(…)The project to build Sesame has been running for around 15 years, and has weathered many political storms and changes of government. But it is still going strong. It is this durability, say those involved, that makes it such a powerful symbol of what is possible in the region when politics takes a back seat. Many other science collaborations are undertaken more out of necessity than choice, for example on seismology or water desalination, and are vulnerable to political whims. But even when relations between Israel and Turkey hit the rocks over the debacle of the Gaza flotilla earlier this year, Sesame was unaffected.
There is currently no synchrotron light source in the Middle East, although the need for one was first suggested 25 years ago by Pakistani Nobel laureate Abdus Salam. In 1997 it was suggested that Germany should donate components from the soon-to-be-decommissioned BESSY I facility in Berlin, and with backing from UNESCO Sesame was on its way.
Jordan won the right to host Sesame in a competition with Armenia, Cyprus, Palestine and Turkey, and provided the land as well as the money to construct the buildings to house the accelerator complex and associated infrastructure. Israel, which as the most scientifically advanced country in the region may have made a more natural home for such a project, decided against hosting, to make it more attractive for other Arab countries to join.
But the politics of the collaboration are not what drives the participants. In fact, politics are rarely discussed at council meetings. The focus is on the science, and ensuring it is of the highest quality. That, says Salman Salman, a professor of physics at Al Quds University in Jerusalem, is what will keep the project going long term.(…) 2010 article linked here.
November 25, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20447422 Sesame synchrotron is a flash of unity in Middle East
By David Shukman
Science editor, BBC News
(…)After years of doubts about the project’s feasibility, construction is now at an advanced stage and most of the next round of finance is secured. The first science could start as early as 2015.
The synchrotron, which acts in effect like a giant microscope, will be used by researchers to study everything from viruses to new drugs to novel materials.
Synchrotrons have become an indispensable tool for modern science with some 60 in use around the world, almost all of them in developed countries, and this will be the first in the Middle East.(…)
(…)Synchrotrons work by accelerating electrons around a circular tube, during which excess energy is given off in the form of light – from X-rays to infrared – which is diverted into the beamlines. By focusing the intense light onto samples, the tiniest structures can be mapped in great detail.
The idea for Sesame got off the ground when a German synchrotron known as Bessy was being dismantled and a Stanford University professor, Herman Winick, suggested it should not be scrapped but shipped to the Middle East instead.
Prof Winick points to the role of synchrotrons in Brazil, South Korea and Taiwan in generating local scientific expertise and reversing the “brain drain” of talent and says a similar effect is possible in the Middle East.(…) November 25, 2012 article linked here.