Biology and Chemistry

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Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

I wrote all of the Biology and Chemistry for this tournament. Gautam gave me a lot of helpful feedback on my questions, but mostly allowed me the freedom to write them as I intended.

Obviously, this tournament's Biology distribution had a greater proportion of ecology and evolution than is typical. I chose to write more of these topics because they are important areas of study that rarely receive more than a couple questions per tournament. If we use the common division of ecology and evolutionary biology versus molecular and cell biology (including in the latter things like large-scale physiology), then these areas represent half of the discipline of "biology." However, I would not write a tournament with half of the Biology taken up by ecology and evolution, because more biology majors do study molecular and cell biology and there is more cross-over from MCB into EEB. Therefore, I wrote two-thirds of my questions on molecular and cellular topics and one-third on ecological and evolutionary topics:

Ecology and evolutionary biology:
color vision (changed from trichromatic vision)
cannibalism
eusociality
range size
molecular clocks
MSY / fish / trophic level
Connell / niches / lizards
monogamy / sneaker males / crickets
mist nets / epidemiology (changed from population size) / biodiversity
CREs / segments / paralogs
TOTAL = 10

Molecular and cell biology:
chicken
beta cells
vasodilation
cytokinins
growth hormone
integrins
protein sorting
hearing
phagocytosis
photosystem I
dendritic spines / excitatory / umami
smooth muscle / cross bridges / ATP
female Drosophila / splicing / polyadenylation
in situ hybridization / Digitalis / isotopes
B cells / lambda or kappa / IgD and IgM
point mutations / dominant negative / complementation test
thermogenin / brown fat / shivering
shunts / crocodiles / lungs
trp operon / leader peptide / phage lambda
chloride / sialic acid / cortisol
Ras proteins / serine and threonine / cAMP
TOTAL = 21 (including tiebreaker)

I do not think that this is an unreasonable subdistribution. I want to emphasize that I do not think that ecology and evolutionary biology should be represented to the same extent as cell and molecular biology in quizbowl given the relative prominence of each within biology as a whole, but I do think that they should receive a decent percentage of questions, somewhere between 25% and 33% of Biology (2/2 to 2.5/2.5 for each of ecology and evolution for a fifteen-packet tournament). Given my impression that many people were unhappy with the expansion of these areas, I think I would write 2/2 of each for a future tournament.

Obviously, all of biology is interrelated, and I used molecular clues in evolutionary questions (such as the mfERG and genetics clues in the color vision question) and vice versa (such as the clue about the thrifty genotype hypothesis for beta cells). Two of the evolutionary questions I wrote (molecular clocks and CREs / segments / paralogs) both drew very extensively on the molecular basis of evolutionary biology. I think it was perhaps a mistake to include too many of these "cross-over" clues in molecular questions (for example, the bonus part on crocodiles, although it was something that I studied in a physiology class, was maybe not ideal in the light of the number of other organismal bonus parts and clues) given that the ecology and evolution subdistribution was already expanded.

I think that it was probably a mistake to write on a few too many "experimental" answerlines. I tried to write on topics of real importance, and I will defend answerlines like "trichromatic vision" and "range size" as representative of the material studied in ecology and evolutionary biology courses (and will say the same for "protein sorting" in cell biology). However, I recognize that these answerlines are not extremely accessible for people without exposure to the material (although I hope they're at least interesting!) and that the "description acceptable" disclaimer is frustrating for some people (even though to me it seems like it should be reassuring that if you know what you're talking about, you should be able to answer without fear of being negged). If I wrote this tournament over again I would replace at least one of those questions with something more "canonical."

For Chemistry, I tried to strike a balance between the following areas:

Organic chemistry:
amides
hydrazine
olefin metathesis
iodine
formaldehyde
ozonolysis / molozonide / carboxylic acids
cyclobutadiene / antiaromaticity / pi electrons
dyes / diazo coupling / hypophosphorous acid
oxymercuration-demercuration / osmium / dithioacetals
TOTAL = 9

Inorganic chemistry:
(coordination number) five
LUMO
cobalt
IR / C2v / S
quadruple bonds / transition metals / SALCs
sigma complexes / hydrogen / ammonia
TOTAL = 6 (including tiebreaker)

Physical chemistry:
poisoning a catalyst
transition states
aurophilicity / special relativity / lanthanides
microstates / octahedral / spin crossover
Debye length / activity / isobaric and isochoric heat capacity
TOTAL = 5

Biochemistry:
methylation
proline
ketogenesis
iron-sulfur proteins / magnetite / radicals
cyanide / tert-butyl / polydispersity
TOTAL = 5

