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Russian oligarch Yuri Milner has announced the creation of a new annual prize in fundamental physics worth £1.9m. The social media magnate has made billions from investments in Twitter and Facebook. Thirty years ago he gained a theoretical physics degree, but abandoned a PhD to move into the financial world.

The award is the largest annual science prize in history. To launch the fund nine leading researchers received awards. Winners will typically be active physicists who have recently established a theoretical result of great importance. Unlike the Nobel prizewinners, Milner recipients do not need to confirm their work by experiment.

The prize looks set to be modern and dynamic, with an open online nomination procedure and transparent voting. This will surely raise the profile of theoretical physics and inspire new interest in the subject. String theory looks set to benefit, with three winners in the first group of nine.

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