Extraordinary claims, vestiges of a scandal, fake emails… is this a US election? Nope, it’s contemporary science.
I confess that I only have a dubious conception of superconductors. Despite my sophomoric understanding, even I can see the monumental implications of such a technology.
In “Evidence for Superconductivity at Ambient Temperature and Pressure in Nanostructures” authors Dev Kumar Thapa and Anshu Pandey from the Solid State and Structural Chemistry Unit at the Indian Institute of Science make a stunning claim.
Despite being a low temperature phenomenon till date, superconductivity has found numerous applications in diverse fields of medicine, science and engineering. The great scientific interest in the phenomenon as well as its practical utility has motivated extensive efforts to discover and understand new superconductors. We report the observation of superconductivity at ambient temperature and pressure conditions in films and pellets of a nanostructured material that is composed of silver particles embedded into a gold matrix. Specifically, we observe that upon cooling below 236K at ambient pressures, the resistance of sample films drops below 0-4 Ohm, being limited by instrument sensitivity. Further, below the transition temperature, samples become strongly diamagnetic, with volume susceptibilities as low as -0.056. We further describe methods to tune the transition to temperatures higher than room temperature. (https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1807/1807.…)
This article evoked caution and incredulity from the scientific community. The plot thickens. Brian Skinner, an MIT researcher, ran a analysis of the data in Thapa’s and Pandey’s article.
The graph plots a material’s magnetic susceptibility - the degree at which the material becomes magnetized after a magnetic field is applied - at a given temperature. The jump up in magnetic susceptibility is when the material is approaching its critical temperature to become superconductive. Skinner noticed that the pattern of green and blue data plots are pretty much exact copies of each other only shifted down by a constant amount. He consulted other physicists at MIT and elsewhere to see if they had encountered anything like it in their experiments. But all of them were very baffled by it and could think of no obvious explanation for it.
This reminded many scientists of the Schon scandal, including Pratap Raychaudhuri, a professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in India . So he takes to Facebook to say as much, and then things get downright scandalous. Raychaudhuri gets an email from T. V. Ramakrishnan, a well known theoretical condensed matter physicist, telling him not to publicly rebuke Thapa and Pandley. Raychaudhuri fires off a response to Ramakrishnan, and then he gets a phone call from Ramakrishnan saying that he never sent that email. It was a fake email sent from an account originating in Switzerland. Oh my beloved science, who says you cannot be just as exciting as a typical tabloid magazine?
Back to the question. As of Sept 5, 2018 the article had been submitted to Nature for review. Question resolves as affirmative if the article gets published in Nature by April 1, 2019. Resolves negatively if it is published in another Journal prior to that date, or unpublished as of that date.
Closes retroactively if it the resolution condition is definitively satisfied at on a date earlier than 4/1/19, two days prior to that satisfaction date.