?

And if you can come up with a question that asks to calculate the second-order (or first-order, or zeroth-order) energy shift due to the Zeeman effect, with numbers that are easy to work with and a formula that isn't too complicated, that'd be great.
cvdwightw wrote: Also, I do think that computational math does have a place in college quiz bowl. However, this belongs as the middle part of a bonus, where it's testing more along the lines of "do you know how this law/concept works" rather than "can you do this math". Also, the question should have easy numbers so that it can be done without pencil and paper the in requisite five seconds. A decent example would be the Stefan-Boltzmann bonus from SCT.
Yes, that's a question that I cited above as a good example. The question was something like "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?" This question is much better than "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."
cvdwightw wrote: I totally agree with Jerry; if you study science, you learn both the names of things and what they're about. Imagine you show up to an organic chemistry midterm and your first problem is "explain the mechanism of that reaction we learned on Monday of week 3". Sure, it probably wants a unique reaction (and asks for what it's about), but no one except for a couple of premeds who study every single detail in their notes is going to get points. People ask for names because (surprisingly) they identify things.
Point taken: You've got to use some technical terms to communicate what you're talking about. I'm suggesting, basically, that in bonuses about experimental setups, it's better to have the answer using the same level of vocabulary as the question, instead of asking for new vocabulary.
cvdwightw wrote: I think this kind of laboratory-based lead-in is much more effective and allows for more of a sense of accomplishment when you get it based on lab experience than asking an entire question on "what would happen if you did such-and-such a thing in your physics lab".
I agree that a tossup clue that people might know from lab knowledge is a good idea. But you compare it with a bonus on "what would happen if you did such-and-such a thing in your physics lab?". What do you think of a comparison between that kind of bonus and a bonus on "if you did such-and-such a thing in your physics lab, such-and such would be the result. What is the name of this effect?"
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Post by AKKOLADE »

vetovian wrote:
DumbJaques wrote: 3)
leftsaidfred wrote:

DumbJaques wrote:

Dude, if I'm reading a round and I need to judge whether or not someone accurately described the result of Raman scattering, game freaking over, I don't care what's printed on the page to help me.


This is true for myself and I'm certain many others who act as moderators. How can you have these questions when people who are determining if an answer is right or wrong don't know if the answer is right or wrong?


If you're able to make that judgment about what a Raman scattering question would require, then you understand Raman scattering better than I do.
This is about the time I stop understanding you. You fail to answer both of our legitimate criticisms in any way, and more disturbingly appear to insinuate that one or both of us was claiming advanced knowledge of Raman scattering. What.
"Advanced" knowledge is relative: You both know (or claim to know) enough about Raman scattering to be able to state confidently that a question that asked about what happens in Raman scattering would be too difficult for you to judge correctness of the answer.
I'm not responding to the rest of the post; I just want to know how saying that we do not know how to judge the accuracy of a description of Raman scattering means that we know enough about Raman scattering. For your convenience, I will list all of the things I know about Raman scattering:

1) It involves science
2) There was a poster in my college's science hall involving it
3) The poster was not particularly aesthetically appealing
4) One time I got tired of going to the college cafeteria so I got a large box of shrimp-flavored Ramen and ate it instead
5) I then got tired of eating Ramen and have not had any in about two years
6) Ramen, however, is different from Raman. The last two points in fact do not assist me in my addressing this situation.

In conclusion, my personal knowledge of Raman scattering is zilch. If someone variates from the answer given in a packet on one of your "describe the effect questions", I will not know if that variation is correct. I will not know if there are any alternate terms that will describe the effect just as accurately. I will not know if the effect is being accurately described in layman's terms if the answer is given only in scientific terms (or vice versa). I will not know any of this because I don't know a damned thing about Raman scattering.

So, please respond to my question of how someone who knows nothing about the subject (i.e. ME!) would be able to address these situations and why it would be an improvement over questions that have a definite answer line.
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Post by theMoMA »

Quiz bowl is a game. And games have certain parameters to test the skills of those who play them. Some skills are conducive to the game, others are not. The skill of being able to describe a certain scientific effect, while useful in laboratory and academic settings, isn't particularly useful in quiz bowl where the ability to judge the description and award points based on its accuracy is sketchy at best.

In summary...if you want points, you should learn what an effect is called.
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Post by e_steinhauser »

For what it's worth (and that's not a whole lot), the lack of an index reference to the Venturi effect in one particular edition of a fluid mechanics textbook is decidedly not indicative of its accessibility or commonality. I would expect any 3rd year mechanical or chemical engineer to know it by name, possibly some physicists too.

Industrial pipe flows are measured using Venturi meters. The Venturi effect has been mentioned in each of the three bulk transport phenomena (fluid mech) courses I've taken.

Back to your regularly scheduled explication of silly ideas ...
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Post by Captain Sinico »

vetovian wrote:... [my scientist teammates] never learned the names of some of these effects, because hardly anybody uses those names...
That is the crux of your argument. Do you have any support for it? It seems to be largely false in my experience. In my life as a scientist, I find that I and those around me frequently use the names of effects, equations, theorems, etc. (largely for the reasons Dwight stated earlier.) This holds for the named concepts that I encounter in both quizbowl and my scientific career.
Certainly there are exceptions to that, of which the Venturi effect may be one at the collegiate level. As we advance in our knowledge, we may explain something as a special case of something else, so we don't bother to learn or remember the name of the first thing anymore. However, by and large, the situation isn't so bad as you or your teammate from a decade ago would have it, at least from the perspective of this scientist.

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Post by grapesmoker »

This is a silly line of discussion straight out of the Willie Chen playbook of "repeat the same thing a million times and feign incredulity when the flaws in your reasoning are exposed." I was going to type up a long response, but since I figured it wouldn't make any difference anyway, I will just say, in the Bard's immortal words: Join me or die! Can you do any less?!
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Post by DumbJaques »

This is a silly line of discussion straight out of the Willie Chen playbook of "repeat the same thing a million times and feign incredulity when the flaws in your reasoning are exposed." I was going to type up a long response, but since I figured it wouldn't make any difference anyway, I will just say, in the Bard's immortal words: Join me or die! Can you do any less?!
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Post by Matt Weiner »

grapesmoker wrote:This is a silly line of discussion straight out of the Willie Chen playbook of "repeat the same thing a million times and feign incredulity when the flaws in your reasoning are exposed."
It's also a great example of a leading type of "anti-quizbowl quizbowler:" someone who appears to misunderstand or dislike extremely basic parts of the game (e.g., the fact that we ask factual questions which have answers, rather than do physical challenges, write interpretive journal articles, or have seminar discussions) for no good reason, yet still tries to shoehorn the wildly different game they want to see into what quizbowl is.

Daniel Pareja's hypothesis that Canada has an abnormally high concentration of AQQs is strengthened once again.
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Post by plujan »

Actually, buried in the forest of deep quotes and strawmen moderators with either perfect or no knowledge of Raman scattering, there is something interesting:
vetovian wrote: Yes, that's a question that I cited above as a good example. The question was something like "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?" This question is much better than "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."
I agree with this. The focus of the question isn't the computation (which is pretty trivial), but it does require you to show a little knowledge about the Stefan-Boltzmann law other than just knowing to mumble "Stefan-Boltzmann" when you hear "blackbody radiation". And this, I think, is good.

Of course, you can't apply this principle to all or even most laws (the next time I remember the functional dependence of the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution will be the first, for instance), but I think it's an idea that shouldn't be lightly dismissed, either.
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Post by setht »

plujan wrote:Actually, buried in the forest of deep quotes and strawmen moderators with either perfect or no knowledge of Raman scattering, there is something interesting:
vetovian wrote: Yes, that's a question that I cited above as a good example. The question was something like "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?" This question is much better than "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."
I agree with this. The focus of the question isn't the computation (which is pretty trivial), but it does require you to show a little knowledge about the Stefan-Boltzmann law other than just knowing to mumble "Stefan-Boltzmann" when you hear "blackbody radiation". And this, I think, is good.

Of course, you can't apply this principle to all or even most laws (the next time I remember the functional dependence of the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution will be the first, for instance), but I think it's an idea that shouldn't be lightly dismissed, either.
I agree with Paul (and some other people who have advocated occasional use of this type of clue). I think it's good to have occasional bonus parts that ask for some content-based knowledge beyond "fit the name to the clue." I think it's also good to have occasional tossup clues based on this sort of knowledge. This can't/shouldn't be done for every effect/law/thing that gets asked in science, and that's okay. I don't think Peter was trying to argue that all science questions should jump over to this model. I think it might be rather hard to write a good tossup where the answer is based on content knowledge (e.g., a tossup with an answer of "it goes up by a factor of 16"), so I would recommend that most writers occasionally try to work in some more content-based clues from laws/equations that they think people really should know more about than just the name--this seems roughly analogous to giving content-based clues about a well-known/important work in a tossup on an author without also immediately giving the work's title.

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Post by grapesmoker »

plujan wrote: I agree with this. The focus of the question isn't the computation (which is pretty trivial), but it does require you to show a little knowledge about the Stefan-Boltzmann law other than just knowing to mumble "Stefan-Boltzmann" when you hear "blackbody radiation". And this, I think, is good.

Of course, you can't apply this principle to all or even most laws (the next time I remember the functional dependence of the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution will be the first, for instance), but I think it's an idea that shouldn't be lightly dismissed, either.
Yeah, I don't think anyone objects to whatever question as long as it fits into the structure of the game. That's the whole point, that you can sometimes write questions like that and they'll be fine, because they are consistent with good quizbowl. But asking questions like, what happens to h spectra upon the application of an electric field, is going to lead to all sorts of unhappiness.
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Post by vetovian »

I repeat the quote of mine that sparked off so many negative reactions in this discussion.
vetovian wrote: I was thinking that what might be more rewarding to people who know their science from experience is questions along the lines of: if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens? For askability, one would need a good short description of the answer; maybe quantitative answers would work best. Above, I gave an example of a quantitative physics question from the NAQT SCT that was feasible and did test actual scientific knowledge, not names.
The example I cited was:
(A1) "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?"
And I contrasted it with:
(B1) "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."

(A1) and (B1) are respectively examples of two types of questions:
(A) "What would happen if you did such-and-such a thing in your physics lab?"
(B) "If you did such-and-such a thing in your physics lab, such-and such would be the result. What is the name of this effect?"

Paul and Seth entered the discussion to say that they agree with me in preferring (A1) to (B1). And then the only post after that is by Jerry saying "Yeah, I don't think anyone objects to whatever question as long as it fits into the structure of the game."

But what happened to all those people, including Jerry, who have insisted that type (B) questions are better than type (A) questions? Here we have a concrete example, (B1) and (A1), of the difference between types (B) and (A), and yet nobody has said yet that (B1) is preferable to (A1).

