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Blog

If you were to give $27m to physics, what would be the most beneficial to the subject?

By James Dacey

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Nine physicists have found themselves significantly richer this week, after picking up $3m each in prize money. The nine men, listed in this blog by my colleague Michael Banks, are the inaugural winners of the Fundamental Physics Prize, a new award that was only unveiled to the world on Tuesday.

The prize is funded by the Russian investor Yuri Milner, who completed a degree in physics from Moscow State University before eventually becoming an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Milner has made his money by investing in start-up companies, apparently finding particular success through his investments in Internet firms such as Facebook, Twitter and Zynga.

Milner’s latest project is to launch the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, which according to its website is “a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing our knowledge of the universe at the deepest level by awarding annual prizes for scientific breakthroughs, as well as communicating the excitement of fundamental physics to the public”.

One of the recipients, Andrei Linde from Stanford University, told physicsworld.com that he hopes the prize will “increase [the] prestige and morale of all people in [the] scientific community”. Another winner, Ashoke Sen from the Harish-Chandra Research Institute in India, focused on the impact the new prizes might have on the scientific community of tomorrow. Speaking to the Indian Express, he said “I see it [the award] more as a sort of entitlement…encouragement to younger people to take interest in fundamental science.”

If you had the funds, how would you splash the cash on physics? Please let us know your opinion by taking part in this week’s Facebook poll.

If you were to give $27m to physics, what would be the most beneficial to the subject?

Prizes for high-achieving scientists
Funding a large number of PhDs
Investing in research institutions
Funding competitions that have clear targets
Supporting high school education

Have your say by visiting our Facebook page, and please feel free to explain your response – or suggest another way of spending the cash – by posting a comment below the poll.

In last week’s poll we asked whether you find that regular exercise helps you to focus when studying. The outcome was conclusive, with 91% of responds saying yes. The question was inspired by the sad news of the death of Sally Ride. Ride made history in 1983 by becoming first American woman in space, combining her physics training with her passion for physical activity.

Thank you to everyone who took part and we look forward to hearing from you again in this week’s poll.

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