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'Physics could potentially hold secrets of crop-circle artists'

August 1, 2011 - Washington

A scientist has shed new insight into crop circles that critics claim is beyond scientific understanding.

As the global crop-circle phenomenon grows alongside advances in science and technology, Richard Taylor, director of the Materials Science Institute at the University of Oregon has noted how physics and the arts are coming together to produce more impressive and spectacular crop-circle patterns that still manage to maintain their mystery.

Today's crop-circle designs are more complex than ever, with some featuring up to 2000 different shapes. Mathematical analysis has revealed the use of constructions lines, invisible to the eyes that are used to design the patterns, although exactly how crop circles are created remains an open question.

According to Taylor, physics could potentially hold the answer, with crop-circle artists possibly using the Global Positioning System (GPS) as well as lasers and microwaves to create their patterns, dispensing with the rope, planks of wood and bar stools that have traditionally been used.

Microwaves, Taylor suggested, could be used to make crop stalks fall over and cool in a horizontal position - a technique that could explain the speed and efficiency of the artists and the incredible detail that some crop circles exhibit.

Indeed, one research team have claimed to be able to reproduce the intricate damage inflicted on crops using a handheld magnetron, readily available from microwave ovens, and a 12 V battery.

As Taylor wrote, "Crop-circle artists are not going to give up their secrets easily. This summer, unknown artists will venture into the countryside close to your homes and carry out their craft, safe in the knowledge that they are continuing the legacy of the most science-oriented art movement in history."

The study has been published in Physics World.


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