VCU Open Discussion

Old college threads.
User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

yisun wrote:Of course, music may be a bit unique to me, but I don't see any reason why CS would be more difficult than, say philosophy or music -- all of them involve a lot of technical terminology and are not taught in most high schools...[CS] is similar to the situation in music...
One can get music tossups, especially at a lower level, from a music appreciation/music history class, and philosophy has some "intro to philosophy" classes too, that while they won't necessarily cover everything in a lower-level canon, they'll give you a pretty broad base to start. Both music appreciation and intro to philosophy can pretty much be taken by anyone (one does not necessarily have to read music or understand philosophical terms to participate in the class).

At the science level, there's intro to biology, intro to physics, intro to (pick your favorite discipline of earth science), and intro to astronomy. While these require more effort for a non-scientist than a music appreciation course would require for a non-musician, they're still somewhat accessible, and would probably help you get a few tossups after the FTP. On the other hand, there's no good intro to chem, intro to math, or intro to CS course (and that's probably a big part of why the first four categories are included in UCLA's Science GE and the latter three aren't). Of these, some sort of chemistry is required for just about any science major, and math is required for all sorts of science and non-science majors, so it would be reasonable to expect that people who don't necessarily study these fields have some familiarity with the subjects. However, CS isn't required for essentially anything other than CS (outside of maybe a few programming classes, which is apparently "fake" CS). That is, other than the people who invest the time in learning CS for quizbowl, the only people who are getting CS questions are CS majors, whereas I'd bet that this doesn't happen in any other category or subcategory of quizbowl.

To counteract another of your points: I'm probably one of the better music theory players on the circuit, in that I read music, got a 5 on the AP test long ago, and generally have a good idea of what the question's talking about when they go into all that technical stuff. For a couple of clues at Zot Bowl, I literally went and found a score and transcribed the note sequence or chords or whatnot from the staff into the question. This in no way makes me a good music player. I'm probably average at best, and even when I know exactly what the question is talking about there's no guarantee I'll match that musical description with a specific work. On the other hand, understanding the jargon of any given scientific discipline will make me a better player in that category. Of those scientific disciplines, I contend that CS has the hardest "jargon" for a non-specialist to master, especially with the high probability of a non-specialist making a tossup unintentionally transparent.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

yisun wrote:Matt claims that CS is a particularly hard field for non-specialists to answer questions in. As evidence, he states that he's had trouble answering CS and says that there are concepts in CS commonly known to CS majors but very hard for everyone else (i.e. inheritance). I claim that this is very similar to the situation in music, which I have trouble making any headway in and which also contains concepts well known to people who play instruments (tones, major/minor keys, etc) but hard for others.
But this is clearly false. The reason is that, by and large, questions on music are not only, or even primarily, about music theory. They usually include musical information, but the answers themselves are typically about works, or composers, or particular styles. Now, I'm not a very musical person, but I know enough about music and such to be able to identify many composers from works and so on. Actual musicians, who actually play music and whatnot, have a huge advantage over me, since first, they can sometimes get the answer from the musical clues, and second, they usually have a much greater catalog than I do to draw on for answers.

The point Matt is making about CS questions, which is both empirically true and obvious if you think about it, is that CS questions are much harder for non-specialists to answer than music questions are. This happens because way more people have "listening to good music" as a hobby than have "coding" as a hobby, not because one is intrisically better than the other, but just because that's how it is. It is also obviously true (and follows somewhat from the previous point) that technical terminology in general is harder to pick up than names of works and such. So your comparison is not correct and CS questions don't really have any parallel to music questions at all.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

I'd like to start by mentioning that I'm a little curious as to why a tossup on the Pandava brothers counts as religion; to me, the "heroes of the Mahabharata" ought to be mythology. Could you explain that, Matt? I've been trying to figure out a consistent theory on what counts as religion and what as mythology for a while now, and perhaps I could learn from the distinction that you're drawing here.

I don't care if CS ever gets more than 3/3 at a tournament; I don't know where that argument is coming from, though perhaps it does rebut some argument made in the past of which I'm unaware. I don't think it should, really; I think at HI math/cs/earth/astro are going to share 15/15 as equally as possible. Moreover, I'm a little baffled by the argument that "CS has never been written well, so it's not rational to get your hopes up"--a fine argument in itself--can be extended to "don't break your back trying to write CS well for once." In optimal conditions, there's no reason ever to write bad anything, least of all the fact that you'd be breaking new ground by doing it. Moreover, look at the CS from Gaddis! That was well-written. So it can be done and has been done.

The idea of "hurr hurr we want real CS" isn't necessarily a question of "MATT WEINER WE DON'T WANT YOUR TOSSUPS ON INHERITANCE." While that is, as you said, a pretty fucking standard term, it's standard because it's terribly relevant--somehow we churn out tossups of all levels on the inferiority complex. We just would prefer that it be tossed up in a manner reflecting actual CS: that is to say, don't do what NAQT has done, by leading in with shit like "The word 'extends' in Java" or something like that. That's like replacing a linguistics tossup with a tossup on verbs, given examples from several languages.

Anyway.
theMoMA wrote:And I say this despite the fact that the linked-list tossup cost us an advantage in the finals against Jerry's team.
For what its worth, I think this doesn't really hold water: I didn't buzz until the word "doubly" because I couldn't believe what was happening. So it's not like I stole a CS tossup that Minnesota was otherwise likely to get, because I'm pretty sure there's at least someone on your team who ought to have been brave enough to buzz already. Jerry remarked, either here or to the rest of the team, that the tossup on Bulgaria that round had some clues that seemed to pretty much predate Bulgaria-as-country (sorry if I'm mutilating this analysis) and would have to refer to the Bulgars, and some didn't, and that delayed his buzz. Perhaps THAT tossup is actually the one that cost you the advantage in the final. There was also a tossup on the historical meanderings of a certain fold o' flesh, and I don't believe we got it. Or the buzzer race that you won on CSI: New York--perhaps there is something subtly wrong with that question and we should discount it, too!

I know I sound hostile, but I'm not hostile towards you or towards Minnesota, just the line of reasoning that this statement represents: that one ought to consider your contentment with the set especially much because you were particularly affected by an example of one of its problems. I respectfully dispute the fact that your team was particularly affected by that question, and the argument that one's opinion of a set is as important as how much its flaws affected you.
theMoMA wrote:You guys are certainly right to complain about suboptimal clues and answer selection in your strong areas, but the idea that the tournament was a huge disappointment because of those areas is far from the truth.
No kidding. It's probably more of a disappointment for these reasons:
1. Matt Weiner is an excellent writer and player and, in general, a force on the circuit. I begin conversations with quiz bowlers I don't know, and they know who he is. This is not true for many names. This tournament would be celebrated as incredibly far exceeding expectations if I wrote it. However, expectations for Matt are higher (perhaps rightly) and thus the failure to deliver is relative.
2. There were problems in my weak areas, too. To give a literary example, I hear a leadin about some Q and A dialogue in a book, and thought that it sounded like Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise. But Ted wasn't buzzing, and the degree to which I suck at literature, while evident when I'm in pretty much every room, is almost inconceivable when I'm in a room with Ted, led me to believe that I shouldn't buzz. Then I hear the name of goddamn Thomas Park d'Enveilliers or however his name is spelled, not to mention a magazine with some of his poetry--his name comes up in a CO 2003 tossup, notably, and I'm pretty sure no one who's read the work (save me, out of reluctance to neg Ted out of lit) would fail to buzz there. The tossup on "onion domes" is a neat idea but i didn't love the execution, unless theories about the origin of onion domes are more buzzable (i.e. not lateral bait, but actually something art students would hear about) than I think. Then there was that round with what felt like three tossups on some kind of philosophy of mind, and the round we played Maryland with a tossup on the Bishops' Wars and one on William Laud.
Andrew Watkins
yisun
Lulu
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:45 am

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by yisun »

