Grauniad: “Water divining is bunk. So why do myths continue to trump science?”

Guest lampooning by David Middleton

Hopefully, this post won’t have as many typos as my last post.

I just love ridiculing The Grauniad…


The news that many water companies use dowsing to locate underground water has prompted outraged demands from scientists that they desist at once from wasting time and money on “medieval witchcraft”. They are right to call this practice deluded. But it reveals how complicated the relationship is between scientific evidence and public belief.

When the science blogger Sally Le Page highlighted the issue after her parents spotted an engineer dowsing for Severn Trent Water, the company responded to her query by claiming that “we’ve found some of the older methods are just as effective than [sic] the new ones” (such as the use of drones and satellite imaging). The engineer concerned told her parents that dowsing works for him eight times in 10.

Further inquiry elicited the comment from Yorkshire Water that “although few and far between, some of our techs still use them!”, while Anglian Water said: “There have been occasions where we’ve used dowsing rods.” Le Page says that 10 out of 12 British water companies she approached have admitted to the practice. But “admitted” isn’t quite the right word; what is striking is the jaunty tone of these responses, as if to say: “Yes, isn’t it extraordinary that these old methods work?”

Let’s be clear: dowsing doesn’t work. Le Page’s blog links to detailed experiments conducted in Germany in the 1980s which showed that the dowsers tested weren’t locating water at levels better than random chance.


The resistance to basic scientific reasoning and evidence displayed by large businesses that also deploy cutting-edge space technology may seem lamentable, but it shouldn’t surprise us. It has never been more apparent that an inability to make scientifically informed choices is no obstacle to flourishing in modern society.


Given that company executives and engineers seem no more immune to pseudoscience than the rest of the population, it’s not obvious that better public education about science is going to dispel the modern-day survival of concepts rooted in Renaissance natural magic. (Whether the public should be expected to bear any costs incurred is quite another matter.) Rather, these beliefs need to be understood – and if necessary confronted – in the way that all magical thinking should be: as an expression of desire and the need for consolation.

Philip Ball is a science writer

The Grauniad

This bit is worth repeating…

The resistance to basic scientific reasoning and evidence displayed by large businesses that also deploy cutting-edge space technology may seem lamentable, but it shouldn’t surprise us. It has never been more apparent that an inability to make scientifically informed choices is no obstacle to flourishing in modern society.

Given that company executives and engineers seem no more immune to pseudoscience than the rest of the population…

It always amuses me when academic pinheads and “science writers” lament about private sector scientists and engineers resisting the “basic scientific reasoning and evidence” which they reject.

While, there are lots of reasons to doubt that dowsing can directly detect water, minerals, lost jewelry or anything else.  Dowsing can detect subtle variations in the Earth’s magnetic field… And the presence of groundwater can cause magnetic anomalies.


Perturbations on the earth’s magnetic field may coincide with the existence of groundwater. Theoretical calculations are made showing how and to what extent this effect may exist. The suggestion is also made that water dowsers may get a dowsing reaction as a result of entering a change in magnetic gradient. Tests were conducted to determine the statistical significance of dowsing reactions obtained by separate individuals dowsing in a common test area. Approximately 150 people participated in the experiment over a period of one year. Chi·square tests showed considerable statistical significance. Virtually all people tested experienced dowsing reactions though most of them had never dowsed before. There is some evidence of correlation between magnetic gradient changes and dowsing reactions.

Chadwick, Duane G. and Jensen, Larry, “The Detection of Magnetic Fields Caused by Groundwater” (1971). Reports. Paper 568.

Utah State University

There are reasons why scientists and engineers, with decades of experience in their fields and successful track records, might just choose to ignore the lamentations of academic pinheads and “science writers” and continue to employ practical methodologies despite the “outraged demands from scientists” to cease and desist.

Disclaimer: As a professional geologist, I am not endorsing dowsing as a method of finding anything.  I’m just pointing out that the real world operates in a totally different universe than government, academia and journalism do.

Featured image from Wikipedia.



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Warren in New Zealand

Damn, I’ve been fooling everyone for the last 40 years. The springs and wells have just been fortunately right where I said they were.


I guess dowsing rods work perfectly, except when subjected to scientific and repeatable testing, when they work no better than guessing.

Oh, and when I’ve seen them used in the field, and they didn’t work.

Warning! Anecdote follows….The last time I saw one used in the field, a “tech” with a dowsing rod “located” a water pipe. At the same time, I guessed where it would be, based on a few observations of the area. I was three feet off from the actual location. The dowser was over 10 feet off, and then later claimed credit for accurately locating the pipe.


Indeed, someone who knows what they’re doing, using no more than a mark-1 eyeball and some brain power, should be able to locate water underground with better than random chance. But the power of self delusion knows no bounds.

Ron Long

Hi Richard, I have an even better anecdote: I stopped at a gas station (a long time ago) in Battle Mountain, Nevada and noticed a lady walking around with a forked stick in her hands and followed by several persons. I asked what she was doing and was told they cannot finds the plans for the water pipe into the restrooms and she was going to find it for them. I took out my trusty EM-37 and turned it on and quickly found the pipe. Too bad this submarine communication system was turned off, it let geologists find hidden faults, magnetite deposits, pipes, etc quite easily.


What is an EM37?
I am guessing some sort of meter, but would like to know for sure.
A quick google search did not say.
And what do you mean by “this submarine detection system” being turned off?


Seems you are not being fair to the science water exploration skeptics.


Who me?


apparently it’s a soil conductivity meter.

R Taylor

Menicholas: An EM16 is meter that indicates the local tilt of a VLF field. Various navies have operated coastal VLF transmitters to communicate with submarines.


In my line of work, we often have occasion to locate unground conduits and cable and wires, and it can be very difficult, even when having a very good idea of where to dig based on logic and knowledge of the cost of digging and burying things to begin with…people tend to go in straight lines and thus minimize cost.
There are devices one can attach to wires in a panel and get a map, not an indication, but a diagram, of where the wires are and even where j-boxes with connections are located…depth is another story.
But such devices cost a few thousand dollars, so we do not have one, since it is not strictly speaking our problem, but would merely be convenient for our customers to not have to hire another contractor. But well equipped electricians have them.
And finding pipes and especially leaks is easy for people with listening equipment…they can find tiny leaks under concrete, and hear water flowing in pipes with no leaks.
So all of these stories of various companies having no idea how to find buried equipment and lines have zero or at least very little credibility to me.
And well drillers drill wells in a given area on a regular basis, and have typically been doing so for many years if not for generations.
Finding water is not difficult…it is harder not to find it in most areas.


Underground, not unground.


“Finding water is not difficult…it is harder not to find it in most areas”. Very true Menicholas. I do a lot of work with mineral exploration drill rigs, and we find water in almost every drillhole once we get below the groundwater level. Dowsers give the impression that they are locating rare conduits of underground water. In most cases water is found in joints and fractures in rock, which are hard to miss if you keep drilling.

Ron Long

Menicholas, an EM-37 is a small hand-held electromagnetic current flow meter. It was tuned to the transmit frequency of the submarine communication station in Minnessotta and it functioned like this: The user ran a transect across a suspected conductor and the meter showed, both by analog meter and a sound intensity, at what angle the current was coming out of the ground. As you walked over the conductor it showed a much steeper angle, even to vertical flow, and the location of a conductor was confirmed. Faults filled with salty (or sulfate, etc) water were good conductors, as were water pipes with water flowing in them. The transmitting station was turned off due to environmentalists protests (no earthworms for 20 miles around, all of the children were not uncommonly good, etc, and satellites could send directed and encrypted signals straight down to an underwater submarine. When the signal was turned off the EM-37 was useless, although you could set up a transmitter locally and sort of use it as a simple EM receiver.

Old England

In the 1970s I had a customer in England who made his living dowsing for water in Spain and Portugal.

Soviet Russia regularly used dowsing from planes to detect mineral deposits in Siberia and other uninhabited regions.

I’ve never had any doubt in the ability of some people to dowse.

Crispin in Waterloo

My mother is the only member of my immediate family of 6 who could not dowse. I have seen two methods used: the forked stick, preferable fruitwood like cherry, and dried for a few days or it is too sensitive, and the metre stick and water bottle, which is used to determine the depth of the water, whether a pipe, a water course or a water table. I have seen a guy locate a 50mm buried pipe of water and his 10 year old kid determine it was only a metre down (and therefore a pipe, something confirmed later).

Working in the field in Africa, in a hard rock region of granite intrusions notorious for the difficulty in getting useable wells, a geologist was hired for two months at huge expense, and an old Brit who used the both the methods above. The geologist found exactly nothing and the dowsing Brit got a usable hole 85% of the time. Science says we can accept the working hypothesis that dowsing works.

I have no idea how it works. I can attest that holding a forked cherry sprig exactly as shown in the photo but thinner (right) works well enough that if gripped sufficiently, the two branches will break under the twisting force as on crosses over an underground steam at 90 degrees, or it will spin in tight, sweaty hands that are unable to restrain it.

I do not yet accept that it is caused only by a magnetic gradient. The force involved is certainly in the multi ft-lb range. Having personal experience of it, I accept that it works and recognise that is does not fit very well into the clockwork universe of Western materialist philosophies. Tough buns.

Samuel C Cogar

Old England said it best when he said, to wit:

I’ve never had any doubt in the ability of some people to dowse.

Dowsing has been a part of human history for the past several thousands of years and hundreds of historical documents make mention of dowsers and/or the act of dowsing. (See/read the cited article below)

Dowsing is not an imaginary “religious belief” that humans are forced/nurtured to believe is “true and factual”, …….. it is a physical act that humans can witness for themselves and then decide if it is “truth or fiction”.

Personally, I believe dowsing is possible ……. and some people are really good and/or talented at doing it. It is like a “7th sense” that only a few people have inherited and capable of utilizing.

Dowsing: Ancient History ……. Written by Lloyd Youngblood

The Ancient art of dowsing has been practiced throughout millennia, although the names used to identify it may have changed in different cultures and eras, the techniques have not.

Read more @

“HA”, the 1st time I ever attempted dowsing, I used 2 straightened-out and re-bent wire coat hangers and I located a 1” iron water pipe that was buried like 5 feet underground.

Now did dowsing work for me …… or was I just mighty lucky?

Now I was sure it “worked” ……. but my brother thought I was just damn lucky.


Those who assert dowsing does not work appear to have closed minds – on dowsing, at least.
Those who think there may be (or ‘is’) something in dowsing seem to be open to new learnings, and, perhaps, not just on dowsing.

I have never tried dowsing.

What few – reasonably close to first hand – anecdotes I have heard [not all over a beer] give a mixed picture.
But I would be happy to try dowsing, even here in South London!
There may be something to learn.
I note Crispin says – “I have no idea how it works.” – well, I most certainly have no idea!



I am curious…does dowsing “work” only if held by a person?
If there is a force on the rods or stick used, would it not be better to use a machine to hold the devices and track back and forth in a regular grid?
If it only works when held in a human hand, it seems unlikely to be a physical effect.
I try to keep an open mind and tell myself that how people respond to stuff like this should not inform me of who is a credible source of information and opinions going forward…
Trying trying…uunnnghhhh….damn!
A dry stich feels a force of several foot pounds from underground water? Huh!?


I hate it when my rod is too sensitive.


“I have no idea how it works. I can attest that holding a forked cherry sprig exactly as shown in the photo but thinner (right) works well enough that if gripped sufficiently, the two branches will break under the twisting force as on crosses over an underground steam at 90 degrees, or it will spin in tight, sweaty hands that are unable to restrain it.”
The electron apparently (and insanely from a math viewpoint) is an infinitely point particle with a point charge. One would think that an isolated electron and proton would naturally just combine being so attracted to each other; but amazingly a force of about 6 million EV is required to force them together. Even then, logic would say that the electron has just combined with the proton to make a neutron; but noooo the electron becomes some sort of “quark” and oddly that quark emits an electron when the neutron turns back into a proton. Photons have considerable volume wavelength but are emitted from a tiny circular electron orbit decay to become particle like. The best descriptions don’t provide a clue as to the true identity of these kinds of objects.
One would think that with this level of un-understanding, that something just described for dowsing at the macro level would generate much interest in actual study for cause and effect. But alas, such is not the case, and ridicule seems to be the general proper course of action.


