The Selection Committee for the Fundamental Physics Prize, foregoing the regular nomination process, announced today the award of a Special Fundamental Physics Award of $3 million to Professor Stephen Hawking for his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes, and his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe.

Professor Hawking said: “I’m delighted and honoured to receive a special prize for fundamental physics, Although almost every theoretical physicist agrees with my prediction that a black hole should glow like a hot body, it would be very difficult to verify experimentally because the temperature of a macroscopic black hole is so low. I thought my discovery would never be confirmed or recognized.

However it could be claimed that it has already been indirectly confirmed by observations. It is thought that the very early universe underwent a period of accelerating or inflationary expansion.

“This would create conditions similar to a black hole and would give the universe an effective temperature. Thermal fluctuations in the very early universe would be frozen in and would cause small differences in the microwave background in different directions. These have been observed and agree with predictions.

“No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before Nevertheless prizes like these prizes play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it.”

The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established by the Milner Foundation and dedicated to advancing our knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level by awarding annual prizes for scientific breakthroughs, as well as communicating the excitement of fundamental physics to the public. According to the Foundation’s rules, laureates of all prizes are chosen by a Selection Committee, which is comprised of prior recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize.

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