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October 2002
A lot of people have been getting this e-mail in their inboxes:

My name is Bill Palmer, founder of Applebees. In an attempt to get our name out to more people in the rural communities where we are not currently located, we are offering a $50 gift certificate to anyone who forwards this email to 9 of their friends. Just send this email to them and you will receive an email back with a confirmation number to claim your gift certificate. Sincerely Bill Palmer Founder of Applebees Visit us at: www.applebees.com. Hey guys, DONT DELETE THIS EMAIL It really works, I tried it and got my Gift certificate confirmation number in 3 minutes.

Yes, it's a hoax! As confirmed on Applebees own website. There's no way anyone is going to pay people money just for forwarding an e-mail.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 31, 2002
Comments (4)
Laddery on the High Seas. A funny send-up of the Nigerian Bank Scam, in which a couple of lads string-along a scammer.
Categories: Con Artists, Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 30, 2002
Comments (1)
Regarding the Reverse Sokal Hoax described below: apparently the two brothers supposedly involved in it have denied that it was a hoax (see their statement pasted below). So the mystery continues.



TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN It was with the greatest astonishment that we have discovered that 2 members of the Ecole Polytechnique and 2 members of the University of Tours were the sources of an incredible rumor meant to validate the idea>that our papers were purposly written in serious journals as a hoax. Such an assertion is so outrageous that it discredits its authors. The published papers are the result of 6 years of intense and original work induced by our 2 PHD thesis in mathematics (1999, for Grichka) and in Theoretical Physics for myself (2002). We have always done our best to bring the highest quality to our work and papers. Thank you for your kind attention, Igor BOGDANOFF, Grichka BOGDANO
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 28, 2002
Comments (0)
There is an e-mail going around detailing a so-called 'reverse Sokal hoax.' I'm not sure if the circumstances it describes are real or not. But here's the text of the e-mail verbatim:

Sometime ago Alan Sokol et al wrote a completely meaningless article on quantum gravity which was accepted by a leading, refereed "deconstructionist journal". Physicists laughed because the hoax was at the deconstructionists' expense. But now there is is an inverse Sokol hoax in which, apparently, two reporters interviewed a lot of string theorists, wrote meaningless but "right sounding" papers and even got a Ph.D. Details below. What is particularly sad is that a key paper appeared in CQG: Class. Quantum Grav. 18 (7 November 2001) 4341-4372 Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime* Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov, Mathematical Physics Laboratory, CNRS UPRES A 5029, Bourgogne University, France

The trouble is that the abstract seems indistinguishable from standard stringy papers. I understand that the CQG Editorial Board already discussed this hoax but found that the paper had been refereed by two reputable string theorists.

More details: From Max Niedemayer to Ted Newman #1. I always thought Sokal's hoax would also work in theoretical high energy physics. Now there is experimental proof. Two brothers, Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff, journalists and science fiction writers, both in their late 40's, decided it is high time to earn a PhD, and that this should be just as easy in `stringy' high energy physics as it alledgedly is in sociology. First they interviewed a number of prominent French string theorists in order to accquire the lingo, then (apparently without help from a trained physicist) spoofed two theses. To prepare the ground for their defense they spread rumors of them being geniuses and their theses being a milestone in theoretical physics. Although the official PhD awarding institution is only the (so far not too renowned) Universite de Bourgogne the members of the thesis committee certainly make up for it: R. Jackiw (MIT), J. Morava (John Hopkins), S. Majid (Cambridge), C. Kounnas (ENS), I. Antoniadis (CERN and Ecole Polytechnique), and others. For the actual defense they rented a hall in the prestigeous Ecole Polytechnique, arranged a big dinner with the president, invited the TV, ... and passed gloriously. The thesis can be found on the offical CNRS server (http://www.ccsd.cnrs.fr/). Already the abstract is a delightfully meaningless combination of buzzwords, that almost beats Sokal's, but which apparently has been taken seriously by the committee! The bad side of the joke is, that it might hurt theoretical physics in general. The CNRS apparently even contemplates to split the present theoretical physics division into a pure mathematics and an experimental physics branch. Theoretical physics, being now more fiction than science, is meant to be entertained by professionals in that area. Hopefully the Bogdanoff "singularity invariant'' for the "topological expansion phase'' of the universe will provide a way out ... I'll keep you informed. Best regards, -- Max



#2. Dear Ted, sure you can show the letter to others. Let me stress however (and maybe you should too) that this is not first hand information. A person who has first hand information is J. Magnen, from the Ecole Polytechnique. He works on constructive QFT and was not personally involved. The issue was apparently discussed in the French National Research Council, where Peter Forgacs is a member, and he is my source. A small correction. In the last minute it seems the theses were not accepted at the Ecole Polytechnique, but only later by the University of Bourgogne. The TV was also not permitted to the actual defense, but several people here saw reports on the Bogdanoff brothers decribing them as outstanding geniuses. The theses and the committee members can be looked up on the web at http://www.ccsd.cnrs.fr/ All the best, -- Max



HOAX THESIS: Abstract in english: We propose in this research a new solution regarding the existence and the content of the initial spacetime singularity. In the context of topological field theory we consider that the initial singularity of space-time corresponds to a zero size singular gravitational instanton characterized by a Riemannian metric configuration (++++) in dimension D = 4. Connected with some unexpected topological data corresponding to the zero scale of space-time, the initial singularity is thus not considered in terms of divergences of physical fields but can be resolved in the frame of topological field theory. We get this result from the physical observation that the pre-spacetime is in a thermal equilibrium at the Planck scale. Therefore it should be subject to the KMS condition. We consequently consider that this KMS state might correspond to a unification between "physical state" (Planck scale) and "topological state" (zero scale). Then it is suggested that the "zero scale singularity" can be understood in terms of topological invariants, in particular the first Donaldson invariant. Therefore, we here introduce a new topological index, connected with 0>> scale, of the form Z = Tr (-1)s, which we call "singularity invariant". Interestingly, this invariant corresponds also to the invariant topological current yield by the hyperfinite II* von Neumann algebra describing the zero scale of space-time. In such a context we conjecture that the problem of inertial interaction might be explained in terms of topological amplitude connected with the singular zero size gravitational instanton corresponding to the initial singularity of spacetime.
Keywords : KMS State, topological field theory, singularity invariant, initial singularity, zero size instanton PACS : 0420D, 04.65.+e, 02.40.Xx, 04.60.-m, 05.45.-a


Update (11/05/02): The Chronicle of Higher Education has a good piece on the 'Reverse-Sokal Hoax' that's been rocking the world of theoretical physics. Unfortunately, you need to be a subscriber to gain access to the article. But the jist of it is that the Bogdanov brothers did not appear to have intentionally been hoaxing the physics community. Instead, they were honestly trying to get PhDs, but did very sloppy work that should never have been accepted.
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 28, 2002
Comments (0)
British authorities report that con men set up a website designed to look like that of a major British bank. Users of the website lost around $100,000. This seems very similar to a case that occurred in South Africa last month, which I posted here at the time. I wonder if it's the same group of con men?
Categories: Con Artists, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 08, 2002
Comments (4)
Yesterday NYC staged a fake ticker tape parade. Bored firemen and policemen marched up and down the same block three times while, according to the NY Post, "drunken office workers shouting like morons to one another" dumped paper on their head. The whole exercise was supposed to persuade the Olympic committee to choose NYC as the site for the Olympics in 2012.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 08, 2002
Comments (0)
Beware the Blue Peter chain letter, should you ever receive it. It's a fake! (for Americans who don't know what Blue Peter is, it's a British tv show for kids). Some fear it may even provide encouragement to pedophiles.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 08, 2002
Comments (0)
I recently spent some time reading the Amazon book reviews of Henry Raddick. If you're unfamiliar with this reviewer, you should definitely take the time to acquaint yourself with his work. Rumor has it that Raddick is actually a pseudonym for none other than Prince Charles, a rumor which the Prince vociferously denies. Last year Raddick, or whoever he really is, was involved in a more outright hoax: impersonating Andrew Lloyd Webber on Amazon. Unfortunately, all of Raddick's reviews as Webber have been yanked by Amazon, though the Register has managed to resurrect a few of them.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 07, 2002
Comments (0)
The greatest blonde joke ever!!! The media had been enamored of the story that the World Health Organization had predicted the eventual disappearance of the gene for blond hair because there are so many artificial blondes that they're diluting the gene selection for true blondes. But the WHO had never issued a report saying this. It was all a joke.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Science
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 03, 2002
Comments (1)
Red Herring reviews Kevin Mitnick's new book, The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security, in which he details the art of the con during the internet era.
Categories: Con Artists, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 01, 2002
Comments (0)