There's a certain beauty in an entire field losing coherency.
That's hilarious. I like the counter showing the size as you add features: "0 bytes uncompressed, 25 bytes gzipped"
PS: Today I learned that Godwin introduced Godwin's law in 1990 as an experiment in memetics!
Still, I find the Bogdanoff fascinating. I don't think they are imposters. They just have their very own confused way of understanding science. And I have to admit they're quite entertaining and likable. I used to watch them on TV when I was a kid more than 30 years ago. They hosted some kind of sci-fi show.
To be fair, Woit is hardly a neutral commenter on physical matters related to string theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Woit#Criticism_of_string... . Of course, that doesn't make him wrong.
For discussion of this whole issue, I feel more comfortable trusting Baez than Wiki. He seems to reach much the same conclusions: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/bogdanov.html . (There's enough similarity in language that I don't know that he wasn't involved in writing the Wiki article, though a casual look at the history (and the fact that I don't know his Wikipedia username …) doesn't show it.)
There are a lot of semi-coherent proofs for famous conjectures that appear from time to time on the arxiv, with absolutely unknown quality. P ?= NP is a popular topic.
This was, obviously now, not true, at least for the "PhD" part of the claim, so at one point they had to try to pass PhDs for real. It took them quite a bit of time and effort, and this effort, as I had been told at the time the "affair" was unraveling by mathematicians who had been involved in this process, was to call famous scientists of their time over the phone asking them questions about the subject of their thesis (after all they were some sort of journalists so at least they knew how to ask questions), and transcribe the answers. Unfortunately they only understood the words of these conversations but not their meanings, which explains why their thesis can look like some genuine science if you look at the sentence level, but doesn't make any sense when you try to find any meaning in it.
Some recent discussion about the affair (in French): http://sciences.blogs.liberation.fr/2015/07/02/les-bogdanov-...
What's doubling truly sad in this story, IMHO, is that:
1) While the are obviously not the scientific geniuses they claim to be, they are even not good science popularisers, they are actually really bad.
2) There are still people, and not only people attracted by pseudoscience or the bizarre aspects of their personality, that take them seriously. I remember, for instance, that that have been interviewed in recent years on France Info (national public french information radio) about the Higgs boson discovery or their recent books.
One more thing, being a science populariser requires a special ability to bridge different mindsets, it's not easy, for instance Cedric Villani is not good at that, his tv appearances goes quickly into silent misunderstandings. A guy like MIT's ex W. Lewin is better at this IMO.
last time I checked, most people still think they are legit in France.
> One of the scientists who approved Igor Bogdanov's thesis, MIT's Roman Jackiw... was intrigued by the thesis, although it contained many points he did not understand. Jackiw defended the thesis:
> "All these were ideas that could possibly make sense. It showed some originality and some familiarity with the jargon. That's all I ask."
Wow. Talk about low standards.
Igor thesis : https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-00001503v1/document
It's fine if you have a handful of equations in your text. But for a PhD in maths? Unacceptable.
I figure it's bad news for the field of big bang physics when you can't falsify nonsense. I thought that was the point of the whole science thing.
I had given a favorable opinion for Grichka's defense, based on a rapid and indulgent reading of the thesis text. Alas, I was completely mistaken. The scientific language was just an appearance behind which hid incompetence and ignorance of even basic physics.
even the comments tend to be less serious during the weekends.
I could be wrong but it looks like they have had a lot of plastic surgery...
First: before the surgeries, they have facial features that would be common in Russia but would stand out in a crowd of western europeans. It is a bit sad if this part contributes to the comment that they look weird. I think it does.
Second: at some point they start to seem obsessed with some twisted idea of looking youthful and in deep denial of their age. For example, the same faces with shorter, grayer hair would look better.
They recently had their own parodical song:
This is about their supposedly abnormally long chin (people regularly joke about Bogdanov being aliens).
How could we, as a society, let that happen?
It is called academism: when you respect the look&feel of science more than science itself.
Some very well known moralists that have been making some real scientific breakthrough such as Pasteur, Cuvier have used this to publish pseudo science based on their scientific credit France has hence created some very disturbing pseudo-science backed by academy
Pasteur was a convinced puritan. When the league of virtue came to him to shut down the sinners who where drinking alcohol, he backed a totally un-scientific study to claim absinth was a poison. The prohobition in USA is based on a similar lobbying.
Cuvier who was friend of Linné, after going to a pub by seeing one poor girl from south african born with a dysmorphia made a very nice theory from one sample stating that the «black» where closers to the gorillas than the «whites». Giving racism a «scientific credit».
Than in the early XXth helped by politics, scientific academy claimed that all about crimes could be solved with science, hence the birth of scientific police and «scientific methods to investigate» (CSI) including: using graphology, numerology, the face of the people (based on Cuvier) and extended to say stuff like the facial trait of jews that were more akin to be criminals, polygraphs and shits.
One of our greatest and first she PhD, Marie Curie (who was born polish) was at the opposite of Bogdanov constantly under the fire of criticism of «our scientific institutions» for being too free. (She divorced, had an affair, and above all CLAIMED to be able to do science by herself). Thus French scientific academy have asked the Royal Academy of Stockholm to not give her the Nobel prize in 1906. Stupidity that they happily ignored.
