BARGE General Discussion

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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby theMoMA » Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:55 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Design patterns are totally A Thing, especially amongst Java people.


It's also something that's Come Up, so it's not like this tournament is the fount of the pernicious computer science text trend. I thought that was actually a fun bonus to play as someone with a passing interest in computer science but little technical knowledge to distinguish your stacks from your heaps, or what have you.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby gyre and gimble » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:38 pm

I agree that things like Tyrfing should rarely be tossed up, and was merely expressing that I was happy to be able to answer a tossup on it because I had never seen it done before. However, I think the only reason Tyrfing shouldn't be tossed up is because it can be rather transparent that it's the cursed sword from Norse myth. But people dismissing Tyrfing as a minor name that appears in the Eddas are mistaken. Like Rob said, the sword is central to the Hervarar Saga, which comprises most of the Tyrfing Cycle. I think the Tyrfing Cycle is pretty important to the study of Germanic and Norse mythology, and if we've got questions on stuff like Njal's Saga, we can certainly have questions on the Herverar. Answer lines that are less transparent might be "Herverar Saga" or "Angantyr," or people could use Tyrfing clues on a tossup on dwarves. It's certainly not obscure enough to be ignored, but it was too difficult for BARGE.

Also, I'm not sure why you would ever need to answer with "Tyr's finger" as opposed to Tyrfing, but I guess it's a valid answer since that's what Tyrfing literally means. It's kind of like answering a question on Gullinbursti with "Gold Bristle."
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby theMoMA » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:40 pm

I want to single out the question on "Athenian trials" as a particular example of how a really good idea falls flat in execution, but can easily be reformed. As written, the question suffered from two major issues. The first is a general lack of precision; even the knowledgeable player might have the sinking feeling that "I'm about to buzz with 'Athenian trials,' but what if there's a name for it?" The second is that, for most players, this sort of question turns into a stringing-words-together contest at its conclusion. If you don't know much about the trials, or you're confused about where the question is going (or what the pronouns are pointing to) it becomes difficult to put together the right words. The end result often resembles the "Preface to Cromwell" problem, where the tossup breaks down into a contest to take two words and mash them together with little idea of the significance that binds them (a significance that the entirety of the tossup, prior to the very end, purported to examine).

This sort of tossup is easy to fix. Simply write it on "Athens," with clues exclusively on trials and legal process. The skilled writer (or better yet, the careful editor who gets an awesome idea like "Athenian trials" in a submission) can change a few words (and perhaps mask a few potentially linguistically transparent words) and get a question that asks for the exact same knowledge without any of the problems. Better still, stronger late-middle clues about "Athens" (still relating to its law code and trial process, but perhaps not easy to shoehorn into the "Athenian trials" answer line) can be added to distinguish between the typical teams that don't know much about Athens' trials.

I realize it's not always feasible to write or change questions this way; some answer lines are simply nebulous by nature. I love a good idea as much as anyone else, and I wouldn't want to see tossups on things that don't really have names go away entirely. But I think there's a good opportunity for us to change some of these answer lines to more concrete formulations while keeping the essence of the creative ideas.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. » Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:48 am

theMoMA wrote:I want to single out the question on "Athenian trials" as a particular example of how a really good idea falls flat in execution, but can easily be reformed. As written, the question suffered from two major issues. The first is a general lack of precision; even the knowledgeable player might have the sinking feeling that "I'm about to buzz with 'Athenian trials,' but what if there's a name for it?" The second is that, for most players, this sort of question turns into a stringing-words-together contest at its conclusion. If you don't know much about the trials, or you're confused about where the question is going (or what the pronouns are pointing to) it becomes difficult to put together the right words. The end result often resembles the "Preface to Cromwell" problem, where the tossup breaks down into a contest to take two words and mash them together with little idea of the significance that binds them (a significance that the entirety of the tossup, prior to the very end, purported to examine).

