Question Specific Discussion

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Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Sun Oct 07, 2012 12:40 am

Hi all. Ask away and we will post tossups and bonuses that are problematic. Since we are going to mirror this set at our site we want as many errors / hoses to be flushed out.

Discuss.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by JamesIV » Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:19 pm

Some observations:

-Vincent Van Gogh, though he studied, worked, and died in France, was not French. He was Dutch.

-The question on Six Characters in Search of an Author, if I recall correctly, claimed that Madame Pace appears in the first scene of the play. I believe Madame Pace actually appears much later in the play.

-The title of the Venerable Bede's most famous work is Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, or The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was written by Winston Churchill.

-I was bemused to Pope Gregory and his calendar included in a bonus that, as I recall, was supposed to be about "medieval" ways of keeping track of time. I would love to know how 1582 is "medieval."

-The bonus part on Rimsky-Korsakov had as its third part Scheherazade, a title which had been dropped in the second part.

-The tossup on Siddhartha claimed that the title character finds enlightenment with Gotama. This is absolutely incorrect - much of the plot is driven by the fact that Siddhartha is not satisfied with the teachings of Gotama. Siddhartha's friend, Govinda, does become a disciple of Gotama, but does not attain enlightenment.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Sun Oct 07, 2012 3:00 pm

Thanks! I've fixed the problems outlined already.

Oh, and in case anyone wants the set for discussion purposes, email me at Sephiroth________________0kouko@gmail.com , where you have removed that hideous underscore.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Oct 07, 2012 3:26 pm

I can't remember moderating a set where I had to correct so many errors on the fly. This was very frustrating. There were many errors or underspecific answers on actual answer lines themselves, which less experienced moderators could take at face value and could very well ruin a game. Here are a few that I wrote down; I'm sure I'll find more once I go through the whole thing.

The Battle of Bull Run did not take place in 1961. The Armenian genocide took place while the Ottoman Empire was still in existence (1914-15). Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With is a direct depiction of Ruby Bridges being escorted to school in New Orleans, not a depiction of New York City. The tossup on "death" gave no indication on how to accept an answer of "grief," despite 2.5 lines of the text being on Kubler-Ross's stages of grief (which are often generalized outside of their original death/dying context). Hamlet very notably has more than one soliloquy, so that isn't a specific enough answer and should probably be prompted so the player says "To be or not to be" or "Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1". Mithra is the older Persian/Zoroastrian deity and is usually presented as distinct from Mithras.

I have absolutely no idea how anyone playtested this set to anyone and let "ANSWER: Kievan Ru" or "Marbury Colloquy" got onto the page rather than "Rus" or "Marburg" - even if these were innocent typos, I'm shocked that no one writing, editing, or playtesting this set knew enough to spot them on sight. These two are just embarrassing.

It could also be made somewhat clearer that the Gaspard de Coligny mentioned in the 30 Years' War tossup is a descendant of the much more famous one who died in 1572 during the French wars of religion, just to avoid confusion.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Sun Oct 07, 2012 3:31 pm

I only actually read three rounds of this, so my comments are going to be somewhat cursory.

Packet 1
The first clue in the tossup on "symmetric" is thoroughly impossible to parse. I spent a good three minutes staring at it and could not figure out what you meant by "...it implies A and B are equal if the relation holds for A to B and B to A." I now see that you're basically trying to translate the definition of "antisymmetric relation" on Wikipedia (not saying you sourced it from there) into a quizbowl question, but it just... didn't work. The next clue states that there exists something called a "symmetry operation" and maybe does something like an XOR on them. I have no idea what that clue is referring to, and also what do you mean by "the difference of elements"? Are you implying that there is something like a subtraction operation involved? So in any case, now that nobody was probably able to buzz on those two clues, the next clue states "This type of function, such as x+y, produces the same output when the order of the inputs are altered." Negbait for "commutative" right there.

Packet 2
The leadin to the tossup on "bases" shouldn't refer to "these compounds" because not all bases are compounds (halogen ions, etc).

I don't know anything about Frank Lloyd Wright besides what I've heard in quizbowl, but I'm led to believe that his last name is just "Wright"; and in any case, I don't think it's hyphenated.

Packet 4
In the bonus part on "semiperimeter", I might suggest also accepting on things like "half the perimeter" because that's what the semiperimeter is.

Packet 6
The Aum Shinrikyo attacks used sarin, not ricin. (It doesn't look like you can gasify ricin, btw).

Packet 8
I wonder who you expected to buzz in the first three sentences of the "Japanese" tossup besides maybe Guy Tabachnick (who, as it happens, did not play this tournament).
  • I guess the study you're referencing in the first sentence is something by Tetsuya Sano. I literally cannot find a copy of this study either in English or Japanese anywhere on the internet. This is perhaps unsurprising because the one reference I found to it (in some sort of MIT publication) refers to the study as a "Paper presented at Keio University", i.e. unpublished.
  • The third sentence "Ellipsis of subject and direct object in this language is natural, since there exists a constraint in putting the verb last" tells us "okay, this is a null-subject language (I think that's the term) and is presumably SOV or OSV". But according to Wikipedia, "Of the thousands of languages in the world, a considerable part are null-subject languages, from a wide diversity of unrelated language families", and the previous sentence pretty much explicitly states that the language is SOV anyway.
  • The fourth sentence states "In this language, it is customary to insert particles, such as “ga,” when answering a question." I'm more or less fluent in Japanese and I can't really figure out what this is supposed to mean. Maybe you're referring to the "softening" use of contrastive conjunction particles at the end of sentences that are answers to questions? But anyway, I don't expect that anybody who hadn't studied a bit of Japanese would be able to buzz off of that clue.
So this tossup basically degenerates into its last three sentences for people who are neither Japanese-speaking nor linguists (which is a large portion of people who play quizbowl!), the first of which contains the notably Japanese-sounding (and well-known) word "Ryukyuan"!

Packet 9
Who is "Tissarkkha"? There are no results on Google for this.

Packet 11
I don't like how the tossup on "hydrogen atom" is just a tossup on "atom" for the first half and then suddenly becomes a tossup on hydrogen in the second half. That strikes me as lazy question-writing.

Modern classification schemes avoid referring to cyanobacteria as "algae", and modern quizbowl questions should do the same.

Packet 12
The clue about a "pivot element" seems extremely misplaced in the first sentence of the "sorting algorithms" tossup.

(aside: I was tremendously amused by the bonus part on Cincinnati.)
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill » Sun Oct 07, 2012 3:42 pm

A bonus in the twelfth packet claimed that Metternich was Australian.
Mary Tudor is NOT Mary, Queen of Scots.
I could've sworn Yannick Agnel was big enough news during the 2012 Olympics to make him too well-known for the first line of a toss-up on "swimming", but that's a bit more subjective.
JamesIV wrote:-The question on Six Characters in Search of an Author, if I recall correctly, claimed that Madame Pace appears in the first scene of the play. I believe Madame Pace actually appears much later in the play.
I guess this could've been referring to her appearing in the first scene of the play-within-a-play.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:25 pm

Matt:

I assure you we playtested the questions with Rosenberg and Sorice. What I probably should have done is read through the entire tossup even if someone kills it, which is an oversight on our part. There were originally five or six errors in that Rus bonus part. I thought we caught all of them, so I definitely introduced some.

I'm not sure what you are referring to about the Hamlet answerline, as it is this: "to be or not to be" soliloquy [prompt on Hamlet's soliloquy]. I'm not convinced someone will give the answerline of "Act III Scene I, and Line XXX" but I guess I really should be taking that shouldn't I?

Also, I'm not going to try to completely defend any errors under my supervision, but I'll cite Westbrook's defense of his editing of John's Princess Cass tossup - the important thing is that The Problem We All Live With is given without error - when I read Collegiate Novice and the good high school set by Joe Nutter et al. this weekend (both of which were great sets I thought) - I caught numerous errors that were just wrong, but I wouldn't describe them as a frustrating moderating experience.