At the science level, there's intro to biology, intro to physics, intro to (pick your favorite discipline of earth science), and intro to astronomy. While these require more effort for a non-scientist than a music appreciation course would require for a non-musician, they're still somewhat accessible, and would probably help you get a few tossups after the FTP. On the other hand, there's no good intro to chem, intro to math, or intro to CS course (and that's probably a big part of why the first four categories are included in UCLA's Science GE and the latter three aren't). Of these, some sort of chemistry is required for just about any science major, and math is required for all sorts of science and non-science majors, so it would be reasonable to expect that people who don't necessarily study these fields have some familiarity with the subjects. However, CS isn't required for essentially anything other than CS (outside of maybe a few programming classes, which is apparently "fake" CS). That is, other than the people who invest the time in learning CS for quizbowl, the only people who are getting CS questions are CS majors, whereas I'd bet that this doesn't happen in any other category or subcategory of quizbowl.
Hrm, I wasn't aware that there was this dichotomy of survey classes. Perhaps it's because I live in Silicon Valley, but every college catalog I've ever looked at has included a non-technical intro to CS course at the level of, say, AP CS. I'd actually say that math would be harder in this regard.
I'm probably average at best, and even when I know exactly what the question is talking about there's no guarantee I'll match that musical description with a specific work. On the other hand, understanding the jargon of any given scientific discipline will make me a better player in that category. Of those scientific disciplines, I contend that CS has the hardest "jargon" for a non-specialist to master, especially with the high probability of a non-specialist making a tossup unintentionally transparent.
I just pulled up some recent ACF Regionals 2008 music tossups on ACF DB. It looks like about half of the questions mainly reference other works or composers and the various influences between them (or are about opera), which I concede is definitely gettable without any knowledge of music theory. But there are also tossups like:

This work begins without an introduction and plunges right into three tutti chords with sixteenth-note flourishes and a long main theme, which is followed by a G, G-sharp, A motif that motivates the second theme. An unusual moment in the first movement is the insertion of the air "Voi siete un po tondo," which was composed a few months earlier. Near the end of the final movement of this piece, the movement's theme is inverted and used as a subject for a fugue that goes on to incorporate the other major themes of the piece. With a name coined by impresario Johann Peter Salomon, for 10 points, name this C-major symphony by Mozart, his last, which is named for its jovial quality.
Answer: Jupiter Symphony [or Symphony No. 41 in C major; or K. 551]

The first three sentences of this mean absolutely nothing to me, nor do I think I could understand or learn more about them without learning what things like "motif", "air", and "theme" mean in a non-vague sense (what's an inverted theme?). I also don't see how any type of listening would allow me to answer this question. This is the type of question I mean when I compare CS to music; they seem common to me due to my complete lack of musical ability -- am I wrong in thinking that they are the desired type of question?
Yi from Harvard
User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

yisun wrote: This work begins without an introduction and plunges right into three tutti chords with sixteenth-note flourishes and a long main theme, which is followed by a G, G-sharp, A motif that motivates the second theme. An unusual moment in the first movement is the insertion of the air "Voi siete un po tondo," which was composed a few months earlier. Near the end of the final movement of this piece, the movement's theme is inverted and used as a subject for a fugue that goes on to incorporate the other major themes of the piece. With a name coined by impresario Johann Peter Salomon, for 10 points, name this C-major symphony by Mozart, his last, which is named for its jovial quality.
Answer: Jupiter Symphony [or Symphony No. 41 in C major; or K. 551]

The first three sentences of this mean absolutely nothing to me, nor do I think I could understand or learn more about them without learning what things like "motif", "air", and "theme" mean in a non-vague sense (what's an inverted theme?). I also don't see how any type of listening would allow me to answer this question.
Well, see, that's the important thing. If listening won't help you, neither will some theory class (for anything but the first part, which is indeed only accessible to people who actively study music, as leadins, I think, should be). Here's a good way to remember the insertion of that air, whatever the fuck that means: whenever you hear "Voi siete un po tondo" buzz and say "Jupiter Symphony." Problem solved! It's no harder than character => novel or chapter title => seminal work of social science. It's not really surprising that you need to do some formal study to get a better acquaintance with the tossup than a list-memorizer would have, but it doesn't make it unplayable, and it appropriately favors those with real knowledge.
Andrew Watkins
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

yisun wrote:
This work begins without an introduction and plunges right into three tutti chords with sixteenth-note flourishes and a long main theme, which is followed by a G, G-sharp, A motif that motivates the second theme. An unusual moment in the first movement is the insertion of the air "Voi siete un po tondo," which was composed a few months earlier. Near the end of the final movement of this piece, the movement's theme is inverted and used as a subject for a fugue that goes on to incorporate the other major themes of the piece. With a name coined by impresario Johann Peter Salomon, for 10 points, name this C-major symphony by Mozart, his last, which is named for its jovial quality.
Answer: Jupiter Symphony [or Symphony No. 41 in C major; or K. 551]
The first three sentences of this mean absolutely nothing to me, nor do I think I could understand or learn more about them without learning what things like "motif", "air", and "theme" mean in a non-vague sense (what's an inverted theme?). I also don't see how any type of listening would allow me to answer this question. This is the type of question I mean when I compare CS to music; they seem common to me due to my complete lack of musical ability -- am I wrong in thinking that they are the desired type of question?
You just posted a tossup that proves the exact point that I was making. The first clues are musical, yes, and they would give someone with deep knowledge of the Jupiter symphony advantage over someone like me (or you) as they should. Nevertheless, I contend that the vast majority of players would know the answer at the giveaway. However, the vast majority of players will not know "inheritance" of "polymorphism" at the giveaway. I don't see what's hard to understand about this point or how what you are saying contradicts it in any way.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
The Logic of Scientific Disco
Wakka
Posts: 137
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:36 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by The Logic of Scientific Disco »

yisun wrote: I just pulled up some recent ACF Regionals 2008 music tossups on ACF DB. It looks like about half of the questions mainly reference other works or composers and the various influences between them (or are about opera), which I concede is definitely gettable without any knowledge of music theory. But there are also tossups like:

This work begins without an introduction and plunges right into three tutti chords with sixteenth-note flourishes and a long main theme, which is followed by a G, G-sharp, A motif that motivates the second theme. An unusual moment in the first movement is the insertion of the air "Voi siete un po tondo," which was composed a few months earlier. Near the end of the final movement of this piece, the movement's theme is inverted and used as a subject for a fugue that goes on to incorporate the other major themes of the piece. With a name coined by impresario Johann Peter Salomon, for 10 points, name this C-major symphony by Mozart, his last, which is named for its jovial quality.
Answer: Jupiter Symphony [or Symphony No. 41 in C major; or K. 551]

The first three sentences of this mean absolutely nothing to me, nor do I think I could understand or learn more about them without learning what things like "motif", "air", and "theme" mean in a non-vague sense (what's an inverted theme?). I also don't see how any type of listening would allow me to answer this question. This is the type of question I mean when I compare CS to music; they seem common to me due to my complete lack of musical ability -- am I wrong in thinking that they are the desired type of question?
Oh hey, it's my not-great Jupiter Symphony question. Yeah, I'll admit the first couple sentences are a bit of a stretch, but once you get around to the "final movement theme becomes part of a fugue with other themes from the piece" you're in potential clue-memorization territory: I think it's perfectly plausible for a non-musical person to remember that the last part of this piece chucks everything prior from the piece together into something called a fugue. There are better examples of this type of music writing, which I will be the first to admit I'm still working on. For example, from Brown's 07 ACF Regs packet:

In this work’s long first movement, the first of the three opening orchestral chords oddly lacks a B flat note, and each chord is followed by a short cadenza. Its second movement, in B major, ends with a long pedal point beginning with the French horns that sees a semitone drop from B major to B flat on the bassoon lead directly into the third movement, which is back in E flat major. Its Vienna premier featured the composer’s student Carl Czerny as the soloist, due to the composer’s deafness. FTP name this work for solo keyboard instrument and orchestra, the last such work written by Ludwig van Beethoven.
ANSWER: “Emperor Concerto” or Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 [require “Beethoven” before mention]

I distinctly remember getting this on the "semitone drop from B major to B flat on the bassoon lead directly into the third movement" clue, so these clues are not always nonsense. Even the first clue in this tossup is buzzable. Err, what was the point of this again? I guess it's that music tossups can in fact be well-structured like this: a couple of musical clues, and then names and specifics, like Czerny and deaf composers.
Chris Kennedy, MIT
yisun
Lulu
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:45 am

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by yisun »

