A crop circle is a sizable pattern created by the flattening of a crop such as wheat, barley, rye, maize, or rapeseed. Crop circles are also referred to as crop formations, because they are not always circular in shape. The first crop circles reports started appearing in the 1970s in South England, and spread to other countries after the 1991 confession of two hoaxers who claimed authorship. The documented cases have substantially increased from the 1970s to current times. Twenty-six countries reported approximately ten thousand crop circles in the last third of the 20th century. Ninety percent of those were located in southern England. Many of the formations appearing in that area are positioned near ancient monuments, such as Stonehenge. According to one study, nearly half of all circles found in the UK in 2003 were located within a 15 km (9.3 miles) radius of Avebury.Archeological remains can cause cropmarks in the fields, In the shapes of circles and squares.
Despite some claims, modern crop circles are a recent invention from around the 1970s, and they are not depicted in any folklore tale written before that date
In 1686 British scientist Robert Plot reported crop circles in his The Natural History of Stafford-Shire, and said they could be caused by airflows from the sky. Some of them could be cropmarks.
A 1880 letter to the editor of Nature by amateur scientist John Rand Capron, describes how a recent storm had created several circles of flattened crops in a field.
Most historical accounts of crop circles are anecdotal, in some cases describing crops being cut or burnt rather than flattened. One report given in 1966 from the town of Tully, Queensland, Australia, came from a sugar cane farmer who said he witnessed a saucer-shaped craft rise 30 or 40 feet (12 m) up from a swamp and then fly away. When he went to investigate the location where he thought the saucer had landed, he found the reeds intricately woven in a clockwise fashion on top of the water. Reportedly, the woven reeds are said to have been able to hold the weight of 10 men.
Modern crop circles
The first reports of crop circles appeared around the 1970s, and spread in the late 1970s as many circles began appearing throughout the English countryside. This phenomenon became widely known in the late 1980s, after the media started to report crop circles in Hampshire and Wiltshire. After the 1991 Bower and Chorley's confession that were responsible for most of them, circles started appearing all over the world. To date, approximately 10,000 crop circles have been reported internationally, from locations such as the former Soviet Union, the UK, Japan, the U.S. and Canada. Skeptics note a correlation between crop circles, recent media coverage, and the absence of fencing and/or anti-trespassing legislation.
Although farmers have expressed concern at the damage caused to their crops, local response to the appearance of crop circles can be enthusiastic, with locals taking advantage of the increase of tourism and visits from scientists, crop circle researchers, and individuals seeking spiritual experiences. The market
for crop-circle interest has consequently generated bus or helicopter tours of circle sites, walking tours, T-shirts and book sales.
The last decade has witnessed crop formations with increased size and complexity of form, some featuring as many as 2000 different shapes, and some incorporating complex mathematical and scientific characteristics.
Bower and Chorley
In 1991, self-professed pranksters Doug Bower and Dave Chorley made headlines claiming it was they who started the phenomenon in 1978 with the use of simple tools consisting of a plank of wood, rope, and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire to help them walk in a straight line. Inspired by Australian crop circle accounts from 1966, Doug and Dave reportedly made more than 200 crop circles from 1978–1991 and claimed to be responsible for most if not all circles made prior to 1987. After their announcement, the two men demonstrated making a crop circle. Despite general acceptance of their story, crop circle researchers remain skeptical of many of their claims. After their revelation, crop formations started appearing in countries all over the world, increasing in number, size,
and complexity. They are most likely made by imitators of Bower and Chorley.
Art and business
Since the early 1990s the UK arts collective founded by artists Rod Dickinson and John Lundberg (and subsequently includes artists Wil Russell and Rob Irving), named the Circlemakers, have been creating some crop circles in the UK and around the world both as part of their art practice and for commercial clients.
On the night of July 11–12, 1992, a crop-circle making competition, for a prize of several thousand UK pounds (partly funded by the Arthur Koestler Foundation), was held in Berkshire. The winning entry was produced by three Westland Helicopters engineers, using rope, PVC pipe, a trestle and a ladder. Another competitor used a small garden roller, a plank and some rope.
