In keeping with last week's news about doing Science for fabulous prizes. This week, the nine Kavli Prize winners have been announced. The Kavli Prize awards pioneers in the fields of Astrophysics, Nanoscience, and Neuroscience and only given out every two years.
The 2014 winners for Astrophysics are the three scientists who pioneered Inflation Theory - that's the theory that the universe underwent a period of exponential expansion in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, and Alexei Starobinsky.
These scientists published their work in the late 1970s and early '80s, but, while Inflation Theory has dominated how Astrophysicists think about the birth of the universe for the past 30 years. We couldn't prove it, until now.
In March of this year, scientists at the South Pole measured gravitational waves in the Cosmic Microwave Background that could only have been caused by inflation.
The winners in the field of Nanoscience, meanwhile, are all pioneers in the field of Nano-optics, which helps us see things that are, like, really super small, smaller than the wavelength of light, or about 200 nanometers. This was long thought to be the unpassable threshold for what we can see using ordinary light.
But Thomas Ebbesen, of France's Louis Pasteur University, demonstrated that light can pass through holes that are smaller than its own wavelength. Essentially, riding a current of oscillating electrons, this sounds amazing!
Meanwhile, his colleague Stefan Hell, of the Max Planck Institute, discovered a way to use Ebbesen's findings to see inside living cells, which means we can now directly observe life at nano-scale resolution.
Sir John B. Pendry of University College London, theorized how perfect lenses could be created using metamaterials, a kind of artificial matter that, according to Pendry's model, can be fashioned into lenses that distort light even less than a perfect vacuum does
Finally, the three Kavli Prize winners for Neuroscience, Brenda Milner, John O'Keefe, and Marcus Raichle, were awarded for their discoveries of the specialized brain networks we use for memory and cognition.
Part of their prize-winning research involved studying the brain of a patient known as HM (Henry Molaison Disorder), who underwent experimental surgery in the 1950s to treat epilepsy, and then ended up losing the ability to form new memories. Analysis of HM's brain and those of other patients revealed that the region known as the Medial Temporal Lobe is crucial to memory formation.
O'Keefe was awarded for his discovery of so-called "Cognitive Maps", our awareness of our specific location in our environment, which is housed in specialized nerve cells in that same lobe of the brain.
Each of this year's Kavli Honorees will be awarded one million dollars, which I imagine will buy them a whole lot of things.