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June 7, 2004


Posted by Urs Schreiber

Jacques Distler and Peter Woit have already commented on the latest attempt of Bogdanov & Bogdanov to convince laymen of their genius. One should really stop talking about this issue, since apparently the whole purpose of the exercise is to make everybody mention B&B, no matter in which sense. Apparently in lack of experts willing to support their ideas they rephrase comments of critics in such a way that it sounds like approvements.

A while ago I had written this summary of their mistakes (reproduced below). They thanked me personally for this ‘very accurate’ description of their work and said that I was among the very few who really understood the ‘big picture’ of their work. Well, that’s nice, because it allows me to use this certified authority to say in all clarity that the ideas summarized at the above link are indeed based on elementary misconceptions and invalid conclusions and hence make no sense.

Unfortunately it is precisely this little detail that surprisingly did not survive the adaption of my little text in their new book. Everybody who reads some french and knows what a topological field theory really is can compare my original summary of B&B’s mistakes with the respective excerpts I, II from their book to convince himself once and for all that their concern is not science.

I think I am allowed to say that. After all, I am among the few who understands them. ;-)

The following was my summary of the ill reasoning of Bogdanov & Bogdanov as originally posted here, which is reproduced in a distorted fashion in their book:

I think this is their line of reasoning:

They look at the general form of any partition function Z(β)=Tr(exp(βH)). They set beta equal to zero and find, lo and behold, Z(0 )=Tr(1 ). They notice that the Hamiltonian has disappeared in this expression! They conclude that Tr(1 ) must be the partition function of a topological field theory, because they think you obtain the partition function of a topological field theory by setting the Hamiltonian in exp(βH) equal to zero. Let me call this ‘result’ A.

Next they want to apply this insight to something and search for a setup that justifies setting β0 , thereby arriving at the FRW cosmology, where β0 as the scale factor R0 . (At this point they mention the word, just the word, ‘Hagedorn temperature’, not noticing that, considering the role the Hagedorn temperature plays in string cosmology, this is bordering on self-parody.)

They reason as follows: ‘At the initial singularity we have β=0 , therefore physics ‘at the initial singularity’, by result A, is described by topological field theory.’ This is ‘result’ B.

(By the generality of ‘result’ A it does not matter which field theory they are considering. But they are thinking of their H’s as the Hamiltonians of field theories on fixed FRW backgrounds, not of the Hamiltonian constraint of some theory of gravity.)

The next step is to assert, C, that a topological field theory is a field theory defined on a Riemannian manifold. Since, by result B, ‘every field theory is a topological field theory at the initial singularity’ it thereby follows that the metric of spacetime ‘at the initial singularity’ must be Riemannian, which is ‘result’ D.

Next, they realize that D is in contradiction to the original assumption of an FRW cosmology with pseudo-Riemannian metric! Being confronted with a paradox they invoke quantum mechanics and postulate that the signature of the metric must be subject to quantum fluctuations ‘at the initial singularity’. That’s ‘result’ E.

It remains to be understood how the Foucault pendulum comes into play now. Even more so, since this doesn’t fit the pattern of using modern termionology.

Just to make sure: I do not think that any of the above is valid reasoning. I am writing this just to point out what I think are the central ‘ideas’ the authors had when writing their articles and how this led them to their conclusions.

Posted at June 7, 2004 10:58 AM UTC

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Re: Sigh.

What would be amusing is if B&B (Bogdanov & Bogdanov) are really the physics world’s version of Beavis and Butthead (also B&B).

(For those who don’t know B&B, it was a cartoon on MTV from the early-mid 1990’s, of various misadventures of two dumb headbangers).

It seems like all the junk the Bogdanovs (B&B) have been pulling off over the years appears to look more and more comical in their obvious attempts to pull a hoax, in a similar manner to many of Beavis and Butthead’s misadventures of stupidity.

Posted by: JC on June 7, 2004 2:47 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

“I don’t care what you write about me…”

“… as long as you spell my name right.”

One should really stop talking about this issue, since apparently the whole purpose of the exercise is to make everybody mention B&B, no matter in which sense.

I don’t know. My blog entry is currently number 27 at for bogadanov + avant le big bang.

It’d sure be nice to be in the top 10, but it’s hard competing with the online bookstores actually selling the book.

Posted by: Jacques Distler on June 7, 2004 3:28 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: “I don’t care what you write about me…”

The best might be to post a comment on I have just submitted one.

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on June 7, 2004 3:49 PM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

Re: “I don’t care what you write about me…”

> The best might be to post a comment on I have just submitted one.

Only if is insteresting in having criticism of books they sell I’ve just checked and your comment is not here anymore..
I remember having posted a criticism of a comic which wasn’t drawn by the guy who was supposed to (and whose name was written on their site).
“Strangely” my criticism never appeared on their site..

Posted by: renox on August 6, 2005 6:42 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: “I don’t care what you write about me…”

I guess you are right.
I don’t know if my comment has ever appeared at all.

While there might be an obvious reason for Amazon to
block negative reviews, I am wondering if they see that
allowing the review system to be balanced would increase
its value for Amazon’s customers, with this positive effect
possibly outdoing the negative effect on some badly rated

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on August 6, 2005 9:19 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

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