Fraud in Physics
“The physicists have known sin/' J. Robert Oppenheimer is famously said to have remarked after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In more recent years, it had seemed that the physics community might be immune or at least highly resistant to another form of sin—that of fabricating scientific data. Nearly every case of scientific fraud in the last three decades seemed to involve biology and related sciences, not physics. In the first years of the twenty-first century however, two high-profile cases of cheating in physics emerged into the harsh light of day. One involved the announcement and later retraction of the discovery of element 118 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The other concerned a young researcher at Bell Labs named Jan Hendrik Schon.
Schon received his Ph.D. in 1997 from the University of Konstanz in his native Germany after spending a summer working at the renowned Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. After earning his doctorate, he accepted an offer to return to the Murray Hill facility as a postdoc, although he first had to spend some time cooling his heels in Konstanz waiting for his visa to come through. Despite his youth, he had already acquired quite a reputation as a brilliant young experimental physicist, and he struck many as a prime candidate for future laurels, perhaps even a Nobel Prize.