# Dowsing

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 47067.  Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:33 pm Newton was very nasty to Robert Hooke, so let's give him a dusting for that as well

 47096.  Sun Jan 22, 2006 5:46 am But still we return to the biggest problem that dowsing faces - if it works, why doesn't it pass any statistical tests - why does it work less well than testing, even for the best dowsers in the world? Until that is cleared up, no amount of individual success or anecdote really means anything. Individual cases don't prove anything - mostly because they're never repeated. I once threw 11 'heads' in a row while tossing a coin. Once. Chance of 2048 to 1. I once had a friend who got 5 numbers right in the lottery. Chance of 1 in a few hundred thousand... But to not do either of those thing, many, many times is easy, and unremarkable (and thus unrecorded). If it actually works, it must be possible to demonstrate that it works, surely.

47132.  Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:49 am

 Gray wrote: If it actually works, it must be possible to demonstrate that it works, surely.

But, gentle reader, this is where we started. Any dowser can demonstrate to you that it works, even show you how to do it. Possibly. like fychan, it will work for you. You wanted 'scientific proof'. I think you will probably never get it, but you already have pragmatic proof a-plenty, so rest content.

47153.  Sun Jan 22, 2006 1:44 pm

 Quote: Any dowser can demonstrate to you that it works...

But this is the problem - they can't. Maybe they'll get it roughly right occasionally, but the whole discipline of statistics was invented to see whether 'a few times' are anything more than a random occurrence. Statistics allows you spot patterns in randomness.

My lottery-winning friend doesn't have a playing strategy that 'works' - he just got lucky once.

The far, far simpler explanaion is that people like to think they have 'special powers' to fight the seemingly random universe, and other people remember when they get it right, and not when they get it wrong, because getting it right is 'amazing'.

We certainly did start here, and we haven't really moved off this square yet. If it's so simple to do, why has no-one claimed James Randi's huge prize for simply demonstrating that 'it works'? For the same reason that Uri Geller can't prove his powers, or any of the other illusionists that understand human fallibility...

What's 'pragmatic proof', by the way?

 47161.  Sun Jan 22, 2006 2:54 pm Reading through the links and the experiences that have been cited on this thread, it seems to me that if it works as the users of it say it does, then one of the reasons it wouldn't work in setups such as Randi was providing is that these are essentially artificial and would therefore remove those subconscious cues. Why can't Randi and his associates pick an area of ground from a map, where nobody knows what is under the ground, and ask dowsers to work over it to show what they think there is? They could get several dowsers over the same piece of ground, as long as they kept them away from each other or did the test on different days.

47164.  Sun Jan 22, 2006 4:10 pm

 Jenny wrote: They could get several dowsers over the same piece of ground, as long as they kept them away from each other or did the test on different days.

It'd be interesting to see if the different seasons affected the precision of the dowsers results. Perhaps in this way, sub-conscious effects of varying vegetation growth could be investigated.

Just a thought...

 47202.  Mon Jan 23, 2006 5:17 am Well, that's certainly the approach I'd use. I can't see why it hasn't been done. Perhaps we should have a QI Summer Dowsing contest. I'd especially like to see how dowsing ability, as perceived in the semi-conscious mind, is affected by different strengths of beer.

 47495.  Tue Jan 24, 2006 3:54 pm 3 for 3 I've had 3 intersections with dowsing. 1. The local water district worker was said to be able to dowse. A building was torn down by a contractor and the cellar hole filled with rubble. Unfortunately, the water service had not been cut off and removed as required - just shut off. As is common, there were no drawings showing the 100 year old piping location. Instead of digging up the whole mess to find it and possibly breaking the pipe, the guy dowsed the location exactly. 2. Having seen this happen, and expressing doubt, I was handed a pair of rods to see how I would do. There were two long culverts running under my property about which I needed to know the condition. The inlets and outfalls were unknown because they fed into a storm drain. I only knew that I was to walk perpendicular to the general run of the unseen culverts. To my amazement, the rods swung twice as I moved slowly over the ground. The two locations were verified to be correct. 3. A client needed a water well and I suggested using a dowser as the bedrock in the area of their house was known to be a relatively poor water producer. Bedrock in these parts has very variable fracturing, resulting in some very deep wells in order to get enough water, unless one hits the right spot. Our own drilled well is 430 feet deep. The dowser stated that at a specified location the wellman would get an artesian flow at 110 feet deep. The wellman went to 110 feet but there was virtually no flow. I came back the next day and found a dejected wellman as he had lost his drill bit at 116 feet and water was flowing out of the well head. It ultimately had to be tapped off to relieve the pressure. Should I keep looking to interface with dowsing until it fails?

47549.  Tue Jan 24, 2006 6:57 pm

 Quote: Should I keep looking to interface with dowsing until it fails?

Not quite sure what this means... Do you mean 'should you keep dowsing until it doesn't work for you'? Sure, if it works then I should go with it. If you can get it to work more than 50% of the time, you can easily make yourself a very rich man indeed. And cast serious doubts over a large chunk of science too, even if you can't work out how it happens.

How did the dowser in your third example translate the 'tingling in his arms' to a figure of 110 feet, exactly? And how do we know he hadn't inspected the water table beforehand? There are so many simpler explanations of success that supernatural forces need not be brought in. There's too much reliance on hearsay.

Someone wins the lottery nearly every Saturday at odds of over 13 million to 1, but the lists of those that don't win are not published. Should we assume, then, that the winners have a 'knack' that the losers don't have? Or are we selecting the statistics in a rather biased manner, concentrating on only the wins to strengthen our case that those people are somehow gifted?

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see dowsing work, to see if we have a biological adaptation for unconsciously finding water, but while there's no repeatable evidence, no mechanism for it, and many simpler explanations of the reported cases of success, I can't understand why it should be more credible than, say, prayer or ESP or telekenesis.

How can we distinguish dowsing from wishful thinking?

47560.  Tue Jan 24, 2006 9:55 pm

 Quote: How did the dowser in your third example translate the 'tingling in his arms' to a figure of 110 feet, exactly? And how do we know he hadn't inspected the water table beforehand? There are so many simpler explanations of success that supernatural forces need not be brought in. There's too much reliance on hearsay.

Thanks for your comments. I don't think I mentioned 'tingling in the arms', and I don't know how he came up with 110 feet, exactly. Inspecting a water table buried in bedrock is a little difficult to do. I didn't mention 'supernatural forces'. No hearsay - I was a first person witness.

47565.  Tue Jan 24, 2006 10:16 pm

 Quote: If you can get it to work more than 50% of the time, you can easily make yourself a very rich man indeed.

I don't think that dowsers around here make themselves rich.

In the case that was questioned, the search was for a good individual water well. The method of making the well was with a 'pounder', which essentially used a dropped bit to shatter the rock. The theory is that a much shallower well will produce more and better water, if the correct location in the rock is chosen. This process takes about a week, as in the example given.

Unfortunately, with time being of the essence these days, the 'drilled' well process has taken over. This produces much deeper wells because the drill tends to seal the shaft as it bores through bedrock, requiring more depth to get a minimum yield. The water produced is more mineralized. But it is fast; a much deeper well can be drilled in a day or two. And these drillers don't have time to wait for a dowser.

No need for a dowser; brute force takes over. Then once in the residence, the water has to go through a softening process.

When high yield municipal wells are being established, the search is conducted by hydrogeologists. So the dowser is generally marginalized.

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