A Disgraceful Injustice that Must be Corrected

17 October 2003
(Disassociated Press)

Following the spirit of the times, the descendants of famed Greek philosopher Hipparchus of Rhodes (also known as Hipparchus of Nicaea) today took out full page ads in the New York Noise decrying the disservice done their ancestor by the 1921 Nobel Committee, which deliberately overlooked Hipparchus' contribution in awarding the prize for general relativity.

A straightforward Google search on Hipparchus reveals countless pages crediting him with the discovery of the orbital precession of the planets. Comparing his own ecliptic data with those of competing Babylonian scientists, Hipparchus was able to conclude that the Sun moved from year to year relative to the stars. This key contribution allowed later scientists such as Copernicus and Newton to develop their basic theories about the laws of the Universe, which dominated scientific thought for centuries, but was also a critical element in the eventual divergence from Newton's traditionalist viewpoint to the more accurate model proposed by Einstein. In fact, the major success of this model, known today as Einstein's theory of general relativity, was its ability to predict the observation made by Hipparchus over 2,000 years earlier.

The Committee craftily worded the award to discount the importance of general relativity: "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect." Time has shown, however, that while the fields of photonics and electronics have gone their separate ways, relativity has remained general, with no strings attached.

No members of the Committee were available for comment, making proper contemplation of Hipparchus' descendants' claims somewhat difficult. "They're too ashamed," argued Ioannis Cephadopoulos, who identifies himself as the head of the extended family. "They're dead," offered a bystander with an alternative viewpoint. "They died of shame!" retorted Cephadopoulos.

Members of the mysteriously named group "It's My Puddle" suggested that the oversight was in fact a deliberate slight owing to Hipparchus' reknown as a terracentrist. Terracentrism, a doctrine promoted originally by Hipparchus himself (and credited incorrectly to one of his disciples, Claudius Ptolemy), places the Earth at the center of the Universe. Most scientists, on the other hand, prefer the Standard Model, which states that the universe is always expanding outward in every direction and implies that the scientist himself is the center of the universe, which serves to bolster the scientist's ego. Scientists thus tend to look down upon terracentrists as being people with insufficiently large egos, and Hipparchus' views, while quite advanced for the experimental evidence available in his day, may have cost him the Prize.

Hipparchus' descendants disagree, however, blaming instead the anti-Hellenic leaning of generations of Europeans. "They're jealous of our culture. Especially the British and the Swedes," offered one unnamed descendant. "Just look at the facts. They tried to rob our temples, but broke them instead. Newton confused Hipparchus with the Titans. The Titans were part of a story. I guess I'd be jealous if I never saw the sun, too. The Swedes probably blame Atlas for not holding the Earth straight or something. I just don't understand it."

The current Nobel Committee also refused comment, suggesting that while it would be happy to discuss the rationale behind Einstein's receipt of the prize, it could not comment on those who had not been recognized for their contributions to Physics, including Hipparchus of Rhodes, Claudius Ptolemy, Aristotle, Tyco Brahe, Mikolaj Koppernigk, Johannes Kepler, John Flamsteed, Galileo Gallilei, the High Druid, the Dalai Lama, the Pope, or anyone else who had happened to look at the sky.