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Rockefeller Finances Crop Circle Survey

Chalk it up to millennium madness: Crop circles, like bellbottoms, are back in fashion. Billionaire Laurance Rockefeller is financing what is billed as a scientific survey aimed to sort hoaxes from the purportedly truly mysterious crop circles.

Since 1978, patterns of matted-down cornstalks, rapeseed, and other crops have been appearing in the fields of Wiltshire and neighboring areas in England. Enthusiasts attributed the so-called crop circles to UFO landings. Then, in 1991, two local artists owned up to having created the circles. Since then other circlemakers have gotten into the act (see, and the patterns have gotten ever more elaborate--turning into fractals, complex geometric figures, and ancient symbols. But although it's clear that many are the creation of hoaxsters, a lot of people still believe that some of the patterns, because of the speed of their appearance and their perfect geometry, must have a nonhuman origin (see

Last week, longtime crop circle researcher Colin Andrews, a former local government official in Hampshire now based in Connecticut, announced that Rockefeller, 89, has ponied up funds for an aerial survey of Wiltshire and Hampshire next month. He said global positioning technology has been used to help locate circles, which will be subjected to various measurements including magnetometer readings. He added he has already discovered that some circles have a "magnetic fingerprint" in the shape of a snowflake.

Rockefeller, who also supports UFO research, has given "thousands" of dollars to Andrews, admits Fraser Seitel, a spokesperson for the billionaire. But Seitel insists that such fringy concerns are not a "primary contribution thrust" in Rockefeller's charity portfolio.