A joke posted by a renowned physicist that went viral served as a reminder not to believe everything you see and read on the internet.
Revered French physicist Étienne Klein was under fire after posting a photo of a chorizo slice and passing it off as an image of a distant star captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)–the largest optical telescope in space used to view objects too distant or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Klein, who is the director at France's Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, bamboozled his 91,000 followers on Twitter by sharing the image of the Spanish fermented sausage cutaway and marveling at the "level of detail."
Klein tweeted the photo with a caption that was roughly translated to:
"Picture of Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years away from us. It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope."
"This level of detail... A new world is unveiled everyday."
"Well, when it's cocktail hour, cognitive bias seem to find plenty to enjoy," wrote Klein, before confirming there are no such things as floating space sausages.
"Beware of it. According to contemporary cosmology, no object related to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere else other than on Earth"
Some found his hoax hilarious.
Amateur physicists joined in on Klein's joke by sharing their own "discoveries."
This user posted a photo of sliced Swiss cheese and bascially called it "the crater-studded surface of a life-sustaining exoplanet."
A photo of what appeared to be a green olive was passed off as an "incredible eclipse on Proxima Centauri B, the closest exoplanet known to date."
And this user passed off an image of a rubber band as the solar eclipse.
Other users, however, did not see the humor in the ruse.
Klein's revelation prompted backlash and he was criticized for hoodwinking the internet.
One critic called the hoax "inappropriate," saying:
"Coming from a scientific research director, it's quite inappropriate to share this type of thing without specifying from the first tweet that it is false information when you know the speed at which false information spreads."
Another unamused user wrote:
"This is NOT a James Webb ST photo taken of 'Centaurus Proxima,' the closest star to the sun."
"This is a slice of CHORIZO. Yet, this is making the round on Twitter for the past four days. Calamity."
In response to the #chorizogate scandal, Klein said:
"In view of certain comments, I feel obliged to specify that this tweet showing an alleged picture of Proxima Centauri was a joke."
"Let's learn to be wary of the arguments from positions of authority as much as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images."
He further stated on Wednesday that his intention for the prank was "to urge caution regarding images that seem to speak for themselves."
To make amends, Klein posted a photo of an image of the spectacular Cartwheel galaxy. This time, he assured his followers the photo was authentic.
In light of the #chorizogate backlash, actual images of a never-been-seen view of the universe produced by the JWST wowed the public last month after officially making scientific operations on July 12.
US Democratic President Joe Biden praised the unique images on Twitter, heralding it as "a historic moment for science and technology. For astronomy and space exploration. And for America and all humanity."