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Renowned physicist forced to apologise over ‘planet’ photo which was actually piece of chorizo

James Hilsum

| Last updated 

Renowned physicist forced to apologise over ‘planet’ photo which was actually piece of chorizo

A renowned physicist’s joke backfired after tricking people into believing that a picture of piece of chorizo was actually one of the star Proxima Centauri.

Etienne Klein was eventually forced to apologise after the joke, claiming that: "no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth."

It all began last Sunday when he posted a tweet which said the latest photograph came from the James Webb Space Telescope and was one of the closest stars to the sun.

Klein tweeted: “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.”

Klein’s tweet sparked plenty of debate, and while some users immediately spotted the image for what it truly was, others fell for the joke hook, line and sinker.

One said: “The last photo of Proxima Centauri was this", posting a photo of a distant star. "This is a huge step forward.”

Another added: “I can't tell if it's a prank or really proxima that looks like a chorizo.”

But Twitter user Ned Boeuf could see through the joke straight away and said: “Fake, it's a slice of chorizo.”

Not everyone saw the funny side of the joke, as another user chimed in: “Coming from a scientific research director, it's quite inappropriate to share this type of thing without specifying from the 1st tweet that it is false information when you know the speed at which a false information spreads,' came one indignant reply.”

Credit: Claudio Caridi/Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Claudio Caridi/Alamy Stock Photo

This prompted Klein to issue his apology on Wednesday, as he tweeted: “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," he tweeted to his 89,200 followers.

“Let us learn to be wary of arguments from authority as much as of the spontaneous eloquence of certain images.

“Well, when it's time for the aperitif, cognitive biases seem to have a field day…

“Beware, then, of them. According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth.

“I come to present my apologies to those who may have been shocked by my prank, which had nothing original about it.”

Featured Image Credit: @etienneklein/Twitter/Newscom/Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Science, Space, News

James Hilsum
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