The Moscow-based Milner Foundation has announced the inaugural recipients of the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize.
Awarded through the newly launched Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, the annual prize recognizes transformative achievements in the field and, in terms of the accompanying cash award, is three times larger than the Nobel Prize. This year's winners are Nima Arkani-Hamed, Alan Guth, Alexei Kitaev, Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Linde, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Ashoke Sen, and Edward Witten. In addition to receiving $3 million each, the winning physicists will present public lectures on subjects ranging from the basics of modern physics to cutting-edge research.
Selected by Milner Foundation founder Yuri Milner, a Russian-born theoretical physicist and Internet entrepreneur, the inaugural laureates will serve on the committee that selects future recipients of both the Fundamental Physics Prize and the New Horizons in Physics Prize, which will be awarded to promising young researchers in the field and is accompanied by a $100,000 cash award. In future years, the prizes are likely to be limited to one scientist per category.
Unlike the Nobel Prize in physics, the Fundamental Physics Prize can be awarded to a theorist whose conclusions are yet to be confirmed by experiment. Such a prize is important for fostering advances in theoretical science, said Stanford University physics professor Andrei Linde, who was recognized for his role in the development of inflationary cosmology. "We now have the ability to say the best people, who changed the way we think about our world, that they are doing something fantastic," added Linde. "Some of them might not get wide official recognition until there is experimental proof, which may come ten, twenty, or fifty years from now. But if we all agree that what they're doing is great, that it transforms the nature of science in a wonderful way, then let's do something good for them right away."