As someone schooled in quantum physics, I’d always looked down on climatologists such as Michael Mann. The sort of shenanigans that he and his ilk would engage in, I assumed, could not be found in the hallowed halls of a ‘hard science’ such as physics. But how wrong I was. Today, Microsoft scientists have had to retract a paper published in Nature back in 2018, in which they had announced a startling breakthrough in quantum computing:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-56328980

Apparently, the authors have had to admit to ‘insufficient scientific rigour’. According to the above article:

“Their errors included:

• having ‘unnecessarily corrected’ some of the data and not having made this clear

• mislabelling a graph, making it misleading”

Mmm. This sounds familiar somehow. At least the physicists had the integrity to finally admit to their Nature trickery, unlike some I could mention.

The delicious irony here is that quantum computers are seen by the BBC as a vital weapon in the war against climate change:

“The prize for whoever builds a commercial quantum computer that can solve real-world problems such as tackling climate change will be huge.”

Alternatively, the problem might benefit from a few more Nature papers being retracted.

It’s just a thought.

9 Comments

  1. John. Quantum climate is the golden grail A quantum of climate change is the minimum amount of model data required to convince an activist that the world is going to pot. It has deceased over time.

    Like

  2. This story reminded me to look at Retraction Watch, where I haven’t been for a while. Sure enough they cover the story. Two damnable sceptics seem to have been to blame:

    The retraction note published today in Nature misrepresents the sequence of events. It omits that the two of us have contacted Nature, not the authors. We took this step after our communication with the authors exhausted itself. Only after Nature asked the authors for explanation have they made their decision to retract.

    –part of statement by Frolov and Mourik

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The complaint by the original complainers reported at Retraction Watch
    https://retractionwatch.com/2021/03/08/authors-retract-nature-majorana-paper-apologize-for-insufficient-scientific-rigour/#more-121680
    mirrors our experience in getting Lewandowsky’s Recursive Fury paper retracted. Editors and authors caught out in a bit of naughtiness will normally admit their mistake with good grace,

    We established that the data in two of the figures (Fig. 2a and Extended Data Fig. 4b) had been unnecessarily corrected for charge jumps (corrections that were not mentioned explicitly in the paper)

    (unless they’re Lewandowsky, who took his lawyer along to the editorial office) then lie through their teeth about the events leading up to the discovery. There may be only a few dozen people in the world who can spot what’s wrong with the Microsoft paper, but anyone can spot squirming when they see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Of course, a key difference between the quantum physicist and the climatologist is their respective attitudes to the sharing of data. Professors Frolov and Mourik were able to say this about the Microsoft scientists:

    “We praise the authors for making additional data public on Zenodo.”

    Contrast this with Professor Phil Jones when he threatened to delete data rather than accede to an FOI request. There was also his readiness to hide behind non-disclosure agreements with third parties:

    “Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.”

    https://talkingabouttheweather.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/phil-jones-offers-myriad-reasons-for-not-sharing-data/

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  5. MARK4ASP

    I didn’t notice, or if I did, I’ve forgotten. Those of us who were active on the Lewandowsky retraction piled in to comment on the two Retraction Watch articles, and I remember (or imagine I remember) the kind of gritted teeth reaction one gets at any meta science site when you’re making valid points against the consensus. We had the same thing from Neil Levy at the Oxford Practical Ethics blog, and continually at the Conversation. Social scientists, philosophers, etc. are continually constructing wild fantasies based on the chimera of impending catastrophe, and they hate it when you point out that there’s no basis for their ramblings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wired magazine has posted an interesting article regarding the paper’s retraction:

    https://www.wired.com/story/microsoft-retracts-disputed-quantum-computing-paper/

    My favourite quote is:

    “Frolov and Mourik’s concerns also triggered an investigation at Delft, which Monday released a report from four physicists not involved in the project. It concludes that the researchers did not intend to mislead but were ‘caught up in the excitement of the moment,’ and selected data that fit their own hopes for a major discovery.”

    I see more clearly now. Professor Jones isn’t a bad person after all; he just got caught up in the excitement of the moment.

    On a different subject, this Ettore Majorana guy, after whom the posited majorana particle is named, disappeared under mysterious circumstances after boarding a boat travelling from Palermo to Naples in 1938. He had left a note with a colleague, saying:

    “I ask you to remember me to all those I learned to know and appreciate in your Institute, especially Sciuti: I will keep a fond memory of them all at least until 11 pm tonight, possibly later too.”

    Way to keeping them guessing Ettore!

    Naturally, his disappearance has spawned a number of conspiracy theories, ranging from suicide to a secret new life in Venezuela. However, his quantum mechanics colleagues were just happy to accept that he has a continued existence in a quantum superposition of alive/dead.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ettore_Majorana

    Liked by 3 people

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