A theoretical physicist who had never had a regular job won the most lucrative prize in science for his pioneering contributions to the field of quantum computing.
David Deutsch, who belongs to Oxford universitythe $3 million (about £2.65 million) breakthrough prize in fundamental physics along with three other researchers laid the foundations for the broader discipline of quantum information.
Deutsch, 69, became known as the “father of quantum computing” after he proposed a strange – and as yet unbuildable – machine to test for the existence of parallel universes. for him paper In 1985 paved the way for Primitive quantum computers Scientists are working on it today.
“It was a thought experiment that involved a computer, and that computer had some quantum components in it,” Deutsch recalls. “Today it would be called a universal quantum computer, but it took me another six years to think of it that way.”
The Breakthrough Awards, described by the founders of Silicon Valley as the Oscars of science, are awarded annually to scientists and mathematicians deemed worthy by past laureate committees. This year there is one prize in physics, three prizes in life sciences, and another prize in mathematics. Each is worth $3 million.
One life science award is given to researchers who have traced narcolepsy to brain cells that have been wiped out by errant immune responses. discovery of him Opening the door to new treatments for sleep disorders.
Second prize goes to Clifford Brangwyn at Princeton University and Anthony Heymann at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden for their discovery that proteins — the horseshoes involved in cells — make up flashmob-like teams, with implications for neurodegenerative disease. A team at DeepMind in London has won the third life sciences prize for AlphaFold, an artificial intelligence program that predicts structures Almost every protein known to science.
The Math Prize is given to Daniel Spielman of Yale University for work helping HDTVs deal with messy signals and delivery companies find the fastest routes and scientists avoid biases in clinical trials.
Born in Israel to parents who survived the Holocaust, Deutsch was raised in North London, where his family ran a restaurant. For his Ph.D., he worked on quantum theory under the supervision of Dennis Sciama at Oxford, who previously supervised Stephen Hawking And the Lord ReeseRoyal astronomer. While delving into the foundations of the theory, Deutsch became a fan of the many-worlds interpretation proposed in 1957 by American physicist Hugh Everett III. Everett is right—though many struggle to—and events unfolding in our universe generate unseen parallel worlds where alternate realities come into play.
Deutsch, who makes a living from books, lectures, grants, and prizes, led quantum computing forward with descriptions of quantum bits, or qubits, and wrote the first quantum algorithm that would outperform its classical counterpart.
He shares the award with Peter Schur at MIT, an expert in quantum algorithms, along with Gil Brassard at the University of Montreal and Charles Bennett at IBM in New York, who have developed unbreakable forms of quantum cryptography and helped invent quantum teleportation — a method for sending information from a place to another.
It took years of hard work by Emmanuel Minot at Stanford University and Masashi Yanagisawa at the University of Tsukuba to uncover the cause of narcolepsy, a serious sleep disorder, as they share a biology prize. Mignot’s studies of anesthetized dogs traced the condition to mutated receptors in the brain. Meanwhile, Yanagisawa discovered orexin, a neurotransmitter that works through the receptor. At first, Yanagisawa thought orexin played a role in appetite, but mice lacking it seemed to eat normally. And only after he decided to photograph the animals at night (mice are nocturnal) did his team notice that they had suddenly fallen asleep. “It was really a eureka moment,” Yanagisawa said.
Further work by Mignot found that humans with narcolepsy lack orexin in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. Clusters of cells that produce orexin are thought to be killed by stray immune reactions, which is the reason for the rise in narcolepsy in the 2009 “swine flu” pandemic. This work paved the way for new drugs that treat narcolepsy by mimicking orexin.
The third Life Sciences award went to Demis Hassabis and John Jumper at Alphabet DeepMind. The team set out to solve a major 50-year-old biology challenge: predicting how proteins are formed. Since the shape of a protein determines its function, this is of great importance for understanding diseases and finding drugs to treat them.
Earlier this year, the DeepMind team launched structures 200 m proteinStimulating work in areas as diverse as malaria and plastic recycling. Hebeis calls it “the most meaningful thing done with AI in science” and a starting point: a proof of principle that puzzles that are expected to outlast our lives can be solved with AI.
Before the pandemic, Breakthrough Prize winners, founded by Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri Milner and others, took home their prizes at a magical, star-studded event in Silicon Valley. If the party goes on this year, Deutsch, who gave the TED Talk via robot, is unlikely to attend, at least in this universe. “I love conversations,” he said. “But I don’t like going anywhere.”