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Iraq Swears By Dowsing Rod Bomb Detector

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the one-man's-junk-is-another-man's-junk-science dept.

The Military 652

jggimi writes "According to the New York Times, more than fifteen hundred remote sensing devices have been sold to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior, at prices ranging from $16,500 to $60,000 each. The devices are used for bomb and weapon detection at checkpoints, and have no battery or other power source. Sounds great, but according to a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, they work on the same principle as a Ouija board — the power of suggestion. He described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod. Even though the device has been debunked by the US Military, the US Department of Justice, and even Sandia National Laboratories, the Iraqis are thrilled with the devices. 'Whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,' said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Explosives."

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652 comments

Now you know (4, Insightful)

Sean (422) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989214)

where those billions and billions of dollars went.

Re:Now you know (5, Funny)

quenda (644621) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989396)

On the plus side, these devices would have been just as effective at locating Saddam's WMDs as any other detectors.

Another reason why (4, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989218)

they shouldn't be allowed to have the bomb. On the plus side, there an easier target.

Maybe I should sell them my ballistic missile protection rock. Only 10 million dollars, and if you are hit by an ICBM contact me for a full refund.

Re:Another reason why (4, Insightful)

quenda (644621) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989372)

they shouldn't be allowed to have the bomb.

Hmm ... you do realise that's Iraq with a Q, not with an N? The country with the nuclear weapons^Wpower program is next door.

Re:Another reason why (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989478)

Right, because we're so much smarter than the Iraqis. We have never had dumb/superstitious people in charge of our military. Therefore they can't handle nukes and we can. /sarcasm

I'd argue that mutually assured destruction is dumber than what we're seeing here. Both are pretty shocking, but "magic bomb detector" risks at most several soldiers' lives, not, you know, everything.

In case you forgot, our leaders were the ones that relied on MAD. With all our eductation and logic, that is what we came up with. If this is the dumbest thing Iraq is doing coming out of Saddam's rule, with little recent history of competent leaders, they're doing pretty well. I wouldn't want them to have nukes, but we're not people who should have nukes either.

Re:Another reason why (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989672)

The case of the good Lieutenant Colonel Gary Brandl: "But the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we're going to destroy him." should probably be mentioned....

Not so different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989228)

What a hilarious quote. See? They're not so different from us after all.

This kind of upsets me (-1, Troll)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989242)

Why should our good men and (and a few women) have to die to 'help' these people?

Re:This kind of upsets me (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989316)

Because our 'good men' made the mess in the first place. If you make a mess, clean it up. That's good advice for a pre-schooler, and good advice for presidents.

Re:This kind of upsets me (5, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989454)

Oh I know what you mean.

I mean, before America showed up it was a happy place. They had flowing meadows, and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.

Re:This kind of upsets me (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989554)

Oh don't worry, I've got a saying for every situation. Here's one you may have heard, "leave a place better than you found it." Or at very least don't leave it worse than you found it. If we had left Iraq a few years ago and let it fall into civil war, things would have been bad.

That's the altruistic way of looking at it. If you want a more selfish reason to keep supporting them, try this one: the middle east is likely to be an important region of the world for years to come, until we find alternatives to oil. Don't you think it would be useful to have a contingent of power in the heart of the area? Cheney and Bush sure did.

In any case, it's silly for you to get upset about Iraq because we've been withdrawing according to schedule for many months now. If you don't like the schedule, that's fine, maybe you can come up with an argument against it.

Re:This kind of upsets me (2, Funny)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989738)

Oh I know what you mean.

I mean, before America showed up it was a happy place. They had flowing meadows, and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.

Yeah, when the Americans showed up, they were all like, "Hey lady, eat the apple off that tree of knowledge." The region went to shit after that.

Re:This kind of upsets me (4, Insightful)

Anpheus (908711) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989786)

Before America showed up they had a tyrant dictator who had the good sense to stay out of religious disputes in an area where people with religious disputes are prone to making their case with guns and bombs, even if it means taking their own lives.

We then invaded this not-so-idyllic nation with not so much as a whit of an idea about what to do to turn such a place into a thriving democracy, when doing so would be plainly unfair to the minorities in the religious disputes.

Democracy works when reasonable people come together and are willing to make decisions and sacrifices for the betterment of all the people. It does not work, sadly, in nations where it has been forced into existence replacing an existing corrupt government that the people had no faith in, and no reason to believe in the new government.

