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Going Around in Crop Circles PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Reader "Troy C" shares this with us:

I have enjoyed your site for some time now.  I'm a former high school agriculture science teacher, and I'd like to share an experience I had with one of my classes a few years ago.  A local newspaper reported that a farmer in the area had discovered  a crop circle in one of his soybean fields, so naturally a crop circle "expert" was brought in to "investigate."  One of the comments in the article  made by the "expert" caught my attention: she noted that only about 50% of the soybean stems were broken off in the circle, and the rest were merely bent over.  That curious observation was one of the things that led her to believe that the circle was "genuine" - whatever that means - since according to her all the stems should have broken.

Right at that time, we were covering the scientific method and experiment design in my class, so I had an idea for a quick control experiment.  Being an agriculture program, we had some soybean test plots at the school.  So, one day I took a class out with a small section of plywood about 2 feet by 2 feet and we smashed down some soybeans in a few locations.  We then counted the smashed plants and noted the stems.  Lo and behold!  About 50% of the stems were broken - the rest were merely bent over.

After some discussion and jokes about the aliens siding their spaceships with plywood, the students got the point.  The "expert" had also taken soil samples from the field for testing.  Of course, what exactly was being tested for, and where in the field the samples were taken from, was not included in the article.  This made for a good discussion in class about how and where the samples should have been collected, and how to keep the testing blind.  Incidentally, a follow-up article later revealed that the expert's soil tests "confirmed" that the circle was "genuine" - still no mention of what exactly was tested, or by whom, though.  At any rate, I feel better knowing that at least some of  those kids will be better equipped to protect themselves from flim-flam later in life.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

We've every intention of doing so, Troy. After seeing this, though, I have to wonder just what qualifications an "expert" on crop circles might be expected to have, and how the newspaper located her. Under "Circles, crop" in the yellow pages? By Tarot cards? The mind boggles...

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written by hopfen, December 25, 2008
You can't expect perfect results; they only had an expert in crop ellipses, not circles. Still, at short notice you take what you can get. Just like the readers of the local newspaper.
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written by Resume, December 25, 2008
Why exactly are all these aliens landing in soybean, corn, sorghum and wheat fields? What is their interest in these particular flora? Maybe it's a clue!
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written by BillyJoe, December 25, 2008
Well, it we don't know who these aliens are, who's to say they don't have an obsession with corn fields. Maybe they need it like a shoe fetishist needs a shoe.

smilies/cool.gif
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What they're looking for....
written by Willy K, December 25, 2008
Yup, it really is visitors from another world tramping through the fields of Earth.
Their spaceships run well on a particular substance found scattered on the surface of our little planet.
There are large quantities of anti-matter, the substance that powers the aliens FTL drives, to be found in the excrement of male ungulates bovinae.

That's right... the aliens spaceships are powered by bull crap, the substance that also powers the crop circle experts! smilies/grin.gif

Willy K
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 25, 2008
If you want to read a hilariously illuminating book on crop circles, read Jim Schnable's Round In Circles, chronicling his experiences among the croppies in the UK.
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well of course they're genuine
written by jcmontana@pelligroup.com, December 26, 2008
Since all crop circles are clearly there, and are in fact crop circles, they are all unarguably genuine, regardless of origin. The crop circles in the teacher's test patch are themselves entirely genuine. That's the beauty of the whole thing -- no crop circle can be proven as inauthentic because no fact other than its presence is necessary to make it authentic. The spaceships sneak in the side door by the simple expedient of ignoring the possibility that a teenager with a piece of plywood might be the source of it.

As for crop circle experts, they arrive at their expert status in similar manner. One can rapidly become an expert on the matter by simply ignoring the fact that there is nothing to be expert about.
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written by sfdyoung, December 26, 2008
I think the qualifications for "crop circle expert" are the same as for "UFO researcher" - an unquestioning, unthinking willingness to believe crap. And I think most of these experts are really good at that one thing.
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written by BillyJoe, December 26, 2008
But there are crop circle experts - those who can demonstrate how they can be made with a piece of plywood.

Sure it could have been aliens using pieces of plywood. Or aliens using advanced technology based on physics we know nothing about? But Ockham's Razor and all that....

And how do you go about checking for science that we know nothing about. It would be like Darwin checking for evidence of genetic differences underlying the phenotypic differences in finches that he observed in the various Galapagos islands!
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The real crop circle experts
written by Bruno, December 28, 2008
The guys who started the whole thing are still at it and are for hire: http://www.circlemakers.org/ Their tongue-in-cheek prose runs rings around the believers'. Too subtly unfortunately, I can imagine a crop circle aficionado reading the whole thing and still believing in ET's stomping on the farmland.
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join the club
written by myteedogg, December 31, 2008
crop circle believer`s who think they are made by OOTWB (OUT OF THIS WORLD BEINGS) should form a club and beat themselves with it !
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