RX100vi in the historic Royal Institution Theatre

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Digital Nigel Veteran Member • Posts: 8,764
RX100vi in the historic Royal Institution Theatre

Earlier this week I attended a lecture entitled Science and Banknotes, delivered by the chief cashier of the Bank of England. She is responsible, among other things for all the notes issued by the Bank, and her signature will appear on all new notes issued during her tenure (meaning she will be the person whose autograph is owned by far more Brits than any celebrity). I asked her if she needed to sign using a special Bank of England pen, but it seems not: just a normal fountain pen (though she doesn't normally use one). Ironically, it would be illegal for her to autograph one of the millions of notes with her signature in the design, as it's illegal to deface currency.

The Chief Cashier of the Bank of England sounds like it would be a venerable, besuited gentleman, but it's actually a personable lady in her mid-forties, Sarah John:

Sarah John, Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, speaking about the new £50 note

The lecture was on the day after the name of the person who will feature on the new 2021 £50 note. It had been decided that it would be a late British scientist, and the public were invited to make nominations. Almost 230,000 people did, and a long list of 989 eligible scientists were selected from their suggestions. Short biographies of all 989 were compiled, and the Bank's selection committee (of both insiders and outsiders) had to read all the biographies, to produce a final short list of a dozen. These were the finalists:

Yes, the short list of 12 has 14 faces, because two of the finalists were a pair of scientists

The final choice was made by the governor of the Bank, and he chose Alan Turing, a very popular choice.

Sarah mentioned that she was particularly pleased to be honoured to be presenting from a location that had previously featured on a BoE bank note: the £20 Michael Faraday note. Indeed, she was standing in the exact same spot that Faraday was shown in during a Christmas lecture in 1826:

Sarah John, perhaps unconsciously, adopts the identical pose, in the exact location, that Michael Faraday did back in 1826

Faraday gave many lectures in that historic theatre, including one in 1846 when over a thousand people squeezed in for the first time (in its modern reconstructed form, with individual seats, not benches, the capacity is smaller).

Sarah let is into a little secret: three of the designers of that note sneaked self-portraits of themselves into the image:

The design team of this note sneaked self-portraits of themselves into the front row of Faraday's audience

She didn't think they'd managed the same trick again, but one of them still works for the Bank.

One of her scientific colleagues then took us through some of the high tech features used in the latest notes to combat forgers, who are in an everlasting arms race with central banks. The Bank employs its own forgers to test all new designs. And any notes paid into a bank go through sorting/counting machines that are programmed to detect and isolate forgeries.

British notes now have a polymer substrate (which is hard for forgers to source), include a see-through window with images, reflective holographic foil, parts of the design are different colours depending on how you look at them, etc. There are also raised patterns, both to block forgers and to help blind people distinguish them  (all British notes are a different size, which also helps).

Four of the stages in the production of high tech £10 notes

The RX100M6 was a great camera to have on me: I turned off the rear screen, so as not to disturb other audience members, and only used the EVF. The mechanical shutter is almost silent, and inaudible to anyone else (the guy next to me took pics with a phone with a loud, fake shutter sound).

 Digital Nigel's gear list:Digital Nigel's gear list
Panasonic FZ1000 Canon PowerShot G7 X Nikon Coolpix P900 Panasonic ZS100 Sony RX10 III +15 more
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