By Hamish Johnston
The string theorist Alexander Polyakov has won the 2013 Fundamental Physics Prize. The $3m prize is awarded by Milner Foundation, which is funded by the Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and was inaugurated last year.
The winner was unveiled yesterday at a ceremony in Geneva, which was hosted by the actor Morgan Freeman. Other prizes announced in December 2012 were also presented at the ceremony.
Based at Princeton University, Polyakov was chosen from a shortlist of three, which included string theorist Joseph Polchinski of the University of California, Santa Barbara and a trio of topological-insulator researchers – Charles Kane of the University of Pennsylvania, Laurens Molenkamp of the University of Würzburg and Shoucheng Zhang of Stanford University.
The shortlist and ultimate winner were chosen by a panel comprising nine physicists – seven of whom are string theorists and one a topological-insulator pioneer.
Not surprisingly, string-theory naysayer Peter Woit of Columbia University is not pleased. “The [ceremony] was largely a string theory hype-fest…,” he wrote on his blog Not Even Wrong.
Meanwhile in a very different dimension of the blogosphere, Lubos Motl is elated and writes “Sasha Polyakov is a giant because he is a string-theory pioneer and because he has cracked many phenomena in gauge theories.” Motl also makes a confession of sorts about what he discovered while alone in Polyakov’s office…
Commenting on the prize, Milner said “The Fundamental Physics Prize celebrates what is possible in humanity’s quest to understand the deepest questions of the universe. It is humbling to be surrounded by so much brain power and I’m excited by the promise of future discovery they represent.”