I know there's been numerous arguments about anti-prompting but I, like a lot of others strongly do not believe in anti-prompting: when Sorice answered that tossup he pointed out the same thing but ultimately concluded that those who buzz in and say grief have not understood basic principles and should be negged. (Maybe a discussion for another topic?)

Ashvin:

For reference it's the symmetric difference operation from set theory. I really do not know what you mean by impossible to parse? Are you trying to say that moderators can't read it to teams clearly? I read it to Sorice and he buzzed on that clue. Also as far as I can tell, functions cannot be commutative - only operands can (which can you effortlessly turn into a function...), but I can see why it would be interpreted as a hose so I'll fix that.

Billy agrees with your bases criticism on bases - thanks for pointing out these types of things, I know they are anal, but we aimed to be very specific with all the clues. Same thing about the algae criticism - we should say "colloquially" instead of "classified" as blue green this.

Yeah, I probably wrote that Japanese tossup to be too hard. I did write it out of MIT courseware if I remember correctly. It'll get fixed.

Tissarkkha here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=pBxpTw ... ee&f=false


The clue about a "pivot element" seems extremely misplaced in the first sentence of the "sorting algorithms" tossup.
Are you basically saying describing (randomized) quicksort in the first line is a bit too easy?

Hey Robert:

My packet says Austrian. I'm thinking this is a moderator error.
Sorry you're right obviously, that's Mary Stuart.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Sun Oct 07, 2012 5:01 pm

Ike wrote:For reference it's the symmetric difference operation from set theory.
Ah, okay. I now see that you're trying to allude to "the this difference operation" without actually saying that by saying "difference of elements", but I still don't know what the isolated phrase "difference of elements" means. I think you should replace this with "...and returns the elements that are found in...".
I really do not know what you mean by impossible to parse? Are you trying to say that moderators can't read it to teams clearly? I read it to Sorice and he buzzed on that clue.
I meant difficult for someone listening to the question to parse. I suppose I'll defer to people with more experience than me, then, but I only just managed to wrap my head around what you meant by a relation holding for "A to B". The use of the word "to" there was confusing to me because I don't conceptualize relations as going "from" one thing "to" another thing. This might just be me, though, in which case please do ignore this.
Also as far as I can tell, functions cannot be commutative - only operands can (which can you effortlessly turn into a function...), but I can see why it would be interpreted as a hose so I'll fix that.
Okay, yeah, Plus(x,y) can't be described as commutative, but you clearly have it in operand form x+y in the text of the question, so I think it's worth changing.
I see. You're missing a vowel: "Tissarakkha".
The clue about a "pivot element" seems extremely misplaced in the first sentence of the "sorting algorithms" tossup.
Are you basically saying describing (randomized) quicksort in the first line is a bit too easy?
More or less. Knowing that there is such a thing as a "pivot element" in quicksort seems to be one of the best-known things about sort algorithms besides the names of various algorithms.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Oct 07, 2012 6:44 pm

Ike wrote:Matt:

I assure you we playtested the questions with Rosenberg and Sorice. What I probably should have done is read through the entire tossup even if someone kills it, which is an oversight on our part. There were originally five or six errors in that Rus bonus part. I thought we caught all of them, so I definitely introduced some.
Yes - when playtesting tossups, you should go through the rest of the tossup even after someone buzzes. Otherwise, you won't catch a lot of things which might be wrong or suboptimal later in the question.
I'm not sure what you are referring to about the Hamlet answerline, as it is this: "to be or not to be" soliloquy [prompt on Hamlet's soliloquy]. I'm not convinced someone will give the answerline of "Act III Scene I, and Line XXX" but I guess I really should be taking that shouldn't I?
Hm, when I read it, I thought it said "accept Hamlet's soliloquy" but it actually doesn't upon looking back. My bad. Yeah, prompting "Hamlet's soliloquy" is the right thing to do, but it wouldn't hurt to add "Hamlet's third soliloquy" and "Hamlet's Act 3, scene 1 soliloquy" as possible correct answers for people who identify it that way.
Also, I'm not going to try to completely defend any errors under my supervision, but I'll cite Westbrook's defense of his editing of John's Princess Cass tossup - the important thing is that The Problem We All Live With is given without error - when I read Collegiate Novice and the good high school set by Joe Nutter et al. this weekend (both of which were great sets I thought) - I caught numerous errors that were just wrong, but I wouldn't describe them as a frustrating moderating experience.
This set of words was written really, really confusingly. But I think I get what you're trying to say, and it's wrong.

So, Ryan's defense of messing up the Princes Cass tossup was pretty stupid - it assumes that the point of editing is to make things juuust clear enough that someone with vague knowledge will reflex-buzz, and then stop worrying about it any further if things aren't actually accurate beyond that point. This is absurd on its face, since quizbowl is about rewarding people who properly know facts, and people who properly know facts get confused and deterred by inaccuracy, even if that inaccuracy is small.

There are some people who would get the Rockwell part from hearing the correctly-worded title The Problem We All Live With and undergoing an instant binary association, regardless of whatever else they heard. But not everybody will. Most players are less robotic than that, and many will get confused and confounded by the error in description, when the description is supposed to be there to aid them. (After all, why give a description at all if the only thing that's important is listing title after title?) "Oh what the hell, people will get it from the title anyway" is not a valid excuse for making factually inaccurate descriptions, and I'm disappointed that you'd push back by making excuses rather than just fix the question.

I don't care too much whether reading errors in other people's sets is frustrating to you or not, but I'm confused as to why that has any bearing on how I felt, and doesn't make the way I felt about this set illegitimate. Again, I don't really know what you intended to say, because those words are really really unclear, but it seems like you're trying to tell me that I follow your example and just put up with errors as I read without feeling bad that they're there. I find that pretty wrong. More generally, I disagree that I should find the status quo, in which every so-called 'great' set has multiple glaringly obvious factual errors, acceptable just because other people are used to it. If I misinterpreted you, let me know.
I know there's been numerous arguments about anti-prompting but I, like a lot of others strongly do not believe in anti-prompting: when Sorice answered that tossup he pointed out the same thing but ultimately concluded that those who buzz in and say grief have not understood basic principles and should be negged. (Maybe a discussion for another topic?)
So, uh, I'm not a fan of anti-prompting either. I didn't say you should anti-prompt grief (grief isn't a more specific version of death, so that wouldn't even make sense.) I actually think you should either reword those clues so they're unambiguous or cut them outright.
the tossup in question, round 5 wrote:7. Attitudes towards this concept were examined in a collection edited by Herbert Feifel, whose 1959 monograph on it also includes Herbert Marcuse’s work on an “Ideology of” this idea. Ernest Heckner examined humanity’s survival mechanism to it in his book on The Denial of [this concept]. The acronym DABDA is often used to explain the process of dealing with this phenomenon. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud theorized that a drive towards this is opposed by eros. A five stage model of coping with this occurrence ends with acceptance and begins with denial - that work was written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. For 10 points, name this phenomenon, the end of a human life.
ANSWER: death [accept equivalents, such as dying, or people passing away]
My issue is that if someone buzzes with "grief" during the sections in green, the wording makes that answer seem totally right. If someone's memorized the acronym DABDA for some reason, and buzzes there, they won't realize their answer is wrong until eight words later (and if they buzz on "process of," it's true at that point that the acronym describes the process of grief). For the second section, it is possible to say someone is "coping with" grief by going through those five stages, even if that's not the most accurate description of what grief is or why Kubler-Ross wrote what she wrote. Now, it's obviously more true that the question is describing "dealing with death" or "coping with death", but at the pace these words are going it's hard to read the question-writer's mind and get to that answer.

On a totally unrelated note, describing a five-stage progression as a "work" "written by" Kubler-Ross, rather than a "model devised by" her, is pretty confusing.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Sun Oct 07, 2012 7:25 pm

This set of words was written really, really confusingly. But I think I get what you're trying to say, and it's wrong.

So, Ryan's defense of messing up the Princes Cass tossup was pretty stupid - it assumes that the point of editing is to make things juuust clear enough that someone with vague knowledge will reflex-buzz, and then stop worrying about it any further if things aren't actually accurate beyond that point. This is absurd on its face, since quizbowl is about rewarding people who properly know facts, and people who properly know facts get confused and deterred by inaccuracy, even if that inaccuracy is small.

