After their discovery of the gravitational waves, scientists are in for another celebration as they will receive their monetary reward for Fundamental Physics.
In February, the group observed gravitational waves 100 years after it was first proposed by Albert Einstein.
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) group led by Ronald Drever, Rainer Weiss, and Kip Thorne, along with thousands of engineers and physicists get to receive the $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics awarded by a foundation backed by Silicon Valley investors.
The prize, to be awarded during a formal ceremony in December, will be divided among the group. The founders will share the $1 million, while the remaining $2 million will be equally divided to 1,012 engineers and physicists who were part of the LIGO team.
Thorne, who is also a California Institute of Technology professor of theoretical physics, spoke of his gratitude for all the members of the team who worked with them in detecting the gravitational waves, which offers a different way to study the universe.
Prize selection committee chair and Princeton Institute for Advanced Study mathematical physics professor Ed Witten is enthusiastic to learn more of what the gravitational waves would reveal. The universe, Witten said, may be filled with cosmic strings that can only be studied with their gravitational signal.
2013 Special Breakthrough Prize winner Stephen Hawking said the discovery of gravitational waves is very significant for the scientific community, as it provides proof for general relativity and for its ability to predict black hole mergers. Hawking also mentioned that gravitational waves open up a new astronomy that will give a better understanding of the universe.
Silicon Valley investors, including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, and 23andme co-founder Anne Wojcicki, are behind the Breakthrough Prize Foundation that has awarded more than $160 million to researchers and scientists since 2012.
While many are criticizing the monetary reward, Weiss said the prize sends an important message to the public. Thorne said public awareness of science and its multitude of achievements are very important.
"Science is a crucial tool for the future of humanity and for solving today's societal problems; but science cannot achieve its potential unless the public understands and appreciates it," said Thorne. "Prizes like this are an important part of that."
Photo: Werner Benger/NASA Blueshift | Flickr