The Crop Circle Mystery: A Closer Look

Crop circles — strange patterns that appear mysteriously overnight in farmers’ fields—provoke puzzlement, delight and intrigue among the press and public alike. The circles are mostly found in the United Kingdom, but have spread to dozens of countries around the world in past decades. The mystery has inspired countless books, blogs, fan groups, researchers (dubbed “cereologists”) and even Hollywood films. 

Despite having been studied for decades, the question remains: Who — or what — is making them? 

Early crop circles

Many people believe that crop circles have been reported for centuries, a claim repeated in many books and websites devoted to the mystery. Their primary piece of evidence is a woodcut from 1678 that appears to show a field of oat stalks laid out in a circle. Some take this to be a first-hand eyewitness account of a crop circle, but a little historical investigation shows otherwise. 

The woodcut actually illustrates what in folklore is called a “mowing devil” legend, in which an English farmer told a worker with whom he was feuding that he “would rather pay the Devil himself” to cut his oat field than pay the fee demanded. The source of the harvesting is not unknown or mysterious; it is indeed Satan himself, who — complete with signature horns and a tail — can be seen in the woodcut holding a scythe. 

Some claim that the first crop circles (though they were not called that at the time) appeared near the small town of Tully, Australia. In 1966, a farmer said he saw a flying saucer rise up from a swampy area and fly away; when he went to investigate he saw a roughly circular area of debris and apparently flattened reeds and grass, which he assumed had been made by the alien spacecraft (but which police investigators said was likely caused by a natural phenomena such as a dust devil or waterspout). Referred in the press as “flying saucer nests,” this story is more a UFO report than a crop circle report. 

As in the 1678 mowing devil legend, the case for it being linked to crop circles is especially weak when we consider that the impression or formation was not made in a crop of any kind but instead in ordinary grass. A round impression in a lawn or grassy area is not necessarily mysterious (as anyone with a kiddie pool in the back yard knows). Indeed, mysterious circles have appeared in grass throughout the world that are sometimes attributed to fairies but instead caused by disease. 

Modern crop circles

In fact, the first real crop circles didn’t appear until the 1970s, when simple circles began appearing in the English countryside. The number and complexity of the circles increased dramatically, reaching a peak in the 1980s and 1990s when increasingly elaborate circles were produced, including those illustrating complex mathematical equations. 

In July 1996, one of the world’s most complex and spectacular crop circles appeared in England, across a highway from the mysterious and world-famous Stonehenge monument in the Wiltshire countryside. It was astonishing fractal pattern called a Julia Set, and while some simple or rough circles might be explained away as the result of a strange weather phenomenon, this one unmistakably demonstrated intelligence. The only question was whether that intelligence was terrestrial or extra-terrestrial.

Theories & explanations

Unlike other mysterious phenomenon such as psychic powersghosts, or Bigfoot, there is no doubt that crop circles are “real.” The evidence that they exist is clear and overwhelming. The real question is instead what creates them — and there are ways to investigate that question.

We can look at both internal and external evidence to evaluate crop circles. Internal information includes the content and meaning of the designs (is there anything that indicates that any information contained in the “messages” is of extraterrestrial origin?), and external information, including the physical construction of the crop designs themselves (is there anything that indicates that the designs were created by anything other than humans?)

Crop circle enthusiasts have come up with many theories about what create the patterns, ranging from the plausible to the absurd. One explanation in vogue in the early 1980s was that the mysterious circle patterns were accidentally produced by the especially vigorous sexual activity of horny hedgehogs. Some people have suggested that the circles are somehow created by localized and precise wind patterns, or by scientifically undetectable Earth energy fields and meridians called ley lines

Full article https://www.livescience.com/26540-crop-circles.html

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