Well, see, that's the important thing. If listening won't help you, neither will some theory class (for anything but the first part, which is indeed only accessible to people who actively study music, as leadins, I think, should be). Here's a good way to remember the insertion of that air, whatever the fuck that means: whenever you hear "Voi siete un po tondo" buzz and say "Jupiter Symphony." Problem solved! It's no harder than character => novel or chapter title => seminal work of social science. It's not really surprising that you need to do some formal study to get a better acquaintance with the tossup than a list-memorizer would have, but it doesn't make it unplayable, and it appropriately favors those with real knowledge.
I don't see why this does not apply directly to CS as well. I could in theory study any subject by memorizing old clues.
You just posted a tossup that proves the exact point that I was making. The first clues are musical, yes, and they would give someone with deep knowledge of the Jupiter symphony advantage over someone like me (or you) as they should. Nevertheless, I contend that the vast majority of players would know the answer at the giveaway. However, the vast majority of players will not know "inheritance" of "polymorphism" at the giveaway. I don't see what's hard to understand about this point or how what you are saying contradicts it in any way.
Hrm, do you have any evidence for why most players would know the answer at the giveaway? (aside from studying for quizbowl, since I think you can learn some low-level CS clues pretty easily -- there are only so many answers that come up since there are so few questions). That doesn't seem immediately true to me, but I have no way of really verifying it since until a couple hours ago, I didn't know it existed (though I will certainly be reflex-buzzing the shit out of "Voi siete un po tondo" and "inverted theme in fugue" from now on).
I distinctly remember getting this on the "semitone drop from B major to B flat on the bassoon lead directly into the third movement" clue, so these clues are not always nonsense. Even the first clue in this tossup is buzzable. Err, what was the point of this again? I guess it's that music tossups can in fact be well-structured like this: a couple of musical clues, and then names and specifics, like Czerny and deaf composers.
So does that mean.. there's a high note followed by a low note? or the bassoon notes somehow go lower? I'm sure there must be more to it than that, but this seems like all that can be extracted without knowing any technical things about music.
Yi from Harvard
User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1190
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by setht »

The central problem with the tournament is that the question set wasn't ready. If I remember correctly, the first 8 rounds were ready in time, and were reasonably solid; the next couple rounds were slapped together hastily, and it showed--there were suddenly many more weak tossups, more wildly varying bonus questions, etc. I'm not sure if this also explains some of the subdistribution issues people have complained about--whether Matt would have noticed and rectified some of the imbalance in the religion subdistribution if he'd had more time to look over the set, for instance--but it can't have helped.

Billy, I thought the science was generally competent. I'm not sure the Frank-Tamm formula or Mooney-Rivlin solid are worthy of tossups. After looking at the Wikipedia page for Mooney-Rivlin solids and the tossup text, I still don't have a clear idea why the Mooney-Rivlin solid is a model I should be interested in (unless, as Wikipedia suggests, it's of interest to people studying deformation of brain tissue, which sounds cool but really is too esoteric to merit tossup space, I think). Has anyone ever run into this in a class? In general, I think some of the weaker material was in questions where you went for harder answers. Possibly this was more due to rushing to finish off questions than anything else, but I think you (and many other people trying to write science questions at a high level) might benefit from trying to write more questions on easier answers and just finding more high-level clues for those answers. If you pick an easy answer, odds are you've picked something really important, and there should be lots of good, high-level clues available.

As Jerry noted, the set could have used more earth science. I think there was 1/1 or maybe 1/2--am I missing some? Given how hard it is for most people to write CS that CS people will actually like, I'd like to encourage you and everyone else to try writing some more earth science instead of laboring to produce yet another CS question only to find that it produces buzzer races between CS people.

Matt, I'm not sure why you wrote a tossup on Perun; given that you wrote a tossup on Perun, I'm not sure why you didn't accept Perkons (or other variants of the name). If you're going with Wikipedia's distinction between the Slavic Perun and the Baltic Perkons, I think that's lame--we're talking about really obscure figures with essentially the same mythical attributes and stories, common origin, etc. I'm also not sure why you wrote a tossup on "children of sun gods"--it's literally impossible to buzz on the question with any confidence until the second or third clue, since the opening said something like "one character with this family relation". Even if I know exactly what figure you're referencing in the first clue, there's no way I can decide which "family relation" you want me to focus on. Is there any real gain in writing the question this way, rather than doing something like "One god of this type had a son who... Another god of this type had a son who..."? I realize that there have been previous tossups on things like "storm gods," "sea gods," "gods of death," etc., so on the face of it a tossup on "children of sun gods" may seem like a new gloss on the common-link myth tossup, but the more I think about it the more I'm convinced that it's really the same as a tossup on "sun gods" (with the clue set largely focused on the offspring of sun gods, but that's not a problem for a straightforward tossup on "sun gods"), but with unnecessary awkwardness built into the task of determining the answer. I'm fine with common-link tossups in myth and other categories--I write a fair number of them myself--but going to a new type of answer just for the sake of going to a new type of answer can't be justified if it results in questions that don't play as well.

-Seth
Seth Teitler
Formerly UC Berkeley and U. Chicago
President of NAQT
Emeritus member of ACF
User avatar
theMoMA
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5790
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:00 am

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Noted computer science student Trevor Davis told me that he didn't buzz on the linked lists tossup because the clue order led him to dismiss that as a possible answer. Sure, all of those other tossups could have decided the game (I hear that if things had happened differently, things would be different), but the fact is that after all of that did happen, there was one tossup that did win or lose the game for one team or the other, and that question was unfortunately a not-very-well written one.
Andrew Hart
Minnesota alum
User avatar
Pilgrim
Tidus
Posts: 638
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 12:20 pm
Location: Edmonton

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Pilgrim »

Matt Weiner wrote:I mean, yeah, I have to agree with Jerry's point here even more emphatically...CS has never been a category in quizbowl, and there's no reason to expect that to change given that "real" CS (anything without "sort" in its name or anything that does not reduce to general literacy about what the parts of a PC are called) is by far the least accessible thing for nonspecialists to learn and write. It took me like six years in quizbowl just to start getting questions on things like "inheritance" that are literally first day of class concepts for programmers. I hope people understand what the weight of history is here and don't have the false idea that there ever were tournaments with more than 3/3 or so on CS, or that the CS was ever anything but terrible. Asking for more CS seems as unrealistic as asking for more questions on specific schools of historiography or concepts from music theory or other things that are of absolutely no interest or accessibility to people not majoring in them.
This seems just silly to me. You say that it took you six years to learn something that you readily admit that people learn on the first day of their first CS class; how is that not contradictory? I have no problem with you deciding not to put any effort into learning about stuff you're not interested in, but I don't see where you're getting the idea that is stuff is hard for nonspecialists.
cvdwightw wrote:At the science level, there's intro to biology, intro to physics, intro to (pick your favorite discipline of earth science), and intro to astronomy. While these require more effort for a non-scientist than a music appreciation course would require for a non-musician, they're still somewhat accessible, and would probably help you get a few tossups after the FTP. On the other hand, there's no good intro to chem, intro to math, or intro to CS course (and that's probably a big part of why the first four categories are included in UCLA's Science GE and the latter three aren't).
I really don't think this is true. Computer science is an AP test, which indicates to me that there are probably a large number of high schools that offer classes in it; I certainly know this is true in my area. And while I obviously attend a school that specializes in CS where things might not be indicative of what goes on elsewhere, CMU has an introductory CS class that is extremely popular among non-CS majors. In addition, the majority of CS stuff that comes up in quiz bowl, through the regionals level, is stuff that is covered in introductory classes, something that certainly isn't true of the other sciences.

Am I arguing that CS is the most accessible subject? No, of course not; you need to have knowledge of the basic concepts before you can understand explanations of the harder ones. However, I think this is also true of the other sciences, at least to a certain extant. I think it compares especially well to o-chem; someone isn't going to be able to understand what's going on in a Wittig reaction without first understanding what an ylide is, knowledge that they aren't going to have unless they specifically study o-chem. With caveats about small sample size, even without counting people at CMU, I know way more people outside of quiz bowl with some amount of CS knowledge than with some amount of o-chem knowledge.
Trevor Davis
University of Alberta
CMU '11
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8417
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

setht wrote: I'm also not sure why you wrote a tossup on "children of sun gods"--it's literally impossible to buzz on the question with any confidence until the second or third clue, since the opening said something like "one character with this family relation".
For once, this extraordinarily weird idea for a common link myth tossup was not, in fact, mine; this tossup was from the Novice set.