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying, but it seems to me that the way to bring "peace" to the Middle East would be through reason, brutally slow diplomacy and encouraging expression of ideas and open debates, encouraging education of children male and female, etc. Basically, using the thin edge of the wedge. Instead we came in with guns and bombs, things these people are all too familiar with, and the ones who don't like us responded in kind.

Re:This kind of upsets me (4, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989818)

That's like saying it is ok for me to shit in my roommates bed because he hardly ever cleans.

Re:This kind of upsets me (1)

nulldaemon (926551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989918)

That's like saying it is ok for me to shit in my roommates bed because he hardly ever cleans.

hahaha insightful, informative and funny! :)

Re:This kind of upsets me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989582)

Can those of us who never supported the war get a tax break? I wholeheartedly agree that those who made this mess should clean it up.

Re:This kind of upsets me (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989724)

Yeah, me too. It really sucks to be a part of society sometimes, because everyone around you wants to do something different. I hated the Iraq war from the beginning, but at the time, most people actually supported it, so I had no choice but to go along.

Society has disadvantages, but most of the time the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Re:This kind of upsets me (3, Insightful)

Uberbah (647458) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989780)

Because our 'good men' made the mess in the first place. If you make a mess, clean it up. That's good advice for a pre-schooler, and good advice for presidents.

It's also a recipe for an endless, bloody war. Especially when the populace doesn't want you there and the politicians you are supporting are massively corrupt.

Re:This kind of upsets me (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989330)

Why should our good men and (and a few women) have to die to 'help' these people?

I agree insofar as "these people" refers specifically to "heads of Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Explosives" who are wasting a lot of money, refusing to admit they bought snake oil, and then handing them out to Iraq's own good men (and probably not many women) who are putting their lives on the line.

Because those people are assholes and any country deserves better than that.

Re:This kind of upsets me (4, Informative)

quenda (644621) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989558)

Why should our good men and (and a few women) have to die to 'help' these people?

They have oil, and lots of it. As do their neighbours. You seriously have not heard? There is no other reason.
The US alone uses something like 20 million barrels a day and rising, while production is well under half that and falling.
That's a billion dollars per day, and set to rise dramatically as production fails to rise with global demand.

Re:This kind of upsets me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989756)

Because America has been fooled to wage the tribal wars of others. Why did Hitler want genocide on the Jews anyway?

General Jabiri is a complete moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989260)

With people like that Iraq is doomed to remain the well of ignorance, superstition and tribal violence that it is, and that it has been for hundred of years.

Re:General Jabiri is a complete moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989284)

Not Iraq, the entire middle east.

We do it similary here. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989576)

In all fairness to the Iraqis, much of modern forensics "science" is in a similar state in this country. Do you really believe they can match a smudged fingerprint to a single person with 100% accuracy? Then can't match DNA with that accuracy. Of course with DNA they have statistical controls, so they actually have a clue what their accuracy is.

Here's how it really works, the investigators interview everyone they think may have had something to do with it, they decided who they think is guilty and then they look for the evidence to match what they already think is true. This is the same basic principle the Iraqi bomb-detecting dousing rod works on.

So until we are in a place where everyone has a basic understanding of scientific principles, and everyone has a mind inquisitive enough to ask "does this really make sense" we will always be in a place where someone can hold up some scientific sounding technojaron and people will believe him as long as they want it to be true.

Re:We do it similary here. (2, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989810)

much of modern forensics "science" is in a similar state in this country. Do you really believe they can match a smudged fingerprint to a single person with 100% accuracy

Ah, so the fingerprint process with, say 99% accuracy, is equivalent to the Iraqi M50/50 Bomb Divining Device. Right.

So until we are in a place where everyone has a basic understanding of scientific principles ...

I'd suggest you start with your own education. You clearly missed the entire section on probability and statistics.

Re:We do it similary here. (1)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989834)

In our system, the state has to prove guilt. Granted, it sucks (majorly) to be falsely accused, but if you can call (correctly) call bullshit on them in court, a fair-minded jury of your peers can be convinced that the state hasn't proven its case. Baloney like this by the state is why our system is set up this way, so that the burden is never on the accused trying to refute pseudoscience, but on the accuser pushing it.

Security theater... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989270)

... is alive and well. And it takes critical thinking with the possible addition of someone qualified and able to conduct statistical analysis to show someone there is no magic.

