Believers in flying rods describe them as mystical living creatures who inhabit a realm that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our known dimensions. They can, however, slip through those dimensions with the right juxtaposition of technology and the desire to believe.
Proponents describe the rods as long and thin with waved wings for flying, and being anywhere from a few inches to a yard long. They are touted as invisible to humans, but visible to cameras.
While there are many alleged photos out there, they were not taken by professional nature photographers and videographers. Or, if they were taken by such persons, the shooters refrained from identifying their subjects as airborne, mostly invisible creatures from an unknown strata. If rods did exist, it should follow that those who do photograph nature for a living should be doing the majority of the sightings.
Instead, they were identified by Jose Escamilla, who said he made was videotaping UFOs when by happenstance he came across some unexplained floating sticks with appendages.
He only saw them when he reviewed his video. Since he had no recollection of seeing any such thing in person, he credited himself with discovering a new species of flying creatures that are invisible to humans, and only show up on film or video. In other words, he made an appeal to ignorance. This is when no other explanation is readily apparent, so the answer is whichever one the observer finds most gratifying.
But Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning noted serious deficiencies with the idea of these flying rods. First, zoologists should be aware of other flying insects up to a meter in length. There are new creatures discovered all the time, but most are small or in places not generally accessible. The idea that a sustainable population of large, airborne animals was discovered by chance by a UFO enthusiast and not by an ornithologist, biologist, or someone in a related field is straining believability.
Also, rod believers should be able to demonstrate that invisible creatures are tenable. There are known transparent creatures, such as certain jellyfish, but none that are invisible. Sure, if they can’t be seen, that would be a great handicap in finding them. But the onus is on believers to show that invisible creatures exist, it is not on skeptics to prove such an animal would be impossible.
Further, rod believers need to prove that cameras convert certain invisible wavelengths into visible ones without affecting the visible wavelengths, which is something they were not designed to do.
Dunning wrote there is a rational explanation for this phenomenon. It lies with two speeds – those of camera shutters and those of flying insects. Combined with lighting conditions, these can make for images that resemble the rods touted by enthusiasts as invisible flying creatures. Dunning offered a hypothetical example of someone standing with the sun at their back and facing a large-shaded area. With a horde of dragonflies scattering about, going about nine meters per second, the photographer captures these images shooting at 1/30 shutter speed.
He writes, “Because your exposure is set for the dark background, the path traced by the dragonfly’s transit will be overexposed and will appear solid white. Dragonflies beat their wings about 30 times a second, so the path described by its wingtip on your film image would be one full sine wave period, 30 centimeters long. Change these parameters with different insects, different wing speeds, different camera shutter speeds, and you can duplicate any rod photograph on the Internet.”
Among those who photograph nature for a living, this occurrence is more an annoyance than the discovery of a clandestine species. Dunning notes that the images are “strange enough that someone not familiar with photography basics might conclude that the subject in the photograph was in fact 30 centimeters long with undulating wings, and the photographer would be absolutely correct in stating that he did not see any 30-centimeter-long flying creatures with his naked eye.”
Dunning has thus provided a satisfactory explanation that should be the default answer until believers are able to capture and present a living rod.