Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

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Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
Awarded forTransformative advances in fundamental physics
Presented byFundamental Physics Prize Foundation
First awarded2012
Website Official Website

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics [1] is awarded by the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to awarding physicists involved in fundamental research. The foundation was founded in July 2012 by Russian physicist and internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner. [2]

Breakthrough Prize Wikimedia disambiguation page

The Breakthrough Prize is a set of international awards bestowed in three categories by Breakthrough Prize Board in recognition of scientific advance. The awards are part of several "Breakthrough" initiatives founded and funded by Yuri Milner, along with Breakthrough Initiatives and Breakthrough Junior Challenge.

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

Yuri Milner Investor

Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner is an Israeli-Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist. Milner is Russia's most influential tech investor as the founder of investment firms Digital Sky Technologies (DST) now called Group and DST Global. Through DST Global, Milner is an investor in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Zocdoc, Groupon,, Xiaomi, OlaCabs, Alibaba, Airbnb, WhatsApp, Nubank, Wish and many others.


As of September 2018, this prize is the most lucrative academic prize in the world [3] and is more than twice the amount given to the Nobel Prize awardees. [4] [5] This prize is also dubbed by the media as the "XXI Century Nobel". [6]

Nobel Prize set of annual international awards, primarily 5 established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.

Nominations and awards money

As of September 2018, anyone can nominate a candidate through the FPP website. [2] As of September 2018, each award is worth $3 million. The monetary value exceeds that of the prestigious Nobel Prize, which in 2012 stood at slightly more than $1.2 million. [4] [6]

Physics Frontiers Prize laureates (those on the shortlist for the Fundamental Physics Prize) who do not go on to be awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize each receive (as of 2013) $300,000 and are automatically re-nominated for the Fundamental Physics Prize each year for the next 5 years. [2]

Difference between Breakthrough Prize and Special Breakthrough Prize

"Unlike the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Special Prize is not limited to recent discoveries." As of 2018 the Special Prize, which "can be awarded at any time in recognition of an extraordinary scientific achievement", has been awarded on 4 occasions (twice in 2013, and once in 2016 and 2018). The monetary value of the award is also $3 million. [7]

New Horizons in Physics Prize

The New Horizons in Physics Prize, awarded to promising junior researchers, carries an award of $100,000. [8]

The winners of 2015 New Horizons in Physics Prize are Sean Hartnoll of Stanford University, for applying holographic methods to obtain remarkable new insights into strongly interacting quantum matter; Philip C. Schuster and Natalia Toro of Perimeter Institute, for pioneering the “simplified models” framework for new physics searches at the Large Hadron Collider, as well as spearheading new experimental searches for dark sectors using high-intensity electron beams; Horacio Casini and Marina Huerta of CONICET and Instituto Balseiro, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo; Shinsei Ryu of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Tadashi Takayanagi of Kyoto University for fundamental ideas about entropy in quantum field theory and quantum gravity.[ citation needed ]

The winners of 2016 New Horizons in Physics Prize are B. Andrei Bernevig, Liang Fu, Xiao-Liang Qi; Raphael Flauger, Leonardo Senatore; and Yuji Tachikawa.

The winners of 2017 New Horizons in Physics Prize are Asimina Arvanitaki, Peter W. Graham, and Surjeet Rajendran; Simone Giombi and Xi Yin; and Frans Pretorius.

The winners of 2018 New Horizons in Physics Prize are Christopher Hirata, Douglas Stanford, and Andrea Young.

The winners of 2019 New Horizons in Physics Prize are Brian Metzger; Rana Adhikari, Lisa Barsotti and Matthew Evans; and Daniel Harlow, Daniel L. Jafferis and Aron Wall.

Year of awardNew Horizons in Physics
Prize laureates
Awarded forAlma materInstitutional affiliation when prize awarded
2013Niklas BeisertDevelopment of powerful exact methods to describe a quantum gauge theory and its associated string theory ETH Zurich
Davide GaiottoFar-reaching new insights about duality, gauge theory, and geometry, and specially for his work linking theories in different dimensions in most unexpected ways Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Zohar Komargodski [9] Dynamics of four-dimensional field theories and in particular his proof (with Schwimmer) of the “a-theorem” which has solved a long-standing problem Weizmann Institute of Science
2014 Freddy Cachazo Uncovering numerous structures underlying scattering amplitudes in gauge theories and gravity Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Shiraz Minwalla Pioneering contributions to the study of string theory and quantum field theory; and in particular his work on the connection between the equations of fluid dynamics and Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Slava Rychkov Developing new techniques in conformal field theory, reviving the conformal bootstrap program for constraining the spectrum of operators and the structure constants in 3D and 4D CFT’s Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University, (currently at IHÉS)

FPP Laureates

The following is a listing of the laureates, by year (including Special Prize winners).

