October Sky (pt.2) Searching for our Sputnik

April 7, 2017

Andrew and Ti are joined in the shed by Tushna Commissariat of Physics World and Achintya Rao of the CMS experiment at the LHC at CERN as they discuss their reaction to the wonderful October Sky film and the interview with Homer Hickam which appeared in part 1 of this October Sky double bill.


We are somewhat besides ourselves with excitement to say that also joining us for this episode is Karsten Becker of PTScientists. You know...the people landing rovers on the Moon next year. You'd better believe it..Karsten has no time for consipracy theorists. Karsten is on the right in this photo with one of his lunar rovers.


In our search for our Sputnik, we venture across particle physics and gravitational waves, ponder the impact of the shuttle programme and so much more.


Left to right: Andrew, Tushna and Achintya.


One of Karsten's rovers appears in the Alien Covenant trailer

LIGO is a Gravitational Wave observatory which famously detected gravitational waves coming from colliding black holes in space billions of light years away.

PTScientists' wonderful mission is documented here mission-to-the-moon.com

October Sky (pt.1): Homer Hickam - Rocket Boy to Dinosaur Man

April 5, 2017

Andrew and Ti are joined by the wonderful Homer Hickam; author, NASA engineer and the subject of the 1999 film October Sky.

We hear all about the writing of the book, the making of the movie, the impact of Sputnik and a revelation about dinosaurs which caused this reaction:



A very special episode. Sit back and enjoy.

Thanks Homer, you're a legend.

Hidden Figures

March 24, 2017

Hiding in the shed this episode are Andrew, Maddy, Ti and Steve as we try to express our delight at the wonderful Hidden Figures. The only thing more exciting than such a wonderful film being released is that NASA's Dr Renee Horton, currently working on the Space Launch System, joined the Cosmic Shed for this, our 40th episode.


Renee Horton tells us just how it feels when the phone rings and it's NASA calling to tell you that you've got a job there, how NASA compares now to the one we see in the film and so much more.

Quite apart from all the wonderful science and engineering Dr Horton does, she's busy writing children's books about Dr H and friends and is the president of the National Society of Black Physicists. Oh and she's just bloody wonderful.

Dr H's adventures are coming soon and we'll post the link to the Kickstarter as soon as we get it.

Steve and Maddy also recommend running the solar system, narrated by Dallas Campbell who featured on the Cosmic Shed a few episodes ago

We also mention the fact that The Cosmic Shed is a finalist in the Bristol Life Awards. Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed to the shed and whoever it was who nominated us.

The Core

March 16, 2017


In a bit of a departure for the shed, today's episode comes to you courtesy of Bristol Science Film Festival.

Shed regular Ti Singh was on the panel for a special screening of the 2003 film The Core. Joining Ti were Beth Cotterell, Katie Cooper and Chris Dunford.

They split into teams to defend or destroy the film, ably hosted on the night by Robbie Kornitschky.

Bristol Science Film Festival continues until March 19th 2017.

Ti was there in his capacity as Bad Film Guru (a title, we've just given him) due to his love of Bad Films and his Bad Film Club.


Left to right: Ti, Chris, Katie and Beth.


Trappist 1: Seven Worlds straight out of Science Fiction

March 2, 2017

NASA made the most stunning announcement they've made for some time when they told us they'd found seven potentially Earth-like planets orbiting the star Trappist 1, just 40 light years from Earth.

The lead scientist on the discovery was Michael Gillon. He describes the system as something straight out of science fiction so we were somewhat delighted when Michael agreed to join Andrew for a very special episode of the Cosmic Shed.


Michael tells us which science fiction he likes to chill out to and why he finds it such an inspiration for the amazing science he is doing looking for habitable exoplanets around ultracool dwarf stars in our stellar neighbourhood. He describes what we might see if we stood on the surface of one of these stunning planets and gives us a real insight into what it is to be a scientist, like him, at the forefront of discovery.

Andrew tries to excuse the lack of a Cosmic Shed episode for a few weeks by saying he's been recording episodes of the Physics World podcast. It actually turns out to be true, believe it or not and you can listen to them here. In fact, the April 2017 episode of that podcast explore the Trappist 1 planets yet further with our Andrew having his mind blown every minute or so.

As always, thank you for listening. Don't forget to give us a review over on iTunes, we'd very much appreciate that.

Women in Science - Rachel Ignotofsky

January 18, 2017

Rachel Ignotofsky's new book Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) from Hypatia in ancient Alexandria to modern day science like the discovery of the Higgs Boson by the team led by Sau Lan Wu.

Rachel is an illustrator, designer and author with a passion for science fiction, comics and fantasy as well as science and history.

Andrew caught up with Rachel and they talked about Rachel's work, inspiration and some of the amazing women featured in the Women in Science book.

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Rachel tells Andrew about her work for Fandango.com including these infographics on the Hunger Games and The Hobbit. Click on the images to see them in full on Rachel's website

Bilbo's Journey The+Districts+of+Panem+Final+72+dpi+1500

Andrew asks Rachel about the designs she did for this Ray Bradbury collection, sadly not for sale, and her Ecosystem infographics and, of course, her work on the Avengers infographics. Again, click on the images to see Rachel's work in its full glory on her website.

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Buy the Women in Science book now and make your life better. Alternatively, buy 2 copies and make someone else's life better too.


Planet Earth 2 - The Science

December 19, 2016

As promised in our Planet Earth 2 - The Producers episode, this is Planet Earth 2 - The Science.

Steve met with Professor Rich Pancost of the Cabot Institute to discuss the Planet Earth 2 series and the science of climate change.

Is the Earth still warming? What causes the warming? Is climate change real? You know the answers really. It just depends whether you wish to deny them or not. Either way, here's the science.

You can listen to our chat with the producers of the Planet Earth 2 series here

show notes

Rich mentions Skeptical Science as a good way of learning about the real science of the climate.

Planet Earth 2 - The Producers

December 18, 2016

The BBC's flagship Natural History Series Planet Earth 2 has broken all records. More than that; It's undyingly wonderful. As such, it was with no little excitement that Andrew, Maddy and Steve welcomed two of the show's producers into the shed for an exclusive chat. Exclusive in the sense that only 5 of us can fit in the shed. Anyone can actually listen to it here.


Emma Napper and Chadden Hunter sit back in the shed and we talk about what it takes to make such a landmark television series. We talk about that cayman, that iguana, that fieldmouse, that music...and so much more.


Did Andrew enjoy it? To quote John Motson. "Look at his face! Just look at his face!"

Our second episode Planet Earth 2 - The Science is now available here.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

December 15, 2016

We gathered in At Bristol's wonderful planetarium to watch and discuss The Day the Earth Stood Still (Klaatu, not Keanu). We were raising money for Age UK for this, our third live Cosmic Shed recording.

Andrew, Maddy, Ti and Steve were delighted to be joined by Professors Francesca Stavrakopoulou and Bruce Hood.

As we've discussed SETI and life in the universe quite a bit recently, we thought we'd look at Supernatural Belief this time...following on from our Ghostbusters episode. A revelation about R2D2, Moses and a fair bit about Jesus followed.

show notes

Francesca mentions animals appearing to have rituals attached to an "afterlife" belief. As it happens, the BBC's Emma Napper was in the audience (and in the shed the next day) and has filmed an elephant funeral which you can see here.



Andrew didn't mention this in the episode but had this song in his head for most of the evening...particularly when Professor Francesca was speaking.

Steve mentions Stop Killer Robots, Deep Mind and Tay, the racist, sexist, misogynist AI who only has humanity to blame.

Francesca mentions Ex Machina which we also loved


December 7, 2016

On a cold, frosty night in December a skeptical ghosthunter, a physics expert and a science communicator who believes in ghosts gathered in a crumbling garden shed somewhere in surburban Bristol where they found Andrew keen to chat to them about all things ghostly.

Andrew was delighted to be joined by Hayley Stevens, a paranormal investigator, Harriet Croome, a science communicator and Tushna Commissariat of the Institute of Physics to discuss the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters....but mainly just ghosts.

Will we end the night joining Harriet in her belief in ghosts? Will Harriet be swung by the weight of evidence against them? There's only one way to find out. An ESP monitor...

Ti appears and Ben pops in for a poem.

So much fun. Thanks everyone.

show notes

Hayley Stevens hosts the Spooktator Podcast

Hayley also mentions and recommends Richard Wiseman's Paranormality book and Michael Shermer's Why people believe weird things.

Andrew and Tushna also feature on the December episode of the Physics World podcast, recorded in the Cosmic Shed.

