The Cosmic Shed


March 26, 2016

In this long-overdue episode, Andrew is joined in the shed by Steve and Maddy to talk about the 1997 film Contact, and the novel that came before it.

The book was written by Andrew's favourite astronomer and science communicator, Carl Sagan, who based its main character on Jill Tarter, radio astronomer and former director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Andrew was lucky enough to talk to Jill for this episode, and she tells us about searching space for signals and why its so important, her experiences as a woman in science, and time spent advising Jodie Foster for her role in the film.

Joining us for the first (and hopefully not last) time is Timon Singh of Bristol Bad Film Club, who enthuses about other first contact stories and gives us some background on the film. We also hear from geneticist, author, and broadcaster Adam Rutherford on why he loves Contact and the way it portrays scientists as real people.

In the rest of the episode, Ben pops in briefly to share a prime number-based poem, and we discuss some of the science surrounding the search for alien messages, including the Drake Equation and the Fermi Paradox.


As Andrew mentions in the episode, the Cosmic Shed was recently damaged in a storm. 


Visit our Patreon page to see a video of us in the Shed, and think about supporting us. Many thanks to everyone who is already supporting us. Goodies coming soon!

Go to for a month's free trial of Audible, and a free audiobook of your choice. 

Share and subscribe

You can subscribe to The Cosmic Shed if you would like to automatically receive new episodes.

You can also subscribe using iTunes or Feedburner.

If you would find out more about The Cosmic Shed, and get some tips on listening to podcasts, have a look at An Introduction to The Cosmic Shed.


To continue the conversation or to suggest topics for future episodes, join us on Facebook, or follow @thecosmicshed on Twitter.

Show Notes

Bristol Bad Film Club organises charity screenings of "films that are so-bad-they’re-great, cult classics that are rarely shown, movies with notorious reputations and classics from our childhood that no-one else seems to have heard of."

This Nature article has more on the University of California Berkeley sexual harassment case that Jill mentions.

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App