A double military victory!

By Phil Plait | January 22, 2010 11:33 am

I am very, very pleased to write about two wins for the military and skepticism today:

Story the first:

Remember the company that made millions by selling totally worthless bomb-sniffing magic wands to the military, detectors that were used at checkpoints in Iraq to search cars, and which failed to detect the terrorist bombs used to kill 155 people in October and 120 more in December last year?

Yeah, well, Jim McCormick, the head of the company that sold those useless dowsing rods, just got arrested for — oh, let me savor typing these words — "suspicion of fraud".

Wait, wait. That felt so good to write, let me do it again: Jim McCormick, who sold provably worthless dowsing rods to the military, has been arrested for suspicion of fraud.

Ahhhhh. That was just as good to type the second time.

bombsniffing_magicwandThis has been reported in The Register as well as The Times Online, which mentions Randi for an added bonus! The BBC has an in-depth analysis of this as well.

In the courts, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But in this case, we have scientific evidence that the kits sold by the company are 100% garbage, and I hope this guy gets everything he deserves.

And is McCormick penitent? Of course not! With apparently no sense of Teh Stoopid, he said:

We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.

Holy wow. Serously, dude? I mean, really? Here’s a clue, Mr. McCormick: it’s not that your dowsing rods lack doodads and flair and blinking lights. It’s that they don’t frakking work, and because the Iraqi military swallowed your story people have died.

I hope that’s clear now.

Story the second:

Our second news item is also quite satisfying, and also has a bit of the cluelessness from a company that sells things to the military. Trijicon, the company that inscribed references to Bible quotations on rifle scopes sold to the military, has announced that they will no longer inscribe them, and will provide kits to the military to remove the references in existing scopes.

Very cool. The military has rules forbidding proselytizing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rifle scopes were in clear violation of this. Of course, the company did this because of their concern over our troops and for the appearance of the military overseas, right? About that, the President of Trijicon, Stephen Bindon, said this:

Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate.

As I read that, it translated in my head as, "We did this because we were suddenly getting tons of bad press, and had to do something about this PR disaster, so we can can make it look like we’re being all altruistic and everything." Here’s another free hint to the head of a company selling stuff to the military: don’t thump your own chest and say how cool you are when we all know better. Simply admit your mistake, and let people know you’re honestly sorry. Telling everyone what a great move this was on your part is maybe just a wee bit oily.

So I’m really thrilled that rational and critical thinking has had two victories today. The fight continues, because the forces of irrationality are always, always on the march. So, for those of us fighting for reality:

Comments (97)

  1. Gus Snarp

    The export of the useless bomb detectors will also be banned, regardless of whether the maker is convicted of fraud according to the BBC story. Hurrah!

  2. “We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.”

    I seriously laughed my ass of at this.

    As for the scopes, that is very good news indeed. The very idea of them was extremely troubling to me to begin with. They were almost a subtle validation of the idea that we are locked in a cosmic religious war. My personal views about any religion aside, feeding the insanity of the other side is never a good idea.

  3. Flashing lights? ROTFLMAO

  4. … cue worthless rants about how you should stick to subjects related to astronomy and such …

    Now I would like to know if Iraqi people that believe in that kind of crap will actually stop using it after the head of the company has been arrested in UK.

    How does his worthless device will be removed from circulation while he is being judged guilty?

    This arrest is a good thing but, AFAIK, there are still lifes in danger because of that man.

  5. Sabichan

    Those magic wands just go to further prove the efficacy of my policy to never trust anything that doesn’t have at least 3 flashing lights.

  6. Jason!

    [...] because the Iraqi military swallowed your story people have died.

    It’s obvious the devices don’t work, but do we have any proof of attacks that could have been prevented if the Iraqi military hadn’t relied on this nonsense?

  7. Oh nevermind. I had not read the BBC story. I guess they will all be out of circulation soon.

  8. “We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.”

    And the award for Most Egregious Missing Of The Point for 2010 goes to…

  9. Joel

    Flashing lights! Unintentional hilarity at its best.

  10. He can only be c0nvicted if it can be proved that he knowingly set out to defraud the military. I can see his lawyer arguing that he genuinely believed in his product. Tough to prove without hard evidence.

  11. Suicidal Zebra

    Sod fraud, I’d like to see that guy be convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter in an Iraqi court. Significant amounts of money was spent on these devices that should have been used to buy effective equipment and training (even sniffer-dog training).

    I’m not one to say that he ‘deserves everything he gets’, but I’d hate to see him get away with a couple of fraud convictions, no jail time and measly £20,000 fine.

