April 15, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 14

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    With a competitive edge, Chicago team prepares for next weekend’s quiz bowl

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    Imagine Jeopardy! at Mach 5 and you have the essence of quiz bowl competitions. The intense energy of these tournaments will explode on campus April 23 and 24 when the University’s College Bowl team hosts the 1999 Academic Competition Federation Nationals. From California to Maryland, the nationals will draw nearly 30 colleges from coast to coast.

    In the mix is Chicago’s College Bowl team, ranked No. 1 in the country by their peers. No matter what the competition format, Chicago students consistently answer more questions correctly and more quickly than their competitors. Currently, the University of Maryland, Stanford, Harvard and the University of Michigan are distant followers.

    This year and for the fifth time, Chicago’s team won regional championships in all three major quiz bowl formats, adding to their national record for longest regional dominance in all three formats. The College Bowl team also set a new national record for tournament wins in a year with 13.

    Fourth-year Mike Zarren, team president, said Chicago is one of only a few teams ever to have maintained a dominating presence on the trivia battlefield. “The top 10 teams change frequently because students graduate,” said Zarren.

    “But Chicago has been lucky enough to continually attract the best players. No team has had a better record than Chicago over the past decade.”

    At the end of the month, the team is expected to go head-to-head with the University of Maryland, their closest competitors in the American Competition Federation format. The competition consists of a series of games, including regular and bonus questions culled from academic subjects. The team that earns the most points overall is named the winner.

    Here are examples of tossup questions from past Academic Competition Federation Nationals:

    • It explains why a harmonic oscillator has a zero-point energy greater than zero. It stems from the fact that the x-hat operator does not commute with the p-hat operator, but the x-hat-squared and p-hat-squared operators do commute, and can be stated by the equation delta x times delta p is approximately equal to Planck’s constant and is greater than h-bar over two. Identify this principle of quantum mechanics concerning momentum and position. Answer: Heisenberg uncertainty principle
    • He neglects his wife, Princess Aio, in favor of a series of mistresses: the gentlewoman Fujitsubo; the matron Utsysemi; the impoverished aristocrat Yugao, who dies tragically; and even the concubine of his father, the emperor of Japan. Following the death of the unhappy Aio, he decides to settle down and marries the young girl Murasaki. Name this prince, the hero of an 11th-century romance by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. Answer: Genji
    • His first work, the anonymously published Critique of All Revelation, was for a time erroneously attributed to Kant. Accused of atheism for his practice of lecturing on Sundays, he considered the individual ego as the source of experience and postulated the “Ur-Ich” from which everything derives. Name this philosopher whose nationalistic Addresses to the German People made him a hero to the revolutionaries of 1848. Answer: Johann Gottlieb Fichte

    Like all great sports, trivia competitions include jargon: tossup play, penalties, consultation, protest––and the blitz rule.

    In all American Competition Federation competitions, any number of pieces of linked information may be given as an answer. In all cases, every piece of information given must be correct, even if only one is the desired answer. American Competition Federation guidelines read, “An example of an acceptable blitz is as follows. For a question that began: On April 6, 1862 . . . You can buzz in and say: ‘Grant defeated Johnston at the Battle of Shiloh or Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee.’ This illustrates a subtlety of blitzing that is hard to put into words. Though there are TWO generals (seemingly the same class of answer) listed in the blitz, they are linked by the battle of Shiloh and that link is specified in the blitz. This is not equivalent to buzzing in and naming random Civil War generals.”

    Chicago’s team has doubled to more than 30 players in the last four years.

    Key Chicago players expected to dominate the nationals include graduate student Andrew Yaphe, former president of the University of Virginia’s quiz team that won the 1997 and 1998 American Competition Federation championships; Sarah Bagby, a third-year College student concentrating in biochemistry; and Ryan Scranton, a graduate student in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    For more information on the University’s College Bowl team, readers may visit its Web site at http://student-www.uchicago.edu/orgs/bowl.