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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France’s new digital driving licence: What is it and how does it work?

France’s pivot to an increasingly digital future is continuing apace and next thing to be 'dematerialised' is driving licences.

France’s new digital driving licence: What is it and how does it work?

France is set to roll-out a digital driving licence from the beginning of next year, the Agence nationale des titres sécurisés (ANTS) has confirmed.

What is it?

It’s exactly what it says in the headline. It’s a certified digital version of your French driving licence that you can access via a smartphone if you need it. If you don’t yet have a French licence, you cannot use this.

READ ALSO How to swap your driving licence for a French one

Can’t I just take a photo of mine?

No. Well, yes, you could. But no. The thing is, a photo on your phone won’t  be a certified digital version of your licence. Importantly, the police will be able to scan the official digital version of your licence to ensure it is legitimate, in a manner similar to the Covid-19 vaccine passports (remember those?).

Do I have to rid of my photocard or paper card?

No. In fact, you should keep hold of it. It is not mandatory to have the digital version in France. It’s just a more accessible version of it using equipment you’re likely to have with you, so you can leave the actual licence at home

“This dematerialised licence will never replace the physical version but will come as a complement to simplify the lives of citizens who are fond of digital administrative procedures,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, told Le Parisien. 

This “certified copy” will be useful “in the fight against identity theft, but also to facilitate obtaining, for example, a power of attorney,” he added.

Furthermore, the digital version will – for now – only be accepted in France, so if you plan to drive abroad, you’ll still need your physical licence. 

Okay, then, how do I get my digital driving licence?

You can’t yet. Digital licences will first be trialled in the Rhone, Hauts-de-Seine and Eure-et-Loir departments towards the back end of the year, before being rolled out nationwide from early 2024.

What about data security?

Good question. And one officials think they have the answer to. The only way to get hold of and store a digital driving licence will be via the official France Identité app. This already exists for Android phones on Google Store. 

An iPhone version is in beta testing and will, officials say, be available soon.

That’s good. But how do I get it when it becomes available?

Assuming the process is the same as for an ID card, after you have downloaded the app, you will need:

  • An modern chipped driving card in credit card format which contains a secure chip with your information (surname, first name, date of birth, photo, etc);
  • A smartphone compatible with NFC “contactless” technology. 

For most people, this won’t be a problem. If you have an iPhone, all models are compatible since the iPhone 7 launched in 2016. On the Android side, all phones capable of running Android 8 are – in theory – compatible.

Then you scan the photo side of your card using the app. 

After doing that, you need to transfer the data stored on your licence’s chip. You do this as you would making a contactless payment using your bank card, by putting your driving licence close to your phone. Be patient – the actual data transfer process takes a little longer than making a contactless payment, but not much. 

Once you see a blue tick appear on the screen, with the confirmation: “lecture terminée”, you can move on to step three, creating a confidential code to access your digital licence.

This step requires you to prove your identity – you can do this via the France Identité app, or through your secure log-in to health insurance site Ameli or by asking your friendly neighbourhood La Poste delivery person to confirm your identity.

What if I don’t want to use this?

No-one is forcing you, this is in addition to the physical licence, not instead of. If you prefer to keep things paper-based (well actually the licence photocard is plastic) you can carry on using your physical licence.