Scientists awarded $22 million in Breakthrough Prizes

Mila Kunis (left) and Ashton Kutcher (right) with 2018 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences winner Kim Nasmyth from the University of Oxford. Photo: Peter Barreras / Invision / AP

This year's Breakthrough Prizes — started in 2012 by tech investor Yuri Milner and backed by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Google's Sergey Brin, 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki and Tencent cofounder Pony Ma — went to researchers working in cell biology, astrophysics, neurobiology, plant biology, and mathematics.

The prizes: Seven $3 million awards and six $100,000 prizes for physicists and mathematicians early in their careers were presented on Sunday in Silicon Valley. They're the largest monetary prizes for fundamental scientific research and, unlike the roughly $1 million Nobel Prizes, recognize mathematicians.

Why it matters: "The point is not to make rock stars of us, but of the science itself," Johns Hopkins University physicist and awardee Charles Bennett told the Guardian. "I don't think people realize how big a role science plays in their lives."