The Spanish sausage smells like plagiarism

The sun sank into the sea like a slice of chorizo, and couples in love watched swooning along the shoreline. Oh those summer nights, Olivia Newton-John sang in my head. Then dusk set in and it got cold on the beach. A girl accused her boyfriend of stealing her vest. Summer dreams ripped at the seams.

On Twitter was the French physicist and philosopher of science Étienne Klein gone to the dust over his offending photo of Proxima Centauri – not everyone could laugh that the star was, in fact, a slice of spicy Spanish sausage, photographed against a black background. It would damage the already shaky faith in science.

Was Klein’s joke really that bad? Leave that man alone, I thought at first. He was born on April 1, so he’d had to hear silly jokes on his birthday all his life. Scientific integrity does not exclude humor.

But everything has two sides, even an innocent slice of sausage. Soon I came across a blog,The Dark Side of ChorizoGate, by theoretical astrophysicist Peter Coles. He had tweeted the exact same photo the day before Klein, chorizo ​​against a black background. In other words: the sausage smacks of plagiarism.

Not such a disaster for an innocent photo, Coles writes in his blog – everything he posts online may be ‘borrowed’ by others. Moreover, he had also copied the photo himself of the Dutch pensioner Jan Castenmiller living in Spain, which imitated the blood moon over Málaga in 2018. Alone: ​​Klein was revealed in 2016 by the French weekly l’Express already to have been accused of plagiarism. In an Einstein biography written by him and in a few journalistic articles, he cites, without citing sources, leading philosophers, physicists and even novelists. Small does according to his own website at vulgarization scientifique, French for science popularization, but seems to use that term as a license for scientific impudence. And plagiarism is disastrous for scientific integrity.

Despite the chorizo ​​faux-pas, Klein is still tweeting. For example, after the death of Olivia Newton-John, he placed a black and white photo of her next to a photo of her grandfather, Max Born, who appears to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1954.

Newton-John herself wasn’t good at science at school, she said in interviews (although you could call it the title of her eighties hit). Physical with good will as a tribute to her grandfather). She dreamed of a career as a veterinarian, but became a singer because of disappointing figures. Hopefully it was little consolation that her girlhood dream came true in a linguistic sense. Fatthe English word for veterinarian, is after all also the Dutch translation of Grease.

Gemma Venhuizen is a biology editor at NRC and writes a column here every Wednesday.

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