Re:Security theater... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989380)

but it takes true perseverance to totally ignore that statistical analysis

Re:Security theater... (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989462)

You fool! The manual specifically stated that rigorous statistical analysis clogs the overunity detector grid and attracts terrorists! Only blind faith can allow the system to protect us.

Re:Security theater... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989596)

And then later, we can contact them by ouija and ask: "So...how'd that work out for ya?".

Re:Security theater... (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989626)

Dear Fuzzyfuzzyfuzzy

I represent the Church of Scientology. I am writing you to settle with us for 20 million dollars, your enfringement of our copyrighted IP. We expect payment soon to avoid legal action.

Sincerely

Tomz Cruize

Re:Security theater... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989544)

Well if it works.... why not use it?

Seriously, if the bombers believe it works they might not try. Placebo Effect!

However, given the history of spectacular bombings of late, it would suggest that bells might be ringing. Because somebody is getting schooled.

 

Confirmation bias (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989274)

Sure, it finds bombs, but youre spending hours wandering around and forgetting about the time you didnt find a bomb.

Re:Confirmation bias (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989312)

It's Iraq, they're not going to wander for long without finding a bomb. Magic rod or no magic rod.

Re:Confirmation bias (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989342)

Right, they'll wave it over a car, think its clean, and let it blow up a bunch of people. In bomb sniffing its the false negatives that kill.

Re:Confirmation bias (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989864)

It's Iraq, they're not going to wander for long without finding a bomb. Magic rod or no magic rod.

Interestingly enough, that's also how water-dowsing works. In most countries you can pick any random point and start digging, and you'll hit water. One of my friends was just commenting the other day on how amazing it was that their neighbors (at their cottage) managed to find water by hiring a water dower. They were thinking of hiring one when they dig their own well next year. I told him he could walk around swinging a dildo and have just as much luck. Even offered to pay for the digging if they don't hit water, as long as he lets me film his 'dowsing' attempt :)

It's not so stupid... (5, Interesting)

Jahava (946858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989298)

But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board”

So in effect, this device will justify my search of anyone that I feel has a bomb. Even if I know it's bogus (and I'd not be surprised if the Iraqis do know this), it permits me to search anyone I want just because I feel they may have a bomb. I'd not be surprised if there was some correlation between suspicious-looking-folks and folks-with-bombs, so the power of unbounded searching is probably (somewhat) effective.

On the other hand, if they really do believe that these devices work, then the bombers may share those beliefs. That, also, could deter bombings.

Either way, it's a win for Iraq ... well, if you don't care about human rights and the millions of dollars.

Re:It's not so stupid... (1)

netruner (588721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989550)

However, it is still an "end around" of one of the central principles of a non-totalitarian government. I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying, but it's an obvious head-first dive down the slippery slope.

Re:It's not so stupid... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989732)

Luckily, neither of our glorious outposts of Democracy in the desert are showing much more than token efforts in the direction of non-totalitarian government, so it shouldn't be a big problem.

That's even more moronic (1)

Namarrgon (105036) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989674)

Not for using known-bogus props as an excuse to conduct searches, which would be clever, but for deliberately paying $60,000 for each of them!

In a target-rich environment? Sure! (2, Insightful)

Megane (129182) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989304)

Even a stopped clock's minute hand is right 24 times a day.

Re:In a target-rich environment? Sure! (2, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989360)

And a clock going backwards is right 48 times a day (ie. twice as accurate!)

Re:In a target-rich environment? Sure! (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989666)

Calculus tells us that as we increase the speed of the counterclockwise moving arm the number of times the clock is right will increase. Therefore if we increase the speed of the clock to infinite it will be correct infinite times per day and will therefore be perfectly accurate. Albeit dangerous to stand near this clock could double as a plane's tubojet propeller.

Re:In a target-rich environment? Sure! (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989924)

Albeit dangerous to stand near this clock could double as a plane's tubojet propeller.

If you've got a propeller that goes faster than the speed of light, please give me your address and I'll invest my life savings.

Works very simply (4, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989318)

It works on a very simple principle, that is used in many devices sold today: the company that makes them probably kicks half the price back to the official who authorized the purchase.

Re:Works very simply (1)

UnConeD (576155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989600)

Going through a US airport, being subjected to the "shower stall" puff test, swabs, electronic fingerprint scanners and hand held metal detectors, the exact same thought occurred to me.

