Door 15 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 15, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 15 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. Who is behind the door?

As ever, we'll push the identity of today's guest(s) further down the page so you can avoid spoilers and simply press play above and let the surprise fill your ears, like a massive chocolate snowflake.

In order to keep the identities hidden further down the page, here are some photos of some people from Cheltenham Science Festivals Lab Live tour.

Dr Jess Barker and Freaky Clown (Ethical Hackers)

Russell Arnott and Suze Kundu (with someone in costume - no, that's a real moustache)

Left to right: Charli Shephard, Dr Elspeth Kenny, Lizzy Goodger, Russell Arnott, Matthew Tosh, Dr Suze Kundu

This is not an electronic music band.

Behind Door Number 15 (see what we did in the image there?) of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar are Russell Arnott, Dr Suze Kundu, Lizzy Goodger, Dr Elspeth Kenny, Freaky Clown, Dr Jess Barker and Matthew Tosh.

show notes

FAO Matthew: Star Wars is a series of films, tv series, books and comics set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Russell was talking to everyone backstage at the Cheltenham Science Festival Lab Live Tour.

Freaky Clown and Dr Jess Barker run Cygenta


Door 14 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 14, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 14 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. To find out who is behind the door, simply press play above or download the Cosmic Shed podcast to your favourite podcast app and listen at your leisure.

As always, we'll be putting some words and pictures here to make the identity of today's guest move further down the page to avoid spoilers should you wish to find out by listening. As you may have noticed, however, we've been posting some not so subtle hints about who is behind the door so, rather excitingly, here's a photo on Mars taken this month by the Mars Insight lander. (Yes, we're VERY excited too)

NASA's Insight took this "selfie" on Mars.

Behind Door Number 14 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Dr Bob Myhill at the University of Bristol who has been working on the Mars Insight mission, looking at seismic activity on Mars.

Bob joined Steve to talk about this unbelievably wonderful mission which has already returned the first ever sounds of wind from an alien planet (which you can hear in this episode).

Dr Bob Myhill is talking to Dr Steve Bullock (of The Cosmic Shed)

Steve and Bob chat about Battlestar Galactica (the original series) and Battlestar Galactica (the considerably better series). They also mention that we had a few days ago...

Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer and The Cosmic Shed's Ti (behind Door 5 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar)

Bob also discusses his love for The Expanse and Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn) and, of course NASA (and Bob's) InSight and the wonderful New Horizons 

show notes

We're loving the advent calendar. We hope you are too. Do tell your friends. We gain nothing from this but sharing our love of all things science and science fiction.

Door 13 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 13, 2018

It's time to open Door 13 of The Cosmic Shed advent calendar. Simply press play above or subscribe and play on your favourite podcast delivery system. 

We've been discussing 'Oumuamua, the interstellar visitor a fair bit of late and we've brought someone rather key to that whole discovery for you today. Someone whose TEDtalk on the subject has received well over 3 millions views.

Here's an artist's impression of 'Oumuamua to push the identity of today's guest further down the page to allow you to have it as a surprise when you listen to the episode.

'Oumuamua means first messenger from the distant past.

Behind Door Number 13 is Dr Karen Meech. Karen is the person people call when they think they have found something from outside our solar system careering through it. An astronomer on Hawaii, Karen has been studying the skies for years, looking for something out of the ordinary to come along. In October 2017, they discovered just that. Something truly extraordinary.

Andrew has been writing a feature article on Oumuamua for Physics World and watched Karen's TEDtalk (which you can see below) and just had to know more so called up Karen (who was at NASA's JPL working on a new mission proposal) to talk about this amazing discovery.

Their conversation is behind the Door 13 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar.

Karen's talk has been considerably more popular since Avi Loeb said Oumuamua might be aliens


Door 12 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 12, 2018

It's time to open Door Number 10 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. To find out who is talking to us behind the door, simply press play above, download the podcast to your favourite podcast platform or scroll down the page sufficiently to find their identity.

We've talked Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Black Mirror. Don't you think it's about time we had a bit of Star Trek in this advent calendar? 

Anyway, here's a picture from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to push the identity of today's guest further down the page...

