Named for Fred Kavli, a Norwegian-born inventor and businessman-turned-philanthropist who passed away last year, the million-dollar prizes were awarded in three categories: astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.
The most notable winners were the scientists splitting the astrophysics prize -- awarded this year to the originators of the idea of cosmic inflation.
Cosmic inflation is the theory of how the universe quickly expanded in the earliest nanoseconds of the Big Bang. The scientists include: Alan H. Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Andrei D. Linde of Stanford and Alexei A. Starobinsky of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow, Russia.
Until recently, cosmic inflation was, though well-founded, highly theoretical. But recent advancements in telescope technology have allowed scientists to collect new evidence and study new sources of ancient light and energy -- evidence that's offered greater legitimacy and appreciation of the cosmic inflation theory.
In the category of nanoscience, the million-dollar prize was split by Thomas W. Ebbesen of France's Louis Pasteur University, Stefan W. Hell of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and John B. Pendry of Imperial College London for their combined efforts in nano-optics research.
Brenda Milner of the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University, John O'Keefe of University College London, and Marcus E. Raichle of Washington University in St. Louis shared the neuroscience for their work on memory and cognition.