Five scientists, one mathematician, and a group of seven physicists walked off a stage with $US21 million at the Breakthrough Prize awards on Sunday night.
Created in 2012 by the founders of Silicon Valley tech giants — plus wealthy Chinese and Russian entrepreneurs — the Breakthrough Prizes honour “achievements in science and maths so we can encourage more pioneering research and celebrate scientists as the heroes they truly are,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and a Breakthrough prize board member, in a statement.
At about $US3 million per award, each Breakthrough Prize is worth roughly three times the cash value of a single Nobel Prize, which is valued at $US925,000 today. Last year the prizes awarded 12 researchers $US33 million (we aren’t sure what drove the 50% cut this year, but we’ve asked).
This year, eight early-track scientists also split $US500,000 in prize money, and a high schooler won $US400,000 for himself, his teacher, and his school.
Keep scrolling to see the biggest 2016 Breakthrough Prize winners and what earned them their awards.
Each year since 2012, co-founders of Google and Facebook -- plus wealthy Chinese and Russian entrepreneurs -- have selected a handful of researchers to give a Breakthrough Award.
The value for each life sciences, mathematics, and fundamental physics award is $3 million -- roughly three times more than a Nobel Prize.
Seth MacFarlane hosted the televised ceremony this year, which aired on the National Geographic Channel.
Edward Boyden of MIT won $3 million for his work on optogenetics, 'the programming of neurons ... so that their electrical activity can be controlled by light.'
Karl Deisseroth (at right), of Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, also won $3 million for similar work in optogenetics.
John Hardy of the University College London won $3 million 'for discovering mutations ... that cause early onset Alzheimer's disease ... and (for) inspiring new strategies for disease prevention.'
Helen Hobbs of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute won $3 million for finding genes that control fat and cholesterol, 'inspiring new approaches to the prevention of cardiovascular and liver disease.'
Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute won $3 million for decoding and reconstructing ancient human and Neanderthal genomes, 'thereby illuminating the origins of modern humans, our relationships to extinct relatives such as Neanderthals, and the evolution of human populations and traits.'
Another $3 million prize was split among seven physicists, representing a total 1,377 researchers, 'for the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics.'
Source: Breakthrough Prize press release
Ian Agol of the University of California at Berkeley and the Institute for Advanced Study, won the sole $3 million mathematics prize for 'spectacular contributions to low dimensional topology and geometric group theory,' a relatively new field in maths.
And for the first time ever, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge awarded Ryan Chester of North Royalton High School, Ohio, $400,000 for his science video (below): 'Some ways to understand the special theory of relativity, and what it means about time.'
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