The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

It’s Crop Circle Season!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 14, 2009

Well, most of us in the northern hemisphere would call it summer, but when it comes to woo, that’s the time of year that supposedly other-worldly crop circles start to pop up.  These wonderfully wrought works of purely terrestrial art often appear overnight in farmers’ fields, yielding a variety of incredible designs…

More interesting than the designs that various (completely human) circle-makers are able to come up with and implement is the fact that many people consider crop circles to be definitive evidence of visitations to Earth by aliens! Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, it has been revealed over the years that crop circles are actually a form of artwork where the artists use the fields of various farmers as their canvass.  In a recent article in the UK’s Daily Mail online newspaper, the origin of these beautiful formations is explored in more detail…

Some argue the formations are the work of artists with access to computers and plenty of volunteers.

The ‘Circlemakers’ are a group of artists, including Brit artist Gavin Turk among others, who say on their website that they get together with other teams of circle-makers to create ambitious formations.

They even give first-timers tips on how to create a simple crop circle.

But enthusiasts say summer nights are just too short to accomplish such complex work secretly.

There is research to suggest that ‘true circles’ are created by a massive surge of energy in just a few minutes.

Sceptics, however, might suggest the circle surge is down to money as the mystery patterns are believed to bring millions of pounds in tourism to the west county.

Most often when woo-meisters claim that crop circles are “proof” of alien visitation and/or some kind of mystical energy, they are appealing to arguments from ignorance, or what I like to call the alien-of-the-gaps fallacy. They will often make claims like “there is no way humans could make these circles” or that “there are strange properties about these circles we don’t understand.”  Well, they’re wrong on both counts, and when evidence is shown to the true believers that they’re wrong they often discount it and retreat into further arguing from ignorance.

For example, here is a series of videos on Youtube that show very clearly the manner in which a group of young crop circle artists can make various formations in field overnight without leaving a trace of their passage…

Now, if a bunch of kids who are first-timers at making crop circles can come up with this, then imagine what sort of designs can be generated by those with years of experience.  Crop circles are certainly beautiful and interesting, but other-worldly they most certainly are not.

Happy Crop Circle Season everyone! :D

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3 Responses to “It’s Crop Circle Season!”

  1. pip said

    A giant octopus appears in a field at the start of the Stanley Cup final?

    Clearly, aliens were rooting for the Redwings.

    That’s much more plausible than there being a crop circle maker living in Britain who is also a hockey fan…

  2. [...] It’s Crop Circle Season! [...]

  3. [...] LHC from continental Europe, another example of the nonsense generated by British libel laws, and British crop circles. Wait that wasn’t around the world, that’s just Europe. The tired carnival host regrets [...]

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