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A hefty sum of $21.9 million was handed out to the winners of this year’s Breakthrough Prizes at the “Oscars of science” on Sunday night.
The prize and award ceremony was founded by some people you’ll recognize, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google founder Sergey Brin, to honor researchers who have made great strides in physics, life sciences, and mathematics.
According to a press release, the recipients include researchers from Stanford University and MIT who programmed neurons in mice to express light-activated ion channels and pumps, so their electrical activity can be controlled by light. This year the mathematics prize went to Ian Agol from UC Berkeley who worked on solving shape-shifting spaces.
The Breakthrough Junior Challenge was new this year. A high school student who made a video that simply explained Einstein’s theory of special relativity won the prize – a $250,000 educational scholarship. His teacher will receive a $50,000 award and his high school will get a fancy, new science lab.
Seth MacFarlane hosted the show, which was aired on Discovery, Science and BBC World News channels. Pharrell Williams performed and there were celebrity presenters such as Russell Crowe, Hilary Swank, and Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr from HBO’s Silicon Valley.
"This year's laureates have all opened up ways of understanding ourselves," said Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the prize and CEO of personal genomics company 23andMe. "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."