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Crop Circles

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                                    March 8, 1992
              This file shared with KeelyNet courtesy of Mathew Bevan.
                   SOURCE: The Times            DATE: 27 July 1990
        George Hill goes  down  on  the farm and discovers that corn circles
        are grist to a media mill, whether  messages  in  Sumerian,  natural
        phenomena or simply  hoaxes  .   In  spite  of  the  giant  graffiti
        mockingly imprinted this week on a cornfield just under their noses,
        the research team  seeking  to  crack the mystery of corn circles at
        Westbury Hill in Wiltshire mean to  continue  their  vigil until the
        crop is harvested in two or three weeks' time.
        The standing corn  is  the  writing-paper  on  which   some  little-
        understood influence inscribes,  with uncanny precision, signs which
        seem to grow more numerous and more  complex every year.   With five
        low-light video cameras  trained  day  and  night  on  the  ripening
        cornfields which stretch  away  to  the  horizon from their vantage-
        point on the chalk ramparts of the  prehistoric  Bratton  Fort,  the
        team hopes to catch the moment of formation of one of the circles.
        The scene at Bratton Fort on Wednesday, on the morning  the  hoaxers
        had been at  work,  did  little  to  promote  the credibility of the
        circles as a  genuine scientific  phenomenon.  Down  below  was  the
        evidence of the  work  of  a  party  of buffoons to damage  somebody
        else's property and  livelihood,  while  high  on the escarpment the
        angry and excited figure of Colin Andrews, one of the leaders of the
        project, was letting himself be drawn  by bands of the international
        media into dropping hints which will not help workers  in  the field
        to gain respectable backers for future research.
        An atmosphere of  silly-season  gaiety  hung over the encampment. It
        will be harder than ever now to wrest  the  subject from the mystics
        who prefer supernatural to natural explanations, and  the cynics who
        are satisfied that  everything  can  be  explained  on  the basis of
        bucolic humour or press circulation-battles.  Because  the  story is
        all about ripening corn, it breaks every year just  at the time when
        serious news tends  to  be afflicted by its usual summer drought. As
        Mr Andrews spoke of ``an airborne consciousness'', which he declared
        could not inappropriately  be  described  as  ``supernatural'',  the
        representative of the Today newspaper stood at his  shoulder  with a
        proprietorial smile.
        For those who  have  been  so  merrily making hay out of the corn in
        recent weeks, any turn in the tale, whether hoax or otherwise, can
                                       Page 1
        be turned to  account  except one: a natural explanation. A solution
        to the mystery would spoil the fun  and they would be thrown back on
        the Loch Ness monster. So successful has the drive  to mystification
        been, that a  spokesman  for the Meteorological Office yesterday was
        still taking the  classic attitude  of  conservative  science  to  a
        puzzle with overtones  of  the  occult,  and  dismissing  the  whole
        phenomenon as ``a glorified hoax''.
        In spite of  Wednesday's  prank,  and  earlier  jollities  like  the
        appearance of the message ``WEARENOTALONE''  on a Hampshire hillside
        in 1983, and last year's report of rings at an Essex  village called
        Littley Green (Littley  Green  Men:  geddit?), there can be no doubt
        that many circles are not hoaxes.  If  the 400 rings which have been
        reported this year are all man-made, then the sun must  have touched
        an alarmingly large number of industrious humourists.
        Many are in  remote  spots  where  the chances of publicity would be
        slight. Similar circles have been  reported  in many other countries
        where there has  been  no ballyhoo to encourage pranksters,  and  as
        long ago as  1936,  1918,  and  even 1678.   ``It is usually easy to
        distinguish a natural circle from  a  man-made one by looking at the
        way the stalks have been pressed down,'' says Paul  Fuller,the joint
        author of Crop Circles a Mystery Solved, to be published next month.
        ``If you visit  a  fresh  one,  you  can see how the crops have been
        pressed down in a spiral or circular  pattern,  sometimes  so gently
        that they have not even been flattened, sometimes pressed  so firmly
        into the soil that they leave a mark in it. The traces left by human
        intervention are quite different.''
        But there are  aspects  to  the  circles  which  make  them tempting
        subjects for science-fiction speculation.  Witnesses  who  have been
        nearby when they form frequently speak of strange lights and buzzing
        noises, or sensations similar to those associated with strong fields
        of static electricity.
        Tests with instruments  have  sometimes  confirmed   that   electric
        phenomena are involved.    The  growing  number  of  circles  may be
        partly explicable by changes in agricultural  practice,  but  it  is
        impossible to account for the eerily systematic patterns  of  recent
        examples.  Fancy and   superstition   have   ranged  exuberantly  in
        proposing explanations for the phenomenon.
