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Zuckerberg's 'Oscars of Science' Give Out $22M on TV

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn't Billy Crystal, but he was the most famous celebrity at Sunday night's 'Oscars of science.'
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn't Billy Crystal, but he was one of the most famous celebrities at Sunday night's "Oscars of science," where nearly $22 million in prizes were handed out.

The Breakthrough Prizes, as the event is formally known, were started by Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and other tech luminaries to honor researchers in physics, mathematics and the life sciences.

The $21.9 million in prize money was split among several winners in the physics and life sciences categories. There was one winner for mathematics: Ian Agol of the University of California, Berkeley, for his work in geometric topology. (Yes, it's as complicated as it sounds).

Image: Actress Hilary Swank and Mark Zuckerberg
Actress Hilary Swank and Mark Zuckerberg speak onstage during the 2016 Breakthrough Prize Ceremony on November 8, 2015 in Mountain View, California.Steve Jennings / Getty Images

"Breakthrough Prize laureates are making fundamental discoveries about the universe, life and the mind," contest co-founder Yuri Milner, the Russian physicist and entrepreneur, said in a statement. "These fields of investigation are advancing at an exponential pace, yet the biggest questions remain to be answered."

While the winners might be unknown to the general public, host Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy") and presenters Russell Crowe, Hilary Swank, and "Silicon Valley" stars Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Star added some Hollywood glamour to the affair, which was televised live on Sunday night on the National Geographic Channel.

The Breakthrough Prizes also had a special guest from far, far away: Scott Kelly, who said a few words from aboard the International Space Station.