Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crop formations and physics

Dear readers

In December 1973, Adelaide based researchers Keith Basterfield and Garry Little investigated seven, circular, flattened, swirled areas in an oat paddock near Bordertown in South Australia. The sizes of the marks ranged from 2.1 to 4.6 metres in diameter. The oats had been swirled in an anti-clockwise direction. No explanation put forward, satisfactorily explained the marks. However, Keith noted that a real-life, rare tornado had passed through the area some two weeks before the farmer found the circles, suggesting that, perhaps, there was a meteorological explanation. This was years before English researcher Terence Meaden raised the meteorological possibility for UK crop circles.

Move forward to 2011 and once again science is taking a look at the subject of crop circles. The 4 August 2011 issue of physics world.com carried an article covering the research of Richard Taylor of the University of Oregon, in the USA.

After providing a brief history of pre-1980's circles; Taylor outlines the meteorological approach of Terence Meaden, which evolved into electromagnetic-hydrodynamic 'plasma vortexes.'

Taylor goes on to relate the 1991 work of astronomer Gerard Hawkins, who, after analysing 25 crop formations believed he had uncovered 'construction lines.'

Noting that recent crop circles are extremely complex, Taylor automatically assumes they are man made. He poses the question "...how do you imprint patterns in crops that are a challenge even to draw on paper?"

"One such team is known as the circlemakers, and when - in a rare breach of security - it allowed BBC filmmakers to document its construction of a 100 circle roulette pattern in 1998, team members were observed physically implanting circles at the remarkable rate of one every minute."

Taylor then goes on to say that "There are further signs that traditional imprinting techniques are reaching their limits."

"If artists want to maintain the movement's secrecy and anonymity it is clear that they will need to exploit more efficient construction methods."

Taylor moves on to 'Biophysical speculations,' covering the work of Eltjo Haselhoff, "a medical physicist' and William Levengood, a biophysicist. "Levengood interpreted his results as evidence of Meaden's plasma vortex theory, while Haselhoff proposed that the sources of radiation were the mysterious balls of light that some observers have reported hovering over formation sites.

Then Taylor poses a question. "Might some artists therefore be supplementing physical implantation with mircowaves?" Intriguingly, he says, a group of crop circle enthusiasts called the BLT Research team claims to be able to replicate the observed changes to crop pulvini using 30s exposures to microwaves generated by magnetrons from readily available microwave ovens."

Taylor's full article may be read at (click here - you will need to register on the site.)

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