As for the circumstances of question completion, I'm flattered in some perverse way that you actually thought I wrote rounds 10 and 11 in the three hours it took to finish the Bentley tournament, but even with my speed-writing habits and even if I had totally opened the filter on question quality, that would be ridiculous. Like round 9, those rounds were 85% done a week before the tournament, and just needed a few more bonuses to be playable. Your implied hypothesis that the remaining 15% of questions that were in fact written on Saturday were weaker and less well-spelled than the other questions is doubtlessly correct.
Matt Weiner
Founder of hsquizbowl.org
User avatar
theMoMA
Forums Staff: Administrator
Posts: 5790
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 2:00 am

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

For what it's worth, Gautam's brother Gaurav absolutely owned the shit out of that sons of the sun tossup.
Andrew Hart
Minnesota alum
User avatar
Pilgrim
Tidus
Posts: 638
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 12:20 pm
Location: Edmonton

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Pilgrim »

I might have some more comments once I see the set, but there were a few things I want to address right away:

Some of the problems with the leadin on linked list tossup have already been talked about. I would also like to point out that I have never heard of having a dummy node at the end of a list, only at the start; I really can't think of any way this would be helpful, though I'm probably just missing something.

As for the minimum spanning tree question, I liked this one a lot less than other people seemed to. The first two sentences seem fine to me, though I have no real knowledge of those clues. However, it then pretty much said that there are lots of algorithms for finding these and described them as "objects". I really can't think of anything else that you might be finding with an algorithm that would be described in that way.

This one is probably just a case of sour grapes, but I also didn't like the Sforza question in the final. While the leadin was uniquely identifying by saying that the murder in the church took place on the day after Christmas, I think it was neg bait for people like me who don't know on what date the Pazzi conspiracy went down; it didn't seem very likely to me that there was another tossupable family that notably had a member killed in church.
Trevor Davis
University of Alberta
CMU '11
User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Pilgrim wrote:
cvdwightw wrote:At the science level, there's intro to biology, intro to physics, intro to (pick your favorite discipline of earth science), and intro to astronomy. While these require more effort for a non-scientist than a music appreciation course would require for a non-musician, they're still somewhat accessible, and would probably help you get a few tossups after the FTP. On the other hand, there's no good intro to chem, intro to math, or intro to CS course (and that's probably a big part of why the first four categories are included in UCLA's Science GE and the latter three aren't).
I really don't think this is true. Computer science is an AP test, which indicates to me that there are probably a large number of high schools that offer classes in it; I certainly know this is true in my area. And while I obviously attend a school that specializes in CS where things might not be indicative of what goes on elsewhere, CMU has an introductory CS class that is extremely popular among non-CS majors. In addition, the majority of CS stuff that comes up in quiz bowl, through the regionals level, is stuff that is covered in introductory classes, something that certainly isn't true of the other sciences.
If we are arguing that the CS canon does not increase with difficulty at the same rate as everything else, I'll concede that point, and I think a large part of that is due to the lack of competent CS writers, especially those who are good judges of difficulty. People are more likely to submit tossups on "heap" or something like that that's come up a gazillion times than on something that (a) we haven't heard of and (b) we don't know whether any other non-CS people have heard of. I don't know what's involved on the AP CS test, so I'm not going to comment on that.

However, I would claim that the dichotomy between GE courses at a large, public university and non-GE courses is a somewhat valid criteria for judging what players who aren't science specialists are likely to know. Put simply, I can expect that any halfway competent UCLA player (at least, those that aren't in one of the art schools) is going to have some (rudimentary) knowledge of biology, physics, earth science, or astronomy, based on the fact that they have to take something like 3 or 4 science classes as GEs. I can't expect that they'll have knowledge of noted non-GE topics chemistry, math, or CS. Based on my experiences, I'm pretty confident that "science players" (i.e. the people who take the courses that allow them to get upper-level stuff in these areas) have to take some math and have to take at least some chem, whereas one need not necessarily take CS (heck, it's its own department at Irvine).
Am I arguing that CS is the most accessible subject? No, of course not; you need to have knowledge of the basic concepts before you can understand explanations of the harder ones. However, I think this is also true of the other sciences, at least to a certain extant. I think it compares especially well to o-chem; someone isn't going to be able to understand what's going on in a Wittig reaction without first understanding what an ylide is, knowledge that they aren't going to have unless they specifically study o-chem. With caveats about small sample size, even without counting people at CMU, I know way more people outside of quiz bowl with some amount of CS knowledge than with some amount of o-chem knowledge.
I think a large reason for the disproportionate amount of o-chem is simply that a lot of the people who defined the canon before us had to take o-chem courses and didn't necessarily have to take CS. To some extent, I think that's still true today. Discounting the debatable statement that, both historically and currently, premeds and ex-premeds make up more of the quizbowl population than CS specialists, I think people pick up O-Chem tangentially from other primary areas of study (e.g. biology). I'd go as far as to say that CS is the most isolated category or subcategory in the game. I mean, you start with science, which has already become about as isolated as you can get from the rest of quizbowl, and then you find the category that has the least course-wise overlap with any other area of study. Perhaps there is some distinction between "programming" and "NAQT-style computer language literacy" that I'm missing here, but I can't think of any other way to glean "legitimate" CS knowledge (as in, to be able to write halfway decent tossups) than by becoming a CS major.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry
yisun
Lulu
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:45 am

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by yisun »

However, I would claim that the dichotomy between GE courses at a large, public university and non-GE courses is a somewhat valid criteria for judging what players who aren't science specialists are likely to know. Put simply, I can expect that any halfway competent UCLA player (at least, those that aren't in one of the art schools) is going to have some (rudimentary) knowledge of biology, physics, earth science, or astronomy, based on the fact that they have to take something like 3 or 4 science classes as GEs. I can't expect that they'll have knowledge of noted non-GE topics chemistry, math, or CS. Based on my experiences, I'm pretty confident that "science players" (i.e. the people who take the courses that allow them to get upper-level stuff in these areas) have to take some math and have to take at least some chem, whereas one need not necessarily take CS (heck, it's its own department at Irvine).
I think this varies university to university. Harvard requires one course from each of math/cs, chem/physics, bio/earth sci.
Perhaps there is some distinction between "programming" and "NAQT-style computer language literacy" that I'm missing here, but I can't think of any other way to glean "legitimate" CS knowledge (as in, to be able to write halfway decent tossups) than by becoming a CS major.
I think you could take a survey course in CS and be okay to write tossups with some outside reading (at least at the current level of canon difficulty). It doesn't require a major, certainly, but it takes some effort.
Yi from Harvard
cdcarter
Yuna
Posts: 945
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:06 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by cdcarter »

cvdwightw wrote: Perhaps there is some distinction between "programming" and "NAQT-style computer language literacy" that I'm missing here, but I can't think of any other way to glean "legitimate" CS knowledge (as in, to be able to write halfway decent tossups) than by becoming a CS major.
I am notably not a CS major, and I do not intend on becoming one. I have taken no formal study in computer science. I program, as a hobby, and read stuff about programming, and I knew all the CS at this tournament.

CS may have a higher barrier to entry because you aren't forced to take a class on it, but you can easily learn most if not all the concepts that come up in quizbowl by reading through an AP CS study guide, or a copy of Structure and Interpretation.
Christian Carter
Minneapolis South High School '09 | Emerson College '13
PACE Member (retired)
The Atom Strikes!
Tidus
Posts: 612
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 7:05 pm
Location: Houston, Texas

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by The Atom Strikes! »

Another point in favor of CS's accessibility-- most terms in CS have names in English that relate to what they actually are. A "linked list" is exactly what it sounds like-- a list with links between the component objects. A "compiler" compiles code so it's processable in machine language. "QuickSort" is the fastest sorting algorithm. Etc.

