Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

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Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:34 pm

In light of the point brought up in a CO discussion thread about how the college game needs more science editors, I've decided to do something drastic. To wit: my silly science/poetry side tournament will now be all science, all the time. That's right: another SCIENCE MONSTROSITY.

Here are a couple of issues with that proposal that I wanted to air.

First, I will probably keep on working on the poetry questions. I'd like them to have nice homes. If there's a lit singles event coming up (for example, if there'll be another CO side event) I'd be proud if my tossups (or some of them, obviously) would make it in there. I'd be equally happy to contribute a poetry tossup to Harvard's ACF Nationals packet for the next eighty years, but somehow I get the impression that that's not as good a choice.

Second, I want to know if the community wants this tournament to have bonuses. I'd be quite happy to produce them, if so, for a number of reasons: I'd learn a lot more writing 200/200 than just writing 200, the tournament would be a bit more awesome, and I just like writing bonuses. (Also, this would allow me to have a slightly subtler subdistribution, because I think that there are some topics that are just better suited for tossups than bonuses.) The caveat is, of course, that it would take a while to run the tournament this way.

Third, I'm probably going to need some community support for this venture. I'm already writing quite a bit this season and I don't want to produce a crappy 200/200. While I'm not an idiot, I can't pretend to have anything approaching the writing experience or science experience of some (most!) people on the circuit. Though I do want to write the tournament myself (what goeth before a fall again? oh, right, pride), I know that I could well benefit from, if not editors per se, at least "mentors"--people whom I can ask "is it all right to toss this up?" or "is this third bonus part as hard as I think it is?".

In some sense, then, I need to know two things: first, that people want to play the questions; second, that there are people who don't think they'd end up playing the questions (and who consequently could give me some informed advice on the set).

I know that this could well smack of hubris. While this proposal was motivated, I admit, by the mention of quizbowl's continued need for science editors, I by no means think that I could serve as one of those editors--whether now or in a few years. I do feel, however, that as time passes, I'm more and more likely to be asked to serve as such an editor--whether I'm actually qualified for the job or not--and I might as well not suck when it counts. Writing a science tournament would be a big step towards not sucking at editing science.

Let me know if there's interest in killing the old side tournament, doing something with the poetry questions from it, and playing this one. Thanks.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:02 pm

Hey, as someone who knows a little something about writing Science Monstrosity, let me offer a few pointers.

Please keep in mind that SM is a really hard tournament to write. Possibly the hardest of any tournament overall, in my opinion, and I feel that I speak as someone who should know. It's an extraordinary amount of work, and having actually produced (once) a 200/200 science tournament, I would never undertake something like this on my own again. It's also very difficult to find stuff to write on, so you will quickly find yourself exhausting the limits of the conventional science canon, adding to the difficulty. I say this not to discourage anyone from trying to do this, but rather to let you know what you're getting yourself into.

That being said, I would love to actually play an SM tournament; ironically, I have never done so, so for me, I would prefer not to get caught up in writing for such a thing. If you do decide to do this, I would recommend a writing team of no fewer than 3 people, each a specialist in the main branches of the science distribution. It wouldn't hurt to add a CS or Earth Science specialist too, although many physics people can write those questions competently.

Finally, an SM tournament is only viable if there's a field for it, and you can also get team-submitted packets that way, which will probably make things easier for you. I suggest CO for this, as always, although I suppose a tournament in the Boston area will probably bring in enough science types to make work. In any case, if you go with packet-submission, don't rely on teams submitting more than half of your tournament; I am absolutely serious about this. Be prepared to have to do at least half the writing from scratch, possibly more.

It's a tough thing to put together, but if you decide to go for it, I will definitely play.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:19 pm

Jerry's certainly right about these types of events being incredibly time-consuming, and I suspect he's right that science would be the most frustrating and difficult subject to write. My advice for any venture like this is not to set any date for a possible tournament - just start working on your own privately, write stuff as it comes to your mind, etc. When you get within a reasonable range of being done, then you can start looking for opportunities to run the tournament. Look for a tournament with a field that would make it worthwhile and go ahead with it. Hell, even I would play such an event, with my dilletante-ish science knowledge. Don't worry about there being enough interest - if you write it, there will be a time to run it at some point, at some tourney.

As for finding a mentor to look at stuff for you, that's going to be tough given you've picked science, I think. There are a handful of possibilities, but they probably want to play, or not get caught up in the editing process - and beyond them, the cup doesn't exactly overfloweth with people who know science well.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by vandyhawk » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:40 pm

I agree it'll be a trying venture, but probably well-worth it if you really put in the time and make yourself into another viable science editor/writer for the circuit. I'd follow Ryan's advice though on the timing. Even doing 19 rounds worth of bio and chem for CO, it gets hard to come up with new things and prevent overlap. Well, perhaps not bio so much for me personally, but for chemistry, there are only so many things you can ask about after a while. I imagine the same could be said for the "minor" sciences, while physics would likely depend on just how much physics you've taken.

