Astrophysicists, Molecular Biologists, and a Mathematician Share Shaw Prizes

Stellar work. Work on accretion disks, such as this artist's conception of a disk around the binary star system WZ Sge, was one of the areas recognized by this year's Shaw prizes.

P. Marenfeld and NOAO/AURA/NSF

Work on circadian rhythms, astrophysical accretion disks, and statistics have earned a half dozen scientists Shaw prizes for 2013.

Jeffrey Hall of the University of Maine, Orono; Michael Rosbash of Brandeis University; and Michael Young of Rockefeller University unraveled the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms in a series of experiments using mutant fruit flies; and the same fundamental processes proved to be at work in other organisms, including humans. The trio will share the Shaw Prize in life science and medicine.

Steven Balbus of the University of Oxford and John Hawley of the University of Virginia are sharing the astronomy award for developing the concept of magnetorotational instability, which describes the turbulence of the accretion disks that surround astrophysical objects such as forming stars and supermassive black holes. And Stanford University's David Donoho's new algorithms for dealing with noisy data that underpin many statistical and signal processing applications earned the mathematical sciences award.

Hong Kong media entrepreneur and philanthropist Run Run Shaw established the Shaw Prize in 2002. Each prize category carries a $1 million cash award.