 

Re:Works very simply (3, Insightful)

justthinkit (954982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989698)

Do prisoners passing from one part of the prison to another undergo this much inspection?

Re:Works very simply (3, Funny)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989812)

Actually, the device does work very simply, and is almost 100% accurate.
1) poke object with rod
2) does object blow up?
3) if yes, it was a bomb

Placebo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989326)

IMO, this is just the placebo effect.

From what I understand, detecting bombs is based on looking for something out-of-place, something that shouldn't be there. Give somebody one of these things, and they start trusting their instincts more and voila, more bombs are being detecting because of the magic stick.

Re:Placebo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989428)

To be honest, most bombs tend to be in the same sorts of places. The wheel wells, near high traffic trails and on suicide bombers. Equipment can help, but knowing where to look is far more important than the materials you have at your disposal, with the possible exception of those robots.

May have a benefit.... (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989346)

It may still have a benefit if the terrorists also have such a blind belief in the technology. If they know there are bomb detectors at the gate, they will be less likely to try to sneak a bomb through.

Bugs Bunny (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989354)

Anyone see the Bugs Bunny cartoon [youtube.com] (@6:40) where he was working on an assembly line during WW2? He had a little hammer that he would tap bombs with to see if they were good or not. Of course one after another was a dud, until finally...

I guess if your divining rod detects a suicide bomber... then what? They detonate? I guess it is 100% effective in that case. Bomb detected.

Perhaps they work as a deterrent (2, Insightful)

da cog (531643) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989358)

In fairness, it might be possible that these wands are actually functioning as a *mild* deterrent, if some of the terrorists have been fooled into thinking that the wands will detect their bombs. This is not enough to justify their cost or the foolishness of relying on them alone to detect bombs, but at least it might mean that the wands aren't contributing entirely negative value to those who are using them.

So What? We use "Lie Detectors". (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989382)

Here in the U.S., a great many of our police departments and even federal agencies spend millions on a technology that is equally ridiculous and unprovable in any sort of peer-reviewed scientific study: Lie detectors. If we can have our lie detectors, then surely the Iraqis are entitled to their bomb sniffing dowsing rods.

The proponents of these devices, when confronted with the undeniable technical worthlessness of them, inevitably retreat to the claim that the actual benefits come from the psychology of having people being "investigated" by the devices believe that they are actually capable of something, and then watching their reactions.

Re:So What? We use "Lie Detectors". (2, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989480)

True, but lie detectors do actually measure things. Heart rate, etc. They're not accurate, but they're not magical either.

This is completely retarded, instead of the lie detector's mostly retarded.

Something I learned from P&T:B.... Clench your ass muscle to fool lie detectors.

Re:So What? We use "Lie Detectors". (3, Interesting)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989828)

No post about polygraphy is complete without a link to antipolygraph [antipolygraph.org].

For anyone interested, the site has a lot of great information, including a free book [antipolygraph.org] that goes into intimate details regarding how polygraphs are operated and how their results are interpreted to mean either "truth" or "lies". They even have the operator's handbooks and interpretation guides for giving an examination and information on how to "beat the box".

Very interesting stuff -- doubly so for anyone who might sometime be in a position where taking a polygraph is required for a job or security clearance.

Re:So What? We use "Lie Detectors". (3, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989840)

A quick search suggests that polygraphs normally outperform random chance. By how much seems to be highly variable.

It appears the scientific evidence is that polygraphy is not sufficiently sensitive or specific to be useful as legal evidence, but there's a big difference between a functional but inaccurate technique (i.e. one that outperforms guessing) and one that doesn't.

Our nation-building rocks are also quite popular (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989386)

They also double as tiger repellent rocks. Since use of the rocks, nation building is way up and tiger maulings are way down. With less than 2 tiger maulings a day in the green zone.

I know how this got started (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989392)

Dear General Jehad al-Jabiri,

You may be surprised to hear from me. I am Mrs. John Mutube, former wife of the late general in charge of Nigerian counterterrorism forces. Upon his death I was amazed to discover 15000 (FIFTEEN THOUSAND) special BOMB DETECTION RODS. As my party has fallen out of favor, I find myself destitute. So I am offering you full possession of these BOMB DETECTION RODS for only the cost of shipping. Since the devices are heavy, I must ask that you pay for postage so I can deliver you the rods. Send either money order or credit card particulars to

Mrs. John Mutube
123 Mutube Street
Benin, Nigeria

I look forward to your successful counterterrorism endeavor.

