In a surprising turn of events, late

2002, the

physics establishment seems to have been hit by a hoax similar to that perpetrated by

Sokal with his paper

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, except the other way around.

French brothers, Igor and Grichka Bogdanov, both had their PhD theses accepted by the physics department at Bourgogne university, France, and have published papers in respectable physics journals, such as *Annals of Physics* and *Classical and Quantum Gravity*.

Their theory apparently concerns the "topological state" of spacetime, at "scale zero". For example, the abstract from Igor's thesis starts off:

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.

and concludes:

... 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.

Commenting in the usenet newsgroup sci.physics.research, physics professor John Baez (one of the world's leading mathematical physicists) says he "can [...] assure you that the abstracts seem like gibberish to me, even though I know what most of the buzzwords mean. The journal articles make for rather strange reading [...] Some parts almost seem to make sense, but the more carefully you read them, the less sense they make."

Baez goes on to extract the start of Igor's paper *"Topological theory of intertia*" (*Czechoslovak Journal of Physics*, 51 (2001), 1153-1236.) to illustrate his point:

The phenomenon of inertia - or "pseudo-force" according to E. Mach
[1] - has recently been presented by J. P. Vigier as one of the
"unsolved mysteries of modern physics". Indeed our point of view
is that this important question, which is well formulated in the
context of Mach's principle, cannot be resolved or even understood
in the framework of conventional field theory.
Here we suggest a novel approach, a direct outcome of the topological
field theory proposed by Edward Witten in 1988 [3]. According to
this approach, beyond the interpretation propoosed by Mach, we consider inertia as a **topological field**, linked to the topological charge `Q` = 1 of the "singular zero size gravitational instanton" [4] which, according to [5], can be identified with the initial singularity of space-time in the standard model.

and the conclusion, that

whatever the orientation, the plane of oscillation of Foucault's pendulum
is necessarily aligned with the initial singularity marking the
origin of physical space S^{3}, that of Euclidean space E^{4} (described by the family of instants I_{β} of whatever radius β), and,
finally, that of Lorentzian space-time M^{4}.

According to rumours reported by Baez, the Bogdanovs are "journalists and science fiction writers, both in their late 40's". After gaining fluency in some of the jargon of modern physics by interviewing French string theorists, they "spread rumors that they were geniuses and their theses were a milestone in theoretical physics".

Having made almost a state event of their thesis defences (inviting the national media, wining and dining the president of France, renting a large venue for the occasion) they were both rewarded with passes. Their theses can (at the moment) be found on the "Theses Online" site, at the urls given below.

Information, speculation and rumour, from usenet news article "Physics bitten by reverse Alan Sokal hoax?" <ap7tq6$eme$1@glue.ucr.edu>, sci.physics.research, 24 October, 2002, by John Baez.

Igor Bogdanov

ETAT TOPOLOGIQUE DE L'ESPACE TEMPS A ECHELLE 0

(Topological state of spacetime at scale zero)

`
http://tel.ccsd.cnrs.fr/documents/archives0/00/00/15/03/index_fr.html
`

Grichka Bogdanov

FLUCTUATIONS QUANTIQUES DE LA SIGNATURE DE LA METRIQUE A L'ECHELLE DE PLANCK

(Quantum fluctuations of the signature of the metric at the Planck scale)

`http://tel.ccsd.cnrs.fr/documents/archives0/00/00/15/02/index_fr.html`

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,

Topological field theory of the initial singularity of spacetime,

*Classical and Quantum Gravity* 18 (2001), 4341-4372.

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,

Spacetime Metric and the KMS Condition at the Planck Scale,

*Annals of Physics*, 295 (2002), 90-97.

Grichka Bogdanov and Igor Bogdanov,

KMS space-time at the Planck scale,

*Nuovo Cimento*, 117B (2002) 417-424.

Igor Bogdanov,

Topological origin of inertia,

*Czechoslovak Journal of Physics*, 51 (2001), 1153-1236.

Igor Bogdanov,

KMS state of the spacetime at the Planck scale,

*Chinese Journal of Physics*. (2002).