Experimental chemistry:
evaporation
PES
chiral resolution
alcohols / four / triplet and quartet
SciFinder / citations / impact factor (changed from PubChem)
solvents / dessicants / ion-exchange resins
TOTAL = 6

I think that perhaps I should have written a bit more physical chemistry in place of organic, but I still feel that I chose a reasonable subdistribution. In general I tried to write questions that rewarded people who actually study chemistry and contained minimal clues that would allow players to get points from memorizing things for quizbowl. Some of these attempts were probably less successful than others (the database bonus was maybe not a great idea). I chose a few experimental answerlines (evaporation and chiral resolution) because I thought they reflected actual lab work well. The formaldehyde tossup was my attempt to incorporate environmental chemistry into the set. I tried to write biochemistry questions using mechanistic clues so that they reflected an actual chemical approach to the subject rather than an expanded Biology distribution.

I enjoyed writing for this tournament and I would like to continue writing Bio and Chem in the future. Beyond subdistributional issues, what did people think of the content of my questions? I hope that they were interesting and reflective of what other people who study these areas have encountered in their courses and lab work.
Last edited by Chimango Caracara on Sun Mar 09, 2014 2:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

I'll refrain from commenting on question content here, but the answerlines to many biology and chemistry questions were about as long as, or longer than, the tossups themselves. Although the set avoided the common problem of not including obvious alternate answers, it created a different problem by forcing moderators to pore over 8 lines of text any time somebody buzzed to see if the answer given fit any of the possible responses. None of the readers really seemed sure what to do when a wrong answer was given on a science tossup. At some point, tacking on additional alternate answers just adds noise; it would have been better to have two lines indicating the most plausible answers that could be given, followed by a note to "accept other reasonable equivalents."
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Excelsior (smack) »

I enjoyed the increased proportion of EEB questions in this tournament, but at the same time would be opposed to seeing those topics receive significantly increased representation in all tournaments. Your questions on these topics were very interesting, and the ones I knew anything about seemed good, but I am not confident that other biology editors will be very good at implementing interesting and well-written questions on these topics (particularly ecology).

For the most part, I enjoyed the bio and chem in this tournament, and would be happy to see more of the same.

A few specific things:
-I think part of the reason the "protein sorting" tossup didn't play well is that there doesn't seem to be much theory behind protein sorting as a whole, so that the tossup instead ended up as a bunch of clues about distinct processes that all happen to fall under the umbrella of protein sorting. In general, this sort of thing doesn't work too well as a tossup, and would probably be better off either as a tossup on one specific thing that shows up in protein sorting or as a bonus.
-The "chicken" tossup could have used one or two downright easy clues at the very end.
-I am not very good at group theory either from a mathematical or a chemical perspective, but: do you think people will be able to pull a specific point group ("C2v") given its description? That seems awfully hard.
-Could you post the "microstates" bonus part? I couldn't quite figure out what was happening there, but this might just be because chemists talk about microstates in different terms than physicists do.
-The chemical databases thing was a bit excessive. One database should be enough for any given bonus.
-The bio and chem questions seemed very difficult to power. The fact that Eric had an anomalously low number of powers this tournament is, I think, evidence of this.
Last edited by Excelsior (smack) on Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

Excelsior (smack) wrote:I enjoyed the increased proportion of EEB questions in this tournament, but at the same time would be opposed to seeing those topics receive significantly increased representation in all tournaments. Your questions on these topics were very interesting, and the ones I knew anything about seemed good, but I am not confident that other biology editors will be very good at implementing interesting and well-written questions on these topics (particularly ecology).

For the most part, I enjoyed the bio and chem in this tournament, and would be happy to see more of the same.
Thanks, that's great to hear.
Excelsior (smack) wrote:I think part of the reason the "protein sorting" tossup didn't play well is that there doesn't seem to be much theory behind protein sorting as a whole, so that the tossup instead ended up as a bunch of clues about distinct processes that all happen to fall under the umbrella of protein sorting. In general, this sort of thing doesn't work too well as a tossup, and would probably be better off either as a tossup on one specific thing that shows up in protein sorting or as a bonus.
Yeah, that's understandable. My introductory cell bio course treated protein sorting as basically one process with different mechanistic details for different organelles (with the main division being between the early part of the secretory pathway for the ER and Golgi and post-translational localization to the nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplast and peroxisome). That, combined with the Blobel Nobel made me think it could work as a tossup. Have other people who study bio learned about protein sorting on a more per-organelle basis?
Excelsior (smack) wrote:The "chicken" tossup could have used one or two downright easy clues at the very end.
Yeah, I wasn't sure what to use for late clues since my only exposure to chickens is in developmental biology. Did anyone find the clues about birds in general to actually be helpful?
Excelsior (smack) wrote:I am not very good at group theory either from a mathematical or a chemical perspective, but: do you think people will be able to pull a specific point group ("C2v") given its description? That seems awfully hard.
In my inorganic course we got it drilled in our heads how common C2v was (and also spent a lot of time on point groups in general), so I thought it would be the absolute easiest one to ask for, especially with water as a touchstone. Was anyone able to get this part?
Excelsior (smack) wrote:Could you post the "microstates" bonus part? I couldn't quite figure out what was happening there, but this might just be because chemists talk about microstates in different terms than physicists do.
The number of these configurations equals n factorial over quantity e factorial times h factorial, where n is the number of slots, e is number of electrons and h is the number of holes. For 10 points each:
[10] Name these possible energy configurations that are calculated in order to find an atom’s term symbol and thus its transitions on a Tanabe-Sugano diagram. Some of them are forbidden by the Pauli exclusion principle.
ANSWER: microstates [accept quantum states]
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

