Last March an Oscar-style ceremony hosted by Morgan Freeman was held in Geneva (see here) to award the 2013 $3 million Milner Prize to Princeton string theorist Alexander Polyakov. Tomorrow an even more lavish ceremony designed to turn “Oscars of Science” into instant multi-millionaires will be held in Mountain View, California (see here). It will feature Kevin Spacey, Conan O’Brien and Glenn Close, one of whom will presumably award the 2014 $3 million Milner string theory Prize to either Polchinski, Green/Schwarz, or Strominger/Vafa.
If I had to bet I’d go for Polchinski, purely because if they don’t give it to him, that will be two years in a row he walks away with a $300,000 consolation prize, and having to have him a third time up next year before getting his $3 million would be a bit silly. On the other hand, John Preskill is predicting Green/Schwarz, and he may be right. If you’re going to have a prize devoted to the idea that string theory = fundamental physics since it’s our hope for a TOE, then one really has to give it to Green/Schwarz for originating the whole superstring = TOE business.
On Friday, there will be a day-long symposium at Stanford sponsored by the Milner prize people (see here), with the $3 million man (or men) speaking at 5:30pm, introduced by Lenny Susskind.
Physics will actually be a relatively small part of this awards ceremony, since it will also include the award of six $3 million awards in the Life Sciences. These are being jointly funded by Milner and a group of other prominent internet entrepreneurs.
Update: News is that the awards ceremony will be broadcast by the Science Channel:
Hosted by actor Kevin Spacey, the awards will be presented by the Prize sponsors and by celebrities including Conan O’Brien, Glenn Close, Rob Lowe and Michael C. Hall. The event was produced and directed by Don Mischer, the producer and director of The Academy Awards among other television and live events. The world premiere special 2014 BREAKTHOUGH PRIZES will premiere on Science Channel on Monday, January 27 at 9 PM ET/PT.
According to the press release, Polchinski, Green/Schwarz or Strominger/Vafa will get $3 million for being “psychics”:
The 2014 Breakthrough Prizes are awarded to those who make major breakthroughs and contributions that represent significant advances in our fundamental knowledge of the world. At the ceremony, seven prizes (six for life sciences and one for psychics) of $3 million each will be awarded for a total of $21 million.
Update: As John Preskill predicted, the $3 million string theory prize went to Green and Schwarz. Polchinski gets a second $300,000 consolation prize and another chance next year.