The Bogdanov Equation

Another book that I picked up in Paris is Lubos Motl’s L’Équation Bogdanov: Le secret de l’origine de l’Univers?. It’s a rather weird document, a mish-mash of defense of the Bogdanovs (partly by comparing their ideas favorably to loop quantum gravity), generalities about cosmology, and promotional material about string theory. Among the odd features of a book entitled “The Bogdanov Equation” is that there is no “Bogdanov Equation” in the book (or anywhere else, as far as I know). In a comment on his blog posting about the book Lubos writes

If there is an equation written by the twins that can be shown to explain the origin of the Universe, you will read about it in the book. If there is none, you won’t find such big statements. But I can’t tell you and others the punch line here. Wink

I don’t think it’s hard to guess which alternative is the right one…

One of the great mysteries of the book is that of its authorship. Supposedly it was written by Lubos in English, then translated into French. I don’t doubt that large parts of it were written by him, although in a style somewhat different from his blog, and then passed through the filter of translation. Some parts of it though, especially some of the details of the endless defense of the Bogdanovs I can’t believe were written by him. For instance, pages 187-189 are taken up with a translation into French of this internet mailing list posting by “Osher Doctorow Ph.D.”, and the author is described as “Professor Osher Doctorow, mathematician at the California State University”, which appears to be misinformation of a Bogdanovian rather than Lubosian sort.

Another commenter on the same blog posting by Lubos gives a long and detailed list of dubious things in the book and states that “To make it short, I have the impression that you are not the sole author of the book.”, asking him to clarify this issue. The response is

Sorry but I have neither time, nor desire, not the full rights to answer ten kilobytes of such questions, some of which are well-informed observations but most of which are not.

The book is created not only as a blog but also to satisfy a contract with the publisher. So I was okaying some proposals from the publisher. It is essentially good if you can identify these places.

Theoretical physics in recent years has produced some very odd things, this book is one of the most bizarre.

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18 Responses to The Bogdanov Equation

  1. Roger says:

    It is getting harder to separate the hoaxes from the non-hoaxes. This seems to be a serious post about a hoax book. Or maybe Lubos got tricked by some hoax research. Or maybe Lubos was trying retaliate against a publisher somehow in order to get out of a contractual obligation to deliver a book. Or maybe the Bogdanovs have discovered the secret to the universe.

  2. Emanuel Derman says:

    One of the things that everyone wants, even in academic life, is to have their cake and eat it. If someone puts his name to something you should give him credit where credit is due and blame correspondingly. It doesn’t seem right to get the upside and put the downside on someone else unnamed. (No more bailouts.)

  3. Nono says:

    I have not read the entire book, just some excerpts on the internet. Why not tell the truth about it, if everyone already knows it? It’s a lot of bullshit.

    But I think you’re being unfair to its author. I don’t see why there should be any doubt that this book is exactly what its author wanted it to be, and exactly what he is capable of writing, no more and no less.

    The choice of topic, the crappy smokescreens to hide the fact that the book is completely empty and devoid of substance, the inclusion of ancillary material written by third persons (the Bogdanov brothers themselves, of course, who else?) just to fill pages. All that is what the author wanted it to be and nothing else.

    After all, if there was some kind of contractual agreement to be fulfilled, the author could have done a completely different thing. Just write a popularizing introduction to string theory, or to the many different approaches to quantum gravity, or to the history of those subjects. Or whatever that’s not just useless rubbish like this book. But, as it happened, Motl chose to write this and nothing else.

  4. Peter Woit says:

    In case I wasn’t clear enough. Yes, this book is a lot of bullshit. However, it is also an extremely weird example of bullshit…

  5. cormac says:

    BS is one thing, plagiarism in order to meet a publishing deadline quite another

  6. Peter Woit says:

    cormac,

    It’s not plagiarism, since “Osher Doctorow, Ph.D.” is properly quoted. However, this seems to me too weird even for Lubos. I don’t have conclusive evidence, but if I had to guess I’d say that parts of the book were written not by him but by the Bogdanovs. That’s not really plagiarism, more like a weird variant of ghost-writing.

  7. Chris Oakley says:

    People wonder about the motivation of the brothers, but I have had them figured them out for some time. Their aims are very similar to yours, Peter – to expose modern “fundamental physics” for the sham it really is. Getting theses they know to be bullshit passed, and, what’s more, published in a respectable journal; getting a former Harvard professor to endorse their “work” in a popular science book. They are lying low at the moment because they want to net a bigger fish – a Weinberg or a Witten, maybe. Once they have done that, or at least established that they cannot, then the public denunciations will begin in earnest.

  8. milkshake says:

    Nothing weird about this partnership. Lubos wants to write pop-sci books that reach wide audience. He would be delighted to be on TV. Re-opening the Bogdanov controversy works well with media. The brothers can help him: he provides them vindication, they introduce him in showbiz. And they flatter his genius. From the starting position that the brothers were unfairly treated by anti-string crusaders, and that they were basically on the right track (even if they were not the brightest contributors to ST – he reserves this place for someone else), he can then plug in any of his own favorite topics. Without Bogdanovs, his tirades would not get the interest of a publisher.

  9. chris says:

    “Osher Doctorow, Ph.D.” – this name alone is about enough to gauge thew IQ of the Bogdanoff brothers.

  10. Bobito says:

    The explanation for this weird book is simple, and gets to the true commitment to science that lies behind it: money.

  11. J.F. Moore says:

    Chris,

    If that’s true, they’re playing a very long game with almost no leverage, since they’ve already been ‘exposed’. It seems much more likely that they’re just self-deluded.

    Milkshake,

    Good analysis, but I’d still call it weird or bizarre, even if there is some underlying reason involved.

  12. FrediFizzx says:

    Osher Doctorow is the handle of a person that posts a regular series of messages on the sci.physics.* UseNet newsgroups that no one really ever responds to. Some of what they post is quite involved and very bizzare sometimes. Do a googlegroup search if interested.

  13. YBM says:

    Did you know that even the forewords from Clovis de Matos (which is NOT a physicist as the book pretends) have been deeply rewritten by the Bogdanov’s ?

    Précision: Science & Vie et l’équation Bogdanov.

    A moins que le préfacier de l’ouvrage, un dénommé Clovis de Matos, présenté comme ayant soutenu un doctorat sur la théorie des cordes bosoniques et physicien théoricien à l’Agence spatiale européenne (Esa), nous en apprenne davantage. Interrogé lui aussi par nos soins, il a surtout tenu a signaler, manifestement gêné, qu’il n’était pas docteur en physique (il a une maîtrise) et que l’Esa n’avait rien à voir avec sa préface. Quant au ton dithyrambique de son intervention, il serait le fait d’une profonde réécriture de son manuscrit, sans que les épreuves ne lui aient été envoyées pour relecture. Drôle d’équation !

    About the book book itself, an interesting article : L’equation Bogdanov: The Salvador Dali school of physics.

    Meanwhile, the two fraudsters are now sueing the french magazine Marianne (which published the CoNRS report in last october), asking for not less than… 750 000 € !

  14. Yatima says:

    Tout ça commence à bien faire!

  15. publius says:

    LOL at Chris Oakley theory.

    It could be true! I did not realize until now the bogdanoff’s are fighting the good fight too! they are just doing it the french way, maybe subtler but also effective, while Peter is doing it the american-estonian way.

  16. In Hell's Kitchen (NYC) says:

    It’s hard to believe that the B’bros are running a long-winded
    Sokal Hoax for the simple fact that EinMotlstein would have seen
    through it in a femto-second 🙂

  17. Pingback: New #popsci book reviews « Emergent Hive

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