Randi speaks truth!

By Phil Plait | February 21, 2009 9:12 am

I’ve already mentioned that my man Randi has started a new video series, but I wanted to call your attention to this week’s in particular. Randi is on his game here, funny and fierce and unlikely to let an empty threat of a lawsuit slow him down from putting a pin in someone’s balloon; in this case, a dowser. Watch, learn, and enjoy.

I love how open and unbiased these guys always are. It’s not "Hey, let’s give this a shot", it’s name-calling and claims of fraud and telling Randi he has to shut down the JREF. Fat chance. And giving away the Million Dollars does not mean the JREF gets shut down; there’s way more nonsense out there than there are people promoting reality, so, sadly, we’ll always have work to do.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Debunking, Humor, JREF, Skepticism

Comments (87)

Links to this Post

  1. Debunking Dowsing | Surprising Science | February 24, 2009
  1. Isernbreegen

    Hah, “… because he threatened legal action against the JREF *bites fist*”. I love that cheeky old man!

  2. Sir Eccles

    I am utterly surprised Mr Price isn’t a millionaire several times over already, that is quite an astounding skill he has demonstrated.

  3. Ramel

    I love that beard, it’s fantastic! When I’m his age I want a beard like that!

    Dowsing is interesting because it’s very easy to fool yourself into thinking you can do it, when I was a teenager my aunt showed me how to dowse and, being me, first thing I did was try a proper test. It was almost disappointing… And a little disturbing to find out your hands can move with out you consciously deciding that they should. A bit too much like that movie “Idle Hands”.

  4. TS

    This might be a shallow observation but people who hangs their keys off their belt strap always seem kinda dim to me. 😀

  5. Charles Boyer

    So Phil, if I can twist antennae in my hands with no obvious motion, it is worth a million dollars?

    Where do I sign up?


  6. I just adore Randi! And I love it when he tells those frauds to “bring it!” My hero.

  7. The JREF is a great organization. It’s probably the best educational charity out there. Both Randi’s and Plait’s blogs greatly influenced my decision to join JREF. I look forward to TAM7!

  8. Patrick

    What I want to know is how the hell does that globe spin? It looks like there is nothing supporting it, and I want one.

  9. John Moeller

    I think what’s funny about this is that Price seems to think that the JREF has never encountered claims of this kind before. It’s kind of sad; he obviously doesn’t even have the slightest idea about basic critical examination.

    @TS: It is kind of shallow. My dad has hung his keys off his belt for as long as I remember. He’s a medical physicist. :-p

  10. glued

    It’s the combination of the loose wires in the tube he’s holding, forward/backward movement, and the abrupt stop in that motion that causes the wires to close in on his chest.

    Or that’s what I think happens anyway. Correct me if I”m wrong.

  11. chief

    But Price knows of the foundation, sadly it seems that his dousing is on par with the skills to do a search into the history and benefits of the JREF. I’d be curious on how Mr. Plait would word his own video reponse to this kind of, um. cough… science…. of dousing.

  12. Sili

    One of my bosses made it easy for me to debunk his dowsing.

    He said that the powerlines could interfere with the water and wanted to demonstrate it by putting a disconnected plug in the wallsocket.

    When he turned to show me that now he wouldn’t get any reaction, I flipped the switch off.

    That did made him think, I hope.

    He still claims that acupuncture helps his bad back. And of course it does – placebo is powerful, so I feel bad about rolling my eyes in that case.

  13. Mike W

    what a tard!!
    he attached bubble levels… hahahaha

  14. I think Randi would be neat to have as a grandfather!

  15. Jay

    I never realised there was so much skepticism around dowsing. My father uses this method to find water for people (often when attempts to drill a well came up dry). I don’t recall his suggestions on where to drill ever being incorrect either. (I would always ask because I was waiting for him to be wrong). He doesn’t consider this paranormal activity though. He also is at a loss to explain it. What is most interesting is the gentleman who used to drill the wells also had this ability and the two of them would often independently choose the same spot as the best place to drill. Could there be something they’re unconsciously detecting in the landscape? Seems like awfully low chances that two people would pick the same spot on an acre or more of land. Neither of them would ever charge to this service and never claimed it worked for anything other than water.

    I’m not sure this could be tested by JREF. In the cases where I’ve seen it work it was natural settings (usually an empty plot of land where someone was about to build a new home in the country). I wonder if this “talent” would work in a situation that is concocted. There is something to this though, as inexplicable as it is apparently.

  16. So, are those library books on Randi’s shelf? Cool.

    And I notice one of them appears to be Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds</i., from his old PBS TV show. Even cooler.