There are some people who would get the Rockwell part from hearing the correctly-worded title The Problem We All Live With and undergoing an instant binary association, regardless of whatever else they heard. But not everybody will. Most players are less robotic than that, and many will get confused and confounded by the error in description, when the description is supposed to be there to aid them. (After all, why give a description at all if the only thing that's important is listing title after title?) "Oh what the hell, people will get it from the title anyway" is not a valid excuse for making factually inaccurate descriptions, and I'm disappointed that you'd push back by making excuses rather than just fix the question.

I don't care too much whether reading errors in other people's sets is frustrating to you or not, but I'm confused as to why that has any bearing on how I felt, and doesn't make the way I felt about this set illegitimate. Again, I don't really know what you intended to say, because those words are really really unclear, but it seems like you're trying to tell me that I follow your example and just put up with errors as I read without feeling bad that they're there. I find that pretty wrong. More generally, I disagree that I should find the status quo, in which every so-called 'great' set has multiple glaringly obvious factual errors, acceptable just because other people are used to it. If I misinterpreted you, let me know.
I think you read me mostly correctly. Well I've fixed the error already - obviously I want to get these things right. But largely, I'm just finding it hard that it's a "very frustrating" experience for moderating. I certainly don't write my questions so that you just should be buzzing based on titles and binaries.

Oh, that thing about Mithra and Mithras - I've certainly seen them used interchangeably: http://books.google.com/books?id=aYUVAA ... ra&f=false is just one example of using Mithra for the Roman god.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Scaled Flowerpiercer » Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:40 pm

One math bonus describes a method for obtaining a set with cardinality aleph_1 by taking the power set of N, but this is only true if the continuum hypothesis is taken to be true, which can't really just be assumed due to the whole independence from ZFC thing.

I may have just not heard something which made it more uniquely identifying, but if I remember correctly an early clue in the Helen tossup mentioned her being disguised in a cloud, which happens a lot to a lot of people in myth.

With regard to the symmetric question discussed above, I found the first clue to be fairly understandable, though the "to" terminology was odd, and the second clue I remember not understanding at all (despite knowing what the symmetric difference operator is) - it also seemed something like lazy question writing that both the symmetric and linear tossups had first clues on "anti" varieties of things.

The Japanese tossup, though I know very little about Japanese, was confusing at the "In this language, it is customary to insert particles, such as “ga,” when answering a question." clue, as it sounds very much like Ancient Greek up to what could easily be a moderator mispronunciation (the particle "ge" is often inserted when answering a question as it is typically translated "yes" or "indeed"), though I suppose that doesn't necessarily make the clue wrong.

Also, a teammate of mine claimed that in the King Lear bonus, someone is called a nephew of someone who is not their uncle.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:52 am

One math bonus describes a method for obtaining a set with cardinality aleph_1 by taking the power set of N, but this is only true if the continuum hypothesis is taken to be true, which can't really just be assumed due to the whole independence from ZFC thing.
You're right. I'll get around to fixing that.
I may have just not heard something which made it more uniquely identifying, but if I remember correctly an early clue in the Helen tossup mentioned her being disguised in a cloud, which happens a lot to a lot of people in myth.
The tossup is here:
One legend states that this figure spent much of her life incognito in Egypt, and she was replaced by a copy of herself made out of clouds. In The Odyssey, she receives nepenthe from Polidamma, and it is told she was able to imitate the voice of men’s wives. The Aeneid describes the ignominy of this woman, who mutilates the body of Deiphobus, her last husband. She is both sister and sister-in-law to Clytemnestra, and her mother Leda was impregnated in the form of a swan. Fifty men came after her after she fled from Sparta to the court of King Priam. For 10 points, name this woman married to Menelaus then Paris, who was largely responsible for the Trojan War.
ANSWER: Helen of Troy
The first two sentences should probably be grammatically linked. I hope this will resolve any ambiguities.
With regard to the symmetric question discussed above, I found the first clue to be fairly understandable, though the "to" terminology was odd, and the second clue I remember not understanding at all (despite knowing what the symmetric difference operator is) - it also seemed something like lazy question writing that both the symmetric and linear tossups had first clues on "anti" varieties of things.
This seems to be causing some confusion about the to terminology, so I'll explain it briefly. From my understanding, stuff like "greater than or equal to" gives a partial ordering and is thus an antisymmetric operator. If a relation is R it may be the case that xRy, but it is not the case that yRx necessarily. I guess I could reword it so that this property holds if the relations exists for xRy and yRx and thus implies that x and y are equal, but that struck me as even more confusing, since relations are defined as taking in values from the Cartesian product of the set with itself.

Also I wrote the symmetric tossup and Billy Busse wrote the linear tossup. It's just coincidence that we used anti clues.
The Japanese tossup, though I know very little about Japanese, was confusing at the "In this language, it is customary to insert particles, such as “ga,” when answering a question." clue, as it sounds very much like Ancient Greek up to what could easily be a moderator mispronunciation (the particle "ge" is often inserted when answering a question as it is typically translated "yes" or "indeed"), though I suppose that doesn't necessarily make the clue wrong.
Also, a teammate of mine claimed that in the King Lear bonus, someone is called a nephew of someone who is not their uncle.
Thanks, I'll see what I can do to prevent that from happening - I"m sorry if that hosed you. I'll look into this King Lear thing.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Masked Canadian History Bandit » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:15 pm

I don't have my notes with me right now, so this will be short.

"Mao Zedong Thought" should be in the answerline for Maoism, since that's the official CCP name. I'm also not sold on outright accepting "Chinese Communism" because that's a system that's constantly changing. Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, Three Represents, and Harmonious Society/Scientific Development are quite different.

The "Saskatchewan" tossup clues fit Alberta until the second sentence, since Lake Athabaska straddles the border. Also, "Turnor's Willow" isn't another name for the Athabaska Sand Dunes, but a plant species found in those dunes.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by JamesIV » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:12 pm

Ike wrote:
Also, a teammate of mine claimed that in the King Lear bonus, someone is called a nephew of someone who is not their uncle.
...I'll look into this King Lear thing.
If memory and a quick look over the Dramatis Personae for King Lear serve, I don't think there are any uncle-nephew pairs in that play.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Chimango Caracara » Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:40 pm

JamesIV wrote:If memory and a quick look over the Dramatis Personae for King Lear serve, I don't think there are any uncle-nephew pairs in that play.
I don't remember hearing the uncle thing in the question but the Fool does call Lear "nuncle" so maybe that's what it was referring to.

I thought calling an ideal gas a "system" was kind of screwy, especially since you had to say "ideal gas" and not just "ideal" (which I buzzed with and was prompted on but got negged because I could not think of what the tossup was looking for).

Whoever included "kinkajou" as a bonus part is the best person.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:01 am

Chimango Caracara wrote:
I don't remember hearing the uncle thing in the question but the Fool does call Lear "nuncle" so maybe that's what it was referring to.

I thought calling an ideal gas a "system" was kind of screwy, especially since you had to say "ideal gas" and not just "ideal" (which I buzzed with and was prompted on but got negged because I could not think of what the tossup was looking for).

Whoever included "kinkajou" as a bonus part is the best person.
Yes, that's what we referred to in class - which is why that clue is in there. Also it seems wikipedia puts it in their dramatis personae as well for whatever reason.

That's a pretty unfortunate neg, however I think there are other ideal systems, such as an ideal solution, so I would say that has to be prompted, either way, we'll look into it and at the very least make sure we say prompt on "ideal systems."
Thanks about the kinkajou. I personally think animals should be part of the geography distribution every now and then since we can't shoehorn it into the bio distribution.

