Composer Hans Zimmer, physicist Jim Al-Khalili and science documentary Particle Fever have been announced as the inaugural winners of the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.
The gongs are intended to recognize individuals or endeavors that have propelled science into the public consciousness. They will be presented by Hawking later this month at the Starmus Festival in Tenerife.
“In this special inaugural year of the awards, I have been invited to personally select the awardees,” said Hawking. “The winners have made outstanding contributions in the articulation and portrayal of science to the public, within the three categories of science, art and film.”
Photo: EPA/RAMON DE LA ROCHA
Scooping the science award for his role in documentaries such as The Secrets of Quantum Physics, broadcaster and physicist Jim Al-Khalili said he was “absolutely delighted and honored” to receive the medal.
“This a vindication that practicing research scientists can also be accepted and acknowledged as successful communicators,” he said.
“Like Stephen, I feel strongly that it is both a duty and privilege to share my wonder about the workings of the Universe and our place in it with as wide an audience as possible.”
The sweeping score for the science-fiction blockbuster Interstellar, a film lauded by Hawking for its credible physics, won composer Hans Zimmer the arts medal, while Particle Fever, a documentary about the Large Hadron Collider and the hunt for the Higgs Boson directed by Mark Levinson, received the film award.
“This is really the first time we are recognizing composers and filmmakers for communicating science,” said Garik Israelian, founder and director of the Starmus festival. “It is so interesting how these people appreciate science and how they bring science into music or into visual art and I think we ought to recognize this.”
Hans Zimmer said he felt “truly grateful and deeply honored” to receive the award. “We artists constantly strive to search for and provoke through new questions in our work. That is one of the links between the arts and the sciences. The constant desire to be part of the adventure of the unknown.”
Theoretical particle physicist and a producer of Particle Fever, David Kaplan, said it was fantastic to win the medal. “Stephen Hawking is a great physicist and as a communicator of science, has left an indelible mark on the planet. It is truly an honor,” he said.
Taking place from June 27 in Tenerife, the third Starmus Festival is not only a celebration of music and science — it is also a tribute to Hawking himself.
Called Beyond the Horizon the festival’s lineup includes a bevy of Nobel laureates, astronomer royal Lord Martin Rees and astronaut Chris Hadfield as well as medal winners Zimmer and Al-Khalili.
Also taking part are such luminaries as Richard Dawkins, Carolyn Porco and Kip Thorne — the theoretical physicist and science consultant for Interstellar, against whom Hawking once lost a bet on whether the object known as Cygnus X-1 was in fact a black hole. In conceding the wager, Hawking had to stump up for a year’s subscription to Penthouse magazine for Thorne.
Each of the award winners will receive a medal bearing a depiction of the cosmonaut Alexei Leonov undertaking the first spacewalk in 1965. His umbilical cable is showing as being linked to the iconic “Red Special” guitar of the Queen musician and astrophysicist Brian May — a nod to the connection between music and science. On the other side of the medal is a portrait of Hawking created by Leonov himself.
“We want to really bring close these two big worlds of art and science
and Hawking is really the person who can do that,” said Israelian.
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