Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Natural Science

Can Physics Explain Mysteries of Crop Circles?

crop circle Indonesia

People watch a 70-meter-wide crop-circle that appeared recently in a rice field in Indonesia. Could physics have the explanation? (AP)

Science and UFOs, as a rule, generally don't go together.

UFOs and crop circles, however, go together like the Illuminati and the dark side of the moon. Crop circles and science? Again, not so much. But that doesn't mean the ever-increasing sophistication of corn circlework isn't beyond impressing top physicists.

In this month's edition of Physics World, Richard Taylor, director of the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon, claims every summer brings with it more mystery as to how the produce-punishing pranksters ply their trade.

"Crop-circle artists are not going to give up their secrets easily," Taylor wrote.

"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."

While that might be a bit of a blow for those think there's a better place out there, Taylor says the technology behind the global crop-circle phenomenon is still well-deserving of admiration.

Today's designs are more complex than ever, he says, with some featuring up to 2,000 different shapes.

Mathematical analysis has revealed the use of construction lines, invisible to the eye, that are used to create the patterns.

The difference today is that where crop-circlers once used ropes, planks of wood and bar stools, high tech has taken over: GPS helps a lot, he says. Lasers also have their place.

But the most innovative modern technique involves using microwaves to force corn stalks to fall over and cool horizontally. One research team claims to have reproduced damage inflicted on crops by using a handheld magnetron ripped from a microwave ovens and a 12V battery.

The microwave technique could explain the speed and efficiency of the artists and the incredible detail that some crop circles exhibit, Taylor says.

Hang on -- bar stools?

And another question -- why does an academic feel the need to get caught up in the world of alien landing conspiracies?

Matin Durrani, editor of Physics World, said Taylor was "merely trying to act like any good scientist -- examining the evidence for the design and construction of crop circles without getting carried away by the side-show of UFOs, hoaxes and aliens."

Read more about crop circles, UFOs and science at news.com.au.