Nine physicists become instant millionaires after winning Fundamental Physics Prize

3 Aug 2012

Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that has been set up by the Russian internet investor and business tycoon Yuri Milner, has recognised nine physicists from around the globe, granting each of them US$3m as part of the US$27m prize fund to reward those who are making breakthroughs in the field of fundamental physics.

The physicists who have won the inaugural prize are Nima Arkani-Hamed, Alan Guth, Alexei Kitaev, Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Linde, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Ashoke Sen and Edward Witten.

Each of these physicists will get US$3m, plus they will serve on the selection committee of the foundation to select physicists who will win future prizes.

Prowress in physics

Here’s a glimpse of what some of the physicists are working on …

The foundation awarded the Israeli-American Nathan Seiberg for his contributions to quantum field theory and string theory.

The American-Canadian particle physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed was awarded for his contributions to particle physics, especially for his new theories around the Higgs boson particle.

According to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in New Jersey, where Arkani-Hamed teaches, he has taken a lead in proposing new physical theories that can be tested at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland as part of its quest to find the Higgs boson particle.

And Juan Maldacena, who hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and who also teaches at Princeton, was awarded for his contributions to gravitational physics, particularly around black holes and quantum mechanics.

Alan Guth, a professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was recognised for his theory of cosmic inflation. It posits that the early universe went through a phase of rapid expansion soon after the Big Bang.

Meanwhile, the Russian mathematician Maxim Kontsevich, who is a professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in Paris, was awarded for his role for taking the interaction between modern theoretical physics and maths to a new level.

Who is Yuri Milner?

As for Milner, who is behind the Fundamental Physics Prize, Forbes rated the internet investor and Russian entrepreneur as having a net worth of US$1bn as of March 2012. Aged 50, he resides in Moscow. He founded the investment firm Digital Sky Technologies (now Group) and he has invested in the likes of Facebook, Zynga and Groupon.

In 2011, he also bought stakes in Twitter and Spotify, amongst others.

Milner studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University. In a statement, he had this to say about the physics prize fund: “I am delighted to announce the launch of the Fundamental Physics Prize and welcome its first recipients. I hope the new prize will bring long overdue recognition to the greatest minds working in the field of fundamental physics, and if this helps encourage young people to be inspired by science, I will be deeply gratified.”

The Nobel Prize in Physics laureate Steven Weinberg has also agreed to join the board of directors of the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation.

Physics image via Shutterstock

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic