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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Benjamin Radford -- Crop Circle Was a Publicity Stunt: Why'Experts' Were Fooled

By Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor | January 7, 2014 10:23am ET

A mysterious 310-foot-diameter crop circle that appeared in a farmer's barley field in Chualar, Calif., was not alien made; rather it was a marketing stunt promoting Nvidia's new Tegra K1 processing chip.

Credit: Screengrab via YouTube/Nvidia video

A mysterious 310-foot-diameter crop circle that appeared in a farmer's barley field in Chualar, Calif., as 2013 ended puzzled the public for more than a week. Echoing the sentiments of many, the field's owner told CNN, "To be that intricate in design, it kind of baffles me as to how that was done."Videos and photos of it went viral, and though some dismissed the crop circle as a hoax, others weren't so sure. Some crop-circle experts wrote in-depth analyses that claimed to cleverly decode hidden meanings in the pattern, including that a bright comet would appear in the sky later this year.

It remained a mystery until Sunday night (Jan. 5), when at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the real circle makers stepped forward: a marketing team hired by computer-graphics company Nvidia. The "crop circle" was not an astronomical calendar forewarning of an impending comet, but instead a drawing of the company's new Tegra K1 processing chip. A small team of British crop-circle artists created the complex pattern expertly and without detection. It was a great publicity stunt, and one that left many people wondering how experts could have been fooled.

Why do people fall for such obvious hoaxes? Part of the answer is that the human brain is hardwired to seek meaning, even when there is no meaning to be found. In psychology, the tendency for the mind to find coincidences, patterns and connections in random data is called apophenia. In statistics, there is even a name for this type of fallacy: a Type I error. A common example of a Type I error is a false positive result on a medical test. [In Photos: Mysterious Crop Circles]

Carl Sagan, in his book "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," discussed the psychology of this phenomenon. "The pattern-recognition machinery in our brains is so efficient in extracting a face from a clutter of other detail that we sometimes see faces where there are none," he wrote. "We assemble disconnected patches of light and dark, and unconsciously try to see a face. The Man in the Moon is one result."

There are many other examples. In 1997, Michael Drosnin published a best-selling book titled "The Bible Code," in which he claimed the Bible contained a code (hidden in numbers and letters) accurately predicting past world events. Drosnin's work was later refuted, with critics demonstrating that the meanings and messages he found were simply the result of selectively choosing data sets from a vast sea of random letters. Similar "hidden codes" have been found in other books, such as "Moby Dick" and "War and Peace," demonstrating that any sizable text can produce such codes if you look long enough.

Conspiracy thinking

Conspiracy thinking can also make crop-circle hoaxes believable. Such mistakes come not from too little thinking, but rather overthinking — missing the obvious because you're expecting to see something far more mysterious and complicated. Crop-circle books brim with wild, contradictory theories about what the circles mean, including religious revelations, messages of peace and cosmic harmony, nuclear power secrets, maps of the universe and much more. [Crop-Circle Artists Becoming High-Tech]

This mistake is also common in conspiracy-theory thinking: Events that, at first glance, appear to have a simple, straightforward explanation are suspected of having a more elaborate story behind them. For example, many believe that Princess Diana could not have been killed in a drunk-driving car accident in a French tunnel; that explanation is too simple, too obvious. No, it was all part of an elaborate assassination attempt by the British military, the Illuminati or someone else. Likewise, humans could not have simply gone to the moon in rockets; the moon landing could not have been that easy, so it must have been an elaborate hoax involving sound stages, a cast and crew of hundreds, and so on.

So it is with crop circles: If you want to know what a design means, ask the hoaxers who created it (if you can find them).


The crop-circle phenomenon came to global attention in the 1970s, when simple circles began appearing in the English countryside. The number and complexity of the circles increased dramatically, reaching a peak in the 1980s and 1990s, when increasingly elaborate circles were produced, including those illustrating complex mathematical equations such as fractals. The obvious and best-supported scientific explanation — that the designs are made by artistic hoaxers — is, by far, the least satisfying for many people. Which is more fun to believe: that nighttime pranksters are at work, or that mysterious, unknown intelligent beings are trying to communicate with humanity using complex, coded messages?

You'd think that an alien species smart enough to travel across the galaxy to visit Earth could find a more effective way of communicating with humanity than making ambiguous patterns in plants. Learning another language is something even children can do, and if our planet has been visited for decades by crop-circle-making intelligences, it's reasonable to expect they could write out messages in plain English or another human language. Ironically, that would likely be seen as an obvious sign of a hoax, even if it were real. [7 Huge Misconceptions About Aliens]

In this case, the "experts" were once again fooled; it was, undeniably, an advertising stunt. This hoax also reveals an embarrassing truth about crop circle research: that so-called experts cannot distinguish a supposedly real crop circle from a fake one. If the ones supposedly made by humans are so amazingly complex and intricate — and laden with so much hidden meaning — that they are mistaken for the real thing, then, by definition, all of them could be hoaxes.

This isn't the first time a company has used a crop circle as part of a marketing campaign. It's been done several times; even Hello Kitty's adorable face appeared in a field. Presumably, if a crop circle appeared featuring the trademarked Coke ribbon, the distinctive CBS eye logo or the Chevrolet bowtie, then we could be pretty sure it's fake.

Unless, of course, it's all part of the conspiracy, and an Illuminati-driven multinational cabal has formed an alliance with extraterrestrials to create the patterns as a sort of mind-control advertising experiment. Sound ridiculous? You can't prove it's not true.

