From the Providence (RI) Journal: Since the release of Hollywoods Signs and the documentary Crop Circles: Quest for Truth, crop circles have suddenly been thrust into the limelight. Major publications such as Scientific American, National Geographic and US News and World Report have echoed the common belief that all crop circles are made by stealthy humans flattening plants with boards. This assumption would be fair enough, if we had no information suggesting otherwise.
However, intriguing data published in peer-reviewed scientific journals clearly establishes that some of these geometric designs, found in dozens of countries, are not made by pranks with planks. In fact, a study about to be published by a team of scientists and funded by Laurance Rockefeller concludes, It is possible that we are observing the effects of a new or as yet undiscovered energy source.
In the early 1990s, biophysicist William C. Levengood of the Pinelandia Biophysical Laboratory in Michigan examined plants and soils from 250 crop formations, randomly selected from seven countries. Samples and controls were provided by the Massachusetts-based BLT Research Team, a non- profit organization promoting scientific research of crop circles, directed by Nancy Talbott.
Levengood, who has published over 50 papers in scientific journals, documented numerous changes in the plants from most of the formations. Most dramatic were grossly elongated plant nodes (the knuckles along the stem) and expulsion cavities holes literally blown open at the nodes caused by the heating of internal moisture from exposure to intense bursts of radiation. The steam inside the stems escaped by either stretching the nodes, or in less elastic tissue, exploding out like a potato bursting open in a microwave oven.
Seeds taken from the plants and germinated in the lab showed significant alterations in growth as compared to controls. Effects varied from an inability to develop seeds to a massive increase in growth rate, depending on the species, the age of the plants at the time the circle was created, and the intensity of the energy system involved.
These anomalies were also found in tufts of standing plants inside crop circles - a result clearly not caused by mechanical flattening - and in patches of randomly downed crops found near the geometric designs. These facts suggested some kind of natural, but unknown, force at work.
Published in Physiologia Plantarum (1994), the international journal of the European Societies of Plant Physiology, Levengoods data showed that plants from crop circles display anatomical alterations which cannot be explained by assuming the formations are hoaxes. He defined a genuine formation as one produced by external energy forces independent of human influence.
A strange brown glaze covering plants within a British formation was the subject of Levengood and John A. Burkes 1995 paper in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. The material was a pure iron which had been embedded in the plants while still molten. Tiny iron spheres were also found in the soil.
In 1999, British investigator Ronald Ashby examined the glaze through optical and scanning electron microscopes. He determined that intense heat was involved - iron melts at about 2700 degrees F administered in millisecond bursts. There is no convincing process that can exclusively heat the iron and not the surroundings, Ashby wrote in his August 2001 study. After exhaustive inquiry, there is no mundane explanation for the glaze he concludes.
In another paper for Physiologia Plantarum (1999), Levengood and Talbott suggested that the energy causing crop circles could be an atmospheric plasma vortex multiple, interacting electrified air masses which emit microwaves as they spiral around the earth's magnetic field- lines.
Lightening is an example of a high energy plasma. The paper proposed that a lower energy plasma could be creating crop circles, leaving a two dimensional record of a three dimensional system. These vortex systems are governed by a host of boundary conditions (such as microwave frequencies, local turbulence, electric and magnetic fields). Any slight change in just one of the boundary factors would alter the structural make-up of the plasma system, accounting for the variation in crop circle design.
Some formations, however, contain cubes and straight lines. Astrophysicist Dr. Bernard Haisch of the Bay Area California Institute for Physics and Astrophysics says that such highly organized, intelligent patterns are not something that could be created by a force of nature. But Haisch points out that since not all formations are tested, it is unknown how many have been genuine.
Nor is it likely that such complex designs could evolve so quickly in nature. Natural phenomena make mountain ranges and form continents. They dont learn geometry in ten years, says Haisch, a science editor for the Astrophysical Journal and author of over a hundred published papers.
In 1999, philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller made possible the most definitive - and most revealing - study to date. The BLT Team collected hundreds of plant and soil samples from a seven-circle, 191-foot formation in Edmonton, Canada, discovered in the remote, thistle-infested barley field of farmer Rusty Manuel. The plants had both elongated nodes and expulsion cavities and the soils contained the peculiar iron spheres, indicating a genuine formation. The controls showed none of these changes. Minerologist Dr. Sampath Iyengar of the Technology of Materials Laboratory in California examined specific heat- sensitive clay minerals in these soils using X-ray diffraction and a scanning electron microscope. He discovered an increase in the degree of crystallinity (the ordering of atoms) in the circle minerals which statistician Dr. Ravi Raghavan determined was statistically significant at the 95% level of confidence.
I was shocked, says Iyengar, a 30-year specialist in clay mineralogy. These changes are normally found in sediments buried for thousands and thousands of years under rocks, affected by heat and pressure, and not in surface soils.
Also astounding was the direct correlation between the node length increases in the plants and the increased crystallization in the soil minerals, indicating a common energy source for both effects. Yet the scientists could not explain how this would be possible. The temperature required to alter soil crystallinity would be between 1500 and 1800 degrees F. This would destroy the plants.