Matt, when you get the opportunity, can you explain to me why in your mind the answer of poorhouse should not be taken for the workhouse bonus part - my Broadview anthology book refers to workhouses as "poorhouses" and "poor French Bastilles." I understand that the term poorhouse also has an older use though, at least according to The Internet. Also, there was a pivotal game I played at Jerry CO one year where the opposing team won a game due to them saying poorhouses for workhouses, which they won after they protested.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:18 pm

I wasn't a big fan of the scattering tossup. I was considering buzzing with "collisions" or "things bouncing off each other," but I've never thought of scattering as a "type of problem" like the question was asking. I'm not sure if that's just me or not, though.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:54 am

Can you post the Japanese tossup? For what it's worth, I thought the leadin to the sign languages tossup was great, but the Japanese tossup was really frustrating to play.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Oct 22, 2012 12:52 pm

Yeah. I apologize for that. I was supposed to fix it before hand, but it slipped from me to do so.

A 2003 case against the A-chain deficit hypothesis cites this language’s “full unaccusatives” and “full passives.” Greenberg first cited this language as evidence of his thesis that all subject-object-verb languages are postpositional. Ellipsis of subject and direct object in this language is natural, since there exists a constraint in putting the verb last. In this language it is customary to insert particles, such as “ga,” when answering a question. This language gives its name to a family of languages that also includes Ryukyuan. Words that are brought into this language may be written in Romaji. For 10 points, identify this language which employs the hiragana and katakana writing scripts.
ANSWER: Japanese or Nihongo

I edited it to this immediately after the tournament for future use:

11. Joseph Greenberg first cited this language as evidence of his thesis that all subject-object-verb languages are postpositional. In the 20th century, a certain country’s government mandated that any newspaper that used "words" that were not part of the 1,945 most common ones in this language had to print them with a special reading aid that facilitated their pronunciation. In medieval times, the country using this langauge adopted the script of kanbun to translate texts into it. In this language, it is customary to insert particles, such as “ga,” when answering a question. Words that are brought into this language may be written in Romaji. For 10 points, identify this language which employs the hiragana and katakana writing scripts.
ANSWER: Japanese or Nihongo

I'm hoping this is a better tossup, but I'm no linguist. If you have any general advice on what to avoid and how to write better linguistics tossups, let me know.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Mon Oct 22, 2012 1:33 pm

I'm also no linguist, and I'd love to hear what people actually in the field have to say on the topic, but here are my two cents: it doesn't seem like a good idea in general to write linguistics questions on particular questions languages using "linguistics" clues. Non-linguists aren't going to know those clues because they're very technical in nature, and linguists aren't going to know them either because linguists don't usually sit around and learn the linguistic features of major world languages. Writing questions on languages from a more historical/cultural perspective (e.g. the second version of the Japanese tossup) works much better since people actually know about the historical/cultural features of major world languages.

Of course, writing questions this way effectively makes questions on languages not-linguistics, and so there remains the question of what topics in linguistics should be asked about instead; I figure this topic has been well-discussed by a cabal of quizbowl linguists at some point, and would probably be a distraction from the set discussion in this thread.

While I'm here, a nitpick: it's more precise to describe kanbun as an "annotation system" or something rather than as a "script". Also, it might be a good idea to move the sentence "In this language, it is customary to insert particles, such as “ga,” when answering a question" one or two sentences earlier (direct knowledge of Japanese is presumably more worthy of an early buzz than knowledge about Japanese; and also - I still don't know what this sentence means! Can you provide a reference for what you're basing this clue on?).
Last edited by Excelsior (smack) on Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Oct 22, 2012 4:23 pm

Really Quick: http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa051301a.htm

"When a question word such as "who" and "what" is the subject of a sentence, it is always followed by "ga," never by "wa." To answer the question, it also has to be followed by "ga.""

It was one of the few things I learned in really elementary Japanese, which is why I put it so late.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Mon Oct 22, 2012 4:24 pm

Well, if that's what you're referring to, it's bizarre to say that its use is "customary", because that use of "ga" is grammatically necessary.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:28 pm

I agree with Ashvin that writing linguistics tossups on individual languages is generally a bad idea. Not only are the clues usually things that linguists are unlikely to know, they're also usually not uniquely identifying, like the clue about subject and object ellipsis, which applies to many, many languages. I don't want to clog up this thread with discussion of QB linguistics, so I'll just say that the linguistics at MAGNI would be a good thing to emulate.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Edmund » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:08 pm

As I posted in the general discussion, I really liked the set, but it was riddled with small factual errors that made it seem unpolished. I think many of my gripes have already been addressed, especially the super-general "atom" tossup that later turned out to be talking about hydrogen atoms. But just a few matters that I can recall on which I will seize the opportunity to be pedantic:

1. Please learn when to use "English" and when to use "British". The Act of Union that formed the Kingdom of Great Britain took place in 1707. Only for figures alive during that time period, such as the Duke of Marlborough, should there be any doubt over which adjective is the more appropriate descriptor of nationality. If you describe someone born later as "English", you must have a good reason to do so. Housman is an example of quintessentially "English" poet for instance - but English only in the same sense that you might wish to describe Robert E. Lee as "Virginian" rather than "American".

2. I am an electrochemist, so I request better factual understanding of that subject:
This equation describes the voltage of an electrochemical cell at any set of conditions in terms of the voltage of the cell at standard conditions. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this equation, named for a German chemist.
ANSWER: Nernst equation
[10] The Nernst equation, or its multi-ion variant, the Goldman equation, can be used to compute this quantity for a neuron, the voltage across the membrane when no signals are being transmitted.
ANSWER: resting potential [or resting voltage, do not accept action potential]
[10] The Nernst equation can be derived by looking at how this quantity changes due to changes in reaction conditions, then dividing by the total charge. It is given by the number of moles of electrons times the voltage times the Faraday constant. It is equal to 0 when a reaction is at equilibrium.
ANSWER: Gibbs free energy [prompt on free energy]
Ok, so: the Nernst equation does not give the voltage under "any set of conditions", it gives the voltage of a cell specifically at equilibrium. The misuse of the Nernst equation for nonequilibrium conditions is a common real-world blunder and was basically the cause of the whole cold fusion fiasco in the 1980s.

Further, I post on this twice a year, but could we please stop describing the Goldman(-Hodgkin-Katz) equation as a "variant" or "general" form of the Nernst equation? It is NOT. The Nernst equation is a completely general thermodynamic expression that applies to all of any number of ions in a multi-component system at equilibrium. The GHK equation is a specialised equation for membranes - usually biological ones - that applies the Nernst equation approximately to a transport system that is frequently not at equilibrium.

Third, the last two sentences in the third part apply to _Gibbs energy change_ (between reactants and products) and not to _Gibbs energy_.

3. Winston Churchill did not say "“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to the few" as implied by the first part of that bonus.

4. Technical science stuff:

- "which treats a sample with a namesake range of the spectrum to generate a graph of absorbance vs. wavelength." is not a useful clue for _UV-vis_ spectroscopy since all forms of optical spectroscopy do this.

- The wavefunction of two bosons is by no means necessarily symmetric. The wavefunction of two indistinguishable bosons must be.

- The question on _orbitals_ talked exclusively about molecular orbitals for the first half and then exclusively about atomic orbitals for the second half. Since they are distinct concepts - the former only exist subject to a certain way of looking at the quantum electronic structure of a molecule - this seems a bad idea.

- "These elements serve as great leaving groups since their -1 anions possess a full octet." Although both statements are correct, "since" is not: the full octet does not give halide ions their good leaving group ability. Leaving group ability basically depends on the pKa of the conjugate acid. Fluoride is not a great leaving group; the hydroxide ion has a full octet and is a lousy leaving group. So while it contains the necessary clues, this statement is just plain wrong.

- micelles are not necessarily spherical.

