Breakthrough Prize 2018

The Breakthrough Prizes for 2018 will be awarded at a ceremony on December 3, I believe at the usual NASA Hangar 1 in Mountain View. The next day Stanford will host the 2018 Breakthrough Prize symposium, which one will be able to watch live from the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page.

The symposium schedule is available here, and while it does not list the Prize awardees, it does appear to list the titles of the talks. From this it looks like the math \$3 million will go to a geometer, who will talk about “Geometry at Higher Dimensions”. There may be several \$100,000 New Horizons Prizes for younger mathematicians, but at least one will be to an analytic number theorist, who will talk about “Analytic Number Theory in Everyday Life”.

For the \$3 million physics prize, it looks like it is going to be split five ways and go to cosmologists/astrophysicists. The talks by laureates are “The Next Decade in Cosmology”, “Gravitational Waves and Cosmology”, “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”, “A New Instrument for Listening to the Universe” and “The Beginning and End of the Universe”.

Update: Some details about the prize ceremony here. Perhaps there really is a problem with the public understanding of mathematics:

This year, a total of seven \$3 million prizes will be awarded – five in life sciences, one in fundamental physics, two in mathematics.

Update: The \$3 million for physics went to the WMAP team. For mathematics, it was Hacon and McKernan. The posted titles for the mathematics prize winners were a red herring, they have been changed to “A Tour of Algebraic Geometry” (McKernan) and “Sphere Packing in High Dimensions” (Viazovska).

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18 Responses to Breakthrough Prize 2018

  1. L(s,\chi) says:

    Viazovska? (She actually could be either one…)

  2. Bill says:

    Did they really just post the talk titles? 🙂
    Horizons in math: James Maynard.
    Breakthrough in math: Simon Brendle (

  3. Trent says:

    My guess for the breakthrough is Simon Brendle too.

  4. tulpoeid says:

    From the panel discussions, “And in mathematics, we have scratched the surface of a perhaps infinite world of structure.”
    By the sound of it this refers to some established recent development. What would that be?

  5. Peter Woit says:

    I think that’s just generic inspirational verbiage, could be used to refer to anything, know of nothing that it seems particularly apt for. On the other hand, the talk titles are not generic but rather specific, and perhaps Bill is interpreting the math ones correctly.

  6. Bill says:

    Another question is whether Peter Scholze would have accepted the Breakthrough prize if they haven’t insulted him by offering the Horizons prize.

  7. Peter Woit says:


    While Scholze has never publicly explained why he turned down the money (in essence choosing just to ignore Milner-Zuckerberg and go about his business) I doubt it was because it was too little money. By turning down 100K, he ensured that they wouldn’t try that again, and also wouldn’t award him the \$3 million likely to come a few years later. He deserves some sort of award for this…

  8. Bill says:

    Peter, perhaps, his decision was driven by the wish to avoid this type of spectacle:

  9. sdf says:

    Maybe it is wishful thinking that Scholze refused because these type of prizes are obnoxious—giving a large cheque to one person when they could be used to endow X number of fellowships, scholarships etc… I daresay this world needs more of James Simons and less of these Yuri Milner types.

  10. Anonymous says:

    “Geometry at Higher Dimensions”

    It should be Hacon and McKernan?

  11. boris says:


  12. Bill says:

    Peter, it looks like they’ve already corrected their press release. However, could this indicate that Hacon and McKernan are really the winners, sharing one prize?

  13. Peter Woit says:

    I forgot to include the link to where I got that from, added it now, that source still has 7=8. The schedule refers to 5 different 2018 physics laureates, so that prize is being split. It only refers to 1 math laureate. Maybe there are others who aren’t speaking. I have no inside information, but your initial conjecture looks more convincing to me than Hacon/McKernan.

  14. Bill says:

    The official press release says 7=7:

    I understand why cares about this, but why not

  15. AGCGDG says:



  16. AGCGDG says:

    New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes Awarded to Aaron Naber, Maryna Viazovska, Zhiwei Yun, and Wei Zhang.

  17. Bill says:

    I wonder why they don’t award 3 million to both mathematicians? (Although UCSD and Utah press releases say that their corresponding faculty member won 3 million, which does not add up to 22 million.)

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