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Stanford Physicist Among Scientists Awarded Prestigious Prize For Invention of 'Supergravity'

MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF) – The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics ceremony in Mountain View will award 3 physicists a multi-million dollar prize for their 1976 theory of "supergravity."

The selection committee made the announcement Tuesday. The award will be presented at a ceremony at NASA's Hangar One, in Mountain View on November 3.

Daniel Z. Freedman of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sergio Ferrara of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen of Stony Brook University in New York will share the $3 million prize.

Freedman, a visiting professor at Stanford, lives in Palo Alto with his wife Miriam.

Among previous recipients of the prize is the late Stephen Hawking.

The Breakthrough Prizes, sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his spouse Priscilla Chan, among other investors, are awarded annually to the world's top scientists in life sciences, mathematics and fundamental physics.

The prize can be given at any time, even retroactively.

The trio's discovery added the 'gravitino' and 'graviton' to the scientific lexicon, and "had a powerful impact on theoretical physics, including providing a basis for the still-continuing effort to develop a full theory of quantum gravity," according to the CERN Courier.

"The discovery of supergravity was the beginning of including quantum variables in describing the dynamics of spacetime," said Edward Witten, the chair of the selection committee.

Freedman, van Nieuwenhuizen and Ferrera published "Progress toward a theory of supergravity" in the June 1976 issue of American Physical Society.

Witten showed in 1981 that the theory could be used to simplify the proof for general relativity, initiating the integration of the theory into string theory.

The prestigious Breakthrough Prize is the latest of several awards the trio has received for the invention of supergravity. In 1993, they recieved the ICTP Dirac Medal and in 2006, the Dannie Heinemann Prize for Mathematical Physics.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


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