5. Some other neologisms or dud phrasing that I spotted:

- do not describe Nately's whore as his "accomplice".
- "conflated with" does not mean "compared with" or "contrasted with". I think it was used correctly with respect to the Victorian era and the Industrial Revolution, but not elsewhere.
- "accept Marty Stuart" for "Mary, Queen of Scots" - though Marty sounds like a fun guy, this is not right.
- calling George III "this guy" does not seem to add anything.
- "The man who started this period of time..."
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:20 pm

Edmund wrote: 3. Winston Churchill did not say "“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to the few" as implied by the first part of that bonus.
Could you post that bonus line? I remember being a tad confused by the wording.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:23 pm

Regarding the Churchill point, are you referring to the imprecise wording in the bonus part or did Churchill never actually say those words, as implied by every transcript of his August 20, 1940 speech I've read?
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Masked Canadian History Bandit » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:26 pm

Cheynem wrote:Regarding the Churchill point, are you referring to the imprecise wording in the bonus part or did Churchill never actually say those words, as implied by every transcript of his August 20, 1940 speech I've read?
The Churchill line is "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" while the airmen of the RAF who fought the Battle of Britain are sometimes called "the few".
IFT Packet 4 wrote:11. The speech that praises this group notes “All hearts go out to [them], whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes every day.” For 10 points each:
[10] Identify this group, consisting of the Royal Airforce, which completes the line of a speech that states “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to” them
ANSWER: the Few
[10] The “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” speech was delivered by this British Prime Minister, who also noted “We shall fight them on the beaches … we shall never surrender.”
ANSWER: Winston Churchill
"The Few" never completes the line identified in the bonus part, so that question's wrong.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:48 pm

This seems rather pedantic if it's merely an issue of 'so few' or 'the few.' However, if it's about the lead-in, then, yes, that is confusing because in the original speech the line is "All hearts go out to the fighter pilots," not the few.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) » Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:17 pm

Cheynem wrote:Regarding the Churchill point, are you referring to the imprecise wording in the bonus part or did Churchill never actually say those words, as implied by every transcript of his August 20, 1940 speech I've read?
Just the nebulous supposed "this group" relating to a generic answer threw my team off a bit; one of us knew the quote but we were a bit confused by the semantics.
Edited for clarity
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Edmund » Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:01 pm

Masked Canadian History Bandit wrote:The Churchill line is "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" while the airmen of the RAF who fought the Battle of Britain are sometimes called "the few".
Cheynem wrote:This seems rather pedantic if it's merely an issue of 'so few' or 'the few.
IFT wrote: Identify this group ... which completes the line of a speech that states ...
My issue is that the question requests that you "fill the blank" and then the answer line completes the quote incorrectly. The triple repetition of "so" is what makes this one of Churchill's memorable orations. The RAF are indeed known as "the Few", however, because of this speech. So you have different bits of the question leading to different answers. My point boils down to: if a speech is so historically important that it's worth quoting verbatim, get it right.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Dec 03, 2012 12:09 am

Okay, I have mixed feelings for a lot of what you said Edmund.

On the stuff I agree with: I thought I fixed the Churchill part to address the problem above. I'm sorry about that. I do agree that by and large scientific descriptions should be more accurate whenever possible and we should not be striving to take things for granted - like micelles are not always spherical. I do agree saying "This guy" is unfortunate and a bit cacophonous. I'll make sure to find something better in the future.

But seriously, do you realize how pedantic these complaints are? You're seriously complaining about the phrasing based off of, as opposed to based on. Now, if this really confused the British audience, I'm sorry and I will fix it. But from the Scottish person I talked to in my physics class briefly about it, there is no ambiguity. As an example not from this tournament, I saw a packet in practice the other day that began with the sentence "One of his texts arose from a debate with..." Now as far as I can tell, books don't rise to be written, but that doesn't matter. The context of the question makes it quite clear what is going on and it didn't confuse me. Now if something really is that confusing, please say so.

On the larger topic of clues as a whole on science, Billy pointed out that you are correct in every case and will try to fix it, but at the same time, he thought you were being extra pedantic for no reason other than for the sake of being correct. By and large, that's going to happen every time, questions have to get written over a finite time span, and we're going to miss certain descriptors that quantifies the topic at hand over the right domain. However, the questions you point out really didn't really confuse anyone, who is playing as far as we can tell. If there was a person who is confused, we'll ask you to speak out.

Also, I really don't know what you are talking about with the word "conflated." Kensho was conflated with satori by some schools of thought, and Imhotep and Asclepius became interchangeable in later Egyptian traditions. That and the Victorian Period example were the only instances of the word "conflated" being used in the version of the set I have.

From the above examples, I think these complaints are pointless: I'm not going to change my writing style, other than the fact I'll make sure to not suck at copy editing and removing various typos. By and large, the things that I want Billy to improve at as a science writer have nothing to do with what you pointed out. If there's one thing I have noticed in many tournaments, it's that often times the readers complain a lot more about a tournament than the actual players, and most of the time, it's on topics that seem to me really pedantic and dumb to discuss. This happened at MAGNI and some tournaments of ACF I have been to in the last year.

Looking back at this post, I think it's a little bit grumpy. That's a bit unintentional, but at the same time I feel like I have to defend myself from what seems to be a lot of things that are actually not that big of a deal. As an example, I counted five / six factual errors in Minnesota Open 2012. I didn't post about them because oh well, they happen, and pointing them out will not really help anyone improve as a writer.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Dec 03, 2012 2:40 am

On the larger topic of clues as a whole on science, Billy pointed out that you are correct in every case and will try to fix it, but at the same time, he thought you were being extra pedantic for no reason other than for the sake of being correct.
You should take factual accuracy more seriously than literally anything else in your questions.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:34 am

I don't think Ike's denying that, I think his point is that gross factual inaccuracies are one thing, pedantic quibbling about what's a "variant" is another (note: I'm not actually saying Edmund is wrong because I don't know anything about the Nernst equation).

To use a field I'm more familiar with, if I referred to Adolf Hitler as a "German leader" instead of "Austrian-born leader of Germany," that would be technically incorrect, but I can't see it confusing anyone. My point here is that factual accuracy is correct and that it should be strived for, but in my opinion critiques of questions should be more about substance than pedantry. As Ike points out, quizbowl's length and time constraints sometimes require slightly fudging the exact phrasing of things.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Dec 03, 2012 2:49 pm

Cheynem wrote:I don't think Ike's denying that, I think his point is that gross factual inaccuracies are one thing, pedantic quibbling about what's a "variant" is another (note: I'm not actually saying Edmund is wrong because I don't know anything about the Nernst equation).

To use a field I'm more familiar with, if I referred to Adolf Hitler as a "German leader" instead of "Austrian-born leader of Germany," that would be technically incorrect, but I can't see it confusing anyone. My point here is that factual accuracy is correct and that it should be strived for, but in my opinion critiques of questions should be more about substance than pedantry. As Ike points out, quizbowl's length and time constraints sometimes require slightly fudging the exact phrasing of things.
I think Eric's comment is justified in light of this exchange:
RyuAqua wrote:
Ike wrote: Also, I'm not going to try to completely defend any errors under my supervision, but I'll cite Westbrook's defense of his editing of John's Princess Cass tossup - the important thing is that The Problem We All Live With is given without error - when I read Collegiate Novice and the good high school set by Joe Nutter et al. this weekend (both of which were great sets I thought) - I caught numerous errors that were just wrong, but I wouldn't describe them as a frustrating moderating experience.
This set of words was written really, really confusingly. But I think I get what you're trying to say, and it's wrong.

So, Ryan's defense of messing up the Princes Cass tossup was pretty stupid - it assumes that the point of editing is to make things juuust clear enough that someone with vague knowledge will reflex-buzz, and then stop worrying about it any further if things aren't actually accurate beyond that point. This is absurd on its face, since quizbowl is about rewarding people who properly know facts, and people who properly know facts get confused and deterred by inaccuracy, even if that inaccuracy is small.

There are some people who would get the Rockwell part from hearing the correctly-worded title The Problem We All Live With and undergoing an instant binary association, regardless of whatever else they heard. But not everybody will. Most players are less robotic than that, and many will get confused and confounded by the error in description, when the description is supposed to be there to aid them. (After all, why give a description at all if the only thing that's important is listing title after title?) "Oh what the hell, people will get it from the title anyway" is not a valid excuse for making factually inaccurate descriptions, and I'm disappointed that you'd push back by making excuses rather than just fix the question.

