I Heart Pluto

Poor Pluto. Once a planet, now demoted to dwarf planet status.

I’m not a “Pluto is a planet” partisan, but when NASA’s New Horizon mission took this close-up photo of Pluto, I knew I had to have this shirt. Now you can have one too:

NASA did all the real work sending a spacecraft 3 billion miles to take the picture, so I’m publishing this with a Creative Commons license. Go ahead and make your own T-shirt, stickers, coffee mug, whatever.

If you are too lazy to make your own, I have T-Shirt, Stickers, and Coffee Mugs available for pre-order on CafePress.

Creative Commons License
I Heart Pluto by Jason Morrison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/pluto-is-dominated-by-the-feature-informally-named-the-heart.

How to build an eclipse viewing box with your kid

You should never look at a solar eclipse directly, but building a simple eclipse viewer is easy. It’s also a fun project to do with your kids.

Step 1. Get a long box.

Eclipse viewer box

I got a really long square box from the UPS store for ~$10. The longer the better – the more distance between the end pointed at the sun and the viewing end, the larger the image of the sun will be.

By the way, this picture is just showing off how long the box is – you won’t actually be looking through the box when we’re done.

Step 2. Decorate the box.

Decorating the eclipse viewer

This might be the most important part of the project if you’re doing it with kids. Kids love to draw planets, comets, rocket ships, and all sorts of fun things. This is also a good place to illustrate exactly what’s going on when the sun starts to disappear.

Step 3. Close the box and cut a hole in one end.

Eclipse box

This end will be pointed toward the sun.

Step 4. Cover the hole with foil and put a tiny pinprick in the middle.

eclipse viewer pinhole

You want to block out all the light except the pin prick. It will cast an image of the sun on the other end of the box.

Step 5. Cut open a small section of the side near the bottom.

Eclipse viewer ready to go

The picture illustrates this pretty well. You want a small section open so you can see the image in the bottom of the box. I also put a piece of white paper in the bottom, that shows off the image better than cardboard:

image of the sun

You’ll need to find something to use to prop up the box and aim it toward the sun. I used a tripod, but a chair will work as well. You’ll need to keep moving the viewer as the day goes on to keep the image in place.

Enjoying a solar eclipse

Caught in an eclipse without a viewer? No worries! Anything with a hole in it that can cast a shadow will show the eclipse – even your fingers or the leaves on the trees!

solar elcipse shadows

Cresent eclipse shadows

Making geeky baby Halloween costumes

Baby Picard costumeI’m on paternity leave with my 5-month-old, Finn. Halloween is coming soon, and while thinking about costumes I noticed that Finn’s hair was starting to fill in. I realized that this was my last chance to take advantage of his relative baldness for costume purposes.

So, over the past couple weeks I’ve been working on a fun project to photograph my kid in as many geeky costumes as I can before we hit Halloween. Or before his hair grows too much. Whichever comes first.

The rules I’ve set for myself are:

1. Bald or nearly-bald fictional characters only. The geekier the better.
2. No spending any serious amount of money each costume.
3. No spending any serious time on each costume.

Here are the ones I’ve done so far:

1. Avatar Aang:

Avatar Aang baby costume

2. Captain Picard:

Captain Picard baby costume

3. Krillin from Dragon Ball Z:

Krillin Dragon Ball Z baby costume

4. Professor Xavier from the X-Men:

Professor Xavier X-Men baby costume

5. Charlie Brown:

Charlie Brown baby costume

6. Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD:

Nick Fury Avengers baby costume

7. Morpheus from The Matrix:

Morpheus Matrix baby costume

8. Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen:

Dr. Manhattan Watchmen baby costume

9. Korben Dallas from The Fifth Element:

Korben Dallas Fifth Element baby costume


These were all put together pretty quickly, and as I get time I’ll try to create some tutorials on how. Mostly I’ve been using double-sided fabric tape, onesies, cheap kid T-shirts, and post-it notes.

Follow me on G+ to see what’s next.