Talking to Aliens - Language in the Cosmos

May 26, 2018

Noam Chomsky and Douglas Vakoch are in the business of universal communication. In the case of Doug Vakoch, it's literally Universal as he seeks to communicate with potential alien life out there among the stars.

Doug talks to the Cosmic Shed in this special episode about the language and forms of communication that might enable us to speak with aliens. 

Douglas Vakoch is the President of METI - Messaging Extra Terresttrial Intelligence

Noam Chomsky is co-author on a paper that argues that the universality of language that he identified decades ago might just extend out into the Cosmos.

Noam Chomsky - A Universal Language

Doug Vakoch was talking to Andrew ahead of a workshop organized by METI called “Language in the Cosmos,” held on Saturday, May 26, 2018, at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Los Angeles.

Is Klingon more human than alien? Would aliens sing? Would aliens speak Dothraki? None of these questions are answered but don't let that stop you listening to this brand new episode of the Cosmic Shed.

show notes

Douglas Vakoch joined us previously to discuss Star Trek Discovery
Andrew mentions our episode on Lost in Space

May the 4th be with Cavan Scott

May 3, 2018

Happy Star Wars Day everybody. We gathered in the Cosmic Shed with Cavan Scott, the author of a number of official Star Wars books and stories (and Doctor Who, Pacific Rim, Star Trek, Blakes7, Vikings and more) to talk all things Star Wars and what it means to be an official writer for these much loved series.

Choose your own adventure with Han and Chewie

Cavan is the best selling author of books and comics, including web comics for the Pacific Rim universe. His 2016 book Star Wars:The Escape became the UK's number one bestseller and has contributed to the forthcoming The Missy Chronicles.

Star Wars and Pacific Rim

Ti and Andrew were keen to pick Cav's brain about what it takes to get inside the characters we know and love in this wide-ranging chat. We also find that Cav is just as much of a fan of all this as we are. No wonder his work is such a joy to read. Thanks Cav.

Star Wars Adventures #1 features Rey before she met BB8

It's May 4th. It's the Cosmic Shed. Punch it, Chewie.

Show notes

Cavan has a wikipedia page and a wookieepeda page
He also has a website and a twitter account
Cavan and Ti were drinking Yorkshire Tea who, sadly, don't sponsor us.
If you wanted to sponsor us, you could consider becoming a patron here.
You can hear our chat with the "real" Chewbacca here

The shed is sporting new lovely posters gathered at Space Rocks

Space Rocks with Tim Peake and ESA

April 29, 2018

Tim Peake, Bryan May, Maggie Lieu, Dallas Campbell, Beth Healey, Matt Taylor and Mark McCaughrean feature in this special episode of the Cosmic Shed as Andrew and Steve return from Space Rocks at the o2 in London.

The Cosmic Shed's Andrew talking to Tim Peake at Space Rocks

Steve, Bryan May and Andrew play Who's Got The Best T-shirt

Beth Healey is pleased to see the Sun again

Star Wars, Science Fiction and Rosetta - Matt Taylor talks The Cosmic Shed crew

Dr Maggie Lieu tells us about her love of Contact and the search for Dark Matter

Mark McCaughrean didn't want to play "Who's got the best shirt?"

Space Rocks is a festival of Space, Science Fiction and Music from the European Space Agency. We bloody love it.

Show Notes

Dr Maggie Lieu works on the EUCLID space telescope, set to launch in 2021 and map the geometry of the dark matter in the Universe.
Dr Beth Healey "lost the Sun" when she went to Antarctica and it disappeared below the horizon for four months
Dallas Campbell's book Ad Astra is actually really very good indeed.
Tim Peake was talking about the European Service Module
Matt Taylor talks about Rosetta, BepiColumbo
Mark McCaughrean
 was talking about The Deep Space Gateway and first joined us for our episode on Ambition, the Rosetta Science Fiction.
Andrew mentions this episode of the Physics World podcast

Ready Player One

April 27, 2018

Huge excitement in the shed as we are joined by Territory Studio to talk about their work on the stunning Ready Player One film, based on Ernie Cline's book which was loved by (the vast majority of) us. They tell us about working for Steven Spielberg and how their ideas were incorporated into the characters in the film as part of what we see on the big screen.

