Sometimes it's tough being a scientist, especially if you work in the abstract, like a theoretical physicist. You work insanely hard on insanely complicated stuff, which ends up getting published in a paper that only a handful of people can really understand or appreciate. So it's about time you were rewarded with a multi-million dollar prize, right? Right!
Physics is what makes the world go 'round, and physicists are the people who come up with all the ideas that make our life better before anyone recognizes their potential for lifechangingness. Take the electron, for example: when it was discovered by physicists, nobody had any idea what to do with it, but now, if it wasn't for electrons, you couldn't read DVICE every day and your life just wouldn't be worth living. Thanks, physics!
These researchers definitely deserve our gratitude for figuring out how our universe works and making the most of it, but they also deserve to be rewarded with more than just grant money. Yuri Milner, a tech investor and billionaire, agrees: out of nowhere, he's decided to give out nine $3 million prizes to theoretical physicists working on subjects ranging from string theory to inflationary cosmology to non perturbative duality symmetries (whatever that is).
Part of the deal with the award is that the recipients will be encouraged to present public talks targeted at a general audience, which we're definitely looking forward to. Otherwise, there's no strings attached: like a Nobel Prize, the money really is just an upshot of being awesome and doing good science. Going forward, winners will be selected every year by previous awardees, and three junior researchers will also have a shot at $100,000 each.
Yuri Milner told Nature that "[my] intention was to say that science is as important as a shares rating on Wall Street." We wish that more people with a lot of money felt this way, because investment in science should definitely be recognized as an investment in our future that's more important than just turning money into slightly more money. GO SCIENCE!