My sister in the French Riviera just informed me about doubly sad news. Both Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff died of Covid at Parisian "Georges-Pompidou" ICUs; see some French Google News. I think that among victims of the disease, they were closest to me personally (although I am uncertain about the cause of one death of a much older man).
These faces of popular science shows on French TV screens (most famously, Temps X in 1979-1985) had a genuine passion for science and obtained PhDs in theoretical physics. While I wouldn't see their dissertation as a fully meaningful foundation for further exciting research, I think that the papers were at least comparable with the average work that can earn PhDs. Or, I can't resist to make the comparison, with Pierfrancesco's recent paper. But their combination of the concepts was much more passionate and mathematically artistic (and spending more energy with mathematically nontrivial structures and patterns including quantum groups and the KMS state). Their writing was a piece of art that greatly resembled real papers about similar topics and with similarly many equations.
The term "Bogdanov affair" was invented to claim that they have staged a Sokal-like hoax; that was clearly nonsense, they genuinely and obviously believed their work to have been great science. With my roughly neutral approach (combined with some self-evidently positive underlying emotions), I was sufficiently unusual and they liked it. They also helped me to publish a popular book about theoretical physics that discussed many "regular" topics but that has used some of the concepts (and combinations) from their papers as a launchpad.
We became friends, I would say, and we have met in Paris (several times), in Pilsen, and in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. After several years, I got a telephone call on Saturday, December 4th, 2021. They sounded as optimistic and full of life as they did before – and were talking about several projects including the reedition of my book. If I understand well, the \(\ZZ_2\) symmetry between the twins has always been heavily broken. I think that on the phone, I always talked to Igor who was the more manly looking dude (do you agree? Is that just the haircut or something else? Did they really have the identical DNA?); Grichka was a companion who always agreed with Igor's statements. If I understand well, Igor also had at least 6 kids (my condolences) including an estranged son with Geneviève Grad, the "daughter" of Louis de Funes from a Saint-Tropez Cop film; while Grichka was childless.
The press says that they were not vaccinated, confident that they would beat the disease if they got infected and that the vaccine was more dangerous for them than the virus (and they were against syringes especially because they opposed drugs). More dangerously, they refused any drugs after they got the positive test (I would insist on things like Imunor and perhaps other things if we were in touch, sadly, I didn't know). Also, they have only eaten seeds and drank juice, no alcohol etc., something that I consider unhealthy, too. They have been hospitalized since mid December (it is very likely that they caught the virus seconds away from one another because they spent a lot of time together). Grichka died on December 28th, Igor died today, January 3rd (just 6 days later!). Yes, I also think that Igor had to be devastated by Grichka's death, their life energies were really connected through a wormhole. (Update: here they claim that Igor wasn't ever told about Grichka's death but he could have felt it...) The question "Why they didn't call me again" got a brutal answer.
As Wikipedia says, they were born in 1949 and their background was very colorful. Their father was a Russian-Muslim-Tatar (formerly) aristocratic painter, Yuri Mikhailovič Osten-Sacken-Bogdanoff. Their mother was Maria Maya Dolores Franzyska Kolowrat-Krakowská (1926-1982) who had a mixed ancestry herself. Her biological father was black (and therefore hard to deny), the African American tenor and composer Roland Hayes, one of the most achieved black singers of his time. Maya's mother, the twins' maternal grandmother, was Countess Bertha Kolowrat-Krakowská (1890–1982). They were brought up by this noble grandma of theirs (whose only Wikipedia page is the Czech one; and who had this progressive illegitimate romantic relationship well before it was considered great; Bertha de facto divorced before she came to the world tour with Roland). She possessed a castle in Southern France. Just through them, I was befriended to a greater amount of diversity than most of you combined, wasn't I?
As they repeatedly stressed, if they were just one step closer to the original owners, they would have received several castles in Czechia during the restitution. Grandma Bertha was a member of the Kolowrat family, a dynasty whose name is well-known to the visitors of Czech castles and chateaux, and she was married to Jeroným, a member of the Austrian Colloredo-Mansfeld house (who wasn't their biological ancestor, however), another name that is well-known to those who have been inside many Czech castles and chateaux. My understanding is that they were close enough to getting gems like Opočno (see 2005 news about a court verdict; Mapy.cz; a Czech article that mentions both Opočno and Bertha). But maybe another castle was at stake, too; see this list of assets of the House [Branch] of Kolowrat-Krakowští.
I won't pretend to be an expert in their TV shows. I think that they had to be exciting but I don't really speak French (the book was translated from Lumo English). Their social life was absolutely stunning. You may imagine that their social connectedness was a cultural shock for me, someone who undeniably belongs to 1% of the most individualist people in the world. When I was giving an interview to a radio in Paris, I could see their normal day in the TV building. They have kissed about 100 people during that day (and that's what I saw, the actual number was probably higher) and everyone loved each other (at least it looked so). They were also driving their Smart, the tiny car, and one of the brothers was sitting in the rear corner, arranged from one side to another.
OK, I think that if they kept at least 10% of their social contacts and kisses from the normal era, it was an extremely risky approach to life when Covid is around. The viral doses could have been huge. Also, they apparently did have some special genetics. Their increasingly extraterrestrial appearance ignited the immediate question and I was always afraid to simply ask: Were these growing chins a result of some genetic disorder, local gigantism or whatever is the name, or a sign of a failed plastic surgery? (Some sources simply say "Botox" but I find it implausible because the bones were affected and Botox can't do that, can it?) They were answering it was the latter (in fact, they claimed that they did these things in order to live for 120+ years, that didn't work, it seems) but I remained doubtful even after these propositions. Assuming it was a health-related or genetic disorder, it was probably another reason to consider them members of a group at risk... Can someone settle the mystery of their appearance?
Even with the possible factors that increase the risk (contacts, genes, lack of vaccination), they were extremely unlucky. France only got some 4,000 Covid deaths in the recent 4 weeks and both of them have joined this set...
It is very sad news. You were extraordinarily chaps. I won't forget. RIP, Igor and Grichka.
P.S.: E.O. Wilson, the world's top ant expert and the so-called Darwin's natural heir, died on December 26th. A black seemingly transsexual nurse wrote a hit piece in the Unscientific Unamerican and it was so bad (Wilson and everything like him must be killed, America's GDP must be paid to grow hateful nurses like her in grad schools, and the normal distribution is racist) that far left Scott Aaronson and his friend had to fire at Unscientific Unamerican. Of course, it's a game that comes rather late, I have written off UnsciUnam as subhuman junk for very similar reasons over 10 years ago (well, it's really 20 years ago because already their 2002 "defense of science" against Lomborg was probably the final straw for me). Aaronson has been so insane that he wanted to be chemically castrated, to kill the criminal masculinity inside him, but even a fringe nutcase like that may very well be labeled a far right bigot to be canceled by the entities that have overtaken not only things like UnsciUnam. Even Sean Carroll criticized the UnsciUnam hit piece. Unsurprisingly for me, wise folks like Richard Dawkins did the same.