7 scientists share $1 million prizes for research

May 31, 2012 by MALCOLM RITTER

(AP) — Seven scientists won prizes Thursday for discoveries that involve the furthest reaches of the solar system, vanishingly tiny materials and the complexities of the brain. One finding helped end Pluto's status as a planet.

The researchers will share three $1 million Kavli prizes, awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in partnership with the California-based Kavli Foundation and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The winners, announced in Oslo, will receive their awards there Sept. 4. The prizes, awarded biennially since 2008, are named after philanthropist Fred Kavli, a native of Norway.

The prize for astrophysics is shared by David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles; Jane Luu of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology. They were cited for discovering and describing the Kuiper Belt, a disk of more than 70,000 small bodies that lies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Their work "led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system," the academy said.

Jewitt and Luu spotted the first known object in the belt in 1992. Brown's 2005 discovery of an object about the same size as Pluto but with more mass led to a reconsideration of what it means to be a planet, and to Pluto's demotion to "dwarf planet" status.

The neuroscience prize is shared by Cornelia Bargmann of the Rockefeller University in New York, Winfried Denk of the Max Planck Institute for Medical in Germany, and Ann Graybiel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were cited for shedding light on basic mechanisms by which the brain receives information from the environment and processes it to make decisions.

Bargmann has pioneered the study of how genetic programs control the operation of brain-cell circuits, the academy said. Denk developed two key procedures for studying how neurons respond to signals, while Graybiel has made discoveries about how the brain learns habits. Circuits studied by Graybiel probably play a role in disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease and addiction, the academy said.

The third is for nanoscience, which is the study of extremely tiny materials and structures that are smaller than, say, a single bacterium. The award goes to Mildred Dresselhaus of MIT. The academy said her work has helped understand how energy flows and dissipates in these tiny environments. Among other things, it should lead to new ways of scavenging waste heat for useful purposes, the academy said.

Explore further: James Watson's Nobel Prize to be auctioned

3 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

8 scientists share lucrative Kavli Prizes

Jun 03, 2010

(AP) -- Eight scientists from the U.S., Britain and Germany shared three awards worth $1 million each on Thursday for work that has helped humans explore distant corners of the universe and the tiniest particles on Earth.

Kuiper Belt Moons Are Starting to Seem Typical

Jan 11, 2006

In the not-too-distant past, the planet Pluto was thought to be an odd bird in the outer reaches of the solar system because it has a moon, Charon, that was formed much like Earth's own moon was formed. But Pluto is getting ...

Astronomers Measured Mass of Largest Dwarf Planet

Jun 18, 2007

Aptly named after the Greek goddess of conflict, the icy dwarf planet, Eris, has rattled the general model of our solar system. The object was discovered by astronomer Mike Brown of Caltech in the outer reaches ...

Hungarian wins top mathematics prize

Mar 21, 2012

Hungarian Endre Szemeredi has won the Abel prize, considered to be the "Nobel" for mathematics, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced on Wednesday.

Swedish mathematician receives Abel Prize

Mar 23, 2006

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters will award the 2006 Abel Prize to mathematician Lennart Carleson of Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology.

Kavli Gift Brightens Study of Dark Energy

Aug 04, 2004

MIT research on the most exciting questions in astrophysics and space science has been recognized by a $7.5 million gift from the Kavli Foundation that will jumpstart new studies of the cosmos. "The Kavli gift ...

Recommended for you

James Watson's Nobel Prize to be auctioned

3 hours ago

Missed the chance to bid on Francis Crick's Nobel Prize when it was auctioned off last year for $2.27 million? No worries, you'll have another chance to own a piece of science history on Dec. 4, when James D. Watson's 1962 ...

Engineers develop gift guide for parents

Nov 21, 2014

Faculty and staff in Purdue University's College of Engineering have come up with a holiday gift guide that can help engage children in engineering concepts.

Former Brown dean whose group won Nobel Prize dies

Nov 20, 2014

David Greer, a doctor who co-founded a group that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for working to prevent nuclear war and who helped transform the medical school at Brown University, has died. He was 89.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.