Microsoft-led scientists retract quantum "breakthrough" research

Purple abstract quantum computing concept image
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A team of researchers led by Microsoft have withdrawn a research paper into quantum computing that was published in 2018.

The scientists had published a paper in the journal Nature claiming to have found evidence of a subatomic particle that could help develop quantum computers. The paper focuses on creating qubits, a unit of information having both the values of one or zero, using the properties of Majorana particles. These were named after the Italian physicist Ettore Majorana in the 1930s.

In the paper’s retraction, it notes that there were “several inconsistencies... between the raw measurement data that was made available to them and the figures that were published in the paper.”

The scientists established that the data in two of the figures had been “unnecessarily corrected for charge jumps (corrections that were not mentioned explicitly in the paper)” and also that “one of the figure axes was mislabelled.”

The retraction goes on to say that the data was replotted over the full parameter range and concludes with this statement: “We can therefore no longer claim the observation of a quantized Majorana conductance, and wish to retract this Letter.”

Zulfi Alam, vice president at Microsoft, stated in a post on LinkedIn: “We remain confident in our topological approach to scaled quantum computing, as we nurture a culture of continuous improvement to innovate across every component of the Quantum Machine.”

Quantum computing, once it has been developed fully, will purportedly provide a range of benefits for businesses including improved security, better logistics, better fraud detection and more.

Microsoft isn’t the only major tech company foraging into this emerging technology, IBM hit a quantum computing milestone last August and Amazon’s AWS launched a quantum cloud service too.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.