Johns Hopkins Physicist Receives (Possible) $1 Million Prize

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No one goes into theoretical physics for the money. If you’ve got the brains to handle those kinds of abstract, fundamental questions, you may win yourself a nice professorship, but since your ideas can’t be easily converted into medicines or weapons, you’re not likely to bring home the really big bucks.

That’s why the Simons Investigator program was launched in 2012: it provides support to mathematicians, theoretical computer scientists, and theoretical physicists — $100,000 per year for five years, with an optional five-year renewal after that. Hopkins physics professor Marc Kamionkowski is one of the six recipients of this year’s award.

“The intent is to support theoretical physicists to think freely and creatively, and that’s a great thing,” Kamionkowski told the Hopkins Hub. “What I do is pure curiosity-driven research. This award is a huge honor for me.”

Kamionkowski’s research centers on finding the origins of the universe. That involves analyzing experiments, of course, but it also requires a lot of what might look to outsiders like, well, sitting around. “We spend a lot of time sitting around brainstorming. Sometimes we come up with brilliant ideas, only to find out a few days later that they were ridiculous. But sometimes we come up with ideas that are then used to guide observations that may result in important discoveries.” Hopefully that $500,000 (or $1 million) will facilitate a whole bunch of fruitful brainstorming. Congrats, Kamionkowski.

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