As part of their Giving Pledge, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia Milner created the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. This challenge, which is held annually, is designed to recognize students who use creative thinking to explore science. Each must bring a concept or theory to life in a way that others can understand in a short video. The submissions are judged, and winners are announced. The challenge awards winners in different regions. These regions are Asia, Central/South America, North America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, India, and the Middle East/Africa. Read on as we revisit some of the top regional Breakthrough Junior Challenge winners from around the globe.
“The Physics of the Alcubierre Warp Drive” by Holden Liu
Holden Liu, 16, from Canada, was the winner of the popular vote regional champions in 2021 for the North American region. His entry, entitled “The Physics of the Alcubierre Warp Drive,” revolved around the physics of the Alcubierre warp drive, a device that is still just a working model at this point. The whole idea behind this device is to make it faster to reach parts of space that would take multiple lifetimes to reach otherwise. This is accomplished by bending or warping space.
“Fourier Analysis: Timbre” by Ana Calina
Ana Calina, 17, from Romania, was the winner of the popular vote regional champions in 2020 for the region of Europe. Her entry, titled “Fourier Analysis: Timbre,” examined why different instruments make different sounds. She pointed out that most people can easily distinguish a piano from a violin. She then explored the mathematical and scientific reasons for the different wavelengths that the instruments produce and thus the reason we are able to distinguish them from one another.
“Entropy and Spontaneity!” by Taegan Charles
Taegan Charles, 17, from Australia, was the winner of the popular vote regional champions in 2019 for the Australian and New Zealand region. Her entry, titled “Entropy and Spontaneity!” explored the reasons why energy spreads the way it does. This explains why ice can cool down drinks and why pans can heat up. This also explains why some items are more likely to spontaneously combust and is a key principle to understand in the chemical world.
“Pharmacokinetics and Bioavailability” by Abhay Gupta
Abhay Gupta, 16, from India, was the winner of the popular vote regional champions in 2021 for the region of India. His entry, titled “Pharmacokinetics and Bioavailability,” explored the world of pharmaceuticals. More specifically, he explained why certain medications act the way they do in the body, how and why our bodies interact with these medications, and how scientists and doctors determine how much of a pharmaceutical drug a patient should take at one time to maximize the benefits.
“Fate of the Universe” by Aldrean Alogon
Aldrean Paul Alogon, 18, from the Philippines, was the winner of the popular vote regional champions in 2019 for the Asian region. His entry, titled “Fate of the Universe,” took a look at why the planets in our solar system are drifting further away from Earth. The reason for this is based on the momentum of expansion. The piece explored what the momentum of expansion is and how it may play a role in the fate of our solar system and the fate of the universe.
For Yuri Milner, the founder of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, it’s important to encourage a new generation of scientists, physicists, and mathematicians. As part of the Giving Pledge, Milner is doing his part to give back by creating the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and funding the award money for this challenge.