Klein’s Hoax Over James Webb Images Costs Him An Apology

| Updated: August 6, 2022 6:33 pm

Renowned French scientist Étienne Klein was obliged to issue an apology for an image he claimed belonged to NASA’s new space observatory but was actually a slice of the Spanish sausage, chorizo. Klein is a distinguished scholar and director of research at the French Atomic Energy Commission.

Last Sunday, July 31, he tweeted what he purported to be the most astounding image ever captured of the star Proxima Centauri, taken by the state-of-the-art James Webb Space Telescope. According to the image, it depicts a ferocious red orb of cosmic energy that is speckled with brilliant solar flares that are raging throughout the skin of a nearby star.

Watch Tweet here:

The tweet reads: “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. But the photo that Klein shared was not that of a star. It was a slice of chorizo, Spanish sausage relished for its bold flavours. The ‘joke’, however, was not relished so much.

“In view of some comments, I feel compelled to clarify that this tweet showing an alleged snapshot of Proxima Centauri was a form of amusement. Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images….,” tweeted Klein on August 1.

On Wednesday, he finally apologised, and added that he intended “to urge caution regarding images that seem to speak for themselves.” “I come to present my apologies to those whom my hoax, which had nothing original about it, may have shocked,” read his tweet, roughly translated from French.

“Well yes, people fell into the trap because it was a scientist who made the comment,” read a post. Another user pointed out that the image was shared earlier too. “However, this joke is old, made during the lunar eclipse of July 27, 2018,” the post read.

Watch some reactions here:

The hoax is an old tradition among physicists, says the 64-year-old scientist, research director 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 a pedagogical virtue. It tells us about our ability to be fooled, and questions our relationship with sources. We saw during the COVID how some isolated scientists could publish untruths without being contradicted, added Étienne Klein. The fact remains that his fake image was much more liked than the real photos of the James Webb telescope, which he had shared on Twitter earlier.

Also Read: James Webb Space Telescope Captures Two Galaxies Smashing Together & Sparking Starbursts

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