A French scientist has stirred up quite a bit of social media controversy as the result of a prank that one user called “tasteless.”
The firestorm started when professor Etienne Klein, who has almost 100,000 Twitter followers and is a noted authority at a major French scientific agency, posted a photo to Twitter purporting to show an image from the new James Webb Space Telescope.
Klein wrote a caption that, roughly translated, identified the image as showing Alpha Centuri, the closest star to our solar system. The caption went on to marvel about how “a new world is discovered every day,” praising the incredible detail available from the new telescope.
That all seems like pretty normal social media fare for a scientist to post. Except the photo wasn’t of Alpha Centuri; it was a closeup of a slice of chorizo that Klein had taken on his phone.
When Klein later admitted to the ruse, the response was immediate. Klein tried to frame the prank as a lesson on false information and misinformation online. Some users sound it funny, while others weren't amused.
Several pointed out that as a person in a position of authority, Klein has an obligation to share truthful information to combat the very problem he was mentioning.
Although Klein's chorizo slice isn't actually a photo from the new telescope, real photos from the James Webb space telescope are indeed uncovering new worlds and shining new light on many challenging problems in astronomy.
As for Klein, he quickly moved on to other topics and has resumed his role as a noted scientific authority. Hopefully, he enjoyed the chorizo as much as he enjoyed the prank.