With cheekbones “so tall and bulbous that they seem to threaten the eyesight of their owners,” as one Australian newspaper described them ten years ago, the Bogdanoff twins attracted attention wherever they went.
The controversial science celebrities, who both earned doctorates after writing a series of impenetrable and allegedly meaningless physics articles, were descendants of the nobility and, later, a beloved meme on media platforms. social like Reddit and 4chan.
But their journey through the stars recently ended in a Paris hospital, where Grichka and Igor Bogdanoff were admitted on the same day last month after contracting COVID-19. Grichka, the youngest of the twins, died in the intensive care unit on December 28. Igor followed him on Monday. Both were 72 years old.
A source close to the brothers told French media The world that neither had been vaccinated against the virus.
Socialites scientists made headlines almost exactly a year ago for allegedly “swindling” a millionaire, a 53-year-old man identified only as “Cyril P.” in the lawsuit that followed, convincing him to invest hundreds of thousands of euros in various projects, including an attempted revival Time X, the pop science show that rocketed the Brothers to fame in 1979.
Decades before teleporting, clad in futuristic space suits, to family homes across France, the twins were born in a Gascony castle in 1949. Descendants of German and Austrian nobility, Igor and Grichka were raised by their grandmother, Countess Bertha Kolowrat-Krakowská, whose scandalous affair with Roland Hayes, the first black American to achieve international fame as a classical musician, produced the mother of the twins.
The brothers then studied applied mathematics at the Institut d’études politiques and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. They then found a niche for themselves as writers, producers and presenters of Time X, which lasted from 1979 to the mid-eighties.
Igor and Grichka first sparked controversy with the publication in 1991 of a book, God and Science (God and science), which has become a French bestseller. Its beginnings, however, shocked academics after a University of Virginia astronomy professor filed a plagiarism complaint over the manuscript.
Settling amicably, the Bogdanoffs began to prepare for their doctorate in 1993. After defending their thesis and publishing five articles in several peer-reviewed physics journals, the two brothers obtained the lowest possible mark.
Tracing their history in 2002, a New York Times reporter wrote that one of their advisers described the twins as “child prodigies” who struggled to understand that they were not “the Einstein brothers”. The adviser, Dr Daniel Sternheimer, told the Time that teaching the brother was like “teaching my beautiful lady to speak with an Oxford accent”.
Their articles, published in journals like Annals of Physics, claimed, among other concepts, to identify what happened before and during the Big Bang. The Bogdanoffs’ work was first challenged in 2002, after a physicist at the University of Tours voiced his concerns in an email to another scholar. The scientist, Max Niedermaier, called the twins’ handwriting a “delightfully insignificant combination of buzzwords”, worrying that their evidence had nonetheless “been taken seriously”.
When asked why the brothers graduated, Dr Sternheimer said, “These guys worked for 10 years without pay. They have the right to have their work recognized by a diploma, which is not much these days.
He called the ensuing scandal, dubbed “the Bogdanoff affair”, a “storm in a cup of tea.” The argument ended with a report which found that the twins’ theses had no scientific value, but Classical and Quantum Gravity, another peer-reviewed journal which published an article by Bogdanoff, ultimately declined to print a retraction.
Social media users would eventually stumble upon the brothers, who by the turn of the century had apparently discovered plastic surgery. (The two would repeatedly deny that they had ever had extensive cosmetic surgeries.)
Starting on Reddit in 2015, users went on a rampage with conspiracy theories about the brothers, claiming, among other things, that the Bogdanoffs had “psychic powers” and could control the cryptocurrency markets.
This latest claim stems from a TV appearance in June of last year, when Grichka pointed out on the French show Nonstop people that he and his brother helped develop the source code for Bitcoin. Both also claimed that Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the character believed to have invented Bitcoin, gave them two “old” Bitcoins in “physical” form.
“In terms of credibility,” a French editor told the Decrypt news site at the time, Igor and Grichka “are equivalent to a scientific version of the Kardashians.”