Yuri Milner, a technology entrepreneur who made a splash last July by giving $3 million prizes to nine theoretical physicists, has splashed again. He’s just announced two “special prizes,” both for another $3 million each: one to Stephen Hawking, and one split between a number of people who played important roles in this year’s Higgs discovery at the LHC. (None for me for writing a book about it, but I guess that’s to be expected.)
The original Fundamental Physics Prizes went to a very theoretical group of theorists: Ed Witten, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Alan Guth, Juan Maldacena, Alexei Kitaev, Ashoke Sen, Nathan Seiberg, Maxim Kontsevich, and Andrei Linde. Without question an extremely influential and deserving group. There were minor grumblings from some quarters that most of these folks hadn’t (yet) contributed ideas that have been verified by experiments, but my attitude is that if someone wants to give $27 million of their personal fortune to physics, I’m not going to quibble about the precise allocation.
Still, it’s great to see the LHC experimenters share in the recognition; I think most people would agree that theorists tend to gather a disproportionate part of the public acclaim. The $3 million for the LHC was split several ways: $1 million to Lyn Evans, who guided the construction of the accelerator; $1 million divided between Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli, and Joe Incandela, all spokespersons for CMS over the years; and $1 million divided between Peter Jenni and Fabiola Gianotti, who have been spokespersons for ATLAS. Congratulations to all the winners!