Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking spoke at Caltech about the nature of the universe, dark matter and the origin of human life. (Photo : Reuters)
Acclaimed British cosmologist Stephen Hawking and seven scientists have been awarded $3 million by a Russian billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner for their respective works regarding space and physics.
The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation announced Tuesday that the prizes had been awarded to Hawking for his work with black holes in space and to a team of scientists who helped to discover a Higgs-Boson particle--otherwise known as the "God particle."
Hawking, according to the foundation, is being recognized for his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes, and "his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe."
Hawking radiation is a reference to Hawking's theory of how radiation can be emitted from a black hole, despite its immense gravitational pull, due to quantum effects. Hawking came up with an exact theoretical model of how a black hole could emit black body radiation in 1974.
In an email sent to U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian, Professor Hawking said he was "delighted and honoured" to receive the prize.
"No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before. Nevertheless prizes like these play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it," he wrote.
"Although almost every theoretical physicist agrees with my prediction that a black hole should glow like a hot body, it would be very difficult to verify experimentally because the temperature of a macroscopic black hole is so low," he added.
Meanwhile, the prize money fro the European Organization for Nuclear Research, otherwise known as CERN, is being split among the team of scientists and physicists whose work led to the discovery the Higgs Boson particle.
Lyn Evans, a Welsh scientists, was the lead scientist who oversaw the building of CERN's $10 billion large Hadron Collider, the largest and highest-energy particle accelerator in the world.
The other participating physicists in the project were Peter Jenni and Fabiola Gianotti of the LHC's ATLAS collaboration; and Michel Della Negra, Tejinder Singh Virdee, Guido Tonelli and Joe Incandela of the CMS collaboration.
"It's fantastic news," said Evans in a statement posted on CERN's web site. "The tremendous performance of ATLAS, CMS and the LHC is witness to the skill and dedication of our many collaborators which we are very proud to represent".
Tech funder Milner's foundation was created in July to advance knowledge of the universe. The $27 million foundation will award $3 million every year to researchers in fundamental physics. Those same individuals will also be invited to select recipients of next year's prizes.
Nima Arkani-Hamed, a member of the Selection Committee of the foundation, said that choosing this year's recipients "was a very difficult task."
"The selected physicists have done transformative work spanning a wide range of areas in fundamental physics. I especially look forward to future breakthroughs from the first recipients of the New Horizons in Physics Prize."
"It is a great honour for the LHC's achievement to be recognized in this way," said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. "The Fundamental Physics Prize underlines the value of fundamental physics to society, and I am delighted that the Foundation has chosen to hold its first award ceremony at CERN."