Physics bitten by reverse Alan Sokal hoax?

1499 views
Skip to first unread message

John Baez

unread,
Oct 24, 2002, 12:43:50 AM10/24/02
to

We all laughed when Alan Sokal wrote a deliberately silly
paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a
Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", and managed
to get it accepted by a refereed journal of social and cultural
studies, Social Text.

But now I hear that two brothers have managed to publish 3
meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax - and even
get Ph.D. degrees in physics from Bourgogne University in
the process! The theses are available in PDF format online,
at least for now:

Igor Bogdanov
ETAT TOPOLOGIQUE DE L'ESPACE TEMPS A ECHELLE 0
http://tel.ccsd.cnrs.fr/documents/archives0/00/00/15/03/index_fr.html

Grichka Bogdanov
FLUCTUATIONS QUANTIQUES DE LA SIGNATURE DE LA METRIQUE A L'ECHELLE DE PLANCK
(Quantum fluctuations of the signature of the metric at the Planck scale)
http://tel.ccsd.cnrs.fr/documents/archives0/00/00/15/02/index_fr.html

They have also published at least four papers based on their
theses:

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime,
Classical and Quantum Gravity 18 (2001), 4341-4372.

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
Spacetime Metric and the KMS Condition at the Planck Scale,
Annals of Physics, 295 (2002), 90-97.

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
KMS space-time at the Planck scale,
Nuovo Cimento, 117B (2002) 417-424.

Igor Bogdanov,
Topological origin of inertia,
Czechoslovak Journal of Physics, 51 (2001), 1153-1236.

Here's the abstract of Igor Bogdanov's thesis:

We propose in this research a new solution regarding the existence
and the content of the initial spacetime singularity. In the context
of topological field theory we consider that the initial singularity
of space-time corresponds to a zero size singular gravitational instanton
characterized by a Riemannian metric configuration (++++) in dimension
D = 4. Connected with some unexpected topological data corresponding
to the zero scale of space-time, the initial singularity is thus not
considered in terms of divergences of physical fields but can be resolved
in the frame of topological field theory. We get this result from the
physical observation that the pre-spacetime is in a thermal equilibrium
at the Planck scale. Therefore it should be subject to the KMS condition.
We consequently consider that this KMS state might correspond to a
unification between "physical state" (Planck scale) and "topological
state" (zero scale). Then it is suggested that the "zero scale singularity"
can be understood in terms of topological invariants, in particular the
first Donaldson invariant. Therefore, we here introduce a new topological
index, connected with 0 scale, of the form Z_{beta = 0} = Tr (-1)^s,
which we call the "singularity invariant". Interestingly, this invariant
corresponds also to the invariant topological current yielded by the
hyperfinite II* von Neumann algebra describing the zero scale of space-time.
In such a context we conjecture that the problem of inertial interaction
might be explained in terms of topological amplitude connected with the
singular zero size gravitational instanton corresponding to the initial
singularity of spacetime.

His thesis director was Daniel Sternheimer, and the "rapporteuers"
were Roman Jackiw of MIT, and Jack Morava of John Hopkins.

Here's the abstract of Grichka Bogdanov's thesis:

We propose hereafter that the signature of the Space-Time metric
(+++-) is not anymore frozen at the Planck scale and presents quantum
fluctuations (++++/-) until 0 scale where it becomes Euclidean (++++).
(i) At the albraic level we suggest an oscillation path (3,1) (4,0)
excluding (2,2). We built the quotient topological space describing
the superposition of the Lorentzian and the Riemanian metrics. In
terms of quantum groups we evidence a relation between q-deformation
and deformation of the signature. We have obtained a new algebraic
construction (a new cocycle bicrossproducts by twisting) which allowed
us to unify the Lorentzian and the Euclidean signatures within a
unique quantum group structure. Moreover the q-deformation of space-time
shows that the natural structures of q-Minkowski and q-Riemanian spaces
are linked by semiduality. (ii) Regarding the physical motivations we
suggest that at the Planck Scale the Space-Time is in KMS state. Within
the limits of the KMS holomorph strip, the beta timelike parameter is
complex. We propose an extension of relativistic gravity which begins
at the Planck Scale with the Lagrangian R + R2 + RR*. Then, the infrared
limit of the theory is given at the Planck Scale by the Einstein term
in R and corresponds to the Lorentzian metric while the ultraviolet
limit is given at beta=0 scale by the topological term RR* and corresponds
to the Euclidean metric ( topological sector). We propose a duality
between instantons and monopoles in 4 dimensions giving a representation
of the superposition of the metrics. (iii) On the cosmological plan
we suggest to describe the Initial Singularity of Space Time by a
topological invariant I(S) = Tr(-1)^S which is analog to the first
Donaldson invariant. The initial singularity must be considered as
a singular 0-size gravitational instanton. The physical observables
are therefore replaced by cycles of homology in the moduli space of
gravitational Instantons. We propose a conjecture regarding the
existence of a topological amplitude associated to a "topological
expansion phase" which preceeds the classical cosmological
expansion. This topological phase is also able to be described
by the flow of weights of the II* hyperfinite factor type
corresponding to the beta=0 initial singularity.

His thesis director was Daniel Sternheimer, and the "rapporteuers"
were Shahn Majid of Cambridge University, Costas Kounnas of the Ecole
Normale Superieure, and Dmitiri Gurevitch of Valenciennes University.

Can anyone confirm or disconfirm the rumors I've heard about this?
I hear that Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, journalists and science
fiction writers, both in their late 40's, began by interviewing
a number of prominent French string theorists to master the jargon.
After writing these papers, to prepare the ground for their thesis
defense they spread rumors that they were geniuses and their theses
were a milestone in theoretical physics. For their thesis defense
they rented a hall in the prestigeous Ecole Polytechnique, arranged
a big dinner with the president, invited the TV, ... and passed.

I don't know if these rumors are true. I can however assure you
that the abstracts seem like gibberish to me, even though I know
what most of the buzzwords mean. The journal articles make for
rather strange reading (you can easily get ahold of them, because
they are appended to the PDF files containing the theses). Some
parts almost seem to make sense, but the more carefully you read
them, the less sense they make. Here's the beginning of their
paper "Topological Origin of Inertia":

The phenomenon of inertia - or "pseudo-force" according to E. Mach
[1] - has recently been presented by J. P. Vigier as one of the
"unsolved mysteries of modern physics". Indeed our point of view
is that this important question, which is well formulated in the
context of Mach's principle, cannot be resolved or even understood
in the framework of conventional field theory.

Here we suggest a novel approach, a direct outcome of the topological
field theory proposed by Edward Witten in 1988 [3]. According to
this approach, beyond the interpretation propoosed by Mach, we consider
inertia as a *topological field*, linked to the topological charge
Q = 1 of the "singular zero size gravitational instanton" [4] which,
according to [5], can be identified with the initial singularity of
space-time in the standard model.

It goes on to discuss the relation between N = 2 supergravity,
Donaldson theory, KMS states and the Foucault pendulum experiment,
which "cannot be explained satisfactorily in either classical or
relativistic mechanics". Eventually it concludes that "whatever
the orientation, the plane of oscillation of Foucault's pendulum
is necessarily aligned with the initial singularity marking the
origin of physical space S^3, that of Euclidean space E^4 (described
by the family of instants I_beta of whatever radius beta), and,
finally, that of Lorentzian space-time M^4."

Zounds! =8-0

John Baez

unread,
Oct 24, 2002, 12:54:18 AM10/24/02
to
In article <ap7tq6$eme$1...@glue.ucr.edu>, John Baez <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu>
wrote:

>But now I hear that two brothers have managed to publish 3

>meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax [...]

Sorry - at first I heard about three, but by the time I
finished writing this article I knew about at least four:

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime,
Classical and Quantum Gravity 18 (2001), 4341-4372.

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
Spacetime Metric and the KMS Condition at the Planck Scale,
Annals of Physics, 295 (2002), 90-97.

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
KMS space-time at the Planck scale,
Nuovo Cimento, 117B (2002) 417-424.

Igor Bogdanov,
Topological origin of inertia,
Czechoslovak Journal of Physics, 51 (2001), 1153-1236.

and now I see there is possibly one more:

Igor Bogdanov,
KMS state of the spacetime at the Planck scale,
Chinese J. of Phys. (2002).

puppe...@hotmail.com

unread,
Oct 24, 2002, 11:16:41 PM10/24/02
to
ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote in message
news:<ap7tq6$eme$1...@glue.ucr.edu>...

