3 science ideas you’ll be hearing more about in 2016

3 science ideas you’ll be hearing more about in 2016

Who said scientists can’t be world-famous celebrities? On Sunday, nearly $22 million in Breakthrough Prizes were handed out to the world’s top researchers in physics, the life sciences, and mathematics. The $3 million Breakthrough Prizes, at twice the dollar amount of the Nobel Prize, are the highest dollar prizes awarded to scientists in the world.

The goal of the Breakthrough Prize awards, founded by luminaries within the tech world (including Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma and Sergey Brin) three years ago, is to draw more attention to important work being done in the basic sciences. Judging by the celebrities who showed up for the star-studded ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley — Seth MacFarlane, Russell Crowe, Pharrell Williams and Hilary Swank – scientists doing pioneering research are starting to attract additional high-profile attention. These are three of the breakthrough ideas that we’ll be hearing more about in 2016:

1. Neutrinos are the key to understanding the known universe

The 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics went to a core group of seven research leaders and 1,370 other researchers studying neutrino oscillations at five different laboratories around the world. Two of these researchers – Arthur B. McDonald of Queen’s University in Canada and Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo in Japan — already won the Nobel Prize in Physics in October of this year for their discovery that neutrinos can oscillate between three different “flavors.” Given the ability of neutrinos to oscillate, the researchers conjecture that they must have a very tiny mass, tens of millions of times smaller than that of protons.

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