New Canadian $5 bill to have my stamp of approval

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yesterday Canada's new $100 and $50 bills were revealed, or at least their preliminary design (we hope). The concept behind them is all right and the material they are to be made out of (polymer) is great, but I can't say I'm a fan of the design itself, and many others are saying the same thing. It looks like this:

Many are unhappy with the Canada font on the top right, but I'm not that much of a font nerd. The best part is the DNA strand, the woman using the microscope is not bad but a bit too obvious, while the bottle of insulin is the worst. A big bottle of insulin that says insulin as well as insuline, something like that just screams inferiority complex or cheap advertising ("look at the thing we made that we want you to know about!").

No big deal though, and overall the bill looks fine. Everybody's a critic when something first comes out.

What is interesting though is the list of themes for the upcoming bills, the latest of which will be introduced in 2013:

* The $5 note is dedicated to Canada's space program
* The $10 note will depict Canada's railway lines
* The $20 note will feature sacrifices made in Canadian conflicts

Here's what it felt like when I first read that:

Well well! The most-often used bill (or one of the most often) will pay tribute to Canada's space program! That wins instant approval from me.

I do have one fear though: that the bill may contribute to the sense of complacency Canadians seem to have towards their space program. The problem with it is twofold:

- The CSA is not large enough to make a truly significant contribution to space (i.e. get rid of it and not much changes overall)
- The CSA is large enough that it is capable of making several small yet very visible contributions to space. The Canadarm, a few astronauts, a tiny space telescope. All this together is not very much, but they are prominent examples that anyone can point to in order to demonstrate that yes, Canada is contributing to space development as well.

In reality, Canada only contributes about one-sixth the amount per capita that the US does, and even the US only spends 0.6% of its budget on space. And that in spite of the much healthier economy Canada has had over the past decade or so.

The somewhat recently redesigned 10000 won bill in South Korea was also nice to see when it first came out, and is a good example of a subtle and classy way to promote space. It looks like this on the back:

The background is this star map (天象列次分野之圖 or 천상열차분야지도, a map of listed heavenly phenomena) from the 14th century and on the left is this astronomical clock (渾天時計, 혼천시계, armillary sphere) from the 16th century. In contrast to this we have on the lower right Korea's largest telescope, the 1.8-metre one located on the mountain Sobaeksan, or right here:

View Larger Map

The 10000 won bill is a perfect example of how to incorporate astronomy without being too garish or obvious. Canada from the looks of it will go with a more blunt approach. And that's infinitely better than having no tribute to space at all.


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