> But now I hear that two brothers have managed to publish 3
> meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax - and even
> get Ph.D. degrees in physics from Bourgogne University in
> the process!

Hmmm. It seems a little extreme to me that a professor would
be willing to go along with the gag as far as a PhD thesis,
never mind two. If it comes out that this is a hoax, it seems
to me that it could be big trouble for the supervisor of
the thesis. Getting a deliberate hoax paper published is
one thing. Getting a university to grant a degree on false
pretext is quite another.

Even if the university did nothing official, the prof's
career is very likely to take a major hit. Would you be
on the PhD oral committee of any of his/her students?
Would you collaborate with this prof? What do grants
boards think about it the next time this prof wants money?

Socks

Peter Woit

unread,
Oct 24, 2002, 11:16:36 PM10/24/02
to
John Baez wrote:

>Can anyone confirm or disconfirm the rumors I've heard about this?
>I hear that Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, journalists and science
>fiction writers, both in their late 40's, began by interviewing
>a number of prominent French string theorists to master the jargon.
>After writing these papers, to prepare the ground for their thesis
>defense they spread rumors that they were geniuses and their theses
>were a milestone in theoretical physics. For their thesis defense
>they rented a hall in the prestigeous Ecole Polytechnique, arranged
>a big dinner with the president, invited the TV, ... and passed.
>
>I don't know if these rumors are true. I can however assure you
>that the abstracts seem like gibberish to me, even though I know
>what most of the buzzwords mean.

I just heard from a physicist at NYU, who heard about this from
a colleague who was in contact with a New York Times reporter
who is looking into this. The "Bogdanoff" brothers have degrees
in semiology, their names and most else about them seems to be
a put-on (they are French, not Russian). For a recent profile of them
(in French) see
http://www.liberation.com/page.php?Article=58973
and for something about their TV show, see
http://www.france2.fr/semiStatic/61-NIL-NIL-173054.html

Their theses and papers are clearly nonsense and the fact that they've
managed to get these things published and get doctoral degrees should
lead to a scandal of some sort. Whether they think of what they do
as real science or are doing this as a complete fraud a la Sokal is
certainly an interesting question.

I've off and on thought about trying to publish a hoax paper on string
theory, but gave up on the idea, partly because while it seemed
eminently doable to make up some nonsense about string theory
and get it past a referee, it's not clear what the distinguishing
characteristic of my nonsense would be. Would it be that
I didn't believe it (this probably is not unheard of among people
who write string theory papers)? Would it be that the paper was
inconsistent and had nothing to do with the real world (that
characterizes most of hep-th)?.

Refereeing in this field has clearly become a complete joke,
largely because there is no way to consistently impose standards
given what has happened in particle theory over the last twenty
years. The Sokal hoax had a very salutary effect on the
"science studies" people, perhaps this one will have a similar
effect here.

Greg Kuperberg

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 1:29:48 PM10/25/02
to
In article <ap7udq$eo7$1...@glue.ucr.edu>, John Baez <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu> wrote:
>Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
>Spacetime Metric and the KMS Condition at the Planck Scale,
>Annals of Physics, 295 (2002), 90-97.

This should be 296 (2002), no. 1, 90-97. But yes, the paper is bullshit.

[Moderator's note: Let's try to keep things polite. -TB]

I hope to see one major difference between the aftermath of this
case and Sokal. No one should criticize the Bogdanovs for doing
this. This is a bitter pill that these journals and this university
must richly deserve.

--
/\ Greg Kuperberg (UC Davis)
/ \
\ / Visit the Math ArXiv Front at http://front.math.ucdavis.edu/
\/ * All the math that's fit to e-print *

Aaron Bergman

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 1:30:10 PM10/25/02
to
In article <ap7tq6$eme$1...@glue.ucr.edu>, ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez)
wrote:

> Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
> Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime,
> Classical and Quantum Gravity 18 (2001), 4341-4372.

I took a look at this one:

<http://www.iop.org/EJ/S/3/492/abstract/0264-9381/18/21/301/>

and the referee clearly didn't even glance at it. I particularly like:

> Definition 1.2: A theory if topological if (the Lagrangian L being
> non-trivial) it does not depend on L.

I also like the part where they put a Tr(-1)^n in the path integral.
Given that a number of terms are used incorrectly on the first few
pages, this seems to be quite an indictment of the refereeing process.

I can't say I'm completely surprised that something like this could
happen. I'm surprised that they got CQG, though.

Aaron
--
Aaron Bergman
<http://www.princeton.edu/~abergman/>

John Baez

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 1:32:36 PM10/25/02
to
In article <3db855f1....@news.ucalgary.ca>,
Ken Muldrew <kmul...@ucalgary.ca> wrote:

>Have you actually confirmed that these papers appeared in print? Many
>physicists have become so used to dealing with preprints and
>electronic reprints that they could easily be fooled by a lesser hoax:
>namely one where the perfectly formatted reprints are circulated but
>have never appeared in print.

Being a highly suspicious sort, I have made sure that all these
papers are indeed available in electronic form from the journals
they are supposed to be published in. Not "in print", but equally
good - or bad, in this case.

>>These Bogdanov papers actually seem reasonable if you skim them
>>without trying to see if they make sense - they have the right
>>buzzwords in more or less the right order.

>Just like Sokal, but all the scientists found his use of buzzwords
>hilarious. I'm having a hard time believing that this really occurred.

A New York Times reporter was planning to do a story on this,
but he spoke with one of the Bogdanovs, who huffily denied that
it was a hoax. Apparently the reporter decided to drop it. He
said he could write a story about a hoax, but not about some papers
that are so silly people *think* they are hoax. :-)

Of course, not everyone committing a hoax instantly admits
to committing a hoax when you ask them!

Also, the Bogdanovs are not only science fiction writers, but
TV personalities (or ex-TV personalities?) in France. It
seems a bit odd to me that two such people would suddenly
take time off from their careers to get physics PhDs and
publish a bunch of laughably incoherent physics papers
unless they were "up to something". Am I being too suspicious?
Could they be merely incompetent? I was hoping for something a
bit more original.

>>So, it's possible that instead of being scared to look foolish,
>>the people who got duped were simply too busy to actually read
>>what they were supposed to be reading.

>If true, some anonymous reviewers will certainly look terribly
>foolish. I suppose the whole field will look foolish.

They (or we? - but it's not *my* fault) should feel foolish
regardless of whether it's a hoax or not, because the papers
are a bunch of baloney.

It's also amusing that their Annals of Physics paper is almost
identical to their Nuovo Cimento paper. Of course, this cheap
way of padding one's resume is nothing new. As someone once put
it: "It'd be plagiarism if it wasn't me who wrote it in the first
place".

Fans of topological field theory will like this line in their
paper "Topological Field Theory of the Initial Singularity":

Now, the topological field theory (for D = 4) is established when the
Hamiltonian (or the Lagrangian) of the system is H = 0, such as the
theory is independent of the underlying metric. We propose to extend
this definition, stating that a theory can also be topological if
it does not depend on the Hamiltonian H (or the Lagrangian L) of the system.

Of course, this is like saying the theory doesn't depend on
the theory! They then give this as an official numbered "Definition"
in their paper, in solemn mathematical style.

Peter Woit

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 1:33:44 PM10/25/02
to
John Baez wrote:

>Sorry - at first I heard about three, but by the time I
>finished writing this article I knew about at least four:
>
>Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
>Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime,
>Classical and Quantum Gravity 18 (2001), 4341-4372.
>
>Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
>Spacetime Metric and the KMS Condition at the Planck Scale,
>Annals of Physics, 295 (2002), 90-97.
>
>Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,
>KMS space-time at the Planck scale,
>Nuovo Cimento, 117B (2002) 417-424.
>
>Igor Bogdanov,
>Topological origin of inertia,
>Czechoslovak Journal of Physics, 51 (2001), 1153-1236.
>
>and now I see there is possibly one more:
>
>Igor Bogdanov,
>KMS state of the spacetime at the Planck scale,
>Chinese J. of Phys. (2002).
>
>
>

Looking at these papers more carefully, three of them are nearly identical
and all three are more or less an extract of the first one (the Classical
and Quantum Gravity article).

