Bogdanovs Redux

A couple years ago two French brothers, Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, managed to get Ph.Ds in France and publish several nonsensical papers about quantum gravity in refereed physics journals, several of them rather well-known and prestigious ones. John Baez has a useful web-page about this story.

This whole thing seemed to me strong evidence of how in recent years there has been a collapse of any real intellectual standards in this part of theoretical physics, and I ended up being quoted about this in various places. The “Affaire Bogdanov” died down fairly quickly, and the scandal doesn’t seem to have lead to much in the way of higher standards.

I recently heard from Fabien Besnard, who wrote to tell me that the Bogdanovs have a new book out, called “Avant le Big-bang” (Before the Big Bang), in which they quote me as endorsing their work. Besnard has a web-page (in French) on the latest developments in the L’affaire Bogdanoff.

The Bogdanovs wrote me last year, here’s a copy of their e-mail. I made the mistake of thinking “maybe these guys aren’t so bad, just overly-enthusiastic sorts who could use a little helpful advice”, and wrote this back to them. In their book they use part of my e-mail, mis-translating:

“It’s certainly possible that you have some new worthwhile results on quantum groups..” (I was being too polite here; while possible, it is unlikely)

as

“Il est tout a fait certain que vous avez obtenu des resultats nouveaux et utiles dans les groupe quantiques” (It is completely certain that you have obtained new worthwhile results on quantum groups).

One lesson from this is not to write back to crackpots. Another strange part of this story: late last year I received an e-mail purporting to be from a “Prof. L. Yang” at the “International Institute of Mathematical Physics” at Hong Kong University. It appeared to come from

th-phys.edu.hk

a domain name that is registered with the Hong Kong DNS, supposedly by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I connected to the web-site at this address, which at the time contained an official-looking web-page for this Insitute. It now contains just a listing of directories, one of which is full of .pdf files of the papers of Arkadiusz Jadczyk.

This web-site is hosted by a US web-hosting company “Everyone’s Internet, Inc.” If you look carefully at the header for this e-mail you see that while it purports to be from

“liu-yang.imp@th-phys.edu.hk”

it really comes from

th-phys.edu.hk (ATuileries-117-1-27-138.w193-253.abo.wanadoo.fr [193.253.192.138])

which appears to be a machine connecting to the internet from Paris, set to claim to be “th-phys.edu.hk”.

It’s looking more and more like the original idea that the Bogdanovs were hoaxers, putting on the physics community, was closer to the truth than the idea that they are serious, just not very good, researchers.

Update: The comment section received a message from a supposed mathematician named “Roland Schwartz” defending the Bogdanov’s work on quantum groups. The source of the comment was
IP number 217.128.255.129. The DNS shows

nslookup 217.128.255.129

Name: ATuileries-117-1-29-129.w217-128.abo.wanadoo.fr
Address: 217.128.255.129

Funny, this seems to be a very close neighbor in Paris of Prof. L. Yang…..

I also just noticed that Jacques Distler has posted an account of his experiences with “Prof. L. Yang” et. al.

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31 Responses to Bogdanovs Redux

  1. What is a “crackpot.”?

    John Baez has a definition, which, if used without a double standard, implies that his own thesis advisor Irving Segal at MIT was/is a crackpot. Baez’s criteria are perhaps too strong. A distinction must be made between amateurs who clearly have no idea what they are talking about and those with serious credentials in the field they are writing about who are expressing deviant, unpopular, strange (because they are so far ahead of the pack perhaps like Feynman was with his diagrams, or Bohm was with his quantum potential) or perhaps they are wrong, and even “not even wrong” on some particular hobby horse. In any case “crackpot” is a “smear” word like Joe McCarthy’s use of “Red” etc, which should be avoided. By all means correct technical errors but best to avoid charged personal terms. Is Lenny Susskind, for example, a “crackpot.”? By Baez’s criterion he would have to be. I don’t think he is. I worked with Lenny at Cornell in 1963-64.

  2. the-real-yang! says:

    Schwarz-petitot-bogdanoff said :
    “A few days ago a debate of this kind was organized and it showed that Bogdanoffs were very convincing as far as their domain of research is concerned.”

    Where and when ? I can’t remember it!

  3. Bogdanoff says:

    Comments: Bogdanov Thesis Reports

    Good morning,

    We would like to react to Peter Woit comment on our thesis and reports.

