Academics land £2m prizes at Zuckerberg-backed ‘science Oscars’ – Ian Sample Sunday 8 November 2015 21.00 EST


British researcher John Hardy among those to win a Breakthrough prize at ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane in the US

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner

Science is starting to pay big for a small minority who land major prizes. At a ceremony in California on Sunday night, six researchers became substantially wealthier when they were handed Breakthrough prizes, set up by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner along with some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley.

Among those honoured were Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University and Edward Boyden of MIT for developing a procedure called optogenetics – a means of turning neurons on and off using light. They took home $3m (£2m) apiece for winning the Breakthrough prize in life sciences.

The same prize winnings went to John Hardy, who studies Alzheimer’s disease at University College London; Helen Hobbs, of the University of Texas South-western medical centre, for discovering gene variants linked to cholesterol; Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig for reading Neanderthal and other ancient genomes; and Ian Agol, a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, for his work on problems that language cannot easily convey: virtual Hakenvirtual fibering conjectures and tameness.

A group of 1,300 researchers won the Breakthrough prize in fundamental physics, but the $3m will be shared among five team leaders whose experiments confirmed that ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass. The same landmark discovery won the Nobel prize in physics this year.

In keeping with Milner’s aim of raising scientists to rock star status in the eyes of the public, the Breakthrough prizes – sometimes called the Oscars of science – were handed out at a ceremony at Hangar One in Silicon Valley hosted by Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy.

Pharrell Williams was down to perform, with Russell Crowe, Hilary Swank and Lily Collins among the guest presenters. The plan for the evening, with a theme of “life in the universe”, included a live video link to the Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly on the International Space Station.

The prizes, totalling $21.9m this year – taking the total handed out to more than $160m since they were established in 2012 – are backed by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his partner, Priscilla Chan, Google’s Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki of 23andme, and Jack Ma of Alibaba.com and his wife, Cathy Zhang. Unlike Nobel prizes, the Breakthrough prizes are explicitly directed at researchers who are still active in their fields.

Hardy, nicknamed Scruffy by his former colleagues – he was once crowned the worst dressed scientist in the field at a major neuroscience conference – won the prize for his discovery of genetic mutations that give rise to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and for inspiring new treatments for preventing the disease.

He said he was having bacon and eggs in his kitchen one Saturday morning when Mahlon DeLong, a US neurologist from the prize committee, called with the news of his win. “I was speechless. It was a 15-minute call that changed my life. I had to have another cup of coffee,” he said.

Hardy is the most cited Alzheimer’s researcher in Britain, and may be the most storied too. He once rang up a $1,000 bill at an Osaka karaoke bar, drinking whiskey and singing Yellow Submarine, while in the city for a conference. One tale has him travelling with a colleague and mistakenly picking up the wrong suitcase before retiring to bed. The next day, Hardy appeared in the other man’s clothes. “He said he just thought his wife had bought him some new clothes,” a former colleague, Karen Duff, told the journal Nature Medicine in 2004.

He made a major breakthrough in 1990 at Imperial College London when his team found mutations that helped to explain how amyloid plaques form in the brain. Later, he showed that tangles of a protein called tau appeared to happen as the disease progressed. It was part of a strategy to understand the order in which Alzheimer’s takes hold.

Article continues:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/09/academics-land-2m-prizes-mark-zuckerberg-breakthrough-prize-science-oscars

 

The Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Has Deep Concerns About Income Inequality – By Alison Griswold OCT. 12 2015 2:13 PM


 Angus Deaton, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics. Photo by Denise Applewhite. Courtesy of the Office of Communications/Princeton University.


Angus Deaton, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Photo by Denise Applewhite. Courtesy of the Office of Communications/Princeton University.

On Monday, Angus Deaton, a British-American economist and professor at Princeton University, won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work on “consumption, poverty, and welfare.” As that description might suggest, Deaton’s academic interests are quite vast. His areas of research include “poverty in the world and in India,” “health status and economics,” and “household surveys.” His list of papers and publications is similarly extensive.

In addition to all that, Deaton has also focused a good deal on income inequality. The topic has appeared in both the biannual “Letter from America” he pens for the Royal Economic Society’s Newsletter and, more prominently, in his book on 250 years of income inequality, The Great Escape. (A book which, incidentally, was released in October 2013, several months before the English-language version of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century). In his April 2014 letter, for example, Deaton pointed out how the United States appeared to have suddenly “rediscovered” income inequality following decades of stagnant median wages and dramatic wealth accumulation at the very top. “There are many unfamiliar things in a new country,” he wrote, “and one of the most immediate, for me, when I first came to America, was the lack of interest in inequality, among either academics or the general public.” And:

In politics too, income inequality had little traction. Americans, unlike the British, are not interested in or disturbed by stories of ‘fat cats’, indeed they rather approve of them. Attempts by Democratic politicians to talk about inequality or redistribution were effectively met by cries of ‘class warfare’ from the Republicans. Americans, we were told, believed in the American Dream, that everyone could get rich if they tried hard enough. It was equality of opportunity that was important, not inequality of outcomes, and America, so the story went, was the land of opportunity.

