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US and UK scientists dominate the ‘Hong Kong Nobels’

200px-Shaw_Prize_Medal

The Shaw Prize medal.

The Hong Kong-based Shaw Prize Foundation announced the winners of the annual Shaw Prize today. Three prizes, in astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences, each carry US$1 million. This is the eleventh year in which the prizes have been awarded.

The astronomy prize celebrated pioneering measurements of key cosmological features, such as waves originating in the early Universe called baryonic acoustic oscillations, that have furthered our understanding of how galaxies clumped together and how dark energy is distributedDaniel Eisenstein of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, took half the prize, and Shaun Cole of Durham University, UK, split the remainder with John Peacock of the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Kazutoshi Mori of Kyoto University in Japan and Peter Walter, a German-born Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher at the University of California in San Francisco, shared the life-science and medicine prize for discovering a response mechanism that cells use when stressed by an excess of misshapen proteins, known as the unfolded-protein response. Although vital as a quality-control process in maintaining healthy cells, when used for a prolonged period, the mechanism is suspected of having a role in some degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Romanian-born George Lusztig of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge captured the entire mathematical-sciences prize for weaving together mathematical ideas, including representation theory, “to solve old problems and reveal beautiful new connections”.

Run Run Shaw, a media mogul famous for popularizing martial-arts actions who passed away at age 106 this January, established the prize to honour scientists who have recently achieved “significant breakthroughs in academic and scientific research or applications and whose work has resulted in a positive and profound impact on mankind”.

The prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Hong Kong on 24 September.

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