Etienne Klein: French Scientist Posts Picture of Chorizo on Twitter

etienne klein

Getty French physicist and philosopher of science Etienne Klein poses during a session photo in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

Etienne Klein is a prominent scientist who posted a slice of chorizo on Twitter as a joke, saying that the sausage was an image captured by the James Webb space telescope.

Klein said in the post that the image showed Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to the sun.

He posted the image July 31, 2022, on Twitter, gaining more than 17,000 likes and more than 1,500 retweets by the afternoon of August 6. The post remained live at the time, followed quickly by a tweet saying the post was meant as a joke.

“Photo of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, located 4.2 light years from us,” he wrote in a translation of the post, which originally appeared in French. “She was taken by the JWST. This level of detail… A new world is revealed day after day.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Klein Said He Was Not Intending to Mislead Anyone With the Post, & Intended It as Commentary on Fake News

Soon after Klein made his original post, he wrote about his intended meaning. The post was meant as a commentary on cognitive bias, he wrote.

“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,” he wrote in an English translation.

He further explained his post in another tweet, saying he made the post to entertain and did not think it would mislead his followers.

“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…,” the English translation said.

A few days later, he posted an apology, saying his post was not intended as a hoax. He shared an article from French publication Le Point on August 3, 2022, saying his post was intended as commentary about how easily a person can be mislead on social media, and said he had no intention of misleading his followers. Klein has nearly 100,000 followers on social media.

Klein Is the President of the Institute for Advanced Studies for Science and Technology & Was Accused of Plagiarism for the Post

Klein is a physicist who holds a prominent role in his field as the president of the Institute for Advanced Studies for Science and Technology in Paris. ScienceInsider, the publication for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, reported that Klein is being pressed to step down from his post, and that he is refusing to resign. Officials have described the post as “plagiarism.”

“Étienne Klein, a celebrated French physicist and popularizer of science, seems set to lose his post as president of the Institute for Advanced Studies for Science and Technology (IHEST) in Paris after allegations that he plagiarized more than a dozen scientists, philosophers, and writers in books and articles,” ScienceInsider reported. “A source at France’s science and education ministry yesterday confirmed to ScienceInsider that a decree ending Klein’s tenure has been signed by Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and State Secretary Thierry Mandon and is now awaiting the signature of French President François Hollande.”

Klein wrote an open letter published by the outlet, in which the physicist said an investigative panel found no evidence of misconduct.

“My scientific integrity is absolute,” Klein wrote in an email to ScienceInsider.

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