ACF nationals discussion

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Chris Frankel » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:12 am

vandyhawk wrote:O I don't mind somewhat formulaic tossups on composers, of course within reason. Some works just don't lend themselves well to tossups. Personally, I'm a little tired of clues like saying the second movement is an andante con molto in E minor, followed by a scherzo in G major. If these sections are really famous for being that tempo/key, and related as such or related to other more defining characteristics, that's fine, but too often, they wind up as unhelpful clues I think. This is more of a general comment, but I think I remember a couple questions like this from Saturday. I felt like the arts questions were mostly of about the right difficulty. Though I answered it, I'm not sure Symphonie Espagnole is tossup-worthy; I could be wrong though. Also, a whole bonus on Glazunov seems a bit much. There have to be at least 10-12 Russian composers more worthy of an entire bonus devoted to them, even at nats.
I'll explain the reasoning behind my penchant for movement/key/tempo/etc clues. First, I think they can serve as good anchoring clues when used in combination or in conjunction with other background clues, so as to render the question as uniquely identifying. You're right in that those clues go over the head over the vast majority of players and are primarily only accessible to people with a very specific knowledge of the piece, which is why I typically only use those clues early on to ground a leadin. On occasions when such clues are used later in tossups, they're usually intended to highlight a very famous usage of an uncommonly used tempo (Allegro con Brio as the opener of Beethoven's 5th), time signature (the use of 5/4 instead of 3/4 for the second movement waltz of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony), or format (Mendelssohn's using a saltarello for the finale of the Italian Symphony).

It's a little trickier with harder pieces, but they can build up piece by piece to give a general picture of the answer. For example, talking about a symphony with a second movement Allegretto and a fifth movement Allegro non Molto finale tells you that the symphony eschews the traditional four movement, slow second movement format, and can work with other clues to direct you towards the answer. I do admit that, especially in a tournament with a higher difficulty answer space like ACF Nationals, it can be very easy to misuse clues or pick ones that are too vague (mentioning an extremely common setup like "its opening Allegro movement in C major in 4/4 time," for example, though I don't think I went that far), and a lot of them can cause people to tune out.

I'll defend my choice of Symphonie Espagnole as answer by saying that it is a very often performed concert piece for the violin (which, my violin bias aside, stands with the piano as an instrument that dominates classical performance enough for its niche stuff to come up and be generally accessible), and is pretty much a fixture in any serious violinist's repertoire. I certainly was aware that putting it in was canon expansion, but I have seen Lalo come up in bonuses before and figured that SE had enough general standing that there were at least enough music-oriented players who would be able to convert it with no problem.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by msaifutaa » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:31 pm

The tournament did go kind of long, but I was actually quite surprised by the fact that it didn’t become a drag (at least for me and many of my teammates) by the end. We all had quite a lot of fun, and I’m not sure we were expecting that. Having not actually met almost any of the teams here before (and not knowing that certain teams were very shorthanded), I was sort of expecting to be brutally slaughtered in every round. When we were on the edge of the bottom bracket after I mentioned we would be competitive in the middle bracket, and we made it into the middle bracket on a wildcard, Matt Weiner challenged us to prove me right, and it was gratifying and quite unexpected to do so by winning the middle bracket in a series of close games that include several where we were at the top of our game, among the best competitive games we played all year.

As far as logistics, at MIT (and many other NE tournaments), we have run paperless tournaments with no hitches, so I wouldn’t use this one bad experience to make a rule against them. When it came to lunch, however, it was simply horrible. We especially (we being most of our team and staff, except Grace who can teleport) had issue because it took us a while to reach the only open cafeteria, and it closed just as we arrived, thus leaving us no time for anything but a defeated retreat to the tournament HQ, since at that point, going to one of the restaurants would take too long.

As a first time player, I felt that the set was more accessible than the ones we practised of 2007 (mainly Brown and whoever came next alphabetically) while still more difficult than 2004/2005. I also felt that, particularly given the editing and writing travails, the questions were a pretty good set. The packets were indeed quite variable, however, in difficulty and even in sub-categories (and more fundamentally, sub-sub-categories). Now I see that this is due in part to failure to adhere to guidelines, but it was interesting because we played a team that destroyed us by hundreds of points on one packet and then beat them by nearly as many points on a different packet, and if you had stripped away the answers and told me only the sub-category and sub-sub-category distributions of the two rounds, I would have predicted our disadvantage and advantage (though not to such extent)—the second time around, one of our players got 7 toss-ups, and it’s because his categories were emphasized in that packet.

As far as individual questions, there were some notable clunkers. I’ll give my two cents on the ones that have been mentioned and then bring up the one that I felt really ran roughshod (okay, I guess I sort of gave it away). So anyway, the ones people mentioned already--

A lot of people mentioned the common link toss-ups vis-à-vis lists. I feel like common link toss-ups most certainly can be much better than a list (if you have a few different things that each get reasonable attention, like a name’s the same with three people, two of which are more obscure than the giveaway person), but unfortunately some of the common links for this tournament were written in such a way that they were just lists with a few linking words thrown in to make grammatical sentences out of the list (or in other words, if I could transform your common link toss-up into a list toss-up with no loss of information or reordering of clues by taking out linking words, it’s more-or-less a list). This was particularly true of some of the mythology common links.

IPv6—I agree that it was quite bad. I knew what it was asking for more-or-less on the first line (“Oh, this is the new 128-bit version of IP”), but I just couldn’t remember the number, so another teammate buzzed in at the end. I guess that we were probably the only room where it was answered and went that far.

Izanagi—way too transparent. I interrupted the first sentence and was immediately certain (beyond my ever-present “Make sure you don’t say Izanami, you idiot” checker) that the answer was correct. I may be a mythology buff (and this tournament helped me discover that I’m actually reasonably good at it on a national level—I had figured there were lots of people who were much better than me at mythology), but that was still ridiculous. I mentioned to my teammates “You either think of the answer to this question on the first clue (whether or not you wait for more to be certain), or you fraud it at the end from a list of memorised Shinto deities, or you don’t get it. There’s very little middle ground.” That may be overstating the case, but Matt Keller seems to agree with me. I guess, the lead-in required you to combine a give-away clue for Tsukiyomi with a fact that is usually a give-away clue for Izanagi (that he is Tsukiyomi's father, since it made clear that it wanted "the father of" the god described in the give-away clue about how Tsukiyomi did stuff that made Amaterasu pissed), but still.

@Abe bonus—interestingly, Jerry, while I admit that I am not very good at Japanese Lit (not even remotely comparable to you), we realised after splitting up the team that we didn’t have anyone who knew any lit, so I studied Japanese lit the night before (and by studied, I mean memorized names of authors and their works with short or non-existent summaries). From that, I would have known The man who turned into a stick but not necessarily Inter Ice Age IV, simply because the description said that a title character turned into a title object, so that signaled the title to choose for me (for Inter Ice Age IV, I would have needed to guess a random Abe work). This can be your choice of a further condemnation of the clue (it lets dumb schmoes like me get 10 bonus points and isn't worthwhile enough for real players to know it) or a refutation that no one could get it. That said, the other team got that bonus, so I didn’t actually get a chance to convert it, so perhaps no one did in the end?

And now for my personal least-favourite-question in the tournament: Stymphalian Birds. To understand my particular animosity towards the clue “ran rough-shod”, I must first point out a history of being screwed over by mythology toss-ups with clues that were…wrong. From an ICT toss-up that claimed that Anubis was Isis’s father, to another ICT toss-up that claimed that Asgard was a mead hall, I’ve seen a lot of these in the past. The worst, however, wasn’t even NAQT--at a tournament run at Brown last year, one toss-up on Telemachos opened with a clue about a namesake historical figure (not at all related to mythology) that few had ever heard of to disambiguate, then said that he was the father of Telegonos. Odysseus is the father of Telegonos. Not having heard of Saint Telemachus who told an amphitheatre to stop worshipping idols, I negged Odysseus. My protest in this case was sustained to remove the neg (because Brown is cool like that, unlike NAQT, and ascertained that I was correct), but they were unable to accept my answer due to the opening clue. It threw me off for the whole game and several hours thereafter. Curious as to how to possibly beat these questions with wrong clues, I joruneyed as a supplicant to the peak of Mt. Vinokurov, where Jerry told me that there is no real way to do so except to hope you guess the right one or wait for more clues and risk the other team getting it.

