FPP: Fundamental Physics Prize
July 31, 2012 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Russian billionaire Milner's new physics prize is awarding nine scientists 3 million dollars each in its inaugural year. Aside from the size of the prize, it's different from the Nobel in physics in that it can be awarded to scientists whose ideas have not yet been verified by experiments. According to the Forbes article, the winners "can be groups of any size; scientists of any age; and there is no limit on how many prizes an individual can win." And soon the prize would be open to online nominations.

The nine winners are: Nima Arkani-Hamed, Alan Guth, Alexei Kitaev, Maxim Kontsevich, Andrei Linde, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Ashoke Sen, Edward Witten.
posted by of strange foe (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What are the tax implications of awards like this?


This is SO Awesome! especially from someone "who dropped out of graduate school in 1989 and later earned billions investing in Internet companies like Facebook and Groupon".
posted by porpoise at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2012

As usual in such matters, lots of good discussion going on at Not Even Wrong.
posted by escabeche at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

I nominate Karl Pilkington.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:11 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hmm -looking at the winners I see Guth, Linde and Witten (Oh and Maldacena, too), which seems like a solid line up of fairly recognizable contributors to physics. Of course, I guess this is a point that String Theorists most likely will never be able to win a Nobel due to the current untestable nature of it?

So - we hasn't inflation (Linde and Guth) already pretty much been confirmed?

I can see why there would be a fear of quacks and such, but at least the 4 names I recognize, I thought were pretty respected, and I'd hope that the rest are also up there in terms of tightness of their work.
posted by symbioid at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2012

The $3 million has already appeared in Dr. Guth’s bank account, one that had had a balance of $200. "The bank charged a $12 wire transfer fee, but that was easily affordable."

That kind of charming little detail could only have come from someone who, until recently, had only $200 in the bank account.
posted by vidur at 9:19 PM on July 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Brilliant. Now if only we could apply this to the Federal appropriations process. It's not like Digg is being put to any kind of good use right now as it is...
posted by anewnadir at 9:20 PM on July 31, 2012

Finally, Gene Ray becomes financially secure.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

scientists whose ideas have not yet been verified by experiments.

...and anigbrowl stole my joke.
posted by LionIndex at 9:42 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Steven Colbert expected to win in 2013.
posted by maryr at 9:54 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe Nobel started a trend for later-life regrets. I like Google's search results for "Yuri Milner" & "Mafia":
  • Digital Sky Technologies (DST): Is DST funded by the Russian mafia?
  • blah
  • blah
  • How does one start an evil syndicate; is there a "Mafia for Dummies?"
  • blah
posted by meehawl at 10:48 PM on July 31, 2012

Steven Colbert expected to win in 2013.

My (purely notional) money is on Christopher Poole.
posted by vidur at 10:49 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm curious about this from Not Even Wrong:

String theory may not be doing so well in the popular press or among physicists, but at least a fabulously wealthy Russian investor is a fan.

Is string theory no longer considered the best candidate for a ToE? What are the other options/the current near-consensus?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:13 PM on July 31, 2012

(I mean string theory/M-theory).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:14 PM on July 31, 2012

I wonder whether this will go some way to reversing the trend of the brightest minds of our time going into writing stock-market Core Wars bots and similar things that contribute nothing to the advancement of science or the improvement of the human condition.
posted by acb at 3:44 AM on August 1, 2012

This should please the three totally separate non-scientists I've met who each have come up with a way to generate perpetual energy from magnets.
posted by meadowlark lime at 4:44 AM on August 1, 2012

Is string theory no longer considered the best candidate for a ToE?

Steven Weinberg says:

"Iwas hoping that with string theory things would fall into place much more rapidly than they have, but it's been rather disappointing. I'm not one of those people who bad-mouth string theory. I still think it's the best effort we've made to step beyond what we already know, but it hasn't worked out the way we were expecting it would."

Quoted in "Why Does the World Exist?" - Jim Holt
posted by Segundus at 6:00 AM on August 1, 2012

String theory is still basically the only game in town for toe, afaik. There are other ideas bouncing around like loop quantum gravity, but they don't seem to get much respect. It has also produced some genuinely useful and possibly testable concepts like black hole complementarity and the holographic universe theory.
posted by empath at 3:10 PM on August 1, 2012

And, btw, it's possible to produce interesting and valuable results in both theoretical physics and math without producing anything testable or verifiable. You can create toy worlds and model universes tha may have no relation to the real world and don't necessarily have to. That's what maldecena did, and I think that was worth the 3 million, personally.
posted by empath at 3:14 PM on August 1, 2012

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