You may be able to convince yourself that "spacetime must be considered
as being subject to the KMS condition at the Planck scale" is an
intelligible
scientific idea worthy of publication, but the editors and referees at
Nuovo Cimento, Annals of Physics and the Chinese Journal of Physics have
a lot of explaining to do. Similarly for Igor Bogdanoff's thesis
examiners, who don't seem to have noticed that much of his thesis was
several
identical articles stapled together.

Astor Tockvic

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 5:34:37 PM10/25/02
to
ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote in
message news:<ap7tq6$eme$1...@glue.ucr.edu>...

> But now I hear that two brothers have managed to publish 3


> meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax - and even
> get Ph.D. degrees in physics from Bourgogne University in
> the process! The theses are available in PDF format online,
> at least for now:

I am unable to confirm or infirm this rumour.
However, I know a few things for sure: the Gevrey mathematics
laboratory in University of Bourgogne in Dijon is a respectable place.
They are specialised in the study of deformation quantization,
deformation of Lie algebra, quantum groups, etc and their work usually
would score very low on your crackpot index. On the other hand, the
Bogdanov brothers are extremeley well known in France by people old
enough to remember their popular weekly sci-fi broadcast on the french
TV during the eighties. They then disappeared for ten years from the
show business scene to reappear recently, claiming they had a PHD in
maths... and that they had a very high IQ when they were kids! Knowing
the two brothers and their way to talk about science, I found this
funny, but I did not try to read their work. If this is a hoax, then I
guess the members of the jury must have been accomplice. But that's
just a guess, I have no more information.

Dirk Bruere

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 5:34:33 PM10/25/02
to

"Peter Woit" <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote in message
news:apboi9$q2i$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu...

> Looking at these papers more carefully, three of them are nearly identical
> and all three are more or less an extract of the first one (the Classical
> and Quantum Gravity article).

Is that really unusual with the 'publish or perish' ethos? Doesn't everyone
try to milk as many papers as possible from a good idea by dribbling it out?

Two papers and two Nobel prizes as a career total would probably be
thrown out by 'Human Resources' if the sucker went looking for a real
job i.e. "only ever had two ideas huh? - look at our other applicant
Joe Blow, he's published hundreds of papers and got an MBA".

Dirk

Dirk Bruere

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 5:34:39 PM10/25/02
to

"John Baez" <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu> wrote in message
news:apajo0$mqe$1...@glue.ucr.edu...

> They (or we? - but it's not *my* fault) should feel foolish
> regardless of whether it's a hoax or not, because the papers
> are a bunch of baloney.

The physics 'community' should feel no more foolish than the sociology
community who were taken in by Sokal.
No doubt Uncle Al will be sneering at physicists just as he does the
sociologists when he quotes Sokal to the 'soft' cranks.

Dirk

Mark Fergerson

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 5:34:44 PM10/25/02
to
John Baez wrote:

<snip>

> Also, the Bogdanovs are not only science fiction writers, but [...]

Mystery solved. They merely wished to
cite the papers in their next novel's
appendix.

Mark L. Fergerson

Thomas Larsson

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 5:34:51 PM10/25/02
to
puppe...@hotmail.com wrote in message
news:<c7976c46.02102...@posting.google.com>...

I seriously doubt that Daniel Sternheimer went along on purpose any
more than Shahn Majid, Roman Jackiw or Jack Morava did. Sternheimer is
one of the founding fathers of deformation quantization, and wrote the
celebrated Annals of Physics paper on this in 1973 together with
Bayen, Flato, Lichnerowitz and Fronsdal. What I don't understand is
why he has supervised theses that clearly are outside his field of
expertise.

Sternheimer will hardly suffer materially from this debacle since he
must be past retirement age by now. Nevertheless, I feel sorry for
him, since he is such a nice and timid person. If Moshe Flato had
still been around, this would never had happened. Or so I believe.

Those who are more inclined to suspect a conspiracy may of course
speculate that Sternheimer considered a lost reputation to be a small
price to pay for saving theoretical physics from becoming a
pseudoscience. What speaks against such a heroic interpretation is
that the people on the dissertation committees are still young enough
to have a career to lose, except maybe for Jackiw. You are supposed to
read at least the thesis abstract if you sit on a committee, right?

For a review of deformation quantization from Sternheimer's point of
view you may take a look at

Deformation Quantization: Genesis, Developments and Metamorphoses
Authors: Giuseppe Dito, Daniel Sternheimer
http://xxx.sissa.it/abs/math.QA/0201168

Peter Woit

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 7:39:48 PM10/25/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Now I hear that the Bogdanoff brothers are claiming this is not a hoax, that
they are serious scientific researchers. It certainly is true that
their writings
make no less sense than a lot of other things in the literature.

Martin Einhorn

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 12:17:01 PM10/26/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Can someone tell me what article this comment refers to?
-Martin

Richard Tobin

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 12:19:55 PM10/26/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

In article <ap92to$1hb$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>,

Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote:
>The "Bogdanoff" brothers have degrees
>in semiology

They have degrees in physics now... maybe they're aiming for a full set?

-- Richard
--
Spam filter: to mail me from a .com/.net site, put my surname in the headers.

FreeBSD rules!

Danny Ross Lunsford

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 12:24:22 PM10/26/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote

> Refereeing in this field has clearly become a complete joke,
> largely because there is no way to consistently impose standards
> given what has happened in particle theory over the last twenty
> years. The Sokal hoax had a very salutary effect on the
> "science studies" people, perhaps this one will have a similar
> effect here.

I just cannot decide what to think about all this. Can you?

Dirk Bruere

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 2:39:05 PM10/26/02
to

"Danny Ross Lunsford" <antima...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:2b93dd16.02102...@posting.google.com...

> Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote

Knowledge is expanding faster than the quality control.
Electronic pre-prints are one attempt to alleviate the problem.
A kind of refereeing by mob.

Dirk

Arkadiusz Jadczyk

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 2:43:09 PM10/26/02
to
On 25 Oct 2002 21:34:51 GMT, thomas....@hdd.se (Thomas Larsson)
wrote:

>Some poor uncited soul wrote:

>> Even if the university did nothing official, the prof's
>> career is very likely to take a major hit. Would you be
>> on the PhD oral committee of any of his/her students?
>> Would you collaborate with this prof? What do grants
>> boards think about it the next time this prof wants money?

>I seriously doubt that Daniel Sternheimer went along on purpose any
>more than Shahn Majid, Roman Jackiw or Jack Morava did. Sternheimer is
>one of the founding fathers of deformation quantization, and wrote the
>celebrated Annals of Physics paper on this in 1973 together with
>Bayen, Flato, Lichnerowitz and Fronsdal. What I don't understand is
>why he has supervised theses that clearly are outside his field of
>expertise.
>
>Sternheimer will hardly suffer materially from this debacle since he
>must be past retirement age by now. Nevertheless, I feel sorry for
>him, since he is such a nice and timid person. If Moshe Flato had
>still been around, this would never had happened.

Although I agree with all the above, I am not sure about the last
sentence. A dedicated and smart hoaxer can find out about the weak
points of any person and even a group persons. Physicists are
generally naive and not suspecting. They are busy. If they have reasons
to believe, for one reason or another, that a given student is a really
bright one, working hard, and quoting all the right papers, then there
is a tendency to let the student be even responsible for his/her
work and papers.

So, the responsibility here is falling here not so much on Daniel, but
on the referees of the papers and the rapporteuers. The PhD would
probably not been granted if the papers were not accepted for
publication in good journals.

Let me add that sometimes it happens, for various reasons, that the
supervisor's field of expertise is far from the subject of the thesis -
and yet the result is highly positive. In such cases special
(extraordinary) attention should be paid to the choice of the
"rapporteuers."

ark
--

Arkadiusz Jadczyk
http://www.cassiopaea.org/quantum_future/homepage.htm

--

Ken Muldrew

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 1:39:43 PM10/28/02
to

ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote:

>Ken Muldrew <kmul...@ucalgary.ca> wrote:

>>>So, it's possible that instead of being scared to look foolish,
>>>the people who got duped were simply too busy to actually read
>>>what they were supposed to be reading.
>
>>If true, some anonymous reviewers will certainly look terribly
>>foolish. I suppose the whole field will look foolish.
>
>They (or we? - but it's not *my* fault) should feel foolish
>regardless of whether it's a hoax or not, because the papers
>are a bunch of baloney.