So anyway, run rough-shod. Listening to the very beginning of the clue, I became fairly convinced that these were the Stymphalian Birds, but as I was about to buzz with that answer, I heard that they “ran rough-shod”. This was an extremely unfortunate clue choice. Some people later told me that it is apparently also a figurative expression that can be used for things that fly around and don’t have hooves, but I think it was a terrible thing to say in light of the fact that in the “things Herakles beat up for his labours” answer space, there is also the flesh-eating mares of Diomedes. Other people I talked to who didn’t really know the mythology also said that they were thinking centaurs or horses after that clue. So I thought to myself “self, it’s possible that the earlier clue about the Stymphalian birds was another minor factual error, or you might be hallucinating. Better wait for the next clue.” And then I lost a buzzer race on the next clue. This didn’t really matter, since we got our asses kicked that round, but especially since I could have 30ed the bonus that came up on it (a once-a-year event for me with trash bonuses), it was particularly demoralising. In light of the presence of the mares of Diomedes in the proximal set of answers and the first definition of roughshod being “having horseshoes with projecting nails to prevent slipping”, I felt that that clue was pretty annoying.

Okay, I needed to get that off my chest. Now I’ll mention things I liked. The Cuchulainn bonus was particularly gratifying to 30, since I know that the first part was rather obscure, so it made me feel good about my knowledge. The loa bonus in the finals may have been a bit easy to 20, but it made me feel good because the 30 was my lead-in clue for a voodoo toss-up at Cardinal Classic, and so I knew it. I guess for bonuses I like ones that I know are difficult to 30 but I still 30 (and I know the loa bonus was a hard 30 because Chicago only twentied it). There didn’t seem to be many freebie 30s either, which I thought was a good thing for bonus balance.

As far as toss-ups, particularly since our buddy Yu Huang came up at nationals last year and this year, it should be noted that this year’s toss-up on him was much better. When I converted this one, I mentioned it immediately, and my teammates laughed and said “It was better because you didn’t know it until near the end?” My thought, for a national tournament, is yes. Last year’s toss-up started with what is in my opinion the most famous incident involving Yu Huang, similarly to the Izanagi toss-up this year, and evidenced by the fact that on my insanely early buzz practising last year’s packet, another of our team members also looked like she knew who it was but was straining for his name.
Last edited by msaifutaa on Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:24 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:43 pm

Jerry mentioned the Abe bonus I wrote earlier, and I definitely agree the third part was too hard. It was a miscalculation on my part, so I'm sorry that bonus was off.

That brings me to another point of discussion that I think is worth mentioning. There are some people who believe that nationals is a tournament at which the third part of a bonus can be of absolutely any difficulty. I am not one of these people (though I have obviously been guilty of it). Obviously I admonish myself and any other editor who has been guilty of this, but I also think we as packet writers in the future should remember to keep ourselves in check when it comes to that third part of the bonus. In the case of the Abe bonus, the offending third part was The Man Who Turned into a Stick. As Jerry and I earlier discussed, that third part should have been Friends, an Abe play that some people actually read and care about and that would be a productive thing to introduce into the canon. So again, when writing third parts for nationals try not only to find a reasonable third part, but also make it something that's worth putting into the set.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by setht » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:20 pm

I think the editors produced a strong set despite all sorts of setbacks. I also think it's worth noting that this is the first Nationals set produced by the "new guard."

I want to congratulate Brown for giving us two really close, really intense games (and thank them for writing a packet that was right up our alley and not so much up Maryland's alley). There were several intense matches for us throughout the day, which is what Nationals is all about. I especially want to congratulate Dartmouth A on their great win over us in the prelims to put themselves in the playoffs--it'll be really interesting to see what these guys do next year. In general, I was very impressed by the level of play and great demeanor of the young teams we saw at the tournament--the 2-man Harvard B team that was pressed into playing, the Harvard A team, and the Minnesota team were all fun to see in action.

I hope the tournament logistics can be improved next year, but given the limitations this year (not being able to start until people arrived on public transportation, running in two buildings) I think things went fine. Given the prelim/playoff set-up, would it have been possible (given an extra staffer and an extra laptop) to run stats separately in each building for the brackets in each building? Stats could be compiled separately in each building, then compared by hand to see which teams got into which playoff brackets. I'm not sure how much time was lost by having people go back and forth between buildings to deliver stats sheets, but I wonder if this could have worked. Hopefully this won't be an issue next year and everything will be in one building. I'm guessing UCI wasn't the only team fading by the end of the day, and I certainly won't mind if things start a bit earlier and finish earlier next year (especially if it encourages more teams to stick with playing ACF Nats), but I had a great time all the way through the tournament and it sounds like several other teams did too.

Moving on... Chris, there was a very similar tossup on cold fusion in this year's ICT set (with a similar lead-in). I think this sort of question is fine--the clue content is what really matters, not the answer line.

I think pretty much everyone noticed the occasional clumping of science questions, but I think this is a really minor thing. Given the editing situation, I'm happy that the editors spent more time editing and writing questions, deciding which questions made it into the first 20/20, etc. Hopefully next year the editing situation will be better and there'll be time to do things like spreading out questions by subject.

I think this year's set was about as accessible as last year's set; if anything, I would have guessed it was slightly harder. I'm not sure if that was the intention, or if the editors (understandably) ran out of time to tweak bonuses and replace some of the hardest tossups. In any case, I thought it was very close to the right difficulty level--possibly a little above, but nothing worth fussing about, especially given the editing situation.

Can the people objecting to the common-link tossups clarify some of their objections? I understand Jerry's complaint about the "time" tossup, which had an unfortunately situated partial title clue, but what was wrong with some of the other questions that have been mentioned? I played on the "cats" and "savages" questions and thought they were both fine; I haven't seen the "invading Poland" question, so I can't comment on that one. I'm guessing the objection to the "savages" question is that it was fraudable ("hey, let's guess a type of society"), but I think there are enough possible answers to preclude making it a safe fraud buzz. "East" was more problematic because it was quickly down to one in four, which seems a bit too small an answer pool. I wrote the "rocks" tossup, and I thought it would be fine because it could have been pretty much any type of creature or various inanimate objects most of the way through the question; did I slip up and leave in something obvious? I did see someone reflex neg with "rivers" after hearing the clue about Gjoll, and it is unfortunate that there is both a boulder and a river called Gjoll, but there should have been plenty of previous clues to preclude rivers as a reasonable answer. My feeling was that there were more weak "single-answer" myth tossups than "common-link" tossups: Izanagi, Hera, and to a lesser extent Nestor and Stymphalian Birds all seemed noticeably weak; meanwhile, I thought "east" was weak (and maybe "rocks" as well--let me know what you thought was wrong). On the positive side, I thought the tossups on "cats," Sif, Endymion, Eos, the Jade Emperor, and the Tablets of Destiny were all good.

Moving on to the playoff structure: given how unsettled the brackets looked going into the tournament (multiple ineligible teams, Harvard B coming in as a "mystery team" at the last second), and given the number of available packets, I think the set-up the editors decided to use was fine, and given how things played out I think it gave reasonable results. It did feel a little strange to drop a game to Dartmouth A in the prelims and realize that it didn't matter (it was in the last round of the prelims, so we knew we were in the top bracket no matter what happened), and it also felt a little strange to have the tournament effectively decided in 7 games--but, again, given the situations with the teams and brackets, I think there was little hope of a better plan. If there's a switch to a 1.5-day tournament next year, and if there are sufficient packets, I think it would be best to have teams play off for the last spots in the top bracket and have teams play off for spots in the final, if needed--in Charles's example, I think UCI and Minnesota should have played a match to decide who went into the top bracket, and then Brown and Maryland should have played a match to decide who went into the finals match(es).

Charles, can you give some examples of bonuses from Chicago's packet that made you feel like you were wearing your hobo clothes? You can post here if you feel like it or drop me a line at setht@uchicago.edu. Also, I'm sorry to see that my tossup on the Maya was so poorly-received, and amused to see that my tossup on the Quiche Maya from Cardinal Classic (I assume that's the one you're referring to) is where you're directing me. Seriously, I didn't realize the names were such a giveaway for Maya as opposed to various other Mesoamerican/South American cultures, and I liked the idea of writing on the Caste War and the history of the Maya--there have been tons of bonus parts and occasional tossups on Mayan archaeology, but I only found one previous mention of the Caste War (in a 2005 Nats bonus), so I decided to take a stab at writing a history question on the Maya. I'm sorry it didn't turn out well; I can't really see the "neg-bait for Palenque" objection, but I guess the names in the second sentence made things too easy.

I guess that's it. Thanks again to the editors and the teams.

