Allan, Jordan — A top-notch research center that brought together Iran, Israel and other Mideast antagonists is launching operations this fall in hopes of boosting scientific discovery with the help of a powerful microscope and opening a window to a better future for a region beset by war, boycotts and closed borders.
It’s been a tough journey since groundbreaking in 2003, marked by political rows and the 2010 assassination of an Iranian scientist linked to the project.
Perhaps even more threatening were chronic funding shortages, said Khaled Toukan, the Jordanian director of the project, known by its acronym, SESAME.
The undertaking was at risk of collapse several times, but has reached a point of no return, he said in an interview.
“It is working, and I am surprised,” he said of the rare collaboration of eight members that also include Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority, a self-rule government in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The centerpiece of SESAME is a synchrotron light source — essentially a powerful microscope — that fills a large hangar in the countryside of western Jordan, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the capital of Amman.
The contraption zaps electrons through a circular tube at near the speed of light, generating intense light beams. Researchers can train these “beam lines” on their subject of study, from cells to materials, in a wide range of disciplines, from medicine and biology to archaeology and environmental science.
The first two lines will start operating by November, and dozens of researchers have applied for “beam time,” said Toukan. In all, two dozen lines are to be set up eventually, in hopes of drawing hundreds of researchers from the region.
Israel’s Science Ministry…