The “Academy Awards” That Give Out $36 Million And Hope To Turn Scientists Into Celebrities
Teodora Zareva is an entrepreneur, writer, board games geek and a curious person at large. Her professional path has taken her from filmmaking and photography to writing, TEDx organizing, teaching, and social entrepreneurship. She has lived and worked in the U.S. and Bulgaria and is currently doing her MBA at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Her biggest passion lies at the intersection of media and youth development. She is the co-founder of WishBOX Foundation, a Bulgarian NGO that helps high school students with their professional orientation by organizing events, courses, summer camps and developing digital media resources.
While presenting one of the awards at the second edition of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Kate Beckinsale joked: “At Hollywood awards shows, when we sit back at the table, we always say, ‘Well, it’s not like we’re curing cancer.’ So, it’s reassuring to be in a room of people who can sit down and say, ‘I, actually, am curing cancer.’
The ceremony that took place on November 9th at NASA’s Hangar One in Silicon Valley, looked almost as glamorous as the Academy Awards, but instead of actors and directors, the place was filled with hard-core scientists. They were there to celebrate twelve of their colleagues who received the Breakthrough Prize trophy and a financial award of $3 million each (almost twice the value of the Nobel Prize) for their groundbreaking work in the areas of Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics.
The award was conceived by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, who in 2012 established the Fundamental Physics Prize and personally chose nine scientists to receive $3 million each – the biggest sum awarded for academic achievement in the world. He was then joined by Marc Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan of Facebook, Sergey Brin of Google, and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe, to establish and fund the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in order to award and celebrate scientists for their pioneering research, that often remains outside of the spotlight and sometimes takes decades to complete. One of the main goals of the award and the ceremony is to make the general public excited about science by turning scientists into celebrities young people would want to emulate.
“We know how to celebrate physical achievement and entertainers, but I think it’s about time for us to learn how to celebrate scientists and science . . . for at least one hour a year,” said Milner for Vanity Fair
Anne Wojcicki adds that, “These scientists should be household names and heroes in society.”
Amongst the achievements highlighted in the awards show were the unexpected discovery, by two independent teams, that the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing (Saul Perlmutter of the Supernova Cosmology Project and Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam Riess of the High-Z Supernova Team); a revolutionary development in the treatment for Parkinson’s disease, the award for which was emotionally presented by a young man who had successfully undergone the treatment (Alim Louis Benabid of Joseph Fourier University); and a technique for editing genomes that could allow the replacement of faulty genes in our DNA (Jennifer Doudna of University of California, Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentie of Umeå University)
One of the recipients in the Fundamental Physics category, Saul Perlmutter, told the Guardian that the most striking aspect of the Breakthrough Prizes was their emphasis on fundamental science.
“It was a way of reminding our larger society how much it depends on deep, foundational research that never looks like it is practical at the time, but somehow over and over again has completely transformed our society, leapfrogging over the incremental, applied research, for which the need is more obvious.”
Addressing criticism that the money spent on the awards may be better used elsewhere, Mark Zuckerberg commented in front of BusinessWeek:
“If I could snap my fingers and do one thing in science, I would get more funding for basic science. But the level of funding that needs to be done is not on the order of millions, like the cost of the Breakthrough Prizes. It’s billions to tens of billions. It’s really the type of thing that only governments can fund. I feel like the thing we can do is celebrate people doing great work and create more cultural momentum and awareness that this is an important thing in the world. So when the next economic crisis hits and people are talking about where to cut from the budget, science isn’t the thing.”
This year's recipients will form a committee that will select next year's laureates. The process will be completely transparent with everyone being able to nominate a scientist. After receiving the award, the laureates take part in lecture series in which they describe their research to the general public. Videos of these lectures can be watched here.
Here you can find the full list of the recipients of the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in Fundamental Physics and Life Sciences as well as the five laureates in Mathematics.
Photo: Breakthrough Prize
The stories we tell define history. So who gets the mic in America?
- History is written by lions. But it's also recorded by lambs.
- In order to understand American history, we need to look at the events of the past as more prismatic than the narrative given to us in high school textbooks.
- Including different voices can paint a more full and vibrant portrait of America. Which is why more walks of American life can and should be storytellers.
A glass of juice has as much sugar, ounce for ounce, as a full-calorie soda. And those vitamins do almost nothing.
Quick: think back to childhood (if you've reached the scary clown you've gone too far). What did your parents or guardians give you to keep you quiet? If you're anything like most parents, it was juice. But here's the thing: juice is bad for you.
The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.
- Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
- The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
- Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.