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Comparison of two leading crop circle formation theories
The following table compares two leading theories of crop circle formation. The "plasma event" (usually "plasma vortex") theory invokes an electromagnetic event which creates a rapid heating effect, causing patterns to be imprinted in grains, snow, sand and other media. The "mechanical flattening" hypothesis assumes that human artists create all formations using rollers, boards, rope and an array of other technologies.
CONCLUSIONS: Though the plasma event theory requires a novel cause, its existence is implied by physical evidence. Evidence gathered and analyzed through scientific means (especially when published in peer reviewed journals) should always take precedence over assumptions. The attraction of the mechanical hoaxing theory is that it fits a widely shared belief system that since hoaxers CAN make formations, hoaxers must make ALL formations. But it does not take the bulk of the evidence into consideration.
The biggest stumbling block for the plasma event theory is the idea that a natural plasma vortex could create the wide variety of designs seen in crop circles. While it seems possible a naturally occuring phenomenon might create symmetrical circular, spiraling or even triangular shapes, it is unlikely that any natural process would imprint a bicycle or an alien face in a field. In these cases, in the absence of physical anomaly, the mechanical hoaxing theory clearly takes precedence. (In the case of the Chilbolton alien glyph, for example, no anomalies were noted in samples...strongly suggesting a mechanical hoaxing.)
In complicated or "too human" formations where physical anomaly still persists, however, a modified version of the plasma event theory might be taken into consideration. This theory suggests that crop circles are in fact high-tech "hoaxes," created intentionally by intelligence (human or otherwise), in order to convey certain information. The formations are created using a mechanically generated plasma vortex, or a directed naturally occuring vortex--akin to creating or harnessing a lightning bolt. While the modified plasma event theory is speculative, it does solve the issue of designs that seem unlikely to have arisen through purely natural processes.
The key to finding the ultimate solution to the crop circle mystery, of course, is to acquire more samples from all types of formations, and to continue to study them in a scientific manner. Until more people understand how weak the mechanical hoaxing argument really is, however, such study will fail to progress at the needed pace.
3. W.C. Levengood and John A. Burke, "Semi-Molten
Meteoric Iron Associated with a Crop Formation," Journal
of Scientific Exploration 9, no. 2 (1995): 191-199.
5. Michael Strainic and Chad Deetken, et. al.,
"North American Crop Circles and Related Physical Traces Reported in
1992: A Study Conducted by the North American Institute for Crop Circle
Research," February 1993; available from North American Institute for
Crop Circle Research, 649 Silverstone Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R3T 2V8; also available from http://www.tje.net/para/documents/naiccr.htm
11. George Wingfield, "Towards an understanding of the nature of the circles," in Alick Bartholomew, ed., Crop Circles: Harbingers of World Change (Lower Lake, CA: Atrium Publishers Group, 1992), 25-6.
12. Nancy Talbott, "Crop Formations: A Biophysical Investigation," BLT Research Team information packet (Spring 1997): 2; available from BLT Research, Box 127, Cambridge, MA 02140, or http://www.bltresearch.com
A. A 915 by 508-foot logarithmic spiral first seen by a pilot at 5:45 PM on July 7, 1996 appeared fully formed in a span of no more than 30 minutes. According to signed statements made by three witnesses, including the pilot who reported the formation, the circle was definitely not in the field at 5:30 PM when it was first overflown. According to Eltjo Haselhoff, a Dutch Ph.D studying crop circles, ex-RAF pilot David Kingston has three independent witness reports showing that the 1996 Stonehenge formation appeared within the span of approximately 30 minutes in broad daylight. Crop circle formation by hoax is highly unlikely in this case, given the short time span and the high traffic tourist area around Stonehenge. (See sources 1 and 10.) According to one account, a 2001 crop circle had a circle added to its design while researchers were present at the site.
