July 22, 2024

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Leo Kouwenhoven, Dutch pioneer in quantum computer, leaving Microsoft

Leo Kouwenhoven, Dutch pioneer in quantum computer, leaving Microsoft

Leo Koenhoven has long been considered the rising star of the quantum computer, but he fell into disrepute after scientists discovered errors in his work.San de Wilde Statue

In 2016, a professor of physics at Delft came up with an amazing and reportedly profitable idea Transfer to a technology company. It seemed to be on the trail of special particles that could form the basis of a powerful type of quantum computer that Microsoft is developing. The discovery of the so-called Majorana particle probably deserves a Nobel Prize, making Kouwenhoven a celebrity in quantum science.

Unlike competitors such as IBM and Google, Microsoft does not yet have a working quantum computer. Technologists hope that these “computers of the future” will perform ultra-fast calculations on climate models, for example. Thanks to Kouwenhoven’s research, Microsoft seemed to be able to outpace the competition in one fell swoop. He became director of the new Quantum Lab at Delft, where Microsoft invested millions. King Willem-Alexander came in 2019 open in person

In a brief written response, Microsoft said the fact that Kouwenhoven left Microsoft “is linked to a change in the approach to scalable quantum computing.” “We wish Leo success in the future and thank him for his time at Microsoft.”

When asked why he was leaving, the quantum professor on the phone referred to Microsoft’s response. “I can’t say anything about that.” Hopes to provide more information at a later time. “I have a plan for that.”

It also leaves unanswered the question of whether he will return as a researcher at TU Delft. After his transfer to Microsoft, he got what’s called a zero hour appointment as a professor there. A university spokesperson said that is still the case today.

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in disrepute

The credibility of Kouwenhoven’s work was lost at the beginning of last year. Then it turns out that Majorana particles upon closer examination yet not proven They were in a study under his supervision. The scientific article about this contains unauthorized cut-and-paste and was based on unreliable analyses, two former Kouwenhoven employees discovered. Only after perseverance on their part did Koenhoven withdrew the article from TOP magazine nature† Done by de Volkskrant described in a Large-scale reconstruction

There are also doubts about three other important scientific articles from his collection. Magazines put a Warning With these publications, because “there may be problems with the way the search data has been handled”.

Whether these affairs lead to Kouwenhoven’s departure, neither he nor Microsoft are willing to confirm. Perhaps the American tech company no longer needs the professor, and therefore allows him to leave through the back door. In its written response, the company refers to newsletter Announced Monday: His research lab in Lyngby, Denmark, was set to make the majorana. It is difficult to verify whether this is indeed the case: the results are neither public nor published in a scientific journal. ‘I would be very careful to explain this,’ says quantum professor Christian Schönenberger (University of Basel) in an email response. Majorana is hard to prove.

achieve integrity

Anyway, Kouwenhoven’s poison chalice didn’t seem empty yet. After the first issue was published, TU Delft launched an integrity investigation, which has not yet been completed. A panel of participating experts has already decided that there may have been scientific tunneling and wishful thinking on the part of scientists. they saw There is no evidence of intent† Due to potential issues with Majorana’s other publications from the Kouwenhoven group, the University is now also Achieving Integrity II I started.