This sort of tossup is easy to fix. Simply write it on "Athens," with clues exclusively on trials and legal process. The skilled writer (or better yet, the careful editor who gets an awesome idea like "Athenian trials" in a submission) can change a few words (and perhaps mask a few potentially linguistically transparent words) and get a question that asks for the exact same knowledge without any of the problems. Better still, stronger late-middle clues about "Athens" (still relating to its law code and trial process, but perhaps not easy to shoehorn into the "Athenian trials" answer line) can be added to distinguish between the typical teams that don't know much about Athens' trials.

I realize it's not always feasible to write or change questions this way; some answer lines are simply nebulous by nature. I love a good idea as much as anyone else, and I wouldn't want to see tossups on things that don't really have names go away entirely. But I think there's a good opportunity for us to change some of these answer lines to more concrete formulations while keeping the essence of the creative ideas.


20. In the context of these proceedings, the word for “water” was a synonym for “time,” since time was kept by a primitive type of water-clock called a klepsydra. Prior to these events, one set of participants would customarily hire a logographos. Slaves could participate in these events on behalf of their masters if they first underwent torture. Many of these events took place in the (*) Heliaia, which was presided over by the heliasts. During these proceedings, the dicasts were given two bronze coins, one with a hole in it and one without, which they could place in a bronze urn or a wooden urn.The Areiopagus is the site of one of these events in The Eumenides, and the satirized in The Wasps, whose title refers to the men who decided their outcome. For 10 points, name these procedures which decided legal cases in ancient Athens.
ANSWER: Athenian trials [accept Roman trials since the Romans cribbed most of their stuff from Athens]



So I wrote this tossup and I'd like to hear what "lack of precision" you found in it. I don't really have time to get into the nuts and bolts right this second, but I will say that a tossup on "Athens" from clues about its legal process sounds pretty hard to do to me. I did consider that change, but most of the clues I could find for the legal process were pretty obviously Greek, in a way that wasn't really easy to hide; if it turned into "This is a Greek city state with a pretty ornate legal system," the transparency issues would probably be worse than what ended up happening.

I'll table the first issue for now, which quizbowl can't really agree on, but I can sympathize with the second problem you had with that question. I don't think it's precisely the same issue that the Preface to Cromwell tossup had, in that there was plenty of stuff in this tossup you could buzz on before "for 10 points"--the Areiopagus and the Eumenides, what the Wasps is about, the coins (which is where most people at our site ended up buzzing). However, it did have a difficulty cliff at "bronze coins." Having "Athens" as the answerline would certainly have given me more leeway to add middle clues in, but I'm not entirely sure I could have made it non-obvious and kept a lot of the same clues. Anyway, I'm rambling at this point--what, specifically, could you do to this tossup to make it better?
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:26 am

gyre and gimble wrote:I agree that things like Tyrfing should rarely be tossed up, and was merely expressing that I was happy to be able to answer a tossup on it because I had never seen it done before. However, I think the only reason Tyrfing shouldn't be tossed up is because it can be rather transparent that it's the cursed sword from Norse myth. But people dismissing Tyrfing as a minor name that appears in the Eddas are mistaken. Like Rob said, the sword is central to the Hervarar Saga, which comprises most of the Tyrfing Cycle. I think the Tyrfing Cycle is pretty important to the study of Germanic and Norse mythology, and if we've got questions on stuff like Njal's Saga, we can certainly have questions on the Herverar. Answer lines that are less transparent might be "Herverar Saga" or "Angantyr," or people could use Tyrfing clues on a tossup on dwarves. It's certainly not obscure enough to be ignored, but it was too difficult for BARGE.

Also, I'm not sure why you would ever need to answer with "Tyr's finger" as opposed to Tyrfing, but I guess it's a valid answer since that's what Tyrfing literally means. It's kind of like answering a question on Gullinbursti with "Gold Bristle."


I mean, I don't want to present myself as any kind of an expert on Norse myth or anything like that (though I did once take a class with John Lindow, a Berkeley prof. who is such an expert, and we didn't discuss the Herverar saga at all; I want my money back!), but I find this really far fetched. First of all, Tyrfing doesn't appear in the Eddas, which is kind of the point I was trying to make. Like it or not, the Eddas are people's primary exposure to Norse myth, and unless you're really deep into Scandinavian lore, probably the only exposure. Sure, it's central to the Hervarar Saga, which I guess seems to be fairly important in the field of Nordic myth studies, but you're digging like three levels deep into things almost no one has likely read. Yes, there was a tossup on Njal's Saga... at Chicago Open. Just because tournament X had a tossup on crazy thing A, doesn't mean that purportedly easier tournament Y should have a tossup on a much harder thing B.

I'm belaboring this because I think it's a really bad idea to reason this way. I'm not discounting whatever inherent importance the Tyrfing cycle might have, but there's no good way to write this question on the basis of things people might have actually encountered. Again if it were CO, I would just move on, but this isn't CO, and a question like this is just not a good idea. Lots of people, including those who are pretty familiar with Norse myth, haven't even heard of the Hervarar Saga (I've vaguely heard of the Tyrfing cycle) and here you are talking about how a question on it might be transparent? For harder events, go nuts, I guess. But for this tournament it wasn't a good idea at all.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:29 am

theMoMA wrote:The end result often resembles the "Preface to Cromwell" problem


I wonder why we don't call it the "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" problem. Huh.

The bit that confused me about the Athenian trials question was that I figured out it was some kind of process taking place in Athens, and the casting of lots made me think it was like a vote for ostracism. So I said that, got prompted, and then said "Athenian elections," which I guess was pretty dumb. I don't know much about this, honestly, so I wonder if there's a good way of extracting "trials" from those clues.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby magin » Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:34 am

Jerry, I don't know much about Ancient Greece, but I buzzed in fairly confidently a bit before the end with trials. I think it was a pretty solid question.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Auroni » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:16 am

I don't really like the idea of asking about "delta-epsilon" proofs, because "delta" and "epsilon" are just the names of the variables that happen to be used in most descriptions of that proof strategy. If that choice of variable names is literally 100% universal, I guess it's fine, but...


I haven't checked a dozen sources or anything, but having taking calculus and having spoken with others who have done so, they are always called delta-epsilon proofs and I couldn't find any alternate names that would be acceptable.

I greatly enjoyed the tossup on the transatlantic cable and wish to know how it was classified. I assume it was history or other, but perhaps it was other science, in which I think some modicum of science history is perfectly acceptable and should come up more often.


This one was mine as well and I submitted it as the your choice history question. Strangely enough, that wasn't even the most exciting history tossup that I submitted in the packet.

Wasn't going to mention the Tyrfing tossup, but since it's been mentioned by others: I think this is a terrible question, I really do, or rather, a terrible answer line. Look, if you actually read the Eddas, especially the Poetic Edda, you'll find that nearly every damn thing has a name. That's just how the skalds rolled back in the day. Not every one of those things really needs to be asked about, or is really of such overwhelming importance. As far as I can tell from looking through my copy of the Poetic Edda which I keep right beside me for just such occasions, Tyrfing the object isn't even mentioned by name (a guy named Tyrfing is mentioned in passing in the Song of Hyndla). I googled the online version of the Prose Edda and it's not in there either, so... I really have no idea where this came from or why anyone thought this would be a good idea for a tossup.


I'll take full responsibility for this being near-impossible, but it's not really a thing that suffers from a "ugh, why does this have a name syndrome." It's referred to a bunch of times in its own saga and it's not at all like Modgud or the Thickmost Shoe which have really few references if any.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby gyre and gimble » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:15 am

grapesmoker wrote:
gyre and gimble wrote:It's certainly not obscure enough to be ignored, but it was too difficult for BARGE.


Yes, there was a tossup on Njal's Saga... at Chicago Open. Just because tournament X had a tossup on crazy thing A, doesn't mean that purportedly easier tournament Y should have a tossup on a much harder thing B.

I'm belaboring this because I think it's a really bad idea to reason this way. I'm not discounting whatever inherent importance the Tyrfing cycle might have, but there's no good way to write this question on the basis of things people might have actually encountered. Again if it were CO, I would just move on, but this isn't CO, and a question like this is just not a good idea. Lots of people, including those who are pretty familiar with Norse myth, haven't even heard of the Hervarar Saga (I've vaguely heard of the Tyrfing cycle) and here you are talking about how a question on it might be transparent? For harder events, go nuts, I guess. But for this tournament it wasn't a good idea at all.


Right, I'm agreeing with you that Tyrfing shouldn't be tossed up at an event like BARGE, and was merely suggesting that it shouldn't be dismissed as a random "named thing" as some people seemed to be doing. As far as the transparency thing goes, Chris explained why it might be transparent for anybody who knows Tyrfing is a cursed sword from Norse myth. Tossups on hard answers can still be transparent, right?

Also, you tossed up Njal's Saga in your ACF Nationals set, and I thought there were some Nationals-level answer lines in the BARGE set, though that's just my opinion.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Cody » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:39 am

gyre and gimble wrote:Also, you tossed up Njal's Saga in your ACF Nationals set, and I thought there were some Nationals-level answer lines in the BARGE set, though that's just my opinion.
You should definitely not take answer lines from last year's ACF Nationals as indicative of actual Nationals difficulty level.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby theMoMA » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:58 pm

Blanford's Fringe-fingered Lizard wrote:I haven't checked a dozen sources or anything, but having taking calculus and having spoken with others who have done so, they are always called delta-epsilon proofs and I couldn't find any alternate names that would be acceptable.


I encountered it as the "Cauchy definition" in my intro calc class, but they also called it the "epsilon-delta formulation."
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:08 pm

Delta and epsilon are just symbols. Yes, they are called "delta-epsilon proofs" but if you do any analysis, you'll find that a lot of things repeat those symbols in similar fashion. I think notational questions are a poor idea in general since the notation is arbitrary.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby DumbJaques » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:31 am

Strangely enough, that wasn't even the most exciting history tossup that I submitted in the packet.


Hah, yeah, I think that question is right up there with Jerry's Hercules, My Shipmate at 2009 Terrapin as among the most "exciting" tossups I've ever been submitted.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Tanay » Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:01 pm

The question on the architecture of Istanbul went by strangely in our room. At least three or four people knew it at Hippodrome (which was well in power) because that's relatively famous as the site of the Nika Riots and was really important to the Byzantines in general. It seemed much more notable than most of the other features in the question for its historical significance, and everyone pretty much just sat on the question until the Galata clue. Is this a misplaced clue or just an anomaly within a room?
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Cheynem » Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:04 pm

I thought it was misplaced, myself, although when I heard the clue I assumed there were like multiple Hippodromes throughout the ancient world, so I didn't buzz on it.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Ringil » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:00 pm

Cheynem wrote:I thought it was misplaced, myself, although when I heard the clue I assumed there were like multiple Hippodromes throughout the ancient world, so I didn't buzz on it.


Because horse racing was pretty popular back in the day, there were in fact many hippodromes in the ancient world. I'm don't remember how this question in particular addressed it as a possible issue (perhaps by describing stuff only in the Constantinople one?).

Also, this tournament had quite a bit of CS.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby The Ununtiable Twine » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:15 am

Can you post the tossup on integers, please?
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby DumbJaques » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:09 pm

The cyclotomic variety of these objects cannot be uniquely factored if p is greater than 23. Similar objects named for Eisentstein and Gauss are equal to a plus b times the cube root of minus one, and a plus b times the square root of minus one, respectively. The Gauss Lemma extends irreducibility from this polynomials with these as (*) coefficients to polynomials over Q. Cantor's Diagonalization proof showed this set has the same cardinality as the rationals, aleph null. The fundamental theorem of arithmetic implies that these can always be uniquely factored. For 10 points, name this countably infinite ring, the set of numbers that contain no fractional or decimal part forms, symbolized Z.
ANSWER: Integers [accept Z until mentioned, do not accept 'Natural Numbers," "Rationals," "Reals," "N," "Q," or "R"]
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby The Ununtiable Twine » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:14 am

