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Most optical analysis to date have concluded that the images are insects moving across the frame as the photo is being captured.
Robert Todd Carroll (2003), having consulted an entomologist (Doug Yanega), identified rods as images of flying insects recorded over several cycles of wing-beating on video recording devices. The insect captured on image a number of times, while propelling itself forward, gives the illusion of a single elongated rod-like body, with bulges.
A 2000 report by staff at "The Straight Dope" also explained rods as such phenomena, namely tricks of light which result from how (primarily video) images of flying insects are recorded and played back, adding that investigators have shown the rod-like bodies to be a result of motion blur, if the camera is shooting with relatively long exposure times.
In August 2005, China Central Television (CCTV) aired a two-part documentary about flying rods in China. It reported the events from May to June of the same year at Tonghua Zhenguo Pharmaceutical Company in Tonghua City, Jilin Province, which debunked the flying rods. Surveillance cameras in the facility's compound captured video footage of flying rods identical to those shown in Jose Escamilla's video. Getting no satisfactory answer to the phenomenon, curious scientists at the facility decided that they would try to solve the mystery by attempting to catch these airborne creatures. Huge nets were set up and the same surveillance cameras then captured images of rods flying into the trap. When the nets were inspected, the "rods" were no more than regular moths and other ordinary flying insects. Subsequent investigations proved that the appearance of flying rods on video was an optical illusion created by the slower recording speed of the camera.
After attending a lecture by Jose Escamilla, UFO investigator Robert Sheaffer wrote that "some of his “rods” were obviously insects zipping across the field at a high angular rate" and others appeared to be “appendages” which were birds' wings blurred by the camera exposure.
Various paranormal interpretations of this phenomenon appear in popular culture. One of the more outspoken proponents of rods as alien life forms was Jose Escamilla, who claimed to have been the first to film them on March 19, 1994 in Roswell, New Mexico, while attempting to film a UFO. Escamilla later made additional videos and embarked on lecture tours to promote his claims.
In popular culture
- In the manga and anime series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the Stone Ocean part features a character named Rikiel with the Stand ability "Sky High" that allows him to control rods, which are described as real unidentified animals, and use them to attack his enemies by absorbing their body heat.
- In the videogame Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, there is a rare enemy type called Sky Fish based on the "rod" phenomenon. Sky Fish resemble rods in appearance, and can only be defeated by slowing down time.
- The 2010 Super Sentai series, Tensou Sentai Goseiger featured the antagonistic cryptid-themed monster group Yuumajuu. One of their members is Zaigo of the Skyfish, who has the secondary theme of stick insect.
- In the 2015 Kemono Friends mobile game, Skyfish appears as a playable Friend and minor character.
- "where unscrupulous people are exploiting a gullible public for profit", according to "Straight Dope" staff.
- Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). "rods". The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781630262297. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- Yanega, Doug (September 18, 2000). "What's up with "rods," the mysterious insects that can be seen only on video?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- 中国UFO悬案调查：飞棍出没的世界(下) SINA Technology News, "China's outstanding UFO Investigation: fly rod Haunted World (Part Two)"
- Sheaffer, Robert (March–April 2000). "ET, You've Got Mail". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- "Sky High".