Not quite as good as visiting these awesome places, but we can at least keep you up to date on what's happening.

The View From Here

Another beautiful time-lapse video from Terje Sorgjerd, who filmed the stunning video of the aurorae that I posted a few weeks ago. This one focuses on the Milky Way galaxy as viewed from our place within it, seen from one point on our rotating planet. In this case, that point is Spain's highest mountain, El Teide - one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars, and the home of Teide Observatories.

As always, when watching these videos I really get a kick of breaking out of the personal perspective, seeing a bunch of pretty lights spinning around me, and instead understanding what the view really is - me standing on a spinning planet, staring into deep space at a billion suns, grouped together in a galaxy that sits within a far greater cosmos. Awe-inspiring.

This celestial video also features an Earthly phenomena:

A large sandstorm hit the Sahara Desert on the 9th April and at approx 3am in the night the sandstorm hit me, making it nearly impossible to see the sky with my own eyes.

Interestingly enough my camera was set for a 5 hour sequence of the milky way during this time and I was sure my whole scene was ruined. To my surprise, my camera had managed to capture the sandstorm which was backlit by Grand Canary Island making it look like golden clouds. The Milky Way was shining through the clouds, making the stars sparkle in an interesting way. So if you ever wondered how the Milky Way would look through a Sahara sandstorm, look at 00:32.

You can find more information about the shoot at Terje Sorgjerd's Vimeo page.

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Golden Rays of Escher

A beautiful sight, captured wonderfully by nature photographer Sandra Critelli: Golden Rays move through waters off the coast of Mexico like an M.C. Escher tessellation:

Golden Rays

(H/T Dangerous Minds)

Fractal Fruit

Last week I noted the 3D fractal viewer, Fractal Lab. Just stumbled across this piece of awesomeness made by the person who designed the software, depicting an "evolving fractal landscape":

Ye gods it's hypnotic.

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The Aurorae

Words sometimes cannot do justice. Instead, just watch:

Definitely something to add to my bucket list.

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Supermoon Over Glastonbury Tor

Well, Saturday night's 'Supermoon' didn't tear the Earth apart (unless you include the previous week's earthquake) or unleash a lycanthropy pandemic upon the globe. But it *did* offer a lovely photo opportunity - check out this wonderful image of our lunar partner rising over the iconic Glastonbury Tor (click the image for the superlarge Supermoon version:

Supermoon over Glastonbury Tor

For more great 'Supermoon' images, check out the complete gallery over at Anorak.

The Crop Circle Conundrum

The UK's Telegraph has a long and interesting article about the crop circle scene, which talks to a couple of TDG's good friends, Rupert Sheldrake and Mark Pilkington, and includes some interesting comments from Rob Irving about croppies and 'rationalism':

[A] display of circle-making by a team of young engineers who won the 1992 International Crop Circle Making Competition was a revelation to the maverick biologist, Rupert Sheldrake: ‘For flattening the crop, they used a roller consisting of a piece of PVC piping with a rope through it, Crop Circlepushing it with their feet. To get into the crop without leaving footprints, they used two lightweight aluminium stepladders with a plank between them, acting as a bridge. For marking out a ring, they used a telescopic device projecting from the top of an aluminium stepladder. A string was attached to the end of it in such a way that by holding the string and walking in a circle around this central position a perfect ring could be marked out without leaving any trace on the ground in the middle.’ That’s complicated kit.

Mark Pilkington, a writer and publisher who helped with some of the more beautiful and complex late Nineties/early Noughties formations, talks of teams of three or four, using only the planks et al. It is, he says: ‘Physically and mentally hard work. Even after a modest job, you’re flat out. It’s often disorienting. I’ve worked on formations and when I’ve seen the photographs afterwards, I’ve thought: “Bloody hell! How did we do that?” ’

The designs are marvellous: perhaps it’s no wonder that, as Pilkington says, some cerelogists believe human ‘circle makers are channels for a greater force and that some formations are made by divine intervention’. Certainly, when Pilkington has told people what he’s done, he’s got into near fights: people want to believe. Such antipathy has gone to extremes: according to one of their number, one group of circle-makers had ‘potatoes stuck up their exhausts, wing mirrors ripped off our cars and threats of violence’.