Well I think that if any of us (scientists, not just qg enthusiasts)
actually know anyone who is too busy to read papers that they are
supposed to review then we should suggest that they send the papers
back and tell the editors to find someone else. The "too busy to read"
excuse is appalling, IMO.

Ken Muldrew
kmul...@ucalgary.ca

Edward Green

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 1:46:11 PM10/28/02
to
Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote in message news:<ap9f1d$a1b$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>...

There is a letter from Feynman to one of his female friends describing
a conference he had attended and describing the "work" in about those
terms. Coincidentally, I think the topic was quantum gravity ...

A.Lebourgeois

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 1:49:24 PM10/28/02
to
Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote in message news:<ap92to$1hb$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>...

> John Baez wrote:
>
> >Can anyone confirm or disconfirm the rumors I've heard about this?
> >I hear that Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, journalists and science
> >fiction writers, For their thesis defense

> >they rented a hall in the prestigeous Ecole Polytechnique, arranged
> >a big dinner with the president, invited the TV, ... and passed.
> >
> >I don't know if these rumors are true. I can however assure you
> >that the abstracts seem like gibberish to me, even though I know
> >what most of the buzzwords mean.
>
All that does not make any sense. The Bogdanoff passed their thesis
after years of hard work. I have read their thesis and I have no
doubt concerning the originality of their ideas in the field of TFT
(which is not that familiar to most of strings specialists).
Concerning the published papers (specially the CQG paper) you should
all make the effort to read them carefully. You would then realize
that there is something quite new regarding the description of
(pre)spacetime around the Planck scale. The mathematics behind are
very sophisticated and it is the first time that I see a clear
connexion between quantum groups th. as applied to physics at the
planck scale. So before speaking about the "hoax" of Bogdanoff
brothers one should first read (and try to understand) the work.

Louis M. Pecora

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 2:06:23 PM10/28/02
to
In article <c7976c46.02102...@posting.google.com>,
<puppe...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> Even if the university did nothing official, the prof's
> career is very likely to take a major hit. Would you be
> on the PhD oral committee of any of his/her students?
> Would you collaborate with this prof? What do grants
> boards think about it the next time this prof wants money?

Well, if the student were duped, too, then I suspect this would lead to
a lawsuit which would include the university. Misrepresentation comes
to mind, although I am not an attorney. I'm sure university legal
people are already checking it out to see what their exposure is.
Truly, the student would be the victim if he/she is not in on the hoax.

--
Lou Pecora
- My views are my own.

Harry Collins

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 3:55:22 PM10/28/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote in message news:<ap9f1d$a1b$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>...

THE VIEW FROM SOCIOLOGY

Last time I heard a figure quoted it was that about 90% of published
papers are never cited by anyone except the author and it is probable
that 50% of published papers are never read by anyone. Most published
science (or social science) is simply not important. Thus, that a
hoax paper can get through the refereeing system, while an indictment
of the referees, is not of any great concern as far as scientific
understanding is concerned.

What physical scientists need to worry about is the way they handled
the Sokal hoax. Though I am someone who was vilified from
time-to-time during the `science wars' I had never read Social Text
(the journal which Sokal fooled) until the incident. I am not even
sure that I had even heard of it. Most of us thought the hoax was
very well crafted and very funny and that the editors of Social Text
(it does not have independent referees so far as I know), should
simply have taken their medicine. The real trouble began when Alan
Sokal, Jean Bricmont, and an unfortunately large number of natural
scientists began to treat the hoax as demonstrating that the social
sciences, or some subset of them, were fatally flawed, rubbish,
nonsense, etc. Some subset may be fatally flawed, rubbish, nonsense,
etc but the hoax did not demonstrate it. Science is harder work than
that. The gloating and weak logic of a subset of the natural science
community ought to be what is worrying scientists now; the reverse
hoax makes it easier to understand just how weak those inferences
were.

Relax, the hoax itself (and I assume it was a hoax), doesn't matter
much except for CQG and a few referees/examiners. It's just funny and
a useful astringent. But from the two hoaxes taken together we may
learn something.

Harry Collins

Dirk Bruere

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 7:27:33 PM10/28/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

"Harry Collins" <Coll...@cf.ac.uk> wrote in message
news:125a38d0.02102...@posting.google.com...
>

> Relax, the hoax itself (and I assume it was a hoax), doesn't matter
> much except for CQG and a few referees/examiners. It's just funny and
> a useful astringent. But from the two hoaxes taken together we may
> learn something.

I assume a number of people here have received email from Drs Bogdanov
claiming this is no hoax, so I will not quote it in full.
However, there is a very interesting and telling comment:

"This morning told that they were frauds everyone was
laughing at how obvious it is. This afternoon, told they are real
professors and that this is not a fraud, everyone here says, well, maybe
it is real stuff".

Is it really the case that the CQG world is such that only a few people can
distinguish between legitimate theory and blatant bullshit? And the rest
have to depend on being informed of whether what they are reading is one or
the other?

Dirk

Arkadiusz Jadczyk

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 7:28:04 PM10/28/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org


I received email from from Igor Bogdanov telling me that the original
suprvisor was Moshe Flato. As I knew Moshe personally (we spent three
months together at RIMS, Kyoto in 1995, and then I visited him in Dijon)
, I can say that the subject of Bogdanov's thesis was also far from
Moshe's field of expertise as well. Anybody can check it by lexamining
the published papers.

Therefore, as it is always in such cases, a very careful choice of
referrees is a must.

Boris Borcic

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 8:11:16 PM10/28/02
to ba...@math.ucr.edu, physics-...@ncar.ucar.edu

John Baez wrote :
>
> We all laughed when Alan Sokal wrote a deliberately silly
> paper entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a
> Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", and managed
> to get it accepted by a refereed journal of social and cultural
> studies, Social Text.

Imo the precise name for Sokal's device is "trojan horse".
Proper denomination is important to perspective, since classical
litterature contains a few failed trojans, the least of which not
being the story of the original sin.

> But now I hear that two brothers have managed to publish 3
> meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax - and even
> get Ph.D. degrees in physics from Bourgogne University in
> the process!

(1) Igor and Grishka Bogdanov are long-time (imo hateful) TV stars on
french TV, with an act between science-fiction and scientific
popularisation. I am a bit surprised that a faculty failed to
*know* them as experts in mystifications.

(2) I hope this will be an occasion to reopen discussion on eg
Sokal-motivated conclusions. I would in particular love to see
pointed out, that the form of irony inherent to Trojan Horses
is equivalent to the assertion by (the school of) the author, of
understanding oneself perfectly the issues. Cloaks or irony,
making one impervious to corrections. In particular, writing the
paper Sokal did under the title listed above, is really no proof
that a very reasonable paper couldn't fit about exactly
the same title, while the effect of Sokal's paper is naturally
that any title approximating the latter, will appear as a
prototypical hoax. In many ways, physics could be *defined* as a
science that chose both object and methods *not* to have to
contemplate mystifications... (eg Newton's motto) and reversing
such an organisation isn't as simple and risk-free that Sokal
would have us think.

Regards, Boris Borcic
--
"Ever heard of fake monster lie algebra ?"

Doug Goncz

unread,
Oct 28, 2002, 8:11:39 PM10/28/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

There have been AI programs generating government procurement contracts,
business letter, poems, and pseudoscientific "papers" for tens of years. I
wouldn't be at all surprised to see a few slip by review.

But inviting the press to the thesis defense, that was really a good one.

I wonder how you start a rumor? (Just kidding, I know how.)

An email copy of your post is welcome.

Yours,

Doug Goncz, Replikon Research, Seven Corners, VA (remove pee dot mil antispam)
http://users.aol.com/DGoncz
http://groups.google.com/groups?as_q=DGoncz
"Function, Funding, Form, Fit, and Finish"

Arkadiusz Jadczyk

unread,
Oct 29, 2002, 1:54:23 PM10/29/02
to
On Fri, 25 Oct 2002 23:39:48 +0000 (UTC), Peter Woit
<wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote:

My recent (October 28, 2002) exchange with Bogdanovs is documented at
the following URL

http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanovs.htm

igor.bogdanov

unread,
Oct 29, 2002, 6:50:35 AM10/29/02
to

As everybody probably knows by now, since Oct. 22 we received many emails
coming from the whole planet about a rumor of "hoax" based on reverse
"Sokal's model".