In 2002, Discovery Channel commissioned five aeronautics and astronautics graduate students from MIT to create crop circles of their own, aiming to duplicate some of the features claimed to distinguish "real" crop circles from the known fakes such as those created by Bower and Chorley. The creation of the circle was recorded and used in the Discovery Channel documentary Crop Circles: Mysteries in the Fields.
In 1992 Hungarian youths Gábor Takács and Róbert Dallos, both then 17, were the first people to face legal action after creating a crop circle. Takács and Dallos, of the St. Stephen Agricultural Technicum, a high school in Hungary specializing in agriculture, created a 36-metre (118 ft) diameter crop circle in a wheat field near Székesfehérvár, 43 miles (69 km) southwest of Budapest, on June 8, 1992. On September 3, the pair appeared on Hungarian TV and exposed the circle as a hoax, showing photos of the field before and after the circle was made. As a result, Aranykalász Co., the owners of the land, sued the youngsters for 630,000 Ft (approximately US$3,000) in damages. The presiding judge ruled that the students were only responsible for the damage caused in the circle itself, amounting to about 6,000 Ft (approximately US$30), and that 99% of the damage to the crops was caused by the thousands of visitors who flocked to Székesfehérvár following the media's promotion of the circle. The fine was eventually paid by the TV show, as were the students' legal fees.
In 2000, Matthew Williams became the first man in the UK to be arrested for causing criminal damage after making a crop circle near Devizes.
Formations usually appear overnight,] although some are reported to have appeared during the day. Various theories have been put forth ranging from natural phenomenon and man-made hoaxes, to the paranormal and even animals. While it is not known how all crop circles are formed, the most likely theory is that all of them were made by hoaxers.
The most widely known method for a person or group to construct a crop formation is to tie one end of a rope to an anchor point, and the other end to a board which is used to crush the plants. All characteristics of crop circles are fully compatible with them being made by hoaxers. Bower and Chorley confessed in 1991 to making the first crop circles in South England. When some people refused to believe them, they purposefully added straight lines and squares to show that they couldn't have natural causes. In a copycat effect, increasingly complex circles started appearing in many countries around the world, including fractal figures. Physicists have suggested that the most complex formations might be made with the help of GPS and lasers. In 2009 a circle formation was made over the course of three consecutive nights, and was apparently left unfinished, with some half-made circles.
Some crop formations are paid for by companies who use them as advertising.
Some cereologists have suggested crop circles are the result of extraordinary meteorological phenomena ranging from freak tornadoes to ball lightning, but there is no actual evidence of any crop circle being created by any of these causes.
A 1880 Nature amateur scientist John Rand Capron reported circles in crops, and blamed them to a recent storm, saying their shape was "suggestive of some cyclonic wind action"
In 1980 Terence Meaden, a metereologist and physicist, proposed that the circles were caused by whirlwinds whose course was affected by Shouther England hills. As circles became more complex, Terence had to create increasingly complex theories, blaming electromagneto-hydrodynamic "plasma vortexes". The meteorological theory became popular and it was even endorsed in 1991 by physicist Stephen Hawking who said that, "Corn circles are either hoaxes or formed by vortex movement of air". This theory suffered a serious blow in 1991, when Bower and Chorley confessed that they had been responsible for making all those circles.
Sketch of a 'spaceship' creating crop circles, sent to UK Ministry of Defence circa 1998
Since appearing in the media in the 1970s, crop circles have become the subject of speculation by various paranormal, ufological, and anomalistic investigators ranging from proposals that they were created by bizarre meteorological phenomena to messages from extraterrestrial beings.
Many crop circles have been found near ancient sites such as Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire. They have also been found near mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves, also known as tumuli barrows, or barrows and chalk horses, or trenches dug and filled with rubble made from brighter material than the natural bedrock, often chalk. There has also been speculation that crop circles have a relation to ley lines.[ Many New Age groups incorporate crop circles into their belief systems.
Some have related crop circles to the Gaia hypothesis, alleging that "Gaia", the earth, is actually alive and that crop circles are messages or responses to stimuli such as global warming and human pollution. It asserts that the earth may be modeled as if a single super-organism, in that earthly components (e.g. biota, climate, temperature, sunlight, etc.) influence each other and are organized to function and develop as a whole.
