And what would you do with the dead sea?
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44 pages

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Nested at the bottom of the Syrian-African rift, the Dead Sea contains mineral riches that were coveted since Antiquity by all its riparian tribes. Today, an Israeli company and a Jordanian company, as tightly bound as Siamese twin-sisters, exploit these riches.
How was this site formed? Who discovered the process implemented for its exploitation? Is that process viable? Could a potable water production process be grafted unto it? What will this site become in the distant future?

Doctor in Applied Sciences (ULB, Université Libre de Bruxelles), Samuël J. Wajc taught Chemical Engineering at the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) until 1988. He then redirected his career toward industry and, as chief engineer of the corporate Research and Development Centre of Israel Chemicals, contributed to the improvement of production processes in various domains.
He is an associate member of the Royal Belgian Academy.



Publié par
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9782803104802
Langue Français

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And what would you do with the dead sea?
Académie royale de Belgique rue Ducale, 1 - 1000 Bruxelles, Belgique
Informations: ISBN : 978-2-8031-0480-2 © 2015, Académie royale de Belgique
Pocket Books Academy Under the academic responsibility of Véronique Dehant
Diffusion Académie royale de Belgique
Credits Conception: Laurent Hansen, Académie royale de Belgique
Cover: Satellite view of the Dead Sea. © Daily Overview
Published with the collaboration of
Bebooks - Editions numériques Quai Bonaparte, 1 (boîte 11) - 4020 Liège (Belgique)
Informations concernant la version numérique ISBN 978-2-87569-195-8 Apropos Bebooks est une maison d’édition contemporaine, intégrant l’ensemble des supports et canaux dans ses projets éditoriaux. Exclusivement numérique, elle propose des ouvrages pour la plupart des liseuses, ainsi que des versions imprimées à la demande.
By way of dedication
My parents, Polish Jews fleeing the wretchedness that had engulfed Eastern Europe between the two world wars, had set root where they were accepted, in Brussels. They had two aims: to manufacture caps and to provide their son with a decent education. This too grievous a threat to the Nazi’s own ambitions was thwarted, in 1940, by the prompt invasion of Belgium. My parent’s field of freedom gradually shrank. In 1942, after a roundup in the neighborhood of Saint-Gilles where we were living, my parents decided to entrust their most precious good (me) to the most important Belgian they knew, namely the owner of the house they were renting. And so it came to pass that my first stop on the trail of the hidden children, at age six, was the superb Art Nouveau house at 41 Place Morichar, where Jeanne and Arthur Hambursin warmly welcomed and protected me. It would have been heaven had my “aunt” Jeanne, acting most certainly upon my mother’s request, not stubbornly tried to teach me how to read, write and calculate. Notwithstanding the efforts of my next foster parents, the Dasseleers in La Louvière and the Willocks in Familleureux, my primary schooling didn’t run smoothly. Only after the war did a schoolteacher diagnose me with an unquenchable thirst for knowing, and understanding, everything. Some kind of new Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, bar the interest for philosophies and for religions. This character trait probably sharpened during my studies at the ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles), under the guidance of a good teacher (René Jottrand). In due time, I was asked to create the Department of Chemical Engineering at the newly founded VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussels). I remember the experience as a happy time with a tiny team grasping for its path, without too many material resources, but without a clear obligation to deliver results, save educating open-minded chemical engineers. After a twenty-year spell of professorship, I decided to apply whatever I knew to industry, with adequate means and with a clear obligation to deliver results. I thus became a loyal employee of a company whose very name says it all: Israel Chemicals. That company thrives essentially from the exploitation of the Dead Sea, and it occurred to me that, without betraying any secrets, I could assemble enough memories to satisfy the curiosity of the proverbial informed reader. As he apparently bears no grudge against me for my basket-ball team beating his when we both studied at the Athénée de Saint-Gilles, our great glaciologist, Richard Souchez, has accepted to correct part of this little essay, an essay dedicated to my Belgian friends, friends in good times and bad times.
1.Philosophy of science and frame of the Dead Sea
A great hydrodynamicist, Howard Brenner, once delivered a particularly learned talk in front of the students at the Technion, in Haifa, on the mechanical properties of suspensions of dumbbell-shaped nanoparticles. His first slide carried a single line: 1,000,000,000,000 $ (one trillion dollars). No sooner had he displayed the slide, that he apologized, saying that he himself doubted that his seminar was worth that much money, but that he had noticed that when this slide appeared, conversations in the audience would stop. As befits one who doesn’t reach Brenner’s level, I am going to deal here with a subject that common mortals will find easier to grasp: what was the role of the Dead Sea in the economic history of the Middle-East, and how will the bordering states cope with its expected demise? I will, moreover, use this opportunity to sketch, regarding the future of this site, an unorthodox scenario for whose paternity I assume responsibility. But in order to bring coherence to this story, I will first have to describe the chain of events that, if we are to believe geologists, have led to the formation of the Syrian-African rift and of the Dead Sea. I hope, dear readers, that you will be patient enough to follow the whimsical meanderings of my thoughts, because the object of these 1 thoughts, as well you may have guessed, is worth one trillion dollars. During our cruise, we will sail through several scientific domains, each one rather mysterious, well protected by its very own jargon. Thanks to Plato, and definitely thanks to Magritte (fig. 1), 2 we are now fully aware that we can only speak about models of the objects studied. When each and every conclusion derived from the analysis of the model turns out identical with the results of observations made on the object that the model is meant to represent, it is tempting to claim the exactness of the theory or the model, although strict logic would require us to admit that no 3 experimental data allow us to reject the theory.
Fig. 1 Ceci n’est pas une Terre. © NASA
Fig. 2 Ceci non plus... ©
Several competing models can thus, upon testing, more or less faithfully reflect the behaviour of one single object, and a good engineer has no qualms jumping from one model to another. As a case in point, figure 2 is meant to remind us that geologists do accept today the theory of plate tectonics (from the Greek word tekton: a builder). Roughly, they consider that, except for a small solid central sphere, the interior of the Earth is very hot and liquid, or rather doughy, like the inner part of this chocolate, while the outer part of the Earth, its lithosphere (from the Greek lithos: stone), is solid and fragmented in plates slowly drifting at the interface with the molten part of the mantle, the asthenosphere. Admittedly beautiful, the image of a builder responsible for the drifting of those plates, for banging them together, for forcing them to dive beneath one another, would deserve its place in Greek mythology, but it is only an image. Those likely to have coined the expression “plate tectonics” had simply not yet identified the forces able to sustain these movements and eluded the problem much like Jean Cocteau’s character trying to dominate his disarray: “Comme nous ne pouvons comprendre ces mystères, feignons d’en être l’organisateur” (Since we can’t fathom these mysteries, let us pretend that we are their 4 organizer).
Fig. 3 (Thermal) Thickness of the lithosphere P. Birdet al.,“Stresses that drive plates from below” in J. Geophysical Res.: Solid Earth, 2008 (113), B11
Today, those who understand those mysteries tally some twelve major tectonic plates (fig. 3): under the continents the thickness of the lithosphere generally amounts to more than 150 km (more than 250 km...
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