We were very astonished, my brother and myself, to discover that there
is a powerful stream of opinions whose action is to present our works
as a deliberate hoax.

It is pure non sense.

Initiated from France, this campain coincides with the creation of our
new scientific TV program on France 2 and could be originated by a very
ancient editorial conflict that had nothing to do with science.

We have now identified the main source of this hoax rumor and we send
you here after the disclaimer of his author.

___

Dear Dr Bogdanov,

please find below a disclaimer that I distributed this
morning.

Best regards,

M.N.

**********************************************************************
Dear friends,

apparently a private e-mail of mine to two persons was inadvertedly
widely distributed far beyond my 1-step consent. As the message
triggered a flurry of activity I feel obliged to add some disclaimers
to whatever `audience' it meanwhile reached.

In addition to some by-and-large factual information the e-mail
described a possible scenario (`hoax') underlying the former.
Neither of them was based on first hand information as I
immediately stressed in a follow-up message to the two intended
recipients. Meanwhile Dr I. and Dr G. Bogdanov informed me that
the `hoax premise' is incorrect. I expressed my sincere apologies
to them which they accepted. I join them hereby in the attempt
to confine the uncontrolled multiplication of this incorrect premise
and the secondary rumors that followed.

Everybody is invited to judge the scientific merits of the Bogdanov's
published work independent of their intentions on his own. Please make
an effort to distribute this message as widely as the first one ...

Thank you. Best regards,

Max Niedermaier


-----

As we wrote him, we were quite impressed by Dr Niedermaier's honesty.
His attitude reflects a perfect integrity and a rather rare capacity to
recognize that he may have been mistaken.

Here is the whole story. But the main problem is the following :
apparently no one has really read nor understood our papers.

No one in the string group at harvard can tell if these papers are
real or fraudulent. This morning told that they were frauds everyone was


laughing at how obvious it is. This afternoon, told they are real
professors and that this is not a fraud, everyone here says, well, maybe
it is real stuff.

______

In fact this affair reveals something extremely preoccupying. It simply
means that when a paper may be different from most of the standard
litterature (which precisely is the case with our publications) it
might fall into the category of "hoax papers".

Therefore we invite everybody in mathematical physics and theoretical
physics community to read carefully the referenced papers and discuss
them on scientific basis. Most of our contradictors are string
specialists. But we beleive that there is room in topological field
theory for new ideas regarding a possible solution of the spacetime
initial singularity pb.

For instance : one of the referee for Classical & Quantum Gravity paper
wrote : "The author's make the interesting observation that, in the
limit of infinite temperature, a field theory is reduced to a topological
field theory which may be a suitable description of the initial phase
of the universe".

So what are your (s) opinion (s) about this question?

On the other hand, this idea to describe initial singularity in the
framework of topological field theory is based on another new idea of
our own subject to be discussed : the possible quantum "fluctuation" of the
signature of the metric at the planck scale. The algebraic context of
such a fluctuation involves quantum groups theory as far as -at the
Planck scale- the metric itself must be quantized and consequently the
signature should be viewed as q-deformed.

So the question is : what do you think about this idea of quantum
fluctuations of the signature at the Planck scale?

On slightly more physical basis we also would be very happy to discuss
the possible KMS state of spacetime at the planck scale. We consider
that the expected thermal equilibrium of spacetime at such a scale is a
good ground for applying the KMS condition to it.

Is it silly or does it make any sense (as seem to think the referees of
the different published papers ? )

In that case, the context in terms of von Neumann algebras are type II
and III factors whose properties are quite interesting and can lead to a
better comprehension of the possible fluctuation of the spacetime
signature of the metric at the planck scale.

Onece more, we would be very happy to exchange views, critics,
contradictions, suggestions, etc. about those new ideas.

Thank you for your help and attention,


With our best regards,

Igor Bogdanoff Grichka Bogdanoff

Jeremy Henty

unread,
Oct 29, 2002, 1:56:51 PM10/29/02
to
In article <125a38d0.02102...@posting.google.com>, Harry
Collins wrote:

> ... The real trouble began when Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont, and an


> unfortunately large number of natural scientists began to treat the
> hoax as demonstrating that the social sciences, or some subset of
> them, were fatally flawed, rubbish, nonsense, etc.

Sokal and Bricmont do *not* claim this.

> ... Some subset may be fatally flawed, rubbish, nonsense, etc but


> the hoax did not demonstrate it.

Which Sokal and Bricmont *concede*. They wrote "Intellectual
Impostures" precisely because they knew that the Sokal hoax was not
enough to support the critique they wanted to make. And they do not
claim that the social sciences (or any sizeable part of then) are
rubbish. What they claim is that many notable figures in the social
sciences are in the habit of peppering their dialogue with
pseudoscience.

Regards,

Jeremy Henty

John Baez

unread,
Oct 29, 2002, 1:57:07 PM10/29/02
to
In article <3db9a5b8....@news.ucalgary.ca>,
Ken Muldrew <kmul...@ucalgary.ca> wrote:

>Well I think that if any of us (scientists, not just qg enthusiasts)
>actually know anyone who is too busy to read papers that they are
>supposed to review then we should suggest that they send the papers
>back and tell the editors to find someone else. The "too busy to read"
>excuse is appalling, IMO.

You may be pleased to know that Classical and Quantum Gravity
has decided to stop using the 2 referees who accepted the
Bogdanov's paper. I don't know about the other journals who
accepted papers of theirs... but of these journals, Classical
and Quantum Gravity is supposedly the most prestigious, with
therefore the most to lose.

James Dolan

unread,
Oct 29, 2002, 4:39:13 PM10/29/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

in article <apkcej$2auv3$1...@id-120108.news.dfncis.de>,
dirk bruere <di...@neopax.com> wrote:

it's really the case that in any worthwhile field of study it's
impossible for anyone no matter how familiar with the current state of
the art to always reliably distinguish between crap and non-crap by
means of a casual first reading. both crap and non-crap can pretty
easily be disguised in a way that takes a lot of hard work to detect,
although in general it's much easier to be really sure that something
isn't crap than to be sure that there's absolutely nothing of value in
it. the only people who assume that it ought to be possible to make
reliable snap judgements about whether some work is total crap or not
are incompetents.


--


[e-mail address jdo...@math.ucr.edu]


[Moderator's note: I am generously assuming that James Dolan does not
mean in the final sentence to call anyone in this discussion
an incompetent. However, I urge everyone to consider their wording
carefully in this emotionally charged discussion. -- KS]

Ralph E. Frost

unread,
Oct 29, 2002, 4:42:35 PM10/29/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Harry Collins <Coll...@cf.ac.uk> wrote in message
news:125a38d0.02102...@posting.google.com...
>

> Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote in message
news:<ap9f1d$a1b$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>...
> > Now I hear that the Bogdanoff brothers are claiming this is not a hoax,
that
> > they are serious scientific researchers. It certainly is true that
> > their writings
> > make no less sense than a lot of other things in the literature.
>
> THE VIEW FROM SOCIOLOGY

....


> Relax, the hoax itself (and I assume it was a hoax), doesn't matter
> much except for CQG and a few referees/examiners. It's just funny and
> a useful astringent. But from the two hoaxes taken together we may
> learn something.

If you've ever been involved in a court case opposing someone who lies
outright, making up a defense on the spur of the moment -- I mean, really
lies, and builds their case purposefully on lies -- you will undoubtedly
know that dishonesty may have a powerful short-term gain.

Both hoaxes together don't change that fact. The fact is, if you set out
with the objective to cheat, steal, and lie, and bamboozle, that is what
you will likely succeed at.

Like Boris said, it's an old and persistent temptation. Some people
succumb to it.

--
Ralph Frost
Looking for a desktop model to help you ponder this topic?
http://flep.refrost.com
Use more robust symbols
Seek a thought worthy of speech.


jmfb...@aol.com

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 3:00:16 AM10/30/02
to

In article <3db9a5b8....@news.ucalgary.ca>,
kmul...@ucalgary.ca (Ken Muldrew) wrote:

>ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote:

>>Ken Muldrew <kmul...@ucalgary.ca> wrote:

It doesn't matter if the papers are a hoax. The exercise
has pointed out a bug(s) in the procedure. And _that_ is
what needs to be thought about.