        Claims that the cause involves flying  saucers,  fungal  infections,
        ley-lines, giant hailstones,  rutting  stags  or  mass-movements  of
        hedgehogs have been  suggested,  and  gleefully perpetuated by those
        who thrive on mystification.
        This year, the bouillabaisse of red  herrings has been enriched by a
        suggestion that the  signs  are  a  warning  of ecological  disaster
        written in 3,000-year-old  Sumerian  script although it has not been
        explained why an entity which has  not yet discovered the ABC should
        be supposed to have any up to date information about other events on
        The mystifiers are less happy with the evidence of  the small number
        of witnesses, including  some  impeccably  sober  citizens, who have
        actually observed the  formation   of   circles.   Their   testimony
        threatens to spoil the fun. One of them is Melvyn Bell, a Wiltshire
                                       Page 2
        labourer, who saw  a circle in 1983, long before the story was taken
        up by the tabloids.   ``It didn't seem a matter of great interest to
        me at the time,'' he says. ``I was  riding  on the old Ridgeway near
        Lavington at about eight in the evening one day in  August.  About a
        quarter of a mile away I saw a small cloud of dust above a cornfield
        it looked like  one of those spinning clouds of debris you sometimes
        see outside a supermarket. I was looking  down  the hill towards it,
        higher up than  the  top  of the cloud. It was all  over  in  a  few
        seconds. It laid  out  a  circle about ten yards wide in the corn. I
        heard no buzzing noises.''
        Of all explanations,  the  whirlwind   solution   is  the  one  that
        commentators drawn to  occult  answers  dislike  most.  Mr.  Andrews
        mentions it briefly  and  dismissively  in  his  own  book, Circular
        Evidence, written jointly with Pat Delgado and published last year.
        Supernaturalists have suggested that  Mr  Bell's  evidence should be
        discounted because he  is  an  employee  of Dr. Terence  Meaden,  an
        academic specialising in  research into atmospheric processes, whose
        book The Circles Effect and Its Mysteries,  also published last year
        (there must be  a supernatural explanation behind  this  exponential
        growth in the number of books on the subject).
        Dr. Meaden is  the  first  writer  to  put  forward  a  theory which
        explains most of the characteristics  of  the  circles on a basis of
        current scientific knowledge.  In  the  process,   he  goes  far  to
        providing a rational  explanation  for many of the UFO reports which
        have puzzled researchers  for  decades.   Drawing   partly   on  the
        extensive records gathered  by  Mr  Andrews and his  colleagues,  he
        shows that circles  tend  to  appear  in very specific conditions of
        weather and topography.
        ``I would say there is no mystery  about  the  basic  process,''  he
        says. ``The primary thing is a vortex formed on the  lee  side  of a
        hill in very still atmospheric conditions. If a mass of air near the
        ground becomes electrically  charged, as it can be by friction where
        a dry crop and dust have been stirred  by  the  wind  all  day, very
        complex processes might develop, and produce the buzzing and glowing
        that have been described.''
        In their familiar  form,  whirlwinds happen only in  daylight,  when
        warm air creates  upcurrents  which  spin  as they rise. But where a
        layer of cool air lies above a warm  layer, parts of the upper layer
        can fall away, and as they sink, spiral formations  like smoke-rings
        may form.   These  spinning  masses,  some  larger than others, some
        hitting the ground  quite hard, and  others  scarcely  brushing  it,
        might well be the most credible explanation for many of the detailed
        characteristics of the  circles,  including the delicate  concentric
        forms sometimes seen.
        It is more difficult to understand how they could produce treble and
        quintuple patterns of  rings, and harder still to see how they could
        lead to the complex angular spurs and key-patterns photographed this
        year.   ``Imagine a round clock falling  to  the ground,'' Dr Meaden
        says. ``If it  falls gently, it may leave a plain  round  impression
        behind. If it  falls  so  hard  that  it  smashes, then parts of the
        mechanism might shoot out this way  or that. Further vortices inside
        the main vortex might fly out as it disintegrates.  I  think many of
        these patterns are genuine, and offer clues to the internal
                                       Page 3
        structure of these  objects.''    But not even Dr Meaden can offer a
        clear explanation for the apparent  tendency of the patterns to grow
        more complex year  by  year. If that trend continues,  a  degree  of
        mystery will continue  to  cling  to  the circles, and it may not be
        long before it seems worthwhile for  us to brush up on our Sumerian.
        (c) Times Newspapers Ltd.