That sounds like computer generated nonsense.
Or possibly human created to identify the weak minded and the posers.

Samuel C Cogar

For those of you who are dubious of or don’t trust the claims that a “dowsing stick” actually works, ….. here is a picture of a “weather stick” that you can trust to actually work ……. by purchasing yourself one and watching it in action, to wit:
comment image

Read more @

Ben of Houston

From my experience, it’s not dowsing that works, but the experience of the dowser in recognizing locations. It’s the only explanation that explains the evidence.

1: Every experimental test that I’ve seen has concluded it doesn’t work.
2: The mechanisms don’t make a lick of sense given our knowledge of it
3: Many people successfully use dowsing to locate water sources.

So, in short, I see no reason to believe a forked stick is necessary. However, people have an innate ability to see patterns, so I see no reason to believe that someone cannot look carefully at the ground and identify where water or even other things are. Never underestimate the wisdom of the old.


“From my experience, it’s not dowsing that works, but the experience of the dowser in recognizing locations.”

I kind of wonder that, too. I’ve found things by dowsing before (though I only tried it casually a few times years ago when a friend was into it), but I’m far from convinced it has anything to do with the metal rods. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s just a result of focussing the senses on details of the locations that we wouldn’t normally be concentrating on.


OK, thank you for the explanation.
Can you tell me who makes it?
I see that there are some such devices that are rather inexpensive. I bought one once, but it was pretty much useless for what I needed it for, to locate underground j-boxes…because this is almost always where problems occur.
The good kind cost several thousand…$2500 used to get a decent one that could be connected to a conductor and would give a diagram. Including j-boxes.
I once had a tech who had previously been an ATT lineman…he told me they had equipment that could be connected to a wire pair that would give a readout of all sorts of info that would seem to be nearly magic to determine just from hooking to a buried wire. Which is what I was thinking the first time I saw a wire locator work…in ten seconds it told the whole story on a screen in diagram form.
So a large utility company mystified about where their pipes are?

Roger Knights

“So a large utility company mystified about where their pipes are?”

If it is going to be digging, it may want to avoid hitting the pipes and cables that other entities have laid down. (There are water pipes, gas pipes, sewer pipes, electrical lines, and misc. junk.


In this case it’s not only about using a tech solution but resolving a mystery (of course most could care less about those). To paraphrase, Feynman claimed that he read all of his contrary mail just in case someone accidentally had an idea worth pursuing. Rarely is that attitude looked upon as worthy of effort by others. In this instance, assuming that the effect was repeatable, many things could be looked at to enhance understanding such as various kinds of shielding or mag/static fields (a little imagination helps a lot).
As for “That sounds like computer generated nonsense.” try any Modern Physics book to help out. The one requirement for quantum physics math “renormalization” are the infinities involved with entities like the electron. There are still arguments over what a photon “looks” like. An example of the confusion follows: “However, in quantum field theory this electron is surrounded by a cloud of possibilities of other virtual particles such as photons, which interact with the original electron. Taking these interactions into account shows that the electron-system in fact behaves as if it had a different mass and charge.” And that is just a portion of the description provided.
However if you can provide a more useful visual “picture” of an electron or any other entity at this atomic level then please enlighten us.
Bravo indeed….

if animals can navigate using the earths magnetic field it seems likely humans might had a similar capacity. the dowsing rod serves the same purpose as a Ouija board. it distracts the conscious mind so the subconscious can communicate parts of the brain that are not accessible to the consciousness.


That’s my take on most aspects of Metaphysics, and I think you got that nail pretty hard with the hammer.

That the mechanism is there, we just don’t know exactly what that mechanism really is.

Take Synchronicity. It’s currently untestable. But the sheer evidence of it’s existence cannot be doubted. All anecdotal of course. But it’s not only me to experience it.

As for the Collective SubConscious I’ve already solved that one as being genetically encoded memory, also given that our Consciousness it’s actually “delayed observation from the Now (present)”. I don’t have my notes (I only have a phone no PC) so I’ll add a reply with some interesting, stuff, about this after I find it. Lol


Didn’t take me long:

The Subconscious processes the surroundings and determines actions, just milliseconds before being Consciously aware. Even visual/auditory synchronization (how a nearby gun shot’s flash & bang appear simultaneous) distort our apprehension of Reality.

Before sensory stimuli is perceived motor signals are generated; we become aware an infinitesimally short time prior to the motor action occurring. This is exemplified with the Bereitschaftspotential, or ‘readiness potential’ where researcher Benjamin Libet conclusively found that our brain reacts to signal muscular movement 0.35 seconds •prior• to Conscious awareness.¹

Neurocognitive experiments conducted by David Eagleman indicates a minimum junction between actual events & the Conscious perception of the ‘present’, being “no less than 80 miliseconds”.²,³

Additionally, perception of sensory stimuli is modified when coupled with proprioceptive stimuli (motor actions) as adaptive recalibration⁴ or even fully reverse the order of sensory inputs coming after motor actions, to appear as if occurring before the action itself.⁵



And for the genetically encoded memory:

And I am dipping back a few years, forgot I had these notes still, here’s the more relevant section:

Plants (orchids mostly) can even co-op other species of what we consider higher order animals (bees, hummbirds, etc) for pollination purposes.³ ⁴
Sea anemones engage in what can be considered ‘war’ for territory.⁵

Yet even further from plants:

Corvids pretty much rival dolphins,elephants & primates in intelligence.⁶
African Driver ants use tools (dirt) to soak the slime of slugs.⁷

How exactly was this learned? How did this behavior become encoded into genetic programming?

³ (22:00)


“Resistance to evidence?” How ’bout those XX and XY chromosomes, kids? 😉

Science can be SOOOOOO “inconvenient!”

Dousing doesn’t conform to the scientific method, but seems to work well enough for experienced water engineers to continue using it. And isn’t it better to get a guy in with 2 sticks that cost nothing, before charging a customer hundreds of quid to use the latest scientific kit, which probably has no more success than twigs?

Lots of things we don’t understand, in fact more than we do understand, many of them work and defy our feeble grasp of science.


There definitely is a physical effect, even if scientists don’t understand the slightest thing about it. Many like Graudiad so-called science writers have zero qualifications in science but think they will be more sciency if they take a strong, adamant position of ignorance.

Of course this is all really about AGW. They are trying to promote their science credentials in order to be seen as some kind of authority when taking about the “science” of global warming.

They foolishly confuse lack of knowledge with proof of falsehood. I clearly remember being taught at school that there were NO planets outside our solar system. They forgot to explain that would not have known if there were and that not have seen any was not the same as there not being any.

They then pull one “paper” from 40 years ago ( probably done by someone with an axe to grind on the subject ) as though that is the last word on the subject.

Strangely they have no problem promoting other bunk where the data needs to be post hoc ‘corrected” in order the make the “science” work.


I quit making comments on the Guardian, in fact reading it at all when my posts (perfectly polite, on topic and seemingly conforming to their standards) began getting regularly, and tactically it would seem, deleted.

Mark - Helsinki

HotScot, I documented with screen shots how the Guardian sanitize completely polite scientifically accurate posts in their comments after they close the comments section.

Furthermore, the mods are active in the comments, but are not ID’d as mods, and when you post a reply that puts their claims in serious doubt, it never appears in the comments, because the user you are debunking, is a mod and simply mods your post into the abyss to make it look like they win, Rockyrex is one, a mod and commenter, well was, last time I was there, maybe over a year ago, I dont give the Grauniad clicks any more.

Mark – Helsinki

Rocky Rex.

I have crossed swords with that opinionated buffoon on many occasions although I was not aware he was a mod. Most of my tactically deleted posts were directed at him, of course. And as you pointed out, left the comments section with his pronouncements hanging as though unopposed. He claims to be an ex school science teacher with a scientific qualification but maintain he’s not a scientist. And you might have noticed that every scenario has a stock response, from his little scientific database of ‘facts’.

One of the last discussions I had with him was over the total lack of empirical scientific evidence for CO2 causing the planet to heat. He regularly trotted out a single paper to refute that claim, but when I searched for it, I found it had been credibly debunked (global temperature measurement taken from the depths of a La Ninia to the heights of an El Nino) and when I presented him with this, naturally my post disappeared and his was left as the smug pronouncement that he was correct.

Effing corrupt socialist rag.


“I documented with screen shots how the Guardian sanitize completely polite scientifically accurate posts in their comments after they close the comments section.”

Check out:

It is a website run by Guardian (ex-?) readers which contradicts the nonsense in the Guardian. Your comments will not be deleted.


“Effing corrupt socialist rag.”

Socialist is a synonym for corrupt. I shall have to report you to the Department of Redundancy Department.


Before WWII, scientists rejected the idea that rocks could fall from space.
But I never heard or read that there were categorically no planets outside of our solar system.
And astronomy was one of the first branches of natural science I studied in my yoot.


It is not just rags like the Guardian and Grauniad.
And continuing to post after even one example of this happening is just hard headed.
I was finally done with publications like Scientific American and Discover magazine and many others when I found my comments being deleted.
It only takes one example to know who they are.


The real point is surely that the expensive “sciencey” methods don’ work either – if they did, these companies wouldn’t be using dowsing.

Larry D

“… if they did, these companies wouldn’t be using dowsing.”
Well, dowsing has to be cheaper. Possibly faster.


Hotscot misspelled “squid”. It is obvious to me if there are hundreds of squid down there, that there would surely be water. Although it would be salt water, no???
—Oh, sod it!—I can’t understand all this (Props, Monte Python)


The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Dowsing obviously does exist, in as much that the rod will move in certain places and not in others. And it appears to react to magnetic gradients in a way we don’t understand. Thus it may react to the presence of groundwater.
If it works we must accept it – even if “scientific consensus” claims it cannot possibly work.


And how does a dry stick feel a force from a magnetic gradient changing?
And why does it not get messed up by underground minerals?
Fact is, most places have water under the ground.
Saying “it works” without some sort of example or qualification is just the same as making an assertion.


First a “dry stick” will find nothing because it is not flexible. A too green “stick” has too much water in it and will not find water, because it doesn’t need any more water. You cannot find underground ground water in ground that is saturated wet by dowsing, because it will be attracted by everywhere the surface ground is wet. But dry surface ground – like in a drought -is when dowsing works the best, because that moisture in the divining branch is what attracts it to water. A close stream or pond will attract the branch too, if it is held too high and not level to slightly downward. Each dowser has their preferred methods of holding the stick still and the vibrations in the stick is felt in the hand (‘s) that give them the signal to direction. You may not see this as “science” because of your bias opinion. But it was dowsing that gave the ideology that elements are attracted to eachother and electronic device’s were invented to that effect. My father was a “prospector” and as I learned from him, dowsing is a scientific art. You could take any kind of woods and paint them the same color to where all the grain is obscured. With a nickel sized sample of each of the woods he could find its matching board… No matter how you layed them out or covered them or buried them. Dad worked drilling water wells here in Arizona for 7 year’s and the owner always trusted his dowsing to find the right place to drill. This valley is an ancient ocean bed of silt from the surrounding mountains. Underneath the surface are hills and mountains that got covered like the ocean floor is now. The bedrock holds the majority of the water table above it inside all that mass of silt. So a house built on top of a mountain underneath the desert surface will not have water under it that will not produce a water well on that property…but the next door neighbor may have the best well in the area because their property is over a gully between those mountains that have no indication of being there on the surface.


You cannot find anything by dowsing, because it is nonsense.
I went light on my first few comments, and just asked a few questions, but I have reached my limit.
I am calling bullshit, 100% unadulterated hogwash and crapolla.
Save your denunciations of my open mindedness.
I am glad to hear from everyone who lends credence to this crap…I can safely ignore them in the future…anything they may be correct about is as likely due to random chance as anything.
But more importantly, they lack credibility, plain and simple, through and through.
So babble on, drowsingistas.
Too bad you all forgot how volatile a person credibility is.