I guess future tossups on chickens can talk about disordered hyperuniformity.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Excelsior (smack) »

I've thought about the microstates bonus part a bit, and I still don't think there's any way I would be able to come up with "microstates" after hearing that. This might just be because I'm dumb, though, so maybe check with some other people to see what they thought about it?
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

Excelsior (smack) wrote:I've thought about the microstates bonus part a bit, and I still don't think there's any way I would be able to come up with "microstates" after hearing that. This might just be because I'm dumb, though, so maybe check with some other people to see what they thought about it?
I used pretty much only clues from the derivation of term symbols for the spectra of transition metal complexes. Microstates are one of those things that sound different when applied to different systems, so I can see how that might have been hard for people who haven't studied that particular application in detail. I think I'll rewrite this to include more general clues from statistical mechanics.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Chimango Caracara wrote:
Excelsior (smack) wrote:I've thought about the microstates bonus part a bit, and I still don't think there's any way I would be able to come up with "microstates" after hearing that. This might just be because I'm dumb, though, so maybe check with some other people to see what they thought about it?
I used pretty much only clues from the derivation of term symbols for the spectra of transition metal complexes. Microstates are one of those things that sound different when applied to different systems, so I can see how that might have been hard for people who haven't studied that particular application in detail. I think I'll rewrite this to include more general clues from statistical mechanics.
I said spin states, which is what they were called when I took that class. That could have been my professor taking liberties with the terminology, though.

On a larger note, I'm going to wait until some other people whose opinions I care about play the tournament before I comment on it.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Chimango Caracara wrote:
Excelsior (smack) wrote:I've thought about the microstates bonus part a bit, and I still don't think there's any way I would be able to come up with "microstates" after hearing that. This might just be because I'm dumb, though, so maybe check with some other people to see what they thought about it?
I used pretty much only clues from the derivation of term symbols for the spectra of transition metal complexes. Microstates are one of those things that sound different when applied to different systems, so I can see how that might have been hard for people who haven't studied that particular application in detail. I think I'll rewrite this to include more general clues from statistical mechanics.
I said spin states, which is what they were called when I took that class. That could have been my professor taking liberties with the terminology, though.
As I understand it, "spin states" refers to the high- or low-spin configuration of a complex as a whole, while "microstates" in this context refers to the quantum mechanical possibilities for each individual electron. Maybe I'm off base here but I thought they were different things.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Ike »

I might post something more later, but one complaint I had with tossups on the LUMO and Photosystem 1 was that these tossups made it very clear to me pretty early that it was one of two possible answers in both cases (HOMO or LUMO, PS1 or PS2). If I'm playing against Billy Busse, Ashvin or Eric, I'm going to buzz early, guess and potentially earn 10/15 + a bonus that I would not have otherwise earned, despite the fact that my knowledge of bio or chem is minimal at best. My point is: the barrier to answering your tossup should not be that the less knowledgeable team has a 50% chance of getting it wrong, since they will have the right odds to go ahead and take a guess.

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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

Ike wrote:I might post something more later, but one complaint I had with tossups on the LUMO and Photosystem 1 was that these tossups made it very clear to me pretty early that it was one of two possible answers in both cases (HOMO or LUMO, PS1 or PS2). If I'm playing against Billy Busse, Ashvin or Eric, I'm going to buzz early, guess and potentially earn 10/15 + a bonus that I would not have otherwise earned, despite the fact that my knowledge of bio or chem is minimal at best. My point is: the barrier to answering your tossup should not be that the less knowledgeable team has a 50% chance of getting it wrong, since they will have the right odds to go ahead and take a guess.
I was worried that those (as well as transition states) were somewhat transparent but decided to go with them… in the future I'll be more careful about that.

Incidentally, I streamlined the longer answerlines that people disliked during the Penn mirror, so hopefully moderators this weekend didn't have too much trouble knowing when to prompt.

