Four Asian Teams Win 2016 Breakthrough Prize In Fundamental Physics

Established by key entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics went to Japanese, Chinese and Canadian research teams working on neutrino oscillation.

AsianScientist (Nov. 11, 2015) – The Breakthrough Prize and its founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, have announced the recipients of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. A combined total of US$21.9 million was awarded at the 3rd Annual Breakthrough Prize Awards Ceremony in Silicon Valley.

“By challenging conventional thinking and expanding knowledge over the long term, scientists can solve the biggest problems of our time,” said Mark Zuckerberg. “The Breakthrough Prize honors achievements in science and math so we can encourage more pioneering research and celebrate scientists as the heroes they truly are.”

The 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, worth US$3 million, was awarded to five experiments investigating neutrino oscillation and will be shared equally among all five. The teams include Daya Bay (China); KamLAND (Japan); K2K/T2K (Japan); Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (Canada); and Super-Kamiokande (Japan).

The award was accepted by team leaders Wang Yifang and Luk Kam-Biu (Daya Bay); Atsuto Suzuki (KamLAND); Koichiro Nishikawa (K2K/T2K); Arthur B. McDonald (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory); and Takaaki Kajita and Yoichiro Suzuki (Super-Kamiokande). In total, the five teams are comprised of more than 1,300 individual physicists, and all members will share in the recognition for their work.

“Breakthrough Prize laureates are making fundamental discoveries about the universe, life and the mind,” Milner said. “These fields of investigation are advancing at an exponential pace, yet the biggest questions remain to be answered.”

Laureates took to the stage at the 3rd Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony, an exclusive gala co-hosted by its founders and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Seth MacFarlane hosted the show, which featured a performance by Pharrell Williams, and appearances by celebrity presenters Russell Crowe, Hilary Swank, Lily Collins, and Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr of HBO’s Silicon Valley. The theme of the evening was Life in the Universe, and the highlights included a video link-up to astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station.

“This year’s laureates have all opened up ways of understanding ourselves,” said Wojcicki. “In the life sciences, they have pushed forward new ideas about Alzheimer’s, cholesterol, neurological imaging and the origins of our species. And for that we celebrate them.”

In addition, five New Horizons prizes–a US$100,000 award that recognizes the achievements of young scientists–were given to eight early-career physicists and mathematicians.

Three New Horizons in Physics Prizes were awarded to B. Andrei Bernevig (Princeton University), Fu Liang (MIT), and Qi Xiao-Liang (Stanford University) as one prize; Raphael Flauger (University of Texas at Austin) and Leonardo Senatore (Stanford University) as a second prize; and Yuji Tachikawa (University of Tokyo) as a third prize.

In continuation of the celebration, a number of selected Breakthrough Prize laureates made presentations at the Breakthrough Prize Symposium, which was on November 9, 2015 on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. This symposium is co-sponsored by Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco.

In addition to academic symposia by leading scientists and Breakthrough Prize laureates, there was also a public program of panel discussions for general audiences, featuring Breakthrough Prize laureates past and present. Breakthrough Prize founder Milner will host three panels that explore the theme of the symposium, “Big Questions”. More details can be found at


Source: Breakthrough Prize; Photo: Steve Jennings/Breakthrough Prize.
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