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Investigating the science of dowsing

 
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There's a detailed description of perhaps the most comprehensive and sympathetic effort to test dowsing ability at this link:

https://skepticalinquirer.org/1999/01/testing_dowsing_the_failure_of_the_munich_experiments/

The German government spent a quarter million marks in 1980s money.  The results were indistinguishable from random chance, and were in fact worse than if the dowsers had left their rods at home and always guessed for water at the middle of the test area.  

Everybody has an uncle whose well driller found water where nobody else could this way.  You don't hear so much about the ten thousand dry wells from when it did not work.  I remain a believer in the scientific method.  Non-reproducible methods that lack an explainable mechanism of action do not impress me.

Readers may also be interested in this detailed 1917 publication of the United States Geological Survey:

The Divining Rod: A History of Water Witching, with a Bibliography

The use of a forked twig, or so-called divining rod, in locating minerals, finding hidden treasure, or detecting criminals is a curious superstition that has been a subject of discussion since the middle of the sixteenth century and still has a strong hold on the popular mind, even in this country, as is shown by the large numiber of inquiries received each year by the United States Geological Survey as to its efficacy, especially for locating underground water, and the persistent demands that it be made a subject of investigation by the Survey. The bibliography shows that a truly astonishing number of books and pamphlets have been written on the subject. The purpose of the present brief paper is not to add another contribution to this enormous volume of uncanny literature but merely to furnish a reply to the numerous inquiries that are continually being received from all parts of the country. The outline of the history of the subject presented in the following pages will probably enable most honest inquirers to appreciate the practical uselessness of "water witching'' and other applications of the divining rod, but those who wish to delve further into the mysteries of the subject are referred to the literature cited in the bibliography, in which they will find reports in painful detail of exhaustive investigations and pseudo-investigations of every phase of the subject and every imaginable explanation of the supposed phenomena.

It is doubtful whether so much investigation and discussion have been bestowed on any other subject with such absolute lack of positive results. It is difficult to see how for practical purposes the entire matter could be more thoroughly discredited, and it should be obvious to everyone that further tests by the United States Geological Survey of this so-called ''witching'' for water, oil, or other minerals would be a misuse of public funds.

...

To all inquirers the United States Geological Survey therefore gives the advice not to expend any money for the services of any "water witch"...




 
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Dan Boone wrote:
Everybody has an uncle whose well driller found water where nobody else could this way.  You don't hear so much about the ten thousand dry wells from when it did not work.  I remain a believer in the scientific method.  Non-reproducible methods that lack an explainable mechanism of action do not impress me.



Yeah, I get where you're coming from.  I'm an engineer and a huge skeptic (but I'm dieting), but I've seen it work and had it work for me.  One of my uncles used a wooden 'y' from green wood, as did a couple of my friends' dads or granddads, but I used two metal rods as did the rest of the successful finds I've seen.  I've got a rudimentary understanding of geo engineering and groundwater, so I know that sometimes you're going to hit it anywhere, but it's worked for me, personally, locating a water pipe and buried electrical cables.

I'll admit that it flummoxes me somewhat as I don't want it to work as it goes against my scientific nature, but I've come to accept that some things just are, even if they don't make sense.  I can't explain it, but I also can't discount my personal experience with it.  

 
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Let's assume for a minute that dowsing actually does work.  How do the rods know what you're looking for? If they can find water,  electrical lines,  lost keys,  corpses (all things I have seen claimed), and you are looking for lost keys,  why don't the rods cross when you pass an electrical line,  or,  underground water? How do they convey the depth the water is at,  if that is what you are looking for? If the rods only find what you are looking for,  they not only know where to find that thing,  they also apparently read your mind to know what you are looking for?
 
pollinator
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Ok, I'm gonna be the old sourpuss here.......

When I was younger, I believed in dousing. I used two copper rods (I still have one kicking around someplace here) and truly thought I successfully located underground pipes and our cesspool. But the bugger is that I already knew or thought they were there just waiting to be re-found.

After witnessing a demonstration of underground pipe and electric line location via dousing, I'm now a confirmed skeptic. All the dousers, including myself, found the underground lines, all pretty much in the same general areas. Then it was discovered that we were dousing around the wrong barn. This barn had zero underground utilities. It was the barn across the lane that we were supposed to be dousing. Oops. I think we were taking subtle clues from the environment around us as to where electrical lines would have run from the nearest pole and where were the likely locations of water pipes coming from the house. Anyway, it planted some pretty strong seeds of doubt in my brain that day.

I no longer am a total believer in dousing. Whatever is going on isn't in those copper rods or the forked stick. I suspect it's another one of those things where we fool ourselves.

Just the opinion of an old lady.
 
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I merged your stuff with the following thread. I hope that is okay by you.
 
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Well, for over 50 years you could collect a million dollars by simply showing that dowsing was better than random chance in a controlled experiment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Million_Dollar_Paranormal_Challenge
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMtuWymUzz4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqoYrSd94kA
 
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