I don't care too much whether reading errors in other people's sets is frustrating to you or not, but I'm confused as to why that has any bearing on how I felt, and doesn't make the way I felt about this set illegitimate. Again, I don't really know what you intended to say, because those words are really really unclear, but it seems like you're trying to tell me that I follow your example and just put up with errors as I read without feeling bad that they're there. I find that pretty wrong. More generally, I disagree that I should find the status quo, in which every so-called 'great' set has multiple glaringly obvious factual errors, acceptable just because other people are used to it. If I misinterpreted you, let me know.
and the substance of the comment that Eric is responding to. In both cases, Ike seems to suggest that factual inaccuracies are inconsequential unless they ended up affecting a game.
Ike wrote: From the above examples, I think these complaints are pointless: I'm not going to change my writing style, other than the fact I'll make sure to not suck at copy editing and removing various typos. By and large, the things that I want Billy to improve at as a science writer have nothing to do with what you pointed out. If there's one thing I have noticed in many tournaments, it's that often times the readers complain a lot more about a tournament than the actual players, and most of the time, it's on topics that seem to me really pedantic and dumb to discuss. This happened at MAGNI and some tournaments of ACF I have been to in the last year.

Looking back at this post, I think it's a little bit grumpy. That's a bit unintentional, but at the same time I feel like I have to defend myself from what seems to be a lot of things that are actually not that big of a deal. As an example, I counted five / six factual errors in Minnesota Open 2012. I didn't post about them because oh well, they happen, and pointing them out will not really help anyone improve as a writer.
I'm not sure where any kind of need for "defending" oneself enters into this discussion. Mistakes happen and, consequently, this set has mistakes. If you can still fix the mistakes (there's another mirror and/or the set hasn't been released yet), fix the mistakes. If you can't fix them, just acknowledge them / apologize, and move on.

In the case of Minnesota Open, considering there's another mirror, I have no idea why you wouldn't tell them about the factual errors. Surely, they would want to correct these? Why, knowing that there are more people who are going to play these questions, would you let errors stand?

Incidentally, one of Edmund's points (about "Servius Tulius built one of the first types of these structures for Rome") did, in fact, affect me. I refused to buzz on walls for a very long time for precisely the reasons Edmund outlines: this sentence suggests that the structure that Servius Tulius built was one of the first types ever built; and I considered walls but thought "well, no way it could be walls, because walls predate the Romans by eons".

I understand why it's annoying to read correction lists, because it seems like praise gets drowned in a sea of nitpicks and it can even seem like people are attacking the overall quality of the set. (I felt this way about the MAGNI discussion that you mention.) I won't speak for the others: I thought this was a good set, and, on balance, better edited than ACF Fall 2012. I don't have a real stake in the particular mistakes being mentioned, I'm just worried by your rhetoric in response to people pointing out errors.

To your point of "pointing them out will not really help anyone improve as a writer": well, they sure as heck won't if your attitude is just to dismiss them as "pointless" or to say things like "I'm not going to change my writing style"! In response to Edmund's complaint about the wall clue, one could derive the guideline: "During copy-editing, for each clue, actively consider whether there are possible ways that it could be misconstrued by someone hearing it, and if so, whether there is a less ambiguous way to reword it that will avoid this problem".
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Dec 03, 2012 3:01 pm

The wall point makes sense because it's something I could easily overlook and then during an actual game note that it could come off as ambiguous. I guess what I'm saying is that it becomes very difficult to separate real critiques from pedantic nitpicks when they're just sort of lumped together in a correction list.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:00 am

Alright, I should clarify what I'm trying to say a bit.

Above, there was an example of micelles not entirely being spherical, but I point out that this is a really trivial point. In fact, I encountered this bonus:
[10] Above the Krafft temperature, amphipathic molecules form these small spherical structures, which have their hydrophobic regions pointing inward.
ANSWER: micelles
<Mukherjee>
I don't know about you, but I found this bonus part to be entirely fine, even though it has the same spherical error. I'm getting it, Billy Busse is getting it, and the next guy over who knows something about a micelle is getting it. My main problem lies in the fact that I've been fielding a lot of complaints about this IFT question is that it's somewhat inaccurate, even though people with knowledge will be getting it. Furthermore, quizbowl is replete with such trivial errors. Look, I'm really concerned when I, Billy or Austin confuse the players: every time a player looked confused at IFT at our site, I wrote it down and made an attempt to fix the question for the next set of mirrors. But I won't be losing sleep if I don't account for every possible scenario in every possible universe.

In case this example doesn't capture entirely what I'm trying to say, let me just provide another example. I have never seen a quizbowl question that has uniquely specified a Turing machine. Even in Pennance, which had the best computer science in quizbowl I have ever played, there were some things that were just not 100% correct, because if Saajid wanted to get everything right, he would need so much knowledge and so much foresight to pin things down. I don't think the point of a quizbowl question is to uniquely define any particular topic. The point of a quizbowl question is to make it so that people who are playing the activity will say "Turing Machine" if they truly know what one is.

So, there seems to be this impression that I’m supporting factual inaccuracies or being really lazy. As I hope is clear from what I'm saying in preceding paragraphs, that’s not the idea what I am trying to get at here. What I am trying to say is that writers and editors will often not uniquely specify something because the only reason for doing so is just the sake of being right and doing so would take a ridiculous amount of time and energy.

Unlike science, I think in the humanities, it is much easier to specify something correct with a unique combination of words. But my argument isn’t really about trying to use accurate facts to screw with people a la that Hitler example. As for the above: I enjoyed that Princess Cass question, and here’s why: I was 50% sure it was Princess Cass on the first clue and then heard a plot clue that sounded very Henry Jamesian, and then I took the buzz. I mean sure, those details, some of them are wrong, but the essence of what constitutes Henry James was in that tossup, and that’s why I liked it a lot. So yes, I think that it’s unfortunate that there were factual inaccuracies in that question. Also, I think no one is really getting hurt by that question, as it's not like anyone is going to buzz in and say Daisy Miller because of those factual errors. But what no one is really talking about, is what that question does right, such as capturing James's essence.

Okay, so I will give Cody and Andrew via email the small errors that won't screw anyone over I found in mathematics and other things that he did for Minnesota Open. But my point is that, I don't want to criticize for the sake of criticizing.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:23 am

Ike wrote: In case this example doesn't capture entirely what I'm trying to say, let me just provide another example. I have never seen a quizbowl question that has uniquely specified a Turing machine. Even in Pennance, which had the best computer science in quizbowl I have ever played, there were some things that were just not 100% correct, because if Saajid wanted to get everything right, he would need so much knowledge and so much foresight to pin things down. I don't think the point of a quizbowl question is to uniquely define any particular topic. The point of a quizbowl question is to make it so that people who are playing the activity will say "Turing Machine" if they truly know what one is.

So, there seems to be this impression that I’m supporting factual inaccuracies or being really lazy. As I hope is clear from what I'm saying in preceding paragraphs, that’s not the idea what I am trying to get at here. What I am trying to say is that writers and editors will often not uniquely specify something because the only reason for doing so is just the sake of being right and doing so would take a ridiculous amount of time and energy.
I know no science, so I cannot speak to whether Edmund's particular comments amount to "pedantry" or not, but I want to address the other bits of rhetoric below, which are rather troubling.
Ike wrote: Unlike science, I think in the humanities, it is much easier to specify something correct with a unique combination of words. But my argument isn’t really about trying to use accurate facts to screw with people a la that Hitler example.
I'm not sure how you're interpreting the Hitler example that Mike Cheyne provided. (What does "use accurate facts to screw with people" mean?) Hitler is indeed a German leader the same way George I is a British king, because even though they were not of that nationality, they served those functions for their respective countries. If someone wrote a question on Hitler that said "Name this German", then I think anyone who corrected it would be right to do so, and would not be engaging in "pedantry". The fact that he is Austrian is non-trivial: people who think he is German have often been brainwashed unawares by Nazi Anschluss rhetoric that characterizes Austrians as merely Germans by other names rather than as a separate nationality, which is a problematic viewpoint. But even if this particular issue weren't at stake, this is still not like the "micelle" case above: in this case, there is no justification for providing less correct information for reasons of "quizbowl efficiency", since "Austrian" and "German" take up almost the same amount of space.