Putting in more rules and regulations may restrict the 98%
production and (I don't think) will stop the 2% fucking around.

/BAH


Subtract a hundred and four for e-mail.

Steve Carlip

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 3:00:27 AM10/30/02
to
In sci.physics.research Harry Collins <Coll...@cf.ac.uk> wrote:

> Last time I heard a figure quoted it was that about 90% of published
> papers are never cited by anyone except the author and it is probable
> that 50% of published papers are never read by anyone.

This is a bit of an urban myth -- it's based, I think, on a misunderstanding
of a study of papers in the Science Citation Index. The original article is
available at

http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/hamilton1.html

but it's important to read the follow-up letter by David Pendlebury.
The original figure includes editorials, letters, obituaries, and the
like as articles. If one restricts oneself to actual research articles,
only about 22% are uncited. (I don't know the figure if self-citations
ar excluded). Still...

> Most published science (or social science) is simply not important.
> Thus, that a hoax paper can get through the refereeing system,
> while an indictment of the referees, is not of any great concern as
> far as scientific understanding is concerned.

I agree. Remember, in quantum gravity no one really knows what
they're doing. There are plenty of wrong papers published, including
a fair number that, in hindsight, are ``obviously'' wrong. If it weren't
for the hoax claims (which the Bogdanovs deny, by the way), these
papers would have quietly sunk into oblivion.

There's one big difference with the Sokal paper. No one who knows
anything about the subject could read Sokal's paper without laughing
out loud; the Bogdanov papers are unlikely to provoke much more than
a wince.

Steve Carlip

puppe...@hotmail.com

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 3:00:31 AM10/30/02
to
Arkadiusz Jadczyk <a...@cassiopaea.org> wrote in message
news:<a4ljrus8dq2vph2fn...@4ax.com>...

[snip]

> Although I agree with all the above, I am not sure about the last
> sentence. A dedicated and smart hoaxer can find out about the weak
> points of any person and even a group persons. Physicists are
> generally naive and not suspecting. They are busy. If they have reasons
> to believe, for one reason or another, that a given student is a really
> bright one, working hard, and quoting all the right papers, then there
> is a tendency to let the student be even responsible for his/her
> work and papers.

I'm not sure how much I like the situation you describe. Not
very much I think. I think it probably does happen, though
I don't know how often.

When I was in grad school, a story circulated about one of the
profs, a student of one of the very big names of physics. I won't
name either one, in case it's true and might embarass them.
We will just call them Bob and the Great Man of Physics (GMoP).

The story was, Bob, during his PhD work, gave a seminar on
his work. Standard thing in that dept for grad students to do
reports for the other grad students and the profs to keep folks
up to date on current research. Not uncommon in many depts.

And the GMoP is in the front row, asking good and useful questions,
clearly very interested and following the work very carefully.
And after the seminar is over, the GMoP comes up to Bob and
congratulates him on a good seminar on an interesting subject.
Then he says "By the way, who is your supervisor?"

And Bob looks at him and says "You are."

So, I guess it is possible for the big names to forget they are
supervising somebody. It seems pretty extreme to me though.
I'd have thought the reason you got a particular person to
be your supervisor extended past his prestige and fame. Maybe
I'm wrong, but I chose my supervisor because he was doing research
I was interested in. Then again, I never got offered a prof
position.
Socks

Louis M. Pecora

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 3:11:17 AM10/30/02
to
In article <apegu2$r5jo$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>, Dirk Bruere
<di...@neopax.com> wrote:

> Knowledge is expanding faster than the quality control.
> Electronic pre-prints are one attempt to alleviate the problem.
> A kind of refereeing by mob.
>
> Dirk

Well, as an associate editor on two journals (one of which is an AIP
journal) I can tell you that finding quality referees has become very
difficult. People are simply too busy raising money and trying to
publish as much as possible to do the job. Maybe there are other
reasons, but the referee quality in some physics fields has gone down.
I wonder if this is true in all physics fields and in science overall.

Ned Wright

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 8:49:57 PM10/30/02
to
"Louis M. Pecora" <pec...@anvil.nrl.navy.mil> wrote in message
news:<281020021453302039%pec...@anvil.nrl.navy.mil>...

> Well, as an associate editor on two journals (one of which is an AIP
> journal) I can tell you that finding quality referees has become very
> difficult. People are simply too busy raising money and trying to
> publish as much as possible to do the job. Maybe there are other
> reasons, but the referee quality in some physics fields has gone down.
> I wonder if this is true in all physics fields and in science overall.

Obviously the reason it is hard to get referees is that the pay is
zero dollars and zero prestige per hour, and there is nothing one
can point to in a promotion case. I generally list "referee for
PRL" once per year in my outside professional activities, but that
means I get no credit whatsoever for the second PRL referee request.
When I was a Science Editor for the ApJ, I thought that the ApJ should
publish a request that whenever a department had a promotion or
appointment case, the relevant ApJ Science Editors should always
be asked for letters of recommendation.

This would spike the careers of people who wouldn't do referee reports
because they weren't tenured, or the tenured professors who just ignored
requests completely.

--Edward L. (Ned) Wright, UCLA Professor of Physics and Astronomy
See http:www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmolog.htm

Edward Green

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 11:08:48 PM10/30/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Coll...@cf.ac.uk (Harry Collins) wrote in message news:<125a38d0.02102...@posting.google.com>...

> What physical scientists need to worry about is the way they handled
> the Sokal hoax. Though I am someone who was vilified from
> time-to-time during the `science wars' I had never read Social Text
> (the journal which Sokal fooled) until the incident. I am not even
> sure that I had even heard of it. Most of us thought the hoax was
> very well crafted and very funny and that the editors of Social Text
> (it does not have independent referees so far as I know), should
> simply have taken their medicine. The real trouble began when Alan
> Sokal, Jean Bricmont, and an unfortunately large number of natural
> scientists began to treat the hoax as demonstrating that the social
> sciences, or some subset of them, were fatally flawed, rubbish,
> nonsense, etc. Some subset may be fatally flawed, rubbish, nonsense,
> etc but the hoax did not demonstrate it. Science is harder work than
> that. The gloating and weak logic of a subset of the natural science
> community ought to be what is worrying scientists now; the reverse
> hoax makes it easier to understand just how weak those inferences
> were.

I said the same thing. By extrapolating a statistical result from a
single data point some were showing themselves to be as good at
scientific inference as the editors were at screening papers.

> Relax, the hoax itself (and I assume it was a hoax), doesn't matter
> much except for CQG and a few referees/examiners. It's just funny and
> a useful astringent. But from the two hoaxes taken together we may
> learn something.

I, and presumably everyone else who has contributed to this thread,
have been honored by an actual email from the perpetrators! As was
said, they continued to protest their innocense. As was also said,
this would seem similar to the legal strategy of, having started with
a lie, never backtracking or admiting anything, but continue to lie,
lie, lie. This will always maintain a germ of doubt in at least a
portion of the audience.

Something can probably be gleaned from their taking the time to write
to random commentators on Usenet. Also, utility of posting from a
filter free account -- sure I have to delete a lot of spam, but if I
had some puzzle to get my real address, I never would have received
this important document!

Edward Green

unread,
Oct 30, 2002, 11:11:22 PM10/30/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

"Dirk Bruere" <di...@neopax.com> wrote in message news:<apkcej$2auv3$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>...

Apparently, the emperor is really scantily clad. Maybe a jock strap.

Except for a few confident souls, the goal of much of the population
seems to be not to be found out.

By continuing to deny this was a fraud, the perps are really holding
people's feet to the fire: a comforting admission would make all
clear; a continued insistence puts each person desiring to have an
opinion on the spot.

J. J. Lodder

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 1:11:18 AM10/31/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

igor.bogdanov <igor.b...@free.fr> wrote:
^ ^
> From: "igor.bogdanov" <igor.b...@free.fr>
> Newsgroups: sci.physics.research,sci.physics

snip

> With our best regards,
>
> Igor Bogdanoff Grichka Bogdanoff

^^ ^^

Is this authentic, and do the Bogdano[v,ff]s
use two different spellings of their own names?
Or is it a hoax in a hoax?

