Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

There’s a story in Variety this afternoon announcing that Seth MacFarlane will be the host this year for the ceremony in Silicon Valley announcing the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes. MacFarlane was the host of the 2013 Oscars. Other celebrities there to award prizes will include Kate Beckinsale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Diaz, Jon Hamm and Eddie Redmayne. The ceremony will be televised, not live, but November 15 at 6pm on the Discovery Channel.

The announcements that evening will include awards of up to 6 $3 million prizes in the life sciences. The physics prizes this year, funded by Yuri Milner, will include a $3 million prize and one or more $100,000 prizes for young researchers. The past practice of awarding $300,000 to semi-finalists for the $3 million seems to have been stopped, after Joe Polchinski collected a couple of these. Polchinski seems to be the odds-on favorite for the $3 million this year. Another possibility would be Strominger and Vafa, also semi-finalists last year. I suppose there’s an outside chance that the committee making the choice, which is dominated by string theorists, will decide that a non-string theorist is worth recognizing.

The Mathematics prize is funded by Milner and Mark Zuckerberg. The winners there are already known, see here.

The next day there is an announced symposium scheduled to be held at Stanford to honor the prize winners in the life sciences (see here). Last year there was a similar symposium in physics right after the ceremony, so one could guess that such things might be planned for physics and math as well.

Update: There will be separate math and physics symposia on Monday, and an evening lecture from the Physics winner. A little more detail here. The math symposium will be at Stanford, live-streamed to Berkeley, Stanford details and RSVP here.

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12 Responses to Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

  1. Per says:

    These prices are such nonsense. Why give it to some dinosaur who’s been faculty for well over a decade and already won a bunch of prices? Better to focus on the young and upcoming and help them focus solely on research without any economic concerns.

  2. Michael Hutchings says:

    There will be a math symposium at Stanford on Nov 10. However I can’t find a website for it.

  3. abbyyorker says:

    Quite a break from the past. The 1938 Breakthrough prizes were hosted by Seth Niedermayer.

  4. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    I’ll never complain (much) about scientists getting more money, but I can’t for the life of me understand how larding up the event with a bunch of celebrity eye candy is supposed to draw the kind of public interest anyone would want.

  5. martenvandijk says:

    Breakthrough Prize 2015? Breakthrough Credit 2015 if you ask me.

  6. Yaakov Baruch says:

    Sorry – I don’t want to hijack the thread with this totally unrelated link:
    I’m only posting it in the hope that Peter, and others, may comment on this subject at some future time within an appropriate post.

  7. Peter Woit says:

    That’s not really news, so I don’t want to start a discussion of it here. Note that the graphic in that story shows that “naive SUSY” was already ruled out by this kind of experiment back in 2002, long before the LHC. The fact that these kind of precision experiments rule out popular SUSY models has always been ignored by SUSY enthusiasts, and I suspect will continue to be ignored by them, no matter how good the bounds get.

  8. Als says:

    Tao is going to appear on Colbert according to this article in the Atlantic :

  9. CPV says:

    What would have a higher effect – 3 mm to one awardee, or 100k to 30? I think very, very few people who make large contributions to math and science go in it for the money. These prizes aren’t going to improve the level theoretical science occurs at. Progress hasn’t stalled because theorists aren’t working hard enough or there aren’t enough of them or they can’t make 3mm a year. It might be nice to boost salaries to 100k /yr for postdocs but I bet that wouldn’t make much difference either. Progress has stalled because of scale ratios like 10^30.

  10. Jim says:

    Seems an odd choice of celebrities. I could understand a Natalie Portman (with a finite Erdos number) or even a James Franco as a presenter but I can’t understand what Cameron Diaz has to do with science.

  11. Simple biologist says:


    Cameron Diaz was at least one of the quests on that evangelical science+atheism film about Lawrence Krauss & Richard Dawkins. Quick googling also reveals that she describes herself as ‘science nerd’.

    Propably easy picking (as far celebrities are concerned) for the organisers.

  12. Jonathan Miller says:

    I work about 20 hours less per week than I would prefer, in part due to low pay. I expect that there are others like me, more pay being available for young physicists might improve physics productivity.

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