    Woit wrote : “I wouldn’t be surprised if some reports were missing.”

    IGB : There are no reports missing. These are the “official reports” that everyone has the possibility to check with University of Bourgogne. This makes a total of 15 reports (which is quite unusual in itself since normally a thesis only requires 2 reports). This answers clearly the question : there is no “hidden report”.

    Woit wrote : “I’ve always had some sympathy for the people who ended up on the Bogdanov’s thesis committees. It’s a difficult position to be in when you have to decide what to do with students who seem to be enthusiastic and have worked hard, but are very weak and have completed not very good theses.

    IGB : How do you know that we have completed not very thesis? We are mathematicians, you are physicist. In a sympathetic letter, you wrote us that you do not know quantum groups theory ; “A large part of your work has to do with quantum groups and I’m not an expert in this field.”

    Question : why don’t you trust Majid when he says “Bogdanov’s ideas about signature fluctuations are to my mind about the more original and interesting that I have come across?”

    Why do you refuse to admit that we have build a bicrossproduct “of a type not seen before” (theorem 3.3.2) The basic theme is tomix algebraic structures associated to the Euclidean and the Lorentzian signatures intosingle algebraic constructions. Bogdanov identifies this as constructing certain cocycle Hopf algebras ot a type not seen before : ” These cocycle bicrossproduct results, in section3.3, from a body of original work which could certainly be the basis of a published researchpaper. ”

    We have spent many, many years working with Majid. He knows our ideas from A to Z. Do you think that he would have allowed the work to contain “some mistakes” or nonsensical parts?

    The answer is NO.

    Woit wrote : ” A not unreasonable thing to do under the circumstances is to do one’s best to find something of value in their work, ”

    IGB Yes. That would be a good thing to do.

    Woit wrote : But the Bogdanov theses, especially Igor’s, were so full of egregious nonsense, in particular with respect to topological quantum field theory, that they should have been beyond the pale.

    IGB : It is rather bizarre that you insist so much on the “nonsense” of our work. After all you wrote that you are not an expert in quantum groups. This theory is the mathematical basis of our signature fluctuations model. If you do not understand quantum groups, you do not understand our model. Nothing wrong about it. But then, stop saying “it’s nonsense”.

    Woit wrote : While some of these reviewers were string theorists, others weren’t, so the whole mess can’t be blamed on string theory.

    IGB : Do you seriously think that a scientist of the magnitude of Jackiw signed his report without filtering every idea, sentence, proposition, of the thesis? We worked extensively before he would agree with the quality of the work. Jackiw would never have approved “nonsensical” work just because he found us “enthousiastic” (by the way, we never met him before he wrote his report : all the work was based on reading the thesis and exchanging informations or arguments by mail).

    We can accept that you disagree, as a physicist, with our signature fluctuations model. But again we are mathematicians. And we developped our work on mathematical basis. Therefore the only thing that matters is : is our major theorem (a cocycle bicrossproduct of new type) valid or not?

    The answer given by experts is YES, without any doubt.

    If you disagree with this yoy know will have to prove it.

    Thank you for your attention,

    Igor Boganoff Grichka Bogdanoff
    Posted by Bogdanoff at June 12, 2004 09:42 AM

    I have always felt that the American system, where you kick out weak students after two years if they don´t pass their qualifying exams, is better for everybody than the European system, where the only real checkpoint is the dissertation, and people can linger forever. It is not really fair to let people work for a decade and then deny them a Ph. D.

    I am not sure how consistently the American system is implemented in the US, however. It is probably not so easy to keep people out if they don’t require funding.

    Posted by Thomas Larsson at June 12, 2004 02:14 AM

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  4. Lehnardt says:

    I did not have any opinion untill now. But after my reading of all the reports, I must admit that I was very interested and also surprised. After all, it seems that B&B have really done something.

  5. JC says:

    Peter,

    Speaking of the parallels between postmodernism and string theory becoming dominant, one can see a similar parallel in the “neoconservatives” becoming dominant in conservative thinking which first started in academia and eventually made it’s way into official political policy in the Dubya administration.

