The Breakthrough Prize Foundation has announced a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics honoring scientists and engineers who contributed to the detection earlier this year of gravitational waves from the collision of two gigantic black holes.
The $3 million award will be shared by two groups of laureates: the founders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) — Ronald W.P. Drever, professor emeritus of physics at the California Institute of Technology; Kip S. Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus, at Caltech; and Rainer Weiss, professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — will share $1 million equally; while 1,012 contributors to the experiment — 1,005 co-authors of the paper describing the discovery of gravitational waves and seven scientists who made important contributions to the success of LIGO — will split $2 million.
In addition to the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which is presented in the fall along with the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences and Mathematics, the Special Breakthrough Prize can be conferred at any time in recognition of an extraordinary scientific achievement. "The creative powers of a unique genius, many great scientists, and the universe itself, have come together to make a perfect science story," said Breakthrough Prize co-founder Yuri Milner.
"This discovery has huge significance: firstly, as evidence for general relativity and its predictions of black hole interactions, and secondly as the beginning of a new astronomy that will reveal the universe through a different medium," said Stephen Hawking, who won the Special Breakthrough Prize in 2013. "The LIGO team richly deserves the Special Breakthrough Prize."