A Russian billionaire's foundation is awarding two special prizes of $3 million each to British cosmologist Stephen Hawking for his work on black holes and to seven scientists at the world's biggest atom-smasher for their roles in the discovery of a new subatomic particle believed to be the
long-sought Higgs boson.
Yuri Milner's Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation announced the awards in a statement on Tuesday.
Hawking is honoured for his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes "and his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe." The prize money for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is being split among a scientist who oversaw the building of the $10 billion atom smasher and six physicists who oversaw two teams of 3,000 scientists each.
In an email to the Guardian, Professor Hawking said he was "delighted and honoured" to receive the prize.
"No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before. Nevertheless prizes like these play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it," he wrote.
"Although almost every theoretical physicist agrees with my prediction that a black hole should glow like a hot body, it would be very difficult to verify experimentally because the temperature of a macroscopic black hole is so low," he added.