  12. The flashing lights had better be blue or the thing’ll never work.

  13. Give me a FLED and a 9v battery, I’ll make a lie detector to determine if Jim McCormick is a fraudster or not.

  14. Flashing lights? Bah! My Completely Useless Explosive Dowsing Rod has flashing lights *AND* beeps!

  15. !AstralProjectile

    CllockworkRobot wins the thread. (This is the 2nd best news I’ve had all day.)

  16. TW

    >>The military has rules forbidding proselytizing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rifle scopes were in clear violation of this. <<

    No they werent.

    They may have been silly, and even down right stupid, but they were not a "clear violation" of the no proselytizing orders.

  17. dmnn

    I really don’t think the scope makers had any ill-intent (apart from making it easier to kill people).

  18. D-Dave

    “We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.”
    And the award for Most Egregious Missing Of The Point for 2010 goes to…

    FTW!

    Of course, it being only January we may still be unpleasantly surprised by a “last minute” nomination in the months to come….

    But on the military front: WAHOO!!

  19. In recognition of this turn of events, I am hitherto issuing a new version of myself, with flashing lights to prove I work.

  20. Brian

    “We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.”
    And the award for Most Egregious Missing Of The Point for 2010 goes to…

    Actually … I think Jim McCormick is just demonstrating that he’s a very shrewd salesman who knows what sells.

  21. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.

    Please tell me that you’re not using The Onion as a new source. Oh, wait, he really said that?!?

    Just remember, no gerfingerpoken mit das blinkenlights.

    The military has rules forbidding proselytizing in Iraq and Afghanistan

    But not elsewhere?

  22. kuhnigget @ #19: Oh jeez, I didn’t know they still allowed the BLINK tag. You’ve dredged up some seriously bad memories of years past.

  23. Right TW, that’s not proselytizing, that’s just shootin’ people all full of Jeebus!

  24. @ 10. Romeo Vitelli: You may well be right unfortunately. But I do think the fact that he never stepped up to prove it works (via the Randi challenge) is a little telling.

    In the meantime, hooray for science!

  25. Mixonph

    BBC Two Newsnight will have the story on the worthless dowsing for bombs on tonight at 10:30 GMT or 3:30 EDT. Available at the BBC 2 website.

  26. They may have been silly, and even down right stupid, but they were not a “clear violation” of the no proselytizing orders.

    It’s a little bit questionable. Now, writing “Jesus killed Mohhammed” on a tank, THAT is definitely a clear violation.

  27. @ Victor Prime:

    Dredging up bad memories…my work here is done.

  28. Don Gisselbeck

    Once again, reality outdoes The Onion.

  29. Chuck B Andit

    . . . I’d like to see that guy be convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter in an Iraqi court. . .

    with a sentence of 10 years imprisonment, followed by 20 years community service in a VA hospital serving amputees.

  30. Moo Pie

    The news is good on both fronts, but the snark is excessive for Trijicon. As a private company, they had the right to make the part numbers whatever they wished…in this case they made them things like JN8:12, etc. The DOD did not notice the code (in rather tiny writing) and were simply buying the scope that fit the mission best. Once it was discovered and brought to light by ABC, they acted on it. Trijicon offered to change their part number to fix the problem, which also keeps the scopes in the field where they help our soldiers. It’s the best solution and the company doesn’t deserve scorn for it.

    Now, for putting bible verses on a rifle scope…that deserves all the mocking we can muster.

  31. Iason Ouabache:

    Now, writing “Jesus killed Mohhammed” on a tank, THAT is definitely a clear violation.

    I don’t think that qualifies as “proselytizing”. Stupid (in that part of the world), sure. Inciting, definitely. But “proselytizing”? I have my doubts.

    Besides, everyone knows it’s “Jesus saves / Moses invests”.
    http://www.zazzle.com/jesus_saves_moses_invests_tshirt-235576346681795613

  32. Sir Eccles

    Some unanswered questions/statements:

    1) how he has managed to sell so many of these devices?

    2) why did it take ten years before he was arrested?

    3) I almost wish I had come up with such a clever idea

  33. mike burkhart

    Good I was offened as a Christian about the Bible passages witch belong in the Bible or other books used by the Church not on wepons .As for the phoney bomb dectors well if you study history this is not the frist time some one defarded the military it was so bad during the civil war many called it”the age of shody” (Ken Burns talkes about it in his civil war documentry)

  34. Troy

    “Telling everyone what a great move this was on your part is maybe just a wee bit oily.”

    Kind of like furthering an agenda through the plight of Haiti.