I am, yours truly,

Mrs. John Mutube

What this shows (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989394)

All that use of this device shows is that bombs are rare enough in practice that strict security is unwarranted. It's certainly cheaper security theater than the TSA's sniffers and X-Ray machines. It works because the population believes it works. It'd never go over in the more-educated United States.

Re:What this shows (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989878)

"It'd never go over in the more-educated United States."

This is the same United States where the majority of the population believes in angels and aliens, yes? And more to the point, a large number of people believe there's something to homeopathy?

This made me feel better (1)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989398)

Sure, my local politicians are incompetent and corrupt.

But I see now that it could be much worse!

Yeah, laugh at the people in Iraq (1, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989464)

It isn't like anyone in the US uses dousing rods to find water. Oh wait? What's that they do. Well, at least they don't construct electronic devices which they claim do things which they don't? Oh wait, what's that about all sorts of alternative medicine devices http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgone [wikipedia.org]? I suppose I don't even need to bother to list all the other fun beliefs, like astrology, ghosts, electronic voice phenomena. Oh and doesn't the federal government still use lie detector tests despite the scientific consensus that they don't work? Yeah, despite all that, let's make a big deal about what the people in Iraq are doing. After all, they are primitive foreigners. There's no way good, right-thinking Americans would act that way.

Re:Yeah, laugh at the people in Iraq (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989632)

dude, we laugh at and deride all those looney Americans you listed.
Equal treatment of foolishness.
Don't project your secret-racism onto us.

Re:Yeah, laugh at the people in Iraq (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989836)

Yeah, despite all that, let's make a big deal about what the people in Iraq are doing. After all, they are primitive foreigners. There's no way good, right-thinking Americans would act that way.

Oh hey look, it's a Slashdot article making fun of lie detectors [slashdot.org]! Without mentioning the silly beliefs of Iraqis or anyone else! Thus clearly demonstrating the pro-Iraqi, anti-American biases of Slashdot.

Waitaminute... contradiction... Must... Invoke... Selective... Reasoning... No it's not working!

Okay, I guess instead I'll just have to say that we make fun of polygraphs, dousing rods, and other such things in articles about those things, and we make fun of Magic Bomb Detectors in articles about those. Now doesn't that just make a ton more sense?

Re:Yeah, laugh at the people in Iraq (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989912)

> It isn't like anyone in the US uses dousing rods to find water. Oh wait?

Actually we used dowsing to find fresh water when I was a kid and I still vividly remember that day. My dad thought it was a bunch of bullshit too until the Y stick mom was holding turned so hard that it tore the bark right off and started to cut both his hands - that's how tight of a grip my Dad was holding on.

Considering we were adjacent to a potash salt lake, I was surprised it worked too. For some reason it only seemed to work really well with a Y willow stick, and using the right amount of push outwards.

There was an even mention of dowsing on Quirks and Quarks with Jay Ingram on CBC radio a few years later. Kind of nice to know we weren't the only crazy ones.

--
Dark Matter by any other name is still Ether

Water for Thought... (2, Interesting)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989496)

When I was living in NY, I worked with a fellow who had his well pointed out by a local Dowser. It cost him $300 in 1990.

And for $300, he would tell you exactly where you should dig, precisely how far you should dig, how much water you were going to get (GPM), how long it would last, whether it was subject to drought or could be relied upon during dry spells. He could also eliminate sources with salt, sulfur, iron, calcium and anything else you don't want in your water. He'd take a wire flag and write the instructions for the driller on the flag, then stick it precisely where they were supposed to drill.

The catch?

The Dowser gave his guarantee in writing, with a quadruple your money back if anything was less than what he promised. Goes dry? Not enough flow? Muddy, salty, iron, sulfur? He'll pay you $1200.

When I heard the story from my co-worker, the old fellow hadn't needed to pay anyone back in the 20 years he'd been doing it. Dunno if he's still alive now, though.

And I'm not sure he'd want to try this out with explosives if he still is.

Re:Water for Thought... (1)

jeffasselin (566598) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989668)

Dowsers are right sometimes, but no better than a geologist would be just looking at the lay of the land. In double-blind controlled tests, they fail every single time.

Re:Water for Thought... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989734)

lol.
Sounds like a great business to be in. Just provide service within an area covering an aquifer which meets the requirements!

