Stephen Hawking and CERN LHC Team Each Win $3 Million Prize

by Nancy Atkinson on December 11, 2012

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Stephen Hawking visited the Large Hadron Collider’s underground tunnel at Europe’s CERN particle physics research center in 2006. Hawking and seven CERN researchers receiving multimillion-dollar prizes from the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation. Image credit: CERN

Two $3,000,000 special physics prizes have been awarded to Stephen Hawking and to seven scientists who led the effort to discover a Higgs-like particle at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, backed by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced the awards today, saying that Hawking is honored for his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes “and his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe,” and that the prize money for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is being shared among a scientist who administered the building of the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider and six physicists who directed two teams of 3,000 scientists each.

The $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize is awarded annually by the nonprofit Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation to recognize “transformative advances in the field.” The $3 million prize may also be given at any time outside the formal nomination process “in exceptional cases,” according to the Foundation. When the Foundation’s prize intentions were announced in July of this year, Milner said, “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 Foundation said the seven were being honored “for their leadership role in the scientific endeavor that led to the discovery of the new Higgs-like particle by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” They will share the $3 million prize equally.

The laureates include Lyn Evans, a Welsh scientist who serves as the LHC’s project leader; Peter Jenni amd Fabiola Gianotti of the LHC’s ATLAS collaboration; and Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli and Joe Incandela of the CMS collaboration.

“It is a great honour for the LHC’s achievement to be recognised in this way,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer in a statement. “This prize recognizes the work of everyone who has contributed to the project over many years. The Fundamental Physics Prize underlines the value of fundamental physics to society, and I am delighted that the Foundation has chosen to hold its first award ceremony at CERN.”

“I am very much pleased with the decisions of the Selection Committee,” commented Yuri Milner. “I hope that the prizes will bring further recognition to some of the most brilliant minds in the world and the great accomplishments they have produced.”

“Choosing this year’s recipients from such a large pool of spectacular nominations was a very difficult task,” said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a member of the Selection Committee. “The selected physicists have done transformative work spanning a wide range of areas in fundamental physics. I especially look forward to future breakthroughs from the first recipients of the New Horizons in Physics Prize.”

The laureates of 2013 New Horizons in Physics Prize are:

Niklas Beisert for the development of powerful exact methods to describe a quantum gauge theory and its associated string theory;

Davide Gaiotto for far-reaching new insights about duality, gauge theory, and geometry, and especially for his work linking theories in different dimensions in most unexpected ways;

Zohar Komargodski for his work on the dynamics of four-dimensional field theories. In particular, his proof of the “a-theorem” has solved a long-standing problem, leading to deep new insights.

Each of the laureates will receive $100,000.

Sources: Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, IOP, CERN

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Gozlemci December 11, 2012 at 6:23 PM

Congratulations to Hawking and CERN Team…

dangerdad December 11, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Last I checked, Hawking radiation wasn’t discovered. Any prizes yet for String Theory or MOND?

Torbjörn Larsson December 11, 2012 at 11:44 PM

I think you are misunderstanding this.

Hawking radiation is a consequence of the Unruh effect and the equivalence principle on black holes horizons, and the Unruh effect is in turn a consequence of relativity in a vacuum. So Hawking gets recognition for a prediction akin to black holes in the first place, extracting what is predictable from known physics in a semiclassical approximation.

The other ideas you mention is different. MOND is rejected by data in, say, cluster collisions. And string theory is new physics, so is on a less certain footing than GR+QM.

dangerdad December 11, 2012 at 11:52 PM

Until a prediction has been observed, it’s not a discovery. I’m unaware of any verification of Unruh or Hawking radiation (whereas we *have* verified the Casimir effect). Neat ideas don’t count as discoveries.

lcrowell December 12, 2012 at 1:39 PM

I received an honorable recognition by the Gravity Research Foundation for a paper I published back in 2006 for a possible way to measure the Unruh effect. The experiment would be difficult to perform, and so far nobody has attempted it, much to my ongoing chagrin. The Unruh effect is similar to Hawking radiation, where the black hole is replaced with the Rindler wedge and split horizon observed on an accelerated reference frame. The holographic principle for black holes and the complementarity principle of black holes was derived by Leonard Susskind for a stationary accelerated observer close to a black hole event horizon. The black hole metric approximates the Rindler wedge spacetime. So this work is on the border of experimental verification.

These prizes are not constrained by the requirement of experimental verification of theoretical research in the way the Nobel Prizes are. These prizes are then weighted heavily in favor of theory work, though I am glad to see the LHC team get this for this years work and announcement of the Higgs particle find.

LC

dangerdad December 12, 2012 at 3:55 PM

That clarifies what the prize is for. The word “discovery” is of course the wrong word entirely. So the prize isn’t for discoveries (which is fine–someone can set up a prize for anything).

Ironically I’ve said for years that the greatest impact to science that confirmation of String Theory would have is to actually come up with and perform an experiment that would confirm it.

lcrowell December 12, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Nima Arkani-Hamed received a prize for this and he is one of the forwards researchers on string theory. MOND is a phenomenological construction that is meant to replace the dark matter hypothesis. Observational work has pretty much falsified the conjecture.

LC

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE December 11, 2012 at 7:15 PM

“I am very much pleased with the decisions of the Selection Committee,” commented Yuri Milner.

[Rant]
And I am very pleased that at least one sensible Russian billionaire is rewarding scientific endeavours instead of buying some stupid football (soccer) club in London, hiring/sacking ten managers in less than ten years since owning the bloody club, and paying ridiculously high wages to its narcissistic players!
[/Rant]

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