  35. Emily

    I find the whole rifle scope serial numbers thing a bit confusing – I mean, how did anyone figure this out? To my knowledge, normal, sane people do not look up serial numbers on random items in religious texts, unless they’ve been watching far too many History Channel specials about Nostradamus. Also, if normal people don’t do that, I don’t think putting the references in is really ‘proselytizing’ – I think it was a silly attempt at an ‘easter egg’ kind of thing, and most of us here would think it was pretty awesome if it referenced Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy instead of the Bible.

  36. Larry

    The US patent office previously rejected my invention of a perpetual motion machine. Thanks to Mr. McCormick’s brilliant idea, I’ve modified my design to including some flashing lights.

    Now let’s see those trolls in the patent office reject this one. [...evil-genius laughing...]

  37. Sean

    Flashing lights in my car is a bad thing. Why are they good on magic wands? I’m confused…

  38. ND

    “Right TW, that’s not proselytizing, that’s just shootin’ people all full of Jeebus!”

    Good lord, imagine if a ammunition manufacturer inscribed on the side of bullets! That would definitely cause an international scene and a propaganda tool for extremists for years. It would be like a rare urban-legend that turned out to be true.

  39. @ Emily:

    Read the comment section in Dr. BA’s previous post on this subject for an idea as to why this was slightly less than silly.

    Some people, in particular, those who have a desire to do us egregious harm, glom onto stuff like this and use it to leverage support for their cause from the unwashed masses who form the core of their recruits.

    It’s not about Bible quotes, per se, but about their propaganda value, and the impact that propaganda has on its intended audience, i.e. those same unwashed masses who are easily motivated into strapping explosives to themselves and inconveniently blowing themselves and others into messy little bits.

  40. Steve in Dublin

    The burning question is: how did he even remotely think he could get away with this? You tend to piss off people big time when you sell them $85M worth of bunk and make them look silly in public. This scam was always going to be found out sooner or later. It was only a matter of how long it would take.

    Worse yet, these people are military. They have guns. And to top it off, they don’t have fatwa *envy* like some of the right wing nutjobs here do. They have actual fatwa! And at the very least, they are going to want their money back. He better have some left.

    My guess is that McCormick actually believes these devices work. Somebody else convinced him they worked and used him as a frontman/dupe. Betcha at least one internet beer that will be his defense.

  41. ND

    Here’s an idea, what if Trijicon had made it more obscure by doing a ROT13 on the letters?

  42. Kevin

    Re: Trijicon

    Many of us who shoot knew about Trijicon and their secret markings a long time ago. I must admit, however, to being surprised that the practice was allowed on FedGov contract pieces. While I’m glad that the company is going to make good, I promise you that all the press they received on this issue has boosted their ratings in the shooting community. The talk on the shooting forums is overwhelmingly pro-Christian, pro-Trijicon, “I’m going to order 2, now!” bluster. We atheist shooters are few and far between, and those of us against the use of bible code-inscribed optics in a political, ideological, and religious hot zone (not to mention on FedGov-issued ANYTHING) are not in the majority on this.

    May cool heads prevail, always.

  43. Good news on both front! I still think that “proselytizing” is a big word though regarding the Trijicon issue. I used to be hardcore catholic and had, well, a lot of “lucky charms” (although catholics don’t call them that!). I’m willing to give Trijicon the benefit of the doubt for that reason. I’m thinking it might’ve been a spiritual lucky charm kind-of-thing, the way rosaries and cards with the name “Jesus” inscribed on them are for the catholics.

  44. Great Zombie Jesus, that ‘lights’ comment got a hearty laugh out of me.

  45. Wow, he really thinks that flashing lights will win over the doubters?!? I had to read that twice just to make sure I read what I thought I read. … and then I laughed out loud. That’s brilliantly stupid.

  46. Rory

    Trijicon has been doing this to ALL its optics for what, 30 years and now it is an issue, LOL. To say that it is proselytizing only shows a total lack of ignorance and overt sensitivity and oh look at me, I’m offended. What a bunch of frikkin whiney idiots. Trijicon should’ve come back and say, sorry it is what it is and let the military go to the second best optic in the world to satisfy those who think it is oh so horrible to have some obscure inscription on an optic. Bet the troops would be happy when they end up with the second best optic in the world for hunting bad guys because some dumbass was “offended” LMAO.

  47. John Paradox

    22. Ken B Says:
    Just remember, no gerfingerpoken mit das blinkenlights.

    Three guesses what sign I have (next to the Danger:Radiation) by the computer….

    Also, on the ‘blinking lights’, obviously he never watched 1960′s TV, with those ‘computers’ that had banks and banks of blinking lights.. the dang things blew up all the time!!

    J/P=?

