castrioti wrote:It appears that my attempts to produce a quality set of physics questions has ended in disaster once again. I chose to help Eric and Gautam out because it seemed that no one better wanted to. I believed I could do it based on Seth's and Jerry's suggestions from a year ago and and an improved database. There may be some major differences in the way I see difficulty and the way physicists see difficulty. Learning more physics will only help somewhat; I do not have the frame of mind necessary for standardization. Therefore, in the future, I will not attempt to edit any further physics questions, but will bow out to those who have degrees in the subject for reasons I will explain later. But first, a few answers to above allegations:
I don't understand what "standardization" has to do with it. I spent a lot of time pointing to very specific problems with the questions I saw and explaining why those are problematic. It's not a question of "seeing difficulty" differently from me and Seth, it's a question of looking at your sources and deciding whether a clue is useful or not, or whether it's true or not.
First, I take exception to the suggestions of Jerry and others that these questions were written directly from Wikipedia.
Well, as I said, I found at least one "giveaway" clue that was linked to directly from the Wiki page for that answer, and a lot more things that looked like the information was pulled from the Wiki. If you didn't do this, then that's fine, but...
I have used Wikipedia before to confirm medium/easy associations of answers with clues (along the lines that "if it is listed here, and documented, then it could conceivably be known")
This is a terrible idea! Why are you doing this? The quality of Wikipedia's science entries nonwithstanding, even if we assume that everything on there is true, you can't just take Wikipedia to be representative of what people know. We don't read Wiki pages on the Pockels effect, we actually go to class and do research; as a one time scientist, you can't possibly not know this. So whatever the Wiki claims is associated with thing X has actually no relevance to whether or not anyone will answer that question.
Anyway, when I am checking clues, my chief perogative is to determine that they are correct, not whether or not they come from one particular source. As we see, this can fail with or without Wikipedia; what is needed is a primer on what is actually studied. I was not a physics major, so I do not have access to the full range of standard textbooks/classes someone might use/take (which turns out not to be so "standard" after all--Many universities use similar textbooks, but not all use the same ones, and class notes are often skewed to professors' interests).
So, for example, you can use MIT's OpenCourseware website, where there's lots of stuff available for free. Does some of it skew to a given professor's interest? Surely. But there's a great deal of standard coverage among science classes and there really are certain textbooks that are just canonical in many classes. Even when different textbooks are used the material is usually the same; you're going to learn the same things in the first semester of QM at any decent institution. As for checking sources, yeah, you need some kind of authoritative source, like a textbook. For most people I would tell them to go to their university library and check one out but I don't know if that's an option for you.
If you do not have this primer, you do what you can. Sometimes you fail (you will fail quite often if people demand a source in only a few specific texts which they see as "the only proper source"). I try my best to find a standard for this--I began by checking the catalogue for courses one might take at Berkeley to start out covering in my questions what should be covered in quiz bowl, with research clues from various encyclopedias, dictionaries, university physics program websites, textbooks, class notes, Harvard/Cambridge abstracts, JSTOR, or arXiv.
I'm not claiming at all that only a few textbooks are a proper source. I am telling you, for example in reference to a bonus on Ewald summation, that this is footnoted in one of the most popular graduate texts in solid state physics. So there I am sitting there like a moron going "This is what you do to find the Madelung constant, what the hell is it called?" and I don't understand why that couldn't be a question on the Madelung constat, or why, if you were absolutely determined to have Ewald be an answer, you couldn't give a clue about a much more famous thing he did which is the method of constructing the first Brillouin zone. This is the kind of thing you would be doing if you had a grasp on difficulty.
Second, for those who still insist I am trying to force ridiculous amounts of earth science down peoples' throats, your fundamental attribution error stemming from events from 8 years ago is noted. I am not now, nor have I ever been in favor of wildly expanding ESS distributions, only bringing ESS to the standard demanded of other questions (which, based upon people's answer selection and submissions, has dramatically improved over the past 10 years). I do not find 6/6 for the ENTIRE TOURNAMENT excessive, especially when all of the other sciences have greater distributions. If I were trying to write a vanity tournament, the ESS would all be geology--It was varied over geology, oceanography and atmospheric science. If randomization of packets resulted in more earth science than math/computer science or astronomy in the inital 20/20, that is a separate issue--I had nothing to do with randomization.
All right, I'll take your word for it. I was extrapolating from who was editing and what I saw as an excess of earth science relative to other categories, especially CS. It looks like I was wrong about that.
I regret letting Eotvos and Thomas pass due to the problems inherent with this type of tossup, which Jerry points out, and which can end up surfacing no matter whose science you choose to write about. Physicists have the best idea which clues should go where in these. You can attempt to arrange the clues by numbers of Google hits, but it looks like this is really a hit-miss way to approach it. I let these in as "other science" but I had my reservations, which is why I tended to re-write "people science" that was submitted as something significant contributed by the scientist being asked for. For these I apologize. There are also other Thomases, which is why I' required his first name. Perhaps this was overzealous.
No, see, that's not right. There's nothing wrong with a tossup that is basically stuff named after a scientist. I've written plenty of these questions and they're fine. For example, I recently wrote a tossup on David Hilbert from such clues (for VETO). But the difference is that there's lots of stuff relating to Hilbert that a) people encounter when they take classes in math and physics and b) can be arranged in a tossup in a pyramidal fashion. That's why Hilbert is a good tossup answer and Eotvos and Thomas are not; neither condition is satisfied for them.
As for the bit about "other Thomases," you've contrived to miss my point. Your first clue literally refers to a dude who is not Llewellyn Thomas (could not be him, even) and yet your answer line demands that people give his first name. But even if it weren't so, it would still be ridiculous to demand his first name because who is going to know that (well, I did, but still)? If the question were on the general I mentioned before, George Thomas, no one would demand a prompt; that would be crazy and irrelevant. If the answer is Douglas Adams the author, we don't prompt to distinguish him from John Adams the president (or even Richard Adams the author, for that matter). Not to mention that I literally do not know of another Thomas in physics who is particularly famous, and most people don't even know this Thomas!
Dispersion - You point out that KK imaginary and non-imaginary parts refer to electric permittivity. They do, but the implications of this clue were implications for dispersion related effects.
What a horrible rationalization; I'm not a mind reader, I have no idea what you're implying! If you're telling me that "The Kramers-Kronig relations link the real and imaginary parts of this thing" then I am going to buzz and say "permittivity," because that is the thing that matches the clue. I think it's pretty weird that I need to explain this, but that's how quizbowl works. It doesn't work by me guessing what you're trying to say. There are all kinds of ways to say what you wanted to say without confusing people (talking about the attenuation constant, for example) but the way you did say it was not right.
In retro, I see how this could confuse someone. However, there are dispersions of effects and in optics, it is not only a quality of materials, but it is quantitatively measured (or it would not be a distinctive quantity for materials identifications if it weren't). This question dealt with multiple types of dispersions. I suppose I should have picked ONE and stuck with it.
I get that dispersion is quantitatively measured; my point was about the usefulness of the clues you used. For example, as I pointed out before, you threw in a bit about the CEDM in there, which doesn't really link the listener to dispersion in any way. Maybe there is a link after all, but certainly not in the way you phrased it, and I'm not about to hear that and just guess something that happens in materials.
Sachs-Wolfe - The point of the SZ clue and other clues like it were to convey the information "these other phenomena can add to or subtract from" the shift caused by this effect. I am still not sure why this was confusing. I am not just dropping names, but also information that goes along with it. People shouldn't buzz just because they hear "SZ effect" or "giant" for Stark for that matter - listen to the context, not just the names being said. Isn't that the point?
Answering that in reverse. Your Pockels effect question began "Two bulk mechanisms for the quantum-confined version of this effect," at which point I made the eminently justified buzz of "Stark" because it has bulk mechanisms and a quantum confined version. Oops, fuck my knowledge. Was it so hard to put a "It's not the Stark effect, but..." at the beginning? Because that would have given context, which the question didn't have before.
As for the SZ/ISW distinction: as I said before, I've just spent 3 weeks studying this stuff. I'm taking an exam on it tomorrow. SZ and ISW are totally different; one comes from scattering, the other from gravitational interactions. Furthermore they are active in different parts of the spectrum: SZ operates at high multipole moments and ISW is most significant at low multipoles. I realize this sounds like gibberish to most people and doesn't really affect anything particularly, but it's just an example of sloppiness. To say that these are competing effects is to indicate that you didn't really look at what they are (again, something even Wikipedia will tell you). They may be "competing" in some trivial sense, but that statement is meaningless to people who understand what's being discussed.
Noether - I do not see in my notes that I required a prompt for this. I stated that Noether should be accepted, and Noether's 1st should be accepted. I have nothing in the answer line about symmetry. Is this moderator error?
I guess that's something that remained unchanged from the original submission. It should have been taken out.
Tridecavalent Iron for Seyfert Galaxies -- Obscure perhaps, but it was verified by several spectral studies. This clue sounded familiar, but I did not remember using it myself for anything in the past. As for Doppler Broadening, it is a classification issue in the question, not just "something that occurs here" among many other places. Again, the context is key.
Search for "tridecavalent iron" on google and you will be pointed to your own question from 2005 ACF Regionals. My research indicates that what it seems we're talking about is the K-alpha line in iron, whose position and width is indicative of the ionization state of the iron. I have no idea whether that evaluates to tridecavalent iron for Seyferts, though it might, since their K-alpha lines are stronger; in any case, that's a very confusing clue in my view. Reading an encyclopedia article suggests to me that Doppler effects are used in classifying all types of AGNs as well. I'm not going to argue that AGN is equivalent to Seyferts, but I do want to point out that, once again, the wording of your question is awfully confusing and at least partially ambiguous with respect to the answer being sought.
