Catching Shadows

Doctors Nathan Porridge and Sally Trouble have achieved a world first, becoming the only people to have captured a live shadow in the laboratory. Publishing their findings in last week's Take a Break, one of the scientific world's more colourful journals, the pair explained how they achieved this feat using a Van de Graaff generator, a nine volt battery, two bits of Blu-Tack and a shoebox.

The shadow in question was that of a cat, a three year old American Shorthair called Percy, but that's not important right now. Doctors Porridge and Trouble's initial experiments in isolating shadows began in 2012, when they established the basic lighting conditions necessary to create shadows substantial enough to respond to weak manipulation. However, the shadows always disintegrated before they could be successfully quarantined.

It wasn't until earlier this year that they made the breakthrough. After trying a bigger shoebox, Porridge and Trouble were able to trap the shadow and store it for several minutes, finally proving the predictions made by Wolfgang Pauli in 1926 in his Matrix Theory of Umbral Density.

Obviously it was not possible to directly observe the cat's shadow inside the box, since the admission of light into the container would instantly cause it to collapse. But Porridge and Trouble were nevertheless able to make audio recordings of the shadow scratching and padding back and forth, entirely independent of the actual cat itself.

One thing that the team found surprising was how short-lived the shadow proved to be. Evidently, for some as yet unknown reason, shadows rapidly decay once they have been separated from the objects that have cast them. However, this hasn't prevented some forward thinking individuals from speculating on the possible commercial applications of the technique, such as using portable shadows in place of sunshades.

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