A prominent French physicist was forced to apologize over a photo he said came from NASA’s new space telescope but was actually a piece of chorizo.
Etienne Klein, a renowned philosopher and research director at France’s Atomic Energy Commission, informed his followers that “no object of Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth”.
He had posted a tweet last Sunday that he claimed was the latest amazing photo of the star Proxima Centauri from the state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope.
The photo purports to show an angry red ball of cosmic energy riddled with glowing solar storms raging across the surface of the neighboring star.
“Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, 4.2 light-years from us,” Klein tweeted.
“She was kidnapped by the JWST. That level of detail… A new world is revealed every day.”
This is the image that Etienne Klein, a renowned physicist, philosopher and director of research at the French Atomic Energy Commission, posted to Twitter and claims – jokingly – that it is the latest amazing photo from the state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope of the star Proxima Centauri
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this photo of our sun on January 8, 2022
Etienne Klein, a renowned philosopher and director of research at the French Atomic Energy Commission
The photo resembled famous portraits of the Sun taken by the European Space Agency’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), which captures detailed solar storms on the surface of our home star 75 million miles away.
Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, is 5.9 trillion miles away.
While most Twitter users could tell that the photo posted by the eminent physicist was actually a piece of Spanish sausage, others were more gullible.
“That was the last photo of Proxima Centauri,” said one user, posting a photo of a distant star. “It’s a big step forward.”
“I can’t tell if it’s a prank or really proxima looking like a chorizo,” wrote another.
However, Twitter user Ned Boeuf was not fooled. “Fake, it’s a piece of chorizo.”
Then the Twitter backlash began.
“Coming from a scientific research director background, it’s quite inappropriate to share something like this without specifying from the first tweet that it’s false information when you know the speed at which false information spreads,” came an indignant reply.
The Twitter user was struck by the tremendous advance in space telescopy that the JWST represented
This user was more skeptical but still undecided if it was a joke or serious
However, not everyone was fooled
The backlash began with users accusing Klein of spreading misinformation
“Indeed there has been a loss of resolution, making the joke more believable and therefore more toxic!” wrote another.
Klein acknowledged that many users didn’t get his joke, which he said was simply aimed at encouraging people to question rather than automatically accept “eloquent images” of those in positions of authority.
He wrote his apology on Wednesday.
“In light of some of the comments I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet claiming to show a snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement,” he tweeted to his 89,200 followers.
“Let us learn to be as wary of arguments from authority as we are of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images….”
“Well, when it’s time for the aperitif, cognitive bias seems to be having a big day…
Elon Musk posted this meme last month to lightheartedly poke fun at the JWST’s astronomy photos
‘So beware of them. According to contemporary cosmology, no item of Spanish cured meats exists anywhere other than on Earth.”
“I come to apologize to those who may have been shocked by my prank, which had nothing original about it,” he said, describing the post as “a scientist’s joke.”
He previously published the James Webb Space Telescope image of the Chariot Wheel galaxy and its companion galaxies (“REALLY this time”).
“Located 500 million light-years away, it was undoubtedly spiraling in its past, but took on this strange appearance after a raging galactic collision.”
Last month, Elon Musk posted a meme mocking the JWST and comparing a kitchen countertop to a picture of outer space in a lighthearted joke aimed at NASA.