Physics bitten by reverse Alan Sokal hoax?

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John Baez

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Oct 24, 2002, 12:43:50 AM10/24/02
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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

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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).

Boris

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Oct 24, 2002, 7:37:38 AM10/24/02
to

John Baez <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu> a écrit dans le message : ap7tq6$eme$1...@glue.ucr.edu...

>
> 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 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 much more 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
--
A naïf, naïf et demi


Edward Green

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Oct 24, 2002, 11:12:10 AM10/24/02
to
ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote in message news:<ap7udq$eo7$1...@glue.ucr.edu>...

> 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:

I've snipped "research", so you probably won't see this, but thanks
for posting that. The common denominator which leaps right out from
the two incidents is "quantum gravity".

Hmm.

So it seems like the "I don't understand this, but I don't want to
seem like a dummy by asking" can be extended to the very highest
levels.

Richard Feynman would have questioned their asses, hired lecture hall,
rumors of their brilliance, and all.

John Baez

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Oct 24, 2002, 2:12:19 PM10/24/02
to
In article <2a0cceff.0210...@posting.google.com>,
Edward Green <null...@aol.com> wrote:

>ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote in message
>news:<ap7udq$eo7$1...@glue.ucr.edu>...

>> 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 [4]


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

>I've snipped "research", so you probably won't see this, but thanks
>for posting that.

You're welcome.

>The common denominator which leaps right out from
>the two incidents is "quantum gravity".
>
>Hmm.
>
>So it seems like the "I don't understand this, but I don't want to
>seem like a dummy by asking" can be extended to the very highest
>levels.

I don't actually know the facts of this case, so I don't
want to speculate on the details of what happened. However,
I know that lots of physicists get so busy that they look
through papers in a very cursory way when refereeing them.
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.

And don't forget the famous joke about putting a note on page
93 of your Ph.D. thesis saying "IF YOU READ THIS I WILL GIVE
YOU A BOTTLE OF WINE!" - with no takers.

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.

>Richard Feynman would have questioned their asses, hired lecture hall,
>rumors of their brilliance, and all.

He might even have managed to one-up their hoax by having
a load of horse manure drop down on them just as they were
reaching for their diplomas!

Best,
jb

me...@cars3.uchicago.edu

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Oct 24, 2002, 3:21:54 PM10/24/02
to
In article <2a0cceff.0210...@posting.google.com>, null...@aol.com (Edward Green) writes:
>ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote in message news:<ap7udq$eo7$1...@glue.ucr.edu>...
>
>> In article <ap7tq6$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:
>
>I've snipped "research", so you probably won't see this, but thanks
>for posting that. The common denominator which leaps right out from
>the two incidents is "quantum gravity".
>
>Hmm.
>
>So it seems like the "I don't understand this, but I don't want to
>seem like a dummy by asking" can be extended to the very highest
>levels.
>
The emperor's new clothes syndrome.

Mati Meron | "When you argue with a fool,
me...@cars.uchicago.edu | chances are he is doing just the same"

Ken Muldrew

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Oct 24, 2002, 4:21:34 PM10/24/02
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ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu (John Baez) wrote:

>Edward Green <null...@aol.com> wrote:

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

>>> In article John Baez <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu> wrote:

>>> >But now I hear that two brothers have managed to publish [4]
>>> >meaningless papers in physics journals as a hoax [...]

>>The common denominator which leaps right out from


>>the two incidents is "quantum gravity".

>>So it seems like the "I don't understand this, but I don't want to


>>seem like a dummy by asking" can be extended to the very highest
>>levels.

>I don't actually know the facts of this case, so I don't
>want to speculate on the details of what happened.

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.

>However,
>I know that lots of physicists get so busy that they look
>through papers in a very cursory way when refereeing them.

That's not good but in an era when people are being judged by
paper-counters I guess we have to expect it.

>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.

>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.


Ken Muldrew
kmul...@ucalgary.ca

Dirk Van de moortel

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Oct 24, 2002, 4:42:58 PM10/24/02
to

"John Baez" <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu> wrote in message news:ap7tq6$eme$1...@glue.ucr.edu...

>
> 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:

[snip]

In his reply Boris Borcic just reminded me that I know these
Bogdanov guys from TV too. Before French TV was taken
completely over by The Advertisers I used to watch some of
their "scientific" programs. The Bogdanovs were stars indeed
and they acted like geniuses. I didn't like their programs
because of more style than content. Too flashy.
It doesn't surprise me that they pulled this off. If they are still
connected to French TV, I wouldn't be surprised that they
were heavily supported by it. After all, it's a selling story, right?

Any idea who pulled the plug?

Dirk Vdm


Dirk Bruere

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Oct 24, 2002, 5:20:53 PM10/24/02
to

"Dirk Van de moortel" <dirkvand...@ThankS-NO-SperM.hotmail.com> wrote
in message news:mXYt9.177127$8o4....@afrodite.telenet-ops.be...

A jealous rival who was worried that the Nobel comittee was taking too close
an interest?

Dirk


Aaron Bergman

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Oct 24, 2002, 10:17:08 PM10/24/02
to
In article <3db855f1....@news.ucalgary.ca>,
kmul...@ucalgary.ca (Ken Muldrew) 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.

Interestingly enough, as was pointed out to me by a postdoc here, these
papers never appeared as preprints. Since preprints are essentially the
sole waynew papers are distributed these days, I doubt anyone in the
community even knew that these papers existed.

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

puppe...@hotmail.com

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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

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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.

