By Eugenie Samuel Reich
This is the story of wunderkind physicist Jan Hendrik Schön who faked the invention of a brand new superconductor made from plastic. a celebrity researcher on the world-renowned Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, he claimed to have stumbled throughout a robust strategy for making carbon-based crystals into transistors, the switches chanced on on machine chips. Had his experiments labored, they'd have lead the way for enormous advances in technology--computer chips that shall we stick on a costume or eyewear, or maybe use to make digital displays as skinny and easy-to-fold as sheets of paper.
But as different researchers attempted to recreate Schön's experiments, the medical group realized that it have been duped. Why did such a lot of most sensible specialists, together with Nobel prize-winners, aid Schön? What led the key medical journals to post his paintings, and market it with press releases? And what drove Schön, by way of all bills a mild-mannered, modest and obliging younger guy, to inform such outrageous lies?
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Additional resources for Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World
What he lacked in common background, he made up for in his manner, being much more similar to the polite and self-possessed German stereotype—he was born in August 1970 in Verden, Lower Saxony—than the gregarious Vorarlbergers of western Austria. He joined a handball team and was frequently seen running on campus in the afternoons, with his good looks, broad shoulders, and curly brown hair often complemented by elbows or knees that were scraped from a recent game. 28 PLASTIC FANTASTIC Enrolling for physics classes, Schön was part of such a diverse intake that only about half the students in the class graduated, said a former classmate.
It was known for big discoveries, ambitious expectations, and a confrontational style of discussion; Schön was recruited armed with little more than a literal approach to semiconductor physics and a strong inclination to agreement. 3 A SLAVE TO PUBLICATION Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics, has been faulted by historians for fudging calculations on several occasions, but the case for fraud is strongest for an experiment reported in his 1704 work Opticks. Although Newton allegedly also fiddled the figures in his famous work on gravity, the Principia,1 the theory of gravity that he put forward is still considered approximately true.
They were considered the property of the lab, not of individuals, and might be sent outside for independent measurements. Although some amount of low-level cheating could not be ruled out, most students would have regarded it as both risky and unnecessary to misrepresent the properties of samples in Ernst Bucher’s lab. 34 PLASTIC FANTASTIC “AUSREIßER” Sensitive to convention, Hendrik Schön started out keeping careful track of his copper gallium selenide samples. Each piece was tagged with a label that could be used to look up how it had been made and what chemical or heat treatments it had undergone.