Just as a genius can be totally ignorant about things they have not learned or experienced. You fail to be objective in what you know nothing about. You go from skeptical to full denial to present your ignorance. Because everything relies upon having impeccable scientific facts to support your ideologies. You forget that science is still very young in the history of human discovery. We have moved very fast over the last century in fields of some sciences and slow in others because of human needs of understanding something outweighs that of others. We have made electronic device’s that take away the human abilities to do the same thing that has been done for centuries. We are just animal’s with greater learning abilities than all other species of animals. You can close your mind or open it to what you are ignorant about. That is your choice. But insulting others, that are not as ignorant as you are in this matter, is showing everyone how detached from reality you are being. Which is the 3 fingers pointing back at you when you point at another. It is established science that each element gives off a distinct electromagnetic field or wave length. That they will bond together under the right condition. That attraction is how dowsing works. Just because no one has figured out a method to measure it by science doesn’t mean it is not occurring. Look at how much science cannot answer and is used as facts of climate changes. Being skeptical on that is because there is no real proof of it. But the indoctrinated will follow those ideologies just the same and defend their point of views, when science says it cannot work that way with proof.


Blah blah blah.
Prove it and get rich.
it is a no brainer…been done for eons by anyone who tries…so what is this about it being an unknown field.
Fame and fortune await.
No fingers are pointing back at me that I care one whit about…I am open to evidence, not pseudoscientific babbling or anecdotes of some unexplained phenomenon.
Prove it.
Lots of stuff is unlikely but true.
So show us.
Okay, next lesson in ranting please…I am all ears.
*laughing at you*


By the way, no one has to measure anything…just do what they always do while people are watching or cameras rolling or in trials with buried pipes that are unknown to the dowser.
What could be easier?
Your words are meaningless compared to the lack of anyone ale to do it under controlled conditions.
Completely meaningless.
And BTW, stating facts are not insults.
If someone is spouting malarkey and someone says that is bullshit, that is no insult, it is the truth. if you are insulted, that is your problem.
Being thin-skinned is no defense.
You sound like a SJW insisting people need to consider the feelings of others rather than adhering to principles.


Oh, also BTW…add a paragraph break here and there if you expect anyone to read all the way through your sophistry.


“Lots of things we don’t understand….” That’s an important point and one that has enlightened my view of the physical world and the spiritual.

Christian thought, and certainly Judaism and Islam are no different, is based on the distinction between the physical and the supernatural. And one of the characteristics of the supernatural is its inscrutability. And the distinction between the two is not necessarily fixed and unchangeable. For example, Christianity has gotten fully comfortable with the notion of evolution and Vatican II has memorialized this.

If you believe this, then humans are cut down a notch because you believe that there is a higher power than yourself. And this notion may or may not lead to the belief that the supernatural has an interest in humans. If you do then religion becomes attractive. If you don’t then fatalism is a possibility -or perhaps agnosticism, or atheism.

People who think that science can answer everything are more inclined to believe, among other things, that we can understand how the atmosphere works and that climate models can actually be an infallible tool. People with a sense of humility are more likely to be skeptical about the ability of science to fully comprehend the atmosphere – at least in its current state of refinement.

Statements by agw mavens about 97% consensus and total confidence in attribution studies lead skeptical people to scoff at these statements and doubt what they hear about “settled science”. Those taught to be skeptical are likely to be doubters about climate change. Add these people to the numbers who are led by politics and Obama hatred (i.e.Trumpsters), and you have a sizable constituency that will resist being bullied by consensus believers.

Gerry, England

I have done it using two biro barrels and two bent bits of cost hanger in them. You hold the barrels so the wires point forward and walk slowly forwards. If you find something then the wires swing inwards and cross. I think it is a detection of a disturbance in the magnetic field and trawling back through my memory it was shown to be the lower back that detected it and caused an imperceptible movement of your arms. They used something to project a field change onto your body and the wires crossed as you stood still, and then swung back again when it was stopped.


“Our feeble grasp of science.” Hey, I’m sure my 11th-great-grandfather, driving his oxcart full of onions down to the quay, thought HE knew everything there was to know, too. . .

Someday our current grasp of The Way Stuff Works will be considered primitive.

MY favorite gas alway sbeen “Wear warm clothes and don’t get wet, or get chilled or you’ll catch cold.”
The British in the 1930’s debunked all of the conditions which even doctors considered as probable
cold causers – during the winter they doused college student subjects with water, then blew wind
on them, and so on and so forth and the test subjects caught no more or more serious colds than the placebo student subjects. Once you know why people catch colds or the flu, it becomes obvious why the old wives’ tales were all wet.

Ian Macdonald

That may be true but there is also overwhelming evidence the people tend to catch colds more often in cold weather. Which is probably for reasons other than the human body being cold. It may be because water droplets survive longer in cool air, for example. Another example of correlation not indicating causation.


In cold weather, people stay indoors with the windows closed more often. More people indoors = more chances to catch whatever the other people have.


Winter air is wetter making it a better medium to transfer viruses.


Actually more people catch diseases during warmer weather, due to the proliferation of vectors and pathogens.
Cold weather can induce additional stress on the system, but the causing pathogens still need to be present to contract the disease. During the winter seasons often the close confinement of humans is more the causal situation for the spread of diseases such as the common cold.

Interesting correlations should not be ignored, but should be studied for common factors which may lead towards yet another correlation or causation.

Mark - Helsinki

“Winter air is wetter”

hmmm, must be why it gets uber dry in severe cold, where the moisture gets sucked out of you. You get more dehydrated in severe cold than hot, the moisture is sucked directly out of your skin, eyes and nose.

The truth is, the time for pathogens is when the thaw comes after a freeze. All that water and colletive filth in the thaw is perfect for viruses.

Samuel C Cogar

Ian Macdonald – November 24, 2017 at 8:32 am

That may be true but there is also overwhelming evidence the people tend to catch colds more often in cold weather.

Absolutely true, …… both by “catching colds” from another person during cold/chilly weather and by “self-acquiring colds” (no germs needed) just about any time during the year iffen they get “chilled” by having sweaty or damp/wet shirts or undershirts on.

And “YUP”, most children now days become sick with colds, flus, viruses, etc., after the Public Schools “start” in the Fall of each year.

Let one (1) sick kid on a crowded School Bus …….. or in several different crowded Classrooms, hallways or the cafeteria, ……. and it is likely to “spawn” a mini-pandemic. And sometimes they have to “close” school until the pandemic has passed.


Self acquired colds?
Rhinovirus is a thing.
Getting a sniffly nose is not a sure sign of anything except a discharge from nasal mucous membranes.
Getting sick from a rhino virus requires getting the virus in your body in an amount above the minimum infective dose.
Cold air is not by definition drier or wetter…cold air has less capability to hold moisture that warmer air, so for a given amount of moisture the relative humidity will be higher in cold air.
But in cold weather people spend more time indoors, and school is also in session, and lots of people in a closed space increases the chances for disease transmission.
Then there is the amount of time a virus can live before becoming inactivated when it is on a surface…it may be longer in cold weather.

The virus must also get into the body, usually through the mucous membranes of the nose, or eyes, or even into the mouth or lungs. Cold air is denser, and may hold such particles aloft for longer.
And during cold or very dry weather, the mucous membranes may be in a more readily passable by virions…dry membranes do not have the mucous coating that entraps them…that is why we have mucous to begin with, or at least one reason.

And then the is that infective dose factor, which varies depending on how healthy our immune system is or is not at a given point in time.
One virus particle makes no one sick but bubble boy.
Our immune system is in a state of flux, and can be more easily overwhelmed in certain conditions or at certain times.
It is only when enough particles of a given pathogen enter our bloodstream or other tissues that that can reproduce faster than the innate immune system can catch and kill them, and any specific pathogens we have been previously exposed to have the added obstacle of the acquired immunity we all gather during our lives.

Some very carefully controlled studies have determined that being cold categorically does not make you get a cold…only cold virus particles entering your body do that.
These studies have been done double blind, using techniques such as spraying people with ice water while they say in a chair while scantily clad, etc.
People who were comfy and cozy and well fed get a cold if virions are placed inside their nostrils.
People shivering through an icy spray for days on end do not get a cold…unless they are exposed to the virus.
People can and do believe whatever they want, but those who want to know the truth pay attention to verifiable and repeatable evidence.
Not to common sense, not to compelling anecdotes, not to old wives tales, not to common knowledge.
The comments on threads like this have been real eye-openers for me over the years…this is not the first one where I have seen rationality abandoned by those otherwise seeming to be credible and scientific.

Just sayin…no offense to anyone here.


Cold germs thrive in a cold nose.


Bacteria and viruses are always on the alert to make one ill. There are probably times when people in the vicinity have more bugs than usual and that may increase the chances of infection.

Nothing scientific, but my observation when younger (normally healthy and cold free) was the frequency I did catch colds after working on a dreadful car that wouldn’t start. If I spent hours stripping down and restoring parts convinced that “this will fix it” and then finding it wouldn’t start, I often caught a cold. It didn’t seem to matter what the weather was like (hot or cold) the feeling of helplessness and of wasting so much time seemed to make me more vulnerable to colds.
Could it be that one’s state of mind also plays a part? Who knows? I wouldn’t dismiss it from my experience.


Samuel C Cogar

menicholas – November 24, 2017 at 6:02 pm

Self acquired colds?
Rhinovirus is a thing.

“YUP”, and being diagnosed with a “virus” or the ”flu” is because the medical professionals don’t know what caused your problem and thus prescribes you a “shotgun” medication.

Even the yearly “flu shots” are a “shotgun” treatment because they have to “guess” as to what mutant microbe might be the culprit.

And menicholas, iffen the professionals know so damn much about said pathogens as you claim they do, then why in the ell haven’t they developed a “magic” pill to kill or terminate said pathogens before they make one sickly? …… OH, ….. I forgot, …… they mutate, they mutate, they mutate.

And “Yes”, menicholas, …. a “Self acquired cold”.

A wet/damp T-shirt causing a body “chilling” will cause lots of people to “catch cold”. Just like many Mothers told their children dozens and dozens of times as they were maturing into adulthood.


Many viruses are less stable in warmer temperatures is the explanation I have seen. And they are not actually alive so they don’t have the ability to repair themselves outside a host. In the climates I am familiar with, winter is dryer than summer. And, of course, you are cooped in close quarters with no fresh air so infections will be more common as others have stated.

Jeff L

I heard that it is actually that your nose runs when you are cold &/or cold & wet, & when lots of people are walking around , wiping their drippy noses , sneezing & touching surfaces with snotty hands that there is a lot more transfer media (mucous – sticky & wet) & availability to spread cold & flu viruses. Thus why the cold & flu season is generally in the colder months – not because of the cold directly but because of enhanced collective “snottiness”. Not sure if this is true but it at least seems theoretically reasonable.


Keep in mind that flu season begins in the tropical countries of the far East and spread around the world from there…that is how they decide how to formulate the flu vaccine each year for the following season.
And also why it is not perfect.
But statistically it helps.
Colds and flus are acquired by some and not other people, even when exposure is equal…it is a numbers thing, percentages.
In Europe and the US, it tends to be more prevalent in colder months for several reasons…not the least of which is schools being in session. Kids are little germ factories and are very incautious about such things.
Here in Florida, it stays warm sometimes all Winter, but flu still increases at certain times of year, typically later than up North.
The only times I get a cold or flu is during or just after being up north, and I suspect it is because I am around children then, but not when I am in Florida.
The best way to avoid colds and flu are well known to health care workers and anyone else who listens…wash your not touch your face, stay away from sick people…and wash your hands.
Hand washing is the single thing that works better than anything else.
There germs get on our hands, then are transferred to our yes and nose and mouth by touching.


“The best way to avoid colds and flu are well known to health care workers”…………”stay away from sick people”


My wife is department head for nursing in a prominent UK university. She has around 60 senior healthcare lecturers reporting to her including doctors, and the single most prevalent illness is the common cold. They have far more exposure to adult students than sick people. The entire department is still at a loss as to how they contract colds as they are fastidious about cleanlinesses and hand washing, other than by airborne pathogens.

From memory, they closed the UK research centre dedicated to studying colds, because after decades of scientific research, they reached no meaningful conclusions much beyond old wives tales..