I also changed a few answerlines (noted in the original post) a bit based on what I saw/heard at the Penn site.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by grapesmoker »

So, I don't know that much about chemistry or biology, but I felt like the bio and chem bonuses shaded significantly harder than the rest of the questions. It hurt us at the end of the day to lose Richard Yu, who was the one person on our team who really had deep chemistry knowledge; without him, we had trouble picking up even the allegedly easy parts. I feel like both of those categories could have been dialed down a bit.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

grapesmoker wrote:So, I don't know that much about chemistry or biology, but I felt like the bio and chem bonuses shaded significantly harder than the rest of the questions. It hurt us at the end of the day to lose Richard Yu, who was the one person on our team who really had deep chemistry knowledge; without him, we had trouble picking up even the allegedly easy parts. I feel like both of those categories could have been dialed down a bit.
Yeah, I also got the impression that my bonuses ended up harder than those other people wrote (I think this extended to some of my bonuses in other categories as well), so I'm sorry if that variability ended up hurting people. I did try to make the easy parts pretty accessible; do you have any specific examples of ones that ended up too hard?
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by theMoMA »

I'm by no means an expert on evolutionary biology, but I thought that the clues in the eusociality tossup made it very difficult to distinguish between the answer you wanted and closely related concepts like altruism and kin selection.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

theMoMA wrote:I'm by no means an expert on evolutionary biology, but I thought that the clues in the eusociality tossup made it very difficult to distinguish between the answer you wanted and closely related concepts like altruism and kin selection.
Those were both promptable throughout. Here is that tossup:
In 2010, Nowak et al proposed that the second phase in this phenomenon’s evolution entails the accumulation of pre-adaptations like progressive provisioning and the occupation of defensible habitats. “Life insurance” and “fortress defense” are alternate manifestations of this phenomenon, which becomes obligate after passing the “point of no return.” This phenomenon is regulated by the heteromorphic SB chromosome in Solenopsis invicta, which are stimulated by an odorant binding protein to kill Gp-9 homozygotes that disrupt this phenomenon in a classic example of a (*) green beard. Damaraland and naked mole rats are the only mammals to exhibit this phenomenon, which requires some members of a population to serve as non-reproductive workers and was once thought to result from relatedness asymmetry caused by haplodiploidy. For 10 points, name this extreme form of altruistic social organization most commonly observed in hymenopterans.
ANSWER: eusociality [accept superorganisms or word forms; accept life insurance or fortress defense before mentioned; prompt on any answers related to being “social;” prompt on “altruism” or “kin selection” or “inclusive fitness” or “cooperation” or related answers about helping others; prompt on “haplodiploidy” before mentioned; prompt on “colony formation” or “caste systems” or “hierarchy” or “heterarchy” or related answers; prompt on answers about queens or workers or other caste roles before mentioned]
I think most of the clues are pretty specific. The lead-in is from a paper (co-written by E. O. Wilson) called "The evolution of eusociality," while the second sentence refers to terms used only to describe eusociality. Non-mole rat mammals can of course exhibit altruism and kin selection, and the workers/haplodiploidy stuff only applies to eusociality. I think the only potential ambiguity comes from the clues on S. invicta, but since that's a kind of ant I assumed that anyone who was familiar with it would say "eusociality" if prompted on a less specific answer related to altruism.

I guess you can know what a green beard is without knowing about that particular example (although it is the most famous real-life example), but I feel like if you're not certain what to say at that point you should just wait for a few more clues (especially since the mechanism of this green beard is pretty much the opposite of the original thought experiment, so the clue is kind of predicated on the actual situation with the ants rather than the basic idea of green beards).
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Ike »

Yeah, I agree with Jerry on this - a lot of the chem and bio was pretty tough without an expert in those areas, and some of the bonuses felt like there wasn't an easy part.

As a side note, if you're going to deviate significantly from what people are expecting, you probably should announce that beforehand. If there's one thing people don't like, it's being surprised by subdistributions or entirely missing distributions, like VCU Open's choice of removing chem to 1/0 or 0/1 per packet that one year. For example: although I personally feel that math should replace the entirety of pretty much most of the other science, I wouldn't go ahead and sandbag my tournament with 60% math in the other science distro without otherwise announcing it. Again, I really have no dog in the fight whether or not bio should be 50% eco and evo bio, (although I think that's dubious in of itself) - but you shouldn't just surprise people like that.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

