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June 5, 2004

Bogdanorama

Back when I was just starting this weblog, the Bogdanov brothers provided fodder for a number of highly amusing posts. It was a good way to get things rolling and, while this weblog has gone on to bigger (and hopefully better) things, I still maintain a soft spot for old Igor and Grichka B. and their antics. Many of you probably feel the same way.

Back in December, I received some correspondence which clearly indicated something was afoot on the Bogdanov front. And now, dear readers, your patience has been rewarded. The brothers have a new book out, Avant le Big Bang. It’s currently number 9 in sales on amazon.fr.

In it, they apparently claim that their erstwhile critics have retracted their criticisms. Fabien Besnard has been following up with the allegedly former critics.

I almost got to play along. Fortunately, my habitually prickly demeanor kept me out of trouble.

From:  liu-yang.imp@th-phys.edu.hk
Subject:  Bogdanoff work
Date:  December 29, 2003 8:10:08 AM CST
To:  distler@golem.ph.utexas.edu
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Message-Id:  <B564D4CD-3A08-11D8-92B7-000A957A087E@th-phys.edu.hk>

Dear Professor Distler,

We have read all the all the papers published by I&GBogdanov and are rather surprised by the content of your comments about their work (your "Musing" website). Not only they did not commit any hoax (as they claimed since the beginning) but they also wrote deep and interesting papers about KMS condition as applied to Planck’s physics. These qualities are far from being reflected by your comments. My colleagues and I think that you really should reconsider your article and update it in a more appropriate way.

In a few words, what we find interesting is Bogdanov non expected way to apply witin the Planckian cosmological setting some crucial properties of tomita’s modular theory (see KMS State of Spacetime at the Planck Scale/ Chinese Journal of Physics and Thermal Equilibrium of Spacetime at the the Planck Scale/ Chinese Annals of Mathematics). As you kow, temporal evolution of a non-dissipative quantum system is described by a one-parameter group of automorphisms of its algebra of observables. But it was a surprising discovery when Tomita-Takesaki theory allowed us to naturally associate such a group with each faithful normal state (or, more generally, weight) of the algebra. In their papers (that apparently only a few ones understood correctly) Bogdanov speculated that the modular group of automorphisms of the equilibrium thermal state of the primitive universe provides a "quantum dynamics" at a fundamental level, a dynamics that defines, by itself the very "existence of flow of time". More important, they suggest that by a generalization of the Tomita- Takesaki scheme natural semigroups of completely positive maps can be associated to certain states of von Neumann algebras. If so, then natural examples of EQT dynamics can be produced via pure algebraic means (which Bogdanov developed in CQG paper). One can also note in this group of papers that Bogdanovs propose a relevant attempt to bridge the gap between physics and algebra in the bicrossproduct (quantum groups) setting. Some of the examples they provide (see their ArXiv quantum group article ( by the way a "proof" that they did not wish to "fly under radars)) may have physical interpretation and application to pre-Planck scale physics. This is why we think that Bogdanov work is original and interesting.

Sincerely,

Prof L. Yang
Theoretical Physics Laboratory
International Institute of Mathematical Physics
HKU/Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Note the headers. Though, ostensibly from a machine in Hong Kong, the email actually originated from a dialup IP in Paris. While th-phys.edu.hk is registered with a Registrar in Hong Kong
Registrant:
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
China
Domain Name: TH-PHYS.EDU.HK
Record created on 2003-11-24 Record expired on 2004-12-04
Administrative Contact: IMP maths-physics-institute@th-phys.edu.hk INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MATHEMATICAL PHYSICS Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong HK +082--50825
Technical Contact: IMP maths-physics-institute@th-phys.edu.hk INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MATHEMATICAL PHYSICS Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong HK +082--50825

it currently seems to be hosted by Everyone’s Internet in Houston, TX. I’ve never heard of Professor Yang (purportedly affiliated with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology) or his Institute and neither has Google.