  17. Oops. Cut myself off. (Must be channeling Michael Horn.)

    …Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds from his old PBS TV show. Even cooler.

  18. Troy

    It is unfortunate the dowser got this much exposure. It is one thing to dethrone someone of some notoriety that the media has anointed as someone authentic; but to bring a nobody up is probably not the best of idea.
    I like his rotating globe. Perhaps if he is in need of ideas sometime he could give a tour of his nick nacks.

  19. Daniel J. Andrew

    On youtube I’ve seen Randi take out the 10,000 dollar check a couple of times to demonstrate he puts his money where his mouth was, and with the implication that he’d give this check to someone who demonstrated genuine psychic powers right there on national tv. I liked that he put his money where his mouth was.

    It was a bit of a publicity stunt carrying it around because there is no way he would give that check out to a stage performer right on the spot. If Randi was unable to explain how something was done, he’d ask the performer to come into the lab (and rightly so) to see if he could do whatever it was he could do under controlled conditions. He’s too wily to think that even he can’t be fooled by something new first time around.

  20. MadScientist


    I’m convinced that it’s loose screws in the dowser’s head and nothing to do with loose wires.

  21. Gavin Flower

    Good video, however, I attempted to access


    But I got the following message:

    Database Error: Unable to connect to the database:Could not connect to MySQL

    Possibly he should upgrade to PostgreSQL from MySQL, it is much more reliable, faster, and easier to use – I’ve used both, and talked to others who have extensive experience with both.

  22. Ribozyme

    I noticed the globe too. It’s beautiful! EVERYOBODY: if anyone knows how to get one, please post a link or any other information. Or it might be one of a kind, because it’s… magical!

    And whose portrait is partially shown in the background? From the sideburns and eyeglasses I would say Asimov.

  23. My dad used to work for the local gas company in my hometown and used this coat hanger trick to find underground pipes and wires before digging. I tried it myself and was able to locate my parent’s septic tank, underground electrical lines, and a couple of other underground features. This was done without prior knowledge of where these things were and my Dad confirmed that I was actually locating stuff. I also tried it over deeper buried pipes and small plastic pipes and it did not work. To me there seems to be something to this phenomenon, but I’m equally sure that it requires no special ability or supernatural explanation.

  24. Chip

    That dowser is full of baloney.
    However, I think I can actually change the shape of Aurora Borealis by eating pizza while its happening. I take a bite of peperoni and the magnificent pageant of lights in the sky shift, I bite a slice of cheese and the lights turn pinkish and form shimmering curtains. I thought of asking Randi about the million dollar prize but I can’t get the video camera to record both me and the lights at the same time. In fact, I think I’d just rather have a pizza with Randi and talk about interesting things rather than go for the prize. Having a conversation with Randi is worth much more. 😉

  25. Mark Duigon

    During my career as a hydrologist I’ve heard many entertaining stories about dowsing. I’ve also gone out to pick a spot for a new well after the dowser’s choice spot produced an inadequate yield–many times. But the most amazing thing is how many people fervently believe in dowsing, with a religious zeal matched only by the anti-evolutionist feelings of Creationists.

  26. Bad Albert

    So why haven’t you applied for the $1,000,000 prize?

  27. @Jay
    When I was a kid, the well driller used a y-shaped cherry branch to find an underground stream, and following that, chose the best place to drill. He even tried to show me how it worked, though I couldn’t get it to work for me. Of course, when I got a bit older, I realized that underground water lies in aquafers, not streams. Drill just about anywhere and you hit water. Choosing the “best” location is as much experience as anything – lay of the land, surface materials, existing gardens, and proximity to the house leave only a couple of practicl locations for drilling a well, so it is no surprise that two experienced people would choose the same spot.

  28. So why haven’t you applied for the $1,000,000 prize?

    Indeed. As many have suggested repeatedly, why don’t they go dowsing for buried treasure? Or oil? Or Jimmy Hoffa? All kinds of things they could find that would earn them big bucks.

    But no. They post videos on youTube, and make unverifiable claims on blogs.

    Of course, I’m sure it’s just because their “gift” cannot be squandered on such crassities as filthy lucre.

  29. Escuerd

    To be fair, it’s a little harder to take the Randi Challenge than it used to be. Now you need an academic endorsement, and, while there are always a few who’ll buy into such things, it might not be easy to get their attention. Who has time to reply to every crank that wants your attention?

