French scientist Etienne Klein has apologized on Twitter for a hoax passing off a slice of chorizo as a snapshot of the star Proxima Centauri, a move that was intended to “incite caution” about the images circulating on social networks.
“I come to apologize to those whom my hoax, which was in no way original, may have shocked. He simply wanted to urge caution with images that seem eloquent by themselves,” tweeted Etienne Klein, physicist and philosopher of science, on Wednesday.
On Sunday, the French scientist posted a photo of a slice of chorizo (Spanish sausage) against a black background, claiming it was an image of the closest star to the Sun, taken with the brand new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
I apologize to those who my hoax, which had nothing original about it, may have shocked people. He just wanted to urge caution over images that seem eloquent on their own. A Scientist's Joke https://t.co/wHiJWxscxq #Astronomy via @LePoint
— Etienne KLEIN (@EtienneKlein) August 3, 2022
“Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us . She was taken by the JWST. This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day”, commented Etienne Klein above the photo.
His post, revealed by online media HuffPost, had some success on social media with 1,334 retweets, 10,000 likes. And fooled many people.
“I was surprised at how big it got: I thought the image was going to be immediately detected as fake. And when I saw that a great journalist from BFMTV (French continuous news channel, editor's note) was ecstatic, and that he risked spreading it, I told him that it was a joke. He took it with a lot of humor,” Etienne Klein told AFP.
“I then apologized, because obviously some have the impression of having been taken for chitterlings, which is not the case at all”, pleaded the researcher.
L he image of the slice of chorizo is a recurring hoax, used in particular a few years ago to make people believe in the dark side of the Moon.
“The hoax is an old tradition among physicists”, emphasizes the 64-year-old scientist, director of research at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). As he explained on Twitter, his gesture echoes the Sokal affair, named after an American physicist who published a hoax article in a peer-reviewed journal in 1996.
“ A hoax has an educational virtue. It says our ability to be duped, questions our relationship to sources… We saw during COVID that certain isolated scientists could publish untruths without being contradicted, ”added Etienne Klein. However, his fake image was “much more liked” than the real photos of James Webb, which he had previously shared on Twitter.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128