Israel gets nod to become CERN member

J'lem passes acceptance stage towards invitation to join particle accelerator project.

Hadron Particle Collider 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Hadron Particle Collider 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Israel has passed the acceptance stage toward its final invitation to become a member of the Center of European Nuclear Research particle accelerator project, the Science and Technology Ministry and the Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.
“This is an important day for Israel,” said Science and Technology Minister Prof.
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Daniel Herschkowitz. “Israel’s science has received additional international recognition for our leading contribution to research in general and specifically the CERN project.”
Two years ago, Israelis were among the 50 scientists in the control room of the Large Hadron Collider project of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, located under the Swiss- French borders. Two months ago, a CERN delegation visited Israel, examined its contribution and met with Herschkowitz.
It was a very successful visit, the minister said.
As a result, Israel has been named one of five countries recognized unanimously as “being worthy” of joining the project. At first, Switzerland opposed Israel’s official participation but then aborted this position. The final invitation process is due to take two more years.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that the announcement is the result of two years of efforts by Israeli diplomats to visit the capitals of all other members to present the country’s scientific achievements.
“We thank the members for putting faith in the State of Israel in general and in its science in particular.”
Considered the world’s largest experiment, the humongous particle accelerator’s historic launch in September 2008 is a collaboration of some of the world’s top scientists. Although professors from Israeli universities – Giora Mikenberg of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Erez Etzion of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Shlomit Tarem of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology – were present at the launch and a few dozen other Israelis helped prepare for it, the country was not an official member.
The particle accelerator involves some 6,500 scientists from over 80 countries – including half of the world’s particle physics researchers – who are trying to bash together the tiny particles that make up the universe at mind-boggling speeds. This will enable scientists to observe the extreme energies, mini-black holes and other phenomena that occurred during the first millionths of a second after the Big Bang –the mother of all explosions that led to the creation of the universe.
While technical difficulties caused significant delays, the scientists are now on the way to learning much at CERN.
The ultimate hope of the project is that the findings will help explain the foundations of particle physics, and shed light on the basic forces and building blocks of nature.
So far, the project has cost some $10 billion and consumed more than 15 years at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory – built in a circular tunnel buried 50 to 175 meters under Switzerland and France, with a circumference of 27 kilometers.
Israel’s high level of theoretical and practical know-how – much greater than Israel’s proportionate size – was greatly appreciated at CERN and is responsible for Israel’s path toward recognition as a official member. CERN has even ordered parts from Israeli industry and sent experts to visit on a regular basis. This made Israel among the top eight countries, along with scientists from Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the US and the UK.