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Kavli Prizes for researchers who probed Kuiper Belt, phonons and human perception

The 2012 Kavli Prizes have been awarded to researchers who discovered the Kuiper Belt, probed the phonon and shaped our knowledge of the processes underpinning human perception.

Michael Brown, David Jewitt and Jane Luu have been awarded the 2012 astrophysics prize for their work on the Kuiper Belt. The prize committee says that their research on discovering and characterizing the belt “led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system”.

Jewitt, of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Luu, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, were just yesterday awarded the Shaw Prize for this work, which included detecting the first object in what is now called the Kuiper Belt and then adding many more. Brown, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built on this to detect Eris, a planet-sized body in the belt.

The neuroscience prize was also split three ways, between Cornelia Bargmann, Winfried Denk, and Ann Graybiel, for their work on the neuronal mechanisms underpinning perception and decision making. Bargmann, of the Rockefeller University in New York, is cited for her work with nematodes; Denk, of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, for his research on how information is transmitted from eye to brain; and Graybiel, of MIT, for work on habitual behaviours.

The Kavli nanoscience prize goes to Mildred Dresselhaus of MIT in Cambridge, who worked on synchronized vibrations at the atomic level known as phonons, and their interaction with electrons. “Over more than five decades, Dresselhaus has made multiple advances in helping to explain why the properties of materials structured at the nanoscale can vary so much from those of the same materials at larger dimensions,” says a statement from the prize team.

The Kavli prizes are awarded every two years by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Kavli Foundation and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Winners receive a gold medal, a scroll and a share of US$1,000,000 in each category.

CORRECTED 1/6 – This blog originally listed Luu as being at MIT in Cambridge. In fact she is at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington.

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