Andrew Robinson as Garak in Deep Space Nine

Behind Door 12 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Andrew Robinson. Andrew played Garak in Deep Space Nine as well as some of the most celebrated bad guys in movies like Dirty Harry and Hellraiser. He joined the The Cosmic Shed's Ti to talk about these roles and lots more as the London Film & TV Comic Con.

We're delighted to be able to bring that chat to you now in this Advent Calendar episode of The Cosmic Shed.

Andrew Robinson as Scorpio in Dirty Harry

Andrew Robinson in Hellraiser

Andrew Robinson talking to Ti for The Cosmic Shed

show notes

Ti's book Born to be Bad: Talking to the greatest villains in action cinema is available to buy here

Door 11 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 11, 2018

It's time to open Door 11 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. We're delighted to welcome back a friend of the Cosmic Shed whose identity will be revealed when you press play above or scroll down the page. As you may have noticed, we have been dropping little hints in the numbered door images and today, we have two NASA SLS rockets to make the number 11.

Around this time next year, NASA plans to launch the SLS (Space Launch System) to go around the Moon and back again as a test mission for future flights with astronauts on board. 

Credit: NASA. Size comparisons for the Shuttle, Saturn V and SLS

Behind Door 11 of The Cosmic Shed today is NASA's Dr Renee Horton. Renee is an engineer who has worked on the SLS and is now working on its Quality and Safety. Renee joined Andrew for an update on the SLS and to discuss Renee's new venture, alongside her work at NASA, as the author of Dr.H Explores the universe. 

Dr Renee Horton talking to our Andrew via Skype.

Renee first joined us for our episode on Hidden Figures and we're delighted to welcome her back for our Advent Calendar. You can listen to all the previous (and future) advent calendar episodes by visiting

show notes

Renee mentions NASA's Barge

You can buy the adventures of Dr H in book form here

Dr.H is also available in doll form.

Door 10 - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 10, 2018

It's time to open Door 10 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. We're returning to a shed favourite again today but a brand new conversation. He is an ultra sound kind of chap.

Again, we'll keep his identity hidden until farther down the page but typing some words here. Did you know that "farther" is used for physics distance and "further" is used for metaphorical distance. So the farther we push the identity down the page, the further you feel from knowing their identity.

By the way, did you know our most watched video on our YouTube Channel is this clip from one of our live events with the demonstration of a real life Tractor Beam...


Behind Door 10 of The Cosmic Shed is Professor Bruce Drinkwater. The good professor first came to our attention, and The Shed, when he was part of the team who created a sonic screwdriver. Given our love of Doctor Who, that was a bit too exciting for us but then Bruce went and worked on a sonic Tractor Beam so we had to do a live event with him.

Given Advent is a time for celebrating with friends, we thought we'd see what Professor Drinkwater has been up to since. You can find out in this episode of The Cosmic Shed podcast.

Have they made breakthroughs in the sonic tractor beam work? Can you levitate sprouts around the Christmas Table? Seriously, what's an ascending tricolon?

show notes

Bruce was talking to Maddy.

Door Nine - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 9, 2018

Behind Door 9 of The Cosmic Shed advent calendar is an old friend of the Shed from the early days back in 2015. It's sometimes hard to believe that we've been doing this for quite that long but it's been a whole lot of fun and we thank you all for sticking with us through everything.

To play this episode, simply press play above and let the identity of today's guest appear like the surprise only an advent calendar door can create.

The Cosmic Shed has remained its rickety old self, with the odd collapsed roof and broken door over the last three years but with guests like Chris Hadfield, Tricia Helfer, Jill Tarter, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nichelle Nichols and Lord Martin Rees, the podcast recorded in it punches far above its weight.

Here's a classic photo from the Cosmic Shed archive to push the identity of today's guest further down the avoid spoilers.

Hattie Briggs in The Cosmic Shed back in the early days of the shed.

Behind Door 9 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Hattie Briggs. Hattie is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.Recently named Fender Undiscovered Artist of the Year 2017, she won the prize of supporting Lucy Rose at the prestigious O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire. Her music brings together pop, folk and electronic influences, which she delivers with honesty and intent. 

