Breakthrough Prizes: $36 Million for Science Innovation Winners
Awards honor scientists who "refuse to accept conventional wisdom, question everything, and venture into new worlds," Alibaba's Jack Ma said.MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Hollywood glamour and showbiz panache engulfed Silicon Valley Nov. 9 in the form of the second annual Breakthrough Prizes, which took place at a lavish gala dinner event at the brilliantly lit and staged Hangar One at NASA Ames Federal Airfield. Hangar One, built for the Navy airship, the USS Macon, dates back to the early 1930s but is currently undergoing refurbishment. A specially designed, greenhouse-style, Plexigas enclosure was constructed to house the event. The awards, given to innovative scientific scholars and inventors, are sponsored by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, Google co-founder Sergei Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Alibaba founder CEO Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, and Los Angeles-area IT investors Yuri and Julie Milner. A total of $36 million—$3 million each—was meted out for the prizes. Singer, author and television producer Seth MacFarlane was the emcee, and a number of Hollywood entertainers were on the bill as either performers or presenters, including Christina Aguilera, Jon Hamm, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kate Beckinsale, among others.
Celebrity Guests Galore
--Jennifer Doudna, University of California, Berkeley, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research and Umeå University, for harnessing an ancient mechanism of bacterial immunity into a powerful and general technology for editing genomes, with wide-ranging implications across biology and medicine. Each received a $3 million award. Mathematics The inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics honors five of the world's best mathematicians who have contributed to major advances in the field. --Simon Donaldson, Stony Brook University and Imperial College London, for the new revolutionary invariants of four-dimensional manifolds and for the study of the relation between stability in algebraic geometry and in global differential geometry, both for bundles and for Fano varieties. --Maxim Kontsevich, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, for work making a deep impact in a vast variety of mathematical disciplines, including algebraic geometry, deformation theory, symplectic topology, homological algebra and dynamical systems. --Jacob Lurie, Harvard University, for his work on the foundations of higher category theory and derived algebraic geometry; for the classification of fully extended topological quantum field theories; and for providing a moduli-theoretic interpretation of elliptic cohomology. --Terence Tao, University of California, Los Angeles, for numerous breakthrough contributions to harmonic analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations and analytic number theory. --Richard Taylor, Institute for Advanced Study, for numerous breakthrough results in the theory of automorphic forms, including the Taniyama-Weil conjecture, the local Langlands conjecture for general linear groups and the Sato-Tate conjecture. Fundamental Physics --Saul Perlmutter, University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and members of the Supernova Cosmology Project; Brian P. Schmidt, Australian National University, Adam Riess, Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, and members of the High-Z Supernova Team. The citation: For the most unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. Supernova Cosmology Project Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Greg Aldering, Brian J. Boyle, Patricia G. Castro, Warrick J. Couch, Susana Deustua, Richard S. Ellis, Sebastien Fabbro, Alexei V. Filippenko, Andrew S. Fruchter, Ariel Goobar, Donald E. Groom, Isobel M. Hook, Mike Irwin, Alex G. Kim, Matthew Y. Kim, Robert A. Knop, Julia C. Lee, Chris Lidman, Thomas Matheson, Richard G. McMahon, Richard Muller, Heidi J. M. Newberg, Peter Nugent, Nelson J. Nunes, Reynald Pain, Nino Panagia, Carl R. Pennypacker, Robert Quimby, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Bradley E. Schaefer and Nicholas Walton. High-Z Supernova Search Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Peter Challis, Alejandro Clocchiatti, Alan Diercks, Alexei V. Filippenko, Peter M. Garnavich, Ron L. Gilliland, Craig J. Hogan, Saurabh Jha, Robert P. Kirshner, Bruno Leibundgut, Mark M. Phillips, David Reiss, R. Chris Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Christopher Stubbs, Nicholas B. Suntzeff and John Tonry. New Horizons in Physics Prizes --Sean Hartnoll, Stanford University, for applying holographic methods to obtain remarkable new insights into strongly interacting quantum matter. --Philip C. Schuster and Natalia Toro, Perimeter Institute, for pioneering the "simplified models" framework for new physics searches at the Large Hadron Collider, as well as spearheading new experimental searches for dark sectors using high-intensity electron beams. --Horacio Casini and Marina Huerta, CONICET and Instituto Balseiro, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo; Shinsei Ryu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Tadashi Takayanagi, Kyoto University, for fundamental ideas about entropy in quantum field theory and quantum gravity.
For more information on the Breakthrough Prizes, go here. Photo of Breakthrough Prize event by Getty Images, used by permission.