Steve, Andrew Popplestone and Andrew on the terrace at Territory - Photo by Willie Runte

Ti joins Andrew in the shed and the less said about that the better. You'll just have to listen.

Steve marvels at Territory's art for Ex Machina - Photo by Willie Runte

You'll also hear from Nolan North and Troy Baker, two men who make their living playing computer Avatars in games like Uncharted and The Last of Us. Ti and Andrew met them at MCM ComicCon in Birmingham recently and this seemed as good a time as any to bring you that chat.

Nolan North and Troy Baker sharing a joke at MCM ComicCon, Birmingham

Will the film live up to the hype? Will Andrew ever stop playing classice 80s games ever again? Will Ti get all grumpy because Wade is even more knowledgable about nerd culture than he is? Listen now to this long awaited (by us) episode of The Cosmic Shed.

We're Ready

Show notes

Joust is a video game
Willie Runte is a Photographer
Territory Studio joined us for our episode on BladeRunner 2049
We have mostly been playing Galaga

The Space Hotel

April 23, 2018

Aurora Station is the dream of a hotel in Space straight from the mind of Frank Bunger, CEO of Orion Span. Frank joined Andrew to talk about this ambitious new venture to launch a hotel into space in the early 2020s with guests getting 12 days in space for an "affordable price".

A really special episode of the Cosmic Shed.

The Space Hotel is slated to take its first guests in 2022

Frank dreams big and Andrew loves big dreams, particularly when they are in Space. Guests will arrive via more traditional means, using partners - clients Frank is working on relationships with at the moment.

On board - where the Holodeck is a reality

Frank tells us that they are developing a VR experience on board, which they call the Holodeck. That's one Star Trek fantasy we'd love to see made real. Now we just need a Spore Drive.

Show notes

Emma Watkins sings the first verse of a reworked version of Stacey Kent's Ice Hotel. We'd love to record a full version but, you know, the shed isn't a money making exercise. If Stacey Kent happens sees this and wants to record a version, here's the words as adjusted by Andrew:

The Space Hotel

Let's you and me go away to The Space Hotel
The Caribbean's all booked out
And that's just as well
Once I'd have been much keener
On Barbados and Antigua
But now I think Low Earth Obit will suit us well
Let's you and me go away
To The Space Hotel

They've put it up beyond our atmosphere
The sofas, the lobby
Even the chandelier
The towels as well. All bolted down
To stop them floating all around.
What other place could serve our needs so well?
Let's you and me go away
To The Space Hotel

Romantic places
Like Verona or Paris
They'll always lead you astray
You'd have to be a novice
To ever trust Venice
And those dreamy waterways
And what the tropics can do
I know only too well
So, let's you and me go away
To The Space Hotel

Spacey clothing at all times
Is the expected norm
We’ll read Artemis, Arthur Clarke
And let them float around our dorm
And when the time comes for us to sleep
We'll let go of our gravity leash
And float off together
In a spacedock carved for two
But then in the morning
Provided we've made it through...

We'll step out together
To watch the sun rise over
That vast expanse of Earth
And who knows if we're lucky
We may find ourselves talking
Of what the future may hold
This is no whim of the moment
I want you to realize
Let's go away
To that palace made in Space

Let's you and me go away to The Space Hotel

The Bahamas are all booked out
And that's just as well
I don't think we're quite ready
For Hawaii or Tahiti
And when we will be
Only time will tell
Let's you and me go away

Lost in Space with Prof Ethan Siegel

April 18, 2018

The Lost in Space reboot has landed on Netflix and we gathered in the shed with Prof Ethan Siegel to discuss our first impressions of this big budget new show. A brand new episode of The Cosmic Shed for your listening ears.

