Scientific Methods

Monday, May 08, 2006


Ask anyone if they have heard of crop circles and most will say they have in some form or other, and this mostly as anecdotal information of interest passed from one intrigued individual to the next. The mere fact that this mystery sparks such interest in us today, reflects the inner need to want to know and solve problems which we cannot understand. Regardless of origin, crop circles are the lure to our imaginations!

There are many explanations of what crop-circles are. On one hand, there are those who suggest that crop circles are a means of communication from extraterrestrials, or that they are inter-dimensional evidence and even the catalyst to the advancement of modern thinking. On the other hand there are those who seek resolution through the understanding of yet unexplained or uncommon scientific phenomena which may even lead the way to the improvement of modern though.

As with most high-profile sensationalisms, hoaxes form an integral part of parasitised reality, of which crop circle phenomena are not immune.

To assess the information available on the subject, a balanced and objective approach must be investigated, to which I hope this article serves as a reflection.

While roaming the net, I came across an article which matches my own way of thinking on the subject. Paul Vigay's Crop Circle Research page,, describes what we experience and live in, as a three and a half dimension. Paul Vigay suggests that the common view of the third dimension including time, is flawed, since we cannot actually move in all three directions in time, only forward. Paul's theory suggests that our perceptions of higher dimensional objects can only be interpreted as reflection within our own dimension, hence strange unexplained phenomena such as crop circles.

My personal interpretation of time within our dimension has to do with the theory of quantum mechanics, which I believe is the reasoning behind this and many other unknown and even known phenomena. Without time, quantum mechanics suggests that all possibilities can occur randomly or at once etc. If we take a central point, seen in the second dimension represented as a small mark or dot made on a piece of flat paper, what would best represent the theory of quantum mechanics?

If every possibility between the beginning point on the page could be represented as a straight line, then depending on the colour of the ink used to draw the line, the page would be completely covered and initially look as if it had merely changed colour, however, what is truly represented are all the possibilities from the central point radiating outwards in 360 Degrees. What is even more liberating is the fact that all lines would have no end and the angles between them would increase exponentially, radiating outwards, making space for even more possibility and so on, and this only on a two dimensional plane. So what happens if we apply the same way of thinking but in the third dimension, and for the mean time, ignoring time as an influence. The proverbial page suddenly has depth or height, length as well as breadth. If all possibilities represented by our lines to infinity from the central point were introduced, no longer would they remain on a single plain, but now would radiate in all possible directions within 360 Degrees to include behind, in front of, and all other directions of 360 Degrees from our central point forming an ever-expanding sphere or globe that grows exponentially into infinity, creating with it more three dimensional space and therefore more possibility.

If we add time to this theory interesting things begin to emerge. Time is a limiting factor, which I believe is quite explainable within the third dimension since without time the third dimension would not have definitive form or variation of forms, making up pretty much everything that we know in our conscious existence. If we look at the example of the second (flat) dimension again, but this time define the outcome of the line to a finite point in time, the line in all possibility from the central point ends at a finite point B. If time's influence on all possibility of this line from a central point was equal, then the radiation of the lines outward in 360 Degrees from that point would be given a definite area or form, a circle, however if some of those possibilities were affected at different levels of time, the structure area or form would take on a multitude of possible shapes between the minimum and maximum time-fields. These time-fields give rise to the manipulation of form through speed, from the time it takes to get from the central point to the defined point in time.

The same theory looked at in the third dimension would effectively produce a three-dimensional sphere of known proportion defined by the action of time on all possibilities of line from the central point. Again, if there were differences in the manipulation of speed from the central point to the finite point of the lines, all possible shapes within a three-dimensional form are possible.

The only concern with the above theory is that in the third dimension time is a constant and cannot slow down or speed up, however I do believe that matter forming different relationships together can affectively utilise possibility to shorten the distance it takes a straight line for example to get from point A to point B, probably by an integrated and interweaving or folding to make the form non-uniform, however the structural integrity of the probability between both points is unbroken and is still defined in space by time. This is how we could possibly explain the presence of round spherical bodies like planets or suns etc. in our three dimensional universe, and that space is endless, spherical and continuously expanding in all directions as a result of time. The relationships of form are still governed by time uniformly, but the density and relationship of matter in many possibilities, gives rise to many differential forms. Added to this the substance of life, which here we will define as the ability to manipulate matter's inter and intra-relationships into constantly fluxing mathematical equations of movement possibility governed by the time continuum, and you have the essence of living organisms in all their diverse and ever-changing forms in time.