And flue originating in the Far East is, to my understanding, principally avian flue (orientals keep and breed a lot of chickens in unregulated conditions) with some strains extremely dangerous to the young and elderly. It’s readily identifiable and, I believe, unrelated to flue strains familiar to the West that were around for hundreds of years before there was regular contact with Asia thanks to flying. When the only transport between the West and Asia was boats, the flue victim had usually recovered by the time they reached the West, or were dead and the body buried at sea.

Not an old wives tale’.Cold weather &the drier air can induce asthmatic attacks&serous inflammation of the nose &respiratorytract,leadnig to sticky mucoid secretions which can lead to easier infection of the bronchi &upper respiratory tract by viruses .this is naturally of greater concern to older people than for fit young university students .Ever noticed your nose drip when you go out of the(warm) house into suddenlyvery cold air !that happens in your lungs too .>pleurisy&pneumonia .


And where are the viruses coming from?


Wet mucous membranes entrap and help us avoid getting infected. You have it backwards on that point.
That is why we get wet sticky mucous…it kills by entrapment and also immune cells may be present in mucous.
It is dry membranes that offer easy passage to germs.
Mucous is constantly being brought from low in the respiratory tract to the mouth and esophagus by cilia that wave it on.
Once swallowed they can be inactivated by stomach acid or just digested.
Respiratory infections need a specific route of transmission and infect only certain tissues.


test subjects caught no more or more serious colds than the placebo student subjects

What is the “placebo” for being sprayed with water and blown with wind ?!


Didn’t see your comment before posting mine. 🙂

To Phoenix, the cold viruses(several types) are generally spread from person to person by several means ,such as :-close contact ,aerosol droplets from sneezes ,coughs ,infected objects etc,some cold viruses can remain active on surfaces for upto18 hours apparently .While it is correct to say that a ‘cold ‘(as commonly so called)is a viral infection however ,in England in the north particularly,’ catching cold’ did not simply mean only that . It meant any respiratory or other distress caused by over exposure to severe cold weather &resulting hypothermia.


The facts are simple, if one is referring to a cold as the specific condition of being infected by rhinovirus or other respiratory infection of a generally mild but sometimes chronic nature…being cold does not give a person a cold.
But it may make a person more susceptible for various reasons, such as diminishment of immune function due to being stressed.
Then there is the fact that many people are quick to consider themselves “sick”.
In some places allergies can and are exacerbated by certain atmospheric conditions, and these may be taken to be colds by those affected.
Some people have no idea of the difference between colds and flu. Flu is a serious illness causing fever and chills and severe symptoms that lasts on the order of a week to ten days or more.
Colds are generally more mild, being caused by the generally more innocuous rhinovirus.
Germs are everywhere all the time, but are present in greater numbers when more sick people are around, which is why actual scientifically valid studies of what causes such illness as colds needs to be done under carefully controlled conditions, and even then can be confounded.
But being cold does not give anyone a cold, unless you want to obfuscate the discussion of such by saying that colds are not really what the medical community and most people call “a cold”.


Kendo, in Phoenix, germs and diseases spread by the same means as everywhere else on the planet.


What “placebo” can you use for being wet and being blown on by a fan?


People wet and cold do not become infected by rhinovirus unless they are exposed to rhinovirus.
The question makes no sense and is a red herring.

Will Nelson

No no, from the article, there was a control group that was given a placebo. I think the way this was done was they blindfolded the subjects in the control group so they didn’t KNOW they were being doused with cold water and having fans blow on them.

Will Nelson

I guess it was ” arthur4563 November 24, 2017 at 8:10 am ” what started it…


Blindfolded so they did not know water was being sprayed on them while fans were blowing!


They didn’t know whether they were being exposed to the virus in the enclosed environment. Of course they knew they were being dowsed and blown!



Doused not dowsed grrr



I get so tyred of American misspellings.


[The mods point out that “misspelled” is itself seldom misspelled incorrectly. .mod]

I think the point that menicholas states , .i.e. is the point .of @the old wives tale .


Until fairly recently, the UK ran a decades long scientific study into the common cold, residential quarters, the lot. They shut it down because it proved not better than old wives tales.

part missed out from the recent post ie ,cold may make a person more susceptible….. for various reasons.etc.

My Dad was an engineer and used dowsing to locate underground pipes. At the same time, he had a pretty good idea where the pipe should be. He didn’t keep score but I’d bet the combination was pretty effective.


I’ll bet knowing where they are would work as well without pretending sticks bend when pipes are under the ground.


Worth a try before inviting in the scientists. Have you seen what Thames Water charge to find water?


I was more than surprised to see the water company guy use two metal tent stakes to locate my pipes. I thought it ridiculous then realized the water utility is just one step below a government agency so it’s probably typical to do something so backward assed.

A C Osborn

Did he find them with the Rods or not?


No. He need the right tool. Which was a unit that detected the guide wire layed next to it.


Now tent stakes are Rods, capital D?

Pity Philip Ball, the writer of the following
has let himself go lately.

Mike Graebner

I am curious why you would say that. I thought the article was informative. Humans are not infallible and anything they do, including science, can be incorrect.

He’s written many interesting articles, but despite of being chemist, he has ventured into climate voodoo to the point of political advocacy.

Just to clarify
was one of his bright moments in my opinion.

science, can be incorrect/blockquote>Philip Ball wasn’t supposed to admit that, and got a lot of flak for it. In his world, you’re not supposed to say anything that might be used by opponents of the party line. Even if it’s indubitably true, saying it constitutes aid and comfort to the enemy.

He’s now trying to do penance for his previous article.

Instead of the more demanding editing capabilities, might it be possible to allow commenters to delete flawed comments and then resubmit them?


It might be, but it is not. Not here.
It apparently costs more to have such capability built in.
A preview pane would be helpful, and our host has acknowledged this many times.
No one likes it.


“A preview pane would be helpful, and our host has acknowledged this many times.
No one likes it.”

I like it. It makes one a bit more careful before proof reading and clicking on “Post Comment”.

And, by the way, you posted an assumptive comment. A bit like condemning dousing out of hand. If it works for some people, who are you to question it?

Personally, I don’t know what causes gravity, mass apparently, but why? I accept it though, it keeps me on our planet.

Doug Proctor

An earth scientist at the University of Calgary did a blind test with downers in a windowless van crossing the major thrust faults outside Exshaw, Alberta. Not only did they pick up the faults but picked up another “anomaly” that on inspection turned out to be a surface spring of concern to on-site road maintenance workers. He also determined that the rotational force involved was about 50g at arms length. He produced a paper on it, was roundly criticized by the university for encouraging non-science, and dropped all further work on it.

Most people can dowse for water or buried pipes, maybe 85%. It’s strange but easy. I’m an oil and gas geologist with a lot of other-science background. My geophysicist friends also support it. We believe that the way it works is an unconscious exaggeration of minor electrical responses to movement through a charged, shaped medium different from its surroundings.

It is common knowledge that lesser animals down to bacteria are sensitive to electric fields. The dowsing sensitivity is just another way that man is shown to be one of the planet’s animals in the flesh. The insecure, ideological ones who used to say that other creatures, couldn’t feel pain (like fish) or use tools, or have emotions, make tactical plans, have “evil” members who killed and ate infants of their own species …. Like chimps, elephants, wolves, more chimps ….. These people can’t handle the idea that we are animals at heart, and there are subtle workings we don’t understand yet.


Better to do blind tests with uppers.


The thing is, without evidence, your anecdote is no more than an assertion, albeit one that claims to have a scientific attribution.
How can it be 50 grams if it is an unconscious effect…that is, a subliminal muscle response?
How much force on the same stick if held in a deflection metered mounting bracket?
My guess is zero.
Meaning it is not a measurement.
But, how many other deflections were felt or indicated but not mentioned because nothing was found.
Maternity ward nurses swear more babies are born during a full moon, even though statistics say no such trend exists.

Roger Knights

menicholas November 24, 2017 at 6:43 pm
The thing is, without evidence, your anecdote is no more than an assertion, albeit one that claims to have a scientific attribution.

Isn’t this evidence?

An earth scientist at the University of Calgary did a blind test with dowsers [spelling fixed] in a windowless van crossing the major thrust faults outside Exshaw, Alberta. Not only did they pick up the faults but picked up another “anomaly”

Ian Macdonald

Google ‘proton magetometer’ for an interesting piece of well-proven science which suggests that dowsing could actually work. We know that birds have magnetic compasses in their brains, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that the human brain could have a proton resonance sensor capable of detecting small changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

The empirical evidence that dowsing works is in any case quite strong. Much stronger than any evidence for anthropogenic climate change.


If there is correlation couldn’t some method of measurement that might be created to actually gather quantitative verifiable data? We can measure radiation emitted by a banana. Surely a magnetometer could be made more accurate.

Crispin in Waterloo

At one very difficult site where no water save a trickle had been found over the course of decades and 4 dry holes + one with a little. Years before we had a dowser look around and he identified one particular spot, a single point. He said “here, 85 m down”. No one believed him and for years a marking stone sat there.

After the complete failure of another hole 100m to the west, it was decided to bring in an expert with a magnetometer who could peer into the earth and locate the shape of underground rock slopes and fractures. He identified a spot about 3m south of the stone as the only good spot on the 20 acre hillside property. I told him about the stone and the old guy. He immediately said, “Drill there first. If it doesn’t work out, drill here,” (his magnetometer spot). (In solid rock, a 3m move can be the difference between a good hole and nothing. I have seen 2 holes 1.2 m apart, one with water, the other with nothing.)

So here was a guy whose profession is locating water, and he had more confidence in a skilled dowser than a very high tech magnetometer. The interesting bit is that his device identified why the dowser chose that spot 20 years before. There was a sort of cross-slope notch, a vee a few metres deep, that was guiding water past that spot as it flowed over the granite base.

Don K

“In solid rock, a 3m move can be the difference between a good hole and nothing. I have seen 2 holes 1.2 m apart, one with water, the other with nothing.” Crispin in Waterloo

Yep, you can see that in road cuts in Vermont and other cold climate places in Winter. Water flows from hard rock form towering ice columns below seeps. Mostly they aren’t very wide.


To have a well you need more than a seep.
I would be interested to see the underground geology of a place where two holes a meter apart have one that produces water and the one next to it nothing.
Sorry, this does not sound likely.


My thoughts exactly, Ian.

I am a former skeptic (re: dowsing). My ex-father-in-law used dowsing on a regular basis, but, as I had never seen him do it, I kept quiet. Later, I was taught how to douse by a co-worker, in our case, it was to locate underground telephone cables, and it worked amazingly well. I know, I know,one is supposed to use EM cable locating equipment, but when you don’t have one, you must improvise.

I could not believe how easy and effective it was!


I still cannot believe it.

Dodgy Geezer

The journalist in question (LePage) tweeted some water companies to find out what they did, and challenged the ones who said that their techs might use dowsing. In one case she got an offer to set up a test to see how effective it was – here is the thread:

Anglian Water‏Verified account
Follow Follow @AnglianWater
Replying to @sallylepage
No, that’s silly. I will repeat the invitation to come out with us and we’ll try it. Let’s see what happens – science in action!

Kate Bevan

Replying to @AnglianWater @sallylepage
There isn’t an argument. It doesn’t work. It’s not like politics, where you can argue an opinion. It’s an objective fact. Read Sally’s excellent post, which links to the evidence. Jesus wept. And of course it costs money to do it. People cost money.
1:03 PM – Nov 21, 2017

It seems to me that Sally LePage is the one who doesn’t understand science. She was offered an opportunity to test the hypothesis – instead she preferred to rely on her belief that ‘authorities’ had stated that it does not work.

Belief in Authority and refusal to accept any evidence to the contrary is not science… it is religion., or ‘magic’, if you will…


Very true. Saying “it doesn’t work” and refusing the opportunity to see if it does is the closed mind attitude,not the water company.

And of course the company knows it costs money – but probably less than the piece of expensive kit which will also require an operator.


dodgy, that’s you average guardanista response. They already know the answer before they ask.

spangled drongo

Doncha just luv scientists. When we had a well to sink in Sturts Stony Desert we knew from past experience that the water was at least 40 metres through solid rock and very hard to locate so after using the best judgement of likely aquifers possible we formed an opinion but always got a reputable diviner to give us a second opinion.

