By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience
According to some estimates, crop circles appear every week somewhere around the world. The strange circles and patterns appear mysteriously overnight in farmers’ fields, provoking puzzlement, delight, and intrigue for both locals and the news media. The circles are mostly found in the United Kingdom, but have spread to dozens of countries around the world in past decades. But who — or what — is making them?
This massive 780-foot (238 meters) crop circle appeared in 2001 in the remote area of Milk Hill in Wiltshire, England. The elaborate design is composed of 409 circles that form a pattern called a double, or six-sided, triskelion, which is a motif consisting of three interlocking spirals.
CREDIT: Handy Marks | public domain
… 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 such as fractals. [Image Album: Mysterious Crop Circles Gallery]
Theories & explanations
Unlike other mysterious phenomenon such as psychic powers, ghosts, or Bigfoot, there is no doubt that crop circles are “real.” The evidence that they exist is clear and overwhelming. The real question is what creates them.
People inspect crop circles within a golden wheat field in Switzerland. The photo was taken on July 29, 2007.
CREDIT: Jabberocky | public domain
Crop circle enthusiasts have come up with many theories about what creates 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 incredibly localized and precise wind patterns, or by scientifically undetectable Earth energy fields and meridians called ley lines.
Many who favor an extraterrestrial explanation claim that aliens physically make the patterns themselves from spaceships; others suggest that they do it using invisible energy beams from space, saving them the trip down here. Still others believe that it is human, not extraterrestrial, thought and intelligence that is behind the patterns — not in the form of hoaxers but some sort of global psychic power that manifests itself in wheat and other crops.
While there are countless theories, the only known, proven cause of crop circles is humans. Their origin remained a mystery until September 1991, when two men confessed that they had created the patterns for decades as a prank to make people think UFOs had landed (they had been inspired by the 1966 Tully UFO report). They never claimed to have made all the circles — many were copycat pranks done by others — but their hoax launched the crop circle phenomena.
Most crop circle researchers admit that the vast majority of crop circles are created by hoaxers. But, they claim, there’s a remaining tiny percentage that they can’t explain. The real problem is that (despite unproven claims by a few researchers that stalks found inside “real” crop circles show unusual characteristics), there is no reliable scientific way to distinguish “real” crop circles from man-made ones. [Related: Crop-Circle Artists Becoming High Tech]
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