Hattie first joined us, alongside Chris Hadfield, for our episode on Gravity back in 2015 but you can also hear Commander Hadfield in our episode on Apollo 13. Listen to this special Advent Calendar episode of The Cosmic Shed to find out what happened when Andrew asked Hattie, "If you were on the International Space Station, looking back at Earth, what song would you sing?"

Maddy returns to the Shed this episode, having passed her VIVA for the PhD. Congratulations to Dr Maddy Nichols who now joins Dr Steve Bullock as the most academically decorated Cosmic Shed hosts. Andrew and Ti are too busy watching films, reading books and chatting to get PhDs...that's their excuse anyway.

show notes

You can find out more and buy music by Hattie Briggs here

Door VIII of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 8, 2018

Episode VIII of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is now available right here. Simply click play above and the identity of today's guest behind The Cosmic Shed door will be revealed.

Alternatively, you can head to your favourite Podcast App, search for The Cosmic Shed and subscribe, allowing each episode of our advent calendar of science and science fiction to drop into your phone each morning.

You can, of course, also listen to The Cosmic Shed on Spotify here. In fact, if you say "Alexa, play the Cosmic Shed podcast" within earshot of an Amazon Alexa, she'll do all the work for you.

Here's a photo of something from Star Wars because we like Star Wars, particularly at Christmas and, also, because we want to hide the identity of today's guest further down the page to avoid spoilers.

Are we the baddies?

Behind Door 8 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Morten Bay. Morten is the man who hit the headlines for his research showing political activism from Russia and the US was behind much of the negative twitter reaction to The Last Jedi film.

Rian Johnson's Last Jedi is the eighth instalment in the main Star Wars saga (see what we did there?) and we were more than a little surprised and disappointed by some of the reaction to it. When Morten's research hit the headlines, there was only one thing to do.

Morten joined Andrew to discuss his findings and their mutual love for all things Star Wars.

This photo of Morten Bay will make more sense when you listen to this episode of The Cosmic Shed.

Sit back, pour yourself a glass of (blue) milk and prepare to be dumbfounded by the real world and get an overwhelming urge to find the biggest screen you can and watch The Last Jedi all over again.

show notes

Morten's research "Weaponising the haters:The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation" is here

Door Seven - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 7, 2018

It's time to open Day 7's door on the Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. Simply press play above and let the episode into your ears using technology.

Have you ever noticed how reliant we are on technology? Of course you have. Yesterday, in the UK, this was the lead story on the BBC website. A phone network was down. 

HELP! We can't text people!

Behind Door 7 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Andrew Spooner, Technologist for Microsoft. Andrew's job is to look at the world and wonder how we could improve it with technology. That means he is a massive fan of Black Mirror. Well, that and the fact that Black Mirror is brilliant.

Andrew has the same name as Andrew so that makes this blog post quite difficult given our desire to use first names as much as possible but to clarify, Andrew loves Star Trek whereas Andrew thinks it's too utopian.

Andrew Spooner in the Cosmic Shed.

Andrew joined Andrew in the shed and even brought his guitar with him. You'll have to listen to find out why...

show notes

Andrew and Andrew discuss the Microsoft Hololens, Ready Player One and The Culture Series



Door Six - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 6, 2018

It's time to open Door 6 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. All you need to do it press play above and let the episode reveal all. In this episode, you will hear about life in our solar system from somebody who knows a lot about it. We won't reveal their identity until further down this page so you can retain the surprise of the Advent Calendar door opening by pressing play and listening now.

We'll fill this space with some words to make that identity appear further down the page. Sorry if your page is still too long but we can't fill the whole thing with meaningless words like this.

Anyway, here is a picture of the ExoMars 2020 Rover prototype to further push the identity down the page.

There's no grass on Mars and no buildings, yet but ExoMars will look for signs of life there in 2020

Behind Door 6 is Dr Louisa Preston, a UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow, and an astrobiologist, planetary geologist and author based at Birkbeck, University of London. Louisa works in environments across Planet Earth, where life is able to survive our planet’s most extreme conditions, using them as blueprints for possible extra-terrestrial life forms and habitats and has worked on projects for NASA and the Canadian, European and UK Space Agencies.

Dr Louisa Preston delivering a TED talk.

Louisa and Andrew chat about Mars Insight but quickly move onto ExoMars, ESA's 2020 rover for which Louisa is part of the Science Team for the PanCam instrument onboard.