We only ever commenced work if the two opinions coincided and we always found water.


Since you always used a dowser, it proves nor demonstrates exactly nothing.


If you always found water, whence the declaration that it is hard to find water?

spangled drongo

Have you ever tried finding permanent water capable of giving 1,000 bullocks a drink all at once in SSD, menic?

And when you have to dig the well by hand in 50c+ in the shade [and there ain’t no shade] being successful counts to some degree, you may find.

And the fact that the diviner was as right as we were [every time] merely indicates that neither of us were wrong.

Anyone can work out where to sink a well in high rainfall country. You don’t need to have any extrasensory skills however when the country is parched, featureless desert, flat as a board and solid rock below the surface, it is a little more challenging.


I am just going by what you said.
Logically, if every time you dug or drilled, you had both methods agreeing ahead of time, this demonstrates nothing.
Do we agree on that point?
Sounds like you do not agree.
To be clear, to my way of thinking, if you dug twenty holes with both methods agreeing, and twenty with only one method, and twenty with just the other, then comparing the results would tell you something about the efficacy of each method, depending on the success rate.
Repeat this process a bunch of times and what you glean is scientific.
And I tried but cannot find where it sounds right to first state that water is hard to find, then finished by saying every attempt was successful.
Where is the difficult part?
If you left out details that change what you stated, then say so…but as stated…um…well…
I live in Florida and work outside, have done most of my adult life…which sadly has been a long time now.
I still do work outside, and it is not just hot but soul-meltingly humid…so I know exactly what it means to dig in the wrong place in such conditions.

spangled drongo

“Logically, if every time you dug or drilled, you had both methods agreeing ahead of time, this demonstrates nothing”

It does if they were both correct. And they were.

One system was as accurate as the other.

And when they didn’t initially agree, divining would have influenced raw judgment probably more than vice versa.

Success in finding water in the desert through good research is not an indication that the job is easy.

There is endless evidence of failures in this process to support that argument. Where people have spent fortunes on deep water bores with no satisfactory result.

spangled drongo

In my dotage I have more sense than to be trying to find water in the desert [that’s strictly for young’uns] but where I live now, while the search for water is so much easier and I have no trouble in finding underground waterfalls just from the terrain, it is always reassuring to have the confirmation of a diviner before investing your hard earned.


““Logically, if every time you dug or drilled, you had both methods agreeing ahead of time, this demonstrates nothing”

It does if they were both correct. And they were.

One system was as accurate as the other.”

Well, as I suspected our definitions of what constitutes logic and evidence do not coincide.
You seem to have ignored my example of what I believe would constitute a scientifically rigorous process of determining if the divining was telling you anything at all that you did not already know.
Since you found water every time, how do you know you needed to do any checking at all?

Sceptical Sam

Don’t be a drongo, Drongo.

Sturt Stony Desert:

The Great Artesian Basin:

The basin is estimated to contain 64,900 cubic kilometres (15,600 cu mi) of groundwater.

It’s everywhere.

Sceptical Sam

Just to be clear about my comment above:
comment image
comment image

The Sturt Stony Desert sits atop the largest artesian basin in the the world.


What amazes me is how a skeptic doesn’t use their cognitive abilities to realize the water under the ground is in voids/caverns of various sizes and fissures and cracks that permeate the hard rock. Those multiple fissures and cracks are how the rain seeps down to those voids and it is those larger voids that are sought to drill a well to them. Drilling into a wide crack between the larger voids will not produce much water and the pump may suck it dry faster than the cracks allow the water from larger voids feet or miles away to refill it. Even though the whole area may have a ground water table at a common depth. Knowing where those larger voids are is what people try to find. And you can be inches away if you drill in the wrong spot.

The topography can be void of any indication of what is below ground. There are many devices today that can detect down to many feet. But they all have quirks that can fool the operator. Including the best Dowser. An area that is highly fractured can show as a void with lot’s of water/oil/gas or nothing at all on the computer monitor. Just as any electronic device’s or a Dowser may detect it as water in abundance, but when drilled into and pumped, it goes dry fast.

Like most people I have pointed out that dowsing has been around a long time and there are many different methods people use. Just as electronic device’s have advanced technologies to detect and identify metals and voids underground. Each have their uses and faults. That science is still very young. We see so many advances today that we overlook that we still know very little to nothing about many things. We each form our opinions by our individual knowledge of an issue. Being skeptical is being scientific until something is proven without a doubt. When observed evidence shows more hits than misses in a method, there must be something to it. And with thousands of dowsers sites online globally, with over 1,640,000 results for “dowsing” there has to be something about it. To just ignore it or call it debunked or unproven is rather closed minded.

spangled drongo

“The Sturt Stony Desert sits atop the largest artesian basin in the the world”.

Don’t believe all that science tells you, SS.

Even about the Great Artesian Basin.

You can spend a fortune drilling for thousands of feet at tens of thousands of dollars and still end up with only a trickle.

Or you can dig a well 100 feet and get a good flow.

Just check the number of wells in this part of the country.

But you have to know know how to find the water.

I’ve done both and I’ve got water both ways but I know which was the best value by far.

The wells.

And a diviner/dowser/waterwitcher found every one of them.

There’s a difference between science, scientism (the Grauniad’s specialty) and empiricism.
Engineers may use science, but they will also use empirical experience without “scientific” support, if it works.
Journalists generally don’t understand the differences (and they aren’t subtle).
When I was an archaeologist back in the 1970s at the Koster site (first big stratified dig in NA), we tried dowsing to find promising trench locations. Some of us were great at it, others flops. It roughly correlated with general archaeological survey ability (some are better at reading the geography, geology and other factors than others), but the outliers increased their find rate dramatically.
IMO, dowsing is not just about magnetic field detection, but plugging into the unconscious individual expertise of the operator along multiple parameters.


I agree, we use it often. Usually to find pvc irrigation pipe. For some reason some people have a knack for it. For others it doesn’t work but when you get a new person to hold the coat hangers gently and perpendicular to the ground then see their faces when the magically cross it’s very cool. Now, I don’t have much talent since when they cross for me all I know is that there is something under my feet that is different compared to the rest of the soil. I find stumps, rocks, wires and sometimes the pvc pipe!


One must wonder if the measured correlation between archaeological experience and dowsing might be more influenced by the “practitioner’s” sub-conscious educated biases affecting the performance.

There was story about a fantastic Horse in Germany that purportedly could count and do simple math. The debunkers began to suspect something by the owner/handler’s presence. It seems the horse was unable to solve simple math equations that the owner didn’t know how to solve,and the horse couldn’t seem to even count when not in the presence of its owner. The horse was simply reacting to its owner to know when to stop clomping its hoof.

Could the dowsing rods merely be the simple horse looking for some reaction from the handler?

Yes, indeed. But where does the reaction come from? Our best survey people could find stuff without the dowsing rods, but the very best found more, more consistently with them. Of course, this was not a controlled study and could very well have been biased by expectation effects (in both directions, I might point out) and cherry-picking.


Again a practiced eyeball will be as accurate and influencing.


No matter how many people insist that they know this works, I find it laughable, and such people gullible and credulous.
My respect for their opinions drops correspondingly.
If this makes me obtuse in the yes of some, too bad.
If it is such a real and foolproof method, lets see it proven…sounds like it should be easy as all get out, since “it always works”


As a Telecom Engineer in the field, back in the day, I found that rods were a great help in locating underground plant. I was once accused of using “witchcraft” by one of my colleagues and that was after locating a buried cable for him! Some people just can’t take it!


Sorry I missed your comment, Hantsman. I was a CST when I learned how to dowse from a co-worker, and I was amazed at how easy and reliable it was.


“Let’s be clear: dowsing doesn’t work. Le Page’s blog links to detailed experiments conducted in Germany in the 1980s which showed that the dowsers tested weren’t locating water at levels better than random chance.”

Yes, let’s be clear. That experiment did not come to that conclusion.

“German physicists concluded from their massive experimental study that water dowsers unquestionably have a remarkable, mysterious skill.”

“Some few dowsers, in particular tasks, showed an extraordinarily high rate of success, which can scarcely if at all be explained as due to chance … a real core of dowser-phenomena can be regarded as empirically proven”

This csicop article is as misleading as Phillip Ball’s above.

Here is one defense to the criticism of the German authors’ conclusions.


Read the Wikipedia article on dowsing. The German study was discredited.

Sceptical Sam

Dowsing for Dowsers II

“…in tests conducted so far, we have found no evidence for the alleged ability to divine for water.”

The Skeptic, Winter 2002. Page 38

Sceptical Sam

David, yes that’s what the Abstract says. True.

However, the Conclusion of the study in the body of the report says this:

“There is concern that by taking statements out of context this report may be used to prove that dowsing is an effective means of finding water. It should be emphasized that no wells were dug, a limited number of tests with experienced dowsers did not noticeably have better results than did novices, and only by statistical means was it shown that some kind of information, as yet undefined, might be present.”

Page 49.

Sceptical Sam


I think you mean “might”.

Which is what the study you referenced says.

And it “might” not too.

Sceptical Sam

So, it might. And, it might not.

That’s the sum of it.

Sceptical Sam


Except that there’s nothing “geophysical” about it.

Psychological? Possibly.

Better called “delusion”.


I remember a gang of us playing with 2 welding sticks. It is the weirdest feeling as they cross as you walk along. Is it some strange unconscious effect or real physical effect I do not know. It felt physical as the welding rods roll towards each other, as you cross the point they then unroll back to their starting position.


I used 6 gauge copper ground wire, and I had the exact same experience. Weird, indeed, but absolutely true.


Dave Keys,
Anyone asking if it is a physical or a mental effect is not a scientist.
because nothing could be easier to determine.
If there is deflection caused by an actual force, mount the rods in a bracket with a deflection meter arrangement.
If it only “works” when you hold it, there is your answer.
Warmistas are equally emphatic and cock-sure about global catastrophes caused by your SUV…and equally wrong.


I understand your logic. The effect I felt, Kpar and many others have felt seems very real. Why it happens and what causes this effect I do not know. It could be conscious. Even if it is conscious it still needs some explaining why the human body and mind does this. That is how a real scientists thinks and how true skeptics think


Dave Keys – I agree with what you’re saying. The rods actually move. What the movement indicates is something else altogether. I wasn’t looking for water or anything else.

I actually used a coat hanger cut into 2 pieces, and the pieces bent into an L shape. You start out with both wires pointed straight out and at some point the wires will move toward each other and cross. There is no way my hands could have made the wires turn in my hands.

I started out not believing it, but seeing is believing. People should try it before saying they don’t believe it.

John "menicholas" Nefastis

I believe they move.
But I do not believe they move because the water under the ground is pulling them.
See the difference?


I will replay here as scratft1 and John have no reply link underneath their post. This is a mystery is it not.

scraft1, I to was not looking for water and we did not dig at the point the rods crossed. We assumed it must be a pipe, under ground stream because we were water divining. I have no idea what made the rods roll back and forth. Just that the effect felt real and did not feel like any conscious effort on my part. It is so weird and strange I feel it needs investigating, Maybe I should crowd fund it,

John, read my post I do not mention water. I said they rolled back and forth. My post was very precise. The rods actually roll and cross each other then roll backwards, uncrossing, as you walk along. Is it some mental thing I do not know. All I do know is the feeling as the rods start moving. It seems and feels like a force other than yourself is moving them. It could be me but as you see from all the posts so many people have shared this experience. Just go to a hardware store, get a couple of coat hangers and try it. It is weird. It could be a conscious thing as us humans, I have concluded, are nuts. Nothing would surprise me but no one ever has explained it.

This is how science evolves, by people solving these problems.

Chris 4692

As an engineer after review of all available data, if I had no clue where to look for water I did have the client hire a dowser. Some information is better than none. Of course the next step was a test hole.




If you were an engineer and I hired you to find water, and then after determining you have no idea where to look, you suggested I hire a dowser, I would report you to the better business bureau, the society of professional engineers, and then sure you for my money back and hire a real engineer.