Irving thinks people want to take ‘a vacation from rationalism’. And, he adds, it’s particularly the case that ‘people associate certain landscapes with legends. That’s why circles come to sacred sites: Avebury and Stonehenge galvanise this idea of mystery. I see it as a feedback route: people go to a certain place with certain expectations. Then something happens and they leave satisfied.’

It’s to sustain the mystery, he says, that circle-makers never claim authorship of a particular circle: ‘In our culture, art is all to do with artists: it’s about whodunit, not about what art does. With the circles, it’s about the effect they have on people.’

Just a shame the article didn't reference our own Perceval in the section on the Euler's Identity crop circle...

Read the full article at the Telegraph.

Previously on TDG:

Korn Circles

On the eve of this year's Summer Solstice, a crop circle appeared in a wheat field in Bakersfield, California. Apocalyptic memo from our alien overlords? Trans-Atlantic plasma vortexes? Military dirigibles housing microwave beam weapons? Alas no - just British underground artists the Circlemakers creating a 'stage' for the American rock band Korn to perform a live gig on:

Korn Circle

The Circlemakers have a dedicated page with photos, videos and schematics of the construction process and live gig, and how it came about:

It's not very often one of the biggest rock groups in the US rings up and asks us if we'd like to fly to their home town - in this case Bakersfield, California - to create a massive crop circle for them to perform a secret gig in... but that's exactly what happened last month, when Korn gave us a call!

Circlemakers John Lundberg, Wil Russell, Rob Irving and Mark Barnes flew to California to create the Korn crop circle. The formation was created in two stages over two days in mature wheat. It measured a whopping 700ft long by 230ft wide. Heat stroke was an ever-present possibility as the temperature soared to 120 degrees.

For those just as interested in the music as the crop circle design, you can watch the entire live gig online, via Korn's MySpace page (or via the below video embed):

Previously on TDG:

Crop Cube

Our alien overlords aren't content to stick to 2D sacred geometry - they've been inspired by James Cameron and gone all 3D with their crop glyphs:

Crop Circle 3D Cube

Image credit: Mike Walker

Not sure about the '4D' mentions in Daily Mail article though...

Planck found in 'Euler's Identity' Crop Circle?!

When I saw the photos of the Wilton Windmill crop circle (the photo here is by Steve Alexander), reported on 22nd May, I was immediately struck by the possibility of a message encoded in 8-bit binary.

After transcribing the binary digits, I translated each byte (8 bits) into its corresponding ASCII character with this handy online converter, starting from the direction of the windmill, and working clockwise around the circle and out from the centre. (If you're having trouble following this, see the animation linked at the bottom of the article).

Wilton Windmill Crop Circle May 2010

The result was this:

e^(hi)pi)1=0

It looked like some kind of equation, and when I looked it up, Google asked if I meant: e^(i)pi)1=0, for which the top result was Euler's identity: e+1=0. This has been called "the most beautiful theorem in mathematics". No surprise that it should turn up in a crop circle then!

One of the things that had caught my attention on initially seeing the pictures of the crop formation had been the way that it referenced both the turning wheel of the windmill and the twelve-part division of the zodiacal cycle, the cosmic wheel. On looking a little deeper into the mathematics, it becomes clear that the formation also represents Euler's formula, of which Euler's Identity is a special case, in graphical form - as a circle, with radii represented at different angles. On reflection, this is a very cleverly executed and elegant design, in which mathematical and symbolic meanings are fused into a single 'identity'.

Not being a mathematician, I wasn't sure about the odd notation of the formula as expressed in the crop circle, but I assumed that, for the circle-maker, it could be a way to get around the limitations of ASCII text, and was a near enough approximation for me to get the intended result.

One thing that bothered me was the inclusion of the anomalous 'h' in the message/formula. Certainly, with the absent '+', it made up the number of characters to the symbolic number twelve.

