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

by Nancy Atkinson on December 11, 2012

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

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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