The main criticism of alleged non-human creation of crop circles is that while evidence of these origins, besides eyewitness testimonies, is essentially absent, some are definitely known to be the work of human pranksters and others can be adequately explained as such. There have been cases in which researchers declared crop circles to be "the real thing", only to be confronted with the people who created the circle and documented the fraud. In his 1997 book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan discussed alien-based theories of crop circle formation. Sagan concluded that no empirical evidence existed to link UFOs with crop circles. Many others have demonstrated how complex crop circles can be created. Scientific American published an article by Matt Ridley, who started making crop circles in northern England in 1991. He wrote about how easy it is to develop techniques using simple tools that can easily fool later observers. He reported on "expert" sources such as the Wall Street Journal who had been easily fooled and mused about why people want to believe supernatural explanations for phenomena that are not yet explained. Methods of creating a crop circle are now well documented on the Internet.
Among others, paranormal enthusiasts, ufologists, and anomalistic investigators have offered hypothetical explanations that have been criticized as pseudoscientific by skeptical groups like the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
Responding to local beliefs that "extraterrestrial beings" in UFOs were responsible for crop circles appearing in Indonesia, the government and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Lapan) described them as "man-made". Thomas Djamaluddin, research professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Lapan stated: "We have come to agree that this 'thing' cannot be scientifically proven. Scientists have put UFOs in the category of pseudoscience."
In 2009, the attorney general for the island state of Tasmania stated that Australian wallabies had been found creating crop circles in fields of opium poppies, which are grown legally for medicinal use, after consuming some of the opiate-laden poppies and running in circles.
Changes to crops
Scientists have found differences between the crops inside the circles and outside of them, and they are still studying them.
Before the 1970s, there are no folklore stories depicting crop circles similar to the ones found in modern times. Researched of crop circles have attempted to link modern crop circles to old folklore tales, apparently in an attempt to build legitimacy for their claims that they are not artificially produced.Circle crops are culture-dependant: they appear mostly in Western countries, including Japan, and they don't appear at all in Muslim countries.
Fungi can cause circular areas of crop to die, originating the folklore tales of "fairie rings".Folklore tales also mention balls of light many times, but never in relation to crop circles.
1678 pamphlet on the "Mowing-Devil".
A 17th century English woodcut called the Mowing-Devil depicts the devil with a scythe mowing (cutting)] a circular design in a field of oats. The pamphlet containing the image states that the farmer, disgusted at the wage his mower was demanding for his work, insisted that he would rather have "the devil himself" perform the task. This is, however, not a historical precedent of crop circles because the stalks were cut down, not bent. The circular form indicated the farmer that it had been caused by the devil.
A 1948 German story Die zwölf Schwäne (The Twelve Swans), a farmer found every morning a circular ring of flattened grain on his field. After several attempts, his son saw twelve princesses disguised as swans, who took out their disguises and danced in the field. It was probably inspired by the belief that natural fungi rings were created by dancing wolves or fairies.
The popularization of crop circles popular was mainly thanks to two different crop circles that had unusual circumstances surrounding them: the Julia Set in britan, and the Scorpio set in the Netherlands. The Julia set was discovered in 7 July, 1996, near Stonehenge, formed by complex Julia set figures, appearing at some time between 5 PM and 5:30 PM, with no indication of what or who had caused it. The Scorpio was discovered in 1 August 2001, and cereologists claimed that it corrupted the photos in their digital cameras, and that they could detect ley lines via dowsing. Once a person has believed these two stories, he can start believing less credible stories and end up with a belief that crop circles are due to extraterrestrial or paranormal phenomena, and start believing government cover-ups.
The stories of the most famous crop circles are repeated uncritically again and again, in books, videos, TV and radio programs, symposiums, etc. The stories are many times unverifiable or contradictory, but they are always presented in a manner that makes them irrefutable.They are commercialized in T-shirts, yearbooks, etc, and there is even a boardgame and a videogame. Musician Stephen J. Smith composed crop-circle music. Crop circles were the protagonists of the 2002 movie Signs and its 2003 imitation Warnings.
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