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The team behind the first photo of a black hole received a $3 million Breakthrough Prize. Photo: EHT Collaboration

The $3 million Breakthrough Prizes were awarded to researchers working at the forefront of math, physics and life sciences — including the scientists behind the first-ever photo taken of a black hole.

Why it matters: Scientists often work on the fringes of popular consciousness, but prizes like these are designed to help bring their discoveries to the public by celebrating their accomplishments.

Winners: More than 300 members of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration will share the $3 million fundamental physics prize for their image of a black hole released earlier this year.

  • Alex Eskin, of the University of Chicago, received the $3 million mathematics prize for his work, including the proof of the magic wand theorem with Fields Medal winner Maryam Mirzakhani, who died in 2017. The theorem can be applied to a wide variety of problems in math, including how light bounces around a mirrored room.
  • Virginia Man-Yee Lee of the University of Pennsylvania was awarded a life sciences prize for her work developing a "protein roadmap" that shows how neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's work in the brain.
  • F. Ulrich Hartl (Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry) and Arthur Horwich (Yale University) will share another life sciences prize for their research into how proteins fold in precise ways in order to do their jobs within a cell.
  • Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was awarded a life sciences prize for his research into the science of obesity.
  • David Julius, of the University of California, San Francisco, received a life sciences prize for his work investigating how pain is processed by the body.

Plus: A special prize in fundamental physics announced in August went to Sergio Ferrara, Daniel Freedman and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen for their development of "supergravity," which combines elements of particle physics and gravity.

  • 6 early career scientists were also awarded $100,000 prizes for their work in physics and math.

Background: The Breakthrough Prizes are in their 8th year. Its sponsors include investor Yuri Milner, Google's Sergey Brin, 23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Go deeper

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

1 hour ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.