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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded an Advanced Grant to Jeroen de Kloet, professor of Globalisation Studies at the UvA, and Jason Hessels, professor of Observational High-Energy Astrophysics at the UvA and chief astronomer at ASTRON. De Kloet will use his grant of 2.5 million euros to conduct research into popular music, contemporary art and queer cinema in Mainland China and Hong Kong. In his research project, Hessels will be searching for the origin of fast radio bursts. He will receive 3.5 million euros, of which 1 million is earmarked for the purchase of new computers and instrumentation for radio telescopes.
Jeroen de Kloet (foto: Yiu Fai Chow)
Jeroen de Kloet (foto: Yiu Fai Chow)

‘Resilient Cultures’

The cultural sector in Mainland China and Hong Kong is changing rapidly, largely due to processes of digitisation and platformisation. Platforms such as WeChat, Douban, Douyin/TikTok, Xiaohongshu and Weibo enable new forms of culture and create new audiences. In ‘Resilient Cultures – Music, Art, and Cinema in Mainland China and Hong Kong’ (RESCUE) De Kloet will investigate the resilience of pop music, contemporary art and queer cinema in a rapidly changing cultural, technological and (geo)political context.

Within RESCUE, De Kloet will set up a network of scholars, cultural practitioners and NGOs in Mainland China, Hong Kong, East Asia and Europe. To increase the social impact of the project, there will be several workshops, a podcast series, performances, outreach activities at major music festivals, participatory art projects, film screenings and an exhibition.

The research findings will testify to the polyphony, diversity and vitality of cultural productions in Mainland China and Hong Kong. In addition, De Kloet hopes that they will also inspire and lead to connections with other places in the world.

Jason Hessels (foto: Kirsten van Santen)
Jason Hessels (foto: Kirsten van Santen)


Little is yet known about the origin of fast radio bursts (FRBs). These radio flashes, which sometimes travel billions of light-years, appear to originate from other galaxies. Recent research shows that magnetars (ultra-magnetised neutron stars) are a possible source of the radio flashes, but the properties of fast radio bursts detected so far point to the possibility of multiple types of sources. Thanks to new telescopes, the number of detections is growing rapidly. Meanwhile, dozens of repeating radio flashes have also been detected.

Hessels and colleagues discovered the first repeating fast radio burst from a source outside our Milky Way in 2016. Since then, he and his research group have carefully studied several of these repeating sources and traced them back to their galaxy of origin. In his project, ‘EuroFlash: Exploring the Origins of Fast Radio Bursts Using a Network of European Radio Telescopes’, Hessels plans to use a coordinated network of European radio telescopes to systematically set up and conduct research into the origins of repeating radio flashes.

Hessels will make use of the upgraded LOFAR telescope and the radio telescopes of the European VLBI Network to scan the Universe like never before. He aims both to understand the different origins of fast radio bursts and to use them to study the otherwise invisible gas between stars and galaxies. This will give us insight into both the extremes of the Universe and how galaxies evolve over cosmic time.