Lots of things just get on with doing while people are trying to figure out how it all works. Like the good old Bumblebee.

When I was working on ion thrusters one trick to get the engine to start after multiple attempts was to wave the biggest spanner at it through the chamber window. You would point at it as if to say “You’ll get some of this”. Some SJW’s may even say it was emotional violence. The engine had an internal plasma cathode that had to reach temperature and emit free electrons. It was effected by water vapour when you cycled the chambers for maintenance, a professional hazard, and starting them was often an art.

Turns out it used to work. We even did it when the satellite passed over and the engines weren’t starting. I kid you not.

The customers laughed along. We were all aware of how stupid it all was. But it still worked.


Seemed to work….


At a Microsoft training session, someone asked if rolling or moving the mouse around helped pages load faster. Microsoft said it most certainly did not, even if it seemed to. Those in attendance agreed that we did not care if it did or did not work, it made us feel like something was happening and it did no harm. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if it works or not. People are going to do it and believe it works because they feel better (and they don’t punch the computer screen that way!).


Like pressing the elevator call button over and over, even if you know how they are programmed.
Or pressing the cross street button, even when you know they are most of the time not even wired up to anything…they put them in so people will wait for the signal.
What does this mean: We even did it when the satellite passed over and the engines weren’t starting.
What satellite?
Passing over what?
Whole posts sounds like you are joking.
Does Mr. Scott know you waved a wrench at his matter anti-matter pods?


I worked with a guy who used 2 pieces of bent copper wire to dowse underground water lines. Not sure if he was serious or just trying to ‘pull one on me’. I never ‘bought it’ but never discredited it. We never tore up any buried water lines though.

I would think that modern use of a modified “Turboencabulator” ( ) equipped with a hydrodynamic electromagnetic deformation sensing probe could render inconceivable results.

Would they also be impregnable?


Possibly deep probing non-sesenseable probing in impregnable stratus could alter the contraceptive results of the probe rendering possible erroneous results.


It is always good when one is impregnable…condoms suck!


‘We never tore up any buried water lines though.’

It is NOT cheating to hand excavate in locations with existing water lines.


If anyone claims to have dug up pipes using anything other than hand digging, and never broke a line, you can be sure of exactly one thing…they are lying.

Well I don’t know, but I was running an investigation by digging test pits for the A470 near Neath ( South Wales) and we knew that there were large water pipes in the vicinity. Welsh Water turned up with their pipe location kit which did not work due to being close to overhead transmission lines. One of the Welsh Water guys turns up some welding rods and pegs out the route of the water mains over about a kilometre. I have tried it and it seems to work !


So, in other words, the water main paralleled the overhead lines, as would be logical knowing how utilities are wont to use easements, and land is generally apportioned for such as efficiently as possible.
In other words, DUH!
And you paid someone to do this?
Remind me never to invest in a company that has buried lines that they do not have maps of, even though a drawing is required before any work like that is done to begin with.
Maybe the ancients buried them and the knowledge was lost for several centuries.
Hey, knowing that pipelines cost a lot and pipes are straight,, and the shortest distance is a straight line and digging machines like to avoid overhead lines by digging near but not right under them makes it pretty easy too.
But you go ahead being mystified by the obvious and paying people to laugh at you.


A well driller once told me it is harder not to find water, than it is to find water. Quanity of water found is another problem.


Depth of water is usually of prime concern. Dig deep enough and you’ll almost always find some water, even if it draws slowly (gallons per minute). Cost of pumping deep water is part of that concern. Keep in mind thosethe consequences of drilling deep wells do not affect drillers; their concern is profit from drilling. Transporting a rig, equipment and supplies is costly. The longer a driller can stay on one location and drill, the more profit he can realize.
What the well driller told you is certainly not true everywhere. And if he didn’t include water depth he was being misleading, since water depth can vary considerably in some areas.


In some areas, yes…basin and range province being one such place.
But that says nothing about the efficacy of divining for water…which I find to be an apt term for something that relies on little but faith.

Crispin in Waterloo


I agree that finding it is one thing, determining the depth is another. The guy who taught me to divine water as a child located two underground streams in our (deep clay) yard and picked as the large diameter well drilling spot, the intersection of the two streams at about 28 and 33 ft. I believe he determined the depth (individually) by a form of triangulation based on the pointing angle of the forked stick (cherry) and how it moved as he walked over the streams. He brought in the rig and drilled. He hit the first one (which poured in through a hole in the clay on the west side) and kept on going until he hit the second which was about 5 ft lower and came in from the south. From then we had adequate water in summer. Enough to have a swimming pool.

A completely different method used by a 10 year old child (when I first knew him) of a well known British dowser who lived in Swaziland. The method was to place a metre stick vertically on the ground at spots identified by the father who wandered about placing markers. The kid then placed a full bottle of water, like a coke bottle, standing on his palm and slowly lowered it from the top of the stick towards the ground. We simply couldn’t believe this meant anything. When his hand passed the ‘appropriate’ spot on the stick, like 55 cm, his hand would shake and the bottle would fall off. They believed this told them it was 55m to the source the father identified. Based on the depth and ‘strength’ the father would tell the drill where to start. The kid was right. The father located a 50mm water pipe and the kid said it was 1m down. The property manager said there is no pipe there, but several years later when repairing the lawn irrigation system, it turned out there was a water-filled supply pipe there all along.

This depth method I have never heard of anywhere else, and it worked because the kid really believed it would. As a regional head of a rural water supply organisation, I always used this guy to locate wells because the geology department strongly believed in the ‘water tables’ theory and that drilling pretty much anywhere would find water. In those days they used a “cable rig” meaning it could take 4 months to reach 100m in rock. I have seem them (geology) drill to 130m and get nothing, some dampness, while we could get a hole 1 km away so productive that we could not over-pump it with the testing rig.

There is merit in the ‘water table’ theory. No problem. There is also merit in finding the most productive places in it. When it comes to rocky places, the “water table theory” is a dead duck. Only dowsing and magnetometers work, and dowsing is to be preferred on a cost basis.

Isn’t it interesting that in every age, ‘scientists’ consider that everything that will be invented already pretty much has, and everything that needs to be known to understand how things pretty much is, there being only a need to clean up a few things around the edges. Dowsing is a technicolour, in-your-face proof of a measureable, physical effect, and incontrovertible evidence of things that simply should not work at all, but do. And it is not magic. And a magnetic gradient cannot twist forked branches to the point of breaking off.

Why are ‘scientists’ so threatened by this, and engineers not? Theory defeated by practise?


Just what, is an “underground stream” Never encountered the term in any hydrogeology course. Amazing someone can find them.


The direction and depth my father used with his dowsing rods – as given in my comments farther below – is that the thin doweling will bend towards the matching metal on the end of it to the strongest source in the area. This causes the bobbing of the rod that is felt in the hand pulling towards it. That is how distance from the dowser directs them to the source in a sideways stance of it. As they get near to the source the movements of the bobbing change to a lesser angle until they’ve directly over it and the bobbing in vertical to the ground and past that point it changes direction to the opposite it had been moving. The dowser can then walk around the center point and the angle of the bobbing rod can indicate the depth of the source. If it is an ore body or a vein under ground that isn’t mineralized the size and depth just takes more time walking around the area. Dad found a white quartz blowout that showed no real gold indicators on the surface that had pushed up through precambrian granite. But his dowsing rods said it was rich underneath in one area. A 4 inch around shoot was dug out under that mass of white quartz that assayed 19 to 22 troy ounces of gold per ton. So even though tons of waste rock had to be removed to mine that little shoot, it was very profitable to high grade the gold ore out of the dross for processing. By dads estimating it went down a half mile and it got bigger. We only went down 15 feet and got less than half a ton of rich ore by hand tools. It’s still there.


You guys are too much.


Doug, there are underground streams, and are typically associated with regions of karst topography.
In such areas, in which limestone has been eroded under the ground, are found such things as disappearing streams, caves and caverns, sinkholes, and a list of other particulars that are specific to this type of terrain.
There can also be underground gravel beds and such, but these are not really streams as such, but areas where groundwater can migrate laterally very quickly.
Identifying these is of great concern to water authorities, because contaminants can and do migrate long distances and caused a lot of damage in such areas.
Anyone living above karst terrain has no problem finding water.


In 1555 “De Re Metallica” was published.It remained the definitive work on mining and metallurgy for some 200 years. The author Georges Bayer, aka “Agricola”, got it right. He was trained as a physician and moved to the mining town of Augsburg to practice. He became interested in all aspects of mining–including finance.

He debunked the notion of “dowsing” for water or even silver. And in anticipating modern central banking also debunked alchemy.

Bob Hoye


What does banking have to do with alchemy?
No one ever made any gold.


“Alchemy” has been confirmed, in that atoms of one sort can become atoms of another sort (fission and fusion). It seems almost silly to have to point this out . .


I caught my contactor sneaking a dowser onto my property. I sent him off, and told him where the well would be based on fracture trends from outcrops. Got a good well. Damn that geology!


Would you have said that, had your contractor drilled a dry well, or an expensive one producing a gallon or two a minute?

Crispin in Waterloo

Glenn – good point. Confirmation bias. Six of eight failures in a row might have had him being a little more credulous.


Actually I am familiar with numerous successful examples. Hundreds of them in one project to bring in wells in a project in Africa. A well with 10X greater flow than any previous well in the area in Arizona. Looking for a fractured aquifer has a scientific basis. Dowsing does not.. Statistics, in their untutored state, don’t lie.

Peta of Newark

3 true stories..
1. As it happens, I’m in Gainsboro again, right next to that lump of water called the River Trent.
It really does give me goosebumps just to walk along the little footpath they have here,
There really is *something* going on here

2. As a kid and something I dreaded, my father would announce “Peta, we’re going draining”
This involved paddling into a swampy part of a field, armed with only a spade, to search for buried clay tiles that had become blocked. Usually cold wet and smelly or in warm weather, I’d be eaten alive by midges.
A large part (and to me at the time= really boring) of this ‘draining’ was simply the gentle and quiet walking/paddling around the offensive wet-patch and deciding where to dig a hole. To try and find the buried tile(s).
I never understood this until when much older, had to do my own ‘draining’
Its obviously hard work digging random holes in the ground and so I went through this exact same ‘walking around’ routine and it was rather amazing just how many times I found the blocked and water-filled tile on my 1st or 2nd attempt.
Later, I became the proud owner of a JCB backhoe loader and would omit the walking around bit, a JCB makes hole-digging *really* easy.
But then came the embarrassment, I could pull apart nearly an acre of ground and *still* fail to find the blocked drain.
UNTIL, I got off the JCB and walked around a bit…… Not least to survey the damage I’d inflicted on my own field and pray that no-one was watching.

3. Move to Newark and ‘go exploring’
Upon a little footbridge over the (small) River Poulter, me and a dog-walking chap got into conversation – about water. surprise surprise.

He was retired, as I am now and he used to do contract work for the big water utility round here – Severn Trent.
He recounted one job where he was charged with finding a (large) blocked drain. They knew it was blocked as no water could go in at one end and none came out the other but apart from were utterly clueless about how it got from Point A to Point B
All they really knew was that it was roughly under 20 feet of collapsed coal-mining spoil in a 3 or 4 acre field.
Theodolites, surveyors and engineers came and said it was “there” – but the JCB driver was simply not convinced.
So they got a water-diving kit from a firm that ‘does’ such things and the man I was talking to (a complete sceptic at the time) was charged with using it.
He got an unmistakable ‘signal’ from the divining kit (some clay beads threaded onto a brass rod) – quite some yards away from where the engineers said to start digging.

By now you’ve guessed who was correct about where that drain was…..

There *really* is something – I say it is because of water’s epic affinity for itself and what is THE most abundant substance within our bodies if not water?

And why I maintain is how water affects, if not *totally* controls, what we call Climate.
It attracts itself over really huge distances and its epic (yet totally taken-for-granted) thermal/mechanical properties do the rest


Midge flies do not bite.


So midge flies do not bite?
Divining is bunkum?
You are fountain of informed opinion?