    Many of the ideas which eventually came to fruition in the Bush administration’s policy in pre-emptive wars in invading and taking over Iraq, were ideas cooked up by folks like political philosopher Leo Strauss and eventually taken up by guys in Dubya’s administration like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, etc … who started to spread their ideas of pre-emptive wars and an American empire all the way back to the days when they were in the Reagan administration. With the present disaster in Iraq with oil pipelines being blown up every few weeks, American soldiers being killed every other day by insurgents, etc … despite Saddam being caputured and out of the picture, the “neoconservatives” have been slowly falling out of favor and being blamed for everything that is going wrong in Iraq.

    It seems like the easiest way “unpopular” and/or “unrealistic” ideas can become dominant is attributed to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, (paraphrased as) “If you tell a big lie and keep on repeating it often enough, people will eventually perceive it as the truth.”

    It would be interesting to see if the popularity of ideas such as postmodernism, string theory, neoconservativism, etc … came about by hype and propaganda being repeated over and over again for many years.

    On the surface it appears things that are “propped up” mainly by propaganda and hype, seem to follow speculative “bubble” type of patterns in their rise and downfalls. During the upward rise of the bubble, many people are willing to “suspend disbelief” in the promises made. Eventually a “bubble” bursts when the hype can no longer fool anyone and “reality” starts to set in. After the point of the bubble bursting, it seems to be only the diehard fanatics who still believe in the hype and propaganda while everybody else has moved on.
    In the end, making too many unrealistic promises and repeatedly proclaiming triumphalism in an idea, seems to doom it when the promises are unfulfilled and “reality” takes over.

  6. P.Rozinski says:

    I wish to add the following comment about these reports. My opinion is that most of them (probably because of the public personality of Bogdanoffs) go far beyond a simple formal or academic expertise : everyone can feel that people like Kounnas or Jackiw have done a real work on Bogdanoffs thesis. Moreover all the reports following the defense are (in essence) not academic and only aiming at a technical evaluation of the manuscrit. All this shed a new light on Bogdanoffs work which (contrarely to the image created by the rumor) suddenly appears as quite original and serious.

  7. P.Rozinski says:

    I have read all the reports about the two thesis of Bogdanoff brothers : I must admit that it is not only “supportive”, it is also very impressive. Mainly because one can obviously see that experts like Majid did invest a lot of time and work on the content of the quantum groups part of Bogdanoff thesis. His 3 different reports are extremely precise and there is no doubt that his conclusions regarding the importance of Bogdanoff theorem are deeply based on his own expertise of the field and a serious knowledge of Bogdanoffs work. His report is a real example of what a good and sound report of expert should be.

  8. I do not know why they have preferred to register them as CERN-OPEN instead of CERN-EXTernal. I supposse it is because of the involvement of some CERN researchers.

    The report of Majid is certainly supportive. It is perhaps on his nature. It should be remarked we are speaking of a couple of PhD thesis, no less but no more. As Majid says, it is the *basis* for future work.

  9. J.Devers says:

    BOGDANOFF THESIS REPORTS

    Note that for the first time since the beginning of this affair in 2002, all the 15 reports concerning the thesis of Bogdanoffs are available on the CERN document server :

    http://cdsweb.cern.ch/search.py?recid=740747&ln=en

  10. petitot says:

    Dear Grantot,

    1) Prof. Yang = Roland Schwartz = J.Petitot = the Bogdanovs.

    True. It’s a perfect equivalence.

    The only way I see out of this mess would be a public grilling of the brothers (on TV, in front of the public, since they want the public to take part) by experts on quantum groups and topological field theory, who would ask them basic questions and then more involved specific stuff.

    The bogdanoffs would be delighted to debate with any expert in the fields. A few days ago a debate of this kind was organized and it showed that Bogdanoffs were very convincing as far as their domain of research is concerned. So yes : let’s organize this “grill session” as soon as possible.

  11. Grantot says:

    For those who lost the plot:

    1) Prof. Yang = Roland Schwartz = J.Petitot = the Bogdanovs. [You can easily recognize them, at least until now, by the way they quote messages, and the way they are aware of absolutely everything about the brothers.]

    2) crankbuster = Grantot = somebody who is fed up with this story, in particular to see that they distorted what Schreiber and Woit said and published it in a book now being read by thousands of french people… Under crankbuster I showed that Roland Schwartz talks nonsense. The brothers realized that and then appeared as J.Petitot. I posted again under crankbuster and then Grantot to reply to the messages by J.Petitot. [The name Grantot is a joke: since Petitot could be translated as Small-oh in english, I went for Grantot, which is Big-oh.]