Andrew often wears ESA T-shirts...

Louisa is a lifelong scifi fan so the chat obviously heads that way too including Lost in Space and Star Trek. Louisa is the author of the wonderful book Goldilocks and the Waterbears and there can be few better presents for the space/science/scifi loving friend of yours to open on December 25th...or any other day for that matter.

Join us tomorrow for Day 7 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar or go back to yesterday and (SPOILER) hear our chat with Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica.

show notes

You can hear more from Louisa Preston here, here and here.

Door Five - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 5, 2018

It's Day 5 and it's time to open Door 5 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. All you need to do is press play above and discover who is behind the door...

It looks like an ordinary shed door. It's pretty much indistinguishable from a normal shed door. It even sounds like a shed door (yes, that is actually the shed door in the intro to our podcasts) but is it a shed door? Yes it is.

Again, we're typing some words to make the identity of today's guest appear lower down the page. That way, if you don't want to know who it is until you hear the episode then you can avoid it by clicking play above.

We'll just pop this picture here.

What a lovely Spacecraft

Behind Door Number 5 of The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar is Tricia Helfer, star of Lucifer and Battlestar Galactica.

Tricia joined The Cosmic Shed's very own Ti at London Film & Comic Con. 

Tricia sells things via her website to raise money for animal charities

Battlestar Galactica is a shed favourite. Often watched but rarely discussed so it with great pleasure that we are able to bring you this conversation with the wonderful Tricia Helfer. 

Ti is wearing The Cosmic Shed T-shirt.

We'll be back tomorrow so be sure to subscribe and have each morning's Advent Calendar treat drop into your chosen podcast platform.

Don't forget to tell your friends and family about our advent calendar. You don't want to spend Christmas thinking and talking about politics so don't force them to...and, you never know, they might have run out of True Crime podcasts and fancy something different.

show notes

The Cosmic Shed is on Spotify now.

Door Four - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 4, 2018

It's Day 4, Door 4 of the Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar. To open the door, simply press play above and/or subscribe and let each day drop into your favourite podcast app or however you listen.

In the first 3 days of the Advent Calendar, we've been typing all sort of meaningless words here to make sure that the identity of today's guest is hidden lower down the page but we thought we'd give you some useful information today.

Did you know, for example, that you can watch many, if not all, of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures over the years by visiting the Royal Institution website here.

Now we're going to post this picture to drop the identity lower down the page. Scroll down to find out or click play above to allow the surprise to be more fun.

Robot in the shed

We're delighted to say that returning to the Shed for the first time since 2016 is Professor Danielle George, Professor of Radio frequency engineering in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning at the University of Manchester.

Prof Danielle George

Danielle presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 2014 and developed the Robot Orchestra out of that. You can see the Robot Orchestra in action here and read more about it here.

show notes

Prof Danielle George was talking to Russell Arnott at the Cheltenham Science Festival Lab Live Tour 2018 and Andrew at The Blue Dot Festival in 2016.

Door Three - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 3, 2018

It's the third day of the Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar and we've brought you a somewhat stellar name today. Open the door by clicking play above or simply subscribe and let each episode of the Shedvent Calendar arrive in your phone each morning for a treat while you shower/walk/cycle/lie in bed/make breakfast/eat breakfast/make tea/drink coffee/open the post/stand still/lie down with your eyes closed or however you listen to podcasts.

Again. we're filling up space here to allow people who would like today's guest to be surprise when they listen to the episode to not have that surprise spoiled. One of the ways we'll make the identity of the person appear further down the page (and therefore less likely to be visible before you press play) is by adding this image.

The Shed is awful on the outside and actually quite lovely on the inside. Like a TARDIS but far more spiders...and the TARDIS also looks great from the outside.

Behind Door Number Three is Lord Martin Rees, The Astronomer Royal. Perhaps best known for this work on the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, Lord Rees was the 60th President of the Royal Society and was in Bristol to talk about his new book "On the Future".

The Cosmic Microwave Background is thermal radiation coming from every part of the sky. Lord Rees, in 1968, made a significant contribution to our understanding of why it isn't uniform.

