Like the Circles That You Find in the Windmills of Your Mind

Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews. Circular Evidence: A Detailed Investigation of the Flattened Swirled Crops Phenomenon. Bloomsbury, 1989.

Paul Fuller and Jenny Randles. Controversy of the Circles: An Investigation of the Crop Circles Mystery. BUFORA, 1989.

Terence Meaden. The Circles Effect and its Mysteries. Artetech, 1989.

Crop damage has numerous causes, such as strong winds, hail, plant diseases, pests, or trampling by persons and animals. But when the damage takes the form of sharply defined circles, ringed circles and even symmetrically arranged groups of circles, then some more elaborate explanation is called for. These three new books complement one another in that they present and interpret the evidence in different ways. Circular Evidence contains excellent photographs, mainly in colour, and detailed descriptions, which make it useful as a work of reference. However, its treatment of theories is weak and highly speculative. The theory that they may be caused by whirlwinds is dismissed as 'a joke', The authors conclude, after discussing various unlikely explanations, that "the circles are created by an unknown force manipulated by an unknown intelligence". Of course, if you accept that theory, then you don't have to bother thinking about it any further, as such a theory can explain practically anything.

Dr Meaden, in The Circles Effect and its Mysteries, refuses to take such an easy way out. He has been working on the circles problem since 1980. He is a physicist with a strong interest in meteorology, especially the more unusual or poorly researched kinds of meteorological phenomena. He is editor of the Journal of Meteorology, which contains many interesting reports on such topics. Meaden has developed the theory that crop circles are caused by "a previously unrecognized kind of atmospheric plasma vortex". Ordinary fair-weather whirlwinds, sometimes observed in England on hot summer afternoons, would not leave regular circles in crops. Meaden attributes this regularity to intense ionisation. Under the right conditions, separation of electric charges in the rotating column can lead to ionisation intense enough to cause powerful electric fields which constrain the air to move in a highly regular manner, Meaden's descriptions of the processes involved are rather hard to follow, and there is no mathematical treatment of the theory given in the book. This is hardly surprising, as mathematical descriptions of the behaviour of rotating fluids are somewhat complicated, and will be made even more so when the effects of electric charge separation have to be taken into account!

The theory is still being developed and Meaden has to keep making adjustments to account for newly discovered features of the circles, The attitude of professional meteorologists to his work is somewhat sceptical and aloof, most of them rejecting the circles as the work of hoaxers. Meaden's reply to them is: "But as with all specialist topics in science, those who are unqualified to judge should refrain from comment, No-one, but no-one should adopt a posture on the circles problem without first examining, in the company of an expert guide, at least a few circles in the field."

If the theory of plasma vortices should turn out to be correct, it would explain a great many UFO reports, much to the chagrin of ETH enthusiasts. Such vortices would glow in the dark and produce alarming electrical effects, such as those described in many UFO encounters. A number of examples are given in the book. Meaden also gives three eyewitness accounts of circles actually being formed, including one by Arthur Shuttlewood, who was with a large number of other witnesses at the time. There are a number of bizarre' reports in Shuttlewood's writings that could be attributed to sightings of plasma vortices.

In Controversy of the Circles, Fuller and Randles give an excellent review of circles reports, theories and field investigations. All of the theories are discussed, but Meaden's is by far the most favoured by BUFORA investigators. The authors are well aware of the various objections to the theory, though, and there is no tendency to be dogmatic about it, Considerable space is devoted to revealing the activities of the myth-makers, and the more irresponsible ufologists who constantly air theIr absurd notions in the tabloids and in the barmier UFO journals.
 
The authors of all three books are in agreement in dismissing hoaxing as a major cause of circle formation. They point to the great complexity of the manner in which the crops are laid down and various other details which are difficult or impossible to produce artificially. This leaves us with only Dr Meaden's theory worthy of serious consideration, unless we prefer to start burbling about mysterious forces and alien intelligences whenever the subject is mentioned. - John Harney, Magonia 1989.


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