Handheld magnetrons for making crop circles?


Greenpeace's GM Crop Circle from Circlemakers.org

Are planks and rope now obsolete crop circle technology? Physicist Richard Taylor, director of the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon, posits that GPS, lasers, and handheld magnetrons may be the new tricks of the trade. He reports on his research in this month's issue of the journal Physics World. From the Institute of Physics:

Microwaves, Taylor suggests, could be used to make crop stalks fall over and cool in a horizontal position – a technique that could explain the speed and efficiency of the artists and the incredible detail that some crop circles exhibit.

Indeed, one research team claims to be able to reproduce the intricate damage inflicted on crops using a handheld magnetron, readily available from microwave ovens, and a 12 V battery.

As Taylor writes, “Crop-circle artists are not going to give up their secrets easily. This summer, unknown artists will venture into the countryside close to your homes and carry out their craft, safe in the knowledge that they are continuing the legacy of the most science-oriented art movement in history.”

"Physics could be behind the secrets of crop-circle artists" (Thanks, Jacques Vallee!)


  1. Well, that’s as good as any other explanation. Which is to say, not really any good at all.

  2. Do farmers just not care that their crops are roont? Surprised we’re still treating this activity as mystery or art, instead of vandalism.

  3. I’ve always wondered why anyone thinks that crop circles are made by any method other than strings and boards. The plants are bent at the base, but rays from above would have a very difficult time reaching the base of the plants while leaving the upper part intact. 


  4. Humans have been making giant designs on the ground for thousands of years. Recent humans have demonstrated techniques for making such designs. I don’t see why anyone is astonished by this. Is it cool? Sure. Is it baffling? Not really, except as to how people see it as proof of supernatural or extraterrestrial entities.

  5. I vaguely remember some cable TV show that had physics students do a crop circle in the middle of the night. The idea was that they were trying to reproduce one based on evidence found at other crop circles, reverse engineering one. They used string and plywood sheets for flattening and a magnetron with a wave former attached to it to cook or “pop” some sections of the plant stalks. This might be that “intricate damage”.

  6. If I had a field of corn, I’d have some game cams and IR tripwires set up to catch those bastards cutting into my bottom line, whoever they are, green, gray or otherwise.

  7. Handheld magnetron?  I don’t think so.

    I heard that these pranksters have actually developed some kind of flying saucer-like apparatus that they mount their magnetrons on.

  8. Because it doesn;t actually hurt the crops. Farmers will actually pay people to do crop circles, to make a little extra cash from tourists — who trample crops anyway, if they’re not controlled.

  9. Please no more tilt-shift pictures … please ! Over used and really bad effect, as bad as a lady gaga song !

  10. A normal domestic microwave draws pretty close to 1.5kW (around 6A at full power).  You’d need 125A at 12V to feed your inverter to run the magnetron, which is about what a car starter motor draws.  So, you’d get a couple of minutes of microwaving out of a car battery.

    Long enough to give yourself cataracts, I suppose.

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