The most lucrative prize in science is given to a theoretical physicist who has never had a regular job.

The University of Oxford's David Deutsch is one of four researchers who received a $3m prize for their work in fundamental physics.

An unbuildable machine to test the existence of parallel universes was proposed by Deutsch, who became known as the "Father of quantum computing". In 1985 his paper paved the way for the creation of quantum computers.

There was a thought experiment that involved a computer and some quantum components. It took me six years to think of it as a quantum computer.

Each year, the scientists and mathematicians who are deemed worthy by the committees of previous winners are given the breakthrough prizes. There are prizes for physics, life science, and mathematics. It's worth $3 million.

One life science prize pays tribute to researchers who traced a disease to brain cells that are wiped out by the immune system. There are new treatments for sleep disorders that have been discovered.

Clifford Brangwynne

Clifford Brangwynne at Princeton shares a life sciences prize for work on proteins. Photograph: Dee Sullivan

The second prize went to Anthony Hyman at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics for discovering that the workhorses of cells form teams that look like flash mobs with implications for neurodegenerative disease. A team at DeepMind in London won the third life sciences prize for AlphaFold, an artificial intelligence program that predicted the structure of nearly everyProtein known to science

High-definition TVs handle messy signals, delivery companies find the fastest routes, and scientists avoid biases in clinical trials are some of the things Daniel Spielman has done.

He was raised in north London, where his family ran a restaurant, and he was born in Israel. He worked on quantum theory for his PhD, under the supervision of DennisSciama, the astronomer royal. The Many Worlds interpretation was proposed by a US physicist in 1957 and Deutsch was a fan of it. There are unseen parallel worlds where alternative realities play out, thanks to events that unfold in our universe.

Deutsch, who makes a living from books, lectures, grants and prizes, drove quantum computing forward with descriptions of quantum bits, and wrote the first quantum algorithm that would surpass its classical equivalent.

He shares the prize with two other people, one of whom is a professor at MIT and the other at IBM in New York.

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Peter Shor

Peter Shor, an expert in quantum algorithms at MIT, shares the physics prize

It took years of hard work by both of them to discover the cause of a serious sleep disorder. The condition of narcotic dogs was traced back to a particular type of brain cell. Orexin is a neurotransmitter that works through thereceptor. At first, Yanagisawa thought that the appetite of the mice was due to Orexin, but it turned out that it wasn't true. After he decided to film the animals at night, his team noticed that they fell asleep. It was a eureka moment.

The hippocampus is a part of the brain that is missing in people with narcolepsy. The rise in the number of people with narcolepsy is thought to be the result of groups of cells being killed off by the immune system. The work paved the way for a new class of drugs that mimic the neurological disorder.

Demis Hassabis

Demis Hassabis, of DeepMind, shares a life sciences prize for his work on protein folding

The third life sciences prize went to the DeepMind team. A 50-year old challenge in biology was solved by the team. Understanding diseases and finding drugs to treat them is dependent on the shape of a proteins.

The structures of 200m proteins were released earlier this year by the DeepMind team, which spurred work in areas such as Malaria and recycling plastic. According to Hassabis, it's the most meaningful thing done with artificial intelligence in the sciences and a proof of principle that puzzles can be solved with artificial intelligence.

The winners of the prize founded by Brin and others received their awards at an event in Silicon Valley. At least in this universe, Deutsch is unlikely to attend if the ceremony goes ahead. He said he liked talking. I don't want to go anywhere.