Let's compare two tossups:
If you read it, or read the most important sections, you can firstline it. (and presumably the question writer also read it, so this isn't on the wikipedia page; then you'd have to read it to get it) If you know the broad ideas presented, what kind of thing Hume would write, or happened to hear "Of Miracles" before, you can get it in the middle. All's good. This is what pyramidal was made for!7. This work makes a distinction between chance and probability and describes how events that occur in the universe cannot be determined by chance, in “On Probability.” This work’s author dismissed the claim that ideas can arise without impressions, a problem raised by determining a missing shade of blue. This work critiques the possibility of a “violation of the laws of nature” in its section “Of Miracles.” It differentiates between “relations of ideas” and “matters of fact,” which leads the author to question whether we can trust scientific claims, which are based on inductive inferences. For 10 points, name this empiricist work written by David Hume.
There are very few high schoolers that understand and can use tensors, in any way. Very very few of those people are quizbowlers. There are tons of quizbowlers, like me, who have merely memorized the word "Cauchy" and tagged it to "Hooke's Law".20. One expression of this law includes lambda and mu, the Lamé parameters. The compliance tensor appears in its 3-dimensional generalization, formulated by Cauchy. The constant parameter appearing in this law can be approximated using the bulk modulus and Young’s modulus. The integral of this equation with respect to displacement gives an expression for elastic potential energy, and it is only applicable up to the elastic limit. It states that the restoring force is proportional to the displacement, or “F equals negative k x.” For 10 points, name this law describing the behavior of springs.
If I wanted to get real knowledge for the first tossup, I could find the text online, go to that section, and read his argument. I could also go to SEP and get a quicker overview. In both cases, I'd truly understand it. If I wanted to do the same for the first, I'd have to pick up a book on tensors -- and it'd be much slower going. Science is cumulative. In one week, I might be able to do calculations with the compliance tensor. In another week, I might start to understand what's actually going on. That's, of course, assuming I have the prereqs... if I didn't, it'd take another few weeks to learn the rest of the math.
...or, I could just memorize that it's "Cauchy's Law"! Because honestly, there aren't that many variations on Hooke's Law. By glancing at the terms in the Wikipedia page and skimming over the 'see also' pages, I could basically guarantee firstlining any high school question on Hooke's Law. Meanwhile, my friend is actually learning science, but by the time he's done with tensors I've already done the same process to a hundred other tossups.
The issue is twofold:
1. Everything not-science seems to inherently have more details. That's what makes the works rich. A book is full of anecdotes and stories on every page! A chemistry, physics, or math textbook is 90% proofs, calculations, examples, and intuition, and only 10% defining the kinds of proper nouns that can be used as quizbowl clues. The result is that getting deep science knowledge is useless and extremely slow.
2. The clueable things that science does have are often less important, in a sense. For example, most questions on curves have clues about how you can trace it out by drawing lines from a hyperbola onto a circle rolling on a parabola... honestly, who cares? If you're trying to get deep knowledge, you'll never once run into this. I'll wager the great majority of mathematicians don't know any of those things and don't care. I don't care either. I want to go learn how Maxwell's four equations can be combined into one, and god forbid, that leaves me with even less clues!
(i'll add that you'll never see anybody bragging about how many formulas they know... more often, people brag about how few they know, or how they can rederive the results they need as they go)
If you try writing a good first/secondline for a science question and you're not careful (or get it off wikipedia), it'll either end up unimportant, or advanced/legit -- in both cases, only gettable by fraud (and very easily, too, if it was wiki'd).
I know everybody here hates Science Bowl, but it at least lets you distinguish between somebody who deeply understands X, somebody who's studied X, somebody who knows a bit about field Y and thinks X would make sense, and somebody who memorized 'X --> answer Z'. Science Bowl makes you do science; Quizbowl makes you learn the words that scientists say.
Is there any way to fix this situation? Should it be changed? Is it not even an actual problem? Am I just spouting a load of ?
(disclaimer: this isn't true for all science questions, many of which are just fine, though it does seem to be much higher for NAQT.)