    Then again, this hurdle shouldn’t be insurmountable for someone with an actual paranormal ability, and would certainly be worth a million dollars to put some effort into. But I think that Randi’s advice for applicants to do their own properly blinded test first is an even better idea to save some embarrassment, and save everyone some trouble.

  30. Justin Olson

    I am amazed that there are still people in this day an age who believe dowsing is a real phenomena that can locate underground water (aka: water witching) or buried objects.

    There is an easy way to put dowsing to the test. First, one must test the concept of dowsing itself, not the dowser doing the dowsing who might be unconsciously affecting the experiment with subtle arm and hand movements.

    Take out the human element.

    I wish the Mythbusters would take this on. They could set up some level dolly track over an area in which they bury some pipes containing flowing water, live electrical wires, etc. Then they could construct a rig that remotely moves along the dolly track with some ballistic gel human hands that hold dowsing rods that are absolutely still relative to each other and the moving rig.

    If dowsing is a real phenomena, then the rods will cross whenever they exactly pass over a buried pipe that contains flowing water or electricity. Of course, if dowsing is NOT a real phenomena, then the rods will just rotate wildly in all directions no matter what they happen to pass over.

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I am amazed that there are still people in this day an age who believe dowsing is a real phenomena

    Yes, and as per the usual mind set they happily parade anecdotes around instead of actual data.

    And I believe this is a case where one don’t need the prize to get to the facts. IIRC (old memory, but still) there have actually been double blind test observations made on dowsing, since it is an old and somewhat pervasive scam, and I believe they were quite decidedly failing to show a dowsing effect.

  32. Machine_Elf

    Phil wrote:

    “I love how open and unbiased these guys always are. It’s not “Hey, let’s give this a shot”, it’s name-calling and claims of fraud”

    Funnily enough, that pretty much sums up Randi’s recent YouTube postings about parapsychology. One man’s meat and all that I guess.

  33. Rodney

    Ah James Randi,

    Some folks got it, and he’s got it.

    Me, I’m still trying to figure out just what “it” is. But that’s why I’m not betting people that they can’t take a million dollars from me, laughing all the way and winning every time.

    I’m thinking that, if anyone is really a dowser, why aren’t they out finding hundreds of tons of gold, diamonds, ancient valuables and leaving Mr. Randi alone?

    That’s what everyone who can carry a metal detector is trying to do at the beach every Sunday,


    BTW: Didn’t that whole “I’m not doin that ” sort of remind you of “I’m not touching you…I’m NOT touching you…”? Just sayin’

  34. rfall

    That’s a drawing of Isaac Asimov behind Randi on our right (his left).

    Is he an Asimov fan?

    Love it!

  35. @ Mark Duigon, Bipedal Tetrapod et al. – You beat me to it. If you dig a hole deep enough, most places your going to find water.

    @ Machine_Elf – Sometimes you just gotta call a spade a bloody shovel.

    This video is great. The “demonstration” is painful, but some nice ownage on Randi’s part I thought.

    Hey Phil, did you see that great GRB video from Fermi (GRB 080916C)? I’m sure you have, or it’s in your inbox, but it’s wicked.

  36. Cyrius

    @patrick, @Ribozyme re: Globe

    The globe appears to be the Solar Powered Spinning Globe from 1 World Globes http://www.1worldglobes.com/1WorldGlobes/solarglobe.html

    I want one, but not for $500.

    As to how it works, the site says “Solar powered rotation depends on light and the magnetic energy of the earth to keep it spinning effortlessly.” My first guess would be that the thing is a compass that is rotating the outer globe shell relative to its internal magnet.

  37. Re: rotating globe.

    You can buy a (smaller) rotating globe at the Griffith Observatory in LA for about $200. At least in September 2008; I can’t find it on their website (click my name). If you search in Google for “solar powered rotating globe” you get lots of sites that sell them. I saw the size that Randi has for $500. I forgot the name of the fluid type that is used inside the globe, but it works based on asymmetric heating by light.

  38. I think that for many people like this, Randi’s challenge is not just about the money, but to an even larger degree it’s about (scientific) recognition. As one commenter said, if dowsing works, why not go treasure hunting. That would be far more lucrative than Randi’s million dollars.

    Deep down, this guy must have doubts about dowsing himself. His behaviour of calling Randi a fraud, and threatening with legal action is a classic example of projecting your own insecurity onto someone else. On the one hand he seeks Randi’s seal of approval, but at the same time, he shows contempt for Randi and what he stands for.

    With a bit of sceptic therapy, this guy can probably be “saved”. Unless his livelyhood depends on dowsing, of course.