Now, in response to some recent queries:
leftsaidfred wrote:
vetovian wrote: "Advanced" knowledge is relative: You both know (or claim to know) enough about Raman scattering to be able to state confidently that a question that asked about what happens in Raman scattering would be too difficult for you to judge correctness of the answer.
I'm not responding to the rest of the post; I just want to know how saying that we do not know how to judge the accuracy of a description of Raman scattering means that we know enough about Raman scattering.
I don't even know what the phrase "enough about Raman scattering" means by itself. Enough for what? Obviously, from what you're telling me, you don't know enough about Raman scattering to be able to answer a question that described Raman scattering and asked you what it's called. I said you know enough about Raman scattering to be able to state confidently that a question that asked about what happens in Raman scattering would be too difficult for you to judge correctness of the answer. But then you say that your "personal" knowledge of Raman scattering is "zilch". So for all you know, after a description of the setup for Raman scattering, a "what happens?" question might be "What kind of particle is emitted?" And the answer might be "an alpha particle". (Actually, that's not what Raman scattering is about; I'm just saying that for all you know about Raman scattering, it might be.) But what would be hard about judging correctness of an answer of the form "alpha particle or helium nucleus"?
leftsaidfred wrote: So, please respond to my question of how someone who knows nothing about the subject (i.e. ME!) would be able to address these situations and why it would be an improvement over questions that have a definite answer line.
The questions I'm calling for would have "a definite answer line", like "alpha particle or helium nucleus", or "1600 watts".
theMoMA wrote: Quiz bowl is a game. And games have certain parameters to test the skills of those who play them. Some skills are conducive to the game, others are not. The skill of being able to describe a certain scientific effect, while useful in laboratory and academic settings, isn't particularly useful in quiz bowl where the ability to judge the description and award points based on its accuracy is sketchy at best.

In summary...if you want points, you should learn what an effect is called.
I find that last line kind of dispiriting. As I keep saying, I'm suggesting bonus questions that describe the lab setup and ask what happens in a specific enough way that it would fit into the game; and as I said, maybe quantitative answers would work best.
ImmaculateDeception wrote:
vetovian wrote: ... [my scientist teammates] never learned the names of some of these effects, because hardly anybody uses those names...
That is the crux of your argument. Do you have any support for it?
I'm just going by my recollections of what two physicists told me more than 10 years ago, and I have confidence in their judgments on this issue. Maybe it appears that I'm taking a couple of off-hand comments from 1996 too seriously. But I'm just using them to back up something that is really more of an aesthetic or pedagogical issue for me. I know that quiz bowlers who like science complain when the science quota is filled with a lot of science history and science biography, because that's not really science. Likewise, "name this effect" isn't really science either. It's a crude way to determine who understands the science and who doesn't, and a person who doesn't already know the science might not actually learn anything from hearing the question, like the school textbook that Feynman reviewed, which asked "What makes it go?" and gave the answer "energy" (but might as well have said "Wakalixes"). Granted, "What makes it go?" wouldn't make a good quiz bowl question if you're looking for an answer about springs or photosynthesis or whatever. But we can try to ask about certain aspects of phenomena instead of their names.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: It seems to be largely false in my experience. In my life as a scientist, I find that I and those around me frequently use the names of effects, equations, theorems, etc. (largely for the reasons Dwight stated earlier.) This holds for the named concepts that I encounter in both quizbowl and my scientific career.
Certainly there are exceptions to that, of which the Venturi effect may be one at the collegiate level. As we advance in our knowledge, we may explain something as a special case of something else, so we don't bother to learn or remember the name of the first thing anymore. However, by and large, the situation isn't so bad as you or your teammate from a decade ago would have it, at least from the perspective of this scientist.
Well, sure, in my scientific career I also find that I need to use the names of effects, equations, theorems, etc. But there's a difference between basic vocabulary necessary to describe things, and names given to special cases. I remember hearing a physics professor once expressing disappointment in his young daughter's science textbook that made much of its categorization of levers as first, second, or third class, terms that he hadn't heard before (though Wikipedia's article on levers has a nice description). That's the kind of thing that's easy to write a quiz bowl bonus about: What class of lever is this example, and this one, and this one? And supposedly it's elementary-school level physics. But some professors of physics wouldn't be able to answer it.
Matt Weiner wrote: It's also a great example of a leading type of "anti-quizbowl quizbowler:" someone who appears to misunderstand or dislike extremely basic parts of the game (e.g., the fact that we ask factual questions which have answers, rather than do physical challenges, write interpretive journal articles, or have seminar discussions) for no good reason, yet still tries to shoehorn the wildly different game they want to see into what quizbowl is.
You'll need to expand your list of examples of "extremely basic parts of the game" if I am to understand how the ideas I've expressed here fit into the AQQ category. Obviously, in the present discussion, I am calling for asking factual questions which have answers, rather than doing physical challenges, writing interpretive journal articles, or having seminar discussions.

And apropos of some other comments here, I think there must be some law of metaquizbowl that says that any discussion about quizbowl question style is assumed to be a discussion about tossups. Even Paul and Seth, in their otherwise excellent article on Writing Good Quizbowl Questions, make this mistake by beginning with "The basic principles in writing a good question: A question should consist of a large number of clues. These clues should progress in a pyramidal fashion; that is, the hardest clues should be at the beginning of a question and progress to the easiest clues at the end." Not necessarily true for bonuses.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

Look: as the people who actually play such tournaments have repeatedly tried to tell you in this thread, we already have occasional "what happens when" type bonus parts in NAQT and, to a lesser degree, ACF. They are used in what turns out to be the very rare cases where they can fit into the appropriate structure and difficulty of a bonus.

My frustration with this thread comes from the fact that your involvement with quizbowl appears to be limited to one highly nonstandard tournament per year, and you're making these grand ridiculous pronouncements, e.g.:
"name this effect" isn't really science
when you essentially know nothing about how mainstream quizbowl works today and are displaying an obstinacy towards those who attempt to inform you about either quizbowl or science.

We are already using these types of questions where appropriate. For reasons that are OBVIOUS to anyone who goes to regular tournaments, it would be inappropriate to use many more of them in and of itself. Your specific reasoning is flat-out wrong on both counts: number one, your assertion that knowing what things are called in scientific fields is not science or not something that scientists are required to know--just not true. Second, your assertion that "practical knowledge" questions are not asked and/or there is some reasonable way to ask more of them--also not true. Your cherry-picked and/or made-up examples ("what if someone were to write a hypothetical bonus on lever types based on a Wikipedia article and a Doctor of Lever Physics was unable to answer it? WHAT THEN?") do nothing to further your case and just make it more obvious that you have some inexplicable grudge about doing something that almost no one in Canada has yet mastered: namely, achieving competence in writing questions in standard, universal formats before attempting to rework those formats into superfluous and poorly defined experimental tournaments.

I'm sorry to be so angry about this (well, not really sorry, but bear with me) but you really seem hung up on what must be the most minor thing in the history of quizbowl discussion, and your arguments are terrible, and I can't figure out any good reason why this seems so important to you, and I really don't like it when people combine two really bad arguments such as "this crazy summer guerilla tournament in Canada = quizbowl in general" and "random people I met in 1996 = all scientists everywhere" to make an ill-supported point.
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Post by grapesmoker »

Would anyone planning to write a bonus on classes of levers from a Wikipedia article please get in line for a beating behind Jason Mueller?
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Post by Captain Sinico »

vetovian wrote:...I'm just going by my recollections of what two physicists told me more than 10 years ago...
I see. Well, okay, so I'm a physicist now and I disagree with your assessment. I concur that there's some room for some of what you're describing, but it's also true that some of it already exists. I do, however, disagree with your contention that the prevalence of such questions should be greatly increased for a number of reasons.
First of all, the number and scope of such questions is limited because, beyond those that apply to the very simplest phenomena, the questions you're describing are unpractical. This is chiefly the case as it's not always clear what physical laws, etc. will apply in a given situation (even if we had time to give an exhaustive description of it.) Indeed, even the simple question (B1) that you're trying to pose has problems with it. It is also the case because, beyond the very simplest laws, the computation you're proposing becomes impractical.
Secondly, I don't see how it's any better pedagogically for players to memorize "take the fourth power of the ratio every time I hear 'Stefan-Boltzman'" than it is for them to memorize "the Stefan-Boltzman law gives the power emitted by an ideal blackbody." As someone who currently teaches lab science at a university level, I'll say that I think both the both names (and all that goes along with them) and mathematical forms of physical laws, effects, etc. are important for a scientist to know. It just happens to be the case that one of these is easier for us (quizbowl) to test in the vast majority of cases.
Finally, it seems to me that your proposal emphasizes rote computational ability (however rudimentary) and would also have the effect of further reducing the accessibility of science questions to non-scientists. I don't think that either of those are desirable ends.

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Post by vizcacha »

vetovian wrote:Nobody brought this up, but I know that there are players here who are very concerned about the quality of science questions. Is there too much emphasis on names, on labels? A lot of the science questions at this SCT reminded me of what I heard at a masters tournament many years ago when I had two teammates who had spent years in physics labs and were quite familiar with various phenomena that got asked about in the questions, because they'd seen these phenomena themselves, but they weren't rewarded with points because they just didn't know what particular name is given to these particular "effects", or even that these effects were named after anyone. Is this a concern?
I think the real problem that you are eluding to, is that when you ask for names/labels of scientific theories and effects, you open up the possibility of the non-expert beating out the (semi-)expert. This is just part of the game. I can think of an example a few years ago, when one of my teammates, an economics major, buzzed in off a lead-in with PCR. After being told he was right, he proudly proclaimed, "I don't even know what PCR is." Unless, you want the science portion of a packet to be some exclusive club, asking for names is essential. A non-scientist player will be able to learn some clues and they will have a decent shot at getting some questions, while a science oriented player should have deeper knowledge that will beat the non-science player most of the time.

Also, as I might have implied above, I think the idea that a practicing scientist doesn't know the name of an equation or theorem to be suspect. I have yet to see a physics textbook, or physics professor, that presents important results without their traditional labels.
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Post by vetovian »

Matt Weiner wrote: My frustration with this thread comes from the fact that your involvement with quizbowl appears to be limited to one highly nonstandard tournament per year, and you're making these grand ridiculous pronouncements, e.g.:
"name this effect" isn't really science
when you essentially know nothing about how mainstream quizbowl works today and are displaying an obstinacy towards those who attempt to inform you about either quizbowl or science.
It's sad that Richard Feynman is no longer with us so that he could be informed by you on what science is and isn't, and how involvement with contemporary mainstream quizbowl helps one to understand that issue.
grapesmoker wrote: Would anyone planning to write a bonus on classes of levers from a Wikipedia article please get in line for a beating behind Jason Mueller?
What do you see wrong with writing a bonus that asked to name classes of levers, other than the fact that doing so may result in a beating from yourself? Seriously, I gave my reasons why I would have a problem with such a bonus, but your "reasons" don't strike me as being intellectually satisfying. If there's a very simple reason, then it should be very simple to explain. As you probably know, there are lots of educational websites that describe the three classes of levers, besides Wikipedia.
ImmaculateDeception wrote:
vetovian wrote: ...I'm just going by my recollections of what two physicists told me more than 10 years ago...
I see. Well, okay, so I'm a physicist now and I disagree with your assessment. I concur that there's some room for some of what you're describing, but it's also true that some of it already exists. I do, however, disagree with your contention that the prevalence of such questions should be greatly increased for a number of reasons.
First of all, the number and scope of such questions is limited because, beyond those that apply to the very simplest phenomena, the questions you're describing are unpractical.
OK, this is reasonable so far. I grant that it can be difficult to come up with a practical bonus question that can determine whether the team understands some scientific phenomenon -- more difficult than just describing it and asking "what's it called?"
ImmaculateDeception wrote: This is chiefly the case as it's not always clear what physical laws, etc. will apply in a given situation (even if we had time to give an exhaustive description of it.) Indeed, even the simple question (B1) that you're trying to pose has problems with it.
My (B1) was "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."
So I think you meant to refer to what I called (A1): "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?"
What are the problems you see with it?

