At the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today, the Nobel Committee bestowed the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics to chart-topping singer-songwriter Tom Petty for his epochal 1989 single “Free Fallin’.”
In a prepared statement, the Nobel Committee announced Mr. Petty’s win “for having created new awareness of equations for falling bodies and expressing the notion of universal gravitation in the great American pop tradition” through the song. As a laureate, Tom Petty will recieve a gold medal, a diploma, a stipend of 8 million Swedish kronor, and a lifetime honorary appointment to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The Academy’s spokesperson, neurologist Dr. Sven-Olaf Larsson, noted in his statement that some may take issue with the award being “frivolous.” “I understand that this is an unexpected choice,” Dr. Larsson said, “but after much reflection and discussion and reflection, the Committee was unable to think of a figure with a greater role in promoting universal gravitation than Mr. Petty and his song ‘Free Fallin’.'”
Reached for comment at his home in Encino, California, Mr. Petty demurred when asked to make a statement but declared himself “honored and surprised.” A statement issued by his publicist later in the day declared that “Mr. Tom Petty is delighted to accept the award, and urges all his fans to continue to fly high whilst maintaining a healthy respect for gravity.”
Others who had been favored for the award included Swiss high energy particle researcher Dr. Lana Kleinschmidt, American quantum string theorist Dr. Caesar Hernandez, and Russian astrophysicist Dr. Ivan Lebedev. Their projects had included safe and reliable nuclear fusion, time travel and probability, and machines to recycle extraterrestial CO2 into oxygen for future colonization of Mars.