    3) Moyentot = somebody else, who has a better sense of humor than me ;-). I think I recognise him from fsm. [Moyentot, as you've guessed, means Medium-oh.]

    4) If the brothers can come back to this affair anyway it is also, apart from the aformentioned new distortions, because some of the members of their PhD jurys spoke out in favour of them 3 years ago. That left the door open. We know that Robert Oeckl or Alain Connes said they work on quantum groups was weak, but Majid has been apparently a little more sympathetic. This is on what they are entirely relying, as can be seen when they write (under Petitot) “Regarding my other remarks (Oekl) you did not answer any of my observations : does that mean that you agree that Majid is a more reliable source regarding the quality of Bogdanoffs work than Oeckl?. As far as I am concerrned, I follow his conclusions: Bogdanoffs theorem in quantum groups is original and important.”

    The only way I see out of this mess would be a public grilling of the brothers (on TV, in front of the public, since they want the public to take part) by experts on quantum groups and topological field theory, who would ask them basic questions and then more involved specific stuff.

  12. petitot says:

    Dear polytot,

    Here are some quick reactions to your last message :

    You wrote : “since you have published precisely 4 papers and only 4 papers, indeed, a fixed number of 4 papers,

    How do you know that I published 4 papers?

    Therefore, dear Moyentot, may I kindly ask you to explain to me how it works to make bunches of people seriously discuss a paper that is based on the observation that when setting T=0 in the expression beta=1/T things look really weird?

    There is nothing mysterious here : beta is only the inverse of temperature. Come on : you know quite well that T = 0 can be seen as a topological limit of any field theory. And in this case (on this limit) beta goes to infinite (as usual). There are tons of references on this particular point.

    Ah, you mean it suffices to mention the term ‘quantum groups’ in the process, because it will intimidate everybody to such an extend that he forgets to laugh?

    Be serious for a minute, please. Would be much more interesting four our readers.

  13. Peter says:

    Hi JC,

    The Postmodernism article generator is great. Perhaps someone should write a string-theory version, surely this is possible.

    The whole history of string theory and how it took over the major physics departments in the US is very similar to the experience many humanities departments had with Postmodern “theory”. The parallels between these two stories are remarkable.

  14. Moyentot says:

    Dear Moyentot -

    since you have published precisely 4 papers and only 4 papers, indeed, a fixed number of 4 papers, I am willing to trust your opinion precisely 4/3 the amount that I trust Besnard, who has published 3, no more no less, precisely 3, and 3 only.

    (Since I cannot tell right from wrong myself and cannot explain to anyone the mysterious relation between Foucault pundulums and FRW cosmologies, I spend my time counting the number (and precisely the number, the fixed and invariant number) of publications of some people.)

    Therefore, dear Moyentot, may I kindly ask you to explain to me how it works to make bunches of people seriously discuss a paper that is based on the observation that when setting T=0 in the expression beta=1/T things look really weird?

    Ah, you mean it suffices to mention the term ‘quantum groups’ in the process, because it will intimidate everybody to such an extend that he forgets to laugh?

    My, dear Moyentot, this was a very helpful answer indeed.

    Sincerely,
    Moyentot.

  15. grantot says:

    Dear Grantot,

    you wrote : ” The very fact that you ignore what this is (Mathscinet) says it all.”

    I ignore where you found that I do not know mathscinet. In fact, in my post dated June 8, I wrote : “I have read the article in reference and contrarely to what you say it is obvious that Oeckl is *forced* to recognize the value of Bogdanoff Theorem : he simply cannot deny their result.”

    A simple contextual reading shows that I wrote having read the paper in Mathscinet. I know this database for years (this is not exceptional, no?).

    (By the way, the only J.Petitot in Mathscinet is an epistemologist from Ecole Polytechnique, who never published anything on quantum groups.)

    So what?

    You wrote : “Now I found this, also published in 2001:

    F. Besnard: Number Operator Algebras, Mathematical Physics Electronic Journal Vol 7, paper 4, 59pp, 2001.

    OK. I must admit that this electronic publication did not attract my attention beyond the arXiv version. Nevertheless the total number of publications is invariant : 3 and only 3. Even if the quality of a research is not based on the number of published papers, it is a “sign” : Besnard should not give any lessons to anyone, simply because he is not a reference. He failed to meet bogdanoffs proposal regarding a detailed scientific report on their quantum groups theorem. Instead he developped a “dark rumor” on his site and sent all sorts of emails to different people, hoping that he would create a new “affair” (see his site). Do you really think Besnard reacted honestly and objectively? I do not think so and I maintain that his attitude is definitly not scientific.