French science had always a tendency to prefer the appearance of science over its content (reading Molière is very informative on the topic), and until recently USA developed itself greatly by abhorring this model (read quicksilver from Stephenson as a good picture) greatly inspired by the «erudition» held by the church.
But after the WWII amazingly USA have been all the more looking like France in its worst part they have been bashing France.
I think the biography of Feynman and the part on the introduction of Fundamental Math is instructive. It is the fundation of the cargo cult story. Or the book of Pr Gleick on dynamic systems where it is described why Mandelbrot prefered to give up on polytechnique (french Ivy league) or even the Sokal scandal can depict a pretty accurate picture of the slow convergence of US academism towards french one.
America's greatness in knowledge is being held down by this: conformism, and giving more credit to institution than they ought to have.
Because you mix anything and everything, taking small examples which are extremely outdated, unrelated or standard behaviour of their time and do not show the big picture. As it sounds very informed, very learned, it allows you to deploy your own thesis and give it a sound of scientific truth. What is funny is that it is exactly the process you demonise.
What do you mean by that?
He expressed a concern that this kind of math did look savant, but was wrong in helping having intuition. Arithmetics vs geometry.
Stuff for which he may be right since Bourbaki actually designed their math teaching on formalism over intuition/geometry after a feud with Poincaré who dismissed the influence of «french school» in his work...a very horrible crime of lèse majesté.
The Ignorance of Bourbaki: https://www.dpmms.cam.ac.uk/~ardm/bourbaki.pdf
About academism, I wonder if it's not a question of "lifecycle". America institutions were younger than European ones. I often felt a strong academism in Europe research (more symbolic, abstract and terse) compared to USA (be it in CS or even Math such as linear algebra).
Small questions like that!
There is an American cartoon show called The Venture Bros, of which the main theme is actually American science and Cargo Cults.
Here's a quote on the subject I made formerly, it is more about technology than science but there are parallel themes.
The cartoon series The Venture Bros symbolizes the Stagnation Hypothesis. If you don't want to watch the entire series to understand the point, just take a look at the episode: Season 3 Episode 2: The Doctor Is Sin (the intro even features Dr T. Venture offering jobs to migrant laborers for which they are absurdly under qualified and very low wages. This, in light of the frequent complaints of worker scarcity in the midst of stagnant wages is quite poignant).
In the series the grandfather (deceased) was able to do all kinds of amazing innovations, space stations, underwater laboratories, biospheres, rolling walkways, new fabrics, all kinds of new machines. The next generation symbolized by Dr T. Venture was unable to compete with all this amazing success and began to act as a hanger-on, a me-too, acting as if he knew what was going on but in actuality understanding nearly none of it and therefore became reliant on sexing up what is really ancient technology to make himself look good to investors and his own self image. His sons, the next iteration of Ventures are permanent children, living in a technology wonderland they effectively treat as magical surroundings. Not only do they not understand the technology of their grandfather, but they don't understand there is anything to understand, despite the fact that as clones they are actually technological artifacts themselves.
Unfortunately this supposed comedy show is a reasonable interpretation of the last few generations.
If you exclude computation (electronics/robots/AI/internet) then there just aren't very many parts of the economy that are genuinely growing. This has been going on since the early 70s.
This has been obfuscated by the accounting of the economy.
The government and central banks have an incentive to produce numbers that sound rosy because they noticed long ago that if the people in the economy felt like things were going well, that they were more likely to spend, invest and work. There is a self fulfilling prophesy nature to it all.
The source of wealth or 'more stuff' is the ability to produce more stuff for less cost. Lower the inputs, up the outputs. Technology is a key element in making that happen.
The problem is that (ex-computation) new innovations are far less likely to affect the average person. Name a single invention outside computers of the last several decades. I do not mean a hypothetical abstraction in a laboratory somewhere.
When people find themselves coming up with close to nothing they resort to saying: well, maybe new innovation is bound up inside classical things we have but cannot see inside of (we are at the Dr T. Venture stage here).
It is certainly true that minor improvements accumulate into a quality of their own over time. That is Toyota's business model. The insides of the cars experience consistent iterative improvement. There are similar analogs in other industries.
But. And this is the key point. That utterly fails to explain why new innovations aren't reaching the common person. If we really were experiencing a boom in innovation and invention we would expect to see thousands of new fields and sub-fields opening up. What new materials technology do you have inside your home that did not exist in 1970? What forms of transport? There are literally dozens of major areas that have not seen any major innovation and they have stopped being labeled 'technology' as a result.
- aesthetic surgery (in a close race with actresses Emanuelle Beart and Angelina Jolie)
- aliens (or people looking like, claiming to have met, or communicate with aliens)
- chins (a rather popular comedian has based about 12% of all his jokes about silly puns with Bogdanov's brothers and the word 'menton')
- lots of other stufff
- mad scientists
- and, I suppose, cosmologists (although it is probably a challenge to make a cosmologist joke in front of a regular audience.)
For whatever it's worth, next time you have to make a standup routine in France.
Wouldn't you want to change that?
(Just joking. It's the reverse.)
It looks like they had a lot of plastic surgery to repair the effects of losing too much face. 
I linked the article to a friend and she made a crack about Carlos II