Repeat after me, “There is no such thing as a sound wave!Anyone fortunate enough to hear John Stuart Reid’s presentation at the Summer Crop Circle Lectures this summer will have a quiet smirk with me at the subtitle to this blog. John Reid is the UK’s leading sound scientist and he gave an erudite and action packed talk at the conference that included the audience playing with balloons and a live demonstration of a Chladni plate at work. His talk was both informative and fun, and was delivered by a man gifted with an effortless knowledge of his subject matter and great teaching skills to boot.
The relationship between shape and sound is one that has fascinated me for many years. I first read about it back in 1996/97. By chance, as these things often happen, I was given a book by a very dear friend of mine, the book was called ‘Serpent in the Sky’ by author John Anthony West. The book is an exploration of the work of the enigmatic R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who spent over 15 years studying the architecture of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt. Through his meticulous work he was able to build a picture of ancient Egyptian society that was as radical as it was at odds with conventional thought. Part of that picture was that the ancients understood only too well the relationship between sound and shape and that they, in fact, encoded this knowledge into their temples in order that those visiting them were subtly effected by the buildings and inspired to greater vibration – or states of consciousness.Immediately when I read this, I saw the parallels with the crop circle phenomenon. The crop circles perhaps more so than the ancient temples were pure geometry in the landscape, as such it was highly likely that their ‘subtle vibrations’ had some kind of effect, not only on visitors to the circles, but on the landscape itself. This idea is not as far fetched as it may at first sound, the relationship between shape and vibration is one firmly rooted in science. Current historical time lines say that it was Ernst Chladni (1756-1827), a German physicist and musician, who first demonstrated this relationship between shape and vibration. Using brass plates sprinkled with sand, he used a violin bow, drawing down the edge of the plate to create vibrations, as he did so the sand would spontaneously jump into geometric shapes. Instantly everyone could see the direct relationship between vibration and shape. Simply put, shape is a fundamental response to vibration, and it is ultimately vibration that shapes all matter in our universe.
In modern times this science has been given a name ‘Cymatics’, and in the 1950s Swiss physicist Hans Jenny took this subject to a whole new level. Jenny created mountains, creatures and even a double chambered beating heart just from animating liquids and lipodium powder with vibration. Films of his laboratory experiments are mesmerising and at the same time deeply moving to see; inanimate compounds are seemingly brought to life under the influence of nothing more than the application of vibration. For those have the time and inclination, further study of these matters are a treasure trove of not just scientific edification, but also philosophical enlightenment. Much has been made of whether or not the circles are made by vibrations and although many circle designs look like cymatic patterns, the case is not proven, but what can be said with surety is that even if the circles are not made directly by vibrations they do create subtle vibration just by their very presence. What is not so well understood is the effect that subtle vibration has on physiology and psychology, although it must clearly have some effect. Music, for example, can have a profound effect on emotions and consciousness and ELF (extra low frequency) has been researched and was discovered to adversely affect the brain. I have theorised before that the subtle vibrations generated by crop circle designs may be responsible for some of the feelings experienced by visitors to the formations – including both feelings of wellbeing and unease.
You can read more about these ideas in the Crop circle Year Book 2000.There have been a couple of very interesting circles this summer which got me thinking about the question of vibration and geometry again, the first of which was at West Woods on June 21st. This design was made entirely from circles (or rings) and as you can see from my preliminary sketch, it is possible to carry on the circles beyond the perimeter of the formation to see the entirety of the geometry used in the design. Eight major rings are used in the construction of the shape, this is interesting because eight is the number of resonance and in the decad (numbers one to ten) it is the most promiscuous of numbers as it will interact easily with more numbers than any other. It is also the number of the octave (oct-ave), we play through the seven notes of the musical scale, but only when we hit our original note, but one octave higher, does the musical phase sound complete. Try it. Playing only the seven notes leaves you with a distinct feeling of dissatisfaction and anticipation, only with the sounding of the octave does relief finally come.
To me this formation was incredibly resonant, when visiting at ground level it felt harmonious and balanced. A facebook acquaintance remarked that the formation looked to have stag antlers in the design. I liked this idea, there was something about the placement of the circle (surrounded by trees on three sides) that seemed to fit well with this perception, not only was the geometry resonant, but there was something about the trees all around that invited an imaginary of a glimpse of the stag god Herne stood just by the perimeter of the woods watching over the circle. It was a magical place.
The second formation appeared later on July 18th at Overton Down, close to the Ridgeway. Once again the formation was constructed entirely from circles (or rings) and this time thirty two circles are used to create the main design with a thirty-third drawn to enclose the design. Thirty-two is related to eight (8 x 4 = 32). Thirty-three is a very magical number (one of the master sequence of numbers) it was the mystical age of Christ at his death – a number of spiritual maturity and transformation. The secret 33rd degree of freemasonry signified ‘illumination’.
I deliberately drew in the extended geometry of this formation into my sketch. I wanted to see what it would look like. The result was illuminating in itself. The sketch seemed to illustrate the reach of the geometry of this formation, radiating out onto the page, or as in the case of the crop circle, out into the landscape, like ripples. Secondly, the placement and number of grapeshot suddenly made sense. Each of the twelve outer circles was placed according to the extended geometry (not manifest in the field) they were also sized according to this underpinning design – fitting snugly (or cradled) where the circles intersect. This coincidence (call it what you will) is a little piece of crop circle magic for me. The fact that part of this design is determined by an invisible (non-manifest geometry) is out of this world!Finally, when looking at the sketches again I am reminded of two further things. Firstly, raindrops – droplets of water creating rings that stretch out seemingly unendingly into infinity and secondly that fact that sound does not travel in waves (as John Reid repeatedly emphasised during his talk!), it travels in bubbles – it’s just that we mark their dimensions as peaks and troughs on a graph. Sound waves on a graph are a distinctly two-dimensional representation of sound, but we live in a three-dimensional world, so in reality sound travels three-dimensionally – as bubbles! These two formations could easily be bubble paintings, imprints of bubbles lightly touching the page – or field. And secondly, John Reid left us with an amazing mind-bending thought at the end of his talk – sound (once created) goes on for eternity unto the end of the universe and then who knows where, therefore so does the ‘song’ of the crop circles… So next time you feel inclined to open your mouth – just think, be careful what you say – you never know who may eventually hear it!
KAREN ALEXANDER – SEPTEMBER 14, 2011