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Earth Education Science

Silicon Valley Billionaires Award $22 Million in 'Breakthrough Prizes' (theguardian.com) 23

An anonymous reader quote The Guardian: The most glitzy event on the scientific calendar took place on Sunday night when the Breakthrough Foundation gave away $22 million in prizes to dozens of physicists, biologists and mathematicians at a ceremony in Silicon Valley. The winners this year include five researchers who won $3 million each for their work on cell biology, plant science and neurodegenerative diseases, two mathematicians, and a team of 27 physicists who mapped the primordial light that warmed the universe moments after the big bang 13.8 billion years ago. Now in their sixth year, the Breakthrough prizes are backed by Yuri Milner, a Silicon Valley tech investor, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki from the DNA testing company 23andMe, and Google's Sergey Brin. Launched by Milner in 2012, the awards aim to make rock stars of scientists and raise their profile in the public consciousness. The annual ceremony at Nasa's Ames Research Center in California provides a rare opportunity for some of the world's leading minds to rub shoulders with celebrities, who this year included Morgan Freeman as host, fellow actors Kerry Washington and Mila Kunis, and Miss USA 2017 Kara McCullough...

Life sciences prizewinner, Joanne Chory at the Salk Institute in San Diego, was honoured for three decades of painstaking research into the genetic programs that flip into action when plants find themselves plunged into shade. Her work revealed that plants can sense when a nearby competitor is about to steal their light, sparking a growth spurt in response. The plants detect threatening neighbours by sensing a surge in the particular wavelengths of red light that are given off by vegetation. Chory now has ambitious plans to breed plants that can suck vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in a bid to combat climate change. She believes that crops could be selected to absorb 20 times more of the greenhouse gas than they do today, and convert it into suberin, a waxy material found in roots and bark that breaks down incredibly slowly in soil. "If we can do this on 5% of the landmass people are growing crops on, we can take out 50% of global human emissions," she said.

The Mercury News published a list of all the winners, pointing out they were chosen from more than 11,000 entries (from 178 countries). And Wired notes that the top prize winners get $2 million more than Nobel prize winners.

Silicon Valley Billionaires Award $22 Million in 'Breakthrough Prizes'

Comments Filter:
  • That's Friday night beer money for Zuckerberg & Friends.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's cheaper to have people work for free than give them salaries. If one man-year = $100,000 (fresh undergrad salary), you can get 220 man-years from $22 million... chump change. Way more than 220 man-years went into this research. So, this so-called prize barely covers the cost of the research. Where's the payout, where's the profit? Oh wait, profit is only for capitalists and governments, not the working class.

      I would rather the government give perpetual "discovery" patents to scientists who discover stu

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Monday December 04, 2017 @07:44AM (#55671483) Journal
      The intention is good, I suppose. Perhaps the backers do this in part to toot their own horn, show the world what great benefactors they are. Well, let them.

      But what irks me is that the summary lists all of the important backers, as well as a bunch of the celebrities trotted out for the ceremony, but only one of the scientists is mentioned by name. Just who are we supposed to be celebrating here? This doesn't really help to turn our best scientists into rock stars. Even the headline mentions "Silicon Valley billionaires" rather than "The Breakthrough Foundation". The Guardian article isn't a great deal better, though at least they do mention the scientists.
      • They probably can't figure out how to have the award named after themselves without having to pony up all the money individually to become the next Nobel or whatnot.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...where just three men own half of the wealth of our nation and the OnePercent own a majority of the world, it is time to declare possession of over $100 million a crime against humanity. Make that much wealth a controlled substance by international law and gave these turds 30 days to turn it over the U.N. Those who to fail to comply forfeit all their assets and their miserable lives.

    Thou not suffer a billionaire to live.

  • Do not create plants whose job it is to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. As much as some don't want to hear it, sea rise over a century or three is an inconvenience and not a deadly threat.

    Plants that get out into the wild are, as it (like other ameliorative efforts) could overshoot and induce an ice age. Given these come on in as little as a few years (you need just one cold summer where the snow doesn't melt) you will indeed kill billions.

Real programs don't eat cache.

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