And actually, "it's not always clear what physical laws, etc. will apply in a given situation" is, in a way, the point. In physics problem sets, one is typically given some description of some physical setup and asked to calculate something or other. The physical laws involved aren't usually stated explicitly because you're supposed to figure out which ones apply from the description of the problem and your knowledge of those laws.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: Secondly, I don't see how it's any better pedagogically for players to memorize "take the fourth power of the ratio every time I hear 'Stefan-Boltzman'" than it is for them to memorize "the Stefan-Boltzman law gives the power emitted by an ideal blackbody."
First, I do think the first example is better pedagogically, because it refers to actual knowledge of the Stefan-Boltzmann law. The second example is just rote association, "power emitted by an ideal blackbody" -> "Stefan-Boltzmann law".

And secondly, I don't even like the first example; I prefer the association of "power emitted by an ideal blackbody" -> "take the fourth power of the temperature ratio". The term "Stefan-Boltzmann" can be removed.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: As someone who currently teaches lab science at a university level, I'll say that I think both the both names (and all that goes along with them) and mathematical forms of physical laws, effects, etc. are important for a scientist to know. It just happens to be the case that one of these is easier for us (quizbowl) to test in the vast majority of cases.
Yes, it's easier to test "do you know the name?" But it's not how you tell who understands the science. Other people here say that the quizbowl format has its limitations in testing science knowledge, but I'm interested in trying to overcome them.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: Finally, it seems to me that your proposal emphasizes rote computational ability (however rudimentary) and would also have the effect of further reducing the accessibility of science questions to non-scientists.
Yes, that's why it's important to keep the arithmetic simple.
CaptainCrappyJacks wrote: I think the real problem that you are eluding to, is that when you ask for names/labels of scientific theories and effects, you open up the possibility of the non-expert beating out the (semi-)expert. This is just part of the game. I can think of an example a few years ago, when one of my teammates, an economics major, buzzed in off a lead-in with PCR. After being told he was right, he proudly proclaimed, "I don't even know what PCR is." Unless, you want the science portion of a packet to be some exclusive club, asking for names is essential. A non-scientist player will be able to learn some clues and they will have a decent shot at getting some questions, while a science oriented player should have deeper knowledge that will beat the non-science player most of the time.
As I've said, what I've been suggesting is for bonuses, and not applicable as much to tossups. Bonuses are for rewarding deeper knowledge. Your point still stands, though, in that someone who has memorized some rote associations might do better on naming phenomena described in a bonus than someone who understands the science.
CaptainCrappyJacks wrote: Also, as I might have implied above, I think the idea that a practicing scientist doesn't know the name of an equation or theorem to be suspect.
The theorem that says that if curl F = 0 on a simply connected domain, then F is the gradient of some scalar potential is a very important theorem that's used in physics. What's the theorem called? I have a textbook in which it's called Theorem 4.3. Maybe the theorem has a traditional name that I'm not aware of, but if it does, I hope nobody asks for its name in a quiz bowl question.
CaptainCrappyJacks wrote: I have yet to see a physics textbook, or physics professor, that presents important results without their traditional labels.
Here is an example that you can see yourself on amazon reader, in a textbook I referred to earlier.
White's Fluid Mechanics wrote: Example 3.23: A constriction in a pipe will cause the velocity to rise and the pressure to fall at section 2 in the throat. The pressure difference is a measure of the flow rate through the pipe. The smoothly necked-down system shown in Fig. E3.23 is called a venturi tube. Find an expression for the mass flux in the tube as a function of the pressure change.
So the book uses an example of an apparatus it calls a venturi tube to illustrate the principle that "A constriction in a pipe will cause the velocity to rise and the pressure to fall", but notice that the book does not give a name to this physical principle. As we learned above, it's called the Venturi effect.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

vetovian wrote:The theorem that says that if curl F = 0 on a simply connected domain, then F is the gradient of some scalar potential is a very important theorem that's used in physics. What's the theorem called? I have a textbook in which it's called Theorem 4.3. Maybe the theorem has a traditional name that I'm not aware of, but if it does, I hope nobody asks for its name in a quiz bowl question.
There are, indeed, questions which seek out obscure names for things that don't really have formal or standard names. We call these bad questions. I think that in addition to frustrated or lazy writing in general, a major cause of these questions is reliance on Wikipedia, which is known to insist on assigning one-to-one relationships between names and concepts even if no such relationship exists in the real world.

Again, you would know that this is far less of a problem than you assert if you had taken a look at some good packets recently.
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Post by cvdwightw »

vetovian wrote:In physics problem sets, one is typically given some description of some physical setup and asked to calculate something or other.
But, see, here's the thing. Quiz bowl science != actual "academic" science. I'd like to pretend I'm a scientist, and I haven't done a physics problem set in almost three years. I have, however, written and answered plenty of physics questions. If you look at ACF Fall 2006 you will even see that I wrote a bonus asking for a simple calculation to demonstrate understanding of frames of reference. What you seem to be proposing is, "hey, I'm going to take this example/exercise out of my physics textbook and convert it into a bonus", which will result in somewhere over 90% of teams being unable to do the following: identify which laws apply in the situation described, which of those laws is necessary to solve the problem, and then plug the numbers in to that law and calculate the answer; all in the space of five seconds or however long you have to answer the bonus part. There's a reason quiz bowl is a game of "quick recall" rather than "solving ten of these kinds of problems over the course of a week".

We've had several threads explaining that quiz bowl literature does not reflect what is learned in actual literature classes, quiz bowl history does not accurately reflect what is learned in actual history classes, quiz bowl geography is about as far removed from "academic" geography as one can get, etc. Anyone who studies any of these areas will tell you that in no way does quiz bowl "tells who understands" that area. Like it or not, science is the exact same way, and the only reason it's ever been treated differently is that you need a lot more science experience to write a good question on Raman scattering than poetry reading experience to write a good question on "Tintern Abbey".

"Name this effect" is quiz bowl science. In the same way that asking a question on, say, Andrew Jackson allows people who rarely if ever encounter Andrew Jackson in their coursework to (1) judge the validity of a given answer and (2) actually answer such a question, asking a question on the Zeeman effect allows people with only a layman's knowledge to (1) judge whether a given answer is correct and (2) actually answer such a question. Asking "What happens when you send a beam of electrons through a magnetic field?" (note: I recognize that this question has no one right answer, but I'm just using science-sounding BS) is comparable to "What happens at the end of Jane Eyre?". It's writing a question in reverse. I as the person answering the question should be able to listen to a description of the end of some novel and conclude that the answer is Jane Eyre, not be given the novel and have to provide the ending. Similarly, I should expect the question writer to provide clues about the uses, interpretation, etc. of the Zeeman effect rather than have to come up with "spectral lines are split in the presence of a magnetic field" to the question "What does the Zeeman effect say?". Besides, I think knowing that there is a similar but different effect called the Stark Effect and a specialized case called the Paschen-Back Effect is just as important as knowing what is the Zeeman Effect.
vetovian wrote:Yes, it's easier to test "do you know the name?" But it's not how you tell who understands the science.
This is ridiculous. I have never, ever used the Stefan-Boltzmann law. I know from quiz bowl that it involves black bodies and something about power being proportional to the fourth power of temperature. I would likely buzz with "Stefan-Boltzmann" if the question described a law involving temperature to the fourth power, and I could certainly fraud both (A1) and (B1) with absolutely no understanding at all of what the Stefan-Boltzmann Law is or why it's used. On a well-written question on Stefan-Boltzmann, a player with more knowledge is almost always going to beat me, as I have to wait for the stock giveaway clues. On the other hand, if both my hypothetical opponent and I can answer (A1), we must clearly both understand the science, which is completely false. Should there be bonuses with parts like that? I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone pressing for the elimination of such questions. But claiming that it better tests "who understands the science" than the form currently in vogue is patently ridiculous.

I have no problem with a three-part bonus whose answers are: some law, some result from the law, some simple math calculation showing understanding of the law. As Matt and I both point out, such questions do exist, and I don't think you've ever addressed that point. But if all the science bonuses look like that, there's going to be a revolt from the humanities players demanding bonuses on which literary critic said what about some novel and what three different historiography works no one cares about say about some event. And yes, my slippery-slope argument ends with bonus conversion pathetically low and quiz bowl becoming even more elitist than it is now.

Then again, all we want to do is make science questions even more inaccessible to those that don't knows the science. Right?
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Post by sweaver »

styxman wrote:Also, lest we forget, computational questions remove one of the pillars of pyramidality -the fact that in depth knowledge should be rewarded. It simply doesn't happen in most computational questions, because it usually ends up rewarding whoever has the best mind for numbers, and quizbowl is not the place for that.
Why not? Not to be obtuse, but doesn't quiz bowl reward that sort of thing in other disciplines? Why not in math? Being able to recognize a relationship and calculate the results quickly is just the sort of thing quiz bowl is based on, seems to me.
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Post by First Chairman »

Calculation questions involve an additional step beyond what most quiz bowl questions require: application. Not only do you have to know what law or equation to use, you also have to make sure your calculation skills don't fail you. Thus calculation questions can be written to test you solely on your calculation skills (find the value of x in this equation), which would be as valid (if we are talking about common quiz bowl writing technique) as a pyramidal calculation question.

There are very few analogies to allowing application questions in the current rendition of quiz bowl (excluding math competitions and mathcounts' countdown round). We are not asked to mix pigments to get various colors, sculpt our answers (like in Cranium), or to recite famous passages in literature. If anything, calculation questions are the math equivalent to spelling questions: you may know the word, but if you misspell the word or decide to use the British spelling (or even the British word) instead of American English, you could be ruled "incorrect."
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Post by grapesmoker »

vetovian wrote:What do you see wrong with writing a bonus that asked to name classes of levers, other than the fact that doing so may result in a beating from yourself? Seriously, I gave my reasons why I would have a problem with such a bonus, but your "reasons" don't strike me as being intellectually satisfying. If there's a very simple reason, then it should be very simple to explain. As you probably know, there are lots of educational websites that describe the three classes of levers, besides Wikipedia.
I've stopped responding seriously to anything you are saying because you either lack the reading comprehension to understand the points that people have been trying to get across to you, or you are so obstinate that no matter what people say you just continue ignoring all their points.

People have been telling you over and over that what you are suggesting would not make for good quizbowl, and bringing up Richard Feynman is totally irrelevant to this discussion. The problem is that if VETO is any evidence, you don't know what good quizbowl is and you stubbornly defend bad quizbowl. For some reason totally unknown to anyone but yourself, you've fixated on remaking science questions in your image based on what some physicist friends of yours told you 10 years ago at an abysmally shitty tournament. Who cares? Only you apparently.