Lost in Space is found on Netflix

Nostalgia for the original series is never far away but are we enjoying this new version more?

The original Lost in Space, arguably, wasn't always 100% brilliant

Ti tells us about the ill-fated John Woo directed 2003 reboot that never got beyond pilot and starred Adrienne Palicki.

Was it better than the film?

We couldn't let Ethan go without picking his brains about life in the Universe, the Big Bang and, of course revisiting Star Trek Discovery.

Ethan likes Star Trek

Ethan tells us that The Drake Equation is broken...and how to fix it, and answers a question from Andrew's daughter about where the Big Bang happened. In short, you don't want to miss this.

Will we still be watching this is decades to come? Will Ethan escape without us talking about Star Trek Discovery again ? Will Robinson? There's only one way to find out. Listen to this episode now.

A good way of finding out why time only goes in one direction is to read Starts With a Bang.

Show notes

Ethan first joined us for our episode on Star Trek Discovery. Listen again here
Ti mentions Drunk Histories
Andrew and Ethan get very excited about TESS
You can join Ethan on his Astrotour of Iceland by getting your tickets here



2018 BIS: Mark Hempsell

April 5, 2018

The British Interplanetary Society was founded in 1933 with its primary goal to make space travel happen more than it currently is, even today. We're joined by the current president of the society, Mark Hempsell, who is full of fascinating stories and, at times, controversial opinions about science fiction...


Steve and Maddy sat down with Mark Hempsell after we gathered in the shed to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2001 in the Cosmic Shed (in 2017).

We were planning to celebrate what would have been Arthur C. Clarke's 100th birthday but this conversation with Mark was enough in its own right...and, anyway, what more is there to be said about all that?

Mark has worked on some amazing space missions including the Sklyon


Mark also tells us about another project he worked on to land rockets vertically, way before Elon Musk managed it...

DC-X Flight 8

The BIS is immortalised in the classic book from Arthur C Clarke, "Tales from the White Hart". Mark shares with us the nickname they had for Arthur...listen to the episode to find out what it is and why.


A very special episode concludes with a rather wonderful song from the Wardrobe Ensemble, a theatre group in Bristol who, among other things, make plays with a fair bit of science in them for families. 

Steve's copy of 2001 is heavily annotated.

Show notes

Steve mentions an article but can't remember who wrote it. It's here.

Mark mentions Project Daedalus

This stunning artwork is Dawn of Man by Jordan Collver. Get your own print of his work  here and be the envy of all your friends.


Michaela’s Mission to Mars Update

April 3, 2018

Michaela Musilova's Mission to Mars has come to an abrupt end. Andrew caught up with Michaela to find out why and to see what lessons might be learned and what happens next.

Photo Credit: Michaela Musilova. 

Michaela landed a new role back on Earth. Find out what it is in this brand new episode of the Cosmic Shed...which also features our thoughts on Valerian, The City of a Thousand Planets.

Show Notes
Michaela appeared on our Martian episode back in 2015 as well as this special episode a few weeks ago

Charlotte Hatherley

March 13, 2018

Charlotte Hatherley's True Love album is a Science Fiction infused exploration of heartbreak and love. The single, A Sign, has a video which is essentially a science fiction short by Gavin Rothery (Moon, The Last Man).

If that weren't brilliant enough, Charlotte is also appearing at ESA's Space Rocks at the o2 in London on April 22nd 2018 so we are more than a little excited to bring you this episode of the Cosmic Shed as Andrew and Charlotte talk music, science fiction and space.

A Sign - Charlotte Hatherley's music is infused with science fiction

Charlotte's career began when she joined Ash (Girl From Mars, Star Wars references etc.) and and seen her tour and record with the likes of Bat for Lashes, KT Tunstall and even Bryan Ferry. 

