Have you heard of the MacArthur Fellows Program, a.k.a. Genius Awards? The awards give $500,000 to the recipients with no strings attached. The geniuses (genii?) can do anything they want with the money. The winners, who are surprised by the award because they did not apply for it, are people who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work." Their awards are "not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential."
Our theoretical question of the day is...if you could give Genius Awards to contemporary poets, artists, musicians, scientists, historians, playwrights, mathematicians, etc., who would your picks be? I'm still thinking about mine.
Updated to add:
* Here are Popular Mechanics' Backyard Genius Awards
* Seattle, WA and Tucson, AZ offer local genius awards