To take this further, everyone will correctly guess Hitler if I say "Name this leader of Nazi Germany from 1933-1945". It seems that by your logic, if I accidentally append something incorrect to this statement that sounds vaguely correct (e.g. "who replaced Hindenburg as Chancellor"), but which won't interfere with buzzing/answering given the other information, then complaining about this inaccuracy is somehow "pedantic". At least this is how you responded to Matt Jackson's perfectly legitimate complaint about the "The Problem We All Live With" bonus, which misreported one of the most fundamental facts about that work. Why lies need to be more than just lies in order to be worth fixing I do not know.
Ike wrote: As for the above: I enjoyed that Princess Cass question, and here’s why: I was 50% sure it was Princess Cass on the first clue and then heard a plot clue that sounded very Henry Jamesian, and then I took the buzz. I mean sure, those details, some of them are wrong, but the essence of what constitutes Henry James was in that tossup, and that’s why I liked it a lot. So yes, I think that it’s unfortunate that there were factual inaccuracies in that question. Also, I think no one is really getting hurt by that question, as it's not like anyone is going to buzz in and say Daisy Miller because of those factual errors. But what no one is really talking about, is what that question does right, such as capturing James's essence.
You presumably buzzed before the inaccuracies set in. For the record, here is my original Princess Casamassima tossup, followed by Ryan's rewrite, with the sentences that were made incorrect in bold:
The fourth essay in Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination is on this novel, and places its protagonist within the tradition of the “Young Man from the Provinces”. The plot of this novel is set into motion by a meeting in a theater box during a performance of The Pearl of Paraguay. The protagonist of this novel has an affair with the resident of Medley Hall. Early in this novel, Mrs. Bowerbank chaperones the protagonist as he visits his dying mother in Millbank prison. One character in this novel has an invalid sister named Rosy, who is attended to by the philanthropic noblewoman, Lady (*) Aurora. The fiddler Mr. Vetch is the only friend of the dressmaker who raised the protagonist, Amanda Pynsent. The protagonist is given the task of assassinating a duke by Hoffendahl, whom he met through Paul Muniment. The title character of this novel had previously appeared in the author’s earlier novel Roderick Hudson, and is named Christina Light. For 10 points, name this novel in which Hyacinth Robinson gets involved with revolutionary politics and the title royal, by Henry James.
ANSWER: The Princess Casamassima
The fourth essay in Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination is on this novel, and places its protagonist within the tradition of the “Young Man from the Provinces”. The plot of this novel is set in motion by a meeting in a theater box during a performance of The Pearl of Paraguay. The protagonist has an affair with the resident of Medley Hall. Early on, Mrs. Bowerbank chaperones the protagonist as he visits his dying mother in Millbank prison. One character has an invalid sister named Rosy, who's attended to by the noblewoman, Lady (*) Aurora. The fiddler Mr. Vetch is the only friend of the dressmaker who raised Amanda Pynsent. She's given the task of assassinating a duke by Hoffendahl, whom he met through Paul Muniment. The title character of this novel previously appeared in the author’s earlier novel Roderick Hudson, and is named Christina Light. FTP, name this novel in which Hyacinth Robinson gets involved with revolutionary politics and the title royal figure, a book written by Henry James.
ANSWER: The Princess Casamassima
So, the root of the problem is that my original sentence had an ambiguously worded appositive, which could be interpreted as meaning either that Amanda Pynsent is the dressmaker or that she is the protagonist. The former is correct, but the latter is what Ryan apparently thought I meant. His reworded version radically changes the plot because it now makes the novel about a woman named Amanda Pynsent who is trying to assassinate someone. If you think that changing the gender/character of the protagonist somehow still preserves the "essence" (whatever you are using that vague term to mean), I have to disagree. What is preserved are the names that function as buzz points; what is altered is the fundamental content of the novel. The fact that when this dissonance arises in a clue, most people go for it and buzz anyway, because enough descriptors are right, does not somehow make this fine. (Also, as a rule, it's a dumb idea to fix a potentially confusing sentence based on some kind of guess, rather than simply looking up what the actual plot of the novel is, especially since the latter takes about two seconds.)

My larger objection to this is that it seems to part of a view of the role editor that makes playability the only goal, rather than the primary or one of the primary goals. Fact-checking is an essential part of editing.
Ike wrote: Okay, so I will give Cody and Andrew via email the small errors that won't screw anyone over I found in mathematics and other things that he did for Minnesota Open. But my point is that, I don't want to criticize for the sake of criticizing.
I do not understand your conflation of correcting errors for the sake of accuracy and "criticizing for the sake of criticizing".
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:18 pm

John, I was going to respond to you point by point, but I realized that I a lot of what I'm saying may not make sense if you don't get my science example. Just so you can see my example, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_machine, and look at the formal definition of a Turing machine, by Hopcroft and Ullman. This is the definition I've always used. It's a very detailed and super useful definition in academia. Aside from the Hopcroft and Ullman book, every other textbook I've come across uses a definition this detailed. Leaving out any part of this definition makes it technically wrong. What I'm saying though however, is that saying something to the extent of "This model has an infinite tape" and some other things, is good enough for me within a quizbowl context, because I'll know what you are talking about, and so will anyone else familiar with a Turing machine. So in this case, elision of factual components of the description is fine.

As for the Hitler example, I agree with you. What I don't support however, is something of a question that says "Name this Swiss magical realist" and the answer being Carpentier, as happened at some tournament. Now, I suspect if I did that for IFT, a lot of people would be very confused. I don't like it, because you're just withholding points from teams, for the sake of withholding points.
I do not understand your conflation of correcting errors for the sake of accuracy and "criticizing for the sake of criticizing".
I can't tell if this is a joke about conflation that occurred earlier in the thread, but whatever. I'll just try to give some background on what I'm saying. I think tournament editors are by and large are overworked and up exhausted. The image of Zeke moderating at 2010 ACF Nats on Saturday still sticks with me - he looked as if it was his 5th night up in a row. I don't like to go around being pedantic, because by and large tournament writing is a thankless job and tournament editors often put their creative energies on higher-order goals. When you read an entire book to write a tossup on it, and get criticized for something small it really sucks. So, I would much rather let the editors know they did a good job and just not complain, than to make critical points of the sort that I'm talking about in the first paragraph of this post.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:58 pm

But I won't be losing sleep if I don't account for every possible scenario in every possible universe.
I'd like to think that David Lewis has written a book about the ethics of modal realism as it pertains to quiz bowl.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:37 pm

Plan Rubber wrote:I wasn't a big fan of the scattering tossup. I was considering buzzing with "collisions" or "things bouncing off each other," but I've never thought of scattering as a "type of problem" like the question was asking. I'm not sure if that's just me or not, though.
Scattering is a term of art. If you said either of those things, I'd prompt you, but I wouldn't accept is as an answer.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:01 pm

So, let me just start by saying that I did not play this tournament (self-evident, I suppose) and have seen no question that was not posted in this thread. I don't even actually know how I wound up being part of this group since I didn't request to be added, but hey, whatevs. I'm here.

Now, I'm kind of sympathetic to Ike's point about science, which is that trying to get something like a complete definition of the Turing machine into a question is impractical. There's a sort of "good enough" point where you just can't stuff more into a question for length reasons; obviously you should do your best to make sure that everything you do put down is accurate, but it seems to me that complaining about how micelles are not necessarily spherical, while technically correct, doesn't really help anyone all that much. One of the problems of writing science is that if you delve deep enough, you can find all sorts of special cases and ambiguities and exceptions; of course, again, you should be as accurate as possible, but it's simply not plausible to expect even a really good writer to account for every possible confusion. This is just a general point and not intended as an endorsement of any particular questions in or not in this tournament.

