String Theorists get biggest new science prize

Yuri Milner is a Russian hi-tech investor who dropped out of physics classes as a student. He must have done quite well with his investments because he has just given away $27,000,000 in prizes to nine physicists in $3,000,000 chunks. He plans to do the same every year making his the biggest recurring science prize of them all. Recipients of the prize this year which is given in fundamental physics are Ed Witten, Alan Guth, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Jaun Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg, Maxim Kontsevich, Ashoke Sen, Alexei Y. Kitaev and Andre Linde. Congratulations to them all.

Past winners will select future winners so we can expect to see a lot of rich people in string theory and cosmology in the coming years.

44 Responses to String Theorists get biggest new science prize

  1. Dilaton says:

    I like that, congratulations to them 🙂 !

    THAT will make the sourballs jump up and down, LOL 😛


  2. Mitchell Porter says:

    Obviously it would be conducive to the progress of physics if even 0.1% of this money could reach worthy people who really aren’t getting any support. So just for the record, I’ll “nominate” Alejandro Rivero and Marni Sheppeard. Alejandro made what appears to be a genuine, major discovery last November, and Marni has a history of being ahead of her time. (Some of their work is hosted right here on vixra.) Russian billionaires take note.

    • JollyJoker says:

      You can nominate them here:
      (open soon it says)

      But unless you think you can convince the committee:

      I’d rather you didn’t use their time frivolously. IMO, convincing Witten your work has merit has probably been a way to get recognition even before this prize.

      • A Rivero says:

        Indeed, convincing Witten usually means some shared publication. (btw thanks for the support, Mitchell 🙂 )

        Now, while these people is used to manage by themselves the usual flow of half baked physics and cracked physics pots, lets see how they survive, without an army of secretaries to cushion them, to the flow of finance and investiment crackpots. I expect that the foundation is giving them some counselling, not just expelling the money to the account.

      • Mitchell Porter says:

        Marni Sheppeard is back!

    • vmguptaphy says:

      The quetion is how one evaluates the worthyness of an individual. Leaving it to a diverse group to decide is best option. But if the diverse group has same thinking on the subject matter, it is no use. So we are back to square one, not in a position to advice.

      If we talk about any of past discoveries, each and everyone of them can be questioned. Look at history of conservation – today it is invariance with respect to specific change (symmetry). wave particle duality is still un-resolved, Speed of light as a law of nature stands where it began. Lot of us still believe in gravitons, conversion between mass and energy, singularities resulting into creation of universe such as big bang, even space-time has a begining and presumably an end. Number of elementary particles may have already exceeded the number of elements in periodic table. Nobel prizes are awarded every year – but do we believe all of them are correctly awarded!!!

      Yes, they are correctively awarded since it motivates general public to think logical. Individuals and discoveries may have been wrongly selected.

      I am not able to think of any better solution to awards than that exists today. We need more such awards so that more original logical thinkers get recognized.

  3. I wonder if all that money will work as distraction instead of an incentive.

  4. My sincere hope is that they do not give this gigantic sum to any young and promising theorist. Human kind might lose too much.

  5. carlmott5520 says:

    ís very strange,MILNER be a surname not english?
    the superstrings theory is compacted in the 4-dimensional spacetime continuum.the spacetime in 4-dimension is derived of
    SYMMETRY BREAKING OF PT-that introduces the speed of light as constant and limit in the universe.the time is splitted in two dimensions(opposite directions) curving the space by two opposite poles. this do measure the spacetime continnum as two oppose curves lines that is connect.then the spacetime is generated by opposite rotation systems that if connect-as particles and antiparticles-then the spacetime never could to be reduced to a “point”,but to a “smallest piece of string”

  6. Robert L. Oldershaw says:

    Two Einstein quotes might be appropriate here.

    “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

    “There is no logical way to the discovery of these elementary laws. There is only the way of intuition.”

    These enormous monetary prizes are given to some of the leaders who have guided theoretical physics over the last 40 years. Unfortunately, this has been a very disappointing period for scientific progress (hype notwithstanding).

    Note also that all the money goes to those practicing abstract Platonic approaches to understanding nature (e.g., a substantial number of string theorists).

    Personally, I think you would get far more “bang for the buck” if you gave this money to experimental and observational researchers. At least they deal with the real world of nature rather than dabbling in untestable glass-bead games.

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity
    Fractal Cosmology

    PS: Watch the low-budget NuSTAR X-ray telescope (starting scientific observations on 8/1/12) blow the aging standard models of cosmology and particle physics out of the water by discovering that the dark matter is not “WIMPs”, but rather “primordial” stellar-mass black holes.

    • Dilaton says:

      The nobel prize mostly goes to more experimental and observational researchers already …

      It was high time that fundamntal physicists got such a prize too to acknowledge progress in more theoretical research. There was nothing like this before Mr. Milner launched this foundation …!

      What Mr. Milner did is such an amazing and very nice and generous deed, I almost cant believe this 🙂
      He obviously really loves physics too.

      So is it really needed that immediately after such good news has spread disgruntled and scornful people who begrudge fundamental phyisics every cent it gets (even if it is not their money!) have to pop up everywhere and spit and spat on it ?!

      These sourballs who are drenched in hate and poison everything with their destructivie attitude and negativity make me sick!

      • Daniel De França says:

        Such huge grants/prizes have became common lately. Erik Verlinde accumulated almost twice in grants, I think it was around 5 million, for his entropic gravity in 2010 and 2011

      • Daniel De França says:

        I think it was public money, btw.

      • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

        I agree that donating money to the cause of scientific research aimed at bettering our understanding of nature is a wonderful thing to do.

        My only complaint is that all the money went to celebrity physicists who have given us the physics equivalent of the “bridge to nowhere”, i.e., failed string theory (no predictions in 44 years), failed “WIMP” cosmology (decades of negative results), and failed supersymmetry theory (LHC has falsified everything predicted so far).

        If you like the status quo glass-bead games, that’s your choice. But if you want theoretical physics to wake up from its long period of torpor, I suggest you fund younger physicists who are willing to explore new paradigms.

        Robert L. Oldershaw
        Fractal Cosmology
        Discrete Scale Relativity

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        It is no accident that all the brightest theorists of our time are working on string theory and supersymmetry. Nobody gets anywhere in this game if they are not capable of thinking for themselves so they do not follow each other like sheep.

        String theory has had many opportunities to reveal itself as a “bridge to nowhere” but at each turn the road carries on instead and another bridge is crossed. The theory is very tightly constrained by the need to be consistent with general relativity and quantum mechanics. The theorists are not making it up. They are following the course that logical consistency dictates and it is remarkable that there is anything at all that can match the requirements, but of course there has to be because the universe exists with these features.

        I think it is a good thing that these theorists are being honoured. People will look back in a hundred years time and say that the Nobel failed to honour some of the greatest thinkers of this time because they were ahead of experiment. This prize corrects that. There is however a generation that has been missed out including people like Hawking and Susskind. Perhaps they will get their awards in future years.

      • Daniel De França says:

        A bridge to nowhere vs. a bridge to anywhere?

      • Philip Gibbs says:

        To say that string theory fails because it cant predict low energy particle physics is like saying that the standard model fails because it can’t predict biology. The objective of string theory is to tell us what happen in the realm of quantum gravity. To answer that they must first determine its non-perturbative nature. When they do they will find its predicitions but they may have little to do with what can be observed in a particle collider. We dont expect quantum mechanics to tell us what life we will find on other planets so why do we have such unrealistic expectations about what string theiry would tell us about energy scales many orders of magnitude below where its effects are significant?

      • Daniel De França says:

        We do know that these things are useful to what they were designed, that is, to make observational predictions and to explain. It doesn’t need to predict anything, but they do predict something. But who knows, it could, even on short term, if more effort is spent.

        But this prize, or grant do bothers me for a reason. Unlike the nobel, which tries to contemplate an accomplished research, so I would at least expect some conditions to be accomplished. A very skillful sportsman is expected, after getting its high wages, to take parts in publicity, marketing and win games, but overall, the salary tends to grow with the size of economy it moves. That involves a great quantity of people. A very skillful programmer, or an engineer in general, when capital is invested, is expected to make it develop, which involves hiring people to help him.

        So, money, that supports skill development, somehow aggregates people, along some business plan. I don’t see how merely giving a prize will help meaningfully on this matter.

        Maybe small scale Manhattan projects, with several years long of a continuous, daily, workshop. Like making a commercial large scale software.

      • Mi feeling, as told in the PF thread is that String Theory is good enough to keep trying to drive researchers towards the basic concepts even thought they try very hard to go away towards the paradise of mathphys speculation. String theory is not a theory of gravity that happens to hint the standard model spectrum; it is a theory of the Standard Model spectrun that happens to hint gravity.

      • Dilaton says:

        I exactly agrre with Phil, well said 🙂 !

        you dont have to like / know / aprreciate string theory, you are free to have any personal opinion about it ;-).

        But I just dont get it what makes you and other even much worse people such as PW and Unzicker so hateful and destructive that they want to completely destroy and forbid any research in string theory or anything related.
        Why cont they just leave other people in peace and do something else and more constructive they like themself ?

        Furtunately we are not yet in a (global) society that allows such sourballs to tell bright people what they are allowed to research and what not. And I hope this will never hapen …

        Generally I`m quite worried about the future existance of fundamental physics since I`m really interested in questions fundamental physicists try to answer too …
        But this nice deed of Mr. Milner makes me look at things a little bit more optimistic 🙂

      • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

        @ Dilaton

        You say these people are “bright people”.

        I say these people are very skilled at abstract and analytical modeling, i.e., advanced math, but have a poor understanding of nature, i.e., actual physical reality.

        That is why their pseudo-predictions are non-existent (string theory) or failed (“WIMP snipe hunt, “sparticles”, etc.)

      • Robert, it is not the people nor the field but the group. In fact, the problem is that the group has been able to trap the brightest people and put them to lead improductive efforts. Look at “Anakin” Witten before 1983:
        The pre-1974 string theory is more right than wrong. Supersymmetry had been able to predict 3 generations, if they only had considered the chan-paton charges to be equal to the produced charges (the point that -1/3+(-1/3)=-2/3 and 2/3+(-1/3)=+1/3, particle+particle=antiparticle, only closes into itself for three generations). And the final prediction of 11 Dimensions implies the Standard Model Gauge group (Witten 1981). Plus, I’d speculate that the network of dualities (of which Sen is an expert) works out electroweak symmetry breaking between D=11 and D=9.

      • Robert L. Oldershaw says:

        Hi Alejandro,

        I agree with your general argument if you are saying that the theoretical physics community is a complex system that moves in nonlinear and deterministically chaotic ways, rather than being carefully and linearly guided by individuals. So it is wrong to put too much of the blame on individuals.

        I also argree with T.S. Kuhn that when an aging paradigm begins to reach the end of its useful lifetime, things get very weird with some desperately “saving the phenomena”, others calling for new ideas, and some calling anarchy. Eventualy a new and subsuming paradigm rises from the chaos.

        Science needs informed dissent, so long as it is reasoned and based on empirical evidence.

  7. At first sight the idea that young poor theoretician with a bright idea gets 3 million dollars. It means dramatic rise of social status and independence on academic power holders. I however think that just the necessity to fight for survival is what liberates the adrenaline and the enormous energy needed to develop something genuinely new in science. This amount of money would do for the young theoreticians same as professorship does so often to a post doc: he/she gets lazy.

    At this time the money did not however go to young poor theoreticians but to string hegemony. Besides the power to decide about followers. This is not a good news for the young poor theoretician with a brilliant idea unless the idea is about superstrings. People at the top of hegemony do not need it except perhaps to cure their egos after the failure of super strings as a physical theory. What really worries me is that money and power together is an extremely corruptive combination and could halt the development of theoretical physics for years.

    Many historians, economists, and philosophers see the recent market economy period as a breakdown of our civilization comparable to what happened in ancient Rome (I saw that the average age of civilization is estimated to be about 10 generations): we would be living the last stage. No doubt the idea of making promising theoretical physicists millionaires could be seen as one particular symptom of the big crunch.

    • anna v says:

      “Many historians, economists, and philosophers see the recent market economy period as a breakdown of our civilization comparable to what happened in ancient Rome (I saw that the average age of civilization is estimated to be about 10 generations)”

      Hmm. My observation is that the age of civilizations now is one generation, possibly two. Is the global civilization we live in now similar to the civilization my parents lived in? My grandmother, born in 1890 never believed that people landed on the moon. Culturally, technologically, materially, we are in different civilizations.

      What this prize will do is similar to what the Nobel prize has done: ambitious young theoreticians will aspire for it , with ore chances than dreaming of winning the lotto.

  8. vmguptaphy says:

    I view this institution of a new award for physicst is a long overdue step in right direction. After Nobel that happened a very long time ago, we had industry benwfiting a lot from work of science but returning nothing to scientists.

    In medicine the doctors who prescribe medicine earns more than the people who invent and descover new treatment and medicibe.

    Same has happened in all branches of science. While scientists and phelosophers at best get sustanance allownace. the benefeciaries and governments corner return nothing to scientists.

