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SCIENCE

French astronomer apologises for ‘planet’ photo that was really . . . chorizo

A red ball of spicy fire with luminous patches glowing menacingly against a black background. This, prominent French scientist Etienne Klein declared, was the latest astonishing picture taken by the James Webb Space Telescope of Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun.

French astronomer apologises for 'planet' photo that was really . . . chorizo
The 'planet' photo from French scientist Etienne Klein

Fellow Twitter users marvelled at the details on the picture purportedly taken by the telescope, which has thrilled the world with images of distant galaxies going back to the birth of the universe.

“This level of detail… A new world is revealed every day,” he gushed.   

But in fact, as Klein later revealed, the picture was not of the intriguing star just over four light-years from the Sun but a far more modest slice of the lip-sizzling Spanish sausage chorizo.

“According to contemporary cosmology, no object belonging to Spanish charcuterie exists anywhere but on Earth,” he said.

Klein acknowledged that many users had not understood his joke which he said was simply aimed at encouraging us “to be wary of arguments from people in positions of authority as well as the spontaneous eloquence of certain images”.

However, at a time when battling fake news is of paramount importance for the scientific community, many Twitter users indicated they were unamused by Klein, director of research at France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and a radio show producer.

On Wednesday, he said sorry to those who were misled.

“I come to present my apologies to those who may have been shocked by my prank, which had nothing original about it,” he said, describing the post as a”scientist’s joke”.

He was shortly back on surer ground posting on Twitter an image of the famous Cartwheel Galaxy taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. This time, he assured users, the photo was real.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

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