Whatever. Maybe “Professor Yang” was just visiting the City of Light. I responded

From:  distler@golem.ph.utexas.edu
Subject:  Re: Bogdanoff work
Date:  December 29, 2003 1:09:23 PM CST
To:  liu-yang.imp@th-phys.edu.hk
In-Reply-To:  <B564D4CD-3A08-11D8-92B7-000A957A087E@th-phys.edu.hk>
References:  <B564D4CD-3A08-11D8-92B7-000A957A087E@th-phys.edu.hk>
Message-Id:  <839EE070-3A32-11D8-9A81-00039344D894@golem.ph.utexas.edu>

On Dec 29, 2003, at 8:10 AM, International Institute of Mathematical Physics wrote:

Dear Professor Distler,

We have read all the all the papers published by I&GBogdanov and are rather surprised by the content of your comments about their work (your "Musing" website). Not only they did not commit any hoax (as they claimed since the beginning) but they also wrote deep and interesting papers about KMS condition as applied to Planck's physics. These qualities are far from being reflected by your comments. My colleagues and I think that you really should reconsider your article and update it in a more appropriate way.

The Bogdanov's papers consist of buzzwords from various fields of mathematical physics, string theory and quantum gravity, strung together into syntactically correct, but semantically meaningless prose.

Nothing I have seen or read since then (including their pathetic attempt to explain their work on sci.physics.research) gives me the slightest reason to change my opinion.

One can also note in this group of papers that Bogdanovs propose a relevant attempt to bridge the gap between physics and algebra in the bicrossproduct (quantum groups) setting. Some of the examples they provide (see their ArXiv quantum group article ( by the way a "proof" that they did not wish to "fly under radars))

One eprint, which appeared only *after* the scandal broke, and *long* after they published their paper in your esteemed journal.

My "fly under the radar" comment *stands*.

At this point, one of my RBL spam filters kicked in, yielding a certain amount of hilarity as part of the façade is dropped.

From:  mcrc@supremesite.net
Subject:  Book
Date:  December 29, 2003 5:32:18 PM CST
To:  distler@golem.ph.utexas.edu
Reply-To:  mcrc@supremesite.net
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Message-Id:  <3ff0b982635547.46836764@supremecenter.com>
X-Authenticated-Ip:  [81.49.87.201]

Dear Prof Distler,

It appears that you are trying to avoid this correspondance by indexing our mail address as "spam".

But let’s go to the essence of our correspondance.

We are preparing a collective monograph (or short book) about this Affair. As professional physicists and mathematicians, we should all think about the exact nature of this event. As far as we can see, the consequences of these kind of groundless attacks are very damagable for our community and for physics in general. It is one thing to criticize a work, but it is also another thing to validate the critics. In this case, most of the people who discussed on internet (SPR and elsewhere) did not elaborate scientifically their critics. Probably because it requires some work. And no one agreed to invest on such a work.

So it reveals a lot of things about the way our community functions. And also about the way to avoid self destructive behaviours. In the book we are preparing, we will analyze all the aspects and elements of this affair, including the reactions of everyone who got involved in it.

Now, here are some short answers to your email :

"The B.Brothers papers consist of buzzwords from various fields of mathematical physics, string theory and quantum gravity, strung together into syntactically correct, but semantically meaningless prose."

Wrong. They did not base their work on any string theory constructions.

"Nothing I have seen or read since then"

Did you read their papers? We do not think so. But as most of the people on SPR and internet, you pretend to have a clear view on it.

"(including their pathetic attempt to explain their work on sci.physics.research)"

We have read it too. It was an unfair and quite disloyal mobbing. Once more, we think that neither John Baez, nor the others (including yourself) have read the work.

"gives me the slightest reason to change my opinion."

Although you should. Following a conference that was recently given by the B. in HKU about their work in the field of riemannian cosmology, we got interested and have since carefully read all the papers published by them untill we got a different view on their work and research. We are convinced now that during the times of the affair, nobody had invested the requested time, energy and expertise to seriously evaluate their publications.

In particular you seem to miss the point that the B. started with the main objective to establish, in terms of quantum groups, the existence of a natural link between "q_deformation", quantisation of spacetime and "deformation" of the signature of the metric. They showed that in dimension D = 4, the Lorentzian and the Euclidean structures are related by twisting and that the only natural signatures at the Planck scale are then the deformations of the Lorentzian (+ + + - ) and Euclidean (+ + + +) signatures.