Langmuir Waves -- OK, up to this point you (Jerry) have been reeming me up one side and down the other for allowing parallel "people clues."
No! I never said that! What I said was that several of your questions were misguided in their choice of people to write about because the clues available for them are by and large useless to scientists.
Now are you going to demand that I use one in the giveaway? Again, I don't see why it is necessary to say that something from science is named for someone at all if the concept is important enough. Stuff in science gets named for people. That's how it happens. If we say, OK, no more references to peoples' names at all, even if they're attached to something important, the canon will be narrowed to a point that a full distribution without overlap will not be possible. I get that we don't like science biography or parallel people clues. But what Jerry and others are suggesting seems like melodramatic overkill of the point we're trying to make.
We're not saying that at all! No one is saying that. What I'm saying is that a) plasma physics is a legitimately hard topic that only a few people in quizbowl even have the slightest background in, b) Langmuir waves are a rather difficult and technical subtopic of that already difficult topic, and c) Langmuir has a few other important things named after him. The least you can do in such an instance is to try and jog people's memory a little bit; that's what I'd have done if I'd written a tossup on Langmuir waves. I'm not saying that this excuses my failure to pull the answer, but your giveaway was genuinely confusing to me (I remember studying Langmuir waves and I don't remember anyone ever telling me that they were the fastest matter waves). Not only that, but in my class, they were just called "plasma oscillations" and I'm not sure if Langmuir's name was attached to them more than once. So again, if I were writing this question, knowing what I know I would give people at least a hint that this was named after an important plasma guy and not expect them to just pull that information.
turbulence - Is the quark-gluon plasma rightly called a "phenomenon?" If I am going to pick an easy answer and write a hard question anyway, clues of this nature will be necessary. I figured it would be a new interesting approach to an old topic, and it certainly wasn't my intention to hose anyone.
I don't see why the quark-gluon plasma is not a phenomenon. More importantly, I don't see why you chose a single paper on Arxiv as your clue source; it's a virtual guarantee that not only have people not read the paper (usually a safe assumption) but they have also not even heard of this approach. I study early universe physics, I've been to conferences on early universe physics, I've read many papers on early universe physics, and I've never heard anyone talk about primordial turbulence. Not only that, but your very source seems to imply (I have skimmed the article twice now) that the turbulence in question is being studied in a quark-gluon plasma, which is believed to appear exactly on the timescale given by your leadin.
Ewald/Poisson/vdL-B - The first two have come up before, vdL-B hasn't. I wrote the 3rd part because the original three answers didn't seem hard enough to compete with others in the packet.
I feel like a broken record: that's crazy! Not hard enough? What are you talking about? Did any team get more than 10 points on this bonus? Raise your hands if you did, please. For the record, I don't remember the Ewald summation being an answer in any recent (i.e. within the last 3 years) tournament; the most it could have ever been was a clue for Madelung constant, but maybe I'm wrong about that. Regardless, those parts are ass-hard. The third part has only not ever been an answer, I don't ever remember it as a clue and I also don't remember ever encountering this nomenclature in years of QM and solid state classes.
It has become abundantly clear that my sense of what is easy is not what actual physicists sense is easy. I do not appear capable of making this kind of judgment with my current knowledge and databases. This goes for the other bonuses Jerry mentions. If you are exceptional in one science, that doesn't make you competent enough in another. Therefore, physicists should take over, or at least should oversee what is going into packets in future tournaments.
Well, your sense of easy can't just be "this is mentioned in a packet somewhere therefore everyone knows it" because that's not how people know things. It needs to be modulated by some sense of what's important in the field, hopefully gleaned from textbooks. I realize this is a challenge for people who are not scientists, but there's a lot you can do to mitigate these problems just by doing some research. I know when I've had to write chemistry and bio questions in the past, I would do my best to consult textbooks and other reputable sources and actually try and understand what's going on so that I wasn't just writing nonsense.
I make mistakes; we all make mistakes. I don't think people should be burned at the stake for an honest simple mistake and I've never advocated for such a thing. What I do think is that when you sit down to write questions, you are responsible for gauging their difficulty and evaluating clues for their usefulness and uniquely identifying aspect. The questions in this set didn't look like they were produced via such a method; they looked like they were slapped together without any particular regard for those standards. I'm not accusing you, Wesley, of laziness so much as I think you just did a sloppy job that you thought would be good enough and it turned out not to be. It is also not my intention to make you stop editing questions, even physics questions, altogether. Rather, I want this thread to be a learning experience (via, unfortunately, mostly negative examples) for people who may have to write or edit physics and other science without specialist knowledge. The key points that I am trying to get across is that specificity matters, uniqueness matters, correct sourcing matters. That's true for all questions, but science presents a special problem, and I just want people to learn from this and move forward writing good science questions even if they're not on the most inventive topics ever.