Because the terms map fairly closely to what they actually are, it seems that CS should be considerably more accessible to outsiders than say, organic chemistry, which has an arcane vocabulary in which all of the terms are unfamiliar to the uninitiated and have no relation to their function. Thus, it seems like CS should be more, not less, accessible than some of the other commonly tossed up science fields.
Henry Gorman, Wilmington Charter '09, Rice '13, PhD History Vanderbilt '1X
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Pilgrim wrote:As for the minimum spanning tree question... I really can't think of anything else that you might be finding with an algorithm that would be described in that way.
But there are lots of things you can find with algorithms (e.g. various types of cycles, sub-graphs) and virtually any "thing" in CS is going to be referred to as an "object" so I don't really see how you could buzz on any of those clues without knowing that those algorithms are, in fact, used for finding minimum spanning trees.
This one is probably just a case of sour grapes, but I also didn't like the Sforza question in the final. While the leadin was uniquely identifying by saying that the murder in the church took place on the day after Christmas, I think it was neg bait for people like me who don't know on what date the Pazzi conspiracy went down; it didn't seem very likely to me that there was another tossupable family that notably had a member killed in church.
Sorry, but that wasn't neg bait. While I too did not know the exact date of the Pazzi plot, I think it's safe to say that in the finals of a tournament like VCU Open, this was a decidedly poor neg. That's just not going to be the first clue for a "Medici" tossup at this level, and the second part of your point is obviously false, since there is in fact such a family. I would actually be surprised if that wasn't true of more of the various Italian families from that period, since I imagine various killings, in church and otherwise, must have been relatively more common.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
The Toad to Wigan Pier
Tidus
Posts: 528
Joined: Mon Oct 10, 2005 6:58 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier »

Mr. Freeman wrote:Another point in favor of CS's accessibility-- most terms in CS have names in English that relate to what they actually are. A "linked list" is exactly what it sounds like-- a list with links between the component objects. A "compiler" compiles code so it's processable in machine language. "QuickSort" is the fastest sorting algorithm. Etc.

Because the terms map fairly closely to what they actually are, it seems that CS should be considerably more accessible to outsiders than say, organic chemistry, which has an arcane vocabulary in which all of the terms are unfamiliar to the uninitiated and have no relation to their function. Thus, it seems like CS should be more, not less, accessible than some of the other commonly tossed up science fields.
Very true, CS has quite possibly the least imaginative names of any math/science/engineering field.
William Butler
UVA '11
Georgia Tech 13
User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1190
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by setht »

Matt Weiner wrote:
setht wrote: I'm also not sure why you wrote a tossup on "children of sun gods"--it's literally impossible to buzz on the question with any confidence until the second or third clue, since the opening said something like "one character with this family relation".
For once, this extraordinarily weird idea for a common link myth tossup was not, in fact, mine; this tossup was from the Novice set.
My apologies, I guess the last 3 rounds we played all blurred together. In that case, the only common link myth tossup I can remember is the one on turtles, which seems like a bit of a stretch and was weaker than many of the other, straightforward myth tossups (e.g. the Graces, Marduk, Ravana, Galatea).
Matt Weiner wrote:As for the circumstances of question completion, I'm flattered in some perverse way that you actually thought I wrote rounds 10 and 11 in the three hours it took to finish the Bentley tournament, but even with my speed-writing habits and even if I had totally opened the filter on question quality, that would be ridiculous. Like round 9, those rounds were 85% done a week before the tournament, and just needed a few more bonuses to be playable. Your implied hypothesis that the remaining 15% of questions that were in fact written on Saturday were weaker and less well-spelled than the other questions is doubtlessly correct.
Well, perhaps it's just a coincidence then, but I thought the art tossups in rounds 9-11 (Bonheur, Uccello, Botticelli) were weak compared with most of the earlier art tossups.

We also had by far our worst bonus conversion in round 9, but I see from the round report that round 4 actually had lower bonus conversion overall.
yisun wrote:
However, I would claim that the dichotomy between GE courses at a large, public university and non-GE courses is a somewhat valid criteria for judging what players who aren't science specialists are likely to know. Put simply, I can expect that any halfway competent UCLA player (at least, those that aren't in one of the art schools) is going to have some (rudimentary) knowledge of biology, physics, earth science, or astronomy, based on the fact that they have to take something like 3 or 4 science classes as GEs. I can't expect that they'll have knowledge of noted non-GE topics chemistry, math, or CS. Based on my experiences, I'm pretty confident that "science players" (i.e. the people who take the courses that allow them to get upper-level stuff in these areas) have to take some math and have to take at least some chem, whereas one need not necessarily take CS (heck, it's its own department at Irvine).
I think this varies university to university. Harvard requires one course from each of math/cs, chem/physics, bio/earth sci.
Sure, it varies from university to university, but I think Dwight's basic point holds: the typical college student has to take some amount of astro/bio/chem/earth science/math/physics courses to finish off GE requirements. Some universities may, like Harvard, offer the option of taking a CS course in place of math or some other science, but I think that's relatively uncommon, and my impression (from my undergrad days at Cal, which includes 3 CS courses in the list of courses that satisfy the physical science breadth requirement) is that most people don't go for the CS option--they go for Rocks for Jocks, Flying Rocks for Jocks, or an intro to chem or physics-type class. To be fair, it looks like 2 of the 3 CS options at Cal require at least 2 other CS classes as prereqs, so I can understand why most non-CS people at Cal would do something else to finish off the PhySci requirement.

Outside of that, I think it's also true that there's more overlap amongst all of the "natural science" or whatever you want to call them (including math) than there is between any of them and CS, in terms of material and typical coursework for science majors.

-Seth
Seth Teitler
Formerly UC Berkeley and U. Chicago
President of NAQT
Emeritus member of ACF
User avatar
Mike Bentley
Sin
Posts: 6109
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

Alright, here are my thoughts on the subject of computer science in quizbowl, broken down into several sections. This got pretty long and cumbersome, so some parts may not be as clear as they should be.

Before I start, I’d like to say that I thought all of the CS I heard on Saturday to be perfectly find and “legit” from an answer perspective. I agree with others that the execution of some of the tossups could have been better, although I think that Minimum Spanning Tree question was fine, contrary to what Trevor thought.

Anyways, here goes:

What Makes for Illegitimate CS:

When you hear people complaining of “fake CS” or “computer literacy”, here is where the complaints are grounded:

Because the specific languages, platforms and computer environments are changing so rapidly, pretty much all good computer science departments focus on the underlying concepts and theory of creating computer programs rather than the specific procedures for making them. By this I mean computer science classes tend to focus on “Elements of Object Oriented Programming” rather than “How to Program in Java”. While learning how to actually make an application in Java is a certainly a part of these classes, what’s important is the data structures, algorithms, design paradigms, etc. that are enduring and universal rather than, say, memorizing or even optimizing the Java library files. The former falls into what I would deem as “legitimate” CS, while the latter into more of “computer literacy”.

Perhaps someone can do a better job of defining “legitimate”, but here are just a few examples off of the top of my head of what is included:

-Data structures
-Algorithms
-AI Techniques
-Graph theory
-Components of computers
-Parallelism concepts
-Design patterns
-Computational theory (NP stuff, Big O stuff done intelligently, etc.)
-Computer graphics stuff
-And surely lots more I missed

And here are some examples of what I’d characterize as illegitimate:

-End user applications.
-Specific constructs of programming languages (i.e. a tossup on underscores or the “new” keyword).
-Specific protocols of questionable importance.

There would be more here, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Perhaps I will add some when I get a chance to go back through some old tournaments which have been plagued by this problem.

The Interesting CS Canon:

The computer science canon doesn’t have to be an endless stream of questions on data structures and algorithms. Obviously these things are important and have well defined names and clues, so they’re going to come up a lot. But I would argue that there are other areas of the “legitimate” canon that can (and have) been written which are interesting for non-specialists.

Here are some examples of tossups that I think cover interesting, non-data structure and non-algorithm concepts that are relatively easy for someone to answer and perhaps even understand while not being a specialist. I’m trying not to be egotistical by using mainly examples of questions I’ve written, but I have a hard time remembering other questions that fit this example.

