Plagiarism by ex-president of the Royal Society. 2: The cover-up by the American Mathematical Society

Part 1 of this post restated the facts regarding my novel mathematical point about “Einstein’s mistake”, how it was copied by Michael Atiyah during his AMS Einstein Centenary lecture of 2005, and its subsequent report published in the Notices of the AMS, 2006. Also copied was the claim that the point was novel enough to constitute a paradigm shift. It was also related to quantum mechanics as I had done earlier. For sure, Atiyah did it knowingly, for (a) my novel point about Einstein was very widely disseminated through two books and several journal articles, and newspapers, and (b) Atiyah persisted in falsely claiming credit even after (c) he was directly informed of my past work, and acknowledged being so informed.

But before going to an ethics body (which later indicted Atiyah) I first approached the American Mathematical Society for redress.

So how exactly did the AMS respond to this plagiarism?

As the AMS ethics states (see excerpt):

  • The knowing presentation of another person’s mathematical discovery as one’s own constitutes plagiarism and is a serious violation of professional ethics. Plagiarism may occur for any type of work, whether written or oral and whether published or not.

And how ought the AMS to respond to plagiarism? It says:

  • “the Society will not knowingly publish anything that violates this principle, and it will seek to expose egregious violations anywhere in the mathematical community.”

The AMS cover up: part 1

But what did the AMS actually do? Did it expose this egregious violation of its ethics to the maximum extent possible?

Not at all. To the contrary, it covered up. How? The AMS did publish a note acknowledging the indubitable similarity of my earlier published work with the ideas attributed to Atiyah in the offending article published in the Notices. But this was not enough. Not even an apology was offered: that is the belated acknowledgement subtly tried to pass off Atiyah’s plagiarism as an “acceptable” oversight. It suggested that, in preparing for his Einstein centenary lecture, Atiyah had somehow missed noticing my two prominent books and journal articles on Einstein. But that Atiyah too had independently arrived at the very same novel mathematical (though not social) conclusions about Einstein in his Einstein centenary lecture, as I had done a decade earlier. The conclusions were so novel that the offending article had, like me a decade earlier, called it a paradigm shift, and had even linked it to quantum mechanics exactly as I had.

My letter objected to this. It was already plagiarism when it happened the first time, in 2005 because my extensively published work was widely disseminated, and wide dissemination is the test of plagiarism on the stated AMS ethics. It was plagiarism beyond all reasonable doubt when it happened a second time, through the prominent 2006 article published in the Notices of the AMS, AFTER Atiyah was directly informed of my past work, and had acknowledged being so informed.

But Andy Magid the then editor of the Notices refused to publish my letter. He wanted to hide the  full facts that Atiyah plagiarised twice, and that the second time there was not a shred of doubt that he plagiarised knowingly. Obviously, hiding these key facts would mislead many people into thinking the Atiyah case was one of “innocent” oversight. That is, the editor misused his editorial authority to suppress facts and mislead people by refusing to publish my objection. (His intent must be judged from his actions, and not what he preaches to his students.) That is, instead of upholding the stated AMS ethics, the AMS editor connived at its violation. Haensch, in her blog post, is furthering conniving in that unholy effort to water down Atiyah’s plagiarism, by twisting facts into allegations.

Indeed, Atiyah pressed his false claim so brazenly for a good reason: the value of formal mathematics is judged solely by authority, and as the authority, Atiyah was confident that many formal mathematicians would throw ethics and facts to the wind and jump to defend him (for quid pro quo, or because of their deep respect for authority).

Act 2: “Atiyah’s hypothesis”, Atiyah’s mistake

Therefore, Atiyah continued brazenly. In Atiyah’s second act of plagiarism he got two of his stooges, Johnson and Walker, to write the report of his lecture for the Notices. Why? First it provided a fig leaf of cover, which I later tore apart by pointing out that Atiyah was consulted. Second, the real aim of the Notices article was to attach his name to my ideas. Only by a third party (though not Atiyah writing himself) could coin a new term linking Atiyah to the grand “discovery” (not C. K. Raju’s book in the library, but the ideas in it!).

To further press Atiyah’s claim to the ideas, these two named it “Atiyah’s hypothesis”. This was done on the socially savvy principle, that people go by the name attached to a discovery, irrespective of the real discoverer. Therefore, merely naming it “Atiyah’s hypothesis”, while again suppressing any reference to my prior work, would forever mislead people into believing it was Atiyah who first thought of the idea.

This devious plan to plant that term “Atiyah’s hypothesis” in the most widely read math journal was probably Atiyah’s idea. At any rate, this nomenclature certainly had his approval, since Atiyah was consulted, as Walker was eventually forced to explicitly admit.

But there was another, even more subtle aspect of social savviness. Calling it “Atiyah’s hypothesis” (instead of “Einstein’s mistake”, as I did) would not arouse social opposition (as, for example, in Israel denying me a visa to talk about it in Palestine). Atiyah understood the value of my mathematical point, but he was interested in promoting himself, not in speaking the truth about Einstein.

However, despite this crafty way of plagiarising my work, Atiyah slipped up, because he lacked the knowledge which went into shaping my ideas. Atiyah the mathematician made a blunder about the physics involved. (As already stated, in formal mathematics, truth is decided solely by authority, and Atiyah was the authority, as the only mathematician so far to have got both the Fields medal and the Abel prize.) But truth in physics is NOT decided by authority alone.

