Majorana's errors by Kouwenhoven were the result of "tunnel vision"

Majorana’s errors by Kouwenhoven were the result of “tunnel vision”

Two years later, quantum researcher Leo Kouwenhoven can finally speak. He had to keep quiet due to the ongoing investigation by the National Authority for Scientific Integrity (LOWI) into articles from his research group that were pulled from the journal. temper nature† In the meantime, also in Norwegian Refugee Council, wrote about it. Measurements have been omitted incorrectly.

The first retracted article was published in 2018. In it, the Delft van Koenhoven research group appeared to prove the existence of the Majorana particle. This particle could be a building block for future quantum computers. Kouwenhoven has been searching for these quantum particles for more than ten years, which theorists believe exist, but for which there is no experimental evidence. Face last month temper nature He also brought back a second article and Microsoft ended the partnership, which had been in business since 2016.

In April 2020 appeared in temper nature “Statement of concern” for the 2018 article. The article was found to contain no evidence of Majorana particles. A setback for this research field. The TU Delft Integrity Committee has launched an investigation into the workings of the research group. Later, LOWI also became a participant and another integrity investigation was launched in February because more of the group’s posts may contain errors.

Italian physicist Ettore Majorana.
mondadori photo collection

During this study, the researchers involved had no contact with the media. Former employees of the research group Sergei Frolov and Vincent Murik, who raised the problems, did so. Kouwenhoven was not completely silent at the time. in conversation with Norwegian Refugee Council In March 2021, he said “technical and judgment errors” had been made.

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The integrity investigation is now being completed, but has not yet been published. However, Kouwenhoven was allowed to speak. He did this in a 45-minute interview in NTR podcast atlas that appeared on Thursday. The editors were able to see the summary result of the integrity investigation: “There were guilty errors, but there was no violation of scientific integrity.” The errors were the result of tunnel vision. Kouwenhoven says he agrees.

at article which appeared in the United Nations at the same time as the broadcast, states that the illicit deletion of the measurements was made by Hao Zhang, a Kouwenhoven postdoc at the time. Perhaps he felt pressured to perform during his few years at Delft. The results for 2018 were actually too good to be true. Kouwenhoven didn’t notice it at the time, he says in atlas† “If only I had thought so. Then I could have prevented this whole thing.” He acknowledges that it should have been viewed with more criticism.

However, Kouwenhoven does not seem to change his approach: “I think it benefits science if you can take these risks and give people the responsibility and freedom to do their research and make their own decisions.” Nor does he give up on his big dream. “Research went well last year,” he says in atlas† “We have measured a new homemade Majorana and will post that soon.”

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