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No. 89: Sep-Oct 1993

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Crop circles: a middle ground

On one hand, mainstream scientists, when they deign to notice them at all, pronounce that all crop circles are the work of hoaxers, as in the article by J.W. Deardorff referenced below. On the other hand, several books and a flood of reports in fringe publications claim that the crop circles, particularly the complex ones, are evidence that extraterrestrial intelligences are attempting to communicate with us. There is also a middle ground upon which stands G.T. Meaden, a physicist, and a few other scientists. Meaden has summarized this third position in the following paragraph:

"...we believe that the formation of real crop circles is a rare phenomenon resulting from the motion of a spinning mass of air which Professor Tokio Kikuchi has modelled by computer simulation and calls a nanoburst. This disturbance could involve the breakdown of an up-spinning vortex of the eddy or whirlwind type. On this theoretical model such a process leads to plain circles and ringed circles -- types which are known from pre-hoax times in Britain and other countries, and are the only species which credible eye-witnesses have seen forming. All other so-called crop circles reported in the media news in recent years are likely to be the result of intelligent hoaxing, while the so-called paranormal events to which Deardorff alludes are nothing but the consequence of poor observation and/or exaggeration by susceptible mystics and vulnerable pseudoscientists. In the absence of hoaxing the subject would still be unknown to the general public because the average number of real-circle reports per annum is small (indeed in some years it may be zero)."

(Meaden, G. Terence; "Crop Circles: The Real and the Hoaxed," Weather, 47:368, 1992. Deardorff, J.W.; "Crop Circles: Someone Had to Say It!" Weather, 47:142, 1992.)

From Science Frontiers #89, SEP-OCT 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987