Some good news from an area which is not known to generate good news.
PETRA, Jordan, May 24 (JTA) — .... Iran and Israel, bitter enemies, .... cooperate on an advanced scientific project.
In Alaan, a town just north of Amman — and at a comfortable remove from the spotlight thrown by political conflicts — representatives of the two countries are involved in developing SESAME, an acronym for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East.
It’s a rare and possibly unique example of scientific cooperation between Israel, Iran and other countries with which Israel has no ties, such as Pakistan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Other members are Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. Libya is expected to join soon as an observer.
“The political importance of the project cannot be underestimated,” professor Khaled Toukan, Jordan’s minister of education and the project’s acting director, told JTA.
“Scientists in the region work together in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of developing the Middle East,” Toukan said. He was in Petra for the Conference of Nobel Laureates, which convened in that ancient Nabatean town last week.
SESAME, the Middle East’s first major international research center, is a synchrotron accelerator. It uses magnets to create a circular path for electrons traveling at nearly the speed of light, producing a beam of bright ultraviolet and X-ray light, about the diameter of a human hair, that is directed down beam lines to end stations.
“These beam lines are so much stronger than the known X-rays that they open up new options for scientific research,” professor Moshe Deutsch, chairman of Israel’s national council for synchrotron radiation and one of two Israeli participants in SESAME, told JTA.
SESAME is exepcted to contribute to a wide range of scientific research, including structural molecular biology, molecular environmental science, X-ray imaging, archeological microanalysis, materials characterization and clinical medical applications.
Synchrotron radiation is widely used in materials science and biomedical applications, including lithography for computer chips, absorption and scattering measurements and high-pressure applications to create artificial diamonds and other substances.
An international synchrotron-light source in the Middle East was first proposed in 1997, when peace seemed to be on the way. European and Middle Eastern scientists worked together, and with the contribution of an old German synchrotron, SESAME got underway.