As for what such newly rediscovered gaps in equality might mean, The Great Divideoffers the following commentary (via Cardiff Garcia):

Article continues:

Watch: Jon Hamm won an Emmy — after 16 tries – Updated by Todd VanDerWerff on September 20, 2015, 11:20 p.m. ET


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Jon Hamm has been nominated for an Emmy 16 times. Eight of those nominations were for Don Draper, the iconic character he created on Mad Men. (Four others were for producing Mad Men, with another four for guest actor roles on Tina Fey shows.)

And until Sunday, September 20, he had never won a single one of those Emmys. But on his last chance, Hamm took home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award for playing Don. Fey presented him with the award, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

It wasn’t just his first Emmy. It was the first Emmy ever for an actor from Mad Men. The series’ total now stands at one win out of 36 separate nominations. (Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks both lost their final bids for playing Peggy Olsen and Joan Holloway, respectively.)

It’s worth it, though, because Don’s one of the best characters in TV history, and Hamm had the unfortunate luck to be up against Bryan Cranston on Breaking Bad, who won four of the awards Hamm lost. (The other three went to Friday Night Lights‘ Kyle Chandler, Homeland‘s Damian Lewis, and The Newsroom‘s Jeff Daniels.)

Hamm, who’s had a tumultuous personal year, complete with time spent in rehab and a breakup of his longtime relationship, gave a short but touching speech that talked about the many people who’ve helped him on the journey to this moment, the families who’ve taken him into their lives and kept him going.

“To Bud and Susie and Mary Ann and Ted and Ernie and Carolyn and Vick and Linda and Gary and Sue and my sisters and Cora and Jen, thank you all very much. I would not be standing here without you,” he said. He then thanked the fans of the show and left, never to be Draper again.

http://www.vox.com/2015/9/20/9363361/jon-hamm-emmy-speech

All of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners – Updated by Kelsey McKinney on April 20, 2015, 3:19 p.m. ET


Cover of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction by Anthony Doerr. cover
The winners of the 99th Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday, April 20. The Pulitzer Prize is one of the highest awards given in journalism and the arts. At the presentation, Pulitzer administrator Mike Pride said that almost 3,000 entries had been reviewed to decide this year’s winners.

Here are the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners:

Gold medal for Public Service

The Post and Courier of Charleston, SC

Breaking News Reporting

Staff of the Seattle Times

Investigative Reporting

Eric Lipton, New York Times

Staff of the Wall Street Journal

Explanatory Journalism

Zachary R. Mider, Bloomberg News

Local Reporting

Rob Kuznia, Rebecca Kimitch, and Frank Suraci of the Daily Breeze, Torrance, California

National Reporting

Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post

International Reporting

New York Times Staff

Feature Writing

Dianna Marcum, Los Angeles Times

Commentary

Lisa Faulkenberg, Houston Chronicle

Criticism

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

Editorial Writing

Kathleen Kingsbury, Boston Globe

Editorial Cartooning

Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News

Breaking News Photography

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Photography Staff

Feature Photography

Daniel Berehulak, freelance photographer, New York Times

Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Drama

“Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis

History

Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn

Biography

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer

Poetry

Digest by Gregory Pardio

General Nonfiction

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Music

“Anthracite Fields” by Julia Wolfe

http://www.vox.com/2015/4/20/8458653/pulitzer-prize-winners-2015

The Best, Worst, and Craziest Looks From the Oscars Red Carpet February 22, 2015 11:52 p.m.


Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at Feb 23, 2015 1.55

We may not have seen formal shorts or Smokey the Bear hats at the Oscars tonight, but we did get Alaïa dish-washing gloves, a bedazzled sports bra, and one particularly heavenly lavender tux. From Julianne Moore in bedazzled Chanel Haute Couture to Lupita Nyong’o in a pearl-encrustedCalvin Klein Collection gown, click through our slideshow below to see our picks for the best, worst, and more concerning looks from the Academy Awards.

http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/02/best-worst-nuttiest-looks-at-the-oscars.html

‘Selma Is Now’: John Legend’s Momentous Oscar Speech by Judd Legum Posted on February 22, 2015 at 11:58 pm Updated: February 23, 2015 at 12:15 am


John Legend and Common won the Academy Award for best original song for “Glory” from the movie Selma, which chronicled Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for the Voting Rights Act.

glory-638x357

CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

Legend took the opportunity to remind the audiece that the struggle continues. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today,” Legend said. “Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now.”

Selma depicts events that took place 50 years ago. But in just the last two years there has been a stunning assault on voting rights in the United States:

[T]he very rights championed by King have been eroded since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 which effectively struck down the heart of Johnson’s Voting Rights Act.

The high court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder opened the doors for nine Southern states to change their election laws without federal approval. In the year and a half since the decision, courts have heard a number of cases about the constitutionality of newly passed voter ID legislation and other methods of voter suppression, while voters across the country have faced increased barriers to casting their ballots. …

Immediately after the Supreme Court struck down the provisions against restrictive voting legislation by ruling that Section 5 of the VRA no longer blocks discriminatory voting changes, states across the country moved forward with laws that were previously blocked. In the first year after the decision, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia all made previously forbidden changes to their voting laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Article continues:

http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2015/02/22/3625698/john-legend-meant-said-selma-now/