During his talk, Lord Rees made some rather fun soundbite quotes so we thought we'd share some of our favourites with you here:

"I don't think we should fear artificial intelligence. There's actual danger from real stupidity"

"As a society we tend to look to America as a place to learn from. I think we would do better to look to Scandinavia and some socialist societies around the world"

"I'm a political pessimist but a technological optimist"

Lord Rees, pictured talking at Jodrell Bank

Not a bad guest for Day Three of our Advent Calendar, we think you'll agree. Day Four tomorrow and, well, let's see whose behind the door tomorrow...

We do have some pretty wonderful things lined up for you but, like most advent calendars, while you occasionally get pictures of bears and Santa himself, occasionally, it's a rubbish snowflake or something. We won't give you a rubbish snowflake but just don't expect Lord Martin Rees every day.

show notes

Lord Rees has a new book On the Future and was appearing in Bristol as part of Bristol's Festival of Ideas.


Door Two - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 2, 2018

It's Day Two of the Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar and, again, we'll be typing some words here to keep the identity of our guest hidden for those of you who want to have the surprise of the door opening to reveal our mystery guest. If you'd like that surprise, simply click play above or subscribe to The Cosmic Shed and download this episode to your phone and see why we've posted this picture here.

The shed has dived deep into the ocean for today's guest but found him lurking near the surface.

Behind Door Number Two is Russell Arnott, Marine Biologist and Plankton Researcher at the University of Bath. Also, he's a bit of a sci-fi fan. Find out which classic trilogy was missing the middle part for Russell as he grew up in Dubai in the 1980s with only his Betamax tapes recorded from the telly back home in the UK. Discover that plankton is/are really rather more interesting that you might think. 

russell_in_shed.jpgAndrew was so upset for Russell's childhood that he has started trying to build a time machine to go and deliver that middle film (of the Trilogy) to young Russell in Dubai in the 1980s.

Show notes

Russell also collaborates with Incredible Oceans

Russell's voice might be familiar to anyone who has stepped into The Dive Tent, an audio adventure performance piece which Andrew created to take audiences to the deepest part of our oceans.

Door One - The Cosmic Shed Advent Calendar

December 1, 2018

Day One, Door One of the Cosmic Shed advent calendar. Each morning until...well, until we stop, we'll be bringing you a short episode of The Cosmic Shed. This is the first. We'll reveal who is behind the door lower down this post but if you'd rather be an Advent Calender...then simply press play or download and subscribe and let each one drop into your phone each morning.

We've put this picture here to hide who is behind door number one but we're sorry if it hasn't quite worked and you can see the text below. In an attempt to help those of you with long screens from having the surprise spoiled, we'll just type some more words here. Feel free to stop reading this now and listen to the episode. There's nothing of note in this caption but, if you don't mind knowing who our first advent guest is, you can carry on reading below.

Behind Door 1 is Dr. Rebecca Smethurst, astrophysicist at the University of Oxford, who studies the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies. You can find her on YouTube here and also here and also here.

If a star creeps too close to the black hole, the gravitational tides can rip away the star’s gaseous matter. Like water spinning around a drain, the gas swirls into a disk around the black hole at such speeds that it heats to millions of degrees. As an inner ring of gas spins into the black hole, gas particles shoot outward from the black hole’s polar regions. Like bullets shot from a rifle, they zoom through the jets at velocities close to the speed of light. Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed correlations between supermassive black holes and an event similar to tidal disruption, pictured above in the Centaurus A galaxy. Credit: NASA

Andrew and Becky chat black holes, science fiction and fantasy in this first ever Cosmic Shed advent calendar episode. 


Is the Upside Down in Stranger Things made possible by our understanding of Quantum Mechanics? Can you use Neutron Stars to forge new weapons for Norse Gods? Is Betteridge's Law always true?

Becky mentions this video of the stars orbiting the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy.

We hope you enjoy this advent calendar. Do share it with your friends and people you barely know. We're doing it to try and spread a little joy and have a little fun as 2018 draws to a close.

Join us tomorrow when we'll be opening Door Number Two.

show notes

Andrew also hosts the Physics World Stories Podcast which you can find here. He tends to be a bit more sensible on that one but latest episode, on Gravitational Waves is getting the crazies going on twitter...