Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Circles of reason

Since they were first reported in the 17th century, crop circles have left humans dumbstruck. These mystery phenomena, which occur overnight leaving cornfields and wheat fields stamped with enormous insignia, have been linked to aliens, ley lines, paranormal activity and UFOs. Approximately 10,000 incidents have been reported from all over the world since the 1970s.
In the United States, where individuals and cults have routinely invested in alien abduction insurance, public imagination has run amok, sparking debate among irate rationalists and a gullible public sold into unquestioning belief. Seemingly authoritative books have been published by "experts" attempting to validate the otherworldliness of the phenomenon while scientists have relentlessly opposed them. Most memorably, the phenomenon inspired the M Night Shyamalan sci-fi film Signs (2002), starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.
M Night Shyamalan's 'Signs' was inspired by crop circles
M Night Shyamalan's 'Signs' was inspired by crop circles
The majority of crop circles have been reported from southern England, including the first recorded case — nicknamed the Mowing-Devil — which was reported from Hartfordshire in 1678. A farmer who refused to pay the labor wage for having his field mowed swore that he'd rather have the Devil mow it. That night, according to a published report that survives in the archives, his crop went up in flames and morning revealed a perfectly mowed field.
Crop circles, or crop formations as they are also known for not all of them are perfect circles, have also been reported from near ancient monuments such as Stonehenge. Over time it has been established beyond doubt that these formations are created by humans, mostly pranksters and closet artists. However, reports have often blamed unusual and extreme weather conditions like tornadoes and storms, as well as animals. In Tasmania, wallabies galloped intoxicated through a field of legally cultivated opium and created circles under the influence of the poppies that they consumed. It would take humans a lot of opium to even get started on such elaborate artwork but they'd be wasted halfway through the effort.
In recent times advertisers have used crop circles to market brands, though enthusiasm for the art has declined noticeably in the latter part of the decade. Circlemakers, a website by and for crop-circle artists run by John Lundberg, created a crop circle for musician Jamiroquai among other brands. The website also offers tips to make your own crop circle. Enthusiasts attempting to duplicate these feats are warned that trespassing on private land without permission can land them in jail.
Crop circles were first created with wooden planks, ropes and later with mechanized harvesters. New research into the science behind the art shows that these mysterious designs are the handiwork of artists who understand their physics intimately. Using lasers, microwaves and GPS technology, it is now possible create complex and elaborate patterns. The art, along with the accompanying mystery, has come full circle.

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