No energy source of which we are aware can simultaneously produce these soil and plant effects, states the final BLT report presenting the data to Rockefeller in December 2001.
Understanding the possible ramifications of these findings, Talbott sought the expertise of Emeritus Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Dartmouth College, Dr. Robert C. Reynolds, Jr., former President of the Clay Minerals Society. Awarded the prestigious Roebling Medal in 2001, Reynolds is regarded by his colleagues as the "best-known expert in the world on X-ray diffraction analysis of clay minerals.
Reynolds analyzed the samples in his laboratory, determining that the BLT data were "obtained by competent personnel using current equipment.
The intense heat required for the observed changes in crystallinity would have incinerated any plant material present, he confirms in a statement for the Rockefeller report. In short, I believe that our present knowledge provides no explanation. Reynolds is currently co-authoring a paper on these findings for publication and is planning follow-up studies.
Meteorologist Dr. James W. Deardorff, Professor Emeritus from the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University and previously a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, states in a 2001 Physiologia Plantarum commentary that the variety, complexity and artistry of crop circles represents the work of intelligence and not a plasma vortex. That is why the hoax hypothesis has been popularly advocated, he says. However, he points out that the anomalous properties in plant stems thoroughly documented by Levengood and Talbott could not possibly have been implemented by hoaxers.
Deardorff describes one 1986 British formation in which the complex layering of crop defies any explanation. Neither any conceivable atmospheric vortex, with or without plasma, nor hoaxers could first swirl every other stem into one bent- over pattern and then swirl the remaining half the untouched, standing stems into the different bent-over pattern of the upper layer, he writes.
Adding to the puzzle, professional filmmakers have documented bizarre, daylight balls of light at crop circles sites. British photographer Andrew Buckley captured a bird on film diving at a ball of light as if intending to grab it and then quickly retreating before impact, clearly establishing the three dimensional reality of the phenomena. Steven Alexander captured a nearby farmer stopping his tractor to look at a ball of light passing overhead, in footage analyzed by Nippon TV in Japan.
Light phenomena were also observed by multiple witnesses at the site of the Canadian circle so meticulously examined under the Rockefeller grant.
Dr. Eltjo Hasselhoff, a research and experimental physicist from the Netherlands who has been studying crop circles for over ten years, says he can not explain where the lights come from. He describes them only as bright, fluorescent flying light objectssized somewhere between an egg and a football.
In a 2001 commentary for Physiologia Plantarum, Hasselhoff looked at node abnormalities documented by Levengood and Talbott in three Dutch formations to see if they could be correlated to the effects that would be created by an electromagnetic point source above the center of a circle, emitting heat. Strange lights had been documented during the formation of one of these circles.
According to Hasselhoffs calculations, the measured abnormalities could be explained by assuming that a ball of light had caused the node swelling effect. A previous study by Levengood had also shown a linear correlation between the changes in the plants and their distance from a central energy source, with node affects more pronounced at the center of the circle.
This linear node length change corresponds to a well known law in physics the Beer-Lambert Principle which describes the absorption of electromagnetic energy by matter. This research is suggestive, but it does not supply any definitive explanation for the lights or their relationship to the creation of the designs.
In August of last year, BLT director Nancy Talbott was stunned to witness the creation of a crop circle late one night in Holland. Nearby cows began bawling raucously minutes before the event.
I saw three columns of spiraling white light. They flashed down from the sky as brilliantly as if from helicopter searchlights, but without a sound, she says. I was able to see the distinct edges of each tube of light lasting about a second.
Her host, Robbert van der Broeke, witnessed the light tubes from a downstairs window. He and Talbott looked up into the sky immediately following the event and saw nothing. Stepping into the backyard with a flashlight and joined by Robberts parents, they were astonished to discover a fresh crop circle in the string bean field adjacent to the house. Talbott saw steam rising from the plants.
The next day, measurements and photographs were taken. The beans had been softened and bent over at the base, flattened in wide arcs.
I was astounded by the intense energy of the event, and its incredible precision, as if something was at the switch, said Talbott. I can't grasp why the plants weren't harmed. They were completely intact.
Due to the challenge such strange events present to conventional science, coupled with misrepresentation by media and lack of financial support, scientists are hesitant to take on the study of crop circles. People dont want to face up to this and scientists have to deal with the ridicule factor, explains retired meteorologist James Deardorff.
The August issue of Scientific American illustrates the problem. It devotes a whole page to a piece by a self- proclaimed trickster who describes making crop circles, thus concluding that they are all man made. He claims that it is a ludicrous assertion that experts can distinguish genuine circles from hoaxed ones. A sidebar offers an absurd list of explanations that have been proposed for crop circles, such as rutting hedgehogs, the devil and spaceship landings.
Yet scientists face real and serious questions in confronting this mystery. Could this be secret laser technology beamed down from satellites Is it a natural phenomena Is there a consciousness or intelligence directing an energy form yet unknown to us
To look at the evidence and go away unconvinced is one thing, says astrophysicist Haisch. To not look at the evidence and be convinced against it nonetheless is another. That is not science. Its not good journalism either.
(Note: Leslie will be a guest on Dreamland Saturday, October 5).
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