Ike wrote:As a side note, if you're going to deviate significantly from what people are expecting, you probably should announce that beforehand. If there's one thing people don't like, it's being surprised by subdistributions or entirely missing distributions, like VCU Open's choice of removing chem to 1/0 or 0/1 per packet that one year. For example: although I personally feel that math should replace the entirety of pretty much most of the other science, I wouldn't go ahead and sandbag my tournament with 60% math in the other science distro without otherwise announcing it. Again, I really have no dog in the fight whether or not bio should be 50% eco and evo bio, (although I think that's dubious in of itself) - but you shouldn't just surprise people like that.
As discussed, the distribution was 33% eco/evo bio, not 50%, so I don't get what you are saying here. I'm not very informed about these subjects but I don't think Nick was doing anything that radical here, unless people are really mad that the same few neurotransmitters didn't come up again at this tournament.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Amizda Calyx »

I was coming here to comment on the heavy weighting of protein/molecule-related questions (I wasn't even going to touch the ecology distribution...), but it looks like the Berkeley mirror unfortunately just didn't get to some of the more physiology-based tossups (hearing, phagocytosis, PSI). I do think that the bonuses were consistently difficult, especially the preponderance of molecular/experimental bio--the only set I heard that I for sure could have 30'd was the dendritic spines one. It felt like organ and cell physiology, transduction pathways, etc. were pretty much ignored, although other tournaments typically have low distributions of those too. Also, I agree with other people's comments on the "protein sorting" TU; it was kind of a neg trap and essentially punished the non-negging team for waiting till the end, when specific examples accepted earlier in the question, such as "protein tagging", "targeting", "localizing", etc., were mentioned.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

JoelleJay wrote:I was coming here to comment on the heavy weighting of protein/molecule-related questions (I wasn't even going to touch the ecology distribution...), but it looks like the Berkeley mirror unfortunately just didn't get to some of the more physiology-based tossups (hearing, phagocytosis, PSI). I do think that the bonuses were consistently difficult, especially the preponderance of molecular/experimental bio--the only set I heard that I for sure could have 30'd was the dendritic spines one. It felt like organ and cell physiology, transduction pathways, etc. were pretty much ignored, although other tournaments typically have low distributions of those too. Also, I agree with other people's comments on the "protein sorting" TU; it was kind of a neg trap and essentially punished the non-negging team for waiting till the end, when specific examples accepted earlier in the question, such as "protein tagging", "targeting", "localizing", etc., were mentioned.
Hmm, I actually thought I included a lot of signal transduction between the tossups on hearing, integrins and cytokinins and the bonuses on dendritic spines bonus and Ras proteins (which I actually moved to a tiebreaker to cut down on the number of signaling questions).

In terms of physiology, what other topics would you have liked to see? When I was planning the distribution, the questions that I classified as physiological were the tossups on growth hormone, phagocytosis and hearing and the bonuses on cardiac shunts, thermogenesis and smooth muscle contraction. I guess some of these did end up focusing on molecular details rather than more systemic effects, so I'm sorry if I ended up neglecting some major areas. I did deliberately try to integrate clues related to diseases into the context of normal function rather than asking about them in isolation (since that's how they've generally been presented to me in bio courses), so that may have been a reason that the molecular basis of a given process was favored over its global manifestations.

What exactly did people neg with on the protein trafficking tossup?
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Oh No You Didn't »

Chimango Caracara wrote:What exactly did people neg with on the protein trafficking tossup?
I buzzed when I heard some heat shock proteins (hsp70 and BiP?) and orientation and decided to answer with something along the lines of inserting transmembrane proteins. This can partially be attributed to me mixing up consecutive molecular bio lectures from about a year ago though. The tossup was really confusing though because at that point I was trying to figure out what to say that could involve both mitochondria and the ER
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

Martha Dreyer wrote:
Chimango Caracara wrote:What exactly did people neg with on the protein trafficking tossup?
I buzzed when I heard some heat shock proteins (hsp70 and BiP?) and orientation and decided to answer with something along the lines of inserting transmembrane proteins. This can partially be attributed to me mixing up consecutive molecular bio lectures from about a year ago though. The tossup was really confusing though because at that point I was trying to figure out what to say that could involve both mitochondria and the ER
Oh, I would have accepted that. I think that was one of the things I specifically elucidated in the original super-long answerline that I cut down for the second weekend of mirrors, so I'm sorry that it ended up hurting you! And I'm sorry to anyone else who was confused by this tossup; I guess it wasn't as good of an idea as I thought.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Gautam »

Ike wrote:I might post something more later, but one complaint I had with tossups on the LUMO and Photosystem 1 was that these tossups made it very clear to me pretty early that it was one of two possible answers in both cases (HOMO or LUMO, PS1 or PS2). If I'm playing against Billy Busse, Ashvin or Eric, I'm going to buzz early, guess and potentially earn 10/15 + a bonus that I would not have otherwise earned, despite the fact that my knowledge of bio or chem is minimal at best. My point is: the barrier to answering your tossup should not be that the less knowledgeable team has a 50% chance of getting it wrong, since they will have the right odds to go ahead and take a guess.