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:26 pm

The Man Who Turned Into a Stick has come up as a clue a few times, and I think that it's reasonable to expect people to get it just from hearing the title and associating it with Abe, since the clue had phrasing like "the main character becomes a title object." Jerry's Abe experience aside, it perfectly fits the definition of an ACF Nationals third part that was issued for this tournament: it has come up before in quizbowl, it doesn't require intimate knowledge to get, and it's a legitimate aspect of the bonus topic.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:34 pm

Even if that's true, Matt, Friends would have been a better topic. It's a much more significant work in terms of the Abe canon, and it's still plenty hard enough. Your point about having heard the title essentially means "you can fraud this;" I'd much rather have a third point that rewards knowledge someone like Jerry is likely to have. To me, that's the definition of a nats 30--something only an expert in the subject area of the bonus is going to know.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:56 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:The Man Who Turned Into a Stick has come up as a clue a few times, and I think that it's reasonable to expect people to get it just from hearing the title and associating it with Abe, since the clue had phrasing like "the main character becomes a title object."
Aren't you usually the one who comes out against this kind of reasoning?

I'm not trying to pass myself off as an Abe expert or claim I deserve 30 points on an Abe bonus. I'm saying that, as someone who's read a bunch of his books and is a big fan (and again, knows the name and plot of his most famous play), I thought the last part was unreasonably hard. I guess I didn't draw the kind of association that Mark did on that bonus. If you're already asking for a play by a relatively obscure author (who doesn't come up all that often anyway) best known as a novelist, I think it's a good idea to make that last part his most famous play.

I was using that example to illustrate the general situation of what I thought was the unreasonably hard bonus part. Once the packets are posted, I'll give further examples. I thought there were many.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:28 pm

I wanted to thank the posters to being sympathetic to the all sorts of non-question-related problems that made ACF Nationals not as enjoyable for us as it was for everyone else. As everyone knows, sometimes you just hit that one miserable tournament, and it's a shame that it was ACF Nationals for us. We will almost certainly not attend ACF Nationals if it is in the Boston area next year, since I think Ray now shares Jerry's antipathy for Massachusetts road planning. I can't say anything beyond that, but I agree with Matt that if Irvine is to establish itself as an up-and-coming team it is only fair that we represent ourselves at both major nationals.

I'm not sure who's under the impression that this was easier than 2007 but not as easy as 2005. If I remember 2005 earned a reputation as ass-hard and 2007 was a pretty decent nationals-level difficulty. It could have just been the packets you read.

This is the optimization tossup as I originally wrote it; I don't think it was significantly changed. All clues come directly from chapter 10 of the third edition of Numerical Recipes by Press, Teukolsky, Vetterling, and Flannery, which was the textbook used for my Numerical Methods class and served as our "Computer Science" question since no one on our team can write actual computer science.

Brent's method for doing this is sometimes called inverse parabolic interpolation. The Fletcher-Reeves algorithm and its superior cousin, the Polak-Ribiere algorithm, can also be used to do this, while the DFP and BFGS algorithms are examples of variable metric methods for doing this. Powell's algorithm is the prototype for direction set methods of doing this. This can also be done by annealing or through dynamic programming, whose "canonical problem" involves this. The easiest ways of doing it computationally are the golden section search and the simplex method. For 10 points, name this process which involves finding the highest or lowest point of a function.

Answer: optimization (accept minimization until "highest" or maximization until "lowest")

I'm not sure exactly what's confusing about this, it's just a list of algorithms and categories of algorithms for a certain technique and is asking to identify what is the use of these algorithms. Perhaps it's the continued references to "doing this"; maybe "performing this process" instead of "doing this" might be more clear, but I'm not sure.

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by alkrav112 » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:29 pm

Chris Frankel wrote: I'll defend my choice of Symphonie Espagnole as answer by saying that it is a very often performed concert piece for the violin (which, my violin bias aside, stands with the piano as an instrument that dominates classical performance enough for its niche stuff to come up and be generally accessible), and is pretty much a fixture in any serious violinist's repertoire. I certainly was aware that putting it in was canon expansion, but I have seen Lalo come up in bonuses before and figured that SE had enough general standing that there were at least enough music-oriented players who would be able to convert it with no problem.
QFT

I will never ever miss Nationals again if there is going to be a Symphonie Espagnole question at all such future events.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:41 pm

For what it's worth, while Evan did an excellent and commendable job in organizing the site, ACF nationals will not be in Boston again in the foreseeable future.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:43 pm

I'll lay my bias on the table: I think Maryland or Chicago would be the optimal places to host ACF Nationals pretty much every year. With that said, I am going to start a formal bidding process and will give due consideration to anyone who wants to host the tournament (especially if neither Maryland nor Chicago bids) in 2009.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by The Logic of Scientific Disco » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:11 pm

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:ACF nationals will not be in Boston again in the foreseeable future.
Yeah, given Boston's ridiculous roads, this is reasonable. Actually, all things considered, this was a pretty optimal year to hold Nats in Boston, as a couple of teams with growing interest got to show up in full force (MIT, Dartmouth, Harvard, more or less), and now we'll all be ready to follow ACF wherever it goes next year. At least, one would hope.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:35 pm

I too enjoyed the Symphony Espagnole tossup, since it rewarded me for writing that violin concerto tossup for Deep Bench. Also, the common link on hawks was cool, because who doesn't love Vedrfolnir? Also I'm hoping this is the last ACF Nationals where I end up with a greater number of science tossups than literature tossups after the prelims...

For the most part, I found myself enjoying the tossups in every subcategory. It seemed like we got stuck with several science bonuses without a consistently tennable part in the playoffs, and there were a few annoying tossups here and there, but that was minor. I'm not going to harp on any tossups that were slightly suboptimal or any bonuses that were particularly hard, because this tournament was really fucking awesome and I had about as good a time as I could have hoped. Thanks to all the editors for their good work, and congrats to Chicago on their continuing dominance.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:08 pm

The set is now available at http://www.hsquizbowl.org/nationals08.zip.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by r.g.anderson » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:00 am

ChrisK.MIT wrote: As a side point, which probably doesn't bear much discussion because it's one tossup, but which is nonetheless interesting, is the cold fusion tossup. On the one hand, I'm disappointed to see literal junk science showing up in the science distro, since cold fusion is, you know, fake. On the other hand, the tossup had legitimate science-based clues in it, which, if you know why/how cold fusion experiments failed or were faked, would cause you to get the question. So I'm on the fence about this one--anyone who knows more about it want to weigh in?

The cold fusion tossup was my doing.

My personal view is that a question on a pseudo/fake/discredited science is valid if (a.) it includes genuine science clues in it and (b.) the question clearly states that it is a psuedo/fake/discredited science. Recognizing (and calling out) signs of scientific BS is a part of science. Cold fusion (at one time) attracted some attention from the scientific community, and was associated with "science" in the mind of the general public. Though it is now discredited, understanding this incident is useful for honing your scientific BS meter.

I would hold the same is true for other areas (e.g. social science).

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I guess I would hold the same
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by QuizBowlRonin » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:18 am

I was just rereading Ray Luo's old post "Biology in the modern QB era" (viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2218) and noticed that now might be a good time to revisit some of these issues, in light of continued commentary on the difficulty of science at the ACF nationals level.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Wed Apr 30, 2008 3:33 pm

QuizBowlRonin wrote:I was just rereading Ray Luo's old post "Biology in the modern QB era" (viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2218) and noticed that now might be a good time to revisit some of these issues, in light of continued commentary on the difficulty of science at the ACF nationals level.
We could split it off into a new thread, of course. But I'll take the opening shot:

In general, I thought the biology at this tournament was excellent (props on the purkinje cell tossup being both interesting and gettable by non-biologists at the end), with the exceptions of:
-the tossup on calcium (I believe that the clue about it being an important second messenger was far too early and should have been after the FTP, and maybe mentioning EGTA or something would have helped)
-The intercalating agents tossup (much negging with mutagens or what have you)
-The sigma factor tossup; It really just went everywhere, talking about how some are activated by heat shock and unfolded proteins, which is a
clear trigger for chaperonins or hsp proteins. The next clue about it mentions type 70; hsp70 is damn famous, and that answer is only wrong by virtue of being ruled out by uninteresting clues like specific numbers of isoforms or there being 8 types in E. coli.
Lest anyone think my complaints are due to sour grapes, the c-myc tossup in the final was very good, even if I couldn't remember.

