Crop Circles: Cosmic Graffiti?

I never really saw the appeal of crop circles, even before they were largely debunked as people with way too much time on their hands walking around wheat fields at night with two ropes and a wooden board. Then again, who am I to judge, walking around haunted houses at night with a flashlight and a digital camera. But I digress.

Crop CirclesAccording to an article on BoingBoing.net, crop circles are not anything even as remotely outlandish as extraterrestrial art. Nor are they hoaxes with rational, earthly explanations. You’d have to be crazy to think that, huh? No, apparently they are (and I’m going to do my best here to interpret what this guy is saying, so cut me some slack) the results of a microwave calibration system for a new, top-secret military weapon that just happens to leave these perfectly artistic (and not naturally random) patterns on the crops. Yeah. I’ll let the author explain:

In Sept. 1991, I published in a New Age magazine my own hypothesis about the Crop Circles phenomenon. I speculated they involved a military aerial device (not a space-based instrument) for generating such designs using focused microwave beams, such as a “maser.” At the time nobody wanted to hear that the beautiful pictures in English corn fields might be crafted by a technical team inside some lab, bouncing signals from a hovering platform and using individual corn stalks as simple pixels to calibrate a lethal device. So my paper was met with dead silence.

Crop Circle examples, EPIC Paranormal blogMore recently, however, New Scientist has run an article titled “Microwaves could defuse bombs from afar” (April 18, 2009 issue). It begins: “The next weapon in the US army’s arsenal could be a laser-guided microwave blaster designed to destroy explosives. The weapon, called the Multimode Directed Energy Armament System, uses a high-power laser to ionize the air, creating a plasma channel that acts as a waveguide for the stream of microwaves.”

These things are typically revealed 30 years after they are tested, which fits well with the heyday of the crop circle frenzy.

It is interesting–and sobering–that nobody picked up on the New Scientist article either. The New Age folks were too busy deciphering the Alien Glyphs… while the scientific community had been hoodwinked by a few cleverly revealed and widely publicized hoaxes, and had long dismissed the whole thing.

This is consistent with the hypothesis I had presented, of beams from a low-observable dirigible (such as the object an English friend of mine, an Oxford physics professor, saw from his glider in England, which was a perfectly-reflecting cylinder) using corn fields as a convenient calibration target. Why this isn’t obvious to the paranormal research community is a complete puzzle to me.

firefoc crop circle
Even the aliens know which is the superior browser.

Oh yes, completely obvious. It’s one thing for skeptics to try to be too rational. For example, telling the experienced woodsman that the Bigfoot he saw was actually a moose, or an Air Force pilot that the UFO he saw was Venus. But to make up an explanation that is seemingly more reality-based, yet only a smidgen or so more than the extraterrestrial graffiti theory, is just as ridiculous as jumping to an out-of-this-world explanation. I think accepting the fact that hoaxers and pranksters are responsible for crop circles is the more responsible thing to do here.

Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. To me, microwaves being bounced off of airborn reflectors, which then create very artistic and not-at-all random patterns in crop fields is actually more convoluted than the extraterrestrial theory.

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