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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