John "menicholas" Nefastis

What I and the biologists I work with have always called midge flies do not bite.
But upon further review, I see that there is no specific definition of midge flies, and some things that some people call midge flies do bite.
Few, but some.
So, I was wrong to state that as I did.
Midge flies refer to a multitude of insects that are not strictly defined, not only the sorts of insects that we call midge flies in the lake and wetlands management industry here in Florida.
My bad.


Something bites. Maybe they’re no midges but are “no see-ums”.


I suppose they would like a worldwide ban on all religious and superstitious activity in private life. Just saying “good luck” to someone would be a crime.

John Inge

I went to work on a run down farm in Herefordshire in 1954 that wanted a good supply of water to start a dairy farm.
A man came to find and drill for water – he stood in the farm yard and using his rods said that we would find an excellent supply across a field that sloped. In the field he detected two underground streams – he said he would drill where they crossed and said at what depth they wold be found – he was spot on!
His guarantee was, no water no charge.

John Bell

No matter where you drill there is water underground.


“No matter where you drill there is water underground.”

No such thing as a dry hole, eh?

My Dad knew a rich rancher in Texas who swore his wells never hit water. He always hit that blasted oil, and his cattle couldn’t drink black gold.


No true.
Often it is a matter of how deep you go, but not always.
And water under the ground is not the same thing as a useful well.
Plus, water than has been in the ground for more than a few millennia is likely to be saline.
comment image

John Inge

You may find water but not in huge supply indicated.


One of the fathers of the French atomic bomb, the eminent Professor Yves Rocard -also the father of a former French Prime Minister who later gobbled the global warming scare in rather uneducated ways- wrote a treaty on dowsing and explained that just as for migratory birds, humans in their articulations, particularly the knees, do possess some tiny remnants of magnetic minerals that will react slightly to a modification of the magnetic field induced among others causes, by water running as per the Laplace Law. Nothing “witchy” about it. Some individuals are more responsive than others.
The hazel stick itself of course does not respond to anything, but the slight modification of muscular tension induced by the operators’ receptors. The cut of the stick is made so the stick is in an unstable balance and a minor change of muscular tension will lead to a bigger movement of the stick.
Visibly the Grauniad’s writer should know better.

Crispin in Waterloo


While I understand the explanation as rational, it is contradicted by my experience of dowsing. Once I saw the stick starts turning (a spread-eagled Y so that the two branches were co-axial) I gripped it harder and I was unable to stop it turning. I expected that there would be a ‘slight pressure’ which happened the very first time I tried it. But gripping in a way that held the stick arms co-axial to turn on its own between my hands produced a much stronger rotating moment. The idea that “the stick is bent in a way that permits it to spring it back into its original shape by rotating” could be correct, but was not so in my case. There was a serious, palpable, rotating force.

The guy who taught me said he has had dowsing sticks break off (spiral fracture), literally rotating the fork until it separated from the arms. For that reason he always had several in the truck of different ages (drier means less sensitive to small water rivulets).

This is a very different effect from something attributable to magnetic effects in the knees or elsewhere. I think that is trying to attribute to known physical mechanisms something that relies on a unknown mechanism. Does it terrify the science community that there is something they don’t understand at all? How much else don’t they understand?


Having little magnetometers in their bodies does not explain birds ability to navigate.
Just knowing which way was magnetic North will not get one from New England to the West Coast of South America. Birds have to know such things as which way to go when they ply off the Florida Coast.
It is as easy to believe that they can see stars at night, or that they can smell which way the wind is coming from, or they use the Sun, or just have it memorized.
In fact, without knowing the route or where you are going, having a compass will do little good.
A compass with not help you if you are stranded in wilderness, unless you can also reason about which way one must go and have an idea of why one direction is preferable.
And idiot with a compass is still lost.


This article hits right at home…literally. My father was born in 1914 in the Ozarks. He learned Dowsing from an old man in his youth. Long before metal detectors and ground penetrating scientific device’s were ever thought of. One advantage of Dowsing is distance. Metal detectors and Ground Penetrating electronics have to be right over the top of the mineralization to detect it. Much like the old Green Willow Y branches for water Dowsing the Dowser would hold the branch high overhead and turn in a circle until it pulled in a direction and then head in that direction until in pulled downwards the strongest. You cannot do that with most electronic device’s. I personally do not have the skill my father had. But I have his set of Dowsing Rods after he passed away. By putting a metal or other materials on the end of a 1/16″ to 1/8″ dry dowling at least 24″ long he could find any object or mineralized area (ore body) from feet to miles away – as long as it was different from the rest of the area. He taught classes of people how to do it. If they couldn’t do it they didn’t pay for it. And he earned a good bit of side money finding things for people and corporations. All of our mining claims were found this way. So you can be as skeptical as you want. But until you watch a master doing it successfully repeatedly…

Clyde Spencer

I have to wonder why anyone bothered to invent (AND USE!) metal detectors if dowsing works so well.


Metal detectors are easy to use and require little to no effort. Not so dowsing.

A C Osborn

They don’t find water at all, unless it is in a metal pipe, so metal detectors are usless for finding places to dig wells.


Probably because people will buy them that don’t have the abilities to Dowse. Practice makes anyone better at something. But electronic device’s take the same principles that Dowsing does to make them work. That magnetic coil design amplification and the electronic signal the device reads separates the trash from the sought metals. Ground Penetrating electronics have the same principles that distinguishes the mineralization as a color schematic and ground from caverns/voids that have possible gases or liquids in them measuring multiple things in a single pass. A Dowser has only one item they are looking for at a time. You cannot find gold with pure silver on your Dowsing Rod or visa versa. And if you have Sterling Silver you may find Copper just as equally that has no Silver. One pulls to itself and nothing else. Just like any electronic device’s that don’t have a specific element in its range of detection is not going to distinguish it from other elements. And if that divice has a limited range of accuracy from the ground suface of a few inches, going over the ground that has a dip will not find anything in that dip area…that a Dowser would. A Dowser will pull to the strongest source first… Like a big bigger nugget, ore vein or cluster far away than the smaller nuggets under foot. Each having their advantages and disadvantages.

Dave Kelly

Because metal detectors require no skill – any idiot can use one. I’ve dowsed for water pipes, underground electrical lines, and the position of rock ledges for years. I learned how to dowse from my father, after our family construction company bought a backhoe and I was the designated operator. Like any other backhoe operator I needed “data” to economically find and dig for or around existing underground pipe. It’s cheap, saves time, and works reasonably well. (By the way, my degree is in Chemical Engineering)

I always heard this practice called “divining” or “witching” and it was done with willow branches. Anyway, I have never seen it done, but have listened to people I respect who claim to have used it with fairly good success. As a “the proof is in the pudding” kind of a guy, I tend to accept thing that work, even if I don’t know why it works. That said, as an engineer, I am always trying to understand how or why thing work that I don’t know.

The Chadwick and Jensen (1971) study, despite being wildly anti-dowsing biased, still found a significant result that there was some effect to be experienced. “Virtually all people tested experienced dowsing reactions though most of them had never dowsed before. ” What kind of results would they have found if they used only experienced, professional dowsers? Or even just experienced dowsers? Or trained dowsers?

Imagine doing such a study with 150 people-off-the-street using “scientific methods” of finding buried water pipes or suitable places to drill a new well, after a brief 3 minute explanation of how to do it.

Just because science can not yet explain something does not make it superstition. Birds apparently sense magnetic fields of the earth for long-distance navigation. Other animals seem to have senses that humans do not. Nearly brainless monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles on a journey they have never taken before in their short lives from the Central Hudson Valley of New York State to over-winter in specific spot Mexico (alternate generations make the journey each year — no butterfly lives long enough to make it twice).

I do not dowse — but knew a man that could find buried water pipes and spots where groundwater was easily available for drilling — he wasn’t good at much else, but he could dowse. How? Beats me…..


Earth magnetic field has two components, strong one generated in the liquid core which naturally varies over period of decades, but has very little regional variability. If monarchs use this type of the field the magnetic map has to be re-build over generations.
However, there is a static component which has been frozen in the rocks for million of years.
I suspect that butterflies (birds etc) have a natural ability when flying close to ground to ignore the strong field and sense changes of the more complex localised magnetic field; such map once acquired may be good for thousands of generations.
Link for the Magnetic anomaly map of North America , zoom in for more details in the monarch migrating routes.

Mark - Helsinki

More like they cant make sense of the noise when closer to the ground so can’t act on it


To us humans it looks as a random noise but to the migrating creatures navigating long distances these magnetic field blobs could be simply the ‘road signs’ to their final destination.
European eels, even from the far reaches of the Baltic sea, find their spawning ‘ground’ 1000s of miles away in the Sargasso Sea,

Vukcevic ==> Thanks for the Mag anomaly map…very interesting.


The placebo effect in clinical medicine is real. It often times works as well as known efficacious therapies. Why does it?

The Theory of the Human Mind and our Expectations. Our mind creates expectations. We dismiss/forget failures and remember successes. Expectation also can subtly alter the behaviors which were exacerbating the pathology, so the pathology subsides until the behavior returns. Random events are noise in our lives, yet we forget about that thing called “reversion to the mean.”

Which is why the Climateers cannot let go of Catastrophic AGW. They have for so long become to expect it, they know it must just be because they need to tweak their models for another CMIP. Somewhere those glaciers must be melting beyond normal (expectations at work) even though we are in a major inter-glacial period.

Dr. Richard Feynman had a very clear insight to this in science turned PseudoScience – Feynman’s Cargo Cult Theory. IF they can just keep tweaking their favorite CGM. If they can just keep refining temperature data sets that reach back to 1850,. If they can just keep adjusting global SLR estimates.

Climate science today is nothing but Cargo Cult Science. Climateers’ expectations keep them doing and predicting the same failures over and over, hoping those wondrous cargo-filled airplanes are imminently about to arrive to deliver their intellectual salvation.


The placebo effect only works on things like pain. It does not work on an actual disease like measles or TB. Conditions that are the brain interpreting a physical condition are most affected by placebos. It makes sense because human’s have considerable control over the brain’s interpretation of things. Placebos direct that interpretation.


Placebos work quite well on hypochondria.

The entire fake-medicine field of homeopathy is built on the placebo effect, raking in hundreds of millions dollars every year in the US.

Placebo effect works best on pain or 1 to 3 days. Typically the effect wears off after a short time.


Joelobryan: Agreed, since hypochondria is not a biological illness. It’s mental. Yes, homeopathy operates on the placebo effect, most definately.

Jeff: Probably. Though if a person choses a treatment himself/herself and believes it works, it might last longer. I’ve known people who swear by homeopathic pain relief long term. Of course, pain is very subjective and tolerated in varying degrees by individuals. Hard to say.


Learn about why so many clinical trials fail in late stage studies that seemed to do fine in smaller scale ones.
Placebo effect works on far more than pain, and not just fake or imagined illnesses.
It is not clear why, but it is clear that an effect exists.

David Cage

When Thames Water fitted a water meter next door they tightened a connector on a plastic pipe without even bothering to hold it so there was a twisting action. After they went there was a serious leak and by two weeks later it was a fair sized stream. They used an electronic system which placed the leak well into next door’s drive and said it was his problem not theirs and demanded money to repair it.
I used dowsing to place it at least three metres closer to the newly fitted water meter. The boss ridiculed the idea but his junior suggested drilling a small hole in the tarmac when the water stopped in the higher outflow and rapidly enlarged the new hole.
I was right and I think the rods only amplify some sort of internal detection as I can never do it when I have even a slight cold or a headache.

Lyn roberts

David – agree with you, I never discovered what my BUUUUZZZZ was until one day somebody said to me here are some divining rods, then I realized, I can also see which way the water runs, which I find is very strange, as sometimes it appears to be uphill, which I know is a nonsense, its all down to the depth of the water, so uphill has nothing to do with it. I only feel if I am not thinking about anything else, I need to clear my mind, and just feel, and then I get the BUUZZZZZ. Sometimes it can be like an electric shock it is so strong, those times I have learn’t to move on, just gets too painful, sometimes very isolated, within a half meter radius. What I have found interesting that a lot of church sites are built on top of water, so wonder if the priests who selected sites because they were devine were feeling water. I do not have the ability to determine how deep so no use to me or anybody else, but I had a cousin who was a genius at finding water, found many a lost water pipe, and or well site, have another cousin that has been a well driller as was his father before him, had a very high strike rate at finding good water.

