Greg Jefferys, a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania, recently claimed to have found evidence that crop circles were around long before the crop circle craze of the 1990s focused attention on them. He studied images in Google Earth's 1945 overlay, showing historical pictures of British locations 68 years ago, and found numerous circular patterns in the British countryside. [link: Birmingham Mail
Jefferys is quoted as saying, "This discovery proves that claims by various artists to be the sole creators of crop circles are themselves a hoax. It just goes to show that the circles remain unexplained. I hope this discovery will stimulate renewed interest in crop circles by serious scientific researchers who have been fooled by the hoax claims."
Jefferys believes that "high frequency electromagnetic energy" is somehow responsible for the formation of crop circles. However, he's unclear about "what generates that energy and organises it into circular patterns."
Here are some of the 1945 crop circles he found:
I gotta say, these are somewhat feeble crop circles. They hardly seem to merit the media attention Jefferys has received for his "discovery".
David Clarke points out
that back in the early 1940s there actually was great concern about strange markings appearing in farmer's fields. But people didn't think that either space aliens or "electromagnetic energy" were the cause of these formations. Instead, they worried that Nazis were putting them there, as "air markers" to guide an air invasion of the UK and US. But these air markers turned out to have innocent explanations. They were caused by everyday farm activities — sowing crops, laying out bags of manure, etc. (I cover this episode in my Nazi Air Marker Hoax
In the same way, these "crop circles" that Jefferys found could easily have been created by farm activities. There's no need to invoke electromagnetic energy to explain them.
Our brains love to find patterns in the world around us and attribute meaning to them. The trick is knowing when that meaning is justified and when we're being led astray by random noise.