  39. Bill Stickers

    I don’t particularly believe in dowsing, definitely not the supernatural explanations, but I like to think I have an open mind. Anyhow, seeing as many BABlogies are the scientific type, can I get second opinion on this explanation.

    Perhaps the rods could be acting as some sort of gravity meter. The slight variation of force(due to variations in density) would be able to be felt through the moment(M=FD) acting along the rods. This would then tilt your wrist more or less causing the rods to swing in or out.

    Sounds vaguely possible, but I would love mythbusters to have a shot at this.

  40. Bill Stickers

    sorry hit submit too soon…

    this of course would only work on the water kind of dowsing not the find the chalk mark on cement kind.

  41. Anonymous

    Skeptics should concentrate their ire on the pseudo-sciences (like dousing & ESP), not recycling & second-hand smoke. I was more entertained by this one tiny clip then with a handful of “Penn & Teller: Bulls**t” episodes. Are they still making episodes for that? They must have some sweet pictures of Showtime dumping raw sewage next to a day-care facility…

  42. Greg

    Fantastic. Phil, I don’t envy you your job at JREF, you have huge shoes to fill. Is there some sort of Jedi-like training practice involved. I mean, you’re a student of science, but Randi is a student of flim-flam.

    Also, is that Barnes & Noble picture of Isaac Asimov behind him.

  43. Greg

    And why do I seem incapable of using question marks.

  44. IVAN3MAN

    @ Greg,

    That’s thrice that you’ve left out a question mark. :-)

  45. Todd W.

    As a Minnesotan, just let me say that Price is most definitely not representative of the greater population. My fierce MN pride is shamed by this fellow. (sigh)

  46. Todd W.

    Also, in regard to dowsing for septic tanks, they’re pretty easy to find, since the grass tends to be greener and healthier looking over them and the pipes running to them.

  47. Gary Ansorge

    ” Use the FARCE ,Luke and the Rods of Power will show you the Way,,,”
    “Er, master Yoda, you’re standing in a pile of poop,,,”

    Which is usually where one ends up, following magic,,

    The only reasonable test for these types of claims would be a double blind test. Unfortunately, that requires the difficult task of thinking,,,

    Dr Richard Feynmein mentioned in his auto biography that he had his friends half convinced he could speak any language on earth(the gift of tongues). When his friends arranged for a visiting Chinese professor to listen to his rendition of Chinese, he babbled his best example of what he thought of as that language and she responded “Oh, no, it’s as I feared. He’s speaking Mandarin and I only speak Cantonese,,,”. Richard found that quite hilarious.

    On a personal note, I have the irritating habit of finishing other folks sentences, leaving them wondering if I’m telepathic ( but it’s just logic),,, while my acquaintance is considering their next word, I’ve already figured out where they’re going with the conversation and can’t help trying to hurry them along,,,I guess I just have a short attention span,,,

    We’re often impelled by subliminal data that adds up to a conscious choice for which we have no logical rationale, yet it sometimes proves to be right. I expect if a dowser is looking for a buried septic system, the subliminal stimuli (odor, greener grass, etc) can be quite accurate at triggering the appropriate minimal muscular movement to swing the rods. It ain’t magic, but it is interesting,,,

    Some recent research has indicated that before we make a conscious choice, we’ve already made our subliminal choice. It just takes a while to bubble up from the basement of our minds,,,

    IF telepathy exists, it might be a quantum entanglement process. Certainly there could be no EM transmission from one brain to another. The field effects are just too minimal to be detected outside the insulating skull. Experiments to detect our brain Em fields outside the skull get swamped by random noise,,,( we call Non-random noise,,,music,,,)

    Ah, telepathy, if only it was true, I could save $80/month on my AT&T bill,,,

    “,,,Randy?,,,Randy?,,,dang it, he has telepathic Call Blocking,,,”

    GAry 7

  48. Daniel J. Andrew

    @ Torbjörn Larsson. I also have an old memory of a test being done on dowsing. It was in the 70s, on tv (unless I read it and I have altered memory syndrome going here), and the dowser failed miserably. His locations of buried wires amounted to no more than chance and he had as many false positives. Don’t know if it was partly in counter to the Amazing Kreskin type shows/special features that were showing up at the time???

    I think that the best evidence for paranormal abilities is that no-one has claimed Randi’s million. Counter-intuitive? But pay heed. The ones who really have paranormal abilities are already making millions with their talents and have no need of going after Randi’s money. See? Very obvious.

    Then think what will happen if you do win Randi’s million. First the tax man comes after you, and then come the black cloak government agencies to either make you work for them or to kill you so you don’t work for someone else depending on how dangerous you are…telekinesis can be used to move marbles or close the carotid artery in an important figure (or pinch the spinal cord).