Tom Judd

“The resistance to basic scientific reasoning and evidence displayed by large businesses … but it shouldn’t surprise us. It has never been more apparent that an inability to make scientifically informed choices is no obstacle to flourishing in modern society.”

Wow, just wow. What about public entities; governments and governmental bodies? They never display a resistance to scientific reasoning and evidence? As an example; what about the twaddle that breathes out of UN reps Christiana Figueres’s mouth? The bias here is showing.

Clyde Spencer

It wouldn’t be too difficult to take a half-acre of land, plow it, bury a water pipe, level the surface, and walk ‘dowsers’ back and forth over the surface. One should then take a record of both positives, false positives, negatives, and false negatives on a 1 meter grid. I don’t have high expectations for anything statistically significant.

Clyde Spencer

Now that I think about it, a better test of dowsing would be to solicit dowsers to clear the many mine fields scattered around the world in the aftermath of numerous wars. There should he strong motivation to pay attention and get it right, and eliminate the frauds who are only in it for the money (They will be awarded posthumous Darwin Awards). Sort of like a vintage Hunger Games.

Dave in Canmore

Kip, results from the German study are exactly as you predicted: randomcomment image

Dave in Canmore

sorry this was a response to Clyde Spencer


Yes, Kip seems to be a dowserista.


Judging from what I’ve seen with companies locating their own pipelines for water, etc, witching is probably just as accurate—as in the companies are dismal failures as often as not. Where my hubby works, it took at least a month to figure out who owned the pipeline, where exactly was the pipeline and was there anything in it.

There were many dry holes drilled for oil in spite of seismic processing in the 80’s. I’m hoping it’s improved since then. At the time I worked in seismic processing, throwing a dart at a map was equally likely to locate oil.

Perhaps it’s not that we should discard “old” unproven methods, but rather develop some actually effective new methods. If percentage success rate is the measure, where’s the data on the success rate of current methods?

Tom Judd

In September 2003 I had a medical test performed. In early 2004 I saw the doctor who scheduled the test. She told me, in no uncertain terms that, “With a … score of 1 or below, nobody lives beyond 5 years.” (My score was 1.06.) For some reason I didn’t freak out. Perhaps I innately knew that her prognosis did not fully apply. Or else it was simply denial. Shortly afterwards a dear friend said not to get upset until I saw the specialist and that what specialists tell you is often 180 degrees different than what the primary care doc says. But, make no mistake, the primary care doc here was a professor of primary care medicine at a renowned, university affiliated, big city hospital.

Shortly afterward I had the appointment with the specialist. He said I could live past 5 years. In early 2007 (trying to determine whether) to take an early retirement) I asked this very decent man for a range of life expectancies. He said that was very difficult but would try, and after some though, indicated it could be up to 10-12 years, but cautioned that it was likely to be less.

I’m now over 10 years and counting. I still drive – and fast when the opportunity permits – and still enjoy a good beer. Who knows; much to the disdain of never-Trumpets I may have lasted long enough to see him elected, and possibly complete his first term. (Get lost Mueller!)

Oh yes, when that dear specialist gave me the range of life expectancies I immediately replied, “The art and science of medicine” to which he replied, “Sometimes it’s more art.”

Life is both art AND science. And, until science can explain the mechanism behind the fundamental natural force of gravity, or explain sentience in human beings, it will remain so.

David A

Wishing you continued victory.


Tom here’s hoping that you are still going strong by the end of his second term. If it was just a swamp I would not be so upset. It is more like a cesspool.


It is interesting that when one gets a study to show one effect you always can get one to show the opposite. The biggest influence on a scientific finding is the confirmation basis of those conducting the experiment. This is caused due to its influence over the design of the experiment and the interpretation of the data which will ironically lead to conclusions which are consistent with the scientists preconceived ideas ( or financial motivations). This is as much evident in Climate science, and biotechnology research as it is with dowsing.

Simon Allnutt

I stopped reading the Guardian about forty years ago when they did some reports on subjects that I had studied in great detail and I realised how they twisted the truth for their narrative. When I understood that, nothing they wrote was credible as I had completely lost my trust in their journalism. It seems worse these days and even less credible.


A common tale, I am afraid Simon. I lost faith in journalism in general through the same kind of experiences! Some journalists do better than others and some publications place a lighter hand on their journalists to “fit” stories to their editorial narrative, but in general they are a sorry bunch the whole lot of them!

Pop Piasa

The owners of press outlets have shaped history through manipulation of public opinion. As Leif often says: “nothing new”.

Bruce Cobb

These puffed-up self-appointed “defenders of science” are nothing but big blowhards with an axe to grind. They are big believers in “consensus science”, meaning that of course, CAGW is real, and anyone who doesn’t believe belongs in the same category as Medieval witchcraft.

Loren C Wilson

So here is my experience with dowsing. My uncle used it in Mexico to find wells. We were down for a visit and he told us about it. We all laughed at the idea. So my aunt took us down to the creek and we cut willow branches into a y shape. We walked around and occasionally the end of the willow would dip. I do not think I was causing it. My brother held the ends of the willow my aunt was using to prevent her from consciously or unconsciously twisting the ends to make the other end dip and it still dipped. Now whether there was water there or not we don’t know. The end of the willow did go down without any apparent force applied by me or anyone else that was doing it. I am now a chemical engineer with thirty years experience in the lab measuring physical properties and phase equilibria. I know a bit about physics and chemistry. I have no explanation for this phenomena. Very intriguing.


Lets see a video.


From the department of Weren’t the Middle Ages Terrible comes this statement in the Guardian article:
“The news that many water companies use dowsing to locate underground water has prompted outraged demands from scientists that they desist at once from wasting time and money on ‘medieval witchcraft’.”
However, Wikipedia points out that:
“Dowsing appears to have arisen in the context of Renaissance magic in Germany..”
Turns out it was the Renaissance that was terrible and not the Middle Ages.

John M

And yet, they published this.

But to be fair, looks like the astrologers did better than their journalists did.

Jim Heath

It works. annoying isn’t it.


There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.



Doh, you beat me to the quote! See below.

Sorry – I didn’t mean to copy you without attribution!

It is Shakespeare you are copying. I wish more people copied him.


Hey, I was going to say that! Fortunately, I always read the thread before commenting.

Ivor Ward

Trying to run so called scientific experiments on water diviners is the equivalent to holding a gun to their head and saying you’ll shoot them if they find nothing. The whole thing about divining is that the dowser is completely relaxed and confident that something will show him where the wells are. Our old boy used to say, “slip us a quid if us finds water for ee.” That was the nature of the contract.
On our farm back in the fifties a dowser using a forked willow twig found two underground springs for us. One for the house and another out on the farm. Both had water, winter and summer for the whole time I lived there for the cost of a couple of quid and two pits dug with pick and shovel.
So maybe he had £20,000 worth of ground radar and sonar kit hidden under his tweed jacket, who cares, It still only cost us a quid. Slight disclaimer..This was in a valley in Cornwall so you only really had to look straight up in the sky to find water.
If Philip Ball seriously thinks that just because we can’t find a scientific explanation for something then it cannot exist then he is a first order twit. The human race is a long way from understanding the entirety of the universe. We are probably on the first rung of the ladder of knowledge where we still don’t have a clue how many rungs there are.
I’m off to a bonesetter that I know to get my back fixed. He doesn’t do science either, he just fixes back problems.


Yeah, doing something while cameras are rolling is like a gun to the head.


What exactly is an underground spring?
A spring by definition is water that flows naturally to the surface.
The term is an oxymoron.

Rob Black

Rephrase as: “While there are lots of reasons to doubt that dowsing can directly detect water, minerals, lost jewelry or anything else, dowsing can detect subtle variations in the Earth’s magnetic field…”

My grandfather, who was an electrical and signaling engineer in the Victorian Railways, was also an amateur water diviner and had about 85% accuracy. He had no idea what enabled it but people called on him all his life up to age 88. The evidence for water divining is much stronger than for anthropogenic climate change which requires data manipulation.


The evidence for fairies is greater than for gnomes, therefore I believe in fairies.


“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio”

As skeptics, we should question and demand proof wherever we can. However, there are still lots of mysteries out there which we haven’t been able to reduce to discrete hypotheses. There is a lot anecdotal evidence that dowsing is better than random, but experimental evidence doesn’t back this up. Is this the experiment (which, let’s face it, may have been designed to fail – I can point to plenty of such “experiments” in nutrition research) or the anecdotes?

And in the end, it boils down to utility: A model is useful when it can be used to predict an outcome accurately – this has nothing to with being “true” – it is useful until it fails to predict accurately and when that happens, you develop a better model (Kuhnian science as opposed to Popperian). If the engineer gets results with his divining rods – what skin is it off your nose?

Meterology is classic Kuhnian science with the various forecasts all about getting a better prediction and being modified all the time to be more useful. Some of the modifications might get you closer to the “truth”, but who cares are long as they do a better job of telling people what weather to expect. Climate models, however, have shown a singular lack of utility in predicting future temperatures. Unless, that is, your purpose is to scare people into massive societal changes. Then they have been quite useful and if that is your purpose then of course you wouldn’t change them……

alastair Gray

Interesting that the response of us climate skeptics to water diving seems to be cautious acceptance that there may be something in it. I have tried divining with bent rods and they did seem to move in a spatially consistent manner. I always assumed that my subconscious muscle control was operating the rods, and I favour the theory of a magnetic sense that drives that. I would speculate that springs may be associated with faults, and faults are often associated with changes in magnetic field strength. I have no personal experience of dowsing working for water detection. but I have heard testimony to its efficacity by several people whom I would consider reliable and honest witnesses.
When the AGW brigade of psychobabble loons hear that we are kindly disposed towards divining they will bring up the old codswallop of us falling for any and all weird conspiracy theories.
My favourite conspiracy theory, in which I passionately believe, is that the Loch Ness monster has not been seen recently is because it was abducted by aliens. Beware You could be next!!


“but I have heard testimony to its efficacity by several people whom I would consider reliable and honest witnesses.”

And I know a lot of people who are highly educated and very intelligent who swallow AGW whole.
that is not a reason to buy a word of it for even one second.

Bruce Cobb

Additionally, even if dowsing/water witching/divining or whatever is “bunk”, it hurts no one. I’d say it belongs in a gray area, somewhere between science and myth. Lots of things do, and it is sheer hubris to claim otherwise. Other beliefs are perhaps more fanciful, and even fun, such as the belief in bigfoot, or the Loch Ness monster. But again, they harm no one, except perhaps those who believe in them. CAGW ideology, which is replete with all kinds of myths, fantasies, and outright fabrications on the other hand does a great deal of harm to humanity.


“Additionally, even if dowsing/water witching/divining or whatever is “bunk”, it hurts no one. ”
Wrong, it hurts credibility to be associated with people who swallow such nonsense.
Being a crank is very much skin off of ones nose.
This comment section is offensively accepting of a load of freaking horseshit.

tony mcleod

Click bait masquerading as opinion, masquerading as science. Welcome to WUWT

Mark - Helsinki

bitter bitter little critter 😛

Pop Piasa

I guess he’s having a Mcleody day…


tony…….””News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”””

..the first eight words have it covered

Extreme Hiatus

First, David, try not to ridicule the Guardian too much. They are tooooo easy a target and its a bit like ridiculing the SJW child of ultra-manipulative SJW parents (look who owns it). They really do need their safe space and will never change in any case. They are pure unadulterated non-stop propaganda.

As for this dowsing story, it reminds me of the scientific calculations that showed that bumblebees can’t fly. (Or any number of Global Warming predictions.) All I can say is that it worked for me on our property where the underground water sources are distinct and separate streams and I did it with two metal coat hangers.

I also believe that bumblebees can fly.

Sorry but it is impossible to resist ridicule in the Guardain, I mean Grudian, I mean Garduin…that poncy paper for elitist pricks.

Extreme Hiatus

No doubt about that. But maybe not too much. They’ll just scream bully and play the victim card.


And how do you know that the water sources are distinct and separate streams?