In a synchrotron, charged subatomic particles (typically electrons) are accelerated through a large ring. As their paths bend, the electrons emit synchrotron light, which can range from infrared wavelengths up to X-rays. “Beam lines” attached to the ring carry off this light to perform a wide range of scientific experiments. In 1997, as German synchrotron BESSY I was nearing replacement, physicist Herman Winick of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif., proposed using it as the seed for an international research facility in the Middle East. Called SESAME, the facility is now under construction in Jordan, a collaboration of nine Middle East nations. Science News editor in chief Tom Siegfried recently spoke with Winick about SESAME’s history and importance.
How did the SESAME idea originate?