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...



First Man, Alan Bean (and the Oumuamua Aliens)

November 19, 2018

In our first episode for some time, we discuss the delights of the new Neil Armstrong biopic First Man and hear from Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean who Andrew was fortunate to spend some time with. We also hear from the Harvard Professor, Avi Loeb, whose explorations tell him that there might be an alien spacecraft in our solar system right now.

First Man is a beautiful film. See it on the biggest screen you can.

Alan Bean took off on Apollo 12 and walked on the moon, becoming only the fourth man to do so. On his return to Earth, he became an artist and painted the moon and the experiences he and his friends had there. Andrew met him a few years ago and shares part of their conversation in this packed episode of The Cosmic Shed podcast.

Alan Bean tells us about his art and more.

Andrew is joined in the shed by Ti, who recently won Pointless and he's full of useless but entertaining facts as usual and Tushna returns to share her love of the film and her exasperation with the press (and PR people) in their handling of the Oumuamua story.

All smiles in the shed...

Andreas Heim also joins us to tell us about Project Lyra, the proposed mission to Oumuamua and as if all that weren't enough, Ben joins us for a poem and Tom Adams sings us a song from The Apollo 11 Campervan.

Tom and Andrew's show The Apollo 11 Campervan

Sorry it took us so long to get a new episode out. We won't bore you with the reasons but we're delighted to be back. 

Tell your friends. Leave us reviews. Spread the word. We do this for the love. Please feel free to share it.


Blue Dot Festival 2018

July 25, 2018

Andrew and Maddy report back from the wonderful Blue Dot Festival at Jodrell Bank. We hear from Prof Tim O'Brien, Professor of Astrophysics and Director of the Festival and Dr Lucy Quinn, the woman largely responsible for mobilising a nation into rethinking the way we rethink our use of plastic. There's Professor Jim Wild, Professor of Space Physics telling us about Space Weather and how to live on Mars and a whole lot more.

The Blue Planet Live! kicked off the festival

The Thursday night the Halle orchestra took the stage to perform The Blue Planet in Concert. Anna Brigham joined us to tell us what it's like to be part of the orchestra for such an awe-inspiring performance. Anna is no stranger to such projects having worked with Andrew on Polar Explore, the educational shoot off of his own concert Polar.

Anna Brigham's Tattoo is a mixture of Science and Music.

Dr Lucy Quinn shot to public consciousness in the final episode of the Blue Planet 2 series as she sat among the albatrosses and showed us the awful devastation caused by our disposal of rubbish and plastics. Lucy joined Andrew to talk all things ornithology and, somehow, Andrew manages to turn it into a talk about Star Wars.

Dr Lucy Quinn and Andrew with the Lovell Telescope.

The Flaming Lips threw what can only be described as the best 5 year old's birthday party for adults ever on the Friday night.

Jodrell Bank parties like only the Flaming Lips can.

Before that, a really wonderful conversation between Prof Tim O'Brien and Wayne Coyne took place on one of the other stages.

Do you realise? A Rockstar explaining life to an Astrophysicist

There's still more but, let's face it, you should stop reading this and start listening to the episode. It ends with Maddy and Andrew in conversation with Prof Tim O'Brien.

Maddy, Tim and Andrew at Blue Dot Festival.

Show notes

Tickets for Blue Dot 2019 are available now here
Andrew mentions his Moon shows. One of them is here
You can hear our conversation with J Wilgoose of Public Service broadcasting here
Tim O'Brien's record is on Spotify here

Public Service Broadcasting

July 16, 2018

Ahead of their performance at The Blue Dot Festival, Public Service Broadcasting's J Wilgoose joins Andrew in this very special episode of the Cosmic Shed.

The Race for Space is a simply glorious piece of work.

Blue Dot Festival takes place at the iconic Jodrell Bank site in Cheshire. We brought you a podcast from the festival before. You can hear that here.

Blue Dot Festival - Just brilliant.

At the festival, Public Service Broadcasting will be performing songs from across their catalogue including their brilliant new album Every Valley. The album is themed around the tribulations of the miners of South Wales under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government.

Every Valley is far from a mining disaster.

We'll be at Blue Dot this weekend. See you there. Get your tickets here.

Show notes

Some day tickets are still available for the Blue Dot Festival.
J Wilgoose and Public Service Broadcasting are on the Friday.
Andrew buys CDs. This is a thing people do. You can do it here.
PSB and Andrew will also be at The Green Man Festival

Jurassic World - Fallen Kingdom

June 16, 2018

How did the birds survive the Asteroid Strike that wiped out the Dinosaurs? Is Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom better than Jurassic World...or even Jurassic Park? Is the Cosmic Shed really surrounded by Dinosaurs?

We answer all these questions (apart from the last one) in this brand new episode of The Cosmic Shed.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. Image Credit: Universal Pictures

We are joined by Dr. Daniel J Field from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the Univeristy of Bath who led the group who made some recent breakthroughs in our quest to find out just how the birds did survive the Asteroid strike.

Dr. Daniel J. Field. He likes birds and bones. 

You can't talk about Jurassic Park without talking about music so we also hear from Pete Harrison, conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Richard Jacques, the composer of 007 Blood Stone ahead of the concert Heroes and Monsters.

Heroes and Monsters. Image credit: Colston Hall.

And there's even more than that but you'll have to listen to find out what.

It's Dinosaurs. It's Science. It's a lot of fun. 

Show notes

There's plenty more Dinosaur science on our Jurassic World episode from 2015.

Andrew's hayfever has kept him out of the garden and it seems that maybe, just maybe, the Shed has been transported to Jurassic World...

The plants are breaking through. Life finds a way.



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.