High-Powered Research: The Device Behind Those Mysterious Crop Circles

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You mean all those crop circles aren’t from aliens after all?

In the world of pressing science, physics professor Richard Taylor and his team from the University of Oregon—yes, these employees are funded with taxpayer money—pieced together prior research on crop circles and deduced that radiation waves from a magnetron works perfectly to create intricate designs in grain fields.

While not quite as cool as aliens, people can create these devices by piecing together parts from a microwave and a battery. Then, the high-powered waves shoot out and topple the grass in these oh-so-beautiful and mysterious patterns, according to Taylor’s report in the journal Physics World.

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The magnetron hypothesis, which Taylor says he can replicate in the real world too, supplants some other theories that took on prominence ever since these designs started taking shape in the 1970s, mostly in the UK.

Of course, the idea that aliens leave behind these designs rates right up there with the theory that the circles are messages from earth in the “Are you serious?” category. And even the proposal that odd weather patterns are to blame leaves quite a few question marks.

However, the best far-fetched theory out there blames “stoned wallabies” for getting high on poppy and creating circles after a crop circle formed in 2009 in Tasmania.

And while most folks chalk up these crop circles to elaborate pranks, at least through the hard work of the University of Oregon we now can know how some may actually pull it off. Good work, Ducks. Maybe now you can tackle the Bermuda Triangle dilemma.

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.