Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

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The Fundamental Physics Prize
Awarded for Transformative advances in fundamental physics
Country International
Presented by Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation
First awarded 2012
Official website Official Website

The Fundamental Physics Prize is awarded by the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to awarding physicists involved in fundamental research which was founded in July 2012 by Russian physicist and internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner.[1]

As of July 2012, this prize is the most lucrative academic prize in the world[2] and is more than twice as big as the amount given to the Nobel Prize awardees.[3][4] This prize is also dubbed by the media as the 'XXI Century Nobel'.[5]

Nominations and awards money[edit]

As of July 2012, anyone can nominate a candidate through the FPP website.[1] As of July 2012, each award is worth $3 million. The monetary value exceeds that of the prestigious Nobel Prize, which in 2012 stood at slightly more than $1.2 million.[3][5] Physics Frontiers Prize laureates (those on the shortlist Fundamental Physics Prize) who do not go on to be awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize will each receive (as of 2013) $300,000 and will automatically be re-nominated for the Fundamental Physics Prize each year for the next 5 years.[1]

New Horizons in Physics Prize[edit]

The New Horizons for Physics Prize, awarded to promising junior researchers, carries an award of $100,000.[6]

The winners of the 2013 prize are Niklas Beisert of ETH Zurich, for the development of powerful exact methods to describe a quantum gauge theory and its associated string theory; Davide Gaiotto of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, 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 of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel for his work on the dynamics of four-dimensional field theories and in particular his proof (with Schwimmer) of the “a-theorem” which has solved a long-standing problem, leading to deep new insights.[7]

The winners of the 2014 prize are Freddy Cachazo of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, for uncovering numerous structures underlying scattering amplitudes in gauge theories and gravity; Shiraz Minwalla of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, for his pioneering contributions to the study of string theory and quantum field theory; and in particular his work on the connection between the equations of fluid dynamics and Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity; Slava Rychkov of the Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University, currently at CERN, for developing new techniques in conformal field theory, reviving the conformal bootstrap program for constraining the spectrum of operators and the structure constants in 3D and 4D CFT’s.

The winners of the 2015 New Horizons in Physics Prizes are Sean Hartnoll of Stanford University, for applying holographic methods to obtain remarkable new insights into strongly interacting quantum matter; Philip C. Schuster and Natalia Toro of Perimeter Institute, for pioneering the “simplified models” framework for new physics searches at the Large Hadron Collider, as well as spearheading new experimental searches for dark sectors using high-intensity electron beams; Horacio Casini and Marina Huerta of CONICET and Instituto Balseiro, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo; Shinsei Ryu of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Tadashi Takayanagi of Kyoto University for fundamental ideas about entropy in quantum field theory and quantum gravity.[citation needed]

The winners of 2016 New Horizons in Physics Prizes are B. Andrei Bernevig, Liang Fu, Xiao-Liang Qi; Raphael Flauger, Leonardo Senatore; and Yuji Tachikawa.

FPP Laureates[edit]

The following is a listing of the laureates, by year.

Year of award Fundamental Physics
Prize Laureates[1]
Awarded for[1] Alma mater Institutional affiliation when prize awarded[1]
2012 Nima Arkani-Hamed Original approaches to outstanding problems in particle physics University of Toronto,
University of California, Berkeley
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Alan Guth Invention of inflationary cosmology, and for contributions to the theory for the generation of cosmological density fluctuations arising from quantum fluctuations Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Alexei Kitaev For robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA Currently at KITP and UCSB, Santa Barbara
Maxim Kontsevich Numerous contributions including development of homological mirror symmetry, and the study of wall-crossing phenomena. University of Bonn
Moscow State University
Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, Bures-sur-Yvette
Andrei Linde[8] For development of inflationary cosmology, including the theory of new inflation, eternal chaotic inflation and the theory of inflationary multiverse, and for contributing to the development of vacuum stabilization mechanisms in string theory. Moscow State University Stanford University, Stanford
Juan Maldacena Contributions to gauge/gravity duality, relating gravitational physics in a spacetime and quantum field theory on the boundary of the spacetime Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Instituto Balseiro, Princeton University Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Nathan Seiberg Contributions to our understanding of quantum field theory and string theory. Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel-Aviv University Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Ashoke Sen Opening the path to the realization that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory. Presidency College, Kolkata
University of Calcutta
IIT Kanpur
Stony Brook University
Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
Edward Witten For applications of topology to physics, non-perturbative duality symmetries, models of particle physics derived from string theory, dark matter detection, and the twistor-string approach to particle scattering amplitudes, as well as numerous applications of quantum field theory to mathematics. Brandeis University (B.A.) University of Wisconsin, Madison
Princeton University (PhD)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
2013 (special) Stephen Hawking For his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes, and his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe.[9]
Peter Jenni, Fabiola Gianotti (ATLAS), Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli, Joe Incandela (CMS) and Lyn Evans (LHC) For their leadership role in the scientific endeavour that led to the discovery of the new Higgs-like particle by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.[9]
2013 Alexander Polyakov For his many discoveries in field theory and string theory including the conformal bootstrap, magnetic monopoles, instantons, confinement/de-confinement, the quantization of strings in non-critical dimensions, gauge/string duality and many others. His ideas have dominated the scene in these fields during the past decades. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Princeton University, Princeton
2014 Michael Green and John Henry Schwarz For opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces. Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley and Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK California Institute of Technology and Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
2015 Saul Perlmutter and members of the Supernova Cosmology Project; Brian P. Schmidt, Adam Riess and members of the High-Z Supernova Team. For the most unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. Harvard, UC Berkeley (Perlmutter), University of Arizona, Harvard (Schmidt), and MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley (Riess) University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Australian National University;Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute
2016 Yifang Wang and Kam-Biu Luk and the Daya Bay Team For the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics. Nanjing University(Wang)

