As reactions to winning a multimillion-dollar prize go, Alexander Polyakov's words were less than gushing. It was the culmination of a glittering award ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, in March, hosted by Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman and featuring an operatic interlude from British singer Sarah Brightman. After a hushed pause, the physicist from Princeton University, New Jersey, was revealed as the winner of the 2013 Fundamental Physics Prize and an accompanying payment of US$3 million. “This new prize is an interesting experiment,” a flustered Polyakov said moments later, after walking off stage clutching his sculptured silver trophy. “Such big prizes could become very influential and they can have a positive impact, or they can be very dangerous.” Polyakov's ambivalence echoes the sentiments of many scientists towards the rash of big-money science prizes that have emerged over the past year. Sponsored by billionaire entrepreneurs, including Russian Internet mogul Yuri Milner, Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and property developer Samuel Yin, the new awards outstrip the $1.2-million Nobel prizes in monetary value. In addition to Milner's Fundamental Physics Prize, the Internet billionaires have together created the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, and Yin has introduced the Tang Prize
Nature – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 12, 2013
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