A modified version of this problem was proposed by Chandy and Misra in 1984 which used the priority of each agent to his neighbor to transform the problem into an acyclic graph. Another variation can occur on an arbitrary topology and has the agents receiving tranquility depending on their interaction with adjacent bottles. A similar problem to this one proposed by S. S. Patil can also be solved using semaphores and involves putting matches, paper or tobacco on the table by the namesake cigarette smokers. When one agent in this problem livelocks it is commonly referred to as "starvation" and one of the better solutions uses an array to track each agent's state. The title figures face the problem of having to use two forks, and are either exclusively eating or thinking. FTP, identify this problem proposed by Edsger Dijkstra for abstracting concurrency and deadlock.
ANSWER: Dining Philosophers Problem (prompt on "DPP")

One mechanism for improving them can be inadvertently rendered ineffective by compiler optimization and is an algorithm named for Kahan. A proposed new standard for them will employ an "FMA" operation which, through the use of Horner's scheme, can improve the efficiency of polynomial evaluation. IBM's S/390 architecture defines a proprietary format for them, an architecture that employs various wrapping techniques like "late" and "long-to-short" in order to improve efficiency of operations on them. Thomas Nicely pointed out an infamous flaw in a certain operation on them in ► Intel's first Pentium chip in 1994. The most common implementation of them, IEEE 754, does not use two's complement but instead biases the exponent bits in order to improve the efficiency of comparison. That standard also provides for a mantissa and a sign bit. FTP, identify these ways to represent non-integer numbers on a computer, designated in C by appending an f to the end of a number.
ANSWER: Floating Point Numbers (1)

3) Cheney's algorithm, an extension of the semispace method, is one way to implement this procedure, and involves dividing the heap in half and copying elements back and forth between to-spaces. It's not recursion, but LISP was an early language to support it, and cycles tend to lead to problems in a similar process to this called Reference Counting. One implementation of this process involves putting a tag on every reachable block in memory and then freeing any block without a tag, and is known as Mark and Sweep. C and C++ do not have an automatic one built into the language, but Java does. FTP, identify this process where memory blocks no longer used are automatically trashed.
ANSWER: Garbage Collection

An extension of this statement was refined by Wilfried Sieg to include only boundedness, locality, and determinancy, and Steven Wolfram expanded it to systems in the natural world. Tibor Rado introduced a function for which it doesn't apply known as the busy beaver, and it could be challenged by the existence of an oracle. One version of it grew out of Hilbert's decision problem, while another formulation stated that real world numerical problems could be expressed using the lambda calculus. For 10 points, name this doubly eponymous principle that says every computable function can be computed with one of its namesake's machines.
Answer: Church-Turing thesis [accept in either order; prompt on a single name before "doubly"]

Difficulty of Answering CS Questions:

Is answering a tossup on a data structure any harder than one on a functional group? Is answering a tossup on an algorithm any harder than one on a chemical reaction? Is answering a tossup on a specific component of a computer (i.e. a cache or virtual memory) any more difficult than answering a tossup on an apparatus used in chemistry (i.e. a type of spectroscopy)? I contend that the reason that people find chemistry perhaps more answerable than CS is because chemistry just comes up more often. Not only is there more pressure to learn these clues (otherwise you're missing 1/1 per packet), but by sheer repetition some people will eventually pick things up, even if they don't try to.

Matt, can you explain to me what a functional group is? Or what the difference between an aledhyde and an alcohol is besides the most basic definition? I certainly can’t, despite hearing these questions again and again. I know some basic word associations, like when someone says “substituted dieyne” that I should buzz in with “Diels Alder”. I don’t see how this is any more difficult than for a non-specialist to associate “first in first out” with “queue” or “all points shortest path algorithm” with “Dijkstra’s Algorithm”.

I realize that I keep comparing the algorithm and data structure CS canon to the organic chemistry canon, but this is where I see the greatest analogs. These areas, perhaps the hardest area of the CS canon for non-specialists who don’t have any basic knowledge of the subject to distinguish between, are in my opinion of equal difficulty with a well established part of the science canon. Other parts of the canon, as described in the earlier CS canon section of this post, are perhaps more analogous to the (arguably) easier math canon.

The idea that no one takes Computer Science classes besides majors is also incorrect. The additional idea that these classes cover things that don’t constitute “legitimate” CS is also incorrect. For example, in almost all of these classes you’re going to learn the basics of Object Oriented programming languages, so perhaps you’ll have some understanding of the concept of inheritance. You’re also going to be making programs that invariably use some of the foundations of computer science, such as important data structures like strings, lists, and arrays. All of those can and do make for good CS tossups at lower level events. No, this knowledge is not going to help you very much to answer a tossup at a high level tournament on Randomized Skip Lists or something, but it’s unlikely that introductory level knowledge in any other science field will help you in similar ways at high level tournaments.

Difficulty of Writing and Editing CS Questions:

CS tossups can admittedly be difficult for non-specialists to write and edit. I’m not sure of great ways to fix this problem, besides just having inexperienced writers and editors sticking within the canon when possible. There are a number of established CS writers willing to write canon-expanding tossups when applicable for tournaments, so inexperienced writers can stick with subjects that have pre-existing good tossups to compare against for transparent/antipyramidal clues after their tossups are written.

CS does have the benefit of having very good resources online. There are a ton of textbooks on Google Books, and a lot of great lecture material that you can find with a simple Google Search. Lectures are probably a particularly good source for people inexperienced with the canon to attempt to learn the background and concepts surrounding the question they’re writing.

If anyone has additional suggestions, it would be very helpful.

CS in the Quizbowl Distribution:

You get a lot of complaints from CS people about CS questions for a number of reasons. First, it seems that the ratio of CS majors to the number of CS questions asked about in a tournament is extremely high compared to other fields. There are other fields that also exist on the periphery of the quizbowl distribution (such as earth science, linguistics, some areas of social science), but the reason you don’t hear as much clamoring for more questions in these areas is because the number of students in those field in quizbowl isn't as large as in CS. To a certain extent the quizbowl distribution is what it is to please the interests of the audience, so when there is a (relatively) large audience of players looking to hear quality tossups in their field, there will be complaints when there aren't such questions.

I don’t really think anyone in quizbowl is calling for some great increase of the CS distribution. I think that the current “standard” of it being included in about 1/3 of the “other science” distribution is fine. This works out to about 4/4 questions in a 12/12 tournament, with a few more or a few less in each tournament depending on number of questions submitted.

Edited to complete some paragraphs I forgot to complete.
Last edited by Mike Bentley on Wed Aug 20, 2008 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008
User avatar
magin
Yuna
Posts: 975
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:50 pm
Location: College Park, MD

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by magin »

I am pretty much in full agreement with Mike's post; no one is asking for a 1/1 CS distribution, just for CS questions using good clues about important topics, just like chemistry players want good questions on important topics in chemistry, psychology players want good questions on important topics in psychology, and so on. Also, I don't see any enormous barrier to answering computer science questions; as a humanities person, I think solid computer science questions are more accessible than chemistry questions about reactions or functional groups, biology tossups on proteins or hormones, and tossups on abstract algebra, for instance, which are all much more prevalent in quizbowl than CS. In short, I don't understand why we shouldn't strive to include 4/4 well-written CS questions per tournament; it's no different than any other part of the distribution, and deserves to be both well-written and properly represented among the minor science in a tournament.
Jonathan Magin
Montgomery Blair HS '04, University of Maryland '08
Editor: ACF

"noted difficulty controller"
User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Mike, I think some of your paragraphs got cut off for some reason.

Anyway, thanks for posting that. I think it gives people a good understanding of the issues involved in writing CS questions, and I'm pretty much in complete agreement with what you said about what makes for good questions and what doesn't.