We don't demand that people give an exegesis of the symbolism in Moby Dick or explain the significance of the Westphalian System or perform titrations in quizbowl, and we're not going to move to a system of demanding that people "understand" science to get points in QB. We're not interested in testing understanding because it's my experience that good players that get questions early and 30 bonuses already understand the stuff they answer questions on. You are on a pointless, quixotic crusade, and no one who actually plays quizbowl is on your side to anything but the smallest degree.

In summary, you are wrong for reasons already explained to you and you also don't know what good quizbowl is. I don't care what you do with VETO since I'm sure I'll never attend that awful tournament anyway, and as long as normal players have any influence on how questions are written, you won't get anywhere in standard tournaments. At this point, I find it far easier to just stonewall your efforts in private than to engage you in endless debates, something I have neither the time nor the inclination for.
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Post by Captain Sinico »

0. You've done nothing to address the fact that your proposal is reducing (and sometimes massively so) the accessibility of what is already the least accessible major category in quizbowl. If we're talking about actual quizbowl and how to ask actual questions in actual tournaments, you should address that because it's actually the most important point. If (as increasingly seems the case) we're having some idealogical circlejerk about what you or someone else thinks Richard Feynman might have thought about the importance of labeling concepts in science... well, count me out of that.

(The rest of this is less important.)

1. Regarding the theorem whose name you don't know, it is a form of Helmholtz's theorem, but it may be derived as a special case of a number of other things. However, this gives me a very good example of how one can (and, indeed, does) test forms of science knowledge that aren't the names of theorems without resorting to computation. One could just as easily ask a question on, say, "potential functions" since the name of that theorem isn't particularly important. In fact, the last time I asked about that theorem, that was the answer.

2. Regarding your Stefan-Boltzmann question (A1), the problem with it is that you have to specify that you have an ideal classical blackbody for which no other mechanisms of heat transfer than radiation are important (in fact, at such low temperatures, other heat transfer mechanisms would likely dominate if any are available.) I'm sure Richard Feynman would tell you that if he were around today. Now, it took me 3 lines to say that here. This would be fine on a physics problem set and even if did get it wrong there, the students would just come ask me what I was talking about but, in quizbowl, we're running into problems.
Anyway, this is a good example of what I'm talking about. It's not clear to me what laws you want to apply not because of my or Richard Feynman's ignorance of the subject of heat transfer, but because you don't have the space (since this is a quizbowl question) or expertise (since not all question writers are science professors, as is the case for, say, writers of physics problem sets) to unambiguously specify what law you want me to use. This is just going to keep happening.

3. Regarding the fact that your proposal seems to promote simple memorization of a small set of arithmetical operations, your response does nothing to eliminate that fact. Again, you'd just have people memorizing and performing fairly simple arithmetical operations every time they hear some law's name or some situation. I continue to fail to see why that's better that testing knowledge of the name, your emphasis of do aside.

4. Regarding keeping the arithmetic simple, again, the situations in which you can keep the arithmetic simple are comparatively few. Moreover, the ability to do arithmetic, even relatively simple arithmetic like "take the fourth power of 2 and multiply it by 100," is massively de-emphasized in real science at the college level and testing it will very likely screw over people with deep knowledge of a subject that isn't "do arithmetic quickly" (*raises hand*). So, your questions are moving further away from testing skills and knowledge important to actual scientists.

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Post by Captain Sinico »

Also, your classification of White as a book that presents important results without their traditional labels is a gross micharacterization. Indeed, most of the names of concepts from fluid mechanics that I know I learned from that very book.

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Post by vetovian »

cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:In physics problem sets, one is typically given some description of some physical setup and asked to calculate something or other.
But, see, here's the thing. Quiz bowl science != actual "academic" science. I'd like to pretend I'm a scientist, and I haven't done a physics problem set in almost three years. I have, however, written and answered plenty of physics questions. If you look at ACF Fall 2006 you will even see that I wrote a bonus asking for a simple calculation to demonstrate understanding of frames of reference. What you seem to be proposing is, "hey, I'm going to take this example/exercise out of my physics textbook and convert it into a bonus", which will result in somewhere over 90% of teams being unable to do the following: identify which laws apply in the situation described, which of those laws is necessary to solve the problem, and then plug the numbers in to that law and calculate the answer; all in the space of five seconds or however long you have to answer the bonus part. There's a reason quiz bowl is a game of "quick recall" rather than "solving ten of these kinds of problems over the course of a week".
Yes, I understand that's why it's not feasible to take an example or exercise out of a physics textbook and convert it into a bonus, much as I might like to do that for the purpose of seeing whether the team understands the physics. But I think that if you go through the whole textbook, you can find some problems that have some core idea that can be adapted to quiz bowl. Just to throw out an example, one could ask for the direction of some vector that could be determined by using the right-hand rule. Maybe this has been done. As for computations, it's worth noting that the ACF rules actually specify "25 seconds per part unless otherwise specified on a calculation bonus."
cvdwightw wrote: We've had several threads explaining that quiz bowl literature does not reflect what is learned in actual literature classes, quiz bowl history does not accurately reflect what is learned in actual history classes, quiz bowl geography is about as far removed from "academic" geography as one can get, etc. Anyone who studies any of these areas will tell you that in no way does quiz bowl "tells who understands" that area. Like it or not, science is the exact same way, and the only reason it's ever been treated differently is that you need a lot more science experience to write a good question on Raman scattering than poetry reading experience to write a good question on "Tintern Abbey".
I'm not sure science is quite the same as those other subjects, in the sense that in science there are objective factual answers, and the difficulty in adapting academic science to quizbowl lies in ratcheting down the difficulty level to a game of quick recall (and five-second bonus conferrals). Can we say the same about literature, history, and geography -- that there are questions with definite factual answers that take too long to figure out in a quiz bowl game? I'm just asking because I'm curious and would be surprised if it's true.
cvdwightw wrote: "Name this effect" is quiz bowl science. In the same way that asking a question on, say, Andrew Jackson allows people who rarely if ever encounter Andrew Jackson in their coursework to (1) judge the validity of a given answer and (2) actually answer such a question, asking a question on the Zeeman effect allows people with only a layman's knowledge to (1) judge whether a given answer is correct and (2) actually answer such a question. Asking "What happens when you send a beam of electrons through a magnetic field?" (note: I recognize that this question has no one right answer, but I'm just using science-sounding BS) is comparable to "What happens at the end of Jane Eyre?". It's writing a question in reverse. I as the person answering the question should be able to listen to a description of the end of some novel and conclude that the answer is Jane Eyre, not be given the novel and have to provide the ending. Similarly, I should expect the question writer to provide clues about the uses, interpretation, etc. of the Zeeman effect rather than have to come up with "spectral lines are split in the presence of a magnetic field" to the question "What does the Zeeman effect say?". Besides, I think knowing that there is a similar but different effect called the Stark Effect and a specialized case called the Paschen-Back Effect is just as important as knowing what is the Zeeman Effect.
Let me first clarify that when I suggest more bonus questions of the form "if you do such-and-such a thing on such-and-such lab equipment, what happens?" I don't mean literally asking "what happens?" Instead, I mean asking things like "what kind of particle is emitted?" or "what are the chemical products of the reaction?" or "what is the direction of the vector?" or "what is the change in pressure?" or "how much radiation is emitted at the new temperature?" A bonus part about the Zeeman effect could get into specifics by saying: when a magnetic field is applied to such-and-such, how many spectral lines does the original line split into?

And as worded, "What happens at the end of Jane Eyre?" wouldn't work in quizbowl, but I don't think anyone would complain about the form of a bonus part that asked, for example, "Who dies at the end of Jane Eyre?" This would be a case where you are "given the novel and have to provide the ending" (or more precisely, some fact about the ending).
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:Yes, it's easier to test "do you know the name?" But it's not how you tell who understands the science.
This is ridiculous. I have never, ever used the Stefan-Boltzmann law. I know from quiz bowl that it involves black bodies and something about power being proportional to the fourth power of temperature. I would likely buzz with "Stefan-Boltzmann" if the question described a law involving temperature to the fourth power, and I could certainly fraud both (A1) and (B1) with absolutely no understanding at all of what the Stefan-Boltzmann Law is or why it's used. On a well-written question on Stefan-Boltzmann, a player with more knowledge is almost always going to beat me, as I have to wait for the stock giveaway clues. On the other hand, if both my hypothetical opponent and I can answer (A1), we must clearly both understand the science, which is completely false.
Again, I was referring to (A1) and (B1) as bonus parts, not as tossups. I'm puzzled how you say you can "fraud" (A1) "with absolutely no understanding at all" (your phrase) "of what the Stefan-Boltzmann Law is". It's true that you can answer it without having a clue what blackbody radiation is, but you do have to know that whatever it is, it's proportional to T^4, and that's more science than the fact that this relationship is called the Stefan-Boltzmann Law.
cvdwightw wrote: Should there be bonuses with parts like that? I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone pressing for the elimination of such questions. But claiming that it better tests "who understands the science" than the form currently in vogue is patently ridiculous.
Correct me if you're not referring to (B1) as being in "the form currently in vogue", but I honestly don't understand what's "patently ridiculous" about saying that (A1) tests understanding of science better than (B1):
(A1) "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?"
(B1) "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."

Question (A1) is much closer than question (B1) to the type of thing one might find on a physics problem set or quiz.
cvdwightw wrote: I have no problem with a three-part bonus whose answers are: some law, some result from the law, some simple math calculation showing understanding of the law. As Matt and I both point out, such questions do exist, and I don't think you've ever addressed that point.
I did say that example (A1) is my recollection of a question from this SCT. I don't remember the other parts of that particular bonus, but I agree that "name of law / some result from law / simple math calc showing understanding of the law" is better than "name these effects, 10 points each", even if I'd rather not ask the "name of law" part in your example.
cvdwightw wrote: But if all the science bonuses look like that, there's going to be a revolt from the humanities players demanding bonuses on which literary critic said what about some novel and what three different historiography works no one cares about say about some event.
You make the analogies that
science is to questions about "some result of a scientific law & simple math calc showing understanding of that law"
as literature is to questions about literary criticism
and as history is to questions about works of historiography.
But I see problems with those analogies. Science is about results of scientific laws and equations. In the academy, litterateurs may discuss literary criticism, but literary criticism is still about literary texts. Historians may discuss historiography, but historiography is still about historic events. Asking for some result of a scientific law and a simple math calculation showing understanding of that law is more analogous to asking questions about plot elements, names of characters, and names of settings in a literary work, or to asking questions about names of persons and institutions, dates and locations of historic events. And although we obviously need to use some vocabulary to talk about anything in science, that vocabulary doesn't come handed down from the creator the way literary titles and names of characters do. (And as an aside, names given to historical events don't always come handed down from a creator, either, so I had a quibble with an SCT bonus that Matt quoted, that began, "It took place on June 30 and July 1, 1934. For 10 points each -- A. Name this fateful weekend, on which hundreds of people were killed by the Nazis. answer: The Night of the Long Knives (or Nacht der langen Messer)" Even if only for the purpose of definiteness, this part should have stated who gave it that name -- apparently Adolf Hitler himself, in a Reichstag speech two weeks later.)

And now about "accessibility":
cvdwightw wrote: And yes, my slippery-slope argument ends with bonus conversion pathetically low and quiz bowl becoming even more elitist than it is now.

