How Crop Circles Work
The sun sets on a field in southern England. When it rises again the following morning, that field has been transformed into an enormous work of art. But, who created it? Are crop circles the work of alien visitors? Are they a natural phenomenon, created by electrically charged currents of air? Or are they elaborate hoaxes perpetrated by savvy, talented and very determined circlemakers? Believers and naysayers each have their own theories, but the truth remains elusive.
In this article, we will look into the phenomenon of crop circles -- what they are, where they can be found, how they are made (from the people who claim to create them), and how researchers are studying them in an effort to separate the supernatural from the scientific.
The writer's undergraduate course will be “communication”. The course is designed to provide a solid understanding of the theory and the practice of communication in a global environment that is both complex and rapidly changing.
The reason why the writer chose this topic is that this is a phenomenon, which has baffled the media and the world for a long time. Through the study of this topic, the writer has gained more information about the art of communication, which will help for the undergraduate study.
The Secret of Crop Circles
How crop circles work
What exactly is a crop circle? The Oxford dictionary defines it as “an area of standing crops which has been flattened in the form of a circle or other pattern by unexplained means”. The Encarta dictionary defines it as “mysterious flat circle in crops:an area in a field of crops where the plants have been mysteriously flattened, usually overnight, into the shape of a circle or a more complex pattern”. And the Longman dictionary defines it as “a pattern that appeared in British farm fields, which some people believe were made by creatures from another world”. In essence, they are correct in their definition. Crop circles are patterns that appear in fields. The pattern is created when certain areas of the crops are tamped down, but others are left intact. The edge is so clean that it looks like it was created with a machine. Even though the stalks are bent, they arenot damaged. Most of the time, the crop continues to grow as normal. Sometimes, the patterns aresimple circles. In other instances, they are elaborate designs consisting of several interconnecting geometric shapes.
Some assert that photographs of bent or warped crop growth nodes support non-human origins of crop circles. Biophysicist W. C. Levengood'sCrop Circle Reportsclaims that circles with such "node-warping" are not man-made, that they could not have been made through snapping or breaking or from impact or by crushing, but instead must have been made by some intensely focused energy such as microwaves or spinning plasma vortex. While it has been suggested thatball lightningandvorticesin the wind might rarely produce isolated indentations in crops, neither is capable of the complex and often, delicate patterns seen in more elaborate crop circles
Crop-circle enthusiasts call themselvescereologists-- after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. Most cereologists (or "croppies," as they are sometimes called) believe that crop circles are the work of either extraterrestrials or plasma vortices.
History Of crop circles
Farmers have reported finding strange circles in their fields for centuries. The earliest mention of a crop circle dates back to the 1500s. A 17th-century English woodcut shows a devilish creature making a crop circle. People who lived in the area called the creature the "mowing devil."
Mentions of crop circles were sporadic until the 20th century, when circles began appearing in the 1960s and '70s in England and the United States. But the phenomenon didn't gain attention until 1980, when a farmer inWiltshire County, England, discovered three circles, each about 60 feet (18 meters) across, in his oat crops. UFO researchers and media descended on the farm, and the world first began to learn about crop circles.
By the 1990s, crop circles had become something of a tourist attraction. In 1990 alone, more than 500 circles emerged in Europe. Within the next few years, there were thousands. Visitors came from around the world to see them. Some farmers even charged admission to their mysterious attractions.
Early examples of crop circles were usually simple circular patterns of various sizes. After some years, more complex geometric patterns emerged. In addition to circle designs based onsacred geometry, some of the later formations, those occurring after 2000, are based on other principles, including fractals. Many crop circles now have fine intricate detail, regular symmetry and careful composition. Elements of three-dimensionality have been introduced, and some crop circles appear to be inspired by animals or religious symbols.
Various designs of crop circles
Crop circles are not just circles -- they can come in many different shapes. The most basic (and the most common) crop circle is thesingle circle. Circles may also come in sets of two (doublets), three (triplets) or four (quadruplets). Circles also may be enclosed in a thin outer ring.
The stalks inside a crop circle are typically bent into what is known as aswirl pattern, and the circles may spin clockwise or counter clockwise. In patterns with several circles, one circle may spin clockwise and another counter clockwise. Even a single circle may contain two "layers" of stalks, each spinning in a different direction.
Crop circles can range in size from a few inches to a few hundred feet across. Most early crop circles were simple circular designs. But after 1990, the circles became more elaborate. More complex crop patterns, calledpictograms, emerged. Crops can be made to look like just about anything -- smiling faces, flowers or even words. Crop circles are sometimes unique designs, but they can also be based on ancient motifs.
Some of the more sophisticated patterns are based onmathematical equations. Astronomer and former Boston University Professor Gerald S. Hawkins studied several crop circles and found that the positions of the circles, triangles and other shapes were placed based on specific numerical relationships. In one crop circle that had an outer and an inner circle, the area of the outer circle was exactly four times that of the inner circle. The specific placement of the shapes indicates that, whoever the circlemakers are, they have an intricate knowledge ofEuclidean geometry(the geometry of a flat surface introduced by the mathematician Euclid of Alexandria).
