Dialog with the Bogdanovs (Part 1)

John Baez

The following is an article by Igor Bogdanov that appeared on November 1, 2002 in a newsgroup I help moderate, sci.physics.research. It contains corrections and other comments on an earlier version of my webpage on the Bogdanov affair. In a subsequent exchange, I try to get them to clarify some things they said in their papers.

From: "igor.bogdanov" (igor.bogdanov@free.fr)
Newsgroups: sci.physics.research
Subject: Physics bitten by reverse Alan Sokal
Date: 1 Nov 2002 07:49:25 GMT
Organization: no organization specified
Message-ID: (aptbm5$rp6$1@panther.uwo.ca)

On his webpage, Dr John Baez relates some aspects of the "Bogdanov
affair". We are very greatful regarding his effort to keep his page up
to date.

In this perspective, please find hereafter our answers to certain
questions raised on this webpage.

John Baez text : 
"  the Bogdanovs got their PhDs at different times; apparently one of
them failed at his first attempt. "

Comment : To be exact, Grichka Bogdanoff defended  (and passed) his PHD 
(mathematics) June 26, 1999 at Ecole Polytechnique.  At that time, 
Igor's thesis was postpone. Igor defended (and passed) his PHD
(theoretical physics) July 8, 2002).

John Baez text : 
"  For example, here's the beginning of their paper "Topological Origin
of Inertia" "

Comment : It is not "their" paper but Igor's paper. To be more precise,
it is a "conjectural paper" written as a heuristic exercise to
understand a plausible (and unexpected)  application of our "topological
approach" of initial singularity. 

John Baez text : Zounds! They took that pendulum and rode it right off
into hyperspace!

Comment : Hyperspace?  Hmm...We simply suggest that at 0 scale, the
observables must be replaced by the homology cycles in the moduli space
of gravitational instantons. We then get a deep correspondence  -a
symmetry of duality- between physical theory and topological field

John Baez text : I appreciate the fact that to someone not expert in physics,
this stuff may seem no weirder than any other paper in a physics
journal. They are indeed using actual physics jargon - but I assure you,
it makes no sense.

Comment : OK.  However, we would prefer "not clearly understandable."
Perhaps for two reasons : 1) first it is a secondary paper written long
time after the "key paper"  (Classical&Quantum Grav.) where all our
ideas are exposed and developed in more details. 2) second : once more
it is conjectural paper. 

John Baez text : How in the world could the plane of oscillation of a
pendulum be "aligned with the initial singularity", i.e. the big bang?
The big bang did not occur anywhere in particular; it happened

Comment : Well, it is exactly what we wrote :  of course, there is no
"priviledged" point and the initial singularity is  -as you said-
everywhere. It is precisely our view : in conjecture 4.9  (nothing more
that an conjecture, by the way) we have considered that the
2-dimensional plane of oscillation of the pendulum conserves the initial
singularity S for inertial reference, whatever the orientation of this
plane in physical space R3." It is explicitly written  in conjecture 4.9
and in different places of the paper. So your critic might be

John Baez text : Indeed, nothing in the paper suggests that they really
understand N = 2 supergravity, Donaldson theory, or KMS states. For all
I can tell, they merely stuck together a patchwork of plausible-sounding
sentences on these subjects.  

Comment : One more, one should refer to the PRINTED VERSION (not the
PDF's) of CQG paper (and also to the 2 thesis) to get a clearer view of
what we say (and know) about N = 2 supergravity, Donaldson theory, KMS
states, etc.We have passed many years working on these topics and became
rather familiar with all these subjects.

John Baez text : There is no logic or cohesion to what they write. 

Comment : If one reads : 1) the thesis (Grichka's first), and 2) the
papers in logical order, then it might make sense.  But again, this
"Inertia paper" is
quite unapropriate to serve as an example of what we have in mind.

John Baez text : Since I've worked on topological field theory, I was
particularly amused by this passage 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

Ha-ha-ha! Sidesplittingly funny, eh? 

What - you don't get the joke? Hmm, it would take a while to explain,
but it basically amounts to saying that they want to call a theory
"topological" if it doesn't depend on what the theory is - since the
Hamiltonian or Lagrangian is what you use to specify a theory of physics
these days. A theory that doesn't depend on what it is! It almost sounds
like an inside joke about the nature of the Bogdanov's work! 

Comment :  We do not see the point here.  In our view,  the fact to
consider a topological field theory independent of the Hamiltonian is
just equivalent to consider the same theory as independent of the
metric. A theory independent of H is topological because it is - by
construction -  independent of any physical field. This does not mean
that such a theory does not depend on what it is. 

John Baez text : The Bogdanovs had apparently been TV personalities in France
who made a career of answering science questions and generally acting
like geniuses. 

Comment : Thank you for those titles (TV personalities) but we do not
deserve it. We did not make a "career" and do not consider ourselves as
"TV personalities". Obviously we are not.  Just had by chance a
successfull TV show on science and prospective on TF1 during 10 years
(and became within the youg public a sort of a "cult" program). That's all.

As far this "geniuses" question is concerned, well let's say that we
never advertised anything about it. The only thing which is true is that
we have a solid training in IQ tests. So our results might seem
impressive  (over 200) but  it does not mean much.  As you know, tests
are not measuring intelligence itself but only one's capacity to solve
the said tests.  True : there is a solid legend in France about our
"impressive IQ" but we never talk about this and even refused to become
members of the MENSA as it was proposed to us 3 years ago. 

John Baez text : They apparently had previously attempted to get PhDs by
dubious means, and had failed.

Comment :  In fact we never made any attempt to get any PHD  before we
passed the 2 present thesis. Where does this (new?) rumor come from? 

John Baez text : They were apparently accused of plagiarism at some

Comment : The word "reverse" should be appropriate in this case. Because
this so called plagiarism was made, in 1987,  by our accusator on our
own work and publications! He wrote a book in 1989  containing some here
and there some sentences coming from 2 of our previously published
articles.  The proofs are available to anyone. Based on an official
support of the french Academie des Sciences, we got a settlement with
our contradictors.

But this story is interesting because it is (without no doubt) the very
far away origin of most of our present troubles. 

John Baez text : So, perhaps for now we should focus on their actual

Comment : We indeed would be very happy to discuss our work, thesis and
papers (prefer the printed versions to the PDF ones because of the
misprints) on scientific basis. 

Thank you for your help and attention, 

Best regards, 

Igor Bogdanoff      Grichka Bogdanoff

To read my reply, click here

baez@math.ucr.edu © 2002 John Baez