Then again, all we want to do is make science questions even more inaccessible to those that don't knows the science. Right?
ImmaculateDeception wrote: 0. You've done nothing to address the fact that your proposal is reducing (and sometimes massively so) the accessibility of what is already the least accessible major category in quizbowl. If we're talking about actual quizbowl and how to ask actual questions in actual tournaments, you should address that because it's actually the most important point.
How do you evaluate how accessible a question is? What makes (B1) more accessible than (A1), as I think you've been saying? It seems to me that the difference is that the answer to (B1) is more easily memorized (or, probably more commonly, is remembered after it's heard in quizbowl packets). So players pick up the superficial knowledge of the law's name from quizbowl or from rote learning, and so it's "fraud" knowledge in a way. If (B1) is more accessible than (A1), I argue, it's for artificial reasons. The reduced accessibility of science bonuses that would result from my proposal is then a good thing that provides an incentive for players to learn what the science is about and also increases the relative value of science specialists to a team.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: 1. Regarding the theorem whose name you don't know, it is a form of Helmholtz's theorem, but it may be derived as a special case of a number of other things. However, this gives me a very good example of how one can (and, indeed, does) test forms of science knowledge that aren't the names of theorems without resorting to computation. One could just as easily ask a question on, say, "potential functions" since the name of that theorem isn't particularly important. In fact, the last time I asked about that theorem, that was the answer.
Yes, that one sounds good. It does ask for a name, but "potential functions" is a common enough name, and the question avoids computation.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: 2. Regarding your Stefan-Boltzmann question (A1), the problem with it is that you have to specify that you have an ideal classical blackbody for which no other mechanisms of heat transfer than radiation are important (in fact, at such low temperatures, other heat transfer mechanisms would likely dominate if any are available.) I'm sure Richard Feynman would tell you that if he were around today. Now, it took me 3 lines to say that here. This would be fine on a physics problem set and even if did get it wrong there, the students would just come ask me what I was talking about but, in quizbowl, we're running into problems.
Anyway, this is a good example of what I'm talking about. It's not clear to me what laws you want to apply not because of my or Richard Feynman's ignorance of the subject of heat transfer, but because you don't have the space (since this is a quizbowl question) or expertise (since not all question writers are science professors, as is the case for, say, writers of physics problem sets) to unambiguously specify what law you want me to use. This is just going to keep happening.
(A1) was what I could remember of an SCT question. Did you see it, and if you did, are you dissatisfied with its wording? OK, you're right, the question would have to say that it's considering radiation only.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: 3. Regarding the fact that your proposal seems to promote simple memorization of a small set of arithmetical operations, your response does nothing to eliminate that fact. Again, you'd just have people memorizing and performing fairly simple arithmetical operations every time they hear some law's name or some situation. I continue to fail to see why that's better that testing knowledge of the name, your emphasis of do aside.
It's the difference between knowing the name of an equation and knowing the content of that equation. I think that difference is significant.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: 4. Regarding keeping the arithmetic simple, again, the situations in which you can keep the arithmetic simple are comparatively few. Moreover, the ability to do arithmetic, even relatively simple arithmetic like "take the fourth power of 2 and multiply it by 100," is massively de-emphasized in real science at the college level and testing it will very likely screw over people with deep knowledge of a subject that isn't "do arithmetic quickly" (*raises hand*). So, your questions are moving further away from testing skills and knowledge important to actual scientists.
I sympathize, but that is one reason why we have teams answering bonuses: to take advantage of players' different abilities. Some may know the science, and others may be better at doing arithmetic.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: Also, your classification of White as a book that presents important results without their traditional labels is a gross micharacterization. Indeed, most of the names of concepts from fluid mechanics that I know I learned from that very book.
I didn't realize that I classified White's book as anything (other than "a textbook for graduate-level courses in fluid mechanics"). I gave a single example of a result that the book presents without its traditional label. So OK, I classify it as a book that presents at least one important result without its traditional label; if you disagree with that characterization, let me know why.
grapesmoker wrote:
vetovian wrote:What do you see wrong with writing a bonus that asked to name classes of levers, other than the fact that doing so may result in a beating from yourself? Seriously, I gave my reasons why I would have a problem with such a bonus, but your "reasons" don't strike me as being intellectually satisfying. If there's a very simple reason, then it should be very simple to explain. As you probably know, there are lots of educational websites that describe the three classes of levers, besides Wikipedia.
I've stopped responding seriously to anything you are saying because you either lack the reading comprehension to understand the points that people have been trying to get across to you, or you are so obstinate that no matter what people say you just continue ignoring all their points.
OK, so you announce to the world that anyone who writes a bonus asking "what class of lever is this?" will get a beating from you, but when asked why, you refuse to give any reason, simply because I am the one who is asking.
grapesmoker wrote: People have been telling you over and over that what you are suggesting would not make for good quizbowl,
Not quite. Even you yourself said: "I don't think anyone objects to whatever question as long as it fits into the structure of the game."
grapesmoker wrote: and bringing up Richard Feynman is totally irrelevant to this discussion.
This discussion is about science as well as about quizbowl. Matt quoted my assertion that "'name this effect' isn't really science" and called it a "grand ridiculous pronouncement". If it wasn't clear why I cited Feynman, it's because I thought he had an engaging treatment of the subject of what is or isn't science.
grapesmoker wrote: For some reason totally unknown to anyone but yourself, you've fixated on remaking science questions in your image based on what some physicist friends of yours told you 10 years ago at an abysmally shitty tournament. Who cares? Only you apparently.
I don't want to give the impression that my view is based solely on what my physicist teammates told me at the Philly Experiment. They're just examples of players who couldn't name some "effects" even though they not only understood them and could explain them, but also had real experience with them. And it seemed to me that there were also a lot of questions in this SCT that asked for science jargon/labels; I don't have the set, and I'm sorry I can't remember any examples. But it's clear that I'm not the only person in this discussion who thinks that asking questions that test whether people have some knowledge about certain phenomena is better, if you can do it, than asking for the names of phenomena.
grapesmoker wrote: We don't demand that people give an exegesis of the symbolism in Moby Dick or explain the significance of the Westphalian System or perform titrations in quizbowl, and we're not going to move to a system of demanding that people "understand" science to get points in QB. We're not interested in testing understanding because it's my experience that good players that get questions early and 30 bonuses already understand the stuff they answer questions on. You are on a pointless, quixotic crusade, and no one who actually plays quizbowl is on your side to anything but the smallest degree.
I just don't get this hostility to even trying to write quizbowl questions that test the understanding of science, as if it's an issue that question writers should avoid thinking about. Maybe your taste is different, but I feel more fulfilled when I hear a bonus (whether I can answer it or not) that appears to seek to test understanding of some bit of science than when I hear a science bonus in which the challenge is to come up with the name of something. Just as, in a different subject area, I feel much more fulfilled when I'm given a question about visual art or music that lets me see the visual art or hear the music than when I just hear words about the works. But that's a separate topic.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

vetovian wrote:This discussion is about science as well as about quizbowl. Matt quoted my assertion that "'name this effect' isn't really science" and called it a "grand ridiculous pronouncement". If it wasn't clear why I cited Feynman, it's because I thought he had an engaging treatment of the subject of what is or isn't science.
OK, if you want to provide such background material in the future, it might be a good idea to link to a page that actually describes Richard Feynman's ideas on the philosophy of science, rather than a page with some anecdotes about Feynman that have nothing to do with the discussion. It might also be a good idea to link to someone whose role as a philosopher of science is more crucial to the field of philosophy and not merely incidental to their career as a physicist, such as Thomas Kuhn, or Karl Popper, or Paul Feyerabend, or Peter Gallison (an assortment of people who I have read on this subject, and thus "deserve" to get points on in quizbowl, under your reasoning). Anyway, I highly doubt that Richard Feynman ever said that you can do effective scientific work without knowing what things are called--things such as Feynman diagrams, for example.

It's not a good idea to post obfuscatory and irrelevant links in an attempt to show how smart you are, and they do not help your case. Your intentionally coy name-dropping, coupled with your seemingly endless discomfort at the notion of people who are not practicing scientists getting science questions, leads one to believe that there is some serious insecurity on your part about the superiority of your own intellect to that of us lowly humanities students, which is motivating this bizarre discussion.
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Post by Captain Sinico »

Okay, good, so we're maybe finally getting somewhere.

It should go without saying that I measure accessibility by considering how likely it is that a given question gets converted by a field. I make a guess at that by considering my experiences as a tournament editor, question writer, etc. It is my considered judgment that the questions you're proposing are less accessible than their analogues of the form you're decrying.

Also, okay, so maybe it's fine with you if the occasional question is a test not only of knowledge but also of arithmetic ability. In fact, you seem comfortable with the idea that questions occasionally be tests of arithmetic ability to the exclusion of other knowledge (even real, measurable knowledge of the very ostensible subject of the question.) That's not okay with me and I would neither write nor edit a set predicated on that idea. It seems to me that a science question should test science knowledge and, on the college level, that just ain't arithmetic. I thought that was your premise, too... so how can you reconcile that?

So, to get back to turkey, our model question might be reasonable to both of us if it went something like this (inclusion of parenthetical part depending on how RF is feeling about letting things in science have names today):
"With what integer exponent of its temperature does the power radiated by an ideal classical blackbody scale (according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law?)"
That tests real, underlying, applicable knowledge of the form of an underlying equation, which you say is good (and I agree, but continue to emphasize that accessibility concerns are paramount) but it won't screw someone who can't do arithmetic or give someone who can an appreciable advantage in guessing, which you seem okay with (and I disagree and don't see how you can say that yet say you want questions that test more "real" science knowledge.)

MaS
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Post by cvdwightw »

vetovian wrote: As for computations, it's worth noting that the ACF rules actually specify "25 seconds per part unless otherwise specified on a calculation bonus."
My bad. I thought ACF tournaments were played using Westbrook's Amended ACF Rules.
vetovian wrote:I'm not sure science is quite the same as those other subjects, in the sense that in science there are objective factual answers, and the difficulty in adapting academic science to quizbowl lies in ratcheting down the difficulty level to a game of quick recall (and five-second bonus conferrals). Can we say the same about literature, history, and geography -- that there are questions with definite factual answers that take too long to figure out in a quiz bowl game? I'm just asking because I'm curious and would be surprised if it's true.
We're not ratcheting down the difficulty level, though. We're ratcheting down which level of Bloom's taxonomy we're operating at. Every class I've ever taken at the high school level and above works at multiple levels of Bloom's taxonomy. With the exception of computation, quiz bowl works at exclusively the lowest level. Science is not alone in having objective factual answers at higher levels. For instance, I could ask "In the painting American Gothic, where are the people in relationship to the house?" with the answer "In front", and this would be roughly equivalent to Mike's example "With what integer exponent of its temperature does the power radiated by an ideal classical blackbody scale (according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law?)" in that it tests understanding without operating at a higher level. Now, I could also ask, "sketch a replica of the painting American Gothic showing the relationship of the people in the painting to the house" with the answer "accept any drawing showing two people in front of a house". I argue this is an objective factual answer: if the drawing shows two people in front of a house, ten points. If it doesn't, zero points. Now am I supposed to be penalized because I can picture the painting in my head and tell you how many people are supposed to be where, but I can't draw to save my life?
vetovian wrote:A bonus part about the Zeeman effect could get into specifics by saying: when a magnetic field is applied to such-and-such, how many spectral lines does the original line split into?... I don't think anyone would complain about the form of a bonus part that asked, for example, "Who dies at the end of Jane Eyre?"
You'd be surprised, but I agree that both of these test recall of a specific characteristic of the effect/novel that is integral for understanding the effect/novel, while neither one of these tests the actual understanding at a higher level. This is what I would say constitutes good quiz bowl, and beyond this is where we diverge. The next step in understanding a physics effect would be to plug in specific numbers to compute something. The next step in understanding a novel would be the same "what would happen if?" to which there's no objective answer. We shouldn't overvalue science just because there is an objective answer to a question involving this "what would happen if?"
vetovian wrote:Again, I was referring to (A1) and (B1) as bonus parts, not as tossups. I'm puzzled how you say you can "fraud" (A1) "with absolutely no understanding at all" (your phrase) "of what the Stefan-Boltzmann Law is". It's true that you can answer it without having a clue what blackbody radiation is, but you do have to know that whatever it is, it's proportional to T^4, and that's more science than the fact that this relationship is called the Stefan-Boltzmann Law.
I don't need to understand the Stefan-Boltzmann Law to know what it states. I don't need to understand how it was derived or any corollaries or what it can be used to derive or anything else like that. All I need to do is recognize the problem and "plug and chug". Last I checked, I learned how to do that in algebra.