B. The time required to produce a large formation using mechanical means, as demonstrated by the world's elite human "circlefakers," exceeds reasonable estimates for construction of the biggest formations to date. Winners of a $6000 prize in a crop circle contest took over four hours to produce a high quality formation. Impressive as this display was--the team reportedly accomplished the feat during darkness and made very little noise--the circlefakers' formation covered less than 20% of the square footage covered by the largest "genuine" circles. Similarly, a three-person team of hoaxers demonstrated their circle faking prowess on Arthur C. Clarke's crop circle program and fared much worse: it took them over three hours to produce, during daylight, a formation only 120 feet across. The largest formation crop circle to date measures over 2,300 feet in length. The 2001 Milk Hill "Julia Set" formation covers 636,000 square feet. According to Linda Moulton Howe, who interviewed an engineering firm regarding the Milk Hill formation, professional surveyors would have needed about eight hours of surveying time to lay out the formation in the field using standard surveying techniques. This time does not include the time to actually flatten the 409 circles into the grain, which according to one architect would likely have required thousands of man hours. On 8/14/01 in London, the number of hours of darkness (from twilight to dawn) was slightly less than eight hours. Weather reports indicate that it rained all or most of the night before the Milk Hill formation appeared. No mud or footprints were found by investigators first on the scene.
C. Project Chameleon was a crop circle test conducted by John Macnish and David Morganstern. Utilizing overhead-mounted camera banks, infra-red radiation detectors, intruder alarm equipment and a powerful microphone capable of recording sounds in the range of 2-40,000 Hz, the researchers staked out an English field near Devizes in June of 1991. A dumb-bell formation with circles of unequal size appeared overnight. No entry of the field was detected by any of the equipment, nor was any sound recorded at any frequency. (See source 11.)
D. The 1991 Barbury Castle crop circle was discovered at 9:00 AM on July 17 by Nick Bailey, a helicopter pilot who flew over the formation. Bailey testified that the field was "definitely blank" the previous night at 9:00 PM. The warden of Barbury Castle reported hearing "the most colossal roar coupled with a pulsing hum at 3:30 AM like one hundred planes going over," on the morning of July 17. (See source 11.)
E. Using a strict field-sampling protocol, BLT Research completed studies (many of them "blind") on grain samples from over 200 crop formations discovered in the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and Israel. BLT's studies showed a number of statistically significant differences between normal plants and those taken from crop circles, leading the team to conclude that the observed electromagnetic changes are impossible to hoax through mechanical flattening of crops. For example, BLT found that samples from affected crop exhibited structural anomalies rarely or never found in control samples. EXPULSION CAVITIES: No such cavities have been found in controls examined by the researchers. These "blown nodes" appear to be the result of the plants having been exposed to a very brief (perhaps as brief as a few microseconds) blast of energy capable of causing the watery material in the cells to heat up quickly. This rapid heating may then produce steam, which, particularly in older plants with less elasticity in the fibrous node covering, creates holes as it escapes. (See source 12)
F. Using a strict field-sampling protocol, BLT Research completed studies (many of them "blind") on grain samples from over 200 crop formations discovered in the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and Israel. BLT's studies showed a number of statistically significant differences between normal plants and those taken from crop circles, leading the team to conclude that the observed electromagnetic changes are impossible to hoax through mechanical flattening of crops. For example, BLT found that samples from affected crop exhibited structural anomalies rarely or never found in control samples. SEED MALFORMATION: In their examination of samples from a crop circle referred to as the Newton St. Loe formation, BLT discovered a high incidence (40%) of seed malformation, compared to an almost zero incidence in the control seeds. This is a common finding in crop formation plants. (See source 12)
G. Using a strict field-sampling protocol, BLT Research completed studies (many of them "blind") on grain samples from over 200 crop formations discovered in the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and Israel. BLT's studies showed a number of statistically significant differences between normal plants and those taken from crop circles, leading the team to conclude that the observed electromagnetic changes are impossible to hoax through mechanical flattening of crops. For example, BLT found that samples from affected crop exhibited structural anomalies rarely or never found in control samples. GERMINATION ANOMALIES: These abnormalities appear to be related to the affected plant's species, its age at the time of the formation, and the apparent intensity and complexity of the energy system involved. In general, the younger an affected plant is, the more damaging the crop circle effect on seed production and development.(See source 12)
H. Equipment malfunctions are common within and around the enigmatic formations. Many instances of electronic and mechanical component failure (such as jammed camera shutters, failed flashes, blanked-out film, etc.) have been documented by several crop circle researchers. Magnets and compasses often behave erratically inside or near a formation. Physical side effects have been reported by visitors to crop circle formations during and after exposure, e.g. nausea, headaches and other pains, dizziness, loss of balance and euphoria (1, 9, 13)
I. A study of plants from a wheat crop formation discovered in Cherhill, Wiltshire, England in August of 1993 showed that the Cherhill formation is unique in that a thin layer of metallic material was found glazed on the crop and underlying soil, resulting in magnetized leaves, heads, stems and soil. The iron-glazed crop was concentrated entirely within the crop formation. In a 1995 paper published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, the BLT scientists posited that the magnetic coating, composed of natural iron fused particles, was due to an interaction between high temperature ionized plasma vortices and tiny fragments from the Perseid meteor shower, which occurred shortly before the formation was discovered. The most likely explanation for the glaze, the researchers wrote, was that downward directed plasma vortices involved in the creation of the crop circle had captured meteoritic dust, reheated it to a molten state and incorporated the particles into the formation.
According to BLT:
"The affected plants reveal evidence of exposure to rapid air movement, unusual electrical fields, very brief exposure to extreme heat, and ionization in a thermodynamically unstable system; one naturally occurring atmospheric force which includes each of these features is an ion plasma vortice--one very 'high energy' example of which is a lightning discharge .Given the accumulated scientific data which currently exists regarding the crop circle phenomenon we feel that the most logical causative mechanism--the explanation that most closely fits the known 'hard' data collected so far--is the theory that highly charged, thermodynamically unstable ion plasma vortices are responsible." (See source 3.)
J. In her 1997 summary of the sand rings, ilyes reported that surface samples taken from inside the formation showed an increase in anion levels of about 11.6 percent compared to the control sample--a marginal but unexpected result. The difference between the control samples and sand taken from six to eight inches below the formation, however, showed an extraordinarily high anion level of 51.1% above control levels. One possible explanation for the striking increase in anions: the agency that created the sand rings deposited a large number of anions at the surface, which were then gradually pushed deeper into the sand by tidal action. Alternatively, the energetic phenomenon responsible for the rings may have penetrated deep enough into the beach to alter ionic charges three-quarters of a foot down. (See source 9.)
K. Overhead geometry
L. Most formations are symmetrical and circular, often with connective paths. According to BLT, "although it is difficult for most people to easily imagine, it is entirely possible for such vortices to produce an enormous array of complex symmetrical and non-symmetrical patterns upon impact at the Earth's surface." This is so, Levengood says, because it has been shown that " the descent of a vortex through a liquid produces unstable secondary products which form complex, symmetrical patterns such as circles, rings, triangles, double lines and ovals with tubes or 'paths' extending from them." Significantly, Levengood adds, "In its descent to the crop surface the shaping of these features of vortex instability would be guided by variations in the Earth's magnetic field." (See sources 4, 12.)
M. George Wingfield and Chad Deetken provide more anecdotal evidence suggesting that whatever causes crop circles emanates from above the formation, perhaps leaving an energetic residue of some kind. Wingfield, whose mainstream career focused on the study of stellar spectra and the Earth's magnetic field at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, reports that on July 12, 1991 several crop watchers witnessed a "great column of luminosity" as it descended from a dark cloud near Alton Barnes in England. According to several witnesses the column lasted only a few seconds and spread out sideways as it collapsed toward the ground. The column then briefly assumed the shape of a pictogram found later at Hackpen Hill five miles due north. (See source 11.)
N. According to a 1993 North American Institute for Crop Circle Research (NAICCR) report, dozens of crop circle witnesses claim to have observed "strong, spiraling downdraughts" in connection with crop formations. (See source 5.)
O. There are certain immutable relationships that are unmistakably meaningful regardless of the context in which they are found. Pi and phi are two. The seven note-per-octave diatonic musical scale (represented by the white keys on a piano) is another. According to former Boston University astronomy professor Gerald S. Hawkins, well known for his investigations of Stonehenge and his "code-busting" abilities, the difference between the primary sizes of the most striking crop circles represents the identical ratio between consecutive notes on the musical scale.
Specifically, in a February 1996 Science News article, Hawkins noted that he could use the principles of Euclidean geometry to prove four theorems derived from the relationships among the areas depicted in crop circle patterns. The patterns led him to a fifth theorem, from which he could derive the other four. Curiously, Hawkins could find no reference to such a theorem in the works of Euclid or in any other book that he consulted. When he challenged readers of Science News and The Mathematics Teacher to come up with his unpublished theorem, given only the four variations, no one reported success. During the crop circle season of 1996, however, Hawkins reports that "the crop-circle makers showed knowledge of this fifth theorem" in at least one formation. (See source 6.)
P. BLT reports that the Midale, Saskatchuan, Canada formation contained a microspherule concentration which increased linearly from the center to the edge of the circle. 1997 Salem, OR formation showed decreasing node elongation function continuing linearly outside of formation into standing crop. See, for example, "Crop Circles: Quest For Truth", www.cropcirclesthemovie.com.
Q. Reports of "balls of light" (BOLs), are included in perhaps as many as 10% of crop circle reports. Two major scientific studies examined a BOL phenomenon which may be related to the crop circle BOLs. See the EMBLA report and the earlier Hessdalen report.
During his so-called Wansdyke Watch, George Wingfield and his team of researchers observed several small lights hovering over the field in which formations (two small "grapeshot" circles) later appeared. The lights, he reported, were very faint and moved slowly and deliberately close to the heads of the wheat. He once watched the lights, which would fade, come together and then fade again, for more than an hour. (See source 11.)
At Milk Hill, two miles away from Wingfield's Wansdyke experience, a
great pictogram formed. This area was also the site of a July 26, 1990 BOL
sighting caught on tape by Steve and Jan Alexander. The Alexanders' film
showed a small (six inches in diameter) white disk-shaped object purposefully
moving in and out of the Milk Hill crop. In 1995, Fox TV's Sightings
featured a similar disk filmed in August of 1991 by Constantin and Mucki
von Durckheim.(See source 9.)
According to Wingfield, in June 1990 researcher John Haddington and several
other crop watchers heard a trilling noise in a nearby field. A swishing
noise, too, was heard where circles subsequently formed. Haddington and
a companion also observed a luminous yellow object hovering over one of
the fields. They later noted several smaller red lights which seemed to
come out of the larger object. (See source 11.)
Perhaps the most impressive incidence of a glowing ball of light associated
with a crop circle was captured on home video and aired on Sightings in
1995. This extraordinary footage, taken by Colin Andrews during a circle
watch in England, clearly shows a military helicopter circling a field and
hovering over a small white pulsating light. Such lights, Andrews says,
"appear to have total awareness of their surroundings
with people observing them." (See source 9.)
Other videos by Foeke Kootje, Bert Janssen and Janet Ossebaard, the von Durckheims, and Steve Alexander show unidentified light objects associated with formations. (See source 1.)
R. Dutch researcher Janet Ossebaard documented and photographed dead flies stuck to seedheads in a formation. Some flies were literally exploded, and others were apparently "frozen" with tongues against their ears, as if killed suddenly in a spasm. Some flies were still alive but stunned. Specimens sent to a lab showed no clear cause of death. No such flies were found outside the formation. (See source 1.)
S. Concentrations of meteoritic dust (magnetite) at levels up to 600 times naturally-occurring levels have been found in formations, suggesting the presence of magnetic fields generated by moving charges. Meteoritic "glazing" and magnetization of a crop formation is documented in the peer reviewed article in Source 3. (See also sources 1.)
T. "Imprints" of formations sometimes appear (as in the "three bananas in a basket" formation of Barbury Castle, UK in 1999) in fields in following seasons. There is no reason trampled grain would maintain an imprint the next season. Irradiated crop, on the other hand, may be damaged genetically in a permanent manner. (See source 1.)
U. Marshall Dudley, a systems engineer for Tennelec/Nucleus of Oak Ridge, TN has identified two short-lived isotopes (the non-naturally occurring yttrium-88 and bismuth-205) in soil samples taken from an August 2, 1991 Beckhampton, U.K. formation. According to Chorost, soil from the formation showed radioactive particle readings of up to twice the normal values. (See source 14.)
V. Narrow tracks of dehydrated grass bent 20cm above the ground leading out of formations are hard to explain as human or animal tracks, but instead support the "ball of light" phenomenon. (See source 1.)