This is quite important and certainely not a "meaningless prose" (see their paper published in Annals of Mathematics). Besides, the validity of their approach and the originality of their results in quantum groups theory has been confirmed by experts like S.Majid and others. It was the ground of their reasoning and further developements about physics at the Planck scale. What valid arguments can you oppose to them?

One eprint, which appeared only *after* the scandal broke, and *long* after they published their paper in your esteemed journal.

Not true. Enquiring about the dates, we discovered the papers were "long" on the CERN documents Archive service before this "affair" started. They have published 5 papers on this archive between the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. Everyone could see it there (and it is still there).

So we are sorry but your "fly under the radar" remark does not stand (as the rest of your opinions here above written, unless you provide some mathematically of physically consistent arguments). Up to know, we regret to say -following your own expression- that what you produced is "a collection of buzzwords" and as such is not relevant.

In fact, as we said, we are going to write our book on this case. In that view, would you agree that we publish your present reaction as it is? or would you motivate your point on scientific basis ?

Thank you for your kind help and attention,

Sincerely,

The group of Mathematical physicists (avoiding spam rejection)

Now we’re using a webmail account at a British webhosting firm, but still dialing in from ATuileries-117-1-7-201.w81-49.abo.wanadoo.fr. The small errors of English:

  • “elaborate scientifically their critics”
  • “a conference that was recently given by the B. in HKU”
  • “certainely not a ‘meaningless prose’”
  • “What valid arguments can you oppose to them?”

are decidedly those that a Frenchman, rather than a Hong Kongite, would make.

At this point, I wished them well in their endeavor, and promised that, when they publish their monograph, I’ll post my blog entry. I did not hear back from them…

Well, happy days are here again. I hope to bring you more French humour, as this latest chapter in the Bogdanov saga develops.

Update (6/11/2004): Lambchop Lehnardt, in a comment below mentions, but fails to provide a link to the Outside Examiners’ reports on the Bogdanov’s PhD theses. The Bogdanovs have made them public and they can be retrieved from CERN [removed from the CERN server because they had, apparently, been “doctored” by the Bogdanovs]. They are both amusing and depressing to read. Being an examiner on a PhD Defense, where the student is marginal, is a painful and awkward job. But these Examiners have to do the “I just stepped on a fire ant mound” dance.

Posted by distler at June 5, 2004 8:18 PM

TrackBack URL for this Entry:   http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/cgi-bin/MT-3.0/dxy-tb.fcgi/375

12 Comments & 2 Trackbacks

Re: Bogdanorama

It’s Igor, not Ilya :)

Posted by: Michel Vuijlsteke on June 5, 2004 9:38 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Phony Russian names

Ack! Poor proofreading skills on my part. Fixed. Thanks.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on June 5, 2004 9:45 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Usenet

Another fun thing to do: Search Google Groups for @th-phys.edu.hk.
You’ll find a lot of posts in fr.sci.physique and a lot of people who doubt the validity of that sender :-)

Posted by: Volker Braun on June 6, 2004 1:55 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Bogdanorama

I was just being told that I am cited in that book.

I haven’t seen the book yet, but apparently Bogdanov & Bogdanov still like my summary of their work which was originally posted to sci.physics.research and which they personally told me is ‘very accurate’ and that ‘only [I] came up with a valid understanding of what [Bogdanov & Bogdanov] are aiming at’.

This puts me in the comfortable position that nobody can get away with telling me that I haven’t understood Bogdanov & Bogdanov’s work. If the above summary of their ideas is indeed a good summary, then it is obvious to anyone who knows what the respective technical terms mean that the ideas summarized in this summary are based on elementary misconceptions and invalid deductions.

Still, I am being told that the authors of that book try to make it sound like I appove of these ideas. I am wondering if they ever understood that what I wrote in that summary. For more details on how Bogdanov & Bogdanov deal with public criticism see this and this.