Some circles have thin lines leading away from them. These lines, calledspurs, are not actually a part of the circle. They are created by the farmer's tractor.
Most circles are concentrated in thesouth of England, primarily in the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire. Many of them have been found near Avebury and Stonehenge, two mystical sites containing large stone monuments. But crop circles are not confined to England. They have been spotted in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, India and other parts of the world.
crop-circle-13.jpgThe "season" for crop circles runs fromApril creators (to September, which coincides with the growing season. Circles tend to be created at night, hiding their human or otherwise) from curiouseyes. Crop circles can be found in many different types of fields -- wheat, corn, oats, rice, oil-seed rape, barley, rye, tobacco -- even weeds. Most circles are found in low-lying areas close to steep hills, which may explain the wind theory of their creation.
But crop circles are not confined to England. They have been spotted in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, India and other parts of the world. The "season" for crop circles runs fromApril to September, which coincides with the growing season. Circles tend to be created at night, hiding their creators (human or otherwise) from curiouseyes.
Crop circles can be found in many different types of fields -- wheat, corn, oats, rice, oil-seed rape, barley, rye, tobacco -- even weeds. Most circles are found in low-lying areas close to steep hills, which may explain the wind theory of their creation.
How Are crop circles Made
Crop circles appear to be very intricate formations, with many geometric shapes linked in sophisticated patterns. But the basics of crop-circle creation and the tools involved are actually simple.
In general, circlemakers follow the following steps:
1. Choose a location.
2. Create a diagram of the design (although some circlemakers decide to come up with an idea spontaneously when they arrive at their intended site).
3. Once they arrive at the field, they use ropes and poles to measure out the circle.
4. One circlemaker stands in the middle of the proposed circle and turns on one foot while pushing the crop down with the other foot to make a center.
5. The team makes the radius of the circle using a long piece of rope tied at both ends to an approximately 4-foot-long (1.2-meter) board called astalk stomper(a garden roller can also be used). One member of the team stands at the center of the circle while the other walks around the edge of the circle, putting one foot in the middle of the board to stomp down the circle's outline.
Who Make Crop Circles And Their Motives
The answer of whom or what is creating these crop formations is not an easy one to answer. Some people claim they are the work of UFOs. Others say they are a natural phenomenon. Still others say they are elaborate hoaxes perpetrated by teams of circlemakers.
1. UFOs and Aliens
Possibly the most controversial theory is that crop circles are the work of visitors from other planets -- sort of like alien calling cards. People who agree with this theory say that the circles are either the imprint left by landing spacecraft or messages brought from afar for us earthlings. Some eyewitnesses claim to have seen UFO-like lights and strange noises emanating from crop circle sites.
Probably the most scientific theory says that crop circles are created by small currents of swirling winds calledvortices(similar to "dust devils"). The spinning columns force a burst of air down to the ground, which flattens the crops. Vortices are common in hilly areas such as parts of southern England.
A few researchers have theorized that smallairplanesorhelicoptersstir updowndraftsthat push the crops down into patterns. Recreation attempts so far have not been able to produce the types of downdrafts necessary to make the perfectly round edges seen in most crop circles.
4. Earth Energy
Some researchers believe that the earth creates its own energy, which forms the circles. One possible form of earth energy is electromagnetic radiation. In fact, scientists have measured strong magnetic fields inside crop circles, and visitors have sometimes reported feeling a tingling sensation in their body while in or near the circles.
The easiest explanation for crop circles is that they areman-made hoaxes, created either for fun or to stump the scientists
a. Among the most famous hoaxers are the British team ofDoug Bower and Dave Chorley, known as "Doug and Dave." In 1991, the duo came out and announced that they had made hundreds of crop circles since 1978. To prove that they were responsible, they filmed themselves for the BBCmaking a circle with a rope-and-plank contraption in a Wiltshire field.
b. Circlemakers, founded circlemakers byJohn Lundbergin the early 1990s. In August 2004, National Geographic contacted a team including circlemakers John Lundberg, Rod Dickinson and Wil Russell and requested a daylight demonstration in Wiltshire in support of a crop-circle documentary.
How RESEARCHERS STUDY crop circles
When researchers come to the scene of a crop circle, they conduct a thorough investigation, including the following methods:
* Talking to possible eyewitnesses and residents living nearby
* Examining the location and the weather where circles have formed
* Examining the affected crops and the surrounding soil with sophisticated techniques such asX-raydiffraction analysis (firing X-rays at a sample to determine its composition materials)
* Taking electromagnetic energy readings inside and near the crop circles
* Analyzing the circle patterns (Some complex patterns are compared with hieroglyphics or other ancient symbols.)
Researchers have been pondering the question of crop circles for several decades, but they still have not come up with a real answer as to why they exist. experiments done to prove crop circles are a hoax
* national geographic channel
National Geographic Channel in their programme, “Is It Real?” took a closer look into crop circles. They did their analysis in three parts:
1. If it is possible to create a cropcircle within an English summer night
2. The physical changes to plants in cropcircles, and
3. The balls of light(BOLs) that appear around the formations
They got a 3-man team comprising of the famed Circlemakers to create a crop circle within 5 hours, which is about the length of an English summer night. They used simple tools like a few stakes to mark the key points, surveyor's tape and specially made stalk-stompers. This proved that it is possible to make a crop circle under cover of the night.
crop-circle-1.jpgNext, they interviewed Nancy Talbott of BLT research. She coordinates the gathering and testing of samples from cropcircles. According to her, the most ground breaking of evidences is the differences in the plant's conditions. In authentic cropcircles, the nodes of the plants are elongated. In man-made cropcircles, the nodes do not show this change. They believe that 95% of cropcircles they have tested were made by plasma vortices'.
Lastly, they experimented with the famous BOLs. When asked, many experts said that they thought the only things that these could be - white birds or stray objects. Hence, it was proven that these BOLs could be created. Therefore, not all BOLs were authentic.
* discovery channel
mit2.jpgDiscovery Channel, on the other hand, explored crop circles through another documentary featuring the original crop circle makers. They got three MIT undergraduate students in the aeronautics and astronautical engineering departments - Lisa Messeri, Devjit Chakravarti and Dominic Rizzo to recreate crop circle in less than 4 hours. They also recruited two graduate students (Zoz Brooks and Mark Feldmeier) from MIT's prominent Media Lab, who were assigned the task of evaluating the undergraduates' results.
They focused on three main points -
1. Geometry of the circle
2. Expulsion cavities in the plant stems (holes blown out at the nodes)
3. The presence of 10-50 micron diameter magnetized iron spheres in the soils, distributed linearly
First, they created a crop circle, which was similar to many cropcircles. Then, using a microwave gun, which was a dismantled microwave oven, reassembled in a portable fashion and an outlet in the shape of a funnel to evenly distribute the microwaves. During the testing of this device, they got an unanticipated result. The microwaves from the device affected the TV equipment and sucked all the power out of it.
Then, in order to distribute the iron particles, they used an instrument that their seniors Zoz and Mark made for them, the “Flamschmeisser”. It shoots a shower of iron particles into a flaming propane ring and distributes them over the field. By the time they were done with this stage, they had a little more than 20 minutes left to spread the iron particles with the “Flamschmeisser”. As a last resort, they wired up a pyrotenic device that had been tested only once. There was a small explosion with lots of white smoke. It distributed iron particles in a linear fashion. It worked as it was supposed to. Another unexpected thing that happened was during the inspection by Zoz and Mark while airborne. They lost power, the pilot auto-rotated and just as suddenly, the power returned.
When Zoz and Mark were done and the results were in, it showed that no ferrous particles were found in the soil collected from outside the cropcircle but there were ferrous particles in the sample collected from inside the cropcircle. In short, the three MIT students were successful in their efforts. They got the shape they were after; created the expulsion cavities and they deposited the iron particles.
1. Similarities drawn from both investigations
Both investigations mention the earliest documented evidence of cropcircles came from English folklore, known as the “Hartford-fhire moving devil” in 1978. They also mention that many believe that there is a military connection with regard to cropcircles. Another common thing mentioned in both documentaries is the theory of plasma vortices. Plasma vortices are rotating field of electrified air. The BLT Research Team (in both documentaries represented by Nancy Talbott) thinks that these ions with microwave frequencies that rapidly heat water in plants, causing them to collapse to the ground with stems not cracked or broken. Further, the microwave frequencies can heat up water in the plant's growth nodes, which burst out, creating small holes that have often been found in extraordinary crop patterns. Those complex energies can also affect the seeds. Another interesting similarity mentioned (more prominently in the National Geographic documentary) was that 20% were caused by eddie (eddy) currents in the earth's magnetic field - a mysterious shift in the electro-magnetic field creates a current that flattens the crops in its path.
That could probably explain the numerous reports of electronic equipment failing in crop circles, compasses spinning out of control in and over the crop circles (even when flying over in aircraft) and power failure in the helicopter which was captured on tape.
2. writer's conclusion from investigations
A few very important facts are clear to us. It is perfectly plausible for cropcircles to be a man-made phenomenon. It is also possible for this hitherto unexplained phenomenon to be caused by phenomena of the earth, unknown to us humans. The only benefiter of this phenomenon is the tourism industry in England.
1. <http://circlemakers.org/> - website of the most famous cropcircle makers who make crop circles for a living
2. Unknown. “ Crop circle”< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_circles>(18 Feb 2010)Unknown. “Crop Circles - Mysteries in the fields - biased ending? <http://www.realufos.net/2007/09/crop-circles-mysteries-in-fields-new.html>(21 Feb 2010)
4. Clarke, J.D. “Crop circles: MIT's most ambitious hack?” <http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/crops-1009.html > (27 Feb 2010)
5. Talbott, N. “M.I.T. Kids' Crop circles attempt yields an interesting (and totally inadvertent ) result <http://www.bltresearch.com/published/mit.php>
6. Watson, S. “ How crop circles work”. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/crop-circle.htm>
7. http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/is-it-real/2320/Overview - an overview of the National Geographic Channels' analysis of cropcircles through the show “Is It Real?”