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I'd like to hear why these were transparent. I thought they were just fine. The PS1 in particular. I've written at least one tossup on one of the photosystems for an MO with very similar structure, and I didn't hear any complaints about it.

-GK
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Gautam »

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:I'll refrain from commenting on question content here, but the answerlines to many biology and chemistry questions were about as long as, or longer than, the tossups themselves. Although the set avoided the common problem of not including obvious alternate answers, it created a different problem by forcing moderators to pore over 8 lines of text any time somebody buzzed to see if the answer given fit any of the possible responses. None of the readers really seemed sure what to do when a wrong answer was given on a science tossup. At some point, tacking on additional alternate answers just adds noise; it would have been better to have two lines indicating the most plausible answers that could be given, followed by a note to "accept other reasonable equivalents."
I brought this up with Nick a couple of times (specifically the moderator's perspective), but I didn't harp on it too much. Since Nick was pretty consistent in writing thorough answerlines, I thought it would be a good idea to let it play naturally once and see how it played.

It's good to hear this feedback. We have a data point now, I guess.
Chimango Caracara wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:So, I don't know that much about chemistry or biology, but I felt like the bio and chem bonuses shaded significantly harder than the rest of the questions. It hurt us at the end of the day to lose Richard Yu, who was the one person on our team who really had deep chemistry knowledge; without him, we had trouble picking up even the allegedly easy parts. I feel like both of those categories could have been dialed down a bit.
Yeah, I also got the impression that my bonuses ended up harder than those other people wrote (I think this extended to some of my bonuses in other categories as well), so I'm sorry if that variability ended up hurting people. I did try to make the easy parts pretty accessible; do you have any specific examples of ones that ended up too hard?
I'm partly to blame on this - I didn't really have the time to calibrate the difficulty of the bio/chem to those in the other subjects.
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
Chimango Caracara wrote:
Excelsior (smack) wrote:I've thought about the microstates bonus part a bit, and I still don't think there's any way I would be able to come up with "microstates" after hearing that. This might just be because I'm dumb, though, so maybe check with some other people to see what they thought about it?
I used pretty much only clues from the derivation of term symbols for the spectra of transition metal complexes. Microstates are one of those things that sound different when applied to different systems, so I can see how that might have been hard for people who haven't studied that particular application in detail. I think I'll rewrite this to include more general clues from statistical mechanics.
I said spin states, which is what they were called when I took that class. That could have been my professor taking liberties with the terminology, though.

On a larger note, I'm going to wait until some other people whose opinions I care about play the tournament before I comment on it.
It turns out I had something to say about this, but I left my comment to Nick unfinished. Whoops. My bad.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Auroni »

Just as a note, Sinan and I brought up the difficulty of the bio and chem bonuses several times in playtesting. I'm not sure if any of the bonuses were changed with our feedback, but it'd be a bit frustrating if they weren't.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

Kenneth Widmerpool wrote:Just as a note, Sinan and I brought up the difficulty of the bio and chem bonuses several times in playtesting. I'm not sure if any of the bonuses were changed with our feedback, but it'd be a bit frustrating if they weren't.
I did make several bonuses (e.g. the neurobiology one, the trp operon one and the Debye length one) easier based on your comments.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Ike »

Gautam wrote:
Ike wrote:I might post something more later, but one complaint I had with tossups on the LUMO and Photosystem 1 was that these tossups made it very clear to me pretty early that it was one of two possible answers in both cases (HOMO or LUMO, PS1 or PS2). If I'm playing against Billy Busse, Ashvin or Eric, I'm going to buzz early, guess and potentially earn 10/15 + a bonus that I would not have otherwise earned, despite the fact that my knowledge of bio or chem is minimal at best. My point is: the barrier to answering your tossup should not be that the less knowledgeable team has a 50% chance of getting it wrong, since they will have the right odds to go ahead and take a guess.

Ike
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I'd like to hear why these were transparent. I thought they were just fine. The PS1 in particular. I've written at least one tossup on one of the photosystems for an MO with very similar structure, and I didn't hear any complaints about it.

-GK
The LUMO tossup makes it very clear, at least to me, that there is some sort of chemical reaction going on, like the use of the term "species" and the fact that the lead-in states that it undergoes some sort of interaction. Immediately, I thought "this must be one of the two frontier orbitals." I don't think that distinguishing between the HOMO / LUMO is the transparent part of the question, it's just that when I'm playing against Eric, Billy or someone else who has real knowledge of chemistry, I'm going to buzz in and guess one of the two frontier orbitals and be right 50% of the time and collect points that I otherwise would not have gotten if the plausible answer space wasn't just merely 2 answers from a nonspecialist's point of view.