In support of my own theory above, if we look at the constant of time in the context of a three dimensional round object of defined possibility, so it has a defined form, like a wrist band or better still, one of those thick rubber bands, time's equal influence creates the circumferential 360 Degree structure. What would happen if we had to reverse time, in other words, what would happen to this form if we could go backwards in time? Would it be an instant change in form or would there be a series of predictable events? I believe that the above would produce a set of predictable events. If time could be viewed as going through one end of the circle created by the rubber band and exiting out the other side, creating the inner surface of the rubber band (excluding the outer surface, existing in a parallel dimension), if reversed, and since this inner surface is the result of time and is directly "attached" to time, the outer surface in the parallel dimension would meet initially at a right angle to the third dimension before the two dimensions crossed over each other completely switching dimensional position and thereby reversing time itself. Basically time could only be reversed by turning the third dimension inside-out, but could this be possible. I believe so. What is even more interesting is the fact that during the distortion of form though the manipulation of time, of both dimensions at right angles to each other, I believe it would be possible for a person to see himself. To demonstrate the above take one of those thick rubber bands in your hands, holding it in front of you as a circle (do not pull tight). The inner surface, facing inwards into the circle created by the rubber band, imagine is the ground or the earth you are now walking on. Draw an arrow on this surface facing away from the circle, i.e., perpendicular to the edge of the band. This arrow represents the direction or constant of time as we know it. Now with your finger and thumbs of both hands simultaneously on opposite sides of the rubber band, slowly begin to turn the rubber band inside out and see what happens...The inside surface becomes the outside surface, and, the arrow direction, representing time, is reversed! You will also notice that the rubber band distorts its form when the opposing margins are facing each other, representing the distortion of form when both dimensions are at right angles to each other. Time no longer has an influence over possibility of form at this point, and form could therefore take on any meaning at this crucial cross-over point.

So why my long explanation of dimension and how is this related to crop circle formation? Well, we generally have a rather close-minded approach to trying to define a reason for the many forms of crop circles. I would like to suggest that there is actually no reason or any purpose of any crop circle shape, and that based on what I have already mentioned, they may just be random chances of form created as a result of the distortion of time as a result of dimensional interference, either as a source of intelligent manipulation or natural occurrence. This may also explain how crop circles suddenly seem to appear without having had enough "time" to be created.

Magnetic fields and magnetically charged particles found within crop circles could also indicate the reactions of form to the distortion of time. In our little experiment above, if an object is distorted and "reversed" temporarily through the distortion of dimension then magnetic fields would similarly be affected or temporarily reversed, having a resultant reaction on charged particles which could shift their position or be changed completely in form to create the classic round shapes often found in soil samples of crop circle sites. Remember that magnetic soil particles, if small and relatively weathered into a variety of shapes through natural processes were distorted through this dimensional interference, when re-emerging into the known third dimension, time would have an equaling effect on its matter again, forming a sphere shape. This effect would also be different for different materials, and an explanation of the effects of the occurence on plant stems, could be given where the effects of a dimensional event decreases outwards in a concentric circle of possibility, or as waves, where certain plants are form-changed at certain levels on the plant only, causing them to look as though they were stretched or were bent. It would be interesting to do the research on the relationship of position of form-changing dimensional event on different individual plants in the same crop circle.

To conclude, and in support of the above, many crop circle forms bear the characteristic sphere shape, either as a macro form or composite form of smaller spheres. The symmetrical nature of almost all crop circles is a strong relationship of time on form.

I believe that we need to think outside of the box as it were, since known science applied to a completely amorphological time-dimensional event is limiting.

Do I believe that crop circles are as a result of extraterrestrial influence? Yes and no. Both are possible in the context of the above discussion, but even moreso, the above discussion rules out the significance of extraterrestrials as the creators of these events, placing them rather as a possibility within the event.

My personal belief is that the understanding of these events and recreation of these events through a science that we have still to discover, might lead us towards a multitude of technological possibility with the ultimate influence on our goal to search and conquer the universe.
David Vaughan
Senior aquarist, Quarantine
Two Oceans Aquarium
Cape Town, South Africa


What are crop circles? Geometric designs in crop fields are no new phenomenon and have been reported for many years. The earliest report in a reputable magazine (the only one?) was in “Nature” in 1880 (1), where crop circles in the English county of Surrey had been described. An increase of this phenomenon took place since the early 1970’s and since has been noticed in many countries all over the world. (2)

But are they man-made, a natural phenomenon or as some people even suggests, extra-terrestrial forces at work?? From the internet search I have conducted it seems that it is still mystery. There are several theories and hypotheses of how they are created, but all are still theories… Some more fantastic than others, but none have provided enough evidence to convince me of any of the theories.

