A world-renowned scientist has been forced to apologize after he shared what he claimed was a stunning image of a star – which turned out to be a piece of chorizo.
Etienne Klein, a famous French physicist, shared an image of what he said was Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth. He said the image was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, which has unveiled a host of stunning images in recent weeks.
“This attention to detail…” he wrote. “Every day a new world is revealed.”
At first glance, the image looked real, showing the deep red and swirling white colors of a star. But on closer inspection, the image was more down-to-earth: a slice of chorizo against a black background.
About an hour after he first sent the tweet, Dr. Klein realized he was joking. He joked that when people get hungry, they give in to cognitive biases — and that people should be aware of that.
“According to contemporary cosmology, no item belonging to Spanish cured meats exists anywhere other than on Earth,” he continued.
Then, hours after the original post, he said he had to respond to comments that suggested he had himself wrong. He said the image was a “form of entertainment” and in return reminded his followers to be suspicious of both arguments from authorities and the persuasiveness of such images.
Nonetheless, many of Dr. Klein’s followers to believe that he had irresponsibly tried to deceive people. One noted that being able to trust scientists is important precisely to avoid being manipulated by false stories, and that many people will have seen his original post but not the subsequent clarifications.
The joke also appeared to have been made by a variety of other Twitter users before Dr. Klein published it, with other users chiding the scientist for not acknowledging the original joke.
A few days later, Dr. Klein continues for what he had done. He said he wanted to apologize to anyone shocked by the scam and admitted his joke was unoriginal.
He emphasized once again that by publishing the image he only wanted to warn against spectacular images that were not properly contextualized.
dr Klein also tweeted a copy of the distant Cartwheel galaxy, which he emphasized is real this time.