As for the photosystem 1 tossup, the things that really keyed me into the answer was that it's a complex, (and not some sort of protein,) and the fact that it is derived from P840 (which I figured was a precursor to one of the photosystems) in green sulfur bacteria. So before power ended, I realized we were talking about one of the two photosytems.

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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Auroni »

Ike wrote:
Gautam wrote:
Ike wrote:I might post something more later, but one complaint I had with tossups on the LUMO and Photosystem 1 was that these tossups made it very clear to me pretty early that it was one of two possible answers in both cases (HOMO or LUMO, PS1 or PS2). If I'm playing against Billy Busse, Ashvin or Eric, I'm going to buzz early, guess and potentially earn 10/15 + a bonus that I would not have otherwise earned, despite the fact that my knowledge of bio or chem is minimal at best. My point is: the barrier to answering your tossup should not be that the less knowledgeable team has a 50% chance of getting it wrong, since they will have the right odds to go ahead and take a guess.

Ike
Ike-

I'd like to hear why these were transparent. I thought they were just fine. The PS1 in particular. I've written at least one tossup on one of the photosystems for an MO with very similar structure, and I didn't hear any complaints about it.

-GK

The LUMO tossup makes it very clear, at least to me, that there is some sort of chemical reaction going on, like the use of the term "species" and the fact that the lead-in states that it undergoes some sort of interaction. Immediately, I thought "this must be one of the two frontier orbitals." I don't think that distinguishing between the HOMO / LUMO is the transparent part of the question, it's just that when I'm playing against Eric, Billy or someone else who has real knowledge of chemistry, I'm going to buzz in and guess one of the two frontier orbitals and be right 50% of the time and collect points that I otherwise would not have gotten if the plausible answer space wasn't just merely 2 answers from a nonspecialist's point of view.

As for the photosystem 1 tossup, the things that really keyed me into the answer was that it's a complex, (and not some sort of protein,) and the fact that it is derived from P840 (which I figured was a precursor to one of the photosystems) in green sulfur bacteria. So before power ended, I realized we were talking about one of the two photosytems.

Ike
Let me gently suggest that you need some non-trivial knowledge to figure those two things out.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by theMoMA »

I agree that the LUMO question was transparent in the way that Ike suggests (and my knowledge basically consists of hearing the term LUMO exist in many quizbowl questions throughout the years). I very nearly buzzed with "LUMO" off of this hunch and hearing a preposition that suggested it was more likely to be the LUMO than the HOMO.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Amizda Calyx »

Chimango Caracara wrote:
JoelleJay wrote:I was coming here to comment on the heavy weighting of protein/molecule-related questions (I wasn't even going to touch the ecology distribution...), but it looks like the Berkeley mirror unfortunately just didn't get to some of the more physiology-based tossups (hearing, phagocytosis, PSI). I do think that the bonuses were consistently difficult, especially the preponderance of molecular/experimental bio--the only set I heard that I for sure could have 30'd was the dendritic spines one. It felt like organ and cell physiology, transduction pathways, etc. were pretty much ignored, although other tournaments typically have low distributions of those too. Also, I agree with other people's comments on the "protein sorting" TU; it was kind of a neg trap and essentially punished the non-negging team for waiting till the end, when specific examples accepted earlier in the question, such as "protein tagging", "targeting", "localizing", etc., were mentioned.
Hmm, I actually thought I included a lot of signal transduction between the tossups on hearing, integrins and cytokinins and the bonuses on dendritic spines bonus and Ras proteins (which I actually moved to a tiebreaker to cut down on the number of signaling questions).

In terms of physiology, what other topics would you have liked to see? When I was planning the distribution, the questions that I classified as physiological were the tossups on growth hormone, phagocytosis and hearing and the bonuses on cardiac shunts, thermogenesis and smooth muscle contraction. I guess some of these did end up focusing on molecular details rather than more systemic effects, so I'm sorry if I ended up neglecting some major areas. I did deliberately try to integrate clues related to diseases into the context of normal function rather than asking about them in isolation (since that's how they've generally been presented to me in bio courses), so that may have been a reason that the molecular basis of a given process was favored over its global manifestations.