Whatever I think of it,
I would at least prefer to refer to it correctly,

Jan

puppe...@hotmail.com

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 1:20:15 PM10/31/02
to
"Dirk Bruere" <di...@neopax.com> wrote in message news:<apc8ae$aig9$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>...

> "Peter Woit" <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote in message
> news:apboi9$q2i$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu...
>
> > Looking at these papers more carefully, three of them are nearly identical
> > and all three are more or less an extract of the first one (the Classical
> > and Quantum Gravity article).
>
> Is that really unusual with the 'publish or perish' ethos? Doesn't everyone
> try to milk as many papers as possible from a good idea by dribbling it out?
[snip]

There's a really old and cynical joke about that and "citations."
The idea is, you want to publish articles that get cited a lot.
So what you do is, you deliberately get a paper published that
has a fairly obvious, easily corrected error in it. Especially
one that makes some minor correction to the result, but that
does not change the overall conclusion. Then, everybody in the
field will write a short article showing the error and the
correction, because they are publication hungry as well. And you
wind up with paper that is cited by just about everybody else
in your area of work. In departments that look at the citations
index as part of performance review, this has been done.

On the other hand, I once knew a guy who was clearly doing the
milk-it routine. He was being just a bit overly obvious about
it though. To create paper B from paper A, for example, he had
the department secretary change all occurences of "Kaluza-Klein"
to "Jordan-Thiery" and sent it off to another journal. Both
papers got published. But the secretary told everybody in the
department. Sort of cost him a lot on personal interactions with
the staff and students. Eventually, this guy was simply not
offered a job and went away to I-know-not-where.

Socks

Uncle Al

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 1:20:00 PM10/31/02
to
"igor.bogdanov" wrote:
>
> As everybody probably knows by now, since Oct. 22 we received many emails
> coming from the whole planet about a rumor of "hoax" based on reverse
> "Sokal's model".
>
> We were very astonished, my brother and myself, to discover that there
> is a powerful stream of opinions whose action is to present our works
> as a deliberate hoax.
>
> It is pure non sense.
[snip]

John Baez read your texts and he concluded that they didn't hang
together. If you can convince Baez that your hat is on straight, so
be it. Until that time, I regard your work as a well deserved wake up
call to a hard science that has significantly abandoned its empirical
roots and now wallows in floods of untestable and often unfathomable
theory - bushwa bullwarked by complexity and promulgated by publicity.

Physics deserves to be something better than economics.

Public entreaties are meaningless. The average person doesn't
understand an incandescent lightbulb. Reality is not decided by
majority vote.

--
Uncle Al
http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/eotvos.htm
(Do something naughty to physics)
http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/eotvos.pdf
(The short form)

Kevin A. Scaldeferri

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 2:02:09 PM10/31/02
to
In article <apkcej$2auv3$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>,
Dirk Bruere <di...@neopax.com> wrote:
[quoting someone else]

>
>"This morning told that they were frauds everyone was
>laughing at how obvious it is. This afternoon, told they are real
>professors and that this is not a fraud, everyone here says, well, maybe
>it is real stuff".

Yes, this seems like the truly damning thing to me. It seems nearly
as bad (or perhaps even equally, but orthogonally bad) to the reaction
of some to the Sokal hoax, who claimed that event though Sokal
intended the paper as a hoax, it was actually completely valid
independent of his intent.

Does no one have the courage of his convictions to stand up and
declare an opinion one way or the other, or is it simply that no one
has bothered to actually spend the time to acquire an informed opinion
(i.e. more than just skimming the papers for a few choice sentences)?

--
======================================================================
Kevin Scaldeferri Calif. Institute of Technology
The INTJ's Prayer:
Lord keep me open to others' ideas, WRONG though they may be.

ark

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 2:05:03 PM10/31/02
to
"Dirk Bruere" <di...@neopax.com> wrote in message news:<apc832$bnoj$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>...
> "John Baez" <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu> wrote in message
> news:apajo0$mqe$1...@glue.ucr.edu...

>
> > They (or we? - but it's not *my* fault) should feel foolish
> > regardless of whether it's a hoax or not, because the papers
> > are a bunch of baloney.

I am trying to analyze the papers. The documentation of my exchange
with Bogdanovs is available at

http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanovs.htm

and more technical discussion starting at

http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanov2.htm

and will continue. Hopefully someone will benefit from this exchange.

As I wrote to Igor Bogdanov there are no easy ways in physics.

"Life is not easy. But it was never intended to be easy in the first
place."

To decide what is the value of each particular paper one needs to
invest time
and effort - like with everything in this world.

ark

John Baez

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 2:06:31 PM10/31/02
to
In article <josrrucb3a4omtec0...@4ax.com>,
Arkadiusz Jadczyk <a...@cassiopaea.org> wrote:

>My recent (October 28, 2002) exchange with Bogdanovs is documented at
>the following URL
>
>http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanovs.htm

Did you write this? It says:

"The first post on the subject is by John Baez. John seems to be
about the busiest mathematical physicist on the internet. He is
employed by Cornell University, which has recently taken over the
management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory pre-print archive
of physics paper."

The first two sentences are true. But the third one is
false. I am employed by the University of California at
Riverside, and I have no connection with the physics arXiv
(besides submitting papers there like so many other physicists do).

Could you please correct this?

Your subsequent comparison of Cornell University with the
Ku Klux Klan is probably, umm, a slight exaggeration, but never mind.

I agree with you completely that Daniel Sternheimer and
Moshe Flato are (or in the latter case, were) good mathematical
physicists and nice people.


jmf...@aol.com

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 2:09:31 PM10/31/02
to
In article <281020021453302039%pec...@anvil.nrl.navy.mil>,

You guys have gone on-line. This speeds up the process. If
you keep the personnel doing the review work constant, you're going
to have "sloppier" work (where "sloppy" is a perceived entity based
on count of things-not-done and has nothing to do with a realistic
evaluation). We had the same thing happen in our biz.

It's a difficult problem to solve. The only way we "solved" ours
was to go out of business. Somehow I don't think that's an option
in your biz ;-).

alejandro.rivero

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 2:14:17 PM10/31/02
to
> In addition to some by-and-large factual information the e-mail
> described a possible scenario (`hoax') underlying the former.

> Max Niedermaier

Any idea about which, or what kind, factual information was involved?

Alejandro

Toby Bartels

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 7:41:24 PM10/31/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Dirk Bruere wrote in part:

>I assume a number of people here have received email from Drs Bogdanov
>claiming this is no hoax, so I will not quote it in full.

Dear Drs Bogdanov:

I did not receive a copy of this letter.
Will you please send me one?
Thank you very much.


-- Toby Bartels
<toby+b...@math.ucr.edu>

Louis M. Pecora

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 7:42:17 PM10/31/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

In article <6e1d56f9.02103...@posting.google.com>, Ned
Wright <mapp...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Obviously the reason it is hard to get referees is that the pay is
> zero dollars and zero prestige per hour,
> and there is nothing one
> can point to in a promotion case.

Exactly. With economic pressure on scientists to bring in money to
cover academic and laboratory overheads plus some of their own pay and,
of course, to make tenure it's obvious where they will focus their
attention even if reading more of the literature through refereeing is
something they would like to do.

Alan Sokal

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 7:43:30 PM10/31/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

Coll...@cf.ac.uk (Harry Collins) wrote in message news:<125a38d0.02102...@posting.google.com>...

> What physical scientists need to worry about is the way they handled

> the Sokal hoax. [...] The real trouble began when Alan


> Sokal, Jean Bricmont, and an unfortunately large number of natural
> scientists began to treat the hoax as demonstrating that the social
> sciences, or some subset of them, were fatally flawed, rubbish,
> nonsense, etc. Some subset may be fatally flawed, rubbish, nonsense,
> etc but the hoax did not demonstrate it.

Just a clarification: Neither Bricmont nor I have ever "treat[ed] the
hoax as demonstrating that the social sciences were fatally flawed
etc". Quite the contrary: in my article "What the Social Text Affair
Does and Does Not Prove" [published in _A House Built on Sand:
Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science_, edited by Noretta
Koertge, Oxford University Press, 1998], I said explicitly:

From the mere fact of publication of my parody I think that not
much can be deduced. It doesn't prove that the whole field of cultural
studies, or cultural studies of science -- much less sociology of
science -- is nonsense. Nor does it prove that the intellectual
standards in these fields are generally lax. (This might be the case,
but it would have to be established on other grounds.) It proves only
that the editors of _one_ rather marginal journal were derelict in
their intellectual duty, by publishing an article on quantum physics
that they admit they could not understand, without bothering to get an
opinion from anyone knowledgeable in quantum physics, solely because
it came from a "conveniently credentialed ally" (as Social Text
co-editor Bruce Robbins later candidly admitted), flattered the
editors' ideological preconceptions, and attacked their "enemies".

