Flattened plant stems.
The phrase might sound sort of dispirited to you or me, but it makes Linda Moulton Howe's heart beat just a little more quickly. Listen to her for a while, and yours might, too. This journalist has spent the last couple of years studying the phenomenon, which she says is worldwide, of "crop formations" -- the odd and complex patterns that appear in fields of cereal crops, formed when the stems of some of the plants therein are flattened. She's coming to the Valley to lecture on the matter on Friday, July 20.
"The formations," says Moulton Howe by phone, "are defined by some part of the plant being flattened -- there's no crease or break anywhere in the stem. The speculation is that they're exposed to microwave energy, softening them and causing them to collapse."
Okay, so let's continue the speculation: These formations are obviously the newest attempt by superintelligent aliens to communicate with us, and thus to usher in a new age of utopian peace, prosperity, health and human fellowship on our previously strife-torn planet, right? That's what the crop formations are, right, Agent Scully, er, I mean, Ms. Moulton Howe?
Cool it there, Roger Ramjet. Moulton Howe isn't about to leap to any conclusions like that, at least not in an interview. She is, after all, a Stanford grad and an Emmy-winning broadcast journalist who has traveled everywhere from England to Peru to Japan to Ethiopia investigating crop formations. She may get bold about her speculations in her books, Mysterious Lights and Crop Circles and An Alien Harvest, but over the phone she's careful not to sound like your cousin with the well-thumbed spiral-bound notebook whom everyone avoids at the family reunion.
Still, she claims an extraordinary firsthand experience in the course of her travels. In England, a few hours after watching British military helicopters do formations over a field, she and seven other people saw a bright oval jumping from one side of the field to another through a starscope that had infrared ability. Without the starscope, they could see nothing. "Two days later," she says, "there was a pattern in the crop."
And she also allows as how the formations do, in any case, suggest intelligent design. "These are very complicated patterns," she says. "They're geometric, they're fractal, but math, very complicated math is involved."
Not only that -- gloomy news for those of us who were given D minuses out of pity in high school algebra -- the math is getting more complicated. "In the early '80s," Moulton Howe continues, "there were photographs from England of what were called quincunx -- it's a mathematical term for a circle with four other circles around it and a ring around the four circles. But by 1990, there were much more complex circles showing up around the world."
Despite her caginess, Moulton Howe admits that there's no human technology she knows of that would account for all this. "What is it?" she asks rhetorically. "That's what I'd like to know, what is it?"
Cue the creepy music.