What exactly did people neg with on the protein trafficking tossup?
I guess by "transduction" I meant signaling mechanism questions that weren't focused on molecular bio and genetics. The hearing question seemed to have most of the power in descriptions of specific mutations, and there were a couple instances where I could have negged if I was playing aggressively against a good science team. For example, the SLC26 anion transporter clue would've thrown me off for a bit since I've learned about an SLC26 anion transporter involved in another process (perhaps being more specific on the protein would help cut down the potential for ambiguity?).
I realize that molecular bio is typically the main component of the bio distribution, but it would be nice to see more histology/tissue/anatomy integrated into questions. We never got to the rounds they came up in, but the bonuses on cardiac shunts and thermogenesis seemed weighted equally towards ecology/evolutionary bio as physiology (with the exception of the first parts in each set). I'm not saying I dislike mixing subdisciplines, but it seemed like in both those cases the easy parts were super easy and the middle parts were designed for zoology people. Again, though, my perception of the distribution might be colored by the fact that my tournament only read 10 rounds.

The other team negged on protein sorting with "glycosylation", and since it's customary to wait till the end of questions before answering I was unable to give the "localization" answer I'd been sitting on and ended up saying "protein tagging", being prompted, saying "protein transport", being prompted, and then mumbling something about "proteins going places", which was not acceptable. The whole process of giving my answers and the mods searching through the answer lines (and rereading the question to find out where "tagging" was actually mentioned) ended up taking about a minute.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Amizda Calyx »

I should also note that, aside from the ecology thing, I really didn't have any more complaints about the bio than I do in other tournaments.
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Re: Biology and Chemistry

Post by Chimango Caracara »

JoelleJay wrote:
Chimango Caracara wrote:
JoelleJay wrote:I was coming here to comment on the heavy weighting of protein/molecule-related questions (I wasn't even going to touch the ecology distribution...), but it looks like the Berkeley mirror unfortunately just didn't get to some of the more physiology-based tossups (hearing, phagocytosis, PSI). I do think that the bonuses were consistently difficult, especially the preponderance of molecular/experimental bio--the only set I heard that I for sure could have 30'd was the dendritic spines one. It felt like organ and cell physiology, transduction pathways, etc. were pretty much ignored, although other tournaments typically have low distributions of those too. Also, I agree with other people's comments on the "protein sorting" TU; it was kind of a neg trap and essentially punished the non-negging team for waiting till the end, when specific examples accepted earlier in the question, such as "protein tagging", "targeting", "localizing", etc., were mentioned.
Hmm, I actually thought I included a lot of signal transduction between the tossups on hearing, integrins and cytokinins and the bonuses on dendritic spines bonus and Ras proteins (which I actually moved to a tiebreaker to cut down on the number of signaling questions).

In terms of physiology, what other topics would you have liked to see? When I was planning the distribution, the questions that I classified as physiological were the tossups on growth hormone, phagocytosis and hearing and the bonuses on cardiac shunts, thermogenesis and smooth muscle contraction. I guess some of these did end up focusing on molecular details rather than more systemic effects, so I'm sorry if I ended up neglecting some major areas. I did deliberately try to integrate clues related to diseases into the context of normal function rather than asking about them in isolation (since that's how they've generally been presented to me in bio courses), so that may have been a reason that the molecular basis of a given process was favored over its global manifestations.

What exactly did people neg with on the protein trafficking tossup?
I guess by "transduction" I meant signaling mechanism questions that weren't focused on molecular bio and genetics. The hearing question seemed to have most of the power in descriptions of specific mutations, and there were a couple instances where I could have negged if I was playing aggressively against a good science team. For example, the SLC26 anion transporter clue would've thrown me off for a bit since I've learned about an SLC26 anion transporter involved in another process (perhaps being more specific on the protein would help cut down the potential for ambiguity?).
I realize that molecular bio is typically the main component of the bio distribution, but it would be nice to see more histology/tissue/anatomy integrated into questions. We never got to the rounds they came up in, but the bonuses on cardiac shunts and thermogenesis seemed weighted equally towards ecology/evolutionary bio as physiology (with the exception of the first parts in each set). I'm not saying I dislike mixing subdisciplines, but it seemed like in both those cases the easy parts were super easy and the middle parts were designed for zoology people. Again, though, my perception of the distribution might be colored by the fact that my tournament only read 10 rounds.
These are fair criticisms. I'll try to be more conscious of relying too much on molecular clues in the future. The protein in the hearing tossup was prestin, which I didn't want to name right away, so that's why I just said "SLC26 anion transporter" at the beginning.
JoelleJay wrote:The other team negged on protein sorting with "glycosylation", and since it's customary to wait till the end of questions before answering I was unable to give the "localization" answer I'd been sitting on and ended up saying "protein tagging", being prompted, saying "protein transport", being prompted, and then mumbling something about "proteins going places", which was not acceptable. The whole process of giving my answers and the mods searching through the answer lines (and rereading the question to find out where "tagging" was actually mentioned) ended up taking about a minute.
Again, sorry about this question playing poorly.
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