Breakthrough Prize awards scientists in Mountain View

A bit of Hollywood came to Silicon Valley Thursday night to help present Breakthrough Prize Awards to deserving scientists.
December 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A bit of Hollywood came to Silicon Valley Thursday night. Some heavy hitters came to celebrate science as lucrative academic awards were given out a NASA Ames Research Center. A lot of stars helped raise a lot of money. Six scientists each got $3 million. That's almost triple the size of the Nobel Peace Prize. And the ones presenting were Hollywood's and the valley's biggest names.

It had the glitz and the glam of the Academy Awards, and even some of the familiar faces. The stars came out for the Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences and Physics.

Billionaire tech investor Yuri Milner is one of the founders. He said, "There are people pushing the envelope all the time yet they are completely unknown."

Each prize is worth $3 million. It's money donated by Silicon Valley's biggest names like Milner, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sergey Brin.

Cori Bargmann, Ph.D., won a Breakthrough Prize earlier this year. She said, "It's really like winning a lottery you didn't know you had bought a ticket to. It's incredibly exciting!"

And bringing out the A-listers to support science helps put the attention and focus where it used to be. Actor Kevin Spacey was the event's host.

"Some 50 years ago the most famous person in the world was a scientist. Not a rock star, not a movie star. Albert Einstein was his name," said actor Spacey.

Comedian Conan O'Brien helped keep the event light. He said, "We're putting the focus where it should be? Actually the focus should be on me, but we've lost site of the prize momentarily and we're putting it on science."

Science is in the hearts of so many here. The breakthrough prize can help scientists follow their dreams, while still being financially stable.

"The more incentives there could be in the world for people to innovate the better," said Salman Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy.

The first Breakthrough Prize was awarded just last year.

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