The Milner Foundation announced the Fundamental Physics Prize today. This is a US$3 million prize. It is almost 3 times bigger than the Nobel Prize in terms of money. Monetary value of Nobel Prize is US$1.1 million. The Nobel Prize is typically shared by 3 laureates.
In its inaugural year (2012) the Milner Foundation awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize to 9 physicists. They each received US$3 million. The total monetary award this year was 27 million dollars.
It is expected that a single Fundamental Physics Prize will be given each year. All 9 of the inaugural winners agreed to serve on the selection committee to determine the future winners. The initial winners were selected by the founder Yuri Milner. All future winners will be invited to serve on the selection committee.
The prizes are given annually by the Milner Foundation for accomplishments in fundamental physics broadly defined, including advances in closely related fields with deep connections to physics.
This year all winners were theoretical physicists. In the past I was an experimental physicist and know about the tension between the theorists and the experimentalists. But, it should be noted that the 2012 laureates deeply deserve this prize.
2012 Inaugural Laureates
Nima Arkani-Hamed — For original approaches to outstanding problems in particle physics, including the proposal of large extra dimensions, new theories for the Higgs boson, novel realizations of supersymmetry, theories for dark matter, and the exploration of new mathematical structures in gauge theory scattering amplitudes.
Alan Guth — For the invention of inflationary cosmology, and for his contributions to the theory for the generation of cosmological density fluctuations arising from quantum fluctuations in the early universe, and for his ongoing work on the problem of defining probabilities in eternally inflating spacetimes.
Alexei Kitaev — For the theoretical idea of implementing robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes.
Maxim Konstevich — For numerous contributions which have taken the fruitful interaction between modern theoretical physics and mathematics to new heights, including the development of homological mirror symmetry, and the study of wall-crossing phenomena.
Andrei Linde — For the 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.
Juan Maldacena — For the gauge/gravity duality, relating gravitational physics in a spacetime and quantum field theory on the boundary of the spacetime. This correspondence demonstrates that black holes and quantum mechanics are compatible, resolving the black hole information paradox. It also provides a useful tool for the study of strongly coupled quantum systems, giving insights into a range of problems from high temperature nuclear matter to high temperature superconductors.
Nathan Seiberg — For major contributions to our understanding of quantum field theory and string theory. His exact analysis of supersymmetric quantum field theories led to new and deep insights about their dynamics, with fundamental applications in physics and mathematics.
Ashoke Sen — For uncovering striking evidence of strong-weak duality in certain supersymmetric string theories and gauge theories, opening the path to the realization that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory.
Edward Witten — For contributions to physics spanning topics such as new 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.