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on June 6, 2004 2:18 PM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Sigh.
Weblog: The String Coffee Table
Excerpt: Bogdanov and Bogdanov have done it again.
Tracked: June 7, 2004 5:46 AM

Re: Bogdanorama

As I wrote in “Not Even Wrong”, it seems that Bogdanoff and Bgdanoff have done a serious work after all. This is at least the opinion of the 15 experts who refereed B.B thesis. And I admit that a complete reading of these reports changed my views on Bogdanofs research. They did not work for 10 years (obviously in strong interaction with some of the experts (like Majid, Gourevitch, Kounnas of Jackiw) without having produced sound results. Very impressive indeed!
Here is the CERN address where the reports are published : cern server library

Posted by: lehnardt on June 11, 2004 3:14 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Another Bogdanov sock puppet

My, my. Another Bogdanov sock puppet surfaces.

How … umh … surprising.

Tell us more about yourself, “Lehnardt” or Lambchop or whatever your name is.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on June 11, 2004 3:37 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Bogdanorama

Hello,

I have also some news about “Pr” Yang …

On fr.sci.physique we can see that his ip was 211.20.162.218 on June 2004 the 14th at 1h45 pm which is an anonymous proxy.

What an interesting professor ! ;-)

Moreover, on the same newgroup we can see that someone called “Belloribel” try to show that Bogdanovs work was good … but a whois on the ip of the so called “Belloribel” shows that (on 2004/06/11 at 3:46 pm)

$ whois 62.161.119.97
[...]
inetnum:      62.161.119.97 - 62.161.119.97
netname:      FR-TIGRE-PRODUCTION
descr:        TIGRE PRODUCTION
descr:        3 Place Violet
descr:        Paris
descr:        75015
[...]

TIGRE-PRODUCTION which is a tv production firm…

Should I say that the Bogdanovs are working as tv animators ?

Posted by: noone@nowhere.com on June 14, 2004 2:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Bogdanorama

Here they have admitted 3 pseudonyms (‘Schwarz’, ‘Petitot’ and ‘Yang’) and have already invented a couple of new ones. I imagine that they are having a lot of fun…

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on June 14, 2004 3:45 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Bogdanorama

Good morning,

I ignore if the Bogdanoff brothers have fun, but we certainely do.

With our best regards,

Professor Yang

Posted by: Yang on June 14, 2004 7:09 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Anonymous Proxies

This will serve as your one and only warning.

Do not post from an anonymous proxy, or your comment will be summarily deleted. I have no patience for such shenanigans.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on June 14, 2004 9:22 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: Bogdanorama

This “Professor Yang” business is pretty funny. I actually got an email from Dennis Overbye of the New York Times in the summer of 2003, in which he forwarded an email he’d received from the same “Professor Yang” defending the Bogdanoff’s work. He was wondering if it was for real. As luck would have it, I happened to be spending that summer in Kowloon, not far from the imaginary “International Institute of Mathematical Physics” at which “Professor Yang” claimed to work. So, it was easy to check that this email was a fraud.

Posted by: John Baez on August 13, 2004 10:27 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Bogdanorama

In the most recent (October2004) issue of “Ciel & Espace” , there is an article by David Fossé entitled “La mystification des freres Bogdanov”, which concerns itself with the runaway best seller by the Bogdanov brothers, “Avant le Big Bang”

In his article Mr Fossé complains a lot. In particular, he complains that Bogdanovs selectively chose and distorted quotations. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Yes, indeed, Mr. Fossé is guilty of the same thing he accuses the Bogdanovs. Certainly, the Bogdanov book has an agenda: to reach a popular audience and stimulate deep questions in the average person. What is also clear is that Mr Fossé has an agenda - and one that is not so benign - when we notice that he is quoting only that which fits his agenda, and that which does not fit his agenda, he skips.

More here:
Comments on an article in Ciel & Espace by David Fosse

ark

Posted by: ark on October 16, 2004 6:53 AM | Permalink | Reply to this
Read the post Bogdanovs Redux
Weblog: Not Even Wrong
Excerpt: A couple years ago two French brothers, Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, managed to get Ph.Ds in France and publish several nonsensical papers about quantum gravity in refereed physics journals, several of them rather well-known and prestigious ones. John Ba...
Tracked: February 6, 2005 4:55 PM

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