Perhaps significantly, the 'h', with the adjacent 'i', reads 'hi' - an embedded message from the circle-maker? It was only when a Facebook contact suggested that 'h' could be a reference to the Planck constant, taking us from the world of maths into the world of physics, that I realised a possible new layer of meaning within the embedded message. Could the makers have left a 'Planck' in the design as a subtle joke on all the croppies who might pronounce this a 'genuine' crop circle as opposed to a circle made with a plank?! I wonder if anyone has looked down that arc that represents the binary digit in question - could there be a physical plank there?

Less flippantly, I think that the more likely scenario is that the circle-makers made a genuine mistake. The binary encoding for 'h' - 01101000 is just one binary digit different to that for '(' - 00101000. The extra opening bracket would pair up with the otherwise unpaired closing bracket in the message to give us e^((i)pi)1=0.

This animated explanation of the 2010 Wilton Windmill crop circle design that I put together should make everything clear!

Wilton Windmill Crop Circle May 2010

Also, here's my original blog post.

Update: See my essay 'Closing the Circle' in the wonderful Daily Grail journal Darklore 5 for a more detailed treatment. The essay is also available as a free sample pdf.

Vallee on Crop Circles Part Trois

Jacques Vallee has posted the third instalment of his four-part series on crop circles over at Boing Boing. This time around, Jacques discusses the hoaxer theory, the weakness of 'New Age' explanations, and once again returns to the question of advanced technology being used:

I once met several of these artists at a conference in Switzerland, where they were presenting their techniques and the resulting data. When I asked them, "How dare you fool people this way?" they answered that art in general was about fooling people to create a sense of awe, beauty or simply a brief, healthy disconnect with ordinary reality. Crop CircleOne of them pointed out that "When you look at the Mona Lisa you think you look at a woman, but you have been fooled: there is no woman there; someone just applied some paint to a rectangular piece of canvas. Well, we do the same thing, except that our canvas happens to be a cornfield."

When you put it that way it is perfectly all right for teams of artists to run through the fields at night and produce things like the spider, the bicycle or more elaborate geometric designs. People like Jim Schnabel have participated in the game and there are even international competitions in circle making, with recognition for the most complex productions. No wonder people are convinced that all the circles are made for fun by a team of humans crushing the corn for kicks when the subject comes up in discussions among scientists or businessmen today. The difficult question is, "does this explain ALL the circles, or only the relatively simple ones?" The artists I spoke to in Switzerland confessed that some of the extraordinary designs were beyond their ability to produce them. While the initial "weather phenomenon" theory of Terence Meaden and others has not survived, there are still people who firmly believe the complex designs are made by Aliens and some who state they are a warning from Gaia. Among the technical community there are also those who pursue the idea first expressed by Dr. Jean-Pierre Petit, Jean-Jacques Velasco and others, looking to military electronics as the key to the mystery.

As I've mentioned previously, I don't feel there's much evidence supporting the 'aerial weapon' theory, and it certainly doesn't shake hands politely with the rule of parsimony. I *do* however support Jacques in raising these questions and exploring them. For all the attacks in the comments, few people seem to have noted the final paragraph, in which Jacques makes clear that he does not think the weapon hypothesis is the most logical. He just wants to explore possibilities:

From the point of view of rational analysis the weight of evidence is still on the side of the skeptics who assure us that all crop circles are made by artists and lovable, jolly old men like Doug and Dave. But there are facts that don't quite fit, and the alternatives are worth considering.

And, viewing some of his words in these blog posts - and the comments left by readers - I also do get the feeling that these 'crop circle' posts are as much about Jacques exploring people's beliefs and rationalisations as they are about glyphs in fields. Certainly, he knows and is interested in the replies being posted - more than the commenters seem to appreciate...I had a bit of a giggle when I read this line: "Since we have obviously hit a nerve it may be interesting to drill a bit further."

I'm looking forward to the final instalment of the series, which Jacques says will explore the "construction and manipulation of belief systems" - ground which he covered in depth in his classic book Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults (Amazon US and Amazon UK), re-released in 2008 by Daily Grail Publishing.

Previously on TDG: