Yes, science journals receive all kinds of letters, whose authors claim to have solved Fremat’s last theorem (before it was actually solved), that the theory of relativity is wrong, or that a perpetual motion machine has been invented, to name but three perennial favourites. Jim Giles investigated a strange case that we received the other week:
"The fax looks like a copy of a letter from Nature telling a scientist that their paper has been accepted for publication. But several things were odd. The letterhead looked like a forgery. The sender’s name was mis-spelled. And the editor named does not work at the office from which it was supposed to have been sent.
The letter came to Nature‘s attention when a company called to check on the publication date. But Nature had no record of the paper. Our manuscript editors did not recognize its title. The correspondence and enquiries desk passed it down to the newsdesk to see if we could make any sense of it.
After a little digging, I discovered that the letter had been forged by a scientist who had got himself in a hole. Contracted to run tests for health-drink company, the researcher said he had some exciting results: the drink contained a molecule with anti-ageing properties.
But the scientist had got ahead of himself. As pressure mounted to publish his results, he tried to stall his employer by claiming his paper had been accepted at Nature. When the paper never appeared, the company got suspicious and contacted us. By the time I got in contact, the researcher had already confessed."
See the rest of Jim’s article on the Nature newsblog at the link above.