DumbJaques wrote:
The cyclotomic variety of these objects cannot be uniquely factored if p is greater than 23. Similar objects named for Eisentstein and Gauss are equal to a plus b times the cube root of minus one, and a plus b times the square root of minus one, respectively. The Gauss Lemma extends irreducibility from this polynomials with these as (*) coefficients to polynomials over Q. Cantor's Diagonalization proof showed this set has the same cardinality as the rationals, aleph null. The fundamental theorem of arithmetic implies that these can always be uniquely factored. For 10 points, name this countably infinite ring, the set of numbers that contain no fractional or decimal part forms, symbolized Z.
ANSWER: Integers [accept Z until mentioned, do not accept 'Natural Numbers," "Rationals," "Reals," "N," "Q," or "R"]


The issue I had with this question was the lead-in, everything else was just fine. I buzzed in right after "factored" in the first line with the answer line "polynomials" because, well, cyclotomic polynomials are irreducible in general and so that seemed like the natural spot to buzz. It's hard to know that unless you study math, but the question would have been much better with a different lead-in.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby grapesmoker » Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:14 am

Serious Games Showcase and Challenge wrote:The issue I had with this question was the lead-in, everything else was just fine. I buzzed in right after "factored" in the first line with the answer line "polynomials" because, well, cyclotomic polynomials are irreducible in general and so that seemed like the natural spot to buzz. It's hard to know that unless you study math, but the question would have been much better with a different lead-in.


I did that as well for the same reason.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby DumbJaques » Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:47 pm

I've now made the BARGE discussion thread public, as mirrors have concluded.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Fond du lac operon » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:32 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Serious Games Showcase and Challenge wrote:The issue I had with this question was the lead-in, everything else was just fine. I buzzed in right after "factored" in the first line with the answer line "polynomials" because, well, cyclotomic polynomials are irreducible in general and so that seemed like the natural spot to buzz. It's hard to know that unless you study math, but the question would have been much better with a different lead-in.


I did that as well for the same reason.


I was on Jake's team, so I didn't neg it, but I was buzzing in at the same time for the same reason. (I believe Will Butler did the same in a different room.)

Edit: Did it say "uniquely factored" or "factored uniquely" or just "factored?" Because if it did say "uniquely factored," it's still not a very good lead-in, but it's slightly better, since Z[x] is a UFD, so saying "uniquely factored" wouldn't make sense for cyclotomic polynomials.

By the way, does anyone know where the lead-in clue came from? Because I'm no expert in class field theory, but I know that p = 23 is the smallest prime for which Q(\zeta_p) has class number > 1, but I can't find anything, other than Mathworld, that seems to say that for ALL p \geq 23 the cyclotomic ring of integers is not a UFD... And Mathworld's not a terribly reliable source in my experience, especially on shorter articles (and ones that don't cite papers, of which the "cyclotomic integers" article is an example.
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Re: BARGE General Discussion

Postby Notably Not Pierre » Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:13 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Serious Games Showcase and Challenge wrote:The issue I had with this question was the lead-in, everything else was just fine. I buzzed in right after "factored" in the first line with the answer line "polynomials" because, well, cyclotomic polynomials are irreducible in general and so that seemed like the natural spot to buzz. It's hard to know that unless you study math, but the question would have been much better with a different lead-in.


I did that as well for the same reason.


I did this too, and Shantanu claims he was buzzer racing me there as well. I think cyclotomic polynomials are well known among people who have taken an Abstract Algebra class and as far as I can tell, cyclotomic integers are just a thing that has a Wolfram Mathworld article.

Edit: What I wrote before was dumb and based on me forgetting what the lead in was actually saying. Ignore that.
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