Crop Circles, Part Deux: Alien Glyphs, Human Myths, Blogging Bliss

 Wikipedia Commons C C4 Crop Circles Swirl-3 My previous post about crop circles could be considered, among other things, as a social science test of the role of belief systems in the manipulation of memes and factual data. One of the meta-questions that interest me has to do with the spontaneous rejection of new or unpopular ideas, even in the supposedly open, free and consciousness-enhancing environment of the web.

It seems that what was "forbidden science" in academia is also forbidden in cyberspace.

The specific hypothesis offered--that crop circles are the result of a U.K. defense electronics development project--only elicited 19 responses discussing the facts or arguing for or against the idea itself. Among the other 40 responses while the thread was open, 15 asserted their authors' strongly-held pre-existing belief (the circles MUST be made by Aliens or by hoaxers), 14 simply expressed a flat rejection with no arguments, and fully 11 responses can only be described as cyber-bullying: personal insults, whose authors did not even bother to refer to the subject of the post. What does that say for the ability of new web-based media to support intelligent debate on controversial scientific issues, censored or strongly discouraged in the scientific environment?  

The kindest response was typically expressed as "this has to be a joke."  

So let me take things a bit further and explain why the hypothesis is not a joke but a logical result from observation and from the process of asking the right questions.  

If we begin with questions like "Could this be done by Aliens?" or "What is the message of the Glyphs?" as most people have done we can only get into endless arguments based on personal bias or belief. But what are the relevant questions?  

Early in the history of English crop circles, a French lab listed three critical issues:

(1) does the phenomenon change over time and if so, in what way?

(2) what exactly happens to the plants when they are flattened?

(3) is there something special about the sites?

  This led to a formal program of field collection (investigators with precise instructions sent to gather samples) and the results were presented at various conferences, notably at a meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration in Denver (photo below) and the following year at Stanford University (on August 8, 1990) where I introduced a presentation by Jean-Jacques Velasco, a researcher with CNES. The data he offered was as conveniently ignored as it was straightforward:  

(1) the phenomenon began with single circles that English and U.S. weather scientists first tried to explain as atmospheric vortices. Soon there were multiple circles in various geometric combinations, and in following years the designs became increasingly complex, leading to the idea that we were witnessing a classic, step-by-step program of technology development--not an atmospheric anomaly but not some sort of paranormal effect either.

(2) Given that SOME of the patterns were obviously man-made hoaxes, it was possible to compare the effect on the plants in genuine versus bogus patterns. Under the microscope the results were clear: if you push a board across a wheat field to flatten it, you will break the stalks between nodes because the nodes are thicker and stronger. But in the unexplained, complex patterns the nodes themselves were exploded, often keeping the fibers intact. Conclusion: something was coupling energy into the plants in the form of heat (as one of the respondents to my first post actually stated). Therefore the idea of a beam weapon is indeed one of the scenarios to consider.  

(3) The crop circles are close to ancient megalithic sites, which excites the curiosity of New Age tourists from America, but they are even closer to the most highly classified military electronics labs in Britain. In fact the roads to some of the fields run between two high fences behind which defense companies are doing research, and Army helicopters routinely patrol the area.  

Answering these three basic questions does not tell us what the beam consists of, or why it is being developed. It does support the notion that the crop circles are a technological development designed to calibrate a novel type of focused energy weapon, since the resolution can be elegantly measured on the ground within the thickness of a single stalk of wheat. While the tests could presumably be conducted in remote areas, there must be some distance constraint that dictates that initial experiments have to be close to the emitting labs.

 Images Valleeecircllll
Atmospheric physicist Dr. Joachim Kuettner of University Corporation for Atmospheric Research discussing the Crop circle problem with Dr. Jacques Vallee and Jean-Jacques Velasco of Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales at a meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration in 1989 in Denver.  

I can take no credit for any of this: several groups were involved in the same research as the French lab and their findings were similarly published many years ago, including microscope photographs of the plants with exploded nodes. Labs in the U.S. (Department of Agriculture, M.I.T. etc.) repeated the tests with the same results. Yet public opinion and scientific opinion ignored the new evidence and continued to reject any notion that disturbed their comfortable, pre-conceived beliefs.

This does leave several issues unanswered: Who are the hoaxers and what is their exact role in the charade? How does the technology work to actually make the designs? Could it be directed from space or simply from an aerial platform? And why would anyone develop such a beam in the first place?  

I don't claim to have complete answers, but my own hypothesis is that the beams are produced from a hovering, low observable device. I will discuss these points in my next post. Regarding the last question -- "why would anyone develop such a beam?" -- I leave you with yet another intriguing article from New Scientist (issue of 23 July 2009, article by David Hambling): 

Microwave weapon will rain pain from the sky

The Pentagon's enthusiasm for non-lethal crowd-control weapons appears to have stepped up a gear with its decision to develop a microwave pain-infliction system that can be fired from an aircraft.

"The device is an extension of its controversial Active Denial System, which uses microwaves to heat the surface of the skin, creating a painful sensation without burning that strongly motivates the target to flee. The ADS was unveiled in 2001, but it has not been deployed owing to legal issues and safety fears.

But of course, one can think of many other interesting applications, in the lethal category.