Physicists doubt bold superconductivity claim following social-media storm

Aug 22, 2018

By Davide Castelvecchi

It was an explosive claim: the discovery of a superconducting material that can carry electricity with virtually no resistance in normal, ambient conditions. The purported finding — announced by two Indian physicists in a preprint1 last month — sparked a rush of replication efforts. But independent researchers have grown increasingly sceptical as they have dissected the claim, in a process that played out mostly on social media.

“All these researchers who normally do not discuss on a single platform have come together and discussed this,” says Pratap Raychaudhuri, who studies low-temperature physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India. He led a discussion of the results on Facebook. “I think the self-correcting mechanism of science — the ruthless scrutiny of the community — has worked extremely well,” he says.

Raychaudhuri also says that the episode is evidence of the value of posting preprints before publication and having an open discussion about them. “I think this is possibly going to set a very good precedent,” he says.

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