Is the ‘starburst’ effect on the £5 note a trick or a security feature?


The mirror, an English tabloid generally known for its sensationalism, took a less controversial approach in a July 22 article about a hidden feature of England’s £5 note which is not mentioned by the Bank of England in its information in line, but which has been known for five years.

He published an interview with Steve Mould, a scientist who claims to have found a hidden detail that can only be seen with a laser on Queen Elizabeth II’s neck in the Bank of England’s £5 note. He had revealed his discovery in a YouTube video he made shortly after the note was introduced which showed him aiming a red laser through the queen’s neck in the transparent window. He said: “If you aim a laser pointer at just the right spot on the queen’s neck and then project onto the opposite wall, you’ll see a triangular star field. The question is, is this a deliberate security feature? »

It is not clear, even deliberately, if this constitutes a security element. The scientist thinks not, but rather that it is a side effect of the way the queen’s face is printed. “Under a microscope,” he said The mirror, “You see a triangular grid of ink dots. So what we see projected onto the wall is counter-intuitive.

“You could imagine shining a light through this grid of ink dots and these light-blocking ink dots. Then surely you would see a grid of dark spots projected onto the wall? But we don’t, we see the opposite, we see a grid of luminous points.

It’s probably not a security feature. Comments on the video included one that said it also works on the £10 note and another that said ‘The same thing happens with the little window in my own face, on my Colorado driving license.’

A similar phenomenon is certainly a security feature on Canada’s polymer banknotes, and this is also touted by some as a cool party trick. On these tickets, if you shine a laser through the transparent Canadian maple leaf, the value of the ticket will be projected onto the opposite wall.

The explanation in a similar video describes the effect as a diffraction grating, a splitting of light into multiple beams in different directions.

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