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Cambs prof scoops $3m Fundamental Physics prize

For working on 'unification of the fundamental physical forces of the UNIVERSE'

Cosmic strings of string theory

Stephen Hawking's successor at Cambridge University, Michael Green, and his fellow theorist John Schwarz at Caltech, have won the second Fundamental Physics Prize.

String theory pioneers Green, who became Lucasian professor of mathematics when Hawking stepped down in 2009, and Schwarz won the $3m prize for their work on quantum gravity and the unification of the fundamental physical forces of the universe.

The prize, awarded by Russian investor Yuri Milner and a host of tech sector luminaries, was awarded at a glamorous ceremony on Thursday hosted by actor Kevin Spacey, along with six of the new Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences, given for research aimed at curing difficult diseases and extending human life.

Milner, who describes himself as a "failed physicist", made his money from investments in firms like Facebook and Twitter and kicked off the lucrative prizes with the Fundamental Physics one last year. He has since convinced tech entrepreneur backers like Mark Zuckerberg, Sergei Brin and Jack Ma to support his stated aim of seeing scientists celebrated and getting the public excited about their achievements.

At the ceremony, organised with the help of Vanity Fair and attended by a bunch of celebs including Glenn Close and Michael C Hall, Milner and Zuckerberg said they would be adding another category to their science prizes with a Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, also worth $3m.

"Einstein said, 'Pure mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas'. It is in this spirit that Mark and myself are announcing a new Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics," Milner said. "The work that the Prize recognises could be the foundation for genetic engineering, quantum computing or artificial intelligence; but above all, for human knowledge itself." ®

The full list of 2014 prize winners are:

Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics:

  • Michael B. Green, University of Cambridge, and John H. Schwarz, California Institute of Technology,for opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces.

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences:

  • James Allison, MD Anderson Cancer Centre for the discovery of T cell checkpoint blockade as effective cancer therapy.

  • Mahlon DeLong, Emory University for defining the interlocking circuits in the brain that malfunction in Parkinson's disease. This scientific foundation underlies the circuit-based treatment of Parkinson's disease by deep brain stimulation.

  • Michael Hall, University of Basel for the discovery of Target of Rapamycin (TOR) and its role in cell growth control.

  • Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for discoveries leading to the development of controlled drug-release systems and new biomaterials.

  • Richard Lifton, Yale University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the discovery of genes and biochemical mechanisms that cause hypertension.

  • Alexander Varshavsky, California Institute of Technology for discovering critical molecular determinants and biological functions of intracellular protein degradation.

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