Benjamin Radford, M. Ed., is deputy editor of "Skeptical Inquirer" science magazine and author of six books, including "The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media Panics and Hoaxes." His website is

Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

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From the many comments shown at this original article I would like to point out these ones:

Hello Ben! I had the pleasure of reading an article by you written in 2013 about crop circles and a subtle inclination try and debunk them, although you sound very open minded about this topic...

I am not usually impressed with any of these unexplained things, but also admit that I am very interested with things that exist in the Universe that we still DO NOT come close to understand or know about... far from it and it will remain like that for eve. Infinite mysterious mysteries that not even your imagination could imagine.

Now.... about those crop circles....

first I would advice you to read several scientific papers (Science Magazine, etc) about them that have been published.

These two people (or clowns) from England that you mentioned in your article are total phonies... although creative phonies for sure.

First pls read the scientific papers, look ag all the evidence with an open mind, then look up the miniscule alterations that the plants in question are subjected to. Its not only what can be seen from the air, those incredibly super complex designs, that symmetry, no tracks of any kind from anywhere, sheer perfection design done almost instantly ... Its really what happen on the ground, to the plants themselves what is the most interesting.

They are physically changed in a very subtle way. The nods change size, others have tiny holes blown out do they automatically bend, with different intensities, and above all plants are UNDAMAGED!!!

Also, months and years after the circle events, you can still see the contour that the plants themselves maintain... HELLO!!!!

Those Britons went out with a few clumsy boards and ropes and made an "credible" circle from their "sky", but once you go down to examine the plants the damage done by "not so smart" humans is all over the place: bruising, trampled flowers, broken limbs, irreparable.

Last thing, I think is pretty daring and even irresponsible to say that what can be known for sure is that the only thing that creates these circles are "human"... or "hoaxers" like you call them. 

It would be more appropriate and intelligent to say at least that this is an UNEXPLAINED phenomenon, not yet explained... human could not even begin to imagine the logic and the perfection of these things. I might be no Einstein, but these at least I know, for a fact all over my very trusted "gut feeling" are NOT made by anything close to human organism or dare I say, to the Earth.


Fernando Gonzalez

people who create these crop circles should be working at CERN instead of making these "pranks" as their knowledge of space-time, multidimensional geometry and energy field is above the level of the current scientific understanding. Funny how NSA knows everything about everyone but knows "nothing" about the phenomenon.

It's obvious that many aren't a hoax. They're incredibly complicated in their designs and extremely large in size. They're also completed over night, in pitch black darkness. They're nowhere near a light source. No one has ever duplicated an intricately designed, mathematically correct crop circle, in one night. Nor have they been able to complete one as large as these either.

The proof is in the geometrically complex, designs themselves. Geometry is a universal understood form of mathematics and a form of communication, which every intellectual life form should be able to understand (or at least comprehend). It's the foundation of science, which explains almost everything within the universe. Most of the crop circle shapes represent some form of geometrical mathematics. Why is that? Symmetry, size, geometric shapes, complexity, and duration of time make them a foolproof mystery. It's as if something were drawing on our 3 dimensional world, Now that's a sobering thought.

Nature creates real “Crop Circles” with using the different actions. For example, nature has two variants creating real “Crop Circles”:

It is shown that the appearance of UFOs and Crop Circles «Tully 'Saucer Nest'».
is a consequence of the resonant oscillation of reed stalks under the influence of infrasound.
Cyclone 'Joy' was source of infrasound.

The distance from the Crop Circle «Tully 'Saucer Nest'» till Cyclone 'Joy' is almost two thousand kilometers.

It is shown that the instantaneous formation of crack into a porous rock under earth are capable to create on the earthly surface intriguing images are «Crop Circles».

What is amazing to me is that there is better science in the comments then there is in the article itself, for the most part. (- except the comments that are just meant to be hurtful or mean, thankfully there is just a couple of those). Even the the people who dissent the most, are more thoughtful then the original author, who's only purpose seems to be to debunk the evidence by ignoring it. A common 'play' with the people who do this who's only consistency is to debunk this phenomenon and other "UFO" information. Their method seems to be, to generalize the facts till they can reshape them into something else.Then just throw anything out there to form interference in the path TO the answer. There seems to have been the ability to separate the formations from the UFOs, which is amazing that in people's minds it would seem to be two different discussions now, when they seem to be just different aspects of the same thing. Of course, with respect, Mr Radford is entitled to his own opinions, but he is a contributor to a science website and it seems to me that his claim to explain the formations is knowingly not accurate.

The shear number of and distribution of these crop formations ("formations" being more accurate - as suggested by the article that Ms Chauhan refers to above) seems to suggest that these silly suggestions could not be possible true. Yes there are 'faked' formations, done by various people for various reasons, but to quote that same article: " Almost twenty 26 countries (have) reported near about 10,000 crop formations in 20th century ". (- See more at: It does however mention that 90% are in Great Britain. However, there are a couple of them outside of GB that are very intriguing and that's where I'm focusing next! I, like Ms Chauhan, have become more interested in this mystery!

In any case, there is now so much evidence available that it seems like it might be time to open our minds to the possibility that we are not alone and stop being so hateful towards each other about it. There is real science on both sides and there are people who look at these things with the wonderment that has always been healthy, and for the fulfillment that human curiosity affords us. Even at the cost that change brings and the people who fight against it.

Please, believe in what makes you feel good about life, but in doing so, please don't crush my desires for the questions and the answers I seek!

I don't know if anyone is familiar with the "circlemakers", but they claim, personally, to be responsible for the majority of crop circles (which, strangely enough, occur most commonly in England than anywhere else).

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