Celebrating Impractical Physicists

Celebrating Impractical Physicists

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Do you think cutting-edge scientists should earn as much as star athletes, celebrity artists or Wall Street bankers? The Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner does, and this week he put his money where his heart is, depositing $3 million in the bank accounts of each of the nine theoretical physicists he judged to be doing the most brilliant work in their field. They are the first recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize, a new honor created by Mr. Milner. It is the most lucrative academic award in the world, and will henceforth be given to one winner each year.

Milner, who studied physics for a decade before making his fortune in prescient Internet investments, said he decided to create such a rich prize because he thinks the compensation of top scientists is out of whack in 21st-century society. A major goal of the awards is to raise public awareness of physics, partly through the popular lecture each winner will be invited to deliver.

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