If this winds up being at something like CO next year, and I make it there, I'd be like Jerry and want to play, since I also have never actually been able to play in a SM. If it's somewhere I can't be, I might be willing to give some feedback or whatever prior to the event, but don't hold me to it, esp. if I manage to defend this coming year and am starting a real job or something crazy like that.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Susan » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:47 pm

I have no intention of playing, but I can probably give you some feedback unless real life takes hold of me sometime soon.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:49 pm

Thanks for the advice, both of you. I agree that it's a better idea not to tie it necessarily to any one tournament and to set deadlines for deadlines' sake. The issues affecting my decision in that regard are twofold:

1. It's very possible (I'll even say likely) that next summer I'll be a TA at the best summer program I've ever attended. If CO is in July again, I won't be able to attend. Which will make me very sad, because it appears to be more fucking awesome with every passing year.
2. I really want the Harvard International, with catchy name and all, to become an important tournament. Hence its persuasive location (between the nationals ba-doom-chhh) and the fact that Bruce, Ted and I are working really, really hard on it.

That said, it's not like I can just make things work out the way I "really want" them to, and I'll hardly host it at HI if that would compromise its quality.

And Matt: even more exciting will be preventing overlap with the fifteen rounds of HI (plus two finals packets, plus the playoff rounds being differentiated requiring another thirty tossups and another thirty to forty bonus parts). You're absolutely right about biology; the potential canon there is huge. Chemistry's current canon is smaller, but I think its potential canon is almost as big. Physics is physics. Earth/astro could well have to undergo some expansion from what's traditionally asked, but not necessarily expanded into, like, inappropriately hard realms. We'll see: the size of the canon is the most likely obstacle to beat me.

Oh, and the tournament will be hosted in a place you can't be now you are my mentor hahahahaha. Seriously, though, it'd be great to have you, whether playing or consulting.

And Susan (people stop posting faster than I can reply dammit): thankyouverymuch. Attention, everybody, about 1/4 of the questions are now a lot less likely to suck.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:58 pm

I keep meaning to revive this tournament, and keep making up large lists of answer choices for it without ever really writing them. I've never played in a science monstrosity, and I'd welcome the opportunity to finally do so. Personally, I'd be fine with it if it were just 20/0 packets, since bonuses tend to eat away at the clue space.

I have two brief recommendations for you, though. I'd recommend, as Jerry did, asking for submissions; you'd probably get about 5 packets of usable stuff, then you'd be on your own for the other 5. Also, don't feel like you have to write about impossible answer choices; writing hard tossups on things that people know is a perfectly acceptable way to go.

Also, powers. Powers would be good.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by The Logic of Scientific Disco » Tue Jul 22, 2008 3:59 pm

Well, I obviously don't have anywhere near the expertise of the posters above me to offer advice, so I'll just put in a plug/strong request for this tournament to happen. I've always been very much more science-oriented than anything else, so a Monstrosity, pretty much wherever it is, would be really enjoyable for me.

Also, about the chemistry canon: it's pretty frustrating. I think the problem is that chemistry doesn't have the depth of theory that physics or math has, nor the broad set of subfields that biology has. I've spent a lot of the past couple weeks skimming recent issues of JACS (the foremost general chem journal), and it looks like there's a lot of potential out there for cool questions, but they don't connect all that well to what people see in even a lengthy college curriculum (though I was happy to see, for example, that Tanabe-Sugano diagrams made it into Gaddis).

Anyway, happy writing; I look forward to playing the result whenever/wherever it gets played.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:03 pm

ChrisK.MIT wrote:Also, about the chemistry canon: it's pretty frustrating. I think the problem is that chemistry doesn't have the depth of theory that physics or math has, nor the broad set of subfields that biology has. I've spent a lot of the past couple weeks skimming recent issues of JACS (the foremost general chem journal), and it looks like there's a lot of potential out there for cool questions, but they don't connect all that well to what people see in even a lengthy college curriculum
Yeah, I'm seconding this. The other problem is that quantum/physical chem seems to basically be quick-and-dirty quantum physics, which makes those tossups shift more towards physics than chemistry (like a tossup on hartree-fock could be in either category if you think about it)
ChrisK.MIT wrote: (though I was happy to see, for example, that Tanabe-Sugano diagrams made it into Gaddis).
I'm glad someone got this. I figured it would be you.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Auroni » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:06 pm

I'm glad that you want to do this, and best of luck writing it. I might staff a mirror of it or something.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Eärendil » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:11 pm

I'd love to play in this if it happens somewhere in California, but otherwise I can definitely help edit/write.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:16 pm

Eärendil wrote:I'd love to play in this if it happens somewhere in California, but otherwise I can definitely help edit/write.
Me too, though I suck at science more than I should.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by evilmonkey » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:52 pm

I suck at science, but I'd be willing to help write math questions for you.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Jeremy Gibbs Lemma » Wed Jul 23, 2008 5:21 am

I would be happy to work with you on the biology (mainly genetics, physiology, and microbiology) questions if you need help with any of that.

I really like this idea though.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by Gautam » Wed Jul 23, 2008 7:47 am

In full support of reviving this tournament, and expressing interest in writing, if need be.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by stevengfeldman » Wed Jul 23, 2008 5:39 pm

I'd offer to write, but I don't think I would be able to write up to the caliber of this tournament. However, I would be more than happy to play it, or staff a mirror.
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Re: Interest in a Science Monstrosity?

Post by leapfrog314 » Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:02 pm

I would love for this tournament to actually happen at some point. I don't have much experience writing questions of an appropriate difficulty, and am far too busy to be a major contributor anyway, but I'd love to help as much as I can.
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