    And if the government doesn’t get you, you’ll then be chased by various groups led by powerful rich people who want to use you, dissect you, experiment on you, and/or kill you. Come to think of it, perhaps Randi is a front for a black coat government organization designed to locate the true paranormals from the crack-pots…..he is a magician and misdirection is second nature to him…. and is Phil in on it too now…??? :-)))

    [yes, I’m completely joking about all of the above…except for the bad government part 😉 ]

  49. TS

    There have been made tests of dowsers by James Randi and Dick Smith in Australia, click on my name for a link to a Google Video for a long segment about James Randi in Australia.

  50. BillyBob
  51. Wayne

    OT, but I’m wondering why we haven’t heard about the book “The Saucer Fleet” on this blog, especially since our own BA wrote the Foreword:


  52. Was my comment deemed “mean” and not allowed? :(

    Anyway, great video.

  53. Unstrung, did it have a link in it? Those need to be “approved” first. I think today is a busy day with the JREF server migration. :)

  54. TS,
    Thanks for the link, it was an excellent watch.

  55. MadScientist

    I could see the guy giving his wrists a quick twitch, but I guess that was only a secondary effect; as Randi pointed out, the guy was lifting his forearms. I absolutely agree with Randi that the demonstration was amateur – extremely so – I did that trick with taking one step back then one step forward blindfolded and having my brass rods cross when I was – oh, about 6 years old; the only difference was that I only had a line in chalk; I never thought of drawing a circle. My maternal grandad claimed he could dowse (something which he couldn’t even prove to a 6-year-old). As I played with the brass rods I learned I could make them do whatever I wanted and no one I showed the trick to could see what I was doing or else everyone was too timid to call the hoax.

  56. The Rand McNally store sells 4.5 inch diameter versions of these globes for $99. Click on my name.

    Perhaps the JREF store should start carrying these? They seem pretty darn cool.

  57. Richard

    You can read up on the double-blind tests on dowsing in >Flim-Flam! by James Randi. It appears in the chapter “The Will to Believe.”

    But, I got a used copy dated 1982.

    It’s a must have for skeptics and sceptics everywhere. (*snarf!*)

  58. jole

    Clearly, the spirit levels were attached to assist the channelling of spooky spirit powers.

  59. Ah, thanks Larian! Actually yeah, I had a link to that new “biggest” GRB story from Fermi and a link to “calling a spade a spade” on wiki.

    I can see it now still pending. I just couldn’t see it from my computer at work. phew! thought I might have somehow offended :)

  60. IBY

    Randi rules, like always. ^_^

  61. Bill Stickers

    Whys is my comment from yesterday still awaiting moderation? It’s not spam and I doubt it breaks any site rules.

  62. I happen to like Randi, but at times I think his mannerism is too snarky to appeal to the greater public. It’s fun, sometimes, to be sarcastic over clumsy attempts to display special powers (and these were unbelievably clumsy), but sarcasm is generally a condescending tactic, and this is not lost on the observer. While I’m sure Randi has seen enough of this nonsense to destroy his patience, I also feel that, in his quest to educate the public about scams and the dangers of uncritical acceptance, he should perhaps be taking a more visibly objective role.

    The short video demonstration of Greg Price’s “abilities” was rife with problems, far more than Randi pointed out. To the observer who was still on the fence about dowsing, wouldn’t it have been far more useful to show these for what they were? If you’ve heard half of the rumors about Randi that I have, including that the money isn’t there and that he’s had powers amply demonstrated to him and refused to pay up, does the sarcastic tone cause you to lean in his direction, or away from it? Even with this short clip, Randi might have come off more the injured party had he held his tongue until after Price called him a fraud. As it is, the impression I suspect many people are left with is that this has devolved into a sniping match between the two, rather than someone failing to meet the objective criteria of a reputable testing organization.

    Carl Sagan was very accomplished at this, having the ability to cast doubt simply by asking honest questions without a trace of contempt. We can’t all be Sagan, but there are times when we need to recognize how to reach our target audience. Randi, too often, seems to be addressing those he needs to reach the least.

  63. Greg in Austin


    I liked that documentary-style story of the dowsers. My 2nd favorite part is at the end where they tell everyone the results (less than 12% of the tests were accurate) and yet when they asked who still believed in dowsing, 100% raised their hands.

    My 1st favorite part is the graph that shows where in Australia you can find water under the surface. You might as well blindfold yourself, throw a rock, and wherever it lands, say, “Yep! There’s water!”


