Open SESAME: At Middle East’s CERN, regional cooperation at light speed

Israel and its neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan, join forces to build the region’s first particle accelerator

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ALLAN, southern Jordan — The hope was to build a tool that can probe the secrets of the material world. The dream is that such a tool will not just bring world-class science to the Middle East, but also unprecedented cooperation across a conflict-ridden region.

In January, the hope was fulfilled. Scientists in Allan, Jordan, using a particle accelerator, propelled electrons around a 133 meter-long ring until they reached close to the speed of light. These speeding electrons emit powerful light that can be used to investigate the tiniest elements of any material.

That moment was the culmination of over a decade and a half of bi-annual meetings between scientists from countries that don’t often get along: Israel, Iran, Cyprus, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

Over the years, war, and especially funding shortages, threatened to derail the project, which was blessed and even paid for by these scientists’ governments.

In a salient example of the shaky political ground the regional project is built on, Israel’s Science Minister Ofir Akunis, in a last-minute decision, canceled his participation at the inauguration ceremony for the project in Jordan on Tuesday after a stabbing attack by a Jordanian national in Jerusalem on Saturday sparked a diplomatic row between Amman and Jerusalem. (Click to Article)

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