The Reason There's Over a Hundred Abandoned Giant Arrows Across the U.S.

Being an airmail pilot in the 1920s was a dangerous occupation—according to Half as Interesting, the average person in that profession died after just 900 hours of flying. One of the biggest dangers had to do with navigating at night; once darkness fell, pilots often had no idea where they were going. Aviation maps didn't exist yet, and this was decades before the days of GPS. For a while, pilots had to rely on giant bonfires next to landing strips. But eventually the U.S. government hit on a solution: thousands of giant glowing arrows, known as airway beacons, showing the way across the country. The arrows, accompanied by lighted towers and erected every 10-15 miles from New York to San Francisco, made airmail faster, cheaper—and most importantly, much safer for pilots.

By World War II, most of the arrows were scrapped as advances in radar and radio communications made them obsolete, but at least 121 still remain across the country. (CityLab notes that Montana still uses about 19 of them for pilots flying through the mountains.) And they haven't been entirely forgotten: The site Arrows Across America is devoted to photos and details of the remaining arrows.

You can learn more about how the arrows worked, and where they are now, in the Half as Interesting video below.

$1.6 Billion in $50 Bills in Australia Were Printed With a Typo

PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

Australia's $50 banknote is filled with details; there are so many of them that it's hard to spot the typo that slipped onto the face of the bill. But if you know where to look, you'll see the spelling error that the treasury failed to catch before printing it on millions of pieces of currency.

According to CNN, the $50 bill, worth about $34.90 in U.S money, debuted in October 2018. It features Edith Cowan, Australia's first female member of parliament, with her inaugural speech to the Western Australian Parliament typed out in microprint above her shoulder. The words are hard to read, but in the zoomed-in image below you can see the word that's supposed to read responsibility in the second line is mistakenly spelled responsibilty. The bill also features innovative security features, such as holographic design elements, but the typo snuck by unnoticed.

The misspelled word was printed on 400 million banknotes, 46 million of which are currently in circulation. Altogether, the misprinted currency in circulation totals A$2.3 billion, or US$1.6 billion.

Australia's treasury plans to keep the bills in circulation and correct the error when the next batch of $50 banknotes is printed sometime in the next few months. Other typos of this scale have resulted in major consequences: In 1962, a missing hyphen in some computer code caused a satellite to explode, costing NASA $80 million.

[h/t CNN]

3D ‘Zebra Crossing’ Crosswalk Is Making Pedestrians in North London Safer

iStock.com/olaser
iStock.com/olaser

Cities around the world are improving upon the classic crosswalk. In Ahmedabad, India and Medford, Massachusetts, drivers are now confronted with 3D crosswalks painted on the asphalt. As Londonist reports, North London—home to perhaps the most iconic zebra crossing of all time—is the latest place to experiment with the new design.

The innovative crosswalks use an optical illusion to make roads safer for pedestrians. Instead of showing conventional flat stripes, the blocks in these crossings are painted with additional, shaded shapes around them, giving them the appearance of 3D objects raised from the ground.

The change is meant to get drivers' attention and encourage them to slow down before they reach the pedestrian crossing. Installing 3D crosswalks is a cheap and simple improvement, and it can potentially save lives.

The new crosswalk outside Barrow Hill Junior School in North London's St. John's Wood neighborhood uses this same trick. It's located around the corner from the place where The Beatles's Abbey Road album cover was shot. That's one crosswalk that likely won't be redesigned anytime soon, but luckily the hordes of tourists taking pictures there makes it easy to spot.

The new crosswalk is the first of its kind in the UK. After a nine- to 12-month trial run, London will consider installing the safety feature throughout the borough of Westminster.

[h/t Londonist]

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