Now, you claim "recognizing the problem" is more "science" than identifying what allows me to solve this problem. Let me present you with a counterexample. In my current Digital Signal Processing class, there are things called discrete time Fourier transforms and discrete Fourier transforms. They are related but they're not identical. If a problem asks me to compute the discrete time Fourier transform of something, well, I better not compute the discrete Fourier transform or I'd be completely wrong. It doesn't matter that I know how to compute both of them; if I don't know what they're called, I risk confusing them and earning no points. In this case knowing the difference between the two is just as important as being able to compute either.
vetovian wrote:Correct me if you're not referring to (B1) as being in "the form currently in vogue", but I honestly don't understand what's "patently ridiculous" about saying that (A1) tests understanding of science better than (B1):
(A1) "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?"
(B1) "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."

Question (A1) is much closer than question (B1) to the type of thing one might find on a physics problem set or quiz.
I've taken classes where a sizable portion of the midterm(s) and/or final were devoted to definitions of key terms and concepts, whether by short answer, multiple choice, or (most closely related to (B1)) matching. Maybe this never happens in physics classes; I don't know, I haven't taken enough to have a representative sample. Anyway, things have names because scientists gave them names in order to effectively communicate to other scientists what they're talking about. When I read a scientific paper, if I don't know the jargon, I can't follow the paper, and it doesn't matter how well I follow the math if I don't understand how they set up the experiment to get those results in the first place. Knowing the names of things is just as critical to understanding science as being able to apply them. It just so happens that it is easier for people who aren't science proficient to pick up the jargon than the application part of the science.
vetovian wrote:I agree that "name of law / some result from law / simple math calc showing understanding of the law" is better than "name these effects, 10 points each", even if I'd rather not ask the "name of law" part in your example.
Again, I think knowing "name of law" is just as important in being able to succeed in the world of science. If someone's talking to you about the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, you're not going to understand a word they're saying unless you connect that with your previous knowledge that it involves power emitted by blackbody radiation being proportional to the fourth power of temperature. Most scientists assume other scientists know what the law states and so can just say the name of the law to have other scientists verify their findings.
vetovian wrote:You make the analogies that science is to questions about "some result of a scientific law & simple math calc showing understanding of that law" as literature is to questions about literary criticism and as history is to questions about works of historiography. But I see problems with those analogies.
You mistake my analogies. Specifically, what do people study in these classes versus what do people study to get good at quiz bowl? In literature, people read books and write essays about them and read essays other people have written about them. In history, people read books about events and decide whether or not they agree with the author and why (I'm making a very general case here, as this knowledge is mostly secondhand). In both of these cases, facts are secondary to the arguments they support. In some science, people are presented with concepts and asked very specific questions about them involving rote memorization in order to test understanding. Sometimes I get ridiculously stupid midterm questions like "In the fishing analogy discussed in class, what represents the enzymes?" In other science, people are presented with concepts and asked to use those concepts to solve other problems. In both of these examples, the facts necessitate the argument, not the other way around. We shouldn't discriminate because science (or humanities, take your pick) has things backwards.
vetovian wrote:Science is about results of scientific laws and equations...And although we obviously need to use some vocabulary to talk about anything in science, that vocabulary doesn't come handed down from the creator the way literary titles and names of characters do.
I've accepted by this point that we're completely at odds over the importance of understanding the technical language in understanding science. I don't think your examples are analogous because, as I will continue to reiterate, they are testing different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Asking for the result of some scientific law and a simple math calculation without stating the law or all necessary assumptions of the law is more like asking to explain how the play A Doll's House would change if it ended with Nora staying. It asks you to apply the law to a given set of conditions; there's no "application" in any of your history or literature examples. You can't argue that my example is hypothetical because my Bantam Classic edition of Four Great Plays by Ibsen states on page 1 that "[Ibsen] permitted a German production of A Doll's House to revise the ending and to show Nora remaining with her husband". Clearly there would be a factual answer (exploring reviews of that performance versus others in the same country at the same time would allow one to give a cogent, objective answer, unless you buy Wikipedia's claim that stating "article A says this, but article B says this" is original research), but no one would take the time to write such a question. With arithmetic, you don't need to critically think to apply the law to new situations; with literature, you do.
vetovian wrote:How do you evaluate how accessible a question is? What makes (B1) more accessible than (A1), as I think you've been saying? It seems to me that the difference is that the answer to (B1) is more easily memorized (or, probably more commonly, is remembered after it's heard in quizbowl packets). So players pick up the superficial knowledge of the law's name from quizbowl or from rote learning, and so it's "fraud" knowledge in a way. If (B1) is more accessible than (A1), I argue, it's for artificial reasons. The reduced accessibility of science bonuses that would result from my proposal is then a good thing that provides an incentive for players to learn what the science is about and also increases the relative value of science specialists to a team.
I'm willing to go along with you through your point about "fraud" knowledge. However, it's already so difficult to become a good science specialist that they are currently overvalued relative to the number of science questions that come up. It's not a good thing if a team needs a science specialist to get more than an occasional ten-point guess on a science bonus at anything below nationals difficulty. Just as with any other subject, people need to be given some kind of bone that asks essentially "do you know anything at all about this?". Generally, this is referred to as the "easy" part of the bonus and often takes the form of "name this well-known law". By eliminating that part of the bonus, you make it even more difficult and non-specialists would be better off spending an equivalent amount of time learning other subjects' "medium" and "hard" parts that allow them to earn 20s or 30s rather than attempting to understand the science needed to get any points on these clues.

Also, there do exist things called tossups, which you seem to be aware of but refuse to discuss. They are usually supposed to be on things people have heard of, whether through class or quiz bowl, and are usually written so that people who understand the concept being asked about will buzz in before people who only have "fraud" knowledge, thus earning ten points and a chance at thirty more. Are you pushing for the elimination of these questions that do reward in-depth knowledge but can still be answered by people who don't "know" science in favor of questions about who can calculate some value based on the application of some law? I thought I got rid of those when I graduated high school.
vetovian wrote:It's the difference between knowing the name of an equation and knowing the content of that equation. I think that difference is significant.
Two questions: Of (A2) and (B2), which do you think better tests the "understanding of the science", and of those, which do you think people will convert at a higher rate?

(A2) According to Ohm's Law, if I have two amps of current running through a four ohm resistor, how large is the voltage drop? (answer: _8_ volts)
(B2) What is the name of the law that can be applied to find that the voltage drop over a four ohm resistor at two amps is eight volts? (answer: _Ohm_'s Law)

I use the same pieces of information in the structuring of each question: the fact that the voltage drop over a four ohm resistor with two amps of current is eight volts, and that the relationship I can use that governs this property is called Ohm's Law. Both test the content, and both test the name. The difference is in which of those facts involves recognition (I know what Ohm's Law is vs. this is a form of the equation V=IR) and which involves recall (what is V=IR vs. what is the name given to the relation V=IR). If you don't know what Ohm's Law is, you might think there's some other relation you don't know about that governs the relationship between V, I, and R in conditions other than those given in the problem.
vetovian wrote:...that is one reason why we have teams answering bonuses: to take advantage of players' different abilities. Some may know the science, and others may be better at doing arithmetic.
Generally people who know the science are good enough to do the arithmetic. The converse is not true as I assume most college players can do simple arithmetic. Therefore it seems to me that by introducing this additional step you have a chance penalizing players for stupid mistakes made in mental calculations rather than asking for the name and rewarding players who guess based on having heard something like that once upon a packet. Personally I would always prefer to reward knowledge rather than penalize a player with knowledge.
grapesmoker wrote:I've stopped responding seriously to anything you are saying because you either lack the reading comprehension to understand the points that people have been trying to get across to you, or you are so obstinate that no matter what people say you just continue ignoring all their points.
We all know and love Jerry for being so obstinate and set in his ways about what good quiz bowl is and what good quiz bowl isn't. It makes it easier that this is 2007 and he has many supporters who agree with him that good quiz bowl by 2007 standards is superior to good quiz bowl by 1996 standards.
vetovian wrote:I don't want to give the impression that my view is based solely on what my physicist teammates told me at the Philly Experiment. They're just examples of players who couldn't name some "effects" even though they not only understood them and could explain them, but also had real experience with them. But it's clear that I'm not the only person in this discussion who thinks that asking questions that test whether people have some knowledge about certain phenomena is better, if you can do it, than asking for the names of phenomena.
I will refer you to the 2006 ACF Regionals George Washington packet. Tossup 2 is on some economic article called "The Problem of Social Cost". People were able to identify at varying degrees in the question that this was some important work by Ronald Coase, but many were unable to come up with the name, even a few who could explain the points set forth in the article probably as well as the question writer (I don’t include myself in those few). This question was not even deemed "inaccessible" although it asked about a thing that people could not identify the name of (see the list of people claiming they negged on it here). Only Ray Luo, whose opinions are known to occasionally run contrary to common sense, thought it was a bad question. I have had a similar experience in practice where I could explain exactly how to solve the kinds of problems being described in the tossup, but could not come up with the name "Nash Equilibrium".
vetovian wrote: Just as, in a different subject area, I feel much more fulfilled when I'm given a question about visual art or music that lets me see the visual art or hear the music than when I just hear words about the works.
Yes, and what do those questions inevitably ask you to do? Identify the title of the piece and/or identify its creator, which requires even less thinking than questions with words. It’s a lot tougher to conjure a mental picture based on the descriptions in the question and then compare it to however many works you know than to just compare a picture right in front of you to those works. If anything, this supports your argument that "novel question forms and an expanding canon based off previous canon answers are good" (which I mostly agree with) and detracts from your argument that "only people who understand a science should be allowed to get points on it, and people who don't understand science should have to take courses and do real research to earn those science points" (which I wholeheartedly disagree with). In fact, were I to substitute any other subject for science, I'd be ridiculed. Can you imagine someone arguing "Only people who understand mythology should be allowed to get points on it, and people who don't understand mythology should have to take courses and do real research to earn those mythology points"?
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Post by vetovian »

