Science — The Ultimate Olive Branch

A collaboration has been brewing in a part of the world known more for turmoil than unity. Middle Eastern countries are in the midst of working together to build a particle accelerator similar to CERN, the famous Switzerland laboratory. Sesame is an international research center being built in the foothills of Amman, Jordan. It is scheduled to open and begin in research in 2015, but right now the effort remains in the planning stages. The multitude of diplomatic conflicts could be conceived as more mind boggling than the research itself. Countries involved include Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Israel, and more… yes I said Israel.

This project is a diplomatic minefield. Just a few examples:

1. Turkey and Cyprus do not recognize each other as countries.

2. Iran and Pakistan do not recognize Israel.

3. Saudi Arabia has refused to participate up  to this point due to Israeli involvement.

4. The US has been present at meetings, but refuses to support the effort financially due to Iran’s involvement.

5. Two of the Iranian scientists involved with Sesame have been jailed.

This isn’t your average international collaboration where the biggest worries are language barriers and work visas.

The BBC has been reporting on this and has commented on the appearance of the meeting rooms. There is a mixture of dresses, garb, and women with varying amounts of their bodies covered.  However, one thing has remained the same when the doors are closed these ‘enemies’ keep diplomatic issues outside and the chat about the real business– science — inside.

Despite obvious challenges, research at Sesame will most likely begin in three years. Against all odds this project is in the advanced building stages and funding has been confirmed for the next development stage.

Certain barriers still exist including Iran’s nuclear development, Saudi Arabia’s financial absence, and Jordan’s domestic grumblings, but despite all of this the project moves forward. I have always known science is an international language. Throughout my time in the field, I have benefitted from international collaboration and conversation. But until this point, I never thought science could serve as a passport between a part of the world with the longest lasting, irresolute conflicts.

In some respects, this restores my faith in humanity a bit. It makes me proud to be a scientist. I look forward to the research resulting from such an advanced, international laboratory, and remain in utter shock and awe that this is even occurring.

[All photographs are courteous of the BBC]


Jacqueline, a true Floridian, wandered up to the tundra of Athens, Georgia to receive her PhD in computational quantum chemistry. Returning to her roots, she is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Tampa in the field of computational biochemistry investigating the wonders of penicillin-like drugs. When she is not slaving over the computer, her varied interests include international travel, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, fancy food, (American) football, and Belgian quadrupels. She is also the founder of, a football blog with an exclusive female writing staff. Check out her sports ramblings there or follow her on Twitter @jhargis9.

Related Articles


  1. Jacqueline,

    I’m glad to hear this. I don’t think this will end conflict in the region, but it may help. I’m also interested whatever scientific discoveries are made at Sesame.

  2. This is incredible (in a good way) and amazing! Why haven’t I heard about it??? I recall some announcement yesterday by the UN, but it had nothing to do with this. I guess I haven’t read every single headline on Science Daily, SingularityHub, and wherever else this story might have been (I try to have a life off the Net, I really do).

    I think of science as being the first “open source” field of study. It’s as its best when everyone sees you doing it.

    1. “This is incredible (in a good way) and amazing! Why haven’t I heard about it??? ”

      Because the media trives on tales of conflict.
      Seems rare nowadays to see features like this.

  3. Jacqueline, it is a great and uplifting story. It does make one proud to be a scientist.

    It was ever thus, I recall in “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns” how the nuclear scientists maintained contact even throughout WWII despite the Nazis and the Japanese miltarists.

    It was pretty amazing stuff.

    The flip side is, it made me very angry when our State government at one point tried to turn all our hospitals and health institutions into commercial rivals in the name of cost cutting.

    This to me worked against the very spirit of which you speak, which is cooperation for the benefit of mankind.

    Fortunately now things have turned around a bit but inestimable damage was done in the meantime.

  4. Interesting. It reminds me of how Western and Soviet-bloc scientists often collaborated during the Cold-War years. Carl Sagan himself had done some of that. In the late 1960’s, he wrote “Intelligent Life in the Universe” with Soviet astronomer Iosif Shklovsky, and he recalled in “The Cosmic Connection” an amusing argument with a Soviet colleague over the fate of a Soviet spacecraft sent to Venus. But it was the sort of argument that scientists often do a lot in their research.

    As the Venera 4 spacecraft descended through Venus’s atmosphere, it stopped transmitting. CS argued that the spacecraft had gotten fried on its way down, but Soviet colleague AD Kuzmin argued that it had landed on top of a tall mountain, and he argued that improbable events sometimes happen. Despite that, Soviet spacecraft designers made some later Venus landers tougher, and those spacecraft survived all the way down.

  5. The SESAME acceleratore – – won’t compete with the LHC, but it will be yet another synchrotron light source, as it’s called. SLS’s have been made to emit from microwaves to visible light to X-rays, and they have proven very useful in studying various properties of materials. Like doing X-ray crystallography.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button