(I then add:

To which, one might justifiably respond: So what?

and proceed to answer that question.)

The whole article can be found at
http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/noretta.html

Bricmont and I have taken the same approach in all our subsequent
writings on this subject.

-- Alan Sokal

Arkadiusz Jadczyk

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 7:44:55 PM10/31/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

On 30 Oct 2002 08:00:16 GMT, jmfb...@aol.com wrote:

>It doesn't matter if the papers are a hoax. The exercise
>has pointed out a bug(s) in the procedure. And _that_ is
>what needs to be thought about.

The good thing is: the best investiganitave journalists of Chronicle of
Higher Education in Washington D.C, and of Nature (France) are looking
into the 'affaire". It can only lead to a progress!

But still, physicists have to decide about the status of
complexification, KMS, zero mode, characteristic classes as Lagrngians
ans ALL THAT. Not to mention dieu&science, which even Grothendieck
may be in trouble to categorize :_

John Baez

unread,
Oct 31, 2002, 7:58:35 PM10/31/02
to sci-physic...@moderators.isc.org

In article <447053fe.0210...@posting.google.com>,
A.Lebourgeois <ASTREE...@wanadoo.fr> wrote:

>> John Baez wrote:

>> >I can however assure you
>> >that the abstracts seem like gibberish to me, even though I know
>> >what most of the buzzwords mean.

>All that does not make any sense. The Bogdanoff passed their thesis
>after years of hard work. I have read their thesis and I have no
>doubt concerning the originality of their ideas in the field of TFT
>(which is not that familiar to most of strings specialists).

Please explain to me what their new ideas in this subject are.
I'm reasonably expert in topological field theory, so feel free
to be highly specific.

>Concerning the published papers (specially the CQG paper) you should
>all make the effort to read them carefully.

I did.

>You would then realize
>that there is something quite new regarding the description of
>(pre)spacetime around the Planck scale.

What is it, exactly?

>The mathematics behind are
>very sophisticated and it is the first time that I see a clear
>connexion between quantum groups th. as applied to physics at the
>planck scale.

I'm quite comfortable with quantum groups, and it's
not the first time I've seen people try to make a connection
between them and Planck-scale physics. In fact, I've written
a few papers on precisely this subject! So, please tell me
what this "clear connection" is supposed to be - in enough
detail so I can see if there really is anything substantial
here or not. Merely speaking of a "clear connection", without
saying what it is, is not very convincing.

>So before speaking about the "hoax" of Bogdanoff
>brothers one should first read (and try to understand) the work.

I would never suggest that a paper might be a hoax without
reading it first! That would be silly.

By the way, I no longer think the Bogdanoff's papers are
part of a Sokal-style hoax designed to poke fun at physics.
I think something else is going on here. Rich Monastersky
is doing a story on this subject for the Chronicle of Higher
Education, and with any luck it will contain some information
that will shed a new light on the case.

(I'm sorry to be so mysterious, but I'd rather wait and let
a professional reporter sort this stuff out. I know physics,
so I don't mind talking about *that*, but some other things
are best left to reporters.)

Aaron Bergman

unread,
Nov 1, 2002, 2:49:29 AM11/1/02
to
In article <apmcgc$m3l$1...@blinky.its.caltech.edu>, Kevin A. Scaldeferri wrote:

[unnecessary quoted text deleted]

> Yes, this seems like the truly damning thing to me. It seems nearly
> as bad (or perhaps even equally, but orthogonally bad) to the reaction
> of some to the Sokal hoax, who claimed that event though Sokal
> intended the paper as a hoax, it was actually completely valid
> independent of his intent.
>
> Does no one have the courage of his convictions to stand up and
> declare an opinion one way or the other, or is it simply that no one
> has bothered to actually spend the time to acquire an informed opinion
> (i.e. more than just skimming the papers for a few choice sentences)?

The papers are quite hard to decipher. I stand by my comments and
I assume that John Baez stands by his. Jacques Distler has also
<http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/> posted his opinions
on the validity of the paper.

Aaron

Mark Fergerson

unread,
Nov 1, 2002, 3:53:18 PM11/1/02
to
Edward Green wrote:

> I, and presumably everyone else who has contributed to this thread,
> have been honored by an actual email from the perpetrators! As was
> said, they continued to protest their innocense.

I got one of those from the authors
too, and sorta assumed all contributors
to this thread did as well. But get
this; I also got an e-mail from a
reporter from _Nature_ who wants my
input on whether it's a hoax and the
state of peer-review!

Now before anyone imagines I'll let
dreams of power go to my head and tell
this reporter something as if I actually
qualified as a "peer" in this context,
let me assure all I have no such
intentions. However, he did ask me to
refer him to others "competent" to make
comments. Any takers? Replies public or
private gleefully accepted and forwarded
without prejudice; he can take his
chances.

> ... As was also said,


> this would seem similar to the legal strategy of, having started with
> a lie, never backtracking or admiting anything, but continue to lie,
> lie, lie. This will always maintain a germ of doubt in at least a
> portion of the audience.

Eventually somebody with a couple of
clues will read the material critically.
Either it's bogus or it isn't. Either
way, "peers" will be more carefully
selected, and reporters will have fewer
silly mistakes to pass on to the public.

Mark L. Fergerson

Mark Fergerson

unread,
Nov 1, 2002, 3:56:45 PM11/1/02
to

The Cyrillic character usually
transliterated as "v" is pronounced "f".
Some Russian immigrants to
English-speaking countries will alter
the spelling to keep others from
mispronouncing their names; I assume the
Bogdanovs did the same.

Mark L. Fergerson

Louis M. Pecora

unread,
Nov 1, 2002, 3:57:33 PM11/1/02
to
In article <apoh3i$rtc$6...@bob.news.rcn.net>, <jmf...@aol.com> wrote:

> >Well, as an associate editor on two journals (one of which is an AIP
> >journal) I can tell you that finding quality referees has become very
> >difficult. People are simply too busy raising money and trying to
> >publish as much as possible to do the job. Maybe there are other
> >reasons, but the referee quality in some physics fields has gone down.
> >I wonder if this is true in all physics fields and in science overall.
>
> You guys have gone on-line. This speeds up the process. If
> you keep the personnel doing the review work constant, you're going
> to have "sloppier" work (where "sloppy" is a perceived entity based
> on count of things-not-done and has nothing to do with a realistic
> evaluation). We had the same thing happen in our biz.

You lost me. Can you explain this?

--
Lou Pecora
- My views are my own.

[Moderator's note: If "this" means what happened in your business, and
your business isn't physics, please take it to e-mail. -TB]

ark

unread,
Nov 1, 2002, 4:03:18 PM11/1/02
to
ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote in message news:<apo07s$rhm$1...@glue.ucr.edu>...

> In article <josrrucb3a4omtec0...@4ax.com>,
> Arkadiusz Jadczyk <a...@cassiopaea.org> wrote:
>
> >My recent (October 28, 2002) exchange with Bogdanovs is documented at
> >the following URL
> >
> >http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanovs.htm
>
> Did you write this? It says:
>
> "The first post on the subject is by John Baez. John seems to be
> about the busiest mathematical physicist on the internet. He is
> employed by Cornell University, which has recently taken over the
> management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory pre-print archive
> of physics paper."
>
> The first two sentences are true. But the third one is
> false. I am employed by the University of California at
> Riverside, and I have no connection with the physics arXiv
> (besides submitting papers there like so many other physicists do).
>
> Could you please correct this?

Sorry. Fixed.

In the meantime the web page grew and now I am trying to figure out
the KMS affaire in Igor's paper.
There are some new comments from Igor and Grichka - and couple of more
journalists got interested. Updated daily:

http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanovs.htm
http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/bogdanov2.htm


ark

Aaron Bergman

unread,
Nov 1, 2002, 4:02:57 PM11/1/02