I don't think it was biology that was made too impossibly hard in this tournament; I thought the main problem with it was that a fair number of the answers, with the exception of those listed above, were things that I knew last year while taking introductory biochemistry but have forgotten since, and thus negged poorly or were beaten to (myc, cortisol, meristem, cytochrome b6f). I don't expect the editors to tailor the questions to my leaky memory, so I have no problem with these things continuing to come up. Perhaps other people have different opinions, but I was completely fine with the questions at this tournament and the difficulty

The chemistry was similarly very good; the only exception I can think of is the alkyllithium tossup, which
1. Should have accepted mike's answer of organolithium (which is still an accepted term, considering I'm staring at my copyright 2006 textbook right now, and it lists then as such)
2. Was a really uninteresting tossup answer, basically designed to screw people who are thinking "grignard reagents" the whole time. The answer line confirms this.
3. Didn't have the clues everyone actually learns about in a class: that two equivalents are used to make Gilman reagents with copper iodine, they give exclusive 1,2 addition to alpha,beta-unsaturated ketones, and that they are used in place of Grignard reagents when you need more nucleophilic awesomeness.
4. Had a stupid, cutesy giveaway about element 3.
Also, I'm glad this didn't become an issue, but "vicinial diol" or "1,2-diol" should have been an acceptable answer for the diol tossup up until Chlroal hydrate was mentioned.

Alright, enough harping. Most of the above issues would have been corrected by bringing Jason and Ryan in earlier to edit; I'll join Kwartler in throwing A&M under the bus. Now to the real issue: the Physics. I'm not a physicist, but from what I can tell, the physics was ass-hard, especially in the playoffs. The tossup on excitons didn't have a clue about the quantum-confined Stark Effect, there was a tossup on Wigner energy in an unread packet, etc, etc.

Perhaps the real question we need to ask is, who are these tossups being written for? Are they being written for people in the field, or for non-scientists, or both?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter » Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:16 pm

For what it's worth, while Jason provided us with our excellent editor biology questions, Raj Bhan actually edited the set.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Susan » Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:54 pm

Regarding the logistics issues, particularly lunch--would it make sense to have lunch provided next year? Are people willing to pay an extra $20/team or whatever it would take to cover this? At Chicago, we have typically provided lunch at tournaments--not in an attempt to spend the infinity dollars, though it helps--but because most of the good eating options are a few streets over, and leaving time for people to stroll over to 57th Street, be served a meal in a restaurant, and come on back takes way more time than if we just order pizza and let people have at it for 40-45 minutes. Keeping meals on-site has the added benefit of keeping all of the teams around in case you need to resolve a protest or play off a tie or something.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by pray for elves » Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:15 pm

myamphigory wrote:Regarding the logistics issues, particularly lunch--would it make sense to have lunch provided next year? Are people willing to pay an extra $20/team or whatever it would take to cover this? At Chicago, we have typically provided lunch at tournaments--not in an attempt to spend the infinity dollars, though it helps--but because most of the good eating options are a few streets over, and leaving time for people to stroll over to 57th Street, be served a meal in a restaurant, and come on back takes way more time than if we just order pizza and let people have at it for 40-45 minutes. Keeping meals on-site has the added benefit of keeping all of the teams around in case you need to resolve a protest or play off a tie or something.
I had suggested a group lunch a while back, but it seems that it fell off of everyone's radar screen as the event grew closer. I think it's a good idea for any campus without good nearby options.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by MLafer » Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:33 pm

ToStrikeInfinitely wrote:
QuizBowlRonin wrote:I was just rereading Ray Luo's old post "Biology in the modern QB era" (viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2218) and noticed that now might be a good time to revisit some of these issues, in light of continued commentary on the difficulty of science at the ACF nationals level.
Alright, enough harping. Most of the above issues would have been corrected by bringing Jason and Ryan in earlier to edit; I'll join Kwartler in throwing A&M under the bus. Now to the real issue: the Physics. I'm not a physicist, but from what I can tell, the physics was ass-hard, especially in the playoffs. The tossup on excitons didn't have a clue about the quantum-confined Stark Effect, there was a tossup on Wigner energy in an unread packet, etc, etc.

Perhaps the real question we need to ask is, who are these tossups being written for? Are they being written for people in the field, or for non-scientists, or both?
Is this another incident of "stuff I know is easy, stuff I don't is hard"? As someone who knows very little about biology, mostly from quiz bowl questions and high school, those answers you just described in the biology category as "excellent" seemed quite obscure. Of course a cursory Google search shows that they are not and I am simply ignorant. Is the same true with the physics?

I think we can agree that the following answers are perfectly acceptable or even too easy, for ACF Nats: mossbauer, kerr effect, cold fusion, bremstrahlung, huygens' principle, zeeman, baryons, poisson bracket, polarization, convection, auger effect, electroweak theory, interferometer, vorticity.

This leaves us with: Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, Reissner-Nordstrom, Wigner Energy.

I certainly don't think any absolute importance can be placed on a Google search of a term, but it certainly helps to gauge relative importance of concepts. I get the following results:
Aharonov-Bohm 178,000 results
excitons 367,000 results
nuclear shell model 56,500 results ("shell model" + nucleus gives 160,000)
reissner-nordstrom 64,800 results
wigner energy 5,480

I'm willing to say Wigner energy is too hard (I didn't write it), so I added the giveaway regarding Eugene Wigner (67,300 results).

So what is the actual truth here? Is my method flawed and these questions are too hard? Wre you referring mostly to the bonus questions (if so, why mention the tossups at all?) Or was it simply exaggeration/selective memory?

And re: the actual clues in the exciton tossup, I don't really get it. Because one certain clue didn't come up, it's too hard? Is "quantum-confined Stark effect" more famous than the actual definition of what an exciton is?

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:35 pm

By the way, I really liked the trash in this tournament. It managed to cover things I was interested in and was probably the right difficulty, although that Led Zeppelin and MASH bonus was really easy.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Wed Apr 30, 2008 6:07 pm

MLafer wrote:Is this another incident of "stuff I know is easy, stuff I don't is hard"? As someone who knows very little about biology, mostly from quiz bowl questions and high school, those answers you just described in the biology category as "excellent" seemed quite obscure. Of course a cursory Google search shows that they are not and I am simply ignorant. Is the same true with the physics?
I'm willing to agree with this to some degree, but my evaluation of the physics as difficult mostly came from playing with Jerry, not from my own ignorance of it. If non-biologists think that the biology was too difficult, I'm certainly willing to listen.
MLafer wrote:I think we can agree that the following answers are perfectly acceptable or even too easy, for ACF Nats: mossbauer, kerr effect, cold fusion, bremstrahlung, huygens' principle, zeeman, baryons, poisson bracket, polarization, convection, auger effect, electroweak theory, interferometer, vorticity.
I agree. Not only do they come up in quiz bowl quite often, these are things taught in undergraduate physics/chemistry/science classes (from both my own experience and the experience of my friends/roommates/what-have-you).
MLafer wrote:This leaves us with: Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, Reissner-Nordstrom, Wigner Energy
Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, and Reissner-Nordstrom come up often enough so that non-physicists have at least heard of them and are given the opportunity to read more about them if they so choose. Wigner was palatable only because of the giveaway about his "friend", which you mentioned adding. I can't really say anything about the nuclear shell model, as Sorice seemed to have heard of it but Jerry and I hadn't.
MLafer wrote:So what is the actual truth here? Is my method flawed and these questions are too hard? Wre you referring mostly to the bonus questions (if so, why mention the tossups at all?) Or was it simply exaggeration/selective memory?
I thought the tossups that I mentioned were really stretching it; my memory of the bonuses isn't great. Maybe if you told us more about how you selected appropriate physics answers people could comment on your methodology
MLafer wrote:And re: the actual clues in the exciton tossup, I don't really get it. Because one certain clue didn't come up, it's too hard? Is "quantum-confined Stark effect" more famous than the actual definition of what an exciton is?
In a quizbowl sense, yes. Searching my archive reveals a few hits for excitons, mainly in the context of the quantum-confined stark effect. In real physics, probably not. Its probably kind of like how no one cares about Linus Pauling's love of Vitamin C but its a stock clue for him within the quizbowl sphere.
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:By the way, I really liked the trash in this tournament. It managed to cover things I was interested in and was probably the right difficulty, although that Led Zeppelin and MASH bonus was really easy.
This is probably another example of the "If I've heard of it, its too easy" phenomenon. I mean, finding a truly hard part of a MASH bonus would probably entail digging through one-off characters or something. What do you think would have been a more appropriate 30 part?
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by MLafer » Wed Apr 30, 2008 6:31 pm

