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Science and the UFO phenomenon:

Phenomena that aren't UFOs: the "rods".

July 3, 2009. An honest lady of Gaspésie in Canada, who is a professional photographer takes pictures of the shore.

She wants an artistic blurry effect on the waves so she sets her tripod camera on a 1/3 seconds exposure time.

She takes photographs in a row, each one a half-second approximately after the previous one. Almost a movie...

She saw nothing at all in the sky, but when she gets home and looks at the images, she sees a "thing", on each photograph, which seems to have moved between one photograph and the next.

So she thinks "UFO" and contacts electronically the Canadian ufologist François Bourbeau, telling him that she believes that the displacement of the thing must be "impossible for a human technology. " François Bourbeau does not understand what the images show, swears that he discussed with the lady on his web forum and that she did not fake the pictures.

François Bourbeau tells that "we analyzed" the photographs, with a professional photographer who is knowledgeable with Photoshop.

Some extracts of the images follow, with versions in negative color or variously enhanced, and the explanations by François Bourbeau on the basis of this "analysis": it is a ROD, it is of a " undoubtedly gelatinous composition", it is "possibly" a "form of animal life not yet referenced, whether in the category of the insects, the birds or straightforwardly cryptozoological!"

François Bourbeau is extremely upset, because he did not "believe in RODs", but this time, he does:

"...this 'think' is alive, it seems to have a central column - vertebral; it could thus be a 'vertebrate', but a 'vertebrate' able to fly since its also equipped with side membranes which do seem to be used as lift in the air system!"

In reality:

It is just a bird.

The exposure time of 1/3 of seconds makes that its flapping wings and its body are blurred all over the photographs, quite simply.

François Bourbeau manages to calculate a size and a speed - he refrains from explaining how:

"... this "ROD" must have flown at less than 35 km/h!, towards the South. As for its apparent dimension, it must be between 20 to 30 centimeters in length."

The speed of an unidentified thing at an unknown distance and of an unknown size obviously cannot be calculated ... except for some ufologist who do not know what they are talkning about, of course.

And, no was, he can't understand that it is a bird and comments on, enthusiastically:

"And if it is indeed a new unknown living species, its way of life reamins to be discovered, and where does it usually live? How does it reproduce, or can it reproduce? What does it feed on and when and at which frequency? Is it primarily an animal active by day or by night? Although you succeeded in photographing it in broad daylight, is this just an exception? Did it come out of the ocean, the sea or did it come from the land behind you?"

And he boasts, in capital letters:


Let's specify that François Bourbeau gives "ufology classes", for a fee.

I would love to show these photographs... Alas, François Bourbeau overprinted comments according to which he has the "copyright", that the images are "all rights reserved"...

So you need to go look at it for yourselves - before the page disappears - at:

RODS, what are they?

In 1994, one Mr. Escamilla, like the lady of Gaspésie, took images of these "things". He did not understand at all that with the appropriate exposure time, or with a video camera, any bird or insect can look very different than how it looks to the naked eye.

He thus claimed to have discovered... "an natural species that was unknown up to now", flying living beings, and, naturally "invisible to the naked ", since it is only by looking at his pictures and videos in slow motion that he noticed them.

He took thousands more images, and each time that he found these "things", it was one more proof of the existence of these living beings unknown to science to him.

As it vaguely resembled "rods" in their axis, it thus called them "rods". He opened a website to claim his discovery to the whole world, started to sell images and videos, and it wasn't long before other people also "discovered rods", or "RODS", in their own images. The RODS craze had started... since they are "seen all over the world, isn't it proof enough that a new species was discovered?

Of course when Escamilla caught "rods" in Roswell, he called them "Roswell RODS"! Did an insect crash in Roswell in 1947?

Then articles about the "mysterious RODS" popped in the sensationalist magazines, who sell all sorts of such "mysteries", from "crop circles" to "orbs", not to mention the "moon landing hoax" and the return of the Reptilians from Planet X, and, guess what, the silliest ufologists started to join the craze, often with speeches such as:

"Ha ha, I always told you that UFOs are for real but that they aren't nuts-and-bolts alien specraft, but of the unknown animals or beings from another dimension of reality!"

What a bunch of incompetent crackpots!

Some "RODS" images:

People who take these images, or those who believe they "analyze" it, are often so full of themselves that they forbid reproduction. Some go so far as to make money with it via "RODS documentary" on DVD or for the TV. I tried to find some which seem not to have become copyrighted commercial products:

Insect-"ROD". The flash helps a lot to make it clear.

A bird flies in front of a video camera, it becomes one of the "Roswell RODs"!

TV "ROD" on the French sensation TV channel "Planète Choc".



Four in one shot.

Right under his nose...

Of course, most of the time these images are scaled, cropped, the full landscape misses, the "ROD" is enhanced one way or another etc. The EXIF data that reveal the exposure time of digital photographs and other information are of course lost in the process.

A "rods" nonsense collection.

"I manage to note on the same uncut video two kinds of rods one with four wings the other with six wings if the problem is the shutter speed shouldnt all the rods and I insist have same the numbers of pairs of wings?"

Of course not. No law forces neither birds nor insects to fly with the same number of wing flaps per seconds.

"One gave to these rods the speed of 10 000 km/h, an insect does not fly at such a speed."

All the sizes, distances, speeds given to these RODS are only rubbish. Anyone with a reasonably built brain can understand that you absolutely can't calculate the size, distance, speed, in absolute values, from a photograph of something which is claimed to be of unknown nature. One can only calculate proportions, such as "if it were at 1 centimeter, the speed would be X, if it were at 1 meter, the speed would be X..., if it were at 1 kilometer, the speed would be Z..."

"... so now I wait to see a 'rods' cross the streets of Paris"

That'll be a long wait! Nobody "sees" RODS, nobody of "captured" a rod. To the eye, an insect or a bird is never claimed to be a "ROD" because it does not look like it, and when one captures a bird or an insect, it is unlikely to be called a "ROD"...

"On the videos you also see them when the frame rate is very high."

The fram rate does not matter! What matters is the exposure duration of each frame, not the number of frames.

"You generally get fuzzy images so it is not yet possible to determine all the details of their morphology, such as for example the presence of a head or eyes"

Of course! during the exposure time, the insect or the bird moves and these details appear as stretched traces, mixed with the trace of the bird or insect's body. But in some of the images, you do actually see two elongated features around the central "rod", these are precisely the eyes, for those insects who have a light-colored body and dark eyes on each side of the head.

"How can something be visible on images but never to the naked eye?"

Quite simply because when anyone notices insects or bird with the naked eye, it does not come to him that there is anything mysterious there. It is only on the images, when these insects and birds are considerably distorted by a sufficient exposure duration, that some believe it is mysterious.

"These rods seems to act in an intelligent manner. Sometimes several rods followed one another and they seems to play one with the other in the manner butterflies would play."

Duh! Of course they do!

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This page was last updated on January 31, 2009.