Aug 032012

To jump start things, in he stumped up $27m for nine prizes.

IN THE late 1980s, while working on a PhD thesis in the fiendishly complicated maths of quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear force, Yuri Milner decided he wasn’t quite smart enough to do his Nobel-prize-winning mentors at Moscow’s Lebedev Institute proud. Nearly three decades and a billion dollars later, the Russian internet entrepreneur and an early investor in Facebook, among other start-ups, wants to honour those who are.

On July 31 Mr Milner, by no means a dullard, announced that he will dish out a whopping $3m each year to the most influential thinker in fundamental physics, selected by past laureates. To jump start things, in he stumped up $27m for nine prizes. He picked the inaugural recipients himself after conferring with doyens in different quarters of high theory.

Some of the winners, like Edward Witten, widely regarded as one of the most accomplished living theorists, or Alan Guth, the father of the theory of cosmic inflation, which postulates that shortly after the Big Bang the universe underwent a phase of rapid expansion, are household names—at least in households whose members have a passing interest in physics. Others are less well known outside their specialisms, which range from cosmology to quantum computing, but Mr Milner assures your correspondent they are equally deserving.

In February or March the nine will name next year’s winner—or winners, for the prize can be shared by any number of individuals. (A smaller $100,000 prize will also go to a promising young researcher.) This distinguishes it from the Nobel, which can be awarded to no more than three people, often leading to controversies. There has, for instance, been much speculation about which two of the four living fathers of Higgs boson who are not Peter Higgs will share the prize almost certain to follow the discovery last month of what looks like the elusive particle.

Read more . . .

via The Economist

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