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Silicon Valley mogul launches 'Nobel Prize' for science

One of Silicon Valley's biggest investors, Yuri Milner, has made it his business to pump his money into start-ups, including the likes of Facebook, Groupon, Zynga, Path, and the recently launched Airtime. Now the Russian technology mogul has his sights set on advancing the field of science with the announcement of a new non-profit venture called the Fundamental Physics Prize.

The prize is similar to the Nobel Prize in that it awards scientists already involved in cutting-edge research in their fields with substantial funding to continue their work. Each person or group awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize will receive $3 million (£1.93 million), and an additional $100,000 (£64,340) will be awarded to recipients of the New Horizons in Physics Prize. The first nine winners were announced this week, taking in a whopping $27 million (£17.4 million) in total prize money.

"I hope the new prize will bring long overdue recognition to the greatest minds working in the field of fundamental physics, and if this helps encourage young people to be inspired by science, I will be deeply gratified," Milner said in a statement.

American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics Steven Weinberg has joined Milner as a board member of the organisation.

Through his company, Digital Sky Technologies, Milner has poured cash into nearly every high-profile start-up in Silicon Valley, and some reports have his ownership stake in Facebook at around five per cent. But those endeavours have primarily revolved around the digital space. The Fundamental Physics Prize is essentially Milner's bet that new breakthroughs in science are ready for the funding needed to make them viable parts of our everyday realities. In addition to the prize money, recipients will be invited to offer in-depth presentations and discussions of their work to the general public, which will then be made available online.