  64. Sparky

    The best part of this, in my opinion, is that when Mr. Price steps backwards over the line, at about 2:16 in the video, the rods (which he is still holding level) make no movement whatsoever! Randi would be hard pressed to demonstrate a better debunking of dowsing than a self-proclaimed dowser showing that the dowsing is an imagined phenomenon.

  65. Monkey

    Love the Dec 21, 2012 Ads on the page…biblical codes predict certain death!! Beware of 2012!!

    I damn well should have known better than to click on them…

  66. Quiet Desperation

    I think I like Pat Condell’s videos better. I don’t sense any particular threat from dowsers.

    biblical codes predict certain death!! Beware of 2012!!

    Geez, I know it’s a Roland Emmerich film, but let’s not go overboard. 😉

    And I hate to admit it, but the trailer with the ocean surging over the Himalayas *is* pretty cool.

  67. Nemo

    There seems to be a bit missing from the story — how did it go from “we proposed a test methodology” to “he’s suing us”?

    And that video… good grief. He goes on and on about how the rods stayed level, as though there were only one way to move them. How would that convince anyone?

    Or was it not intended to convince, but just as a pretext to sue the JREF?

  68. roan

    keep up the good work phil
    ‘promoting reality’

  69. Bill

    No one really cares what this old guy thinks any more. You need a Randi 2.0

  70. fos

    Hopefully our court system wouldn’t let some goofball with a couple of bent wires sue an educational foundation.

    Maybe the dousing video was meant to be a comedy? In that case they might get an honorable mention.

  71. Geek

    @Bill Stickers

    Gravitational fluctuations can be used, when measured with a gravimeter, to find oil and mineral deposits (look up Gravimeter in Wikipedia), but they are not nearly strong enough for dowsing for water.

    There are some papers online providing measurements of gravity variations due to hydrological factors. For one, see http://preview.tinyurl.com/bsaszt

    In that study, they measure variations due to groundwater of 20 nanometres per second squared. That would change the weight of the dowsing rod by 2 parts in a billion. Detecting a 1% change through your hands would be hugely impressive. The stretch from there to 2 parts in a billion, 0.0000002%, is very big.

  72. SeanDudeMan

    Hahaha, the process servers can get there without the use of dowsing rods. Classic. Uhh, what are you talking about, Bill? Randi is just as coherent/meaningful/informative as he’s always been.

  73. Calli Arcale


    This might be a shallow observation but people who hangs their keys off their belt strap always seem kinda dim to me.

    Hey, my dear hubby hangs his keys off of his belt strap! This is because, if he just stuffs them in his pocket, they rip a hole clear through the pocket in a matter of weeks. Similarly, if he hangs them off the belt strap and does nothing else, it rips the belt strap off. By using the pocket *and* the belt strap, the load is distributed a bit better. He’s got a lot of gadgets attached to his keychain, and he could probably beat a dowser to death with it. 😉

    On the video, I *love* how he tells us that he’s not doing that, and not moving his hands, even as his hands visibly move.

  74. Patrick:

    What I want to know is how the hell does that globe spin? It looks like there is nothing supporting it, and I want one.

    Haven’t you ever read Einstein’s papers? It’s not spinning. The Earth is spinning under it, taking us along, making it appear that the globe is spinning. :-)

  75. Gary Ansorge:

    On a personal note, I have the irritating habit of finishing other folks sentences, leaving them wondering if I’m telepathic ( but it’s just logic),,, while my acquaintance is considering their next word, I’ve already figured out where they’re going with the conversation and can’t help trying to hurry them along,,,I guess I just have a short attention span,,,

    Sometimes, it just takes “knowing someone”.

    Some years ago, my then-girlfriend/now-wife and I had the habit of doing things just like you describe. In one instance, we were listening to the car radio when a Simon and Garfunkel song came on. She said “trivia question…”, to which I immediately responded “Tom and Jerry”. She gave me the strangest look and said “stop doing that!”

    (In case you missed it, before they called themselves “Simon and Garfunkel”, they were known as “Tom and Jerry”.)

  76. Ranb

    A few years ago I lost water pressure to my house. When the county sent out a crew to check it out, they said the problem was in my line between the county connection and the house. One of the workers then whipped out his divining rod and marked a line between the cities water pressure reducer and the garage. After rolling my eyes in disbelief, I told him he marked the direct path between the power meter near the water reducer and the garage electrical junction box. He told me that I should call to get my utilities marked before digging.

    When the utilities were marked by proper methods, I saw that he had indeed marked the electrical line and that the water line was a good distance away from where he marked it. I could have been injured or killed had I dug where the dowser marked the alleged position of the water line.

