Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 13:49:29 -0500 (EST)

From: Peter Woit

To: igor.bogdanov

Subject: Re: String theorist

Dear Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff,

Thanks for your e-mail, I was interested to hear your views about

some of these matters, some of my thoughts follow.

>

> I. We have read your papers about string theory. As you have noticed we

> are not part of this field and do not share the targets and methods. We

> could not agree more with your conclusions that string theory has no

> connections with real world.

>

I'm glad to hear we agree about this. I understood that you are not

working in the field of string theory and that the ideas you are

pursuing are quite separate. The dominance of string theory over the last

twenty years has been such that just about everyone, no matter what they

are doing, feels they have to try and relate it to string theory somehow.

> II. We are trying to open new roads. As you know, our main purpose is to

> understand and describe the initial singularity of spacetime. We think

> we do not contradict any physics when we claim that initial singularity

> does not belong to the realm of physics. As far as we can see, it is a

> pure mathematical object. For this reason, we have applied TQFT to bring

> a workable solution. Our model is quite simple :

>

> 1. Scale > Planck scale (physical world) : lorentzian metric

>

> 2. Scale between 0 and Planck scale (quantum gravitity world) :

> superposition between lorentzian and euclidean metrics

>

> 3. Scale 0 (Topological world) : euclidean metric

>

>

> In fact, we use quantum groups theory to describe this very speculative

> domain which lays beyond physics (see our paper on arXiv "A New Cocycle

> Bicrossproduct by Twisting" : it is a pure mathematical result, but we

> have extract of it a frame wchich could describe the signature

> fluctuation at the Planck scale). That's the reason why we do not

> unerstand the very unfair critics concerning our works clearly described

> by us as mathematical.

>

>

>

> Indeed, what is wrong with this approach? We would be very happy to have

> your comments on this topic.

>

Let me explain my reaction to what I've read of your work, partly

because I suspect my reaction is one shared by many others.

A large part of your work has to do with quantum groups

and I'm not an expert in this

field. It's certainly possible that you have some new worthwhile results

on quantum groups but to be able to quickly understand the significance of

what you have written on this topic and how it relates to what was

previously known requires an expertise that only a handful of people in

the world have. In principle many more people could evaluate this, but it

would require a lot of time to familiarize oneself with the existing

quantum group literature and to understand exactly what you are doing.

People are busy and are very unlikely to be willing to do this unless they

see a good reason to invest the needed time.

The thing that I've spent a lot of time studying and that I'm fairly

expert in that is part of what you are doing is TQFT. The parts of

your published papers that deal with TQFT are extremely imprecise and

unclear. In some cases, to the extent that you seem to be making

a precise statement it appears to be wrong. This leaves me and

many readers of your paper in the following position:

1. We can see vaguely the idea you want to pursue.

2. When you actually start to try and explain more

precisely the idea, the part that we think we should be able

to understand, for instance the TQFT part, is

so unclear that we don't know what exactly you are

saying.

3. Now we have to decide. Do I do a lot of hard work

trying to figure out some way in which what they are

saying actually makes clear and precise sense?

For just about everybody the answer is going to be "no". You're

asking the reader to start doing serious and difficult

research level work, just in order to try and understand

what you are trying to say. In essence you're asking the reader

to do your work for you.

The whole issue of the Euclidean vs. Minkowski nature of space-time

is a very interesting one and may ultimately be important in

understanding many things, including the nature

of the initial singularity. I've thought about some of this, and

have my own vague ideas about what is going on. When I try and

follow yours, the lack of clarity quickly makes this impossible.

So my general reaction to the approach you describe is not that

it is obviously wrong, but that you need to make it much more

precise and clear than you do in any of your publications before

anyone can tell whether this is an approach that will be

fruitful.

The reason I got involved in this "affaire" is that it seems

increasingly clear to me that twenty years of string theory,

including the recent fad for "string cosmology", have

left the whole field of theoretical physics in a very dangerous

state. One symptom of this seems to me to be the way in which

the referees of your papers kind of threw up their hands and

didn't do what they should have, which is to challenge you

to make your ideas much clearer so that you

and the rest of the community can see whether your approach

is going to go anywhere or not.

.....

Finally, let me say that from what I've seen your reaction

to all the criticism you have received seems to me admirable in that

you appear to be trying to respond to your critics in a positive way

by trying to clarify and better understand the ideas at issue. I hope you

continue to do this!

Best wishes,

Peter