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    LORE OF THE RINGS April 30, 2003 The Australian Bulletin Magazine 2003 Australia ~ Crop circles - an alien landing evidence, a message from the ~ ~ outer
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2003
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      April 30, 2003

      The Australian Bulletin Magazine 2003

      ~ Crop circles - an alien landing evidence, a message from the ~
      ~ outer cosmos or an elaborate hoax? Anthony Hoy embarks on a ~
      ~ journey to the twilight zone. ~

      When Don White discovered a seemingly inexplicable pattern of
      30 circles in a wheat crop on his Victorian farm in October 2001,
      he put it down to "some sort of weather phenomenon". "I certainly
      didn't give any thought to extraterrestrials or flying saucers,"
      he says. And there the matter would have finished had he not
      mentioned it to his sister, Ruth Ellis, who farms nearby.

      Ellis, who once worked for the Victorian Department of Natural
      Resources, mentioned the circles to her former colleagues and
      "it sort of ­ snowballed from that point", White says.

      Television crews and press photo­graphers suddenly began climbing
      all over White's 400ha Corrymeela property, 50km north of Bendigo.
      If aliens had arrived - as many of Australia's pseudo-scientists
      and UFOlogists preferred to believe - they could have picked a
      better time. At one stage, White's lamb- eeding and cropping routine
      was being disrupted by as many as 50 phone calls and visits a day.

      While all that distraction eventually died down, it is threatening
      to blow up again after the inclusion of the Corry­meela case in a
      recent ABC radio broadcast about the crop circle phenomenon.
      "I would rather the whole thing went away. I'm sick of talking
      about it," White says.

      Australian crop circles first achieved major media coverage with
      the appearance of "saucer nests" in a wheat field near Wokurna,
      a community south-east of Adelaide, in December 1973. Soon after,
      seven circles up to 4.26m in diameter appeared in a field of oats
      at nearby Bordertown.

      In December 1989, as many as 90 intricate circles - ranging from
      a few centimetres to a few metres in diameter - appeared on land
      owned by the Jolly family in the Mallee wheat belt, north-west
      of Melbourne. Unusual nocturnal lights were also reported in the
      sky, as were strange high-pitched warbling, swirling or screaming

      Some sharper UFOlogists have been quick to capitalise on interest
      in the phenomenon - mainly at the expense of amateur enthusiasts.
      To the chagrin of Australia's legitimate space science fraternity,
      one entrepreneurial UFOlogist registered the company name The
      National Space Centre, established a 1900 telephone hotline and
      charges about $5 a minute to field "inquiries and reports" from
      true believers and the curious.

      Staff at the only legitimate NASA facility in Australia - the Deep
      Space Communications Complex at Tidbinbilla, near Canberra - have
      since fielded calls from irate, unsuspecting UFOlogists slugged
      as much as $250 by calling The National Space Centre.

      More money may change hands if the recent radio broadcast rekindles
      interest. The program featured an interview with Nancy Talbott,
      a music producer with "a research background" at the University
      of Maryland and Harvard and a member of the so-called BLT Crop
      Circle Research Team. The name comes from the first initials of
      the surnames of Talbott and her two associates, New York businessman
      John Burke and Michigan biophysicist William C. Levengood.
      The organisation, Talbott claims, is funded by New York
      philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller.

      Crop circle plants examined by BLT associates were covered in a
      pure iron glaze associated with magnetic meteorite dust, according
      to Talbott. The Corry­meela crop circles, she says, could have
      been the direct result of the annual Perseids meteor shower.

      "There are pervasive, re-occurring abnormalities in crop circle
      plants and soils which are consistent with exposure of these plants
      and soils to an intense and complex energy system which emits heat
      (possibly microwaves) along with highly unusual electrical pulses
      and strong magnetic fields," Talbott told listeners of A Country

      She and her colleagues claim to have jointly sampled 300-plus
      crop circles between 1990 and 2000. "More than 90% showed the
      characteristic anomalous changes in plant tissues, and magnetic
      material was consistently documented in those formations where
      soil sampling had also been conducted."

