Nobel Laureates Discuss Science Fund to Tackle Middle East Problems

More than 30 Nobel Laureates, including nine physicists, recently discussed the possibility of funding scientific projects to improve education in the Middle East.

Earlier this year, scientists gathered in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan to discuss ways to improve education, the environment, economy and health in the war-torn region.

A scientific fund could initially support projects in Israel, the Palestinian territory and Jordan, eventually expanding to include more of the Middle East, said the attendees.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development organized the meeting. It was the third annual Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates. Political leaders and youths from the region also attended the conference.

David Gross, a 2004 Nobel Laureate in physics and director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, attended the conference and said he is pushing for more opportunities for scientists in the region to collaborate.

Although Israel and the Palestinian authority both make it difficult for scientists to work together, Gross said, “a lot of people in these countries are interested in peaceful collaboration.”

Another conference attendee, Val Fitch, a 1980 Nobel Laureate, joined a working group to promote environmental efforts in the region. He said he was inspired by youths from the region who attended the conference and discussed their experiences.

“The situation in the Middle East is so miserable. I think any attempt to span the gulf [between Arabs and Israelis] is a good thing,” said Fitch.

Gross, who also attended the first Petra conference in 2005, has been involved with promoting scientific collaboration in the Middle East for years. For example, he promotes SESAME, (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East), a synchrotron under construction in Jordan that could be used for innovative physics, biology and chemistry research by scientists from the Middle East.

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