A CNI News Special Report
The 1998 English crop circle season began earlier than ever this year, and already the perennial arguments over authenticity and causation are in full swing.
The first discovery came on the morning of April 19 in Weyhill, near Andover, Hampshire. There, two separate formations, each consisting of multiple connected or overlapping circles, appeared in a field of oilseed rape. Hazel Balpitt, whose house overlooks the field, was the first to see the new formations at 7:15 that morning. She went into the field and later told investigator Stuart Dike that there were no footprints or other signs of human entry in the damp and muddy tramlines leading toward the formations, a good indication (though not proof) that hoaxers were not involved.
On May 4, formations were discovered at Newton St. Loe, near Bath, North Somerset, and in West Kennet, within sight of Silbury Hill, Wiltshire. According to Stuart Dike, writing for the Crop Circle Connector, the two circles found in oilseed rape at Newton St. Loe were disappointing, with clear signs of human making -- a crude hoax. On the other hand, the West Kennet formation was complex and beautifully executed.
Called a "Beltane Wheel" by Stuart Dike, the West Kennet formation consists of two concentric rings connected by 33 evenly spaced, gently curved spokes. Measuring 140 feet in diameter, the formation appeared in mature oilseed rape. Dike reported a "wonderful fluid action" in the construction, with almost no sign of breakage in the brittle rape stalks. From the air, the formation has an exquisite delicacy. (see http://cropcircleconnector.com/1998/silbury98.html)
If Newton St. Loe is clearly the work of hoaxers, West Kennet seems to have all the attributes associated with an authentically anomalous phenomenon. Enthusiasts of metaphysical leaning are quick to invoke a benevolent "CircleMaker" intelligence -- possibly extraterrestrial -- as the author of such works, while more cynical observers pass off even the most extravagant pictograms as human grafitti.
While some circles are definitely made by people, the percentage is hotly debated. An upcoming NBC-TV special (airing Sunday, May 17, titled "Unmasked: Revealing the Secrets of Deception") will imply, if not state outright, that talented English hoaxsters can lay claim to even the most intricate formations ever seen. Sadly, many TV viewers will uncritically accept that view on NBC's assurances. This skepticism is only reinforced if the alternative explanations require extraterrestrial or paranormal intervention.
But meticulous scientific investigation now suggests that a mysterious force of nature -- neither hoax nor paranormal -- might account for many of the wondrous crop formations.
A small handful of dedicated scientists and field investigators, headed by the BLT Research Team of William C. Levengood, John Burke and Nancy Talbott, have produced a body of evidence that clearly shows a mysterious energy at work in many of the crop formations. This energy, which Levengood believes is an atmospheric plasma vortex, leaves telltale signs of its activity in the tissues of the affected plants. There is no known way that human hoaxers can produce similar results.
CNI News editor Michael Lindemann recently conducted lengthy interviews with Nancy Talbott and John Burke, discussing their latest evidence and theories of crop circle causation. Nancy Talbott described the measurable effects of energy in the crop formations. John Burke theorized on where this energy comes from and how it operates. Excerpts from the two interviews follow:
Michael Lindemann: Nancy, please summarize the best evidence found by the BLT Research Team over the last eight years that crop circles can't be solely explained by human hoaxing or mundane natural processes?
Nancy Talbott: Each finding becomes more significant in conjunction with other findings, but the one that grabbed my attention first was the fact that in crop formations around the world, the reproductive capacity of the plants is markedly altered in one way or another. Anything that can interfere with or affect the ability of living systems to reproduce is obviously of great importance. In the crop formations, what we're finding fairly consistently is that the seeds fail to develop if the energy system impacts early enough in the growing season. The plants develop and look normal from the outside. [But] if you open the glumes -- the seedheads -- later on when they're fully formed, there aren't any seeds inside. It appears that the constellation of energies involved, at a certain age in the crop's development, just completely interferes with the reproductive capacity of the plant.
ML: What happens if the formation occurs in more mature crop?
NT: When they are more mature, what we are finding very consistently across many species of plants [is that] the seeds will be markedly, visibly stunted. They weigh less, and upon germination, they do not produce viable seedlings. Sometimes they do produce seedlings, but the poor things are too weak to survive. Another major difference is that in some crop, if [it] is past the growth stage and beginning to dry down when these formations occur, then the seeds are energized somehow, so that the new plants which arrive out of the seed grow much faster, much more robustly, than their normal controls.
ML: Has Dr. Levengood taken any of the seeds that grow more robustly and grown them to maturity to see what the second generation plants look like at maturity?
NT: He has been working on that. We tried to do a control study a couple of years ago. We harvested a great many seeds from England and from formations here in the United States, and we had them all planted in a professional seed growers company in Michigan. But there was a winter kill that winter and we lost everything. It's very expensive to do long term contolled studies of this sort. With money being the way it is right now, we haven't been able to replicate that, but it needs to be done.
ML: As I understand it, Dr. Levengood also tests for something called the redox ratio in crop formations, and that using this technique, he was able to establish a high degree of likelihood that the famous Stonehenge Julia Set formation of 1996 was not hoaxed, but instead the result of some mysterious energy. Please explain what the redox test is and how it was applied in this case.
NT: What the redox test does, as I understand it, is to measure the rate of respiration in the mitochondria. The respiration rate is markedly altered by injury of any sort. When the ratio is way off, it's a clear indication that the plant is not going to survive. In the Julia Set formation, not only did we get these massively altered redox ratios, the variations there indicated very distinct boundaries of the different energy systems. In that particular formation there was reportedly a central swath flattened underneath all the circles that were connected in the main spiral, and then the circles laid down over it, and then the tangential circles laid down off to the side. The circles that were on that central swath, if I remember correctly, were very close to normal in the overall [redox] response, but the circles that were not on the central swath were radically different, and the standing crop outside at varying locations showed the same sort of intense alteration.
ML: Based on your written report from BLT Research, it appears that there was a profound energy effect well outside the formation, out to 300 feet at least. And yet, the photographs of the Julia Set, which are among the most famous crop circle photos ever taken, clearly show that there was no visible crop damage at all surrounding the main formation. So it would appear, if your findings are correct, that the energy that made the formation also altered the redox ratio in plants hundreds of feet away without creating any visible disturbance in those plants. How do you account for that?
[Nancy notes that field researcher Chad Deetken took control samples from standing crop outside the Julia Set formation by walking along the tractor tramlines that cross the crop field at regular intervals.]
NT: I'm sure that Chad took those controls walking along the tramline out of the event to avoid damaging the farmer's field. I talked to him at length about this to make sure I understood. He leaned into the standing crop as far as he could go, let's say two or three feet, to get those controls. The question is -- and many people in England have been raising this question -- do the tramlines act as conduits for at least some of these energies? If they do, then how far away from a tramline would the effect extend? The only way to solve this problem is either to find a farmer who is willing to allow you to mess up more of this field than has already been affected, or to have the money to pay somebody to allow you to do the field entirely. Buy the crop, and then do everything you can think of in the field. That would answer more questions. Again, money stops us from being able to do some of that.
ML: To further this kind of rigorous research, it seems that you need not only more money but other scientists of Levengood's caliber, and other labs, to get involved and start replicating these results. Do you see any progress in that direction?
NT: In the germination studies, for example, dozens and dozens of seeds are germinated against their controls. It can go up to three weeks to do just one set. So there's an enormous amount of time involved. It's meticulous work, and it has to be done very rigorously if it's to mean anything. One of the problems with scientists is that they have to earn a living. They're not allowed to just do what they want to do, any more than the rest of us are. Very few scientists can afford labs of the sophistication necessary to do this work on their own. And you have to take into consideration that the popular media has lumped all these anomalous events into one category. Everything's UFO related now. And because they have managed to present the whole arena as if it were of interest only to the lunatic fringe, scientists have the idea that crop formations and cattle mutilations and other such things are not something to be seriously considered.
ML: Does this mean you're convinced that there is no UFO connection to the crop circle phenomenon?
NT: We pursue it simply as an unknown. From our work, we don't know that it is, or is not, associated. [But] we have done, inadvertantly except in one case, several formations which appear to be UFO trace cases rather than crop formations. In one case, we knew about it in advance. In Israel, a thing perceived to be a UFO touched down. The Sightings TV program wanted Levengood to look at the plants and soils in this case. He agreed. So in that case we knew that the event was UFO related. But in other cases, when I do my interactions with the farmers, I find out sometimes six months or even a year later, once they've gotten to trust me. Then I hear these stories that they left out when then first called us about looking at their crop circle. There appears to be pretty strong evidence that in at least five or six of these cases, what we've got is definitely a UFO-related crop depression. In those events, the changes to the plants are basically very similar.
ML: This brings us to perhaps the most controversial part of the work that you, Burke and Levengood have published in recent years. Based on your evidence, some kind of organized energy system must be involved in this phenomenon. But what organizes and directs that energy? Can it possibly be a completely natural process, as Levengood seems to believe? The UFO connection you've mentioned, even if it's apparent in only a few cases, would suggest some kind of intelligence at work that creates these massively complex and beautiful formations...
NT: Some unknown technology, I would say. The way I present it normally is that it is possible that it's a completely spontaneously occurring effect... or it could be a directed plasma from a technology that we are unaware of. Levengood says it's conceivable to him that we could not ever tell the originating cause from looking at the end result. At this point, we certainly cannot.
ML: Even if Levengood is open to some unknown technological possibility, it seems from the papers he's published that he leans strongly toward natural atmospheric plasmas as the cause of even the very complex formations. I find that very hard to swallow.
NT: John Burke [can] take you step by step through the scientific evidence which supports this idea. He is, as far as I can tell, completely convinced that this is the answer.
[Excerpts from Michael Lindemann's interview with John Burke follow.]
Michael Lindemann: John, after my long interview with Nancy Talbott, I understand that evidence gathered by the BLT Team clearly demonstrates the action of some kind of organized energy in the crop formations. You and Levengood refer to this energy as a plasma vortex. Explain what this means.
John Burke: Plasma in this particular case is really electrified air molecules -- called ions individually. When you get enough of them packed into one place densely enough that the chief determinant of their behavior becomes their electric charge, we call it a plasma. We believe that they're coming from the upper reaches of the atmosphere, 40 to 60 miles or more up. In that region, most of the very thin air is electrically charged and does constitute a weak plasma. On top of that, it's well known that there are small swirling bodies of plasma from that region moving down toward the earth's surface every day, primarily between midnight and dawn, which interestingly is when most crop circles occur. They produce pulsations in the geomagnetic field which are measured on a nightly basis.
ML: Who measures those?
JB: Plasma physicists. The Japanese are the world leaders in that regard, but there's a lot of literature on it. The same kind of plasma gives birth to the Aurora or Northern Lights. It's now known that about 30% of the Auroras are spiral shaped. In fact, the smaller and tighter the spiral, and the faster spinning the spiral -- which is something called its vorticity -- the further to the ground it's able to penetrate from these high regions.
ML: These plasma discharges that you say are being measured by the Japanese and others -- are they visible to people on the ground?
JB: The vast majority of them don't get very close to the earth's surface, and therefore are not visible. The spiral Aurora tend to be dim, and they weren't discovered until the invention of low-light television. It's still an open question, on the exceptional occasion when one penetrates all the way to the ground, whether or not that can be visible.
ML: Let's imagine that plasma is about to create a nice simple circular formation in the crop. Walk us through what actually happens.
JB: The first thing you have to keep in mind is that the plasma itself is a three-dimensional cloud. It's got height, width, length, etc. And it's hitting a two-dimensional surface, the surface of the ground. So what we see is, you might say, a two-dimensional cross-section of a three-dimensional object. To therefore trace that back can require a good bit of imagination. But essentially, you've got the outer layers of this, let's say, ball of plasma hitting the surface first, followed by inner layers. And exactly what happens would depend on the exact structure of the plasma, which can vary, but to give you one example: Plasma in the laboratory is known to often, on its own, organize itself into concentric spheres, oppositely charged. In other words, if the outer one is positively charged, the next one in is negatively charged etc. And they spin in opposite directions, depending on their charge. It's kind of interesting that some of the first "fancy" crop circles that went beyond the plain circles were circles with concentric rings. Usually those concentric rings spiralled in opposite directions as you moved out. So even in that degree of detail, it is consistent with what you might expect if you had a ball of plasma hitting the ground.
The first thing that happens is that the outer layer coats the crop....
ML: Coats it with what?
JB: With electrical charge. The next layer, if it's a multiple-layered one, is going to be oppositely charged, and a little bit smaller. That's going to interact with the crop in a much more positive way. In addition to the fact that it's an electrified wind, spinning, it's also attracting the crop which has opposite charge. As it spins, it's not only pushing the crop with a wind, it's grabbing the crop because of the fact that the opposite charges attract. So it's going to have a tendency to drag the stalks along after it. This is very consistent with what you see. Often these stalks are pulled firmly over at a 90 degree angle, and even pressed into the ground. You got to realize that this electrically charged ball of plasma is penetrating the earth after it knocks down the crop. After that happens, you've still got this ring of standing crop that's got that original charge but which did not have the smaller second wave pull it down to the ground. I measured that in 1993, in several fresh crop formations, for up to a few hours after its formation. You can actually measure that effect of the leftover electrical charge on the standing crop.
ML: What do you measure that with?
JB: Something called an electrostatic voltmeter, which is a standard scientific instrument.
ML: What kind of charge are we talking about here? Electrostatic energy can be very high voltage.
JB: Here we're talking about a range of 10 to 20 volts per inch. It's not enough to make your hair stand up or give you a spark on the doorknob, but it's more than enough to register on the meter.
ML: I have not had any trouble imagining that a natural energy occurrence of this kind could create something circular on the ground. We know that many kinds of energy manifest in circular or vortex motion on this earth. But I begin to doubt this theory at the point where we start getting long straight lines in the crop formations, as we've seen countless times since about 1990. Nature does not typically create long straight lines. How do you explain that?
JB: The question of shape is one that challenged us the most. If it's a natural phenomenon, why do you get such Euclidean geometry, if you will? We had no direct answer to that at first. But the more we looked into plasma physics, the patterns which occur most often in crop circles are the same patterns that plasma most often spontaneously organizes itself into in the laboratory. To give you a quick idea: The early stages of crop circles were simple disks, followed by simple disks with concentric circles, followed by simple disks with satellite disks -- in that order of frequency. Plasma in the laboratory has been shown to take those same patterns, in that order of frequency, as well as some of the other more curved shapes that have been observed in recent years, like nested crescents, infinity or eye-shaped, and a number of others. Although you don't expect to get straight lines and squares and right angles spontaneously, it turns out they do organize spontaneously in nature, particularly in excited systems. The hard part with plasma is that it's air, and we expect it to behave like air. But it's not. Once it's electrically charged enough to be called a plasma, it behaves according to the laws of fluid dynamics. In fact, the name for plasma physics is actually magnetohydrodynamics. In other words, it behaves like a magnetized fluid. American physicists have done work with liquid alcohol, water and other fluids, exciting the system with vibration -- sound waves beamed into the liquid. On their own, from that random excitation, geometic ripple patterns have organized themselves on the surface of these liquids that have included squares, triangles, rectangles, hexagons and other shapes.
ML: Let's take an example that we're both well aware of: the formation known as the Stonehenge Julia Set from June 1996. It seems to me that that formation is a fair test of the theory that an airborne plasma can create a highly elaborate, asymmetrical but extremely geometical pattern. How do you address that?
JB: What you said is true, and it was also true of the Mandelbrot Set from a few years back. I and everybody else got quite excited by the Mandelbrot Set, because the Mandelbrot Set is not supposed to occur in nature. Therefore, if one was formed in the crop by something other than people, it wasn't a natural phenomenon. As it turned out, though -- it was a Scientific American article that pointed this out to us -- there was a team of scientists that set out to look for examples of the Mandelbrot Set in nature. They were able to find one instance in which the Mandelbrot Set is organized spontaneously by a physical system. And that was the movement of an electrostatically charged particle in a changing electrical field, which is an exact definition of what we would have in the plasma scenario here. Something as complex and detailed as the Mandelbrot Set is known to organize spontaneously in nature, when you have those kinds of forces involved. There's no forerunner specifically for the Julia Set, but there is no reason to believe that something like the Julia Set isn't able to be formed as well, when you consider that the Mandelbrot Set is the most complex formation or system known to mankind. The problem is that it goes against common logic. Yet it is a well-known principle of nature. A chemist named Ilya Prigogine won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for being the first to demonstrate that you can start with a very homogenous system -- in his case, liquid chemical mixtures -- that on their own can spontaneously organize into complicated, moving, changing systems. That has developed into a field of science known as complexity theory, which is, you might say, the next step after chaos theory. With complexity theory, we do have many examples of natural systems spontaneously organizing themselves into very complex shapes, but still coherent.
One of the things that did bother us about this question of complex patterns is that, if it's a natural system, OK, it can get a complicated shape some of the time, but it does seem like most of the time it shouldn't get it quite perfect. What you should end up with is a pretty messy shape, if this is indeed a natural phenomenon. As it turns out, we've partly been victims of our pattern-seeking minds, in that we tend to search out and pay attention to and go study the ones that are geometric in formation. But we started looking at ones where the crop was knocked down in a very disorganized, truly chaotic pattern. It started in Pennsylvania, and we continued the study in England. Very often, when you get into what is casually dismissed as wind damage -- it looks like the crop just laid down at random, maybe in a microburst from a thunderstorm -- you start seeing the same kinds of organization, little swirls, things that could not happen from pure wind -- whole swatches laid in 180 degree opposite directions right next to each other -- and the same bent nodes, expanded and exploded nodes that we find in the crop circles. In fact, the most dramatically exploded nodes ever found by Dr. Levengood have been in patterns such as this. That is also consistent with plasma theory, because it's known that the ability of the plasma to self-organize and maintain itself, even in the simple vortex shape, is dependent on low energy. When you start to pump more energy into the plasma, it loses the ability to hold the geometric pattern with any degree of stability. What you get then is a kind of chaos. That's exactly what we found in the fields. Probably 90% of the time, these plasmas are hitting the field and leaving the crop downed in a totally chaotic manner -- and nobody pays it any attention. On certain exceptional occasions, they go through this kind of self-organization, leaving geometric patterns.
ML: Some of the formations that were seen in the summer of 1997 were extremely complex, many interwoven circular forms creating densely packed webs, snowflake designs and so forth, brilliantly precise. At what point is this complexity no longer explainable by your plasma theory, or are you willing to extend it pretty much ad infinitum?
JB: Coming from a scientific angle on this, we're obligated by definition to follow Occam's Razor. We start looking at it as a natural phenomenon. If most of what we find about it is consistent with a natural phenomenon, we start to think that it is one. If we find evidence that, as you say, stretches that -- and believe me, I've looked at some of the formations from last year and even other years and said, "Oh my God, don't ask me if plasma made that one" -- then we say, OK, maybe there's something else here at work, but do we see any reason that it can't be made by natural forces? So far, my personal judgment on that is no. There are some that stretch the model, stretch credulity and suggest I'm wrong on that issue -- maybe there is somebody organizing the more elaborate ones -- but when nine out of ten points all line up on the side of natural, I and Dr. Levengood and Nancy are withholding judgment until we see something that more strongly suggests otherwise.
If you say that some of these [formations] are getting so complex that it seems impossible they could be natural, then, to be responsible and intellectually honest, there are hard questions that have to be addressed. If it's human hoaxers, you've got to address how they create all these changes in the crop, things that are virtually impossible. When we do it according to the methods they claim they use [i.e. boards, rollers etc.], none of these changes show up. Maybe 10 percent of the over 200 formations analyzed have turned out to have no difference [anomalous changes], so perhaps those were hoaxed. But for the majority of them out there, there are very hard questions that should be answered. If you're going to a non-human intelligence, there's also the question of location. Why Southern England?
ML: Why indeed? Leaving aside the question of non-human intelligence, how can you explain why such a striking natural phenomenon -- if that's what it is -- would concentrate almost 80% of its activity in such a small area of the world?
JB: That's what bothered me. That's what I went to England in 1993 to investigate. What is so special about this landscape that it gets the lion's share of the world's crop formations? Since we already had evidence from Levengood's work that we were dealing with an electromagnetic phenomenon, we brought three different varieties of standard scientific instruments to measure electromagnetic forces. We had already had the insight of mapping these out. In the first few years, they particularly clustered in, and have continued to cluster in, a loose triangle in southern England. What's interesting is that that triangle exactly overlays the chalk aquifer that dominates southern England. Further, this is the deepest chalk aquifer in the world, up to five hundred meters thick. It's what you see the edge of when you see the White Cliffs of Dover.
ML: Why is this chalk aquifer significant?
JB: The chalk is porous rock. It has water in the pores or spaces within the rock. The other interesting point about this English aquifer is that it's got some of the highest seasonal fluctuations, up to one hundred vertical feet, of any aquifer in the world. You put those two together, and it turns out -- this is available in the standard geological and geophysical journals -- that water percolating through porous rock creates an electric charge, by a process called adsorption. When you've got a lot of water in an underground aquifer or water table, fluctuating through porous chalk, you create a lot of electric ground current in there. We were able to measure that in numerous ways when we were there in 1993. Such currents are taking place in the ground and creating signature magnetic fields. We measured the actual electric current with electrodes in the fields and sites that are getting the most and the largest crop circle activity. Again, that's another example of coincidence, if you will, if this is not a natural phenomenon. Around Silbury Hill after a thunder storm, in the two days following the thunderstorm, as the water settled into this surface chalk aquifer, it created these electric ground currents. We were fortunate enough to have two volunteers, one with a Ph.D. in engineering whom I personally trained, do a magnetic survey in the field and detect wide variations in the magnetic fields there. Four days later it received a major formation. Four days after that, we got back to resurvey that field and the variations were evened out. It was as if you had separation of charge in this field, and some event came along, running through the subsurface of that field, that erased those variations, homogenized it if you will. We have picked up that kind of activity in numerous ways. The other interesting thing is that the crop circles love to occur on hillsides and other areas where the soil has eroded, and that electrified chalk layer is closest to the surface. You never get crop circles in the valleys that are covered with a lot of alluvium or loose soil.
ML: You're saying that if the chalk is deeply buried under the top soil, a crop circle can't occur?
JB: Yes. And there are hillsides -- I could show you on a map -- where practically every year you have crop circles all over, right up to the edge of where that alluvium begins, but there's never been one below the edge of that alluvium.
ML: How does this compare with the areas in which crop circles have been found in the United States and Canada? Do you also find in these areas that the soil is thin, and that you've got highly porous aquifer-type rock underneath?
JB: In the U.S. and Canada, you have pretty much no chalk deposits, but you do have limestone deposits throughout, in different areas. Limestone is a chemical twin of chalk, but it's not nearly as porous. In England, you do get crop circles on the limestone aquifer, but only to a tiny degree of the frequency that you get them on the chalk aquifer. In the U.S., running especially up through the center of the country, the Midwest Great Plains, continuing up into Canada, you have a great deal of limestone aquifer, because that was an ancient inland sea. The other thing you find in England is that the hottest crop circle activity is often at the edges of the aquifers. In the little bit of mapping I've been able to do with several dozen of the North American circles over a few years, roughly speaking you see a similar correspondence. The sites that have the most frequent crop circle activity tend to be either at the edges of this major limestone aquifer, or in spots where a river valley has cut through it and, if you will, produced an edge, so to speak. In fact, there's only two spots -- Winnipeg, Manitoba and Lethbridge, Alberta -- that have had a flurry of three or four separate crop circle events in one year, and both of those are on exactly opposite edges of the Grand Limestone Aquifer. In fact, in Lethbridge, Alberta, there's an underground canyon where the water concentrates, and the four circles that occurred there in one year exactly straddle that underground canyon. So there is a correspondence. What's interesting is that we don't get nearly as many per square mile in this country as we do in England, where they've got the chalk. But the limestone in England -- I'm not sure of this -- might have roughly as many crop circle events per square mile as we get in the U.S.
ML: What about timing? Why suddenly so many?
JB: That had me wondering too. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to someone in southern England who was active in saving the groundwater for the River Kennet, which is in the Silbury/Avebury area, the hottest crop circle zone. It turns out that the government has been overpumping those aquifers for drinking water and draining those aquifers. The levels have been dropping. They started dropping at the end of the 1970s and early '80s, which is interestingly about the time that the first noticeable crop circles started occurring, leading ultimately to the publication of the first books in the late 1980s. In the late 1980s, you have the water levels begin to decline pretty dramatically. It's in the dropping of the water through the aquifer that you generate the most electric charge near the surface. Interestingly, that happens also seasonally. The water level drops during the summer, reaching its bottom level around August or September. And at the end of the season is when you get the most and the biggest crop circles. So the timing is quite consisent. And it combines with at least some tendency to follow the sunspot pattern, which determines how much available plasma there is in the upper atmosphere. The amount of plasma can vary by 100-fold between sunspot maximum and sunspot minimum. The last sunspot maximum in 1989-90 was the strongest on record, and that's when we had -- everyone seems to agree -- by far the most crop circles ever in a single season. As the sunspot activity has tailed off since, the number of crop formations per year has tailed off considerably. Not as much as the sunspots themselves -- it's not a one-to-one correlation -- but the water table has continued to fall, producing more of an attractor. When that overlaps with a surge in available plasma from a sunspot maximum, it seems to produce a dramatic explosion in the number of events. Considering all that, we're expecting that the next sunspot maximum is likely to bring a big increase in the number of crop formations.
ML: John, I know you have a background in physics and spend a lot of time running your own technology business. What is it that got you involved in this crop circle research?
JB: The reason I ultimately got so sucked into studying crop circles was simply being blown away by the staggering degree of beauty involved in them. The more I learned about them, the more obsessed I became with them, quite frankly. I think it's one of the miracles of nature that we're witnessing here. It drops my jaw in wonder on a regular basis. Dr. Levengood and I both cannot understand the concept that too many people seem to have that once it's science, it's dead -- that if you can reduce something to scientific laws, it seems to take the magic out of it. Nothing could be further from the truth for us. I'm still in awe of them. I don't find an aesthetic approach at all inconsistent with a scientific investigation.
[ML: In the closing moments of my interview with Nancy Talbott, she expressed similar thoughts.]
Nancy Talbott: My comprehension of and appreciation for the incredible intricacy of nature has gone up... it's stunning to me, as I become aware of what is at work every day in just normal everyday life. The scientific ignorance of the people in our country is unbelievably massive, me included. And as you become more and more aware of what is now known by scientists (although not generally by lay people) about reality, it is staggering. I simply encourage people who are interested in anomalous phenomena to, number one, rely on their own common sense; number two, recognize that [the] human species is in its infancy in understanding what we call reality; that there are many ways to approach knowing or recognizing reality; and that there is value in all the different approaches. The scientific approach is valuable for certain reasons. It tends to be an approach that is communicable to many people. It doesn't have to be a privately held experience, like a religious or mystical experience would be. If people keep their minds open and are rigorous and disciplined about what they accept as real, we'll all get closer to a larger understanding of what reality is. Try to stay aware of the work that's being done in all the different arenas, and allow yourself to tolerate the stress of not having a final answer.
[As coordinator of field research and overall communications for the BLT Research Team, Nancy Talbott would like to hear from people who discover crop formations, who want more detailed information on crop circle research, or who wish to support the BLT Team's ongoing research effort. At present, Nancy does not have email. She can be reached by phone at 617-492-0415, by fax at 617-492-0414, or by postal mail at: P.O. Box 127, Cambridge, MA 02140.]
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