A few weeks ago, a group of physical chemists posted a paper online announcing the observation of superconductivity at room temperature.
Today I posted a comment pointing out something funny in their data.
But if you started looking at the data, it all looked very good and consistent. Multiple independent measurements seemed to confirm superconductivity
(end. for now.)
During the last 18 hours I've gotten a lot of emails. Mostly emails from colleagues, the kind where the whole body of the email is something like:
"This made my day."
"This is the best paper you've written." (Which, ouch.)
They took my comment in good faith, and their response is essentially:
"Thanks for pointing this out! We hadn't noticed this peculiar noise correlation. We don't know its origin yet."
But let me just say: they are not backing down from their claims.
They are REALLY not backing down from their claims.
They emphasize that they are focused on providing validation of their data, and will only post new data or a response to my note once they have done so.
Some physics professors are trying to put together the strongest possible plausibility argument for how two such curves really could have the exact same pattern of noise
Here's Prof. Pratap Raychaudhuri from the Tata Institute, Mumbai
But I like the exercise of working from an assumption that the data is real and seeing where you get
(1) Prof. Pratap Raychaudhuri (PR), a professor at the Tata Institute in Mumbai, and an expert in superconductivity and magnetism.
(2) Prof. T V Ramakrishnan (TVR), one of the most famous and senior physicists in India.
Shortly thereafter, he got a phone call from TVR.
It turns out that TVR HAD NEVER WRITTEN ANY SUCH EMAIL.
Guys, it's hard to properly convey how surreal this all feels. It's way more drama than I ever thought I would encounter in physics.
If anyone gets an email from me about this business, please reply to my MIT email address to confirm that it was actually from me.
So let me say something that probably needs saying: the mysterious "Wiles Licher" is very likely some third-party troll using this controversy as a chance to mess with people.
The Wiles Licher facebook account and the protonmail email account have both apparently been deleted.
PR is convinced from the fake emails that this imposter was "bright" and "subtle", good enough to convincingly mimic TVR:
There are a few clues from the (now deleted) facebook account:
(1) A listed birthday: June 17, 1984
(2) Three people who were "followed" by the account. All three people are in Bangalore.
- the director of an art/architecture studio
- a grad student in biology
- the founder of a website/small business
They seem to have nothing in common other than their location (Bangalore) and age (30s, as far as I can tell)
Both say they don't know either of the other 2, and they don't know anyone in physics or chemistry at the Indian Institute for Science.
I am disinclined to give this person any more attention.