Year of awardFundamental Physics
Prize laureates [2]
Awarded for [2] Alma materInstitutional affiliation when prize awarded [2]
2012 Nima Arkani-Hamed Original approaches to outstanding problems in particle physics University of Toronto,
University of California, Berkeley
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Alan Guth Invention of inflationary cosmology, and for contributions to the theory for the generation of cosmological density fluctuations arising from quantum fluctuations Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Alexei Kitaev For robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes; topological quantum computing. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA Currently at KITP and UCSB, Santa Barbara
Maxim Kontsevich Numerous contributions including development of homological mirror symmetry, and the study of wall-crossing phenomena. University of Bonn
Moscow State University
Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, Bures-sur-Yvette
Andrei Linde [10] For 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. Moscow State University Stanford University, Stanford
Juan Maldacena Contributions to gauge/gravity duality, relating gravitational physics in a spacetime and quantum field theory on the boundary of the spacetime Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Instituto Balseiro, Princeton University Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Nathan Seiberg Contributions to our understanding of quantum field theory and string theory. Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel-Aviv University Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Ashoke Sen Opening the path to the realization that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory. Presidency College, Kolkata
University of Calcutta
IIT Kanpur
Stony Brook University
Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
Edward Witten For 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. Brandeis University (B.A.) University of Wisconsin, Madison
Princeton University (PhD)
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
2013 (special) Stephen Hawking For his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes, and his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe. [11]
Peter Jenni, Fabiola Gianotti (ATLAS), Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli, Joe Incandela (CMS) and Lyn Evans (LHC)For their leadership role in the scientific endeavour that led to the discovery of the new Higgs-like particle by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. [11]
2013 Alexander Polyakov For his many discoveries in field theory and string theory including the conformal bootstrap, magnetic monopoles, instantons, confinement/de-confinement, the quantization of strings in non-critical dimensions, gauge/string duality and many others. His ideas have dominated the scene in these fields during the past decades. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Princeton University, Princeton
2014 Michael Green;
John Henry Schwarz
For opening new perspectives on quantum gravity and the unification of forces. Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley; and
Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
California Institute of Technology and Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
2015 Saul Perlmutter and members of the Supernova Cosmology Project;
Brian P. Schmidt, Adam Riess and members of the High-Z Supernova Team.
For the most unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. Harvard, UC Berkeley (Perlmutter), University of Arizona, Harvard (Schmidt), and MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley (Riess) University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Australian National University;Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute
2016 Yifang Wang;
Kam-Biu Luk and the Daya Bay Team
For the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics. Nanjing University (Wang)

University of Hong Kong, Rutgers University (Luk)

Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of California, Berkeley
Atsuto Suzuki and the KamLAND Team Iwate Prefectural University, Japan
Kōichirō Nishikawa and the K2K / T2K Team High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, Japan
Arthur B. McDonald and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Team Dalhousie University, California Institute of Technology Queen’s University, Canada
Takaaki Kajita;
Yōichirō Suzuki and the Super-Kamiokande Team
Saitama University, University of Tokyo (Kajita) Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, University of Tokyo, Japan
2016 (special) Ronald Drever, Kip Thorne, Rainer Weiss For the observation of gravitational waves, opening new horizons in astronomy and physics. [12]
Сontributors who are authors of the paper Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger (Physical Review Letters, 11 February 2016) and contributors who also made important contributions to the success of LIGO.
2017 Joseph Polchinski,
Andrew Strominger,
Cumrun Vafa
For transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity. [13] University of California, Santa Barbara;
Harvard University;
Harvard University
2018 Charles L. Bennett,
Gary Hinshaw,
Norman Jarosik,
Lyman Page Jr.,
David N. Spergel and the WMAP Science Team (Chris Barnes, Olivier Doré, Joanna Dunkley, Ben Gold, Michael Greason, Mark Halpern, Robert Hill, Al Kogut, Eiichiro Komatsu, David Larson, Michele Limon, Stephan Meyer, Michael Nolta, Nils Odegard, Hiranya Peiris, Kendrick Smith, Greg Tucker, Licia Verde, Janet Weiland, Ed Wollack, E. Wollack, Ned Wright) [14]
For detailed maps of the early universe that greatly improved our knowledge of the evolution of the cosmos and the fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies. [15] Johns Hopkins University;
University of British Columbia;
Princeton University;
Princeton University;
Princeton University
2018 (special) Jocelyn Bell Burnell For fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community. [7] University of Glasgow (BSc)
University of Cambridge (PhD)
University of Oxford and University of Dundee
2019 Charles Kane,
Eugene Mele
For new ideas about topology and symmetry in physics, leading to the prediction of a new class of materials that conduct electricity only on their surface. [16] University of Pennsylvania;
University of Pennsylvania


Charles L. Kane holding the Fundamental Physics Prize trophy Charles L. Kane.jpg
Charles L. Kane holding the Fundamental Physics Prize trophy

The Fundamental Physics Prize trophy, a work of art created by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, [17] is a silver sphere with a coiled vortex inside. The form is, in fact, a toroid, or doughnut shape, resulting from two sets of intertwining three-dimensional spirals. Found in nature, these spirals are seen in animal horns, nautilus shells, whirlpools, and even galaxies and black holes. [18]


The name of the 2013 prize winner was unveiled at the culmination of a ceremony which took place on the evening of March 20, 2013 at the Geneva International Conference Centre. [19] The ceremony was hosted by Hollywood actor and science enthusiast Morgan Freeman. [20] The evening honored the 2013 laureates − 16 outstanding scientists including Stephen Hawking [21] and CERN scientists who led the decades-long effort to discover the Higgs-like particle at the Large Hadron Collider. [22] Sarah Brightman and Russian pianist Denis Matsuev performed for the guests of the ceremony.


Some have expressed reservations about such new science mega-prizes. [23]

What's not to like? Quite a lot, according to a handful of scientists... You cannot buy class, as the old saying goes, and these upstart entrepreneurs cannot buy their prizes the prestige of the Nobels. The new awards are an exercise in self-promotion for those behind them, say scientists. They could distort the meritocracy of peer-review-led research. They could cement the status quo of peer-reviewed research. They do not fund peer-reviewed research. They perpetuate the myth of the lone genius....

As much as some scientists may grumble about the new awards, the financial doping that they bring to research and the wisdom of the goals behind them, two things seem clear. First, most researchers would accept such a prize if they were offered one. Second, it is surely a good thing that the money and attention come to science rather than go elsewhere. It is fair to criticize and question the mechanism—that is the culture of research, after all—but it is the prize-givers' money to do with as they please. It is wise to accept such gifts with gratitude and grace. [24]

See also

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  16. Laureates 2019
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