Sharing the Science of Shadows

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Interactions - SPS Chapters in Action

Sharing the Science of Shadows


Anna Faretty and Michaela Collins, SPS Members

Kutztown University

KUSPS advisor Dr. Paul V. Quinn and members of the chapter presented a workshop on the science of shadows before Shadowland. Photo courtesy of KUSPS.

This year, Kutztown University’s Society of Physics Students (KUSPS) chapter collaborated with Pilobolus, an internationally acclaimed modern dance group. Pilobolus performed their show Shadowland at KU in February. It is a dramatic, surreal, and comedic story of a young girl’s world as she comes of age. During Shadowland, the Pilobolus performers use a mixture of techniques to tell the story, including multimedia and shadow projections.

While preparing for the show, the campus organization that brings in performances such as Shadowland, KU Presents!, contacted our chapter about putting together a workshop on the science of shadows. We agreed and created an educational experience for the audience.

KUSPS students presented a workshop before the show that brought the science of light and shadows to an audience of elementary and high school students. Because shadows require light, we discussed the properties of reflection, refraction, interference, and diffraction, but the focus of our presentation was the science of shadows. Our workshop included a discussion on the parts of a shadow, how distance can affect and alter the scale of a shadow, and how different colored shadows are created. After the workshop, the audience was able to appreciate Shadowland in a new light. We enjoyed sharing science with our community and working with Pilobolus to enhance their show.

This is our chapter's first outreach event on light and shadows but our second event in conjunction with an arts performance. In 2015, we presented a series of wave demonstrations related to the physics of music before a performance by William Close and the Earth Harp Collective, a group that creates music using instruments with 1,000-foot strings. //

During the workshop, KUSPS used a shadow box to demonstrate how distance can affect and alter the scale of a shadow. Photo courtesy of KUSPS.

For more information on Pilobolus and Shadowland, visit Photo courtesy of Pilobolus.

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