Let me also encourage CS players (and others of course) to be the change you want to see in quizbowl. If you think your favorite discipline is underrepresented, write questions on it. I know many of you already do this, but oftentimes, especially in the sciences, people tend to stick to what they are most comfortable with, and CS is usually not that thing. So if a nonspecialist hears enough CS questions, he or she might decide to write more CS tossups in the future since they will become an accepted part of the canon.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance
User avatar
setht
Auron
Posts: 1190
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 2:41 pm
Location: Columbus, Ohio

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by setht »

At this point I'm not entirely sure what it is we're arguing over with regards to CS--are the CS people trying to convince the non-CS people that it actually is easier than we think to write good CS questions, evidence from our many previous failures aside? I think Mike's post helps clarify several things, and he doesn't seem to be making that claim. He does make some other claims that I disagree with. To wit:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote: Difficulty of Answering CS Questions:

Is answering a tossup on a data structure any harder than one on a functional group? Is answering a tossup on an algorithm any harder than one on a chemical reaction? Is answering a tossup on a specific component of a computer (i.e. a cache or virtual memory) any more difficult than answering a tossup on an apparatus used in chemistry (i.e. a type of spectroscopy)? I contend that the reason that people find chemistry perhaps more answerable than CS is because chemistry just comes up more often. Not only is there more pressure to learn these clues (otherwise you're missing 1/1 per packet), but by sheer repetition some people will eventually pick things up, even if they don't try to.
It's true that there are more chemistry questions per tournament set than CS questions, so there are more opportunities for quizbowl players to pick up chemistry info, but I think the main difference in answerability of chemistry versus CS is grounded in coursework outside of quizbowl. I can attest that people in astro, earth science and physics all get some exposure to chemistry (especially the physical chemistry side of things, but not exclusively that section of chemistry), and I would guess that people in biology get even more exposure. I would further argue that exposure to chemistry through other science classes and direct exposure to chemistry through chemistry classes are both more common than exposure to CS through coursework at the high school and collegiate intro course levels, and for science majors as well.
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Matt, can you explain to me what a functional group is? Or what the difference between an aledhyde and an alcohol is besides the most basic definition? I certainly can’t, despite hearing these questions again and again. I know some basic word associations, like when someone says “substituted dieyne” that I should buzz in with “Diels Alder”. I don’t see how this is any more difficult than for a non-specialist to associate “first in first out” with “queue” or “all points shortest path algorithm” with “Dijkstra’s Algorithm”.
If you take someone that doesn't know anything about two topics and ask them to make one clue-answer association in each of those topics, I imagine they will find it as easy/difficult in the one subject as the other. I don't think this is what happens for many quizbowl teams when it comes time to play on or study some chemistry or CS material--I think there are many more quizbowl teams with one or more people with some outside-of-quizbowl exposure to chemistry basics than there are teams with one or more people with some outside-of-quizbowl exposure to real CS basics.
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:The idea that no one takes Computer Science classes besides majors is also incorrect.
Has anyone advanced this idea? Would you argue that the number of people that take CS classes is larger than the number of people that take astro/bio/chem/earth science/physics classes providing some exposure to chemistry? Not all of those classes provide exposure to chemistry, but I'm pretty sure the numbers are still heavily in favor of exposure to chemistry versus exposure to CS.

-Seth
Seth Teitler
Formerly UC Berkeley and U. Chicago
President of NAQT
Emeritus member of ACF
User avatar
Mike Bentley
Sin
Posts: 6109
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

In regards to your post, Seth, I haven't taken many college level science classes (CS classes aside), so it's hard to judge whether people are more exposed to chemistry than computer science in those classes. One thing to keep in mind is that since there is approximately 1/3 of the amount of CS as there is of the other major sciences, I think this implies that there'd only need to be about 1/3 of outside the classroom overlap, although I'm not entirely sure that I even buy this argument.

Anyways, it seems that at the very least physics and math majors have some and often a good bit of exposure to computer science in their coursework. I don't want to say that everyone in these fields do, but barring some way to find actual evidence, I'd assert that the anecdotal evidence points me towards CS classes being a part of the education of many math and physics majors.

Disregarding people who have non-academic interest in computer science topics (which I'd argue is a lot higher than the other sciences), I still think that this body of physics and math majors combined with the small number of people who take "CS for jocks" intro courses constitutes a large enough student body to include the 4/4 level of CS on "what people do in school" grounds (which should not be constituted as the only argument for inclusion in quizbowl).
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008
User avatar
pray for elves
Auron
Posts: 1050
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:58 pm
Location: 20001

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by pray for elves »

From everything I've seen, people who do research in biology, chemistry, physics, and astrophysics often wind up doing a decent amount of programming and get exposed to some CS concepts that way.
Evan
Georgetown Law Alum, Brandeis Alum, Oak Ridge High Alum
Ex-PACE, Ex-ACF
User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Seth - I think Mike misinterpreted what I was saying. I was saying that to get to the level of competence needed to write a good CS question, you almost have to be a CS Major, because people aren't exposed to that kind of stuff through their normal course of study. Evan and Mike seem to have refuted this idea (though I contend that CS is more on a "literacy" level in a lot of research - for instance, becoming familiar with a programming language, e.g. C or MATLAB, is far more important than knowing how or why it does what it does).

Mike (and others) - I'm not sure where this idea of 4/4 CS in a 12-round tournament (as what I'm interpreting as the minimum acceptable level) is coming from. In an "ideal" world (that is, a tournament with ACF-style submission requirements including 5/5 science), there would be 12/12 biology, 12/12 chemistry, 12/12 physics, and 6/6 on each of the minor sciences. We can further assume that of the 1/1 science that ends up getting cut/moved to tiebreakers, somewhere over 80% of that is going to be minor science. So we're looking at out of 96 total science questions, somewhere around 68-70 is going to be "big three" science. If we assume that minor science is distributed roughly equally, then we're looking at 3/3, 3/4, or 4/3 in each category depending on how much major science gets cut. So we're not quite at the 4/4 level here - if we're going by "ideal" distributions, I'd say 4/4 is slightly overrepresenting CS but certainly within respectable levels. Similarly, 2/3 would be slightly underrepresenting CS but probably within respectable levels. Certainly no one is arguing for the elimination of CS from the canon, but the argument that CS is underrepresented is getting old. I'd say that a range of between 5 and 9 CS questions in a 12-round tournament is fine. Most tournaments are on the low side of this range because (1) people are less secure about their CS knowledge than other minor sciences ("hey, I'll write a second astro question that isn't terrible rather than a CS question that I don't think will be any good") and (2) as Matt has said, CS has historically been an extremely minor part of the distribution, and thus there has not been as much of an incentive for people to get good at it. I don't think there's any conspiracy going around to drive CS out of the canon by purposely writing only a few, bad questions on it.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry
User avatar
Mike Bentley
Sin
Posts: 6109
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Mike Bentley »

cvdwightw wrote:Mike (and others) - I'm not sure where this idea of 4/4 CS in a 12-round tournament (as what I'm interpreting as the minimum acceptable level) is coming from. In an "ideal" world (that is, a tournament with ACF-style submission requirements including 5/5 science), there would be 12/12 biology, 12/12 chemistry, 12/12 physics, and 6/6 on each of the minor sciences. We can further assume that of the 1/1 science that ends up getting cut/moved to tiebreakers, somewhere over 80% of that is going to be minor science. So we're looking at out of 96 total science questions, somewhere around 68-70 is going to be "big three" science. If we assume that minor science is distributed roughly equally, then we're looking at 3/3, 3/4, or 4/3 in each category depending on how much major science gets cut. So we're not quite at the 4/4 level here - if we're going by "ideal" distributions, I'd say 4/4 is slightly overrepresenting CS but certainly within respectable levels. Similarly, 2/3 would be slightly underrepresenting CS but probably within respectable levels. Certainly no one is arguing for the elimination of CS from the canon, but the argument that CS is underrepresented is getting old. I'd say that a range of between 5 and 9 CS questions in a 12-round tournament is fine. Most tournaments are on the low side of this range because (1) people are less secure about their CS knowledge than other minor sciences ("hey, I'll write a second astro question that isn't terrible rather than a CS question that I don't think will be any good") and (2) as Matt has said, CS has historically been an extremely minor part of the distribution, and thus there has not been as much of an incentive for people to get good at it. I don't think there's any conspiracy going around to drive CS out of the canon by purposely writing only a few, bad questions on it.
I don't really understand what you're saying here. In a final packet, there is typically 4/4 science in a round. 3/3 of this is dedicated to bio/chem/physics, leaving 1/1 typically to be assigned to minor sciences. Unless I'm missing something, these include CS, math, astronomy and earth sciences. I realized earlier that I was forgetting astronomy, so I think one could argue that if all of these sciences were distributed equally, there would be 3/3 pure CS in a 12 round tournament. That being said, I think this gives a little more weight to earth science than is warranted, and there are some overlaps between various areas of the canon (some earth science, like ecology, is pretty similar to biology, and some astronomy is pretty similar to physics, plus topics like graph theory straddle the edge between CS and Math). Thus, I don't think it's that unreasonable to see somewhere between 3/3 and 5/5 CS in a tournament, depending on variations in the number of questions in these cateogires submitted.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008
User avatar
cvdwightw
Auron
Posts: 3446
Joined: Tue May 13, 2003 12:46 am
Location: Southern CA
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by cvdwightw »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:Thus, I don't think it's that unreasonable to see somewhere between 3/3 and 5/5 CS in a tournament, depending on variations in the number of questions in these cateogires submitted.
Okay, so we're off by one total question in our assessments of what's "reasonable" for a 12 round tournament. I was under the impression that CS zealots were arguing for 4/4 as a minimum instead of a target.
Dwight Wynne
socalquizbowl.org
UC Irvine 2008-2013; UCLA 2004-2007; Capistrano Valley High School 2000-2003