Jim Moskowitz

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Oct 25, 2002, 1:46:54 AM10/25/02
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null...@aol.com (Edward Green) wrote in message news:<2a0cceff.0210...@posting.google.com>

> Richard Feynman would have questioned their asses, hired lecture hall,
> rumors of their brilliance, and all.

Or cursed himself for not having thought of it first...

Jim

E. Winkler

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Oct 25, 2002, 6:18:40 AM10/25/02
to

"John Baez" <ba...@galaxy.ucr.edu>

> KMS space-time at the Planck scale,

There are too many second level constructions around that can be randomly
combined. The Planck scale is the perfect playground.

Back to pure and first level math and many possibilities are ruled out.


jmfb...@aol.com

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Oct 25, 2002, 5:36:33 AM10/25/02
to
[spit]

In article <ap92to$1hb$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>,
Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote:
<snip>

>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,

They studied sperm?
<snip>

/BAH

Subtract a hundred and four for e-mail.

Dirk Bruere

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Oct 25, 2002, 9:14:09 AM10/25/02
to

"E. Winkler" <sobeb...@compuserve.de> wrote in message
news:apb5pm$iai$1...@nntp-m01.news.aol.com...
The thing about clever math is that if it doesn't make sense it means you
are too dumb to understand it.

Dirk


RM Mentock

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Oct 25, 2002, 9:16:05 AM10/25/02
to
jmfb...@aol.com wrote:

> >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,
>
> They studied sperm?

Naw. But did they study sign language, or symptomatology?

--
RM Mentock

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistant one -- A.E.

jmfb...@aol.com

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Oct 25, 2002, 8:07:17 AM10/25/02
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In article <apbfgh$3kk4$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>,

Not necessarily. It always means "more work needed".

Boris

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Oct 25, 2002, 9:54:59 AM10/25/02
to

Aaron Bergman

>
> preprints are essentially the sole way new papers are distributed these days

Call them tachyons. Do we have a model ? :)

bb


puppe...@hotmail.com

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Oct 25, 2002, 1:09:11 PM10/25/02
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jmfb...@aol.com wrote in message news:<apb81p$ogs$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>...

> >The "Bogdanoff" brothers have degrees
> >in semiology,
>
> They studied sperm?

se·mi·ol·o·gy also se·mei·ol·o·gy
1a) The science that deals with signs or sign language.
1b) The use of signs in signaling, as with a semaphore.

Socks

Aaron Bergman

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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.

John Baez

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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.

Mike Varney

unread,
Oct 25, 2002, 3:14:54 PM10/25/02
to

<jmfb...@aol.com> wrote in message news:apb81p$ogs$1...@bob.news.rcn.net...
> [spit]
>
> In article <ap92to$1hb$1...@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>,
> Peter Woit <wo...@cpw.math.columbia.edu> wrote:
> <snip>
>
> >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,
>
> They studied sperm?

I seem to recall once you said that I had my mind in the gutter. :-)


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.

jmfb...@aol.com

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 6:23:07 AM10/26/02
to
In article <c7976c46.02102...@posting.google.com>,

puppe...@hotmail.com wrote:
>jmfb...@aol.com wrote in message
news:<apb81p$ogs$1...@bob.news.rcn.net>...
>> >The "Bogdanoff" brothers have degrees
>> >in semiology,
>>
>> They studied sperm?
>
>se搶i搗l搗搽y also se搶ei搗l搗搽y

>1a) The science that deals with signs or sign language.
>1b) The use of signs in signaling, as with a semaphore.

Aw, shit. I could have sworn there was an 'n' in that
word yesterday.

jmfb...@aol.com

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 6:25:18 AM10/26/02
to
In article <TKgu9.52$vF2....@news.uswest.net>,

<GRIN> I don't recall that. Would you believe I had a headache
yesterday? (A result of trying to climb into my car at the
car doctor's without checking to see if a short-legged critter
had moved the seat.)

Dirk Bruere

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 8:38:18 AM10/26/02
to

<jmfb...@aol.com> wrote in message news:apdv5e$mqp$7...@bob.news.rcn.net...

You were probably thinking about Xian priests in training.

Dirk


jmfb...@aol.com

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 7:37:26 AM10/26/02
to
In article <ape1p8$naqr$1...@ID-120108.news.dfncis.de>,

Nope. I took the day off from worrying about mass destruction.

Boris Borcic

unread,
Oct 26, 2002, 9:27:59 AM10/26/02
to
John Baez

> 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. :-)

So, unless acknowledged experts do something like Sokal and
Bricmont's book explaining the sillyness in appropriately clear
details to the masses, nothing real is going to happen. This all
reminds me of my comment on the cartoon you evoked a couple
years ago on spr (slightly edited).

> > [The professor before a blackboard filled with caballistics] is
> > turning towards us, smiling, and saying: "At this point we notice
> > that this equation is beautifully simplified if we assume that
> > space-time has 92 dimensions".
>
> And at this point we notice that when we substitute N=26 or N=10
> to N=92 as the dimensions of space-time in the cartoon, it acquires
> additional ironical interpretations, that the professor may be unwittingly
> referring to the expression of his theory in common language prose and
> alphabet, or respectively, to its supplementation with hard figures
> expressed in arabic numerals.

BTW, is this cartoon available anywhere on the web ?

Boris Borcic
--
What are F(Archimedes' bath) and F(Syracuse) if F(Eureka) is
the = in E=mc^2 ?

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