The Day the Earth Stood Still - The Cosmic Shed Live in the Planetarium is on December 13th. Get your tickets here.


Arrival and The Story Of Your Life

November 24, 2016

Arrival and the Ted Chiang short story The Story of Your Life join forces for this episode of the Cosmic Shed.

Just as the story in both film and book focus on Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguistics expert who has her worldview changed by experiencing the language and culture of an alien race, we're joined by Professor Dan Everett, a linguistics expert who has his worldview changed by experiencing the language and culture of an alien tribe. You can read Dan's book "Don't Sleep, There are Snakes" for the whole story.

We're also delighted to be joined by SETI astronomer Seth Shostak to discuss life in the universe and much more...including what makes him throw up all night long.


Joining Andrew, Steve and Ti in the shed is Antony Poveda of I'm a Scientist Get Me Out Of Here.

In the episode, Ti mentions the Q&A podcast which we highly recommend and Andrew mentions these episodes of the Reasonable Doubts podcast on Determinism and Free Will. Again, we highly recommend them and all other episodes of the Reasonable Doubts podcast but don't wish to waste any more of our lives worrying if we have free will or not.

Ti has an event coming up called Cancel The Trumpocalypse where you can join him in a pub in Bristol to watch 24 hours of monster movies to raise money for charity.

Antony mentions his event when you get to meet a real Artificial Intelligence and we all do our best to say how much we love both the film and the short story...which we erroneously call a "book" throughout.

The Stormtrooper who banged his head

November 23, 2016

Andrew catches up with Laurie Goode, a stormtrooper in the original Star Wars film.

Laurie claims to be the stormtrooper who banged his head. If you don't know what that means, you can see the clip here.

Laurie also appeared in many other wonderful films and shows including The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who.

Laurie in Doctor Who

Andrew and Laurie were chatting after a screening of Elstree 1976 a documentary film which features Laurie and other extras and actors from the original Star Wars film.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Klaatu barada nikto!

October 27, 2016


December 13th 2016
. 7pm in At Bristol Planetarium. Doors 6.45pm.

BUY TICKETS Sorry. The event is SOLD OUT

A warning about mankind's self-destructive nature? A Christ metaphor? Or simply a sci-fi classic?

After the success of our 50th anniversary Star Trek screenings, Bristol Sunset Cinema and The Cosmic Shed podcast are teaming up again for another sci-fi spectacular at At-Bristol's Bristol Planetarium, which will include a special HD screening of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

After the film, there will be a special live recording of the Cosmic Shed podcast. Obviously, we'll release that audio afterwards.


On the panel
 will be special guest Bruce Hood, Professor of Development Psychology in Society at Bristol University who will be discussing the psychology of supernatural belief. Professor Hood first joined us for our episode on Inside Out


Update: We're delighted to announce a second special guest. 
Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou will be joining us for this special event. Professor Stavrakopoulou is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter. You may have seen her on a number of television series including the BBC series The Bible's Buried Secrets.

There will also be an audience Q&A and several surprises!

Get your tickets here now Sorry. The event is SOLD OUT
Adult: £9
Student: £7
Children: £5

All profits from the night will be going to Age UK

Furry Logic - The Physics of Animal Life

October 13, 2016

Matin Durrani and Liz Kalaugher join Andrew in the Cosmic Shed to talk about the way animals use Physics and their new book Furry Logic - The Physics of Animal Life


We hear about turtles using the magnetic field to navigate the world and find their way back to the very beach they were born on, why an octopus will change its colour in the dark depths of the oceans and how a grown man can never have seen Star Wars...No, seriously!

show notes

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

October 12, 2016

Close Encounters in the Cosmic Shed as we consider what turns out to be one of Ti  and Andrew's favourite films of all time...and left SteveMaddy and Ben a bit less enthralled.

We are delighted to be joined by NASA's Lynn Rothschild, an evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist. Lynn spoke to Andrew about astrobiology, synthetic biology and life in the universe...and at NASA.


Ben pops in for a poem, Steve brings us news of the new Space Race and Maddy find parallels between the work she is doing on proto-life and the work taking place at NASA.

In other words, it's our first full, not live, proper Cosmic Shed episode since June. We're back!

show notes

In the show we chat about Yuri Milner, having misheard Lynn Rothschild when she was talking about Urey-Miller experiments. Fortunately, over on our Facebook page, one of our listeners pointed out our error. Thanks Rusty.