Space Rocks - Charlotte will be at the o2 in London on April 22nd 

Space Rocks is a new event organised by the European Space Agency mixing music and science with some added science fiction. Along with Charlotte Hatherley, there's Tim Peake, Beth Healey, Mark McCaughrean and much more. Yes, we are going. At the time of writing, there are still some tickets available. Join us

How Deep is Your Love? Let's track the movement of the stars of Orion over 3 million years

The video for Charlotte's cover of How Deep is Your Love features ESA imagery showing the way the Orion constellation will change over the next 3 million years and begins with a quote from Carl Sagan. 

Will Andrew try to show his love for space is deeper? Is there really More Than This? Has there ever been a more perfect fit for The Cosmic Shed? How excited are we about Space Rocks? There's only one way to find the answer to these questions...listen to this episode of The Cosmic Shed now.

show notes

You can order Charlotte Hatherley's True Love album here
You can get tickets for Space Rocks here
Charlotte mentions a film but couldn't remember the name of it. She can now.
Mark McCaughrean joined us for our Ambition episode
Beth Healey joined us for our Blue Dot episode
Dallas Campbell joined us for our Gravity Fields episode 


March 8, 2018

It's an undeniable classic. It allegedly changed the course of Ronald Reagan's policies on computer safety. It's painfully relevant even today and it's the subject of this episode of The Cosmic Shed.

Ally Sheedy (Jennifer) can't keep her eyes off the "Amazing Looking" John Wood (Dr Falken).

Steve and Andrew are joined by Ti (from a theatre) to discuss the film before Steve brings us his conversation with Prof Jan Noyes from The University of Bristol's School of Experimental Psychology and Andrew brings us his chat with Dr Dave Tholen from the University of Hawaii's Insitute for Astronomy.

With a real life (albeit a false alarm) ballistic missile threat in Hawaii, we discuss the impact on society of the real life War Games our politicians play. Dave Tholen PhD is a man who researches real threats to life on earth - Asteroids which may collide with Earth. Prof Jan Noyes researches human interactions with technology and her CV includes NASA and GCHQ.

Dave Tholen keeps us safe from Asteroids. Jan Noyes keeps us safe from system error...

We discuss the Hawaian missiles alert including what some people did when they thought they had 30 minutes left, we hear why Steve is thinking of joining a survivalist cult and no, it's not because he heard (as you will) about Andrew running naked down a street...

Ronald Reagan caught an early showing of WarGames but missed the whole point of the film. 

Show notes

Since recording, the person who caused the alert has been sacked. Listen to the episode to find out why that is particulalry interesting.
WarGames is still as good as you remember. Sure it's a bit wonky in the odd scene but it's still wonderful. 
Dave Tholen mentions the list of Near Eearth Objects which you can check here
Andrew mentions Jon Ronson's Buterfly Effect
Andrew also mentions the WarGames: WOPR game for your phone.

Black Panther

February 28, 2018

Black Panther (2018) is smashing records, delighting fans and critics and upsetting racists. Now it's the subject of the latest Cosmic Shed episode. 


Andrew and Ti explore themes of the film with shed guests Alex Lathbridge and Hannah BestwickAlex Lathbridge is a biochemist, science communicator and "the UK's best scientist turned rapper" and yes, we tested that. Hannah Bestwick is a science communicator who presents the Love and Science radio show and co-hosts the XX Science podcast.


We are also joined by Josiah Zayner to find out if we can drink potions and get superstrength. Josiah is most well known, perhaps, for injecting himself with CRISPR technology to get bigger muscles...Yes we asked him about that. He also runs a company called The Odin and is trying to bring genetic engineering to the public.


Can we drink potions to get big muscles? Will the shed experience its first rap? Why on earth did Josiah leave NASA? Will his Mum ever forgive him? Will Andrew? Is Black Panther as awesome as everybody keeps saying?

There's only one way to find the answer to all these questions; download and listen to this episode of the Cosmic Shed now.

