(este texto é a transcrição do episódio 89 do Way Ahead, o nosso podcast 100% inglês e que você pode ouvir em:
Have you ever heard of Crop Circles? This week Brazilians have turned their eyes and attention to Ipuaçu, a small town in the countryside of Santa Catarina. The frenzy was caused by giant marks in the middle of a crop that was observed by some locals. It was not long until fantastic theories started popping out on social media claiming that the circles were made by extraterrestrial beings.
A crop circle is a pattern created by flattening a crop, usually a cereal. The term was first coined in the early 1980s. Although obscure natural causes or alien origins of crop circles are suggested by conspiracy theorists, there is no scientific evidence for such explanations, and all crop circles are consistent with human causation.
But how long have these strange marks been around? A 1678 news pamphlet The Mowing-Devil: or, Strange News Out of Hartfordshire is claimed by some crop circle devotees to be the first depiction of a crop circle. Crop circle researcher Jim Schnabel does not consider it to be a historical precedent because it describes the stalks as being cut rather than bent
In 1686, an English naturalist, Robert Plot, reported on rings or arcs of mushrooms in The Natural History of Staffordshire and proposed air flows from the sky as a cause. In 1991 meteorologist Terence Meaden linked this report with modern crop circles.
In 1932, the archaeologist E. C. Curwen observed four dark rings in a field at Stoughton Down near Chichester, but could examine only one: “a circle in which the barley was ‘lodged’ or beaten down, while the interior area was very slightly mounded up.
In 1963, Patrick Moore described a crater in a potato field in Wiltshire that he considered was probably caused by an unknown meteoric body. In nearby wheat fields, there were several circular and elliptical areas where the wheat had been flattened. There was evidence of “spiral flattening”. He thought they could be caused by air currents from the impact since they led toward the crater.
During the 1960s, there were many reports of UFO sightings and circular formations in swamp reeds and sugarcane fields in Tully, Queensland, Australia, and in Canada. For example, on 8 August 1967, three circles were found in a field in Duhamel, Alberta, Canada; Department of National Defence investigators concluded that it was artificial but couldn’t say who made them or how.
The most famous case is the 1966 Tully “saucer nest” when a farmer said he witnessed a saucer-shaped craft rise 30 or 40 feet (12 m) from a swamp and then fly away. On investigating he found a nearly circular area 32 feet long by 25 feet wide where the grass was flattened in clockwise curves to water level within the circle, and the reeds had been uprooted from the mud.
The local police officer, the Royal Australian Air Force, and the University of Queensland concluded that it was most probably caused by natural causes, like a down draught, a willy-willy (dust devil), or a waterspout.
Since the 1960s, there has been a surge of UFOlogists in Wiltshire, and there were rumours of “saucer nests” appearing in the area, but they were never photographed. There are other pre-1970s reports of circular formations, especially in Australia and Canada, but they were always simple circles, which whirlwinds could have caused. In Fortean Times David Wood reported that in 1940 he had already made crop circles near Gloucestershire using ropes.
Most reports of crop circles have appeared and spread since the late 1970s as many circles began appearing throughout the English countryside. This phenomenon became widely known in the late 1980s after the media started to report crop circles in Hampshire and Wiltshire. After Bower’s and Chorley’s 1991 statement that they were responsible for many of them, circles started appearing all over the world.
To date, approximately 10,000 crop circles have been reported internationally, from locations such as the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, the U.S., and Canada. Skeptics note a correlation between crop circles, recent media coverage, and the absence of fencing and/or anti-trespassing legislation.
Although farmers expressed concern about the damage caused to their crops, local response to the appearance of crop circles was often enthusiastic, with locals taking advantage of the increase in tourism and visits from scientists, crop circle researchers, and individuals seeking spiritual experiences.
The market for crop-circle interest consequently generated bus or helicopter tours of circle sites, walking tours, T-shirts, and book sales.
Since the start of the 21st century, crop formations have increased in size and complexity, with some featuring as many as 2,000 different shapes and some incorporating complex mathematical and scientific characteristics.
The researcher Jeremy Northcote found that crop circles in the UK in 2002, were not spread randomly across the landscape. They tended to appear near roads, areas of medium-to-dense population, and cultural heritage monuments such as Stonehenge or Avebury. He found that they always appeared in areas that were easy to access. This suggests strongly that these crop circles were more likely to be caused by intentional human action than by paranormal activity. Another strong indication of that theory was that inhabitants of the zone with the most circles had a historical tendency for making large-scale formations, including stone circles such as Stonehenge, burial mounds such as Silbury Hill, long barrows such as West Kennet Long Barrow, and white horses in chalk hills.
In 1991, two self-professed pranksters, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, made headlines by claiming that it was they who started the phenomenon in 1978 with the use of simple tools consisting of a plank of wood, rope, and a baseball cap fitted with a loop of wire to help them walk in straight lines. To prove their case they made a circle in front of journalists; an advocate of paranormal explanations of crop circles, Pat Delgado, examined the circle and declared it authentic before it was revealed that it was a hoax. Inspired by Australian crop circles from 1966, Bower and Chorley claimed to be responsible for all circles made prior to 1987, and for more than 200 crop circles in 1978–1991 (with 1,000 other circles not being made by them).
Writing in Physics World, Richard Taylor of the University of Oregon said that “the pictographs they created inspired a second wave of crop artists.”
Since becoming the focus of widespread media attention in the 1980s, crop circles have become the subject of speculation by various paranormal, ufological, and anomalistic investigators ranging from proposals that they were created by bizarre meteorological phenomena to messages from extraterrestrial beings. Many New Age groups incorporate crop circles into their belief systems.
Some paranormal advocates think that crop circles are caused by ball lighting and that the patterns are so complex that they have to be controlled by some entity. Some proposed entities are Gaia asking to stop global warming and human pollution, God, supernatural beings (for example Indian devas), the collective minds of humanity through a proposed “quantum field”, or extraterrestrial beings.
Responding to local beliefs that “extraterrestrial beings” in UFOs were responsible for crop circles appearing, the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) described crop circles as “man-made”. Thomas Djamaluddin, research professor of astronomy and astrophysics at LAPAN stated, “We have come to agree that this ‘thing’ cannot be scientifically proven.” Among others, paranormal enthusiasts, ufologists, and anomalistic investigators have offered hypothetical explanations that have been criticized as pseudoscientific by skeptical groups and scientists, including the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. No credible evidence of extraterrestrial origin has been presented.
What about you? Do you believe extraterrestrial beings are traveling long distances only to stamp some crazy symbols in fields and then fly back home? Or are these marks only the beginning of some crazy alien invasion? I sincerely hope there is intelligent life in other galaxies because here on Earth I’m not so sure we do…