    This has affected the choices young people make, including me. More need to be done to address this imblance.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Vijay Gupta
    Proponent – Unary law ‘Space Contains Energy’

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      I also think the prize is good but with so much money to give away I think he could have afforded to try some other ways to encourage reasearch as well, after all if he gives away 9 prizes every year it wont be long before every string theorist and cosmologist of any note will be rich and it is not clear that this will motivate everyone to work harder. If I had that kind of money to give away I would limit to one prize each year and use the rest in other ways, e.g. for research grants. I’d also love to see the effect of an open essay contest with a $1,000,000 top prize.

      • anna v says:

        This seven prizes is a one off, in order to entice them to be on the committee. It is one prize of 3 million per year from now on: .

        Note : “The Foundation announces also that Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize in Physics laureate, has agreed to join its Board of Directors. Mr. Weinberg did not participate in the process of selecting prize recipients. “

      • anna v says:

        That should read “these nine”. dyslexia of old age :).

      • vmguptaphy says:

        I think the real motivation is understanding the nature around us. The prize is good to get, but it also creates lot many stakeholders in what is said and concluded.

        Having said that, Money is always important to motivate people in a specific direction. We have seen it (People Motivation) from Science -> Engineering -> Business Management -> Financial Management in our lifetime.

        This forum ‘FQXI’ is an excellent forum, which helped me speak out in preference to just being satisfied with my analysis of nature.

        Thanks and Regards,
        Vijay Gupta

  9. Jin He says:

    General Relativity describes the small layer (in fact, a little corner of the layer) of the actual natural construction of the universe. The framework of the universe is the Mach Principle, however, Einstein, General Relativity, Quantum Physics, String theory, Super Symmetry all can not explain the Mach Principle!!!

    The string and supersymmetry theories are the historical jokes.

    By the way, I made two pieces of graphic computer software. One is for the general public: Galaxy ABC graphic computer software (2012 version). The other is for the academic researchers and the rich: Galaxy Anatomy graphic computer software (the 1st version). Everything is ready (I opened a company, a bank business account, etc.) except that I do not know how to make some anti-pirate codes for my software!!

    I look for your suggestion!!

    • carlmott5520 says:

      the principles of string theories must to be corrects.the infinity must just exist as principle of a physics based in the discreteness.where the continuum or infinity is creation of human mind

      • vmguptaphy says:

        Humans intutively take space as a continumm. If it is a creation of mind, that is fine. I believe any feasible theory has to conform to mechanisms of human mind. Human Intution, speculation and extrapolation on observed facts is an important ingredient in all theoritical constructs.

  10. A Rivero says:

    BTW, has the smell of money caused an spike in the submissions to fundamental physics in vixra, or is it a random summer surge?

    • jin he says:

      If Witten’s theory can not be proved in 100 years, yours can be proved in 10000 yrs. The only solution is business.

      • A Rivero says:

        Ten or eight years ago, independently Tony Smith and myself offerred some pocket money to anyone willing to write some extension of our respective theories. I do not remember the exact statements, but money was only near $1000 bucks… we do not have a big purse. Clearly it was not enough motivation.

    • vmguptaphy says:

      I belive the attribution of statistical (5-sigma) variation in observation to discovery of Higgs-Boson and viewing it as greatest dicovery in post Einstein era can be one factor.

    • Murod Abdukhakimov says:

      Good question. Is there any statistics on vixra evolution, Philip?

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      You can see submission numbers by month on the all submissions page

  11. vmguptaphy says:

    I belive all of us agree it is a time to celerate the institution of award for theoritical physicists. We donot expect to find ourselves in recepient list, but those who found the place represent us one way or other. It is different matter that we may agree or not to there approach to understanding nature. Let us all rejoice on there success in being recognised as contributers to human knowledge of nature.

  12. HHu says:

    “University professor to study life after death”:

    “A University of California, Riverside philosophy professor, John Martin Fischer, has been awarded a three-year, $5 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation to study just this topic—and yes, students can take his class.”

    • vmguptaphy says:

      I suppose it is not science or physics/ but something abstract. Science and physics deal with inanimate objects and not with human behavior, which seems to be the subject matter of this stude by Mr John Martin Fischer.

      Ignorance, many times makes human try to place themself in other shoes and try to think alike. These other shoe may be drived from history, text books, social context. In my beief it is possible this leads coupled with confusion about re-birth leads people to take ssome similar behavior as life after death.

      In Hindu context, life after death was hypotheszed to create a self governing society by social scientists of the era.

      We also see, history getting converted into fiction be pasage and accumulating baggage that overshadows the original truth. To get to the truth, one needs to analyse the impact of various episode of an epic onsociety and try to access the time period of different of episode. This sometimes lead us to clear understanding of epics.

      I will be interested to take part in the study, if it means analysis of text from Indian Subcontinent.

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