Matt Weiner wrote: OK, if you want to provide such background material in the future, it might be a good idea to link to a page that actually describes Richard Feynman's ideas on the philosophy of science, rather than a page with some anecdotes about Feynman that have nothing to do with the discussion. It might also be a good idea to link to someone whose role as a philosopher of science is more crucial to the field of philosophy and not merely incidental to their career as a physicist, such as Thomas Kuhn, or Karl Popper, or Paul Feyerabend, or Peter Gallison (an assortment of people who I have read on this subject, and thus "deserve" to get points on in quizbowl, under your reasoning).
Well, my first Feynman link actually was to a short page about his ideas on what science is and isn't, expressed in a very informal way. The second link also talked about what he called "not science" -- do a Find for that phrase. I guess I should have added that. These ideas aren't really esoteric and the topic of discussion by philosophers of science, because, for example, it doesn't make sense to call culture X more advanced scientifically than culture Y on the grounds that the scientists in culture X know the "correct" names of more phenomena than do those in culture Y.
Matt Weiner wrote: Anyway, I highly doubt that Richard Feynman ever said that you can do effective scientific work without knowing what things are called--things such as Feynman diagrams, for example.
Actually, he almost does say "you can do effective scientific work without knowing what things are called" in the "map of the cat" anecdote, in which he assumes (wrongly) that biologists don't remember names of muscles and such, but look them up when necessary for the purpose of communication. And I don't understand your Feynman diagram example, unless you're being sarcastic, because obviously it's possible to use Feynman diagrams effectively without knowing that they're called Feynman diagrams.
Matt Weiner wrote: Your intentionally coy name-dropping, coupled with your seemingly endless discomfort at the notion of people who are not practicing scientists getting science questions, leads one to believe that there is some serious insecurity on your part about the superiority of your own intellect to that of us lowly humanities students, which is motivating this bizarre discussion.
I hadn't thought of that. I started the discussion about scientists not getting science questions -- people who have experience with something being possibly disadvantaged in favour of those who might have some list knowledge. If there's some possible humanities analogy, I'd be interested to learn about it.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: Also, okay, so maybe it's fine with you if the occasional question is a test not only of knowledge but also of arithmetic ability. In fact, you seem comfortable with the idea that questions occasionally be tests of arithmetic ability to the exclusion of other knowledge (even real, measurable knowledge of the very ostensible subject of the question.) That's not okay with me and I would neither write nor edit a set predicated on that idea. It seems to me that a science question should test science knowledge and, on the college level, that just ain't arithmetic. I thought that was your premise, too... so how can you reconcile that?
If by saying that I "seem comfortable with the idea that questions occasionally be tests of arithmetic ability to the exclusion of other knowledge" you mean that I'm OK with bonus parts on which points are awarded only if a correct computational result is given, then yes, that's true. But I want it to test knowledge (or, if knowledge is lacking, maybe even some scientific intuition) of some mathematical relationship, so that computational correctness is necessary, but not sufficient. In real life, getting a correct numerical answer is often important.
ImmaculateDeception wrote: So, to get back to turkey, our model question might be reasonable to both of us if it went something like this (inclusion of parenthetical part depending on how RF is feeling about letting things in science have names today):
"With what integer exponent of its temperature does the power radiated by an ideal classical blackbody scale (according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law?)"
That tests real, underlying, applicable knowledge of the form of an underlying equation, which you say is good (and I agree, but continue to emphasize that accessibility concerns are paramount) but it won't screw someone who can't do arithmetic or give someone who can an appreciable advantage in guessing, which you seem okay with (and I disagree and don't see how you can say that yet say you want questions that test more "real" science knowledge.)
That is a good example because it shows where we disagree on our tastes. I don't think there is anything wrong with your question as written, but my own quizbowl aesthetic prefers the question that came up in the SCT.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:I'm not sure science is quite the same as those other subjects, in the sense that in science there are objective factual answers, and the difficulty in adapting academic science to quizbowl lies in ratcheting down the difficulty level to a game of quick recall (and five-second bonus conferrals). Can we say the same about literature, history, and geography -- that there are questions with definite factual answers that take too long to figure out in a quiz bowl game? I'm just asking because I'm curious and would be surprised if it's true.
We're not ratcheting down the difficulty level, though. We're ratcheting down which level of Bloom's taxonomy we're operating at. Every class I've ever taken at the high school level and above works at multiple levels of Bloom's taxonomy. With the exception of computation, quiz bowl works at exclusively the lowest level.
Actually I hadn't heard of Bloom's taxonomy before, but now that I've looked it up, this is an interesting way of thinking about it. In Bloom's terms, you could say that I'm asking how we can test at higher levels of the taxonomy while still fitting the quizbowl format.
cvdwightw wrote: Science is not alone in having objective factual answers at higher levels. For instance, I could ask "In the painting American Gothic, where are the people in relationship to the house?" with the answer "In front", and this would be roughly equivalent to Mike's example "With what integer exponent of its temperature does the power radiated by an ideal classical blackbody scale (according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law?)" in that it tests understanding without operating at a higher level. Now, I could also ask, "sketch a replica of the painting American Gothic showing the relationship of the people in the painting to the house" with the answer "accept any drawing showing two people in front of a house". I argue this is an objective factual answer: if the drawing shows two people in front of a house, ten points. If it doesn't, zero points. Now am I supposed to be penalized because I can picture the painting in my head and tell you how many people are supposed to be where, but I can't draw to save my life?
I think we all agree that it would be insane to ask that question in a quizbowl bonus, but it's interesting because, as insane as it is, you're right that it does have an analogy with science bonuses that include computation. A more realistic example than your drawing one is a bonus that asks the team to produce certain hand signals. I think it's much more interesting to ask for the hand signal to be produced than to test knowledge of the same information by asking for some verbal description of the hand signal, even though that is what is printed on the page. An example that I think would not work as well, though it's an interesting idea, is to ask the team to hum a tune. Maybe it's been done somewhere and sometime, but the problem is that it may be hard to judge whether the tune that's hummed is close enough to the answer. With the hand signals, the printed answer will tell the reader specifically what to look for.

cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:A bonus part about the Zeeman effect could get into specifics by saying: when a magnetic field is applied to such-and-such, how many spectral lines does the original line split into?... I don't think anyone would complain about the form of a bonus part that asked, for example, "Who dies at the end of Jane Eyre?"
You'd be surprised, but I agree that both of these test recall of a specific characteristic of the effect/novel that is integral for understanding the effect/novel, while neither one of these tests the actual understanding at a higher level. This is what I would say constitutes good quiz bowl, and beyond this is where we diverge. The next step in understanding a physics effect would be to plug in specific numbers to compute something. The next step in understanding a novel would be the same "what would happen if?" to which there's no objective answer. We shouldn't overvalue science just because there is an objective answer to a question involving this "what would happen if?"
With my Zeeman effect example, I was thinking that one would still have to do the calculation of 2l+1 under some conditions. If I understand your general point correctly, it's that if we ask questions about science that are above the lowest level of Bloom's taxonomy, then we're overvaluing science in comparison to other subjects, because non-science questions with objective answers can't go above the lowest level. There are a few other subjects such as economics (though that's a social science) and music theory that have come up in quizbowl in higher levels of the taxonomy. The way I look at the issue, I would prefer questions to go as high up Bloom's taxonomy as possible while still fitting within the restrictions of the quizbowl format and having objective factual answers. Maybe that makes me an anti-quizbowl quizbowler.

cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:Again, I was referring to (A1) and (B1) as bonus parts, not as tossups. I'm puzzled how you say you can "fraud" (A1) "with absolutely no understanding at all" (your phrase) "of what the Stefan-Boltzmann Law is". It's true that you can answer it without having a clue what blackbody radiation is, but you do have to know that whatever it is, it's proportional to T^4, and that's more science than the fact that this relationship is called the Stefan-Boltzmann Law.
I don't need to understand the Stefan-Boltzmann Law to know what it states. I don't need to understand how it was derived or any corollaries or what it can be used to derive or anything else like that. All I need to do is recognize the problem and "plug and chug". Last I checked, I learned how to do that in algebra.
Yes, well, that's what the simplest examples or exercises in a textbook are like.
cvdwightw wrote: Now, you claim "recognizing the problem" is more "science" than identifying what allows me to solve this problem.
The contrast I was making was with identifying the name of what allows you to solve the problem. You can know what the Stefan-Boltzmann law says without knowing that it's called the Stefan-Boltzmann law.
cvdwightw wrote: Let me present you with a counterexample. In my current Digital Signal Processing class, there are things called discrete time Fourier transforms and discrete Fourier transforms. They are related but they're not identical. If a problem asks me to compute the discrete time Fourier transform of something, well, I better not compute the discrete Fourier transform or I'd be completely wrong. It doesn't matter that I know how to compute both of them; if I don't know what they're called, I risk confusing them and earning no points. In this case knowing the difference between the two is just as important as being able to compute either.
True, but in this case you're talking about two different technical terms and how they are defined. You haven't brought up what problems these solve (other than to figure out what the transforms evaluate to). I think of "science" as: given a description of some situation (in terms that would have to use some technical language), say what happens, with the answer using vocabulary at about the same technical level as the vocabulary used in the question. In determining the answer, the challenging part would preferably be about trying to remember the idea, not the name, as in the SCT question that used the Stefan-Boltzmann law.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:Correct me if you're not referring to (B1) as being in "the form currently in vogue", but I honestly don't understand what's "patently ridiculous" about saying that (A1) tests understanding of science better than (B1):
(A1) "If a blackbody radiates 100 watts at 100 kelvin, if nothing else changes, how much will it radiate if the temperature is raised to 200 kelvin?"
(B1) "Name the law that says that blackbody radiation is directly proportional to the fourth power of absolute temperature."

Question (A1) is much closer than question (B1) to the type of thing one might find on a physics problem set or quiz.
I've taken classes where a sizable portion of the midterm(s) and/or final were devoted to definitions of key terms and concepts, whether by short answer, multiple choice, or (most closely related to (B1)) matching. Maybe this never happens in physics classes; I don't know, I haven't taken enough to have a representative sample. Anyway, things have names because scientists gave them names in order to effectively communicate to other scientists what they're talking about. When I read a scientific paper, if I don't know the jargon, I can't follow the paper, and it doesn't matter how well I follow the math if I don't understand how they set up the experiment to get those results in the first place. Knowing the names of things is just as critical to understanding science as being able to apply them. It just so happens that it is easier for people who aren't science proficient to pick up the jargon than the application part of the science.
But I think of that as the problem, because the jargon is inherently less interesting than the application part of the science.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:I agree that "name of law / some result from law / simple math calc showing understanding of the law" is better than "name these effects, 10 points each", even if I'd rather not ask the "name of law" part in your example.
Again, I think knowing "name of law" is just as important in being able to succeed in the world of science. If someone's talking to you about the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, you're not going to understand a word they're saying unless you connect that with your previous knowledge that it involves power emitted by blackbody radiation being proportional to the fourth power of temperature. Most scientists assume other scientists know what the law states and so can just say the name of the law to have other scientists verify their findings.
Also true, but then there is an understanding between hearer and speaker that they both know what the S-B law is. It's conceivable that in a scientific context you might mention the Stefan-Boltzmann law, and I might ask what it is and have my memory refreshed (here the Venturi effect is probably a better example). In contrast, it's not conceivable in a literary context for you to mention Jane Eyre and for me to ask what that is and have you answer "That's the story about ..." and then for me to have my memory refreshed.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:You make the analogies that science is to questions about "some result of a scientific law & simple math calc showing understanding of that law" as literature is to questions about literary criticism and as history is to questions about works of historiography. But I see problems with those analogies.
You mistake my analogies. Specifically, what do people study in these classes versus what do people study to get good at quiz bowl? In literature, people read books and write essays about them and read essays other people have written about them. In history, people read books about events and decide whether or not they agree with the author and why (I'm making a very general case here, as this knowledge is mostly secondhand). In both of these cases, facts are secondary to the arguments they support. In some science, people are presented with concepts and asked very specific questions about them involving rote memorization in order to test understanding. Sometimes I get ridiculously stupid midterm questions like "In the fishing analogy discussed in class, what represents the enzymes?" In other science, people are presented with concepts and asked to use those concepts to solve other problems. In both of these examples, the facts necessitate the argument, not the other way around. We shouldn't discriminate because science (or humanities, take your pick) has things backwards.
If the question is "what do people study in these classes versus what do people study to get good at quiz bowl?", I'd say that my preference is that these not be too different. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd think that if you read (or write) tons of historiography or tons of literary criticism then you can't help but pick up a lot of names, dates, places, titles, and names of characters and settings, which are what quizbowl asks about, whereas, if you do a lot of science, it's easier to forget (or not learn) names but remember concepts and how to apply them.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:Science is about results of scientific laws and equations...And although we obviously need to use some vocabulary to talk about anything in science, that vocabulary doesn't come handed down from the creator the way literary titles and names of characters do.
I've accepted by this point that we're completely at odds over the importance of understanding the technical language in understanding science. I don't think your examples are analogous because, as I will continue to reiterate, they are testing different levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. Asking for the result of some scientific law and a simple math calculation without stating the law or all necessary assumptions of the law is more like asking to explain how the play A Doll's House would change if it ended with Nora staying. It asks you to apply the law to a given set of conditions; there's no "application" in any of your history or literature examples. You can't argue that my example is hypothetical because my Bantam Classic edition of Four Great Plays by Ibsen states on page 1 that "[Ibsen] permitted a German production of A Doll's House to revise the ending and to show Nora remaining with her husband". Clearly there would be a factual answer (exploring reviews of that performance versus others in the same country at the same time would allow one to give a cogent, objective answer, unless you buy Wikipedia's claim that stating "article A says this, but article B says this" is original research), but no one would take the time to write such a question. With arithmetic, you don't need to critically think to apply the law to new situations; with literature, you do.
And that's why the literature example wouldn't work in quizbowl. With your specific example, I don't understand how "asking to explain how the play A Doll's House would change if it ended with Nora staying" has "a factual answer", because there are other possible productions than the German one that was done.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:How do you evaluate how accessible a question is? What makes (B1) more accessible than (A1), as I think you've been saying? It seems to me that the difference is that the answer to (B1) is more easily memorized (or, probably more commonly, is remembered after it's heard in quizbowl packets). So players pick up the superficial knowledge of the law's name from quizbowl or from rote learning, and so it's "fraud" knowledge in a way. If (B1) is more accessible than (A1), I argue, it's for artificial reasons. The reduced accessibility of science bonuses that would result from my proposal is then a good thing that provides an incentive for players to learn what the science is about and also increases the relative value of science specialists to a team.
I'm willing to go along with you through your point about "fraud" knowledge. However, it's already so difficult to become a good science specialist that they are currently overvalued relative to the number of science questions that come up. It's not a good thing if a team needs a science specialist to get more than an occasional ten-point guess on a science bonus at anything below nationals difficulty. Just as with any other subject, people need to be given some kind of bone that asks essentially "do you know anything at all about this?". Generally, this is referred to as the "easy" part of the bonus and often takes the form of "name this well-known law". By eliminating that part of the bonus, you make it even more difficult and non-specialists would be better off spending an equivalent amount of time learning other subjects' "medium" and "hard" parts that allow them to earn 20s or 30s rather than attempting to understand the science needed to get any points on these clues.
Well, OK, but I'd rather people understand what the jargon is referring to.
cvdwightw wrote: Also, there do exist things called tossups, which you seem to be aware of but refuse to discuss. They are usually supposed to be on things people have heard of, whether through class or quiz bowl, and are usually written so that people who understand the concept being asked about will buzz in before people who only have "fraud" knowledge, thus earning ten points and a chance at thirty more. Are you pushing for the elimination of these questions that do reward in-depth knowledge but can still be answered by people who don't "know" science in favor of questions about who can calculate some value based on the application of some law? I thought I got rid of those when I graduated high school.
No, I like tossups that reward in-depth knowledge rather than calculation tossups. I don't think calculation tossups work well. And you're right, the important thing about tossups is that most teams should have at least one player who has at least heard of the answer, and this is how people can learn more about it.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:It's the difference between knowing the name of an equation and knowing the content of that equation. I think that difference is significant.
Two questions: Of (A2) and (B2), which do you think better tests the "understanding of the science", and of those, which do you think people will convert at a higher rate?

(A2) According to Ohm's Law, if I have two amps of current running through a four ohm resistor, how large is the voltage drop? (answer: _8_ volts)
(B2) What is the name of the law that can be applied to find that the voltage drop over a four ohm resistor at two amps is eight volts? (answer: _Ohm_'s Law)

I use the same pieces of information in the structuring of each question: the fact that the voltage drop over a four ohm resistor with two amps of current is eight volts, and that the relationship I can use that governs this property is called Ohm's Law. Both test the content, and both test the name. The difference is in which of those facts involves recognition (I know what Ohm's Law is vs. this is a form of the equation V=IR) and which involves recall (what is V=IR vs. what is the name given to the relation V=IR). If you don't know what Ohm's Law is, you might think there's some other relation you don't know about that governs the relationship between V, I, and R in conditions other than those given in the problem.
I'm not sure what you might be thinking, but I'd say that your (A2) tests understanding of science better than (B2), and I'd also guess that (A2) would likely be converted at a higher rate. The reason is that people might forget the name Ohm's Law but know that V=IR. And people who have no idea on (A2) might guess that you multiply the two numbers.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote:...that is one reason why we have teams answering bonuses: to take advantage of players' different abilities. Some may know the science, and others may be better at doing arithmetic.
Generally people who know the science are good enough to do the arithmetic. The converse is not true as I assume most college players can do simple arithmetic. Therefore it seems to me that by introducing this additional step you have a chance penalizing players for stupid mistakes made in mental calculations rather than asking for the name and rewarding players who guess based on having heard something like that once upon a packet. Personally I would always prefer to reward knowledge rather than penalize a player with knowledge.
Yes, if the arithmetic is simple enough, I'm OK with teams being penalized for getting the arithmetic wrong.
cvdwightw wrote:
vetovian wrote: Just as, in a different subject area, I feel much more fulfilled when I'm given a question about visual art or music that lets me see the visual art or hear the music than when I just hear words about the works.
Yes, and what do those questions inevitably ask you to do? Identify the title of the piece and/or identify its creator, which requires even less thinking than questions with words. It¢s a lot tougher to conjure a mental picture based on the descriptions in the question and then compare it to however many works you know than to just compare a picture right in front of you to those works. If anything, this supports your argument that "novel question forms and an expanding canon based off previous canon answers are good" (which I mostly agree with) and detracts from your argument that "only people who understand a science should be allowed to get points on it, and people who don't understand science should have to take courses and do real research to earn those science points" (which I wholeheartedly disagree with). In fact, were I to substitute any other subject for science, I'd be ridiculed. Can you imagine someone arguing "Only people who understand mythology should be allowed to get points on it, and people who don't understand mythology should have to take courses and do real research to earn those mythology points"?
That would be a provocative thing to say if anyone said it. But just how could we have quizbowl questions that rewarded only real "understanding" of mythology? I would like to see some examples.
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Post by Captain Sinico »

vetovian wrote:...That is a good example because it shows where we disagree on our tastes. I don't think there is anything wrong with your question as written, but my own quizbowl aesthetic prefers the question that came up in the SCT.
Okay. Why? How can you reconcile that with your stated preference? The "What power..." question tests the exact same knowledge as your proposed computation question, it just doesn't require the computation. As has been said a number of times, the ability to perform (even elementary) computations accurately within five (or ten or fifteen or thirty or sixty) seconds without any aid isn't anything like a valuable skill to... well, really any scientist that I know of (certainly not Dick Feynman), nor is it something that I think most people would support as a question in and of itself. Therefore, if you're still making the argument on the basis of the idea that we should test things that actual scientists do or use, I don't see how you can possibly insist on computation.
If you are, indeed, just saying "I and/or some physicists I played with a decade ago, one of whom was possibly Richard Feynman, would like there to be computation," well, I suppose we'll have to disagree and edit the sets we edit differently. If not, please explain what you are saying.

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Post by Stained Diviner »

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! wrote: There was, of course, Enrico Fermi. He came down once from Chicago, to consult a little bit, to help us if we had some problems. We had a meeting with him, and I had been doing some calculations and gotten some results. The calculations were so elaborate -- it was very difficult. Now, usually I was the expert at this; I could always tell you what the answer was going to look like, or when I got it I could explain why. But this thing was so complicated I couldn't explain why it was like that.

So I told Fermi I was doing this problem, and I started to describe the results. He said, "Wait, before you tell me the result, let me think. It's going to come out like this (he was right), and it's going to come out like this because of so and so. And there's a perfectly obvious explanation for this --"

He was doing what I was supposed to be good at, ten times better. That was quite a lesson to me.
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Post by theMoMA »

I'm not sure what you might be thinking, but I'd say that your (A2) tests understanding of science better than (B2), and I'd also guess that (A2) would likely be converted at a higher rate. The reason is that people might forget the name Ohm's Law but know that V=IR. And people who have no idea on (A2) might guess that you multiply the two numbers.
Even the most basic electronics or physics class teaches you that Ohm's law yields the V=IR equation. If you can't remember that, why should the questions benefit you? They should not. What you propose are questions that benefit people who are actually worse at quiz bowl (you know, people who can't remember names of things).

When you only have a couple seconds to confer and compute a bonus answer, there exists massive potential for knowledgeable people to fail to convert a bonus. Much more potential than, say, exists for some hypothetical bad quiz bowl player to forget the name of the V=IR equation.

Having quiz bowlers remember or apply exact equations is the definition of pedantic. In the sciences, remembering exact equations is not an important skill. A very important skill is remembering what equations apply to certain situations. This is the skill required to answer current quiz bowl questions on scientific laws and equations...which is fitting both because these questions lend themselves well to the format and because it is a much more useful skill in life to be able to pick an equation to fit a situation than it is to memorize a formula and input given numbers after told what formula to use.

So the real question becomes: Why would you punish a team that remembers that the equation relating voltage, resistance, and current is yielded from Ohm's law, while rewarding bad quiz bowl players who either forgot the name of one of the most basic laws of physics and electronics, or (much more likely) guessed on how to combine the given numbers?
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