Shaw Prizes hail hunt for habitable planets
(Left to right) NASA; Princeton University; University of Washington; Max Planck Institute for Mathematics; ETH Zurich

Shaw Prizes hail hunt for habitable planets

Work on spotting extrasolar planets, bacterial communications, and number theory has netted lucrative Shaw Prizes for a quintet of researchers.

William Borucki, of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, has captured the astronomy prize for two achievements: conceiving the observational technique of transit photometry that raised the tantalizing prospect of sighting Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, and leading the 25-year-long development of the Kepler mission, which in 2009 placed a telescope in space to make those observations.

Bonnie Bassler, of Princeton University, and E. Peter Greenberg, of the University of Washington, Seattle, share the life science and medicine prize for discovering how bacteria communicate with each other, a finding that may lead to interventions to thwart pathogens or promote a healthier array of microbes in our guts. Gerd Faltings, of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany, and Henryk Iwaniec, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in New Jersey, won the mathematical sciences award for developing new techniques in number theory that have led to the resolution of some long-standing classical math problems.

Founded and funded by Hong Kong media entrepreneur and philanthropist Run Run Shaw, the Shaw Prizes recognize active scientists with recent major achievements. Each prize category carries a $1 million cash award. The presentation ceremony will be held on 24 September in Hong Kong.