  16. JC says:

    This thread is reading more and more like an episode of Beavis and Butthead (B&B). Perhaps a better name for B&B (Bogdanov & Bogdanov) would be “Beavis & Bogdanov” and their never ending misadventures in physics hoaxes.

    At times I wonder whether the previous posts by Grantot, Petitot, Roland Schwartz, crankbuster, etc … are really just B&B “talking” to themselves in an attempt to produce an “illusion” of dialog. Astroturfing or generating hype deliberately to get even more attention for themselves.

    What would be amusing is if somebody rewrote the code to the Dada Postmodernism random essay generator at

    http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern/

    and

    http://dev.null.org/dadaengine/

    such that it randomly generated legitimate looking “theoretical physics” papers in the style of Beavis & Bogdanov (B&B).

  17. Grantot says:

    Dear Petitot,

    you wrote: “the reference does not appear in any database, even not arXiv where the paper is “due to be published in lmp”

    but you’ve just been told that they appear in Mathscinet! The very fact that you ignore what this is says it all. (By the way, the only J.Petitot in Mathscinet is an epistemologist from Ecole Polytechnique, who never published anything on quantum groups.)

    You also wrote: “Nevertheless, all in all (and this time I am sure) Besnard had only 1 paper published in 2001.”

    Now I found this, also published in 2001:

    F. Besnard: Number Operator Algebras, Mathematical Physics Electronic Journal Vol 7, paper 4, 59pp, 2001.

  18. Noticing the relationship between this new surge and the B&B new book, Urs has suggested to go to the amazon.fr website and similar selling points and upload the criticisms there.

  19. petitot says:

    This is a reply to Crackbuster.

    You are quite right regarding the publication in L.M.P. : I had not seen that Besnard had indeed one paper published in this journal (the reference does not appear in any database, even not arXiv where the paper is “due to be published in lmp). So yes, I admit I was wrong.

    Nevertheless, all in all (and this time I am sure) Besnard had only 1 paper published in 2001. He never published anything since then. Nothing wrong with that. But he should not pretend (as he does on his site) that he is the mighty scientific Judge of Bogdanoffs case. They have published 6 papers, Besnard only one (and still, in LMP : do you know that this journal was created by M.Flato, the first director of thesis of…Bogdanoff? and do you also know that LMP is managed today by D. Sternheimer, the second director of thesis of Bogdanoff? )

    Regarding my other remarks (Oekl) you did not answer any of my observations : does that mean that you agree that Majid is a more reliable source regarding the quality of Bogdanoffs work than Oeckl?). As far as I am concerrned, I follow his conclusions: Bogdanoffs theorem in quantum groups is original and important.

  20. crankbuster says:

    An now a reply to Petitot (and I’ll stop there):

    3. anybody can go to the website of Letters in Mathematical Physics and see that Besnard indeed published there the following:

    F.Besnard, Number Operator Algebras and Deformations of ε-Poisson Algebras, Letters in Mathematical Physics, 55 (2): 113-125, February 2001.

    So now who is lying ?

  21. Petitot says:

    This is a message to “crankbuster” in reply to certain elements of his post that appears not to be correct.

    Contrarely to him, I am an expert but (not for the same reasons) things also look dodgy to me. Here are my answers :

    1. Do you know that there is a review of one of the B&B papers by R.Oeckl (who did his PhD with Majid apparently) in Mathscinet, see the review MR1894907 (2003f:81231) at . In it Oeckl says:

    “even if they had shown the existence of the bicrossproduct this is completely at odds with the sentence following the “proof”: “Clearly, Proposition 4.1 proves the possible `unification’ between the $q$-Lorentzian and the $q$-Euclidean Hopf algebras at the Planck scale.”

    This is not a valid example. I have read the article in reference and contrarely to what you say it is obvious that Oeckl is *forced* to recognize the value of Bogdanoff Theorem : he simply cannot deny their result. Majid himself recognized this original result in his report dated Jan.2000 : “The (Bogdanoff work) contains useful algebraic constructions of cocycle Hopf algebras of various kinds motivated from physics.The basic theme is to mix algebraic structures associated to the Euclidean and the Lorentzian signatures into single algebraic constructions. Bogdanov identifies this as constructing certain cocycle Hopf algebras ot a type not seen before. These cocycle bicrossproduct results, in section 3.3, from a body of original work which could certainly be the basis of a published research paper.