Re:Water for Thought... (2, Interesting)

justthinkit (954982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989798)

I've seen a dowser in action. Our family of city folks moved to the country some decades back. We moved next to third generation farmers. The patriarch was the most easy-going, friendly, all-the-time-in-the-world-for-you kind of guy you would ever imagine lived on this planet. Worked all day every day. Had no one to show off to, no one to notice what he did except us, I suppose.

One day he had stopped his truck by our orchard, taking one of his perfectly untimed smoke breaks, and the subject of dowsing came up. He talked about not only finding water but also being able to figure out flow rates and depth. He proceeded to cut a Y-shaped branch from a tree and dowse our property. We had a known stream that flowed through the property and he found it, of course. But what I remember was how that inanimate branch turned into a straining, curving, living thing as it dived toward the ground. In my mind there was simply no way you could hold a branch and make it do that -- the branch itself wanted to do it, and did it.

It is incredibly easy to be skeptical and cynical, until you have seen something that rivals the best magician's trick. From a guy who spent most of every day of his life by himself.

Re:Water for Thought... (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989802)

I don't believe a word of it unless you send a link to a guy selling the things with that guarantee. Dowsing for water pipes on the other-hand sort of has a degree of reasoning. The flow of water through the pipe could induce a flow of charge. If you stand above the pipe and hold a stick with two metal rods attached to it hanging at right angles. When you are over the flow they move to form a straight line, this is to satisfy the magnetic field.

______ Ground
>====> Pipe w/ direction of flow

(_(_(_(_( Ground w/ magnetic field lines
>======> Pipe w/ direction of flow
) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) More field lines going into the earth.

Of course though there might be some degree of moving charge I sincerely doubt it would be anything near enough to pull a stunt like this off. But at least it requires a highschool level science education rather than magic. I'm sure we have some kind of fancy laser radar xray... some kind of scanning tech that would find water much more accurately. So the point is kind of moot anyways.

Magic! Shiny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989512)

" 'Whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,' said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Explosives."

Did GWB personally appoint these people?

umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989538)

Vietnam is going to look like a walk in the park...

There must be a heck of a lot of bombs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989602)

Otherwise, they'd start complaining about all of the false-positives from the devices.

Works real well, actually (2, Funny)

sabernet (751826) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989722)

The dowser explodes, thereby simultaneously indicating where the bomb was and disposing it.

What? Too soon?

It's all about the $ (1)

shadowblaster (1565487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989744)

I don't know how much a real bomb detector cost, but it'll probably be more expensive than these bogus wands.

The people who bought this probably knew it doesn't work but they use it anyway to give whoever they are protecting a (false) sense of security.

This is absolutely brilliant!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29989886)

So... let's get this right...you give the guy a divining rod and then tell them to them to wander around a suspected mine field holding this thing. When it dips (or crosses, you found a mine). Yup, that'll work. Hard to believe we can't seem to win this war.

Seen this before! (5, Interesting)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989888)

Michael Shermer, famous Skeptic, gave a TED speech [ted.com] on "why people believe strange things." He actually brought one of those detectors out on stage, and said that US public schools were buying it as a marijuana detector, and paying hundreds of dollars for it. Looking at the image in the article, it appears to be the same device.

A likely placebo effect (2, Insightful)

slagell (959298) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989900)

There is likely to be something similar to a placebo effect (in addition to confirmation bias and other psychological pitfalls) that will reinforce the idea that this works for officials there. If they believe it works, it is likely at least some bombers will, too. So it has a deterrent effect that is likely measurable. Therefore if they do some correlation studies later, they are likely to find places that do use these will have lower rates of incident (as long as you don't compare to places with actual bomb detection).

Show Me Statistics (2, Insightful)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989906)

'Whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,' said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Explosives.

I'd be interested to see some numbers on this. It's all fun and games until the other guy turns out to be right, you know.

What are we doing there? (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989922)

Are we colonizing? I hope not! That would be an impossible task!

Are we raping and pillaging? Nope!

What the hell are we doing there, other than spending money?

What a WASTE.

Obama's demonstrating that he's powerless to take command of the military.

But it comes with a warranty (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29989926)

Sounds great, but according to a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack they work on the same principle as a Ouija board -- the power of suggestion.

Guaranteed to find bombs or your money back!

I have to suggest this to some of those Does It Work? shows...the ones I don't like.

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