The 22 million Breakthrough prizes have been announced here at NASA’s Ames Research Center, California. Johns Hopkins University astrophysicist Charles L. Bennett won the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics on Sunday for his research on origin and expansion of the Universe. He and his 27 member research team will share the $3 million prize money among them. Sharing his excitement after winning the prestigious award, Bennet said, This is amazing, and certainly surprising. We knew we were doing something important, but you never know how it’s going to be received until it all happens.
The research team led by Bennet collaborated with NASA to develop and launch the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe WMAP space telescope, and they have been mapping the Universe and collecting data about its origin, its initial moments and its expansion since 15 years. Using WMAP Bennet and his team revealed the first-ever, detailed, full-sky, “baby picture” of the universe when it was only 380,000 years old. Actually, what WMAP does is it transforms the collection of close facts into a highly constrained model of Universe: the Standard Model of Cosmology. This model consists of various patterns that give a precise description of the dynamics, contents, and shape of the Universe. With the help of WMAP, the research team unraveled many things about universe like, the UNIverse consist of only five percent atoms and the Big Bang happened around 13.8 billion years ago that produced dark matter and dark energy.
Talking about their mapping experiment, he stated, “We do this because of curiosity. It’s fun to do, it’s fun to see the results coming out. Having it recognized is the icing on the cake.” The Breakthrough Prizes were introduced in 2012 by Russian Billionaire Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner along with co-founders Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder a graduate of the University of Maryland, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan and Anne Wojcicki, CEO of the personal genomics company 23andMe.
The Breakthrough awards are considered as one of the since richest awards and this year it was given in seven categories recognizing the achievement in life sciences, fundamental physics, and mathematics. Out of total prize money of $11 million, each category was awarded $3 million and the rest $1 million went to the early-career scientists, students, and teachers. Mark Zuckerberg said a statement that the Breakthrough prize was created to celebrate the achievements of scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, whose genius help us understand our world, and whose advances shape our future. “The world needs their inspiration, and their reminder that even though it doesn’t always feel that way, we are making steady progress toward building a better future for everyone,” he stated.
This is the sixth year of the Breakthrough prize program and this year many Hollywood celebrities were invited to drag more people to the award ceremony and also to encourage all the winners. So you can say it was the ‘Oscars of Science.’ Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman hosted the award show, and it was televised by National Geographic Channel and was streamed live via Youtube and Facebook at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Other celebrities who graced the occasion include Ashton Kutcher, Kerry Washington, filmmaker Ron Howard and many more.