               1990  SOURCE: The Times            DATE: 25 July 1991
        Crop Circles; Letter From Mr Ralph Noyes
           I read  with  interest  your report on the reappearance  of  crop
        circles (July 16).  Hoaxing  is  undoubtedly  taking  place  in some
        cases. We in  the Centre for Crop  Circle  Studies  are  cooperating
        closely with the  Wiltshire police in the hope of  eliminating  this
        nuisance, which is  not  only troublesome to farmers but muddies the
        scientific record.
           The event in the field near Alton  Barnes  which occurred on July
        1-2 (there has since been a second formation in the  same field) was
        seen within hours  by  members  of  CCCS.   It will by now have lost
        much of its  delicate texturing  as  a  result  of  sight-seeing  by
        members of the  public.  But  in its pristine state  it  showed  the
        hallmarks of a  genuine  occurrence,  particularly  in  the  complex
        layering of the grain where the main  shaft of the formation crosses
        the central elements of a ring and circle.   We do  not  believe  it
        could have been a hoax. Mr. and Mrs. Carson, who farm the land, have
        our full support in repudiating the suggestion of trickery.
                     Yours faithfully,  RALPH NOYES
                     (Honorary Secretary, Centre for Crop Circle Studies),
                     9 Oakley Street, SW3.  July 16.
        (c) Times Newspapers Ltd.
              1991 SOURCE: The Times                DATE: 12 June 1991
                       Tokyo scientist rustles up corn circle
            Yoshi-Hiko Ohtsuki By Nick Nuttall, Technology Correspondent
        A JAPANESE scientist   who   has   been  enthralled  by  the  annual
        appearance of crop circles in Britain  has created the phenomenon in
        his laboratory.  The shapes, identical to those which started to re-
        appear last week, were made without the assistance of UFOs, farmers'
        lads, rutting deer, frenzied hedgehogs or any of  the  other  exotic
        theories which have sprung up around the phenomenon.
        Yoshi-Hiko Ohtsuki used a machine which he developed to produce ball
        lightning.  The professor  of  physics  at Waseda university, Tokyo,
        has thus helped to confirm theories  proposed  last  year by Terence
        Meaden, former associate   professor   of   physics   at   Dalhousie
        university in Halifax,  Canada,  and  founder  of  the Tornado Storm
        Research Organisation at Oxford polytechnic.
        Dr. Meaden suggested,  to  gales  of  derision  by  lovers  of  more
        outlandish explanations, that  the topography and  climate  of  such
        counties as Wiltshire and Hampshire triggered the formation of mini-
        whirlwinds.   As they  broke  down  over  fields,  he  suggested,  a
        doughnut-shaped eddy within the column swept downwards, swirling the
                                       Page 4
        Dr. Meaden said  yesterday that Professor Ohtsuki, who first visited
        Britain two years ago to examine the  phenomenon,  had told him in a
        letter that he fired mini-whirlwinds over plates of  fine  aluminium
        powder in his ball-lightning machine to replicate the swirls.
        The findings have  been  lent  further  weight  by  another Japanese
        scientist, Tokio Kikuchi of Kochi  university,  who  has developed a
        mathematical model based on Dr Meaden's theory which  has  been shot
        on video.   It  also  creates more complex shapes, similiar to those
        that have appeared in recent years.
        Supporters of more exotic theories  had said that a scientific basis
        for corn circles is defied by these complicated configurations.  Dr.
        Meaden believes that  the final answer to the circles'  complexities
        might be found  in  the  appearance  of  sun  spots  which  lead  to
        electromagnetic changes in the Earth's atmosphere and crust.
        If so, the number of complicated  corn  circles  may  fall  over the
        coming years.   Solar activity is believed to be  on  the  point  of
        declining from a  200  -  year  peak.      (c) Times Newspapers Ltd.
             1991  SOURCE: The Times             DATE: 10 September 1991
        LONDON'S most famous occult bookshop,  Waktins,  is  having no truck
        with the Southampton hoaxsters who confessed to newspapers yesterday
        that they were responsible for the mystery of the corn circles.
        ``The newspapers are full of lies,'' said an angry spokesman for the
        shop, which specialises  in  books on magic, astrology  and  psychic
        phenomena. The enigma  remains,  insists the shop. So, too, will its
        window display, erected  last  week,   of  books  on  crop  circles,
        explaining the phenomenon by reference to aliens from  outer  space,
        energy currents and  other  causes  far  more plausible than two men
        with a ball of string, an old baseball  cap and 4 ft wooden plinths.
        (c) Times Newspapers Ltd.  1991
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