One thing that did strike me as I was struggling through a myriad of sites was the amount of sites with a distinct “commercial flavour”! I mean, how reputable can a site be , when the first thing you notice are pop-up menus with advertisements of books on crop circles, shops that sell crop circle paraphernalia and requests for donations for “crop circle research”? The impression I got from many sites was definitely not ‘scientific’. They seemed either to be a personal opinion of someone obsessed with crop circles (the “research” being no more than anecdotal), or someone out to make money out of people obsessed with crop circles or some New Age healers, spiritualist or something of that sort trying to convince people of some aliens trying to communicate with us mortals on earth (and make a buck or two along the way…)! Made me rather think of the “support group for people that had been abducted by aliens” that exists in the United States of America…

To me, with my limited knowledge of physics, the best scientific explanation for the phenomenon was given by the Plasma theory. The plasma vortex theory was first postulated by meteorologist Terence Meaden but later adapted to the plasma theory by John Burke and William Levengood. (3, 4) Research conducted by this team of biophysicist has come up with a few explanations of why they think that plasma is the active force behind “authentic” crop circles. They claim to have studied and analyzed plant samples from more than 300 crop circle formations from 5 countries around the world. Patterns of physical alterations in the plants have been found for the crop formation samples, but not the control samples. Further, these physical alterations in the tissue of the plants inside a crop circle have apparently not been found in known man-made (hoaxed) crop circles.

As I understand it, they postulate that plasma (“…a plasma is an electrically conductive collection of charged particles that responds collectively to electromagnetic forces. Plasma typically takes the form of neutral gas-like clouds or charged ion beams, but may also include dust and grains (called dusty plasma). They are typically formed by heating and ionizing a gas, stripping electrons away from atoms, thereby enabling the positive and negative charges to move freely.”) ( (5) is drawn to the earth from the ionosphere (6) by a strong electro-magnetic field. These electro-magnetic-fields can be caused by water percolating from chalk and limestone aquifers. (3) Plasma reacts when traveling through a magnetic field by moving in a spiral and emitting microwaves in the process. (3) Thus, if plasma could reach the earth, it would explain the holes blown from the inside out in growth nodes and the elongation of growth nodes in plants inside a crop formation. (3) However, they cannot quite explain the shapes of crop formations!

Other explanations I have come across on the internet are however even less plausible and mostly not researchable. One was given by a South African sangoma, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, only as “the writing of the gods”. (7) Another explanation given was that crop circles had similar properties to liquid crystals and that this could explain the mechanical failure of cameras, cell phones etc. in crop formations, but their research had not produced consistent results. (8, 9)

The more reputable sites I did visit like the BBC (10) and Wikipedia gave little credit to the research that has been done to date. I must admit that I am very skeptical myself and the religious fervour with which some people defend the alien hypothesis undermines the scientific credibility of these reports even further, which reduces the chance that any serious research will be done to try and solve the “mystery”. To me they are a form of art, nothing more.


1. Mueller, A. Crop Circles [Internet]. Kornkreis Forschung in Deutschland. [cited 2006 May 6] Available from:

2. Wikipedia contributors. Crop circle [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 May 2, 14:12 UTC [cited 2006 May 6]. Available from:

3. John Burke. Crop circle formation [Internet]. Physics of crop formation. 1998 [cited 6 May 2006]. Available at:

4. Levengood W, Burke J. 1995. Semi-Molten Meteoric Iron Associated with a Crop Formation. Journal of Scientific Exploration 9 (2): 191-199

5. Wikipedia contributors. Plasma (physics) [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 May 6, 21:58 UTC [cited 2006 May 8]. Available from:

6. Wikipedia contributors. Ionosphere [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Apr 26, 03:39 UTC [cited 2006 May 6]. Available from:

7. Mueller, A. Crop circle explanations [Internet]. 2006 [cited 2006 May 6] Available from:

9. Hein S, Russel R. 2000. Electromagnetic Anomalies and Scale-Free Networks in British Crop Formations. Unpublished. Available from:

10. BBC editors. Crop Circles [Internet]. [cited 2006 May 6] Available from: and

Karen Marais
BCB Hons NISL student
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17