Atiyah made a mistake because he did not fully understand my thesis, which concerned both mathematics and physics. Atiyah understood the mathematics, but not the physics. To socially cement his name to my thesis he (got) coined a new term, “Atiyah’s hypothesis”, and planted it in the offending article in the Notices. But the fact is that no hypothesis is required: functional differential equations arise naturally in physics. In classical electrodynamics they arise as coupled ordinary and partial differential equations, as explained in my 2004 article on the two body problem of classical electrodynamics.(But many physicists have long failed to understand this: and Atiyah’s colleagues and others had failed to understand this in Gronningen. See expository articles Part 1, and Part 2.) (Also, would be very interesting to see, Haensch explain away this academic blunder as an “allegation”, or be honest enough to correct herself publicly.)

Ironically, not only did I not advance a hypothesis (for no hypothesis is needed), I dropped one. As a reviewer too pointed out, I dropped the hypothesis of causality (at the microphysical level). As the reviewer added, progress in physics is made by dropping hypotheses, not advancing them. Atiyah didn’t understand even this. But the functional differential equations of classical electrodynamics are of mixed-type only if we drop the hypothesis of causality. This is essential for the complex linkage to quantum mechanics explained in detail in my 1994 book.

Atiyah and company betrayed their lack of understanding by making a further mistake. Even while acknowledging my past work: they thoughtlessly assumed retarded functional differential equations. The title of the acknowledgement in the Notices was “Retarded differential equations and Quantum Mechanics”. Retarded functional differential equations too do involve a paradigm shift, as extensively discussed in my belatedly acknowledged books and article. But that is insufficient for quantum mechanics: one must drop the hypothesis of causality to arrive at quantum mechanics. But Atiyah and company were socially savvy mathematicians, but ignoramuses when it came to these subtler aspects of physics.

To summarise, Atiyah claimed credit for my novel point about the paradigm shift in physics due to functional differential equations. To brazenly press his claim, even after he was informed, he got planted the term “Atiyah’s hypotheses”. Though socially savvy this term was academically foolish because it exposed his ignorance of the origin of functional differential equations in physics (it requires no hypothesis). Indeed, the connection to quantum mechanics requires us to drop a common hypothesis (of causality), which too they never understood.

AMS cover-up part 2

So, what did Andy Magid, the editor of Notices do when this ERROR was brought to his notice? In the interests of accuracy, he should have published my letter pointing out the error (“no hypothesis is needed”).

However, Magid understood that admitting that Atiyah had made a mistake would expose Atiyah’s plagiarism, as I had explained. Students who cheat, make mistakes while copying. Therefore, in history, on my epistemic test, when those who claim “independent rediscovery” make such a mistake, that itself is proof of copying, because they do not even understand what they claim to have originated.

Therefore, to defend Atiyah’s plagiarism, the editor, Magid refused to publish the correction. That is, he took the extraordinary stand that mathematical accuracy too was unimportant for the Notices: unimportant even in the case of a paradigm shift! As a formal mathematician, his sole concern was to somehow defend the authority of Atiyah, ethics and accuracy both be damned. Therefore, he exercised his editorial authority and refused to publish my side of the story. By refusing to publish my letter, he suppressed both facts (that (a) Atiyah did it knowingly, and that (b) he made a foolish mistake, which further proved his plagiarism.) He wanted to perpetuate the illusion among the ill-informed that whatever happened was an innocent mistake.

That was part 2 of the original cover up.

The whole AMS was involved

But even that is not the end of the story. Following the cover up by Andy Magid, editor of the Notices, a Petition Against Celebrity Justice was moved by over 50 people. Signatories included M. G. K. Menon (FRS), Pushpa Bhargava, A. N. Mitra, Vandana Shiva, Ashis Nandy, S. P. Shukla, etc.  The Petition was sent to board members of the AMS, but not a single one of them bothered to respond. They implicitly collectively agreed with the editor that preserving Atiyah’s authority was more important than ethics or mathematical accuracy in the publications of the AMS. Their actions show they chose to exercise authority without responsibility. This petition was publicised, but no ordinary AMS member stood up to protest, for they respect the authority of the Board. Neither ethics nor accuracy is a serious concern for ANYONE in the AMS. (According to the Jain ethic, only actions matter, and not all sorts of glorious intentions which are so easily professed.)

Haensch too is not concerned with ethics or accuracy. Hence, she attempts to dilute all these grave facts by calling them mere allegations made by one person. The aim is to run down proponents of decolonisation by branding them as unreliable. This is dishonest journalism, with complete disregard for the truth, and designed to mislead the public. The official AMS blog is continuing the unstated AMS objective of cover up.

The decolonisation of math is a an important public issue. It concerns millions of students who are compulsorily taught math. They find math difficult just because they are taught formal math not normal math. Formal math is difficult because it adds a whole lot of junk metaphysics to normal math (but nil practical value). (For a popular-level account, see “Mathematics and censorship”. Decolonisation makes math easy while enhancing its usefulness. But if it happens, formal mathematicians like Haensch might lose their jobs.

If they have even a single substantive point, they have the option of public debate. But the resort to dishonesty and personal attacks shows that formal mathematicians know there is no honest way to defend formal (or colonial) mathematics or its idols like Atiyah. They were unable to respond publicly to a single substantive point of my critique of formal math over the last two decades, for they cannot operate outside the protective cloak of their authority. Hence, they are still refusing to participate in open public debate even today. (To be continued.)

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