With that aside however, I find this:
"One of his texts arose from a debate with..." Now as far as I can tell, books don't rise to be written, but that doesn't matter. The context of the question makes it quite clear what is going on and it didn't confuse me.
combined with this:
I'm not going to change my writing style
to be kind of troubling. I mean, yes, I understand what you mean, but still: books don't "rise." The fact that you, Ike, are having trouble seeing this, is not just an incidental feature of your writing. It's why I've found tournaments you've contributed to frustrating to play over the years. You seem to be operating on the assumption that all those other words that aren't proper titles or whatever are just glue, and if you abuse the language it doesn't matter. But it does matter. First, it sounds awful; why not just say "One of this man's works was inspired by a debate with..."? It's the same information, but now it sounds better. Second, these relatively harmless mistakes lead to more serious mistakes because they're indicative of a particular attitude towards writing. If this were a one-off, I'm sure it would be no big deal, but since you have a history of writing convoluted and unparseable sentences that have caused players consternation in the past, people aren't going to cut you slack for it. So I think it would seriously behoove you to consider changing your writing style. If you're having trouble phrasing something properly, you should ask for help. What you should not do is adopt Ryan's quite stupid argument wholesale. Questions are not just lists of relevant proper names or technical terms or whatever; they're like mini-essays in some ways, and I think you should put a lot more care into the way you put them together than you presently seem to be doing.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Edmund » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:56 pm

Ike wrote:Okay, I have mixed feelings for a lot of what you said Edmund.

...

On the larger topic of clues as a whole on science, Billy pointed out that you are correct in every case and will try to fix it, but at the same time, he thought you were being extra pedantic for no reason other than for the sake of being correct.
So I hope I was clear that I liked the set and I thought the content was well edited. If not I will make that plain now. You are absolutely right that none of the points I made is that big of a deal.

I am operating on the assumption that "Question Specific Discussion" is precisely the place for pedantry. I have no intention of being pedantic in general discussion of the set. If I post a long list of things that are wrong, it doesn't mean that all together they amount to a grave problem with the set, or a criticism of the hard work that went into it. But if no-one else does so, I would like to point out mistakes of accuracy or ambiguity, rather than stay silent. And in some cases, I will point out what I view as mistakes of style, although you are well entitled to disagree with me on these.

Particularly in science I see certain mistakes or misconceptions repeated again and again. When there's a mistake, I don't know if it's a typo or because the editor was rushing, or because the editor genuinely doesn't know that the question is wrong or factually imprecise. Some dud clues like the Nernst equation being a "special case" of the GHK equation seemed to get ingrained in the canon by repetition. Hopefully by identifying these points it benefits anyone in terms of improving the accuracy of their question writing, including people not involved in preparing the IFT set but who are reading this thread anyway.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:02 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Plan Rubber wrote:I wasn't a big fan of the scattering tossup. I was considering buzzing with "collisions" or "things bouncing off each other," but I've never thought of scattering as a "type of problem" like the question was asking. I'm not sure if that's just me or not, though.
Scattering is a term of art. If you said either of those things, I'd prompt you, but I wouldn't accept is as an answer.
Yeah, my main point was about the pronoun. If it called it a "phenomena," or a "process" or something I'd have been less confused than when it called it a "type of problem." Obviously there are scattering problems, but that could also apply to pretty much anything - you do "angular momentum" or "kinetic energy problems in intro mechanics, but you'd call those quantities in a tossup.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Auroni » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:03 pm

It is a special case of the Nernst equation, though...
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Edmund » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:09 pm

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:It is a special case of the Nernst equation, though...
Entirely true.

edit: or, rather, it can be derived directly from the Nernst equation. The GHK equation can be made to hold approximately even under conditions where the Nernst equation does not hold formally. And yes, I am touchy on this subject.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Dec 06, 2012 11:45 pm

Plan Rubber wrote: Yeah, my main point was about the pronoun. If it called it a "phenomena," or a "process" or something I'd have been less confused than when it called it a "type of problem." Obviously there are scattering problems, but that could also apply to pretty much anything - you do "angular momentum" or "kinetic energy problems in intro mechanics, but you'd call those quantities in a tossup.
I would go so far as to say that "scattering problems" is a term of art as well, at least in my experience. They're a distinct class of problems with distinct techniques that are involved in solving them, so I'd feel comfortable writing (as I think I've done once before) a question that had that as an answer.
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Cody » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:00 am

Yeah, if you ever write a tossup on scattering, you'll find a plethora of very academic sources on the "scattering problem."
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Ike » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:57 am

to be kind of troubling. I mean, yes, I understand what you mean, but still: books don't "rise." The fact that you, Ike, are having trouble seeing this, is not just an incidental feature of your writing. It's why I've found tournaments you've contributed to frustrating to play over the years. You seem to be operating on the assumption that all those other words that aren't proper titles or whatever are just glue, and if you abuse the language it doesn't matter. But it does matter. First, it sounds awful; why not just say "One of this man's works was inspired by a debate with..."? It's the same information, but now it sounds better. Second, these relatively harmless mistakes lead to more serious mistakes because they're indicative of a particular attitude towards writing. If this were a one-off, I'm sure it would be no big deal, but since you have a history of writing convoluted and unparseable sentences that have caused players consternation in the past, people aren't going to cut you slack for it. So I think it would seriously behoove you to consider changing your writing style. If you're having trouble phrasing something properly, you should ask for help. What you should not do is adopt Ryan's quite stupid argument wholesale. Questions are not just lists of relevant proper names or technical terms or whatever; they're like mini-essays in some ways, and I think you should put a lot more care into the way you put them together than you presently seem to be doing.
Jerry, I pretty much agree with this. In the past, I certainly have written questions that lacked clear linkages between ideas, and I have failed to express what I want to say or anything at all. There were many reasons why I playtested questions with Mike Sorice and Aaron Rosenberg, one of which was that I wanted to see how people who hadn't been exposed to those questions would be able to comprehend and think on them. We removed many ambiguities, and tweaked the sets in some ways. I think if you look at much of the set, you will be convinced that a lot of it wasn't "just drop buzzwords" and proceed. The questions provide detailed explanations and try to make linkages to their larger context.

FWIW, I originally intended the full sentence of what you quoted to mean "I'm not changing my writing style for that type of scientific precision" that you outlined in the first part of the post. Not, "I'm not going to change my writing style because I don't agree with you."
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by Black-throated Antshrike » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:47 am

Plan Rubber wrote:Yeah, my main point was about the pronoun. If it called it a "phenomena," or a "process" or something I'd have been less confused than when it called it a "type of problem." Obviously there are scattering problems, but that could also apply to pretty much anything - you do "angular momentum" or "kinetic energy problems in intro mechanics, but you'd call those quantities in a tossup.
My textbook specifically calls the overall ways that scattering occurs as "The Scattering Problem"
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Re: Question Specific Discussion

Post by touchpack » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:49 am

Here's the scattering TU:

15. One method for solving this type of problem assumes the potential is spherically symmetric and expresses the solution as a sum of partial waves. Solving this type of problem entails finding the angle in terms of the impact parameter. The square of the namesake amplitude of this process is equal to the differential cross-section. The resulting intensity of one form of this process is inversely proportional to the fourth power of the wavelength, leading to the blue color of the sky. For 10 points, name this general process in which a particle or a wave interacts with an object and deviates from a straight trajectory, which has a variant named for Rayleigh.
ANSWER: scattering

I wrote this question using Griffiths' book on quantum mechanics as my primary source. I was actually able to find part of the scattering chapter online here. As you can see, it talks about the "classical scattering problem." I figured that anyone who has taken a class that has discussed scattering theory would not get confused by the wording, and further, I don't think of scattering in the general sense as a single phenomenon, but rather a type of phenomenon. (as experienced quizbowlers know, there are many, many different named types of scattering which are distinct phenomena, but are all fundamentally just "things bouncing off eachother.") Furthermore, I intentionally referenced the scattering amplitude in a very direct manner to make sure that anyone who knows the material can buzz with confidence in the answer. I don't know how it played in your room Joe, but if you got so confused by the word "problem" that you didn't hear when the tossup switched to "process," I apologize, but I'm not sure what you expect me to do about that.
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