University of Hong Kong, Rutgers University (Luk)

Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of California, Berkeley
Atsuto Suzuki and the KamLAND Team Iwate Prefectural University, Japan
Koichiro Nishikawa and the K2K / T2K Team High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, Japan
Arthur B. McDonald and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Team Dalhousie University, California Institute of Technology Queen’s University, Canada
Takaaki Kajita and Yoichiro Suzuki and the Super-Kamiokande Team Saitama University, University of Tokyo (Kajita) Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, University of Tokyo, Japan
2016 (special) Ronald Drever, Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss For the observation of gravitational waves, opening new horizons in astronomy and physics.[10]
Сontributors who are authors of the paper Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger (Physical Review Letters, 11 February 2016) and contributors who also made important contributions to the success of LIGO.
2017 Joseph Polchinski,
Andrew Strominger,
Cumrun Vafa
For transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity. [11] University of California, Santa Barbara;
Harvard University;
Harvard University


Charles L. Kane holding the Fundamental Physics Prize trophy

The Fundamental Physics Prize trophy, a work of art created by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson,[12] is a silver sphere with a coiled vortex inside. The form is, in fact, a toroid, or doughnut shape, resulting from two sets of intertwining three-dimensional spirals. Found in nature, these spirals are seen in animal horns, nautilus shells, whirlpools, and even galaxies and black holes.[13]


The name of 2013 prize winner was unveiled at the culmination of a ceremony which took place on the evening of March 20, 2013 at the Geneva International Conference Centre.[14] The ceremony was hosted by Hollywood actor and science enthusiast Morgan Freeman.[15] The evening honored the 2013 laureates − 16 outstanding scientists including Stephen Hawking[16] and CERN scientists who led the decades-long effort to discover the Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider.[17] Sarah Brightman and Russian pianist Denis Matsuev performed live for the guests of the ceremony.


Some have expressed reservations about the award.[18]

What's not to like? Quite a lot, according to a handful of scientists […] You cannot buy class, as the old saying goes, and these upstart entrepreneurs cannot buy their prizes the prestige of the Nobels. The new awards are an exercise in self-promotion for those behind them, say scientists. They could distort the meritocracy of peer-review-led research. They could cement the status quo of peer-reviewed research. They do not fund peer-reviewed research. They perpetuate the myth of the lone genius.(...)
As much as some scientists may grumble about the new awards, the financial doping that they bring to research and the wisdom of the goals behind them, two things seem clear. First, most researchers would accept such a prize if they were offered one. Second, it is surely a good thing that the money and attention come to science rather than go elsewhere. It is fair to criticize and question the mechanism — that is the culture of research, after all — but it is the prize-givers’ money to do with as they please. It is wise to accept such gifts with gratitude and grace.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Fundamental Physics Prize - About". Fundamental Physics Prize. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Indian scientist Ashoke Sen bags top physics honour". timesofindia-economictimes. 
  3. ^ a b "9 Scientists Receive a New Physics Prize". The New York Times. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  4. ^ New Russian physics prize three times bigger than Nobel, The Voice of Russia
  5. ^ a b "Winners of life science prize revealed". Financial Times. 
  6. ^ "Fundamental Physics Prize News". 
  7. ^ "Israeli Wins Prestigious International Physics Prize". 
  8. ^ Archived from the original on March 19, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ a b "Fundamental Physics Prize - News". Fundamental Physics Prize. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Fundamental Physics Prize - News". Fundamental Physics Prize (2016). Retrieved 4 May 2016. 
  11. ^ Laureates 2017
  12. ^ Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ The Breakthrough Prize trophy.
  14. ^ Press Release
  15. ^ Archived from the original on July 27, 2013. Retrieved April 17, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ YouTube. 
  17. ^ Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Zeeya Merali (12 June 2013). "Science prizes: The new Nobels". Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Editorial (12 June 2013). "Young upstarts". Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  20. ^ $3 Million Prizes Will Go to Mathematicians, Too, The New York Times

External links[edit]