UFOs are cool again! But first, let me tell you about a recent trip I took to the beach.
I was taking a picture of my friend when I realized to my horror that he was being attacked by a giant insect. It looked something like this.
“Look out!” I cried. I turned to shout for help, and was amazed to see the bug move almost instantaneously to threaten a nearby sailboat.
No matter which way I turned, that bug monster kept zipping around, attacking the things I looked at. Finally I took off my sunglasses to get a better look at the evil creature, and wouldn’t you know it? It vanished.
But enough about giant bugs. Let’s talk about UFOs.
This is a 1951 picture of a UFO taken by Guy B. Marquand, Jr. in Riverside, California.
And here is a recently declassified picture of a UFO taken by a Navy pilot in 2014.
A lot of time has passed since 1951. Cameras have improved dramatically. And yet somehow UFOs are always these tantalizing smudges. Why is that? Why, after all these years, are we still getting these crappy, grainy pictures of UFOs? Are the aliens so advanced that they can assess our cameras and then purposefully arrange to be just blurry enough to be mysterious? You’re always seeing something that ALMOST looks like solid convincing evidence, but it’s not quite good enough.
Two things affect what you see. One is the thing being viewed and the other is the device, the lens, doing the viewing. The resulting image can tell you a lot about one or both of these things. Smudges turn out to be an ideal projection surface for our notions of what a UFO should be. Being tantalized is fun, so we seek out tantalization. We project tantalization onto convenient surfaces. Blurry is better. To focus would be to disappoint.
The liminal space between the seen and the unseen is the medium we use to shape our ghosts, our dragons, our aliens, and our giant insectoid beach marauders. As a general guideline, when something stays perpetually just out of view, it’s likely telling you more about your lens than it is about the world.