ToStrikeInfinitely wrote:
Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, and Reissner-Nordstrom come up often enough so that non-physicists have at least heard of them and are given the opportunity to read more about them if they so choose. Wigner was palatable only because of the giveaway about his "friend", which you mentioned adding. I can't really say anything about the nuclear shell model, as Sorice seemed to have heard of it but Jerry and I hadn't.
I've heard the liquid drop model come up several times, and the shell model is a more accurate approximation of the nucleus so I feel that it was worthwhile to ask about. Also it was the subject of the 1963 Nobel Prize for people that are into that.
I thought the tossups that I mentioned were really stretching it; my memory of the bonuses isn't great. Maybe if you told us more about how you selected appropriate physics answers people could comment on your methodology
For what it's worth I didn't select any of the tossup answers myself and only changed bonus answers when I thought the difficulty was horribly out of whack (3 impossible answers or 3 butt-easy answers). I was only given 1.5 weeks to work on them and was in the middle of finals. Basically, for this particular tournament, given the time constraints, my only methodology was "unless this tossup is completely egregious, it goes in" and focused more on the innards of the questions. If I were writing it myself it certainly would have turned out differently (as usual, too much of our old friend particle physics) but I don't think the difficulty would have been all that different.


In a quizbowl sense, yes. Searching my archive reveals a few hits for excitons, mainly in the context of the quantum-confined stark effect. In real physics, probably not. Its probably kind of like how no one cares about Linus Pauling's love of Vitamin C but its a stock clue for him within the quizbowl sphere.
Fair enough, I wasn't aware of the notoriety of that clue myself. I don't have an archive so much anymore since my hard drive has failed two times in the past year.

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:04 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:By the way, I really liked the trash in this tournament. It managed to cover things I was interested in and was probably the right difficulty, although that Led Zeppelin and MASH bonus was really easy.
Thanks. I was hoping the MASH bonus was acceptable, because like Dark Eric said, it's a tough show to find a good 30 part on. As for Led Zep, I thought Heartbreaker would be a difficult enough 30 part.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by pray for elves » Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:15 pm

leftsaidfred wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:By the way, I really liked the trash in this tournament. It managed to cover things I was interested in and was probably the right difficulty, although that Led Zeppelin and MASH bonus was really easy.
Thanks. I was hoping the MASH bonus was acceptable, because like Dark Eric said, it's a tough show to find a good 30 part on. As for Led Zep, I thought Heartbreaker would be a difficult enough 30 part.
Heartbreaker gets tons of radio play...you could have opted for something like Hey Hey What Can I Do, or the cover of Travelling Riverside Blues, or a number of other songs that get occasional play, but it's not a big deal.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by vandyhawk » Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:57 pm

MLafer wrote:This leaves us with: Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, Reissner-Nordstrom, Wigner Energy.
I'll go ahead and say I had never heard of any of these things. It sounds like I perhaps should have heard of excitons before - I was really close to negging with "holes" the whole question, but held off and then couldn't answer it. Granted I'm an engineer and not a hard-core physicist, but perhaps we could keep tossups to things more people have a chance of answering, and asking about stuff like this in bonuses. I understand the sub-optimal editing setup Lafer had, so nothing against him or his philosophy of just keeping the answers. I'm also not trying to say my knowledge should be a benchmark for physics questions or anything.

In looking through the set, I don't remember any chem or bio tossups that similarly struck me as really hard answer selection, but I was struck anew at just how hard some of the bio and chem, especially chem, bonuses were to get more than 10 points. Hopefully we can just chalk it up to the last-minute editing situations, and whoever works on Nats next year can spend more time on stuff.

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:03 pm

As the exact opposite of a scientist, I have heard of Aharanov-Bohm to the extent that I probably would have gotten the tossup near the end had I been playing it.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by theMoMA » Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:20 pm

Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, and Reissner-Nordstrom all come up enough, if you ask noted non-scientist me, to be Nats-level tossups. In fact, it seems like the shell model and Aharanov-Bohm should be more prolific answers, because they're both important and interesting. Wigner Energy seems like a stupid thing to write on, because noted only person in the country who would have any chance at a pre-FTP buzz Mike Sorice didn't know that was its name (he said it's mostly called lattice strain, or something to that effect).
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by vandyhawk » Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:49 pm

theMoMA wrote:Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, and Reissner-Nordstrom all come up enough, if you ask noted non-scientist me, to be Nats-level tossups. In fact, it seems like the shell model and Aharanov-Bohm should be more prolific answers, because they're both important and interesting. Wigner Energy seems like a stupid thing to write on, because noted only person in the country who would have any chance at a pre-FTP buzz Mike Sorice didn't know that was its name (he said it's mostly called lattice strain, or something to that effect).
Ok, well like I said, I don't expect to be the benchmark here. That said, Aharanov-Bohm shows up on the Stanford archive as the hard part of a bonus at IO and Science Masters, and on Jerry's database as the opening clue in a vector potential tossup, so it makes sense that someone like Matt W. or Andrew has heard of it. Excitons, shell model, and Reissner-Nordrstrom don't show up anywhere in either archive. Is there some sort of disconnect here? I just expect to have at least have heard of physics tossups at this point in my qb career...

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by castrioti » Wed Apr 30, 2008 11:04 pm

I wrote the following physics tossups for ACF Nationals:

Glashow-Weinberg-Salam
interferometer
Reissner-Nordstrom
vorticity
Wigner Energy

Ranking these from most difficult (in my mind) to least, they would have been: Wigner, Reissner-Nordstrom, Glashow-Weinberg-Salam, interferometer and vorticity. My strategy was to select answers of varying familiarity while utilizing a similar pyramidal rule in order to keep the science difficulty for which I was responsible reasonably balanced. People point out that Wigner was difficult; It was intended to be, but I did not feel that it was so beyond reason (there was the Windscale incident that I figured people would know about) despite its infrequent occurrence as an answer--I honestly had never heard about Wigner's "friend," and was surprised that this was chosen as the giveaway--I felt that this was harder than the Windscale clue, but if it helped, I am slightly relieved. I peg my greatest error associated with that question to my failure to find out that it was more commonly known as "lattice strain," and I should have included that as an alternate answer. I apologize for this question.

In addition, I also am responsible for the following bonuses

gamma ray bursts-synchotron shock-band model
lambda point-rotons-Pomeranchuk cooling
Barkhausen Avalanche-eddy currents-Bitter pattern
Cassini's Law-Vis-Viva Equation-Kozai Resonance
breakdown voltage-Rogovsky profiling (edited to Zener diodes)-Mott insulator

It seems that my own opinion/experience about how many points should be given away in a bonus at ACF Nationals has become different than what I perceive to be the majority's opinion. While I do believe that there should be one easy, one medium and one difficult clue at any tournament, I think that at ACF Nationals the ramp-up in difficulty should be somewhat steeper. At Fall and regionals, 2 easier answers in a three-part bonus may be fine, but at Nationals, 10 points is all I think people should be "given" before they are forced to recall deeper knowledge (the medium answer should be harder). In addition, I've had a hard time reconciling myself to the quizbowl-self-referential definition of "hard," meaning that I sometimes select answers which may not have come up before, but that I believe people should have a reasonable chance of knowing about. "Rotons" was one of these answers that I intended as a medium difficulty answer--perhaps if I had included a clue about their being analogous to phonons for a liquid? On the other hand, should I have asked for the Fountain Effect for the second part, and risked giving away too many points in the playoffs? "Synchotron shock" was another that, while it hasn't come up before, the clues were such that I believed it would have been guessable (magnetic fields, high particle acceleration, etc). These examples given, I did not believe that these bonus parts were out of reason given what others were writing (possibly my own case of "If I don't know it, it's hard"). I was certainly mistaken if physics experts such as Jerry and Mike were not able to convert these bonuses. To these, again, I offer my sincerest apology.

--Wesley

EDIT: realizing the Wigner tossup probably wasn't read.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Schweizerkas » Wed Apr 30, 2008 11:11 pm

I wrote the Aharonov-Bohm effect question. It's covered in undergrad quantum mechanics courses (maybe not at every university in America, but at least it appears in Griffiths, which I imagine is the most popular textbook for undergrad quantum nowadays). As others have said, it's come up a lot as either clues or bonus parts, so I figured it was time for it to finally get its own tossup. I knew it was on the hard side for a tossup, but I think it's definitely acceptable. The other physics tossup in our packet (excitons) was written by my teammate. I've never learned about them in either undergrad or grad classes, but apparently they're a major area of modern research. I'd heard of them, but didn't know what they were. Maybe that ended up being too hard of an answer.

As for the shell model, I remember learning about that as an undergrad (unfortunately, my memory was too hazy to recall what it was called, so instead of letting the question go dead, I decided to neg with liquid-drop). Since nuclear physics isn't as much of a core requirement as quantum at universities, I wouldn't be surprised if some physics students never learned it. I don't know, it doesn't strike me as that hard, but if a lot of the top science players in the country hadn't heard of it, then maybe it wasn't a very useful tossup.

Wigner energy's obviously impossible, so no need to discuss it anymore, which brings us to Reissner-Nordstrom...

I mean, I've heard of it, it's come up a few times, I'd have gotten it off the giveaway, but does anybody really have any non-giveaway knowledge of the Reissner-Nordstrom metric? I just took a graduate class in General Relativity last quarter, and, while we spent several entire lectures going over the Schwarzschild and Kerr metrics, we didn't cover the R-N at all (the professor might have acknowledged its existence, but I'm not even sure of that). If the only knowledge anyone in the tournament has of this thing is giveaway-fraud-knowledge, it's probably not the greatest idea to be tossed up. Whatever, I can see why someone would decide to write on it based on it having come up several times before.

By the way, overall a great tournament. I had a blast.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Wed Apr 30, 2008 11:40 pm

So, just to add another non-scientist (mostly anyway) perspective in addition to Matt and Andrew. I've heard of all of the mentioned pysics answers except for Wigner Energy. I'm pretty sure I could pull Aharonov-Bohm and maybe Reissner-Nordstrom at the end, just from my experience reading packets and randomly memorizing stuff with names like that...probably wouldn't have been able to name excitons or the shell model, but I know that I've seen those terms before.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by setht » Thu May 01, 2008 12:59 am

ToStrikeInfinitely wrote:Now to the real issue: the Physics. I'm not a physicist, but from what I can tell, the physics was ass-hard, especially in the playoffs. The tossup on excitons didn't have a clue about the quantum-confined Stark Effect, there was a tossup on Wigner energy in an unread packet, etc, etc.

Perhaps the real question we need to ask is, who are these tossups being written for? Are they being written for people in the field, or for non-scientists, or both?
There were some physics tossups with pretty hard answers in the playoffs and finals: excitons and the Kerr effect both seem like somewhat unfortunate choices for tossups, for different reasons. Excitons went dead in our match against Brown (I negged with something, but I wouldn't have known it at the end), and if the only exposure people have had to excitons is as an accessory to an occasional lead-in clue on the Stark effect, I don't think the circuit is ready for excitons as a tossup answer--even though they sound important. Meanwhile, the Kerr effect seems to me like the sort of thing that comes up a lot in quizbowl, but not the sort of thing that people know much about--did anyone get this before Pockels effect? This feels like the sort of question that will get converted by the end in a bunch of rooms because people that have played lots of quizbowl will have heard the name multiple times, but no one (or almost no one) will buzz early or in the middle of the question.

I thought the Reissner-Nordstrom question was fine, except that the wording was somewhat unfortunate: it went off about the namesake geometry for a while in the middle of the question, leading to an "ergosphere" neg after it started talking about a region of wackiness. It's hard, no doubt about it, but it's the sort of thing that comes up regularly in GR, and the question had some nice clues about the Cauchy horizon that conceivably could have led to nice buzzes if it hadn't been negged. It was in the finals packet, and considering the number of teams in the top playoff bracket with grad students in physics/astrophysics programs, I think it was fine. Aharanov-Bohm and the shell model are hard tossup answers; possibly the shell model is too hard for a prelim tossup, but I think it should be fine at least at the playoff level.

There were also some very hard physics bonuses. The bonus on BEC/Gross-Pitaevskii/bosenova feels like it has an easy/pretty hard/really hard structure. The lambda point/rotons/Pomeranchuk cooling bonus was really, really hard. I think it would have been much more reasonable if the rotons part had said that they're quasi-particles similar to phonons; even with those clues I don't think I would have pulled the answer if it had been my bonus, but it felt pretty much impossible to figure out what that prompt was asking for. Also, I think Pomeranchuk cooling is pretty much an impossible third part. The Ising model prompt on some other bonus also seemed pretty vague/coy with key words; I don't know if this was done intentionally to boost the difficulty of the part, or if it was just an oversight.

Anyway, I think Eric's question is a good one. I think it's up to the editors to let people know what they want in submissions, but I figure that tossups in submitted packets, even at ACF Nationals, should be written on topics that non-specialists can answer by the end. Things can get a little crazier in the playoffs/finals packets, but I don't think people should be going crazy on tossups in submissions.
castrioti wrote:I wrote the following physics tossups for ACF Nationals:

Glashow-Weinberg-Salam
interferometer
Reissner-Nordstrom
vorticity
Wigner Energy

Ranking these from most difficult (in my mind) to least, they would have been: Wigner, Reissner-Nordstrom, Glashow-Weinberg-Salam, interferometer and vorticity. My strategy was to select answers of varying familiarity while utilizing a similar pyramidal rule in order to keep the science difficulty for which I was responsible reasonably balanced. People point out that Wigner was difficult; It was intended to be, but I did not feel that it was so beyond reason (there was the Windscale incident that I figured people would know about) despite its infrequent occurrence as an answer--I honestly had never heard about Wigner's "friend," and was surprised that this was chosen as the giveaway--I felt that this was harder than the Windscale clue, but if it helped, I am slightly relieved. I peg my greatest error associated with that question to my failure to find out that it was more commonly known as "lattice strain," and I should have included that as an alternate answer. I apologize for this question.

In addition, I also am responsible for the following bonuses

gamma ray bursts-synchotron shock-band model
lambda point-rotons-Pomeranchuk cooling
Barkhausen Avalanche-eddy currents-Bitter pattern
Cassini's Law-Vis-Viva Equation-Kozai Resonance
breakdown voltage-Rogovsky profiling (edited to Zener diodes)-Mott insulator

It seems that my own opinion/experience about how many points should be given away in a bonus at ACF Nationals has become different than what I perceive to be the majority's opinion. While I do believe that there should be one easy, one medium and one difficult clue at any tournament, I think that at ACF Nationals the ramp-up in difficulty should be somewhat steeper. At Fall and regionals, 2 easier answers in a three-part bonus may be fine, but at Nationals, 10 points is all I think people should be "given" before they are forced to recall deeper knowledge (the medium answer should be harder). In addition, I've had a hard time reconciling myself to the quizbowl-self-referential definition of "hard," meaning that I sometimes select answers which may not have come up before, but that I believe people should have a reasonable chance of knowing about. "Rotons" was one of these answers that I intended as a medium difficulty answer--perhaps if I had included a clue about their being analogous to phonons for a liquid? On the other hand, should I have asked for the Fountain Effect for the second part, and risked giving away too many points in the playoffs? "Synchotron shock" was another that, while it hasn't come up before, the clues were such that I believed it would have been guessable (magnetic fields, high particle acceleration, etc). These examples given, I did not believe that these bonus parts were out of reason given what others were writing (possibly my own case of "If I don't know it, it's hard"). I was certainly mistaken if physics experts such as Jerry and Mike were not able to convert these bonuses. To these, again, I offer my sincerest apology.

--Wesley
Of the tossups, Wigner Energy seems too hard (to me) to make a good tossup. There are plenty of fine clues about Wigner; why not write a tossup on him with a line or two of clues about his namesake energy for the Windscale afficionados before moving onto the Wigner-Seitz cell, Wigner-Eckhart theorem, Wigner's friend, etc.? Everything else feels like it's fine at some level from finals (Reissner-Nordstrom) to prelims (interferometers).

The bonuses seem very hard. I could get 20 on Barkhausen and eddy currents; I would only get 10 on gamma ray bursts and lambda point, and I'm pretty sure I would get 0 on the other bonuses (unless you gave clues for Cassini aside from his laws). I've heard of Cassini's laws, the Vis-Viva equation, and Kozai resonance; perhaps on a really, really good day I'd pull Kozai resonance if you put "resonance, asteroids, named for a Japanese guy" in the prompt (I haven't looked at the bonus so I'm not sure what's there), but I think people should remember that by the time playoffs/finals matches roll around, no one is firing on all cylinders. Anyway, I think I was the only astro grad student present at the tournament, and it seems less than ideal that I can't get more than 10 on two astro bonuses--especially since I'm guessing a whole bunch of people can say gamma ray bursts, and the only clues that would get me to say "Cassini's laws" would probably get lots of other people to say that, too.

I know the science questions weren't produced under ideal conditions, and I honestly think they were less over-the-top than the stuff in the late packets of the 2005 tournament, so I'm not too worried about the future of ACF Nats science.
DeisEvan wrote:Heartbreaker gets tons of radio play...you could have opted for something like Hey Hey What Can I Do, or the cover of Travelling Riverside Blues, or a number of other songs that get occasional play, but it's not a big deal.
This bonus needed a "Physical challenge: play the drum solo from the end of 'Rock and Roll'" part.

-Seth
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu May 01, 2008 1:10 am

Some words about the physics:
MLafer wrote:I think we can agree that the following answers are perfectly acceptable or even too easy, for ACF Nats: mossbauer, kerr effect, cold fusion, bremstrahlung, huygens' principle, zeeman, baryons, poisson bracket, polarization, convection, auger effect, electroweak theory, interferometer, vorticity.
I would agree with this assessment. I couldn't pull the Auger effect and wasn't a big fan of the cold fusion question, but that's not a complaint. I wouldn't say any these were really "easy" as such (some of them had quite difficult clues) but they were definitely appropriate for the level.
This leaves us with: Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, Reissner-Nordstrom, Wigner Energy.
Aharonov-Bohm is fine; it gets covered in undergraduate quantum calsses, so I have no complaint about that. The shell model is something I never really learned about and I have no idea what context it's actually taught in. Excitons I couldn't convert despite having taken 1.5 years of solid-state physics. While that may say more about my memory than about the topic of the question, I'm not sure it was a great topic for a tossup. From what I understand, Mike Sorice negged it, as did Seth, and I couldn't pull it. Wigner energy I thought was just a ridiculous thing, and I asked Mike later on IRC whether he knew what it was. He will surely correct me if I'm wrong but he did not know the term, though he knew the thing being discussed under a different name. Without the goofy giveaway I'm not sure anyone would have had any shot at it.

I left the Reissner-Nordstrom question for last, because there sure do seem to be a lot of people in this thread (including several noted non-scientists) who seem to be saying that this comes up all the time. Having played many, many packets I can assure you it does not. At best, it comes up as the 3rd part of a bonus on black holes, which doesn't happen all that often. Reissner-Nordstrom is actually really hard, and even though Seth got it at the end (and I would have too if I hadn't negged it), it's still pretty tough; it was tough for me and I'm an astrophysics grad student with graduate GR under my belt, so I'm not sure who all these people are who are claiming it's so easy. Mind you, I thought it was an interesting question entirely appropriate to this tournament, but still.
castrioti wrote:gamma ray bursts-synchotron shock-band model
lambda point-rotons-Pomeranchuk cooling
Barkhausen Avalanche-eddy currents-Bitter pattern
Cassini's Law-Vis-Viva Equation-Kozai Resonance
breakdown voltage-Rogovsky profiling (edited to Zener diodes)-Mott insulator
Dude... seriously, dude.

I get that your philosophy involves trying to get people to dig deeper on the middle parts, but this is insane. I dare you to name me one person not named Seth Teitler who was playing that tournament and could name a model of gamma ray bursts. I mean, I know more than most people about GRBs, but I can't tell you the various models of them because that's not what I work on. You have literally written a bonus on which more than 10 points can only be gotten by a specialist in GRB physics. This is not a good bonus, since I don't see how it differentiates between someone who knows what a GRB is (which I assume includes most competent science players, at least in the upper bracket) and someone who knows something more about GRB physics but not the two models of their operation. Likewise, I have no idea what the Vis-Viva equation or the Kozai resonance are, and don't know where I would have encountered them. Again, is anyone not an expert on solar system physics going to answer these? I felt about the same regarding the superfluid bonus, which is nearly impossible to get more than 10 on.
It seems that my own opinion/experience about how many points should be given away in a bonus at ACF Nationals has become different than what I perceive to be the majority's opinion. While I do believe that there should be one easy, one medium and one difficult clue at any tournament, I think that at ACF Nationals the ramp-up in difficulty should be somewhat steeper. At Fall and regionals, 2 easier answers in a three-part bonus may be fine, but at Nationals, 10 points is all I think people should be "given" before they are forced to recall deeper knowledge (the medium answer should be harder).
Uh, there are plenty of bonuses you can reference in this set which met the criterion of having a harder middle part while making it possible to get at least 20 if you had solid knowledge in the field. You wrote bonuses that people working on graduate degrees in the field couldn't get 20 on. That's not "somewhat steeper," that's "here's your 10 points, now get lost, chump."
In addition, I've had a hard time reconciling myself to the quizbowl-self-referential definition of "hard," meaning that I sometimes select answers which may not have come up before, but that I believe people should have a reasonable chance of knowing about. "Rotons" was one of these answers that I intended as a medium difficulty answer--perhaps if I had included a clue about their being analogous to phonons for a liquid?
I mean, I knew that these were collective excitations in superfluids. I didn't know what they were called and I didn't have the creativity, at 10 in the evening on the last question of a strenuous final to fraud it. Again, I've taken many semesters of solid state physics and statistical mechanics, in which superfluids were discussed, and I never once encountered rotons or Pomeranchuk cooling.
On the other hand, should I have asked for the Fountain Effect for the second part, and risked giving away too many points in the playoffs? "Synchotron shock" was another that, while it hasn't come up before, the clues were such that I believed it would have been guessable (magnetic fields, high particle acceleration, etc). These examples given, I did not believe that these bonus parts were out of reason given what others were writing (possibly my own case of "If I don't know it, it's hard"). I was certainly mistaken if physics experts such as Jerry and Mike were not able to convert these bonuses. To these, again, I offer my sincerest apology.
The combination of these clues does not necessitate the answer "synchrotron." I know what synchrotron radiation is, but again, there's no obvious way to come to that conclusion, because the answer could literally be anything, like someone's name for example. Anyway, justifying near-impossible bonus answers by claiming that they are guessable makes no sense; if you intend for people to actually answer your questions (you know, so you can distinguish between different levels of knowledge instead of handing everyone 10) then you should write about things that people will actually know, not things you think ought to come up and are figure-outable.

update: ok, I see that Seth has posted with mostly the same points. Looks like he wouldn't have pulled the same things that I couldn't pull, so I don't feel all that bad. Too bad I didn't get the Ising model bonus, though, that was a good one as an example of things you can actually learn about. I forget what the middle part was, but the last part was the Potts model, which definitely gets mentioned in discussions of Ising model physics.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by MiltonPlayer47 » Thu May 01, 2008 1:45 am

I just read through the set and just want to say that I thought it was excellent. I really wish I could have been there, just to play on the tossups on Full House and Krusty the clown :)
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by Gautam » Thu May 01, 2008 11:08 am

ToStrikeInfinitely wrote: In general, I thought the biology at this tournament was excellent (props on the purkinje cell tossup being both interesting and gettable by non-biologists at the end), with the exceptions of:
-the tossup on calcium (I believe that the clue about it being an important second messenger was far too early and should have been after the FTP, and maybe mentioning EGTA or something would have helped)
I wrote the calcium tossup, and I don't remember the edited version being similar to what I'd written. I might be mistaken, but there is no way my submission mentioned the second messenger part that early. I picked up the intercalating agents after a neg, but I totally sympathize with those who negged.
ToStrikeInfinitely wrote: The chemistry was similarly very good; the only exception I can think of is the alkyllithium tossup, which
1. Should have accepted mike's answer of organolithium (which is still an accepted term, considering I'm staring at my copyright 2006 textbook right now, and it lists then as such)
2. Was a really uninteresting tossup answer, basically designed to screw people who are thinking "grignard reagents" the whole time. The answer line confirms this.
3. Didn't have the clues everyone actually learns about in a class: that two equivalents are used to make Gilman reagents with copper iodine, they give exclusive 1,2 addition to alpha,beta-unsaturated ketones, and that they are used in place of Grignard reagents when you need more nucleophilic awesomeness.
4. Had a stupid, cutesy giveaway about element 3.
Yeah, that was a kind of a lame tossup, but it was a exception to the generally fine set of tosusps.

There was stuff I knew and a lot of stuff I didn't know; it was a great learning experience overall. I was happy about the Aharonov-Bohm tossup, though I couldn't pull it off. It was a fine tournament for my first ACF Nats.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by setht » Thu May 01, 2008 11:52 am

grapesmoker wrote:Some words about the physics:
MLafer wrote:I think we can agree that the following answers are perfectly acceptable or even too easy, for ACF Nats: mossbauer, kerr effect, cold fusion, bremstrahlung, huygens' principle, zeeman, baryons, poisson bracket, polarization, convection, auger effect, electroweak theory, interferometer, vorticity.
I would agree with this assessment. I couldn't pull the Auger effect and wasn't a big fan of the cold fusion question, but that's not a complaint. I wouldn't say any these were really "easy" as such (some of them had quite difficult clues) but they were definitely appropriate for the level.
I think it's almost impossible for a tossup answer to be too easy. I think all of these answers have entered the collective conscious, but, for instance, how much do non-physicists know about Poisson brackets? How much does anyone know about the Kerr effect before "Pockels"? Poisson bracket seems fine for playoffs and higher, since I think the question had plenty of good clues for physicists to buzz on before the FTP (and there were a bunch of physicists in the top bracket); Kerr effect seems a bit more problematic, unless I'm wrong and some people did know the earlier clues.
grapesmoker wrote:
This leaves us with: Aharanov-Bohm, excitons, nuclear shell model, Reissner-Nordstrom, Wigner Energy.
Aharonov-Bohm is fine; it gets covered in undergraduate quantum calsses, so I have no complaint about that. The shell model is something I never really learned about and I have no idea what context it's actually taught in. Excitons I couldn't convert despite having taken 1.5 years of solid-state physics. While that may say more about my memory than about the topic of the question, I'm not sure it was a great topic for a tossup. From what I understand, Mike Sorice negged it, as did Seth, and I couldn't pull it. Wigner energy I thought was just a ridiculous thing, and I asked Mike later on IRC whether he knew what it was. He will surely correct me if I'm wrong but he did not know the term, though he knew the thing being discussed under a different name. Without the goofy giveaway I'm not sure anyone would have had any shot at it.

I left the Reissner-Nordstrom question for last, because there sure do seem to be a lot of people in this thread (including several noted non-scientists) who seem to be saying that this comes up all the time. Having played many, many packets I can assure you it does not. At best, it comes up as the 3rd part of a bonus on black holes, which doesn't happen all that often. Reissner-Nordstrom is actually really hard, and even though Seth got it at the end (and I would have too if I hadn't negged it), it's still pretty tough; it was tough for me and I'm an astrophysics grad student with graduate GR under my belt, so I'm not sure who all these people are who are claiming it's so easy. Mind you, I thought it was an interesting question entirely appropriate to this tournament, but still.
The shell model came up in either undergraduate quantum or some astro class for me, and it's come up again since then in two graduate astro classes. I thought the shell model and magic numbers were topics that come up regularly (in classes; I think magic numbers and Maria Goeppert-Mayer used to come up fairly frequently in quizbowl, but those answers seem to have become much less frequent recently, for whatever reason). Anyway, I think shell model is fine for a tossup at playoffs/finals level.

I think Reissner-Nordstrom is one of those things that comes up often enough as a clue (to black holes, mostly) so that prolific quizbowlers can pull the name out by the end. That said, maybe Reissner-Nordstrom belongs with Kerr effect in the group of tossup answers that enough people can pull at the end, but almost no one can buzz on before the end, which is not ideal for a tossup.
castrioti wrote:It seems that my own opinion/experience about how many points should be given away in a bonus at ACF Nationals has become different than what I perceive to be the majority's opinion. While I do believe that there should be one easy, one medium and one difficult clue at any tournament, I think that at ACF Nationals the ramp-up in difficulty should be somewhat steeper. At Fall and regionals, 2 easier answers in a three-part bonus may be fine, but at Nationals, 10 points is all I think people should be "given" before they are forced to recall deeper knowledge (the medium answer should be harder).
I think many people agree with this sentiment, but not the degree to which you ramp up the difficulty. My take on this is that at ACF Nationals, the prelim packets should have bonuses geared towards the whole field: whatever your conversion goal is, it should be based on the whole field. Once you get to the playoff packets, I think the bonuses should be geared towards the top bracket, and once you get to the finals, the bonuses should be geared towards the top couple teams. I see no reason to change the conversion goals from one stage of the tournament to the next. Given the field for this year's ACF Nationals, I think it was reasonable to assume that one or both of the teams in the finals would have a grad student in physics or astrophysics, and I think it's reasonable to go ahead and write physics/astro bonuses for the finals packets that take that into account. I don't think anyone wants to see science bonuses (or bonuses in any topic) where 20 or 30 points are given away. The thing is, I think we also don't want to see lots of bonuses where people with good knowledge can't get more than 10 points.

I realize it's really, really difficult to write a good, hard bonus for an ACF Nationals finals packet, especially in a topic you don't study, that does a good job of differentiating people with deep knowledge, mid-level knowledge, and little knowledge. I also realize that these questions were produced hastily because of the editing crisis, and there probably wasn't much (or any) time to go back and compare bonuses to make sure they were reasonably similar in difficulty. In situations like these (trying to produce high-level questions outside your area of expertise), it might be worth doing some packet archive searches to find out what sorts of things come up. In general, I would recommend no more than one part of a bonus on answers that barely ever come up (unless you are an expert in the field and are sure your canon-expanding answers will play well).
castrioti wrote:In addition, I've had a hard time reconciling myself to the quizbowl-self-referential definition of "hard," meaning that I sometimes select answers which may not have come up before, but that I believe people should have a reasonable chance of knowing about. "Rotons" was one of these answers that I intended as a medium difficulty answer--perhaps if I had included a clue about their being analogous to phonons for a liquid?...On the other hand, should I have asked for the Fountain Effect for the second part, and risked giving away too many points in the playoffs? "Synchotron shock" was another that, while it hasn't come up before, the clues were such that I believed it would have been guessable (magnetic fields, high particle acceleration, etc). These examples given, I did not believe that these bonus parts were out of reason given what others were writing (possibly my own case of "If I don't know it, it's hard"). I was certainly mistaken if physics experts such as Jerry and Mike were not able to convert these bonuses. To these, again, I offer my sincerest apology.
I think it's safer to assume that answers that haven't come up before are automatically hard parts. I think rotons with clues saying they are quasi-particles and are similar to phonons would have made a fine hard part, and "fountain effect" or a couple other things would have made fine middle parts requiring decent knowledge. Pomeranchuk cooling is simply way too hard... I did a search through my packet archive, and it's never come up as an answer or even as a clue (to Helium-3 or whatever). Pomeranchuk himself appears twice in tossups on bremsstrahlung: once in a 2008 Penn Bowl packet, once in Chicago A's packet in this year's Nationals set. The fact that Pomeranchuk barely ever gets mentioned (only once prior to this year's Nationals) and that Pomeranchuk cooling has never been mentioned suggests that it's just too hard, and the way the question played bears this out. Again, if you're writing a bonus and you're not sure whether something is too hard, I recommend doing a packet search and discarding anything that hasn't come up before as an answer or at least a couple times as a lead-in. I also find the self-referential definition of quizbowl difficulty somewhat aesthetically displeasing, but I think it does a better job of helping people produce questions that will play well than having people make a guess at difficulty.

I haven't played the last packet yet, but unless you clued "synchrotron" and "shock" separately I don't think I'd be able to get that part. Once again, a packet search shows that the synchrotron shock model hasn't been mentioned before, but the collapsar and relativistic fireball models have shown up as clues (and I'd be able to convert a reasonable bonus part on either).

I don't think there's much point in beating "this year's science was more uneven than other stuff" into the ground more. Producing a good science set is really hard even when you have lots of time, and I'm sure more of the wrinkles would have been ironed out if there'd been more time to edit submissions and have the editors look at each others' questions. The only real advice I can offer (and this applies to the people sending in packets, not just the editors) is to try using searches of packet archives as a guide to difficulty when you're writing outside your area of expertise. If you have access to, say, a physics grad student, it might also be instructive to run things by them, but that's probably even more time-consuming than running multiple packet searches.

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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu May 01, 2008 12:44 pm

Other good parts for that superfluids bonus would have been Laszlo Tisza's two-fluid model or the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition.
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Re: ACF nationals discussion

Post by msaifutaa » Thu May 01, 2008 9:16 pm

setht wrote:I think Reissner-Nordstrom is one of those things that comes up often enough as a clue (to black holes, mostly)
I can attest to at least anecdotal evidence of this--after reading this post this morning, we read Illinois Open '06 at practice today, and Reissner-Nordstrom opened a black hole toss-up, allowing me perhaps my only insanely early power ever on a science question.
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