A researcher once said that a theory related to a branch of math dealing with random processes was so impressive, it must have come from aliens. It was actually the work of Martin Hairer, who has now been awarded the richest prize in academia, reports the Guardian. Hairer was named Thursday as one of several winners of the 2021 Breakthrough Prize—founded in 2012 by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, among others—which includes $18.75 million in total prize money. Hairer of Imperial College London, the sole winner in mathematics, will receive $3 million. Physicists Eric Adelberger, Jens Gundlach, and Blayne Heckel of the University of Washington, who established "that any extra dimension must be curled up with a radius less than 1/3 the diameter of a human hair," will split that same amount, a release reads, per Space.com.
Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas won a special prize for "continuous leadership in fundamental physics." Four other prizes were awarded in life sciences. David Baker of the University of Washington won for his technology allowing the design of novel proteins "including some that could neutralize Covid-19." TechCrunch has more on that. Harvard University's Catherine Dulac also won for her work showing that "the neural circuits governing both male and female-specific parenting behaviors are present in both sexes." Apparently inspired by a Harry Potter movie, Dennis Lo of the Chinese University of Hong Kong won for showing genetic tests could use fetal DNA in maternal blood. And Richard J. Youle from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke won for his work on cell function in neurodegenerative disease. (Read more Breakthrough Awards stories.)