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)
“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
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
it really comes from
th-phys.edu.hk (ATuileries-117-1-27-138.w193-253.abo.wanadoo.fr [220.127.116.11])
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 18.104.22.168. The DNS shows
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.