Show notes

Josiah Zayner runs The Odin and was talking to Andrew and Maddy
Hannah Bestwick presents Love and Science on BCFM (with Malcolm Love and Andrew)
Alex Lathbridge mentioned Cheddar Man and the Why Aren't you a Doctor Yet podcast

Michaela Musilova is going back to Mars!

February 13, 2018

Michaela Musilova is a space scientist who has Mars in her sights. One day, she aims to set foot on the Martian surface for real and, unlike the rest of us who dream of that, she stands a pretty good chance. Michaela has been selected to live in an analogue of Mars for 8 months starting in February 2018. She and three other people will be living in this...for 8 (EIGHT) months.


The purpose of the mission is to see how people (astronauts) would cope on a 2 year mission to Mars. This 8 month experiment puts Michaela and her three crew mates in a simulated Mars environment with only supplies that they can take with them from day one or grow or fabricate from materials which would be available on Mars.

Michaela will be sending us, here at the Cosmic Shed, weekly updates from the "Martian surface" and we'll be bringing them to you in our episodes over the next 8 months. We are all just a little bit too excited about that.


Listen out for Michaela in our forthcoming episodes but first, Michaela took time out to chat to Andrew about her forthcoming mission and you can listen to that here, now.

Show notes

Michaela appeared also appeared on our Martian episode back in 2015
Ben popped in for a poem. 


Peter Beck, Falcon Heavy and the Humanity Star

February 7, 2018

A rocket fuelled episode with CEO of Rocket Lab; Peter Beck!

On the night SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy and a cherry red Tesla into space, Steve and Andrew gathered in the shed to watch it and then speak to Peter Beck, the CEO of Rocket Lab and the man who launched The Humanity Star into space.

The Cosmic Shed is a pretty decent place to watch a rocket launch...

The Humanity Star has been met with, it's safe to say, mixed reviews. Some love it. Others question it, including previous guests on the Cosmic Shed, like NASA's Renee Horton.


and BBC Astronauts' Tim Gregory



Did Peter put Renee's mind at rest? Will Tim be convinced? Will Rocket Lab launch Andrew's campervan into Space or were we all just far too excited about the SpaceX launch to even care? Listen here now and find out.

The Humanity Star looks like this on Earth, by the way...

Show notes

If you'd like to try and see The Humanity Star, you can track it here
Rewatch the amazing Falcon Heavy launch here
r Renee Horton joined us for our episode on Hidden Figures
im Gregory joined us for our episode on BBC's Astronauts: Do you have what it takes?

Artemis: Andy Weir recorded live in the Planetarium

January 10, 2018

A very special episode of the Cosmic Shed as we bring you the audio from last night's wonderful evening in the Planetarium with Andy Weir, author of Artemis and The Martian in collaboration with the wonderful Bristol Sunset Cinema.

Andy Weir is no stranger to the Cosmic Shed, having appeared on two of our episodes before so we were delighted to be able to bring him to one of our live events here in Bristol for this very special night in We The Curious planetarium

Left to right: Timon Singh, Andrew Glester, Andy Weir, Antonia Forster, Chris Followell and Maddy Nichols

Andrew shows the audience the page that brought a tear to his eye while Andy can't keep his eyes off the Moon's surface.

Andy kept us entertained all night and, as you can see, Tim Peake's fan...and so are we.

You'll have to listen to the episode to find out why Andy Weir signed Andrew's book to "Dudley". For the record, Dudders loves his new nickname...after all, Andy Weir gave it to him.

Thank you so much to all of you who came along. It was great to meet many of you. See you at the next event!

Gremlins - Zach Galligan

December 22, 2017

Zach Galligan played Billy in the Gremlins films and joined us here on The Cosmic Shed to talk about what it was like playing arcade games with Steven Spielberg, starring alongside Pheobe Cates and the possibilities of Gremlins 3.


We used a flash for this photo and you will be delighted to hear that Zach, without hesitation, exclaimed, "BRIGHT LIGHT!"


Ready Player One?

Show notes

Andrew and Ti were talking to Zach at For The Love of Sci-Fi in Manchester, December 2017.