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Internet Billionaire Ponies Up More Cash for Physics Prizes

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Tech investor Yuri Milner, who shook the physics world two months ago by dishing out $27 million to the nine inaugural awardees of his Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation’s namesake award, has just sweetened the pot.

Milner’s organization today announced the addition of a new award, the Physics Frontiers Prize, which will place three individuals in the running for the $3-million Fundamental Physics Prize and bestow $300,000 on those who do not win it. This latest program, plus the $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prize for young researchers, makes three big-money awards that the Milner Foundation promises to bestow.

The prizes are meant to recognize major achievements in fundamental physics—primarily theoretical physics, if the first batch of Fundamental Physics Prize laureates is any indication—with a preference for recent advances.

In a prepared statement, the organization said that the first crop of three Physics Frontiers Prize laureates would be announced by the end of the year. They will automatically become nominees for the multimillion-dollar Fundamental Physics Prize, which will be awarded in the first three months of 2013. Milner’s foundation intends to announce up to three winners of the first New Horizons in Physics Prize by December as well.

The graphic below shows how Milner’s cash awards (starred) compare with the other big-money accolades in the field. Money isn’t everything—and no award may ever match the prestige attached to a Nobel Prize—but dollar figures at least allow a quantitative means of comparing different prizes.

Prizes for Nobel, Milner prizes

About the Author: John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter @jmtsn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. And Then What? 8:26 pm 10/1/2012

    It would be comforting to believe that every single Physicist was driven to his or her optimum motivational level from simply “wanting to know” but, since we do not live in Utopia, I would suspect that the desire for financial reward made provide that extra little bit of incentive needed to take the necessary steps to pull it altogether. And who is to say that is a bad thing. As a matter of fact who cares if it is deemed, by some, to be a bad thing if the end result is that we arrive at a point where we finally do have the answers that bring all of our assumptions into focus?
    Money seems to be the ideal lubricant that gets everything else moving so why not Scientific knowledge. I am just thankful that there is someone out there with the motivation and the money to kick-start the process. Thank you sir for putting some of your money up for something I and many others believe is worthwhile rather than wasting it all on Jet planes and Yachts with gold plated toilets. If your gifts achieve positive results I hope you get some of the recognition you deserve.

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  2. 2. Rufus 5:17 pm 10/5/2012

    I advocate that Einstein was wrong,does anybody care what I show. I show that gravity is a coulomb force. Does this qualify?

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  3. 3. Truthseeker 10:52 am 10/6/2012

    @Rufus, it certainly would if you could prove it in a laboratory. Unfortunately, to do that you would need to be able to demonstrate the existence of oppositely polarized matter such that you could demonstrate negative gravity.

    Gravity, like coulomb forces, exhibits inverse square law behavior. To be a coulomb force, gravity would also need to exhibit the same sort of repulsion by like polarities as either electrostatic or magnetic fields. Unfortunately, so far as I know, no one has to date demonstrated any sort of negative gravity.

    I, for one look forward to reading of your demonstration of negative gravity. It would be a wonderful thing for our species in terms of transportation and doubtless other areas.


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  4. 4. Cosmoknot 12:13 am 10/9/2012

    There’s no monetary prize for proving Einstein wrong.

    If there were, Julian Barbour would get it.

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  5. 5. vernauthor 10:35 am 10/9/2012

    Any incentive beyond our basic curiosity to explore and learn should be welcomed. The more we learn, the less we can deny.

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