    So you have a specialist in quantum groups (the thesis director of Oeckl himself) who writes that Bogdanoff results are original and could certainly be the basis of published research paper.”

    Question : Who shoul we beleive? you (and your vague quotation of Oeckl) or Majid himself?

    3. This is wrong: Mathscinet says F.Besnard published 3 papers.

    Sorry : this is a typical distortion of the truth. Besnard has never published any paper in a refereed journal : the 3 papers that appear in the database are only published in the archive (and not in a journal). Besnard has never published in a journal based on experts committee.

    7. It is not the first part of the sentence which is biased but the second part. I agree with your traduction of the first part as: “As the physicist Peter Woit said to us with some despite, these new instruments (quantum groups) are not well known by physicists:”.

    But the traduction of the remaining french text is “: it is absolutely clear that you have obtained new and useful results about quantum groups, but
    to understand what you wrote and how it relates to what is already known requires an expertise that only a handful of people in the world possess.” So I confirm what P.Woit wrote in the first message in this thread: they seriously distorted what he
    meant.

    No. Because when you read the whole sentence in french it does not sound at all like a supportive text. You see, the important thing is the “global content” of a phrase, not a framgment of it. The first part of Woit’s sentence (where Bogdanoff insists on Woit’s dispite) relates to the rest of the phrase and, in a way, disqualifies any support. This was recognized by anyone around me.

    In conclusion, here, the “twisters” are Besnard and Woit. Not the Bogdanoff.

  22. crankbuster says:

    This is a reply to the post by R.Schwartz. I’m not an expert but even on the surface things look dodgy to me. Numbers refer to his post:

    1. Do you know that there is a review of one of the B&B papers by R.Oeckl (who did his PhD with Majid apparently) in Mathscinet, see the review MR1894907 (2003f:81231) at . In it Oeckl says:

    “even if they had shown the existence of the bicrossproduct this is completely at odds with the sentence following the “proof”: “Clearly, Proposition 4.1 proves the possible `unification’ between the $q$-Lorentzian and the $q$-Euclidean Hopf algebras at the Planck scale.” ” So here you have a specialist in quantum groups who disagrees.

    3. This is wrong: Mathscinet says F.Besnard published 3 papers.

    7. It is not the first part of the sentence which is biased but the second part. I agree with your traduction of the first part as: “As the physicist Peter Woit said to us with some despite, these new instruments (quantum groups) are not well known by physicists:”.

    But the traduction of the remaining french text is “: it is absolutely clear that you have obtained new and useful results about quantum groups, but
    to understand what you wrote and how it relates to what is already known requires an expertise that only a handful of people in the world possess.” So I confirm what P.Woit wrote in the first message in this thread: they seriously distorted what he meant.

  23. Thomas Larsson says:

    The book “An guide to quantum groups” by V Chari and A Pressley has a 60-page biography with references to just about anybody that has ever written anything remotely connected to quantum groups, including an obscure reference to myself. Oddly enough, this huge biography does not mention neither to R Schwartz nor to L Yang…

  24. It is not true that it is hard to understand what Bogdanov & Bogdanov are saying. It is easy.

    To see if I got them right I once wrote a little summary of their ideas. They told me that this summary is ‘very accurate’ and that I am among the few who understands what they are aiming at. But what I had summarized of their ideas was a list of nonsense! (See here for more details)

    Luckily, they even quote my summary in their new book. They removed the phrases that were obviously critical and made it sound like I am supporting them, but neverthelesse fortunately now everybody can read these couple of lines containing very simple reasoning, understandable to everyone who knows what a partition sum and what a topological field theory is. And what they write is obviously nonsense.

    It is the familiar kind of nonsensical speculations that some students make when being confronted and while learning new theories and techniques. The only difference is that the usual student realizes that he was on the wrong track and moves on. B&B wrote a book about it. Apparently their only concern is being in the media as often as possible.

  25. Roland Schwartz says:

    Let me first introduce myself : I am a mathematician and I think I know quantum groups theory well enough to clearly make up my mind about Bogdanoff’s work. Following an article that was written by a certain Fabien Besnard against the Bogdanioffs, I decided to post my answer on fr.sciences physics newsgroup. My remarks were as follows :
    1. The quantum groups work made by Bogdanoffs is sound and original. They have constructed a bicrossproduct of a new type between lorentzian and euclidean forms. This construction gave a sound theorem. The value of this theorem has been accepted as such by experts of quantum groups theory (Majid, Gurevich, Oeckl, etc. By the way, Oeckl is nos a supporter of Bogdanoffs but he had to admit their results – see SPR).
    2. Fabien Besnard criticized the Bogdanoffs without having the expertise to do so. He does not know quantum groups and therefore is not even able to read Bogdanoff’s work.
    3. Fabien Besnard never published any paper. He can hardly be considered as an expert in any field.
    4. In a private mail to Bogdanoffs (see ref on this page) Peter Woit recognized that he cannot understand any of their work in quantum groups.
    5. Nevertheless, he claims that Bogdanoffs work is nonsensical.
    6. My conclusion is that (based on his own words) the opinion of Peter Woit on the particular point regarding the value of Bogdanoffs work is therefore totally nonsensical.
    7. I have read and compared the translation made by Bogdanoffs in their book regarding the comment of Peter Woit. Contrarely to what claims Fabien Besnard, this (very short) phrase reported by Bogdanoffs does not give at all the feeling that Woit is supporting them : “Ces nouveaux instruments (groupes quantiques) sont très peu connus des physiciens comme nous l’a confié avec une pointe d’amertume le physicien Peter Woit : Il est tout à fait certain que vous avez obtenu des résultats nouveaux et utiles dans les groupes quantiques, mais comprendre rapidement la signification de ce que vous avez écrit et comment cela se raccorde à ce qui est déjà connu requiert une expertise que seule une poignée de gens possède dans le monde.” This phrase translates as : “As the physicist Peter Woit said to us with some despite, these new instruments (quantum groups) are not well known by physicists..;” etc. In french language the work “amertume” has a negative connotation and it is quite clear that Woit does not appear in the book as a supporter of Bogdanoffs work. This prooves that Mr Besnard twists the reality and appears as a dishonest and unrelyable agent in this artificial polemique. Once again, there is no phrase, nowhere in the book, indicating that Woit is a supporter of Bogdanoffs work. From our own view, following a serious expertise of their construction in quantum groups, we maintain that it is sound, original and very interesting. If Fabien Besnaard or Peter Woit think the countrary, then they have to demonstrate it.

  26. D R Lunsford says:

    Well that’s a good point. It’s OK to be a crackpot if you know what you are talking about :) It’s not OK to be just wrong.

  27. Steve says:

    A quick web search shows that the “International Institute of Mathematical Sciences” does actually exist in Hong Kong, with a Prof Yau as director(same as in Calibi-Yau fame I think). However, nothing can be found on a “Prof. Liu Yang” except for the same pro-bogdanov email posted to an obscure web forum/discussion group. See
    http://www.matthewyglesias.com/archives/
    002028.html
    and scroll down.
    This was not posted by “Prof. Yang” himself but by “one of his colleagues” lol. Says “something also about “we are mathematicians and not showmen like John Baez”. It seems that this “Prof Yang” and “his colleagues” not only have the time, expertise and desire to fully study, comprehend and appreciate the depth, originality and potential of the Bogdanov papers in detail, but also have additional time to trawl the web and participate in any obscure forums where the Bogdanovs are criticised in any way, and thus come to their defence with “expert opinions”. Sounds highly suspect and highly unlikely in the extreme. And like you mentioned, the internet connection seems to be coming out of France. Still you have to give these dudes an “E” for effort lol.

  28. Alejandro Rivero says:

    Well, I write back to crackpots sometimes, simply suggesting readings or points to work out; if/when then show they are not interested in physics but in “his theory”, I hang the line.

    On the other side, I have become sort of crackpot myself. The whole history is not to be told yet, but the result is that my last work seems very crackpotty if read from some standpoints. As a byproduct I have had the opportunity to see the rejection mechanism completely at work. I didn’t know, for instance, that the barrier was not in the referee side but in the editors. A double edged sword, because when a referee receives a work, he could already to assume that the filter has been passed, thus no further checks against “bogdanoff maladie” are done.

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