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Crop circles are large, geometric imprints in crop fields and other land areas in which the crops are flattened against the soil. The appearance of these mysterious imprints was first reported in the mainstream media in the early 1980s when they were found in agricultural fields in the south of England. Today, crop circles are reported in many countries all over the world at a rate of at least a hundred every year (and usually more). Their dimensions may vary from several square meters to larger than the size of a football field, whereas their geometrical complexity and intricacy are often breathtaking.
When the public interest in the crop circle phenomenon began to grow in the 1980s, some considered them the work of an extraterrestrial intelligence. At that time, the formations consisted of smooth, round circles with a well-defined border in which the flattened crop was neatly spiraled around the center of the circle. As the crop circles sometimes appeared in a very short time, without any sign of human involvement, and particularly without the presence of any apparent tracks leading to or from the circles, these imprints were interpreted by many as tracks of "flying saucers" that had landed in the fields.
In 1990, crop circles revealed a dramatic change. For example, instead of a circle, as usually found (sometimes with a thin ring around it), a much more complicated design appeared near the village of Alton Barnes, England. It consisted of several circles, connected by straight pathways and including elements similar to characters of the Roman alphabet. Rectangular bars of various lengths were found adjacent to it. It became clear that all those who had attributed the crop circle phenomenon to the result of a meteorological effect (e.g., created by a sort of whirlwind) had now been proven wrong. Many similar designs, of increasing complexity, would appear in fields around the world in subsequent years, and the simple expression crop circles started to be replaced by more advanced terms such as crop formations, agroglyphs, or pictograms. It was demonstrated by pioneers such as Gerald S. Hawkins, former chair of the Astronomy Department at Boston University, that the design of the patterns was not only intriguing, but also highly intelligent. Advanced mathematical theorems were found in the positions and proportions of the individual elements of the pictograms (e.g., the proportions of the areas of individual circles in one and the same pattern).
Today, the crop circle phenomenon has evolved to a phenomenon that nobody can deny. Over 10,000 formations have been reported worldwide (from all over Europe to China, and from the United States and Canada to Australia), and the pictograms have grown into very large, extremely complicated, and usually very beautiful pieces of landscape art.
As to the source of the crop circle phenomenon, opinions seem to vary. Many are convinced that they are all human-made, with the aid of simple tools to flatten the crop. And indeed, several self-acclaimed landscape artists have produced beautiful designs of flattened crops in farm fields, often secretly in the darkness of the night, but also as a well-paid job (e.g., for television commercials). Simple explanations provided in certain television shows and documentaries have convinced many that there is nothing mysterious about the appearance of circles and other patterns in farm fields or other land areas.
In contrast, many others are not willing to accept that all crop formations are made this way. They report repeated findings in some crop circles that cannot be explained as the result of simple mechanical flattening, such as remarkable cellular and chemical changes in the flattened crop or chemical changes in the soil. In fact, several peer-reviewed scientific articles have appeared that discuss these findings, and suggest the presence of high levels of electromagnetic energy during the creation of crop circles. In addition, many people report remarkable experiences in and around the crop circles, such as intense feelings of well-being (or the opposite), failure of electronic equipment, visions, and flying balls of bright light. At the least these balls of light seem to be a very real phenomenon, as they have not only been seen by many eyewitnesses, but have also been filmed on several occasions with video cameras. All in all, the crop circle community is clearly divided in two: those who believe the phenomenon has a very trivial explanation and those who believe there is more to it.