Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unequivocally acclaimed in the world of science, Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail has raised controversies inside Egypt.

"Another of his critics has demanded what benefit Zewail's discovery has brought Egypt in practical terms. "This is a good question," he responded; "but again, a typical 'developing country-type' question. The critical difference between homo sapiens and animals is the mind. When the Nobel prize is awarded, it is for discoveries or inventions that change the way we think about the world we live in. Every time we open up a whole new universe of knowledge, it is very important because, based on this, you can develop new technologies. In this case, femto science dealt with molecules and how they move, which means the life within us." He went on: "I am very surprised that someone should put the question this way, implying perhaps that a new invention should have come out of it right away, or a new industry; something that we can hold in our hands. But this is not about a new laser show, or supplying us with better theatres, or improving the streets. This is about creating new technologies, and opening new frontiers." Zewail said femto science is now impacting medicine, telecommunications and information technology. "I'm surprised at the question, because it is a sign of not looking ahead, at what the mind needs to know." Beneath the smiling face, the easy equilibrium, he was rather upset.
"I will say again that the only way out for the Arab world in 2002, is to create a scientific culture. Such a culture will appreciate the importance of religion while thinking scientifically. This has been the principal dynamic of Islamic culture and civilisation. It will not help the Arabs, or the Muslims, if they remain in the current spiral of ideological thinking, or what has become a 'hearsay culture'." In Egypt, he noted, too much has been made of Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilisations" theory, which, while inspiring only a passing comment or two in the US, has become a recurring theme of public debate here. "I do not believe that civilisations, by definition, can clash. What we have between East and West is not a 'clash' of civilisations, or of religions, but a situation bred by politics because of perceptions in the Middle East of the US favouring Israel, [combined with] the continuing lack of a resolution to the Palestinian problem. The problems have also arisen because of economic conditions, and mutual ignorance."
Al Ahram

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