    I complained to the water company and they said they would look into it.

  77. Is that a poster with an illustration of Isaac Asimov’s bust over Randi’s left shoulder?

  78. Wayne says: “OT, but I’m wondering why we haven’t heard about the book “The Saucer Fleet” on this blog, especially since our own BA wrote the Foreword”

    You guys are too quick. Wait a couple more days until our host has had a chance to recover from his trip to San Diego.

    That particular reference was a surprize to me. I first learned about it when the publisher forwarded me the link. It (the space.com article) was written by my co-author without telling me first. If he had, I would have encouraged him not to do it, or at least change the tone. The way it’s written it completely distorts the purpose of the book. It is NOT some sort of expose of the movie industry creating the appearance of “real” flying saucers in the ’50s. It’s a modelers’ guide to give some background and social impact of the famous saucers found in film and TV during that decade and the ’60s along with some other references.

    Actually, I’m pretty miffed about it. The book is actually a serious work on a fun subject, but this undermines its credibility (IMNSHO).

    – Jack

  79. OK, I should really check the link before ranting.

    In my previous entry, I was complaining about a space.com entry that can be found here:


    The one that Wayne linked to is a brief “Discover” review of the book.

    Like I said, y’all will learn a lot more about it in a couple days.

    – Jack

  80. Greg in Austin

    @Jack Hagerty,

    That sounds like a great book! I’m curious, did you happen to mention any photographic trickery by that Billy Meyer guy?

    Also, it seems that if you were the co-author of a book, your co-writer would have to get your permission before advertising or promoting your work. I’m not a legal expert, but I’d expect something like that would be covered in your agreement.

    In any case, I’ll be looking for it on store shelves soon!


  81. Thanks, Greg.

    The whole premise of the book is not about UFO’s or aliens or abductions. It’s a series of biographies (you can thank Phil for the term) on the flying suacer movies,TV shows and other media in the ’50s and ’60s. The whole UFO thing is only a subtext and is used only to explain why saucers were so redily accepted as a spacecraft in these productions. The only photographic trickery mentioned is that used by the special effects artists who created beliveable vehicles for our enjoyment.

    Yeah, I’ve always had trouble reining in Jon’s enthusiasm. He tends to go off on tangets in an effort to drum up publicity that (IMO) are ultimately detrimental. Of the 10 chapters in the book, I wrote 7 and he wrote 3. One of his is Chapter 1, which is not about any particular film, but examines the whole post-war flying saucer phenominon and why the public was so eager to embrace these films when it ran against all logic. When you co-author a book, you tend to view it through the lens of the parts that you wrote, so it’s understandable why he’d think it’s about fooling the public, but it still leaves the wrong impression.

    Don’t go buying a copy just yet (although you can do so at any time by clicking on my name). Give it another couple of days to see what Phil does.

    – Jack

  82. Muzz

    Dowsing is an interesting one for me. About fifteen years ago I would have said something along the lines of some of the dowsing fans up thread there.
    I wouldn’t be particularly defensive about it, but it used to be on telly a lot in the early eighties and things. People used to say they did it all the time too. I used to scoff at silly things like witchcraft and pyramids and that sort of new age claptrap and considerd myself fairly immune. Thought I had a pretty good, if developing, BS detector is what I’m saying.
    So it was a bit of a surprise when I first saw (I think Randi himself) debunk dowsing. I’d never even questioned it. I’d just always had it in the back of my mind that it worked. Sure some people took it too far and turned it into woo, swinging pendulums over jars of dirt and so on. But I thought it was basically something that worked on water or whatever. On proper examination it didn’t make a bit of sense.
    It was interesting to sort of casually believe something commonly held to be true because it was innocuous and had no effect on my life. And interesting how I did put up a little bit of a fight, in my mind, over being told it was wrong despite having no real stake in it and its falsenes being clearly demonstrated. Says a lot about many things in life.

  83. I’m curious, did you happen to mention any photographic trickery by that Billy Meyer guy?

    Hack…splutter…snork!!!! Billy Meier is a…trickster????!

    Seriously, tho, can’t wait to see the book, Jack. Good luck with it!

  84. Mark A. Siefert

    I work as a call center operator for the “Digger’s Hotline” in the state of Wisconsin. Last summer I got a call from one of our more rustic customers who wanted to request a underground utility locate for an upcoming project. During the call, he became quite frustrated with the detail of the questions I’m required to ask and was threatening to hang up and “call one of dose water witches wit da sticks.” Fearing the worst, I asked for clarification and he told me that there is someone in Northern Wisconsin using dowsing to locate water and utility lines. After calmly explaining to him that dowsing has never been shown to work under proper testing conditions nor is it a legally acceptable means of locating utilities we finished the call and scheduled his request.