"It's a competition, but it's not a sport. On a scale, if football is a 10, then rowing would be a two. One would be Quiz Bowl." --Matt Birk on rowing, SI On Campus, 10/21/03

"If you were my teammate, I would have tossed your ass out the door so fast you'd be emitting Cerenkov radiation, but I'm not classy like Dwight." --Jerry
User avatar
Lapego1
Tidus
Posts: 675
Joined: Sun May 02, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Richmond, VA/Philadelphia, PA

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Lapego1 »

The Modern Njord System wrote:From everything I've seen, people who do research in biology, chemistry, physics, and astrophysics often wind up doing a decent amount of programming and get exposed to some CS concepts that way.
This is not something that can be generalized. I work in a biochem lab with ~10 researchers (grads and postdoc), and from what I know, none of them seem to know much CS. At the very least, they will never have to use it. This was the same at a bio lab I worked at elsewhere. In a lab that does computational physics or modeling, etc., sure you are more likely to find such people, but otherwise no.
Mehdi Razvi
Maggie Walker Gov. School '07
University of Pennsylvania '11

"A goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid."
-James D. Watson (1928-)
User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1232
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

My heavens, but this discussion tires me. What on earth are we arguing about?

Look, everyone here agrees that computer science is a valid "minor science" category in qb, and that there should be good interesting questions on comp sci - 4/4, 3/4, what the hell ever. But - the people out there who like computer science need to be the ones who make this happen. If you want good comp sci in a tourney, then write it - yeah, I realize this particular event wasn't packet sub...if I ever edit a tourney where no editor can write comp sci, I'll do my best to search for someone to contribute some. But, if you're really trying to convince us that people like me (by which I mean, people with somewhat middling science knowledge with no experience in CS) are going to be able to competently write CS with just a little effort - that's crazy talk and you know it. When it comes to "other science," I'm going to write earth sci or astro every time, because those are the only things I can write. Stop making these forced arguments about how everyone can know and love comp sci, because clearly everyone doesn't know and love it, or they'd write on it...and they'd write on it well!



More generally, like Hart, I tend to "roll my eyes" at a lot of the arguments being made by people in this thread. The argument I'm talking about goes something like "hey, my niche topics didnt come up at this tournament, so I'm mad." Here's the remedy: learn more stuff!

Sorry, I don't mean to be insulting, but I'm impatient with this recurring criticism. If you learn more stuff, your satisfaction with a tournament won't be dependent on whether the small incongruous handful of things you do know managed to come up by the grace of God (or the grace of Buddha, as the case may be). Arguments about subdistribution are almost always pointless - everyone would benefit from branching out a little bit, by writing on and studying other things. I'm not saying that we can't strive to be sort-of balanced in subdistribution, and I'm certainly not saying this tournament did everything well. From what I've seen so far, I think a good handful of questions had problems with things like transparency or confusing structure, and what happened with questions not being done on time just needs to stop. But, I don't see the point in quibbling about the minute details of [insert your favorite niche subject] and its status in this tournament and/or quizbowl.
Ryan Westbrook, no affiliation whatsoever.

I am pure energy...and as ancient as the cosmos. Feeble creatures, GO!

Left here since birth...forgotten in the river of time...I've had an eternity to...ponder the meaning of things...and now I have an answer!
User avatar
Mechanical Beasts
Banned Cheater
Posts: 5673
Joined: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:50 pm

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

cvdwightw wrote:Okay, so we're off by one total question in our assessments of what's "reasonable" for a 12 round tournament. I was under the impression that CS zealots were arguing for 4/4 as a minimum instead of a target.
I don't characterize myself as a CS "zealot" so much as a "things that don't suck" zealot with a focus on the questions I can sometimes competitively answer. So when I care about CS, I don't care about how many questions there are in CS, though I don't see why it should get fewer questions than another of the minor sciences. What I care about is "let's try to have the same standard for CS not sucking as for other subjects." I'd rather see 2/2 beautiful CS above 4/4 shitty CS.

Another concern is TU/bonus balance: I don't think it's enough to say that n questions is necessarily desirable. The MUT set had something like 1/6 math, and that one tossup was on a probability distribution. There wasn't a tossup on any sort of algebra or analysis or anything!
Andrew Watkins
User avatar
Theory Of The Leisure Flask
Yuna
Posts: 843
Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2003 11:04 am
Location: Brooklyn
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

Long as we're talking about the finer points of "minor science", how much statistics was in this tournament? I seem to remember there being one stat question all day, but I wasn't keeping count.
Chris White
Bloomfield HS (New Jersey) '01, Swarthmore College '05, University of Pennsylvania '10. Still writes questions occasionally.
User avatar
pray for elves
Auron
Posts: 1050
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:58 pm
Location: 20001

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by pray for elves »

Theory of the Leisure Flask wrote:Long as we're talking about the finer points of "minor science", how much statistics was in this tournament? I seem to remember there being one stat question all day, but I wasn't keeping count.
I don't know how many stats questions there were in this tournament, but given that stats are usually considered under the subdistribution of mathematics, I would say more than one question or maybe two on stats would be an overrepresentation.
Evan
Georgetown Law Alum, Brandeis Alum, Oak Ridge High Alum
Ex-PACE, Ex-ACF
User avatar
The Logic of Scientific Disco
Wakka
Posts: 137
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:36 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by The Logic of Scientific Disco »

Yeah, complaining about subsub(sub?)distributions is a pretty fruitless enterprise, unless the complaint is "too much!" Asking why there weren't any stats questions is, if you think about it, roughly the same as asking why there weren't any questions on the French Revolution (or whatever).
Chris Kennedy, MIT
User avatar
BuzzerZen
Auron
Posts: 1517
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2004 11:01 pm
Location: Arlington, VA/Hampshire College
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by BuzzerZen »

The Logic of Scientific Disco wrote:Yeah, complaining about subsub(sub?)distributions is a pretty fruitless enterprise, unless the complaint is "too much!" Asking why there weren't any stats questions is, if you think about it, roughly the same as asking why there weren't any questions on the French Revolution (or whatever).
I, for one, object strongly to the shocking paucity of tossups on things I learned in AP Spanish Lit. Shame on you, Matt Weiner!
Evan Silberman
Hampshire College 07F

How are you actually reading one of my posts?
User avatar
Theory Of The Leisure Flask
Yuna
Posts: 843
Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2003 11:04 am
Location: Brooklyn
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

The Modern Njord System wrote:
Theory of the Leisure Flask wrote:Long as we're talking about the finer points of "minor science", how much statistics was in this tournament? I seem to remember there being one stat question all day, but I wasn't keeping count.
I don't know how many stats questions there were in this tournament, but given that stats are usually considered under the subdistribution of mathematics, I would say more than one question or maybe two on stats would be an overrepresentation.
Fair enough, I guess. I asked because it seems that statistics seems to often be its own department, as opposed to just being an undifferentiated part of mathematics.
Chris White
Bloomfield HS (New Jersey) '01, Swarthmore College '05, University of Pennsylvania '10. Still writes questions occasionally.
cdcarter
Yuna
Posts: 945
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2007 12:06 am
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Contact:

Re: VCU Open Discussion

Post by cdcarter »

Christian Carter
Minneapolis South High School '09 | Emerson College '13
PACE Member (retired)
Locked