      The media, Talbott said, was making progress "more difficult" by
      labelling the phenomenon as "fringe". "But hard data is difficult
      to ignore. And following such data wherever it leads will most
      likely lead us - eventually - to an understanding of this most
      enigmatic, peculiar phenomenon."

      Darren Osborne is editor of the CSIRO's science magazine, The
      Helix. Before taking up his post, Osborne served for five years
      as public relations officer at NASA's Tidbinbilla complex - one
      of three global tracking points for inter-planetary space orbiters
      probing Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

      "Tidbinbilla's expertise is often called upon for anything that
      is space-related," says the man who in five years possibly fielded
      more UFO calls than almost any other Earthling. "It was amusing,
      really. We weren't looking out for these things. But I became
      an expert of sorts, and certainly came to know which UFOlogists
      were serious, and which were downright shonky."

      His first crop circle call while at Tidbinbilla turned out to
      be a publicity stunt perpetrated by Canberra radio station FM104.7.
      Other stunts were staged by self-admitted crop circle hoaxers
      Doug Bower and David Chorley. They operated in northern Queensland
      before exporting their crop circle expertise to England, where
      they conjured up about 250 intricate circles.

      Matthew Williams, 30, of Wiltshire, was fined £100 ($256) by a
      British ­magistrate in November 2000 after admitting on the
      internet to damaging a farmer's crops near Marlborough, England.
      He subsequently made a film revealing the secrets and techniques
      of crop circle creators, who use posts, ­ladders, tapes, planks,
      ropes, rollers and even computer-generated designs.

      The hoaxers' handiwork was undoubtedly a factor in the popularity
      of the Glastonbury Symposium, now in its 12th year and said to be
      the largest international gathering of "cereologists", people who
      study crop circles (after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture
      and fertility).

      "Just because it doesn't sit in a gallery doesn't mean it's not
      art," Williams says. "It's a living sculpture. But for some ­
      people it forms a temporary religious site. Some people get very
      angry when you tell them, because they really want to believe.
      It tells you a lot about religion and belief ... how these cults
      are created."

      Says Osborne: "In my view, the crop circle thing is a furphy.
      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And a couple
      of trampled bits of wheat don't add up to much. The most simple
      explanation is the most likely one. And scientists have yet to be
      convinced that little green men and/or big-eyed ­monsters are
      leaving impressions in our wheat fields."

      Movie-makers routinely use delusion and superstition to suggest
      the supernatural - ignoring any reasoned expla­nation. Such was
      the scenario in Signs, the recent movie in which Mel Gibson
      played a farmer and former pastor whose faith was tested when
      his Pennsylvania cornfield was transformed overnight into what
      looked like an alien landing pad.

      "At the end of the day, government-related organisations have
      not got the resources to investigate pseudo-­scientific claims,"
      says Osborne. "And people are let down that they don't get the
      answers they are seeking. So they turn to the pseudo-scientists
      and UFOlogists, some of whom profit from the exercise. It's a
      problem that no one really knows how to address."

      But Barry Williams, full-time officer of the NSW Skeptics
      Association, is prepared to have a crack at addressing the issue.
      He dismisses crop circles as acts of art or hoaxes. "It is one
      of the strangest beliefs people have ever come up with. If
      some inter-galactic entity is really out there trying to send
      us messages using ancient Sumerian symbols or representations
      of alien DNA, why not write it in English so we can understand
      it? Crop circles tend to happen in places where a lot of people
      have got a lot of time on their hands - near universities,
      for instance."

      Don White doesn't subscribe to improbable UFO theories. All
      the same, he is still nervously posting a lookout around
      Corrymeela's wheat and canola paddocks.




      Dr Ron Barnett
      D/Director PRA


      Phenomena Research Australia [PRA]
      P.O. Box 523, Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia, 3170
      Australian & Asia UFO
      1961-2003 - 42 YEARS OF RESEARCH SERVICE
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