    However, it really unnerved me that in 21st century America, people are staking their finances (repairing a damaged fiber optic conduit isn’t cheap) and their lives on magical thinking when you could have people with proper location equipment locate your underground lines. (And we’ll do it for free, too!) It’s only a matter of time until some yokel up in Rhinelander kills himself by digging into a gas or electric line that dowser’s miraculous powers didn’t reveal. That is, if it hasn’t happened already!

  85. Mark A. Siefert

    Oh! I also love how Price puts bubble levels on his rods to “prove” that he’s holding them straight. Hey! Price! How can we monitor the levels when you’ve got your camera man so far away that we can’t see inside the blasted things? Despite this gimmick, if you call the attitude of those rods “level” then remind me never to hire you to do any carpentry or landscaping work because the concept of “level” seems to have escaped you.

  86. John

    First I would not want to take the human element out of the experiment since it is prob. the human element that is required. Let us assume it is some ideomotor thing as some suggest. I would be fine with someone proving that the user has influence on the results. The question then becomes how did the user know to influence the results at the right time and in the right location???? Instinctive shooting where one does not use the sights on the revolver is a real thing that anyone can learn to do some better then other’s. To test instinctive shooting one has to have a human involved. You can not put the revolver on Busters hip and expect the dummy to draw and shoot at a moving target with out using sights to aim the human is the key to the entire thing.

    Most of the things we use daily are technologies that 1000 years ago would have been called magic. In fact in my mind Magic is what a simple mind calls a technology it does not yet understand. Try to prove the existence of emotions like love or hate….I can not see them but I have an idea of how they make me feel. Many animals can locate North or Electrical disturbances in the environment we do not call this magic or paranormal and we do not try to take the animal out of the equation. If you want to see if a shark can detect the small current used to fire a heart you build a device that simulates that signal and you toss it in the tank and observe the sharks reaction. We can not ask the shark about it and we can not prove anything short of our observation with the device turned on and then turned off and in multiple locations.

    I have seen some crazy stuff that is very outside the norm of daily experiences that many would call paranormal. TO me it is just a phenomenon that I can not understand fully or quantitatively document repeatedly. Devinchi(sp) drew images of the hydrodynamic flow of blood in the heart and it has only been maybe the last 10 years maybe a little less that we could actually determine if he was right or not. Turns out he hit the nail on the head and was 100% accurate. Was it magic or just a brilliant man with amazing ability to visualize things on a level few else can or could?

    In a good many things man is a key element take the man out of the picture and you are removing the most important part of the circuit. Their will always be those that want to believe and those that will never believe anything no matter how much evidence is staring them in the face. The German Government teamed Dowser with Geologist for locating water and the depth that the water would be found. The Dowsers rate of secess after all the numbers where crunched was 96% heck Cancer treatments are only what 10% secessful at riding a person of cancer and them surviving past 2 years with out the cancer returning. In fact most medications that are approved by various Government Agencies depending on what country you live in are lucky if they are 30% more effective then a placebo . Often doing nothing is just as effective as taking a drug. FOr instance ear infections will normaly sort themselves out in children in 7-10 days with no antibiotics yet it takes 7-10 days for antibiotics to clear them up? Not saying antibiotics do not work only that they do not do that much for a good many of the aliments they are used for. No one would think of calling antibiotics paranormal when they work or do not work or magic. I bet if we took them back 2000 years and cured people with Leprosy with antibiotics we would be seen as prophets, wizards, alchemist etc……….

    It was not that long ago people thought man could never fly…..Then they thought he could not break the speed of sound, then it was not being able to survive in space or to go to the moon…..Just saying it is easy and safe to be a doubter.

    Oh and I often use dowsing rods along with my metal detector. I am accurate about 50% of the time which is well beyond statistical luck. Often my son will use the detector and I will use the rods. I will have him confirm my site before I dig. I do not see dowsing as paranormal at all. It is no different then being able to see, hear,taste, smell, tell is someone is happy or sad….Ever walk into a room and felt the tension in the air even though no one was facing you ………The ability to detect weak electrical or magnetic signals is nothing new to nature most animals do it all the time. So why should it be that different in a human? The rod are not the key in the process those are just props the human and his interaction in the environment that is the key heck the rods could licorice wands the pendulum could be a spageti noodle they do not matter.


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