Special Breakthrough Prize was awarded

World science, 18 September 2019

August 6, 2019 (San Francisco) – The Selection Committee of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics today announced a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics shared between theorists Sergio Ferrara (CERN), Daniel Z. Freedman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University), and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen (Stony Brook University). The three are being honored for “the invention of supergravity, in which quantum variables are part of the description of the geometry of spacetime.”

The new laureates will be recognized at the 2020 Breakthrough Prize ceremony at NASA’s Hangar 1 on Sunday, November 3, 2019, where the winners of the annual Fundamental Physics prize will also be honored, along with the winners of the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences and Mathematics.

Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, Sergio Ferrara and Daniel Z. Freedman (left to right) photographed at CERN in 2016 on the occasion of supergravity’s 40th anniversary. Image © CERN

Edward Witten, the chair of the Selection Committee, said, “The discovery of supergravity was the beginning of including quantum variables in describing the dynamics of spacetime. It is quite striking that Einstein’s equations admit the generalization that we know as supergravity.

“When we think of the great works of the human imagination, we often mean art, music, and literature,” said Yuri Milner, one of the founders of the Breakthrough Prize. “But some of the most profound and beautiful creations are those of scientists. Supergravity has inspired physicists for decades and may contain deep truths about the nature of reality.”

Previous Special Prize Recipients Include Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Stephen Hawking, Seven CERN Scientists who Played a Leading Role in Discovery of Higgs Boson, and LIGO Collaboration that Detected Gravitational Waves.

It should be noted that Proffessor Sergio Ferrara closely cooperates with the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics JINR in the fields of supergravity being a good friend of JINR. In 2016, being nominated by JINR, Sergio Ferrara was elected as a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2015, Sergio Ferrara took part in the 7th Round Table Italia-Russia@Dubna “Hundred years from GR’s birth, SUGRA gets into its forties”. The event was organized with the active participation of Professor Pietro Fré, Science Attaché of the Government of Italy in the Russian Federation, who was awarded a high title “Honorary Doctor of JINR” in the frames of the Round Table. Moreover, Sergio Ferrara was awarded the Honorary Medal of JINR for his contribution to science and merits to the Joint Institute. The 7th Round Table Italia-Russia@Dubna was marked by three jubilees: the centenary of the General theory of relativity, the 40th jubilee of the theory of supergravity, and the 60th anniversary of JINR. Thus, the event allowed its participants to celebrate the fourth jubilee, the 70th birthday of Sergio Ferrara.

Photos by Elena Puzynina

It should be reminded that in 2015 the winners of the Breakthrough Prize 2016 in Fundamental Physics were the participants of five experiments Daya Bay, KamLAND, Super-Kamiokande, SNO and T2K/K2K who were awarded for discovery and research of neutrino osсillations. JINR takes an active part in the experiment of Daya Bay which in 2012 discovered the nonzero value of a mixing angle of a neutrino θ13. The Laureates from JINR are the participants of Daya Bay experiment: M. O. Gonchar, Yu. A. Gornushkin, D. V. Naumov, I .B. Nemchenok, A. G. Olshevski, and also E. A. Yakushev (KamLAND), V. A. Matveev and B. A. Popov (T2K).

The Breakthrough Prizes, which honors advances in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics, were founded in 2012 by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang, Yuri Milner and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and is the most important prize awarded for research in these fields.