  48. @ Rory:

    Removing the citations from the scopes might just result in a few less “bad guys” for the troops to be worried about.

    Please read the comments in Dr. BA’s previous post on this subject. You might learn something from a few of those frikkin whiney idiots.

  49. Bart

    Maybe we can mount this guy on a few hundred pound bomb with a kill switch tied to his device.
    The device gets three tries to detect the bomb. If it fails, we’ve got a new vid for the kiddies to laugh about. –Everyone wins!

  50. Brian

    “Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate.

    As I read that, it translated in my head as, “We did this because we were suddenly getting tons of bad press, and had to do something about this PR disaster, so we can can make it look like we’re being all altruistic and everything.” Here’s another free hint to the head of a company selling stuff to the military: don’t thump your own chest and say how cool you are when we all know better. Simply admit your mistake, and let people know you’re honestly sorry. Telling everyone what a great move this was on your part is maybe just a wee bit oily.”

    1) You’re obviously biased. YOU would be better served, if you value rationality, by trying to be more understanding of views contrary to your own.

    2) They are being altruistic in a business sense by offering to change a product post-sale and eat the cost. Does it also have PR ramifications? Yes, but don’t make the logical error of ascribing a single motivation to an action merely as a result of a positive outcome. For example, if I help a girl stranded on the side of the road whose father is rich and rewards me handsomely, that doesn’t mean my decision to help her was motivated by the reward.

    3) While this is undoubtedly the correct decision by Trijicon due to the separation of church and state, it still makes me sad. I blame Saving Private Ryan. If I were a Serviceman in Iraq, I would love to have Psalm 23:4 on my scope, and I’m not even Christian.

  51. ErnestPayne

    Well the Chinese have a short sharp method of dealing with frauds like this. The head of the magic wand company can thank his lucky stars he is not in China. If you want to see a virtually unbroken line of idiotic comments on the scope company’s action try military.com in the briefs area.

  52. Yoshkapundrick

    Uhhh Mr. McCormick has a lot more to worry about. If those are indeed fraudulent devices he is possibly guilty of homicide by depraved indifference.

  53. Sfurules

    I went back 2 pages of blog posts….only 5 were about astronomy. Get back on topic…I don’t give a flying fart through a rolling donut what your opinions are about anything else.

    You are starting to do what actors do, spewing personal opinions about random detritus thinking that everyone has to care because you are a celebrity.

    How about this. You have a doctorite in Astronomy. Write more about that.

    Or switch to another section like “opinion” or something.

    Dang it BA…

  54. Doug Little

    Rory,

    I suggest you go and read the constitution again. Government equipment… Xian inscriptions… you do the rest.

  55. NewEnglandBob

    Two wins for the military. Now they need to get rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and live in the current century.

  56. Ian

    And by “military” don’t you mean the Iraqi military?

  57. Doug Little

    Sfurules,

    Could have been a slow astronomy week. If you don’t like the posts don’t read them. It’s Phil’s blog he can post whatever he wishes. Oh and way to break the ole irony meter.

  58. Dave Jerrard

    I’m not sure what’s worse. That this guy was selling dowsing rods to the military, or that the military was actually BUYING them. (I’m leaning toward the latter)

    There’s an easy to way to solve this problem. Have the inventor or head of the company actually test the device himself in a live situation; let him show it working in a minefield. If he refuses, then that says he’s not confident in the device, and the military saved their money & their people. If he goes ahead & blows himself up, then the device clearly doesn’t work, the military saves money & lives again, and we get the added bonus of having one less dangerous pseudoscience-pitching nutjob to deal with (and a few others, upon seeing/hearing about it, might grow a few brain cells, or at least a slight conscience).

    He Who Wonders If The Military Even Had A Demonstration Of These Before Buying.

  59. Don Gisselbeck

    On what grounds can we assume that a military which buys dousing rods also buys the best scopes?

  60. Doug Little

    Dave, your comment reminds me of a demonstration of a table saw safety stop that I just recently saw (he he pardon the pun). The guy actually ran his finger into the rotating saw to show that it was effective, now that’s confidence in one’s invention!

  61. Doug Little

    Don, probably has an enemy combatant painted on the lens.

  62. Doug Little:

    The guy actually ran his finger into the rotating saw to show that it was effective, now that’s confidence in one’s invention!

    As I understand it, Elisha Otis (of Otis Elevator fame) demonstrated the efficacy of his safety device by standing in an elevator several stories above the ground, and took an axe to the cable.

  63. WAH WAH BLAH BLAH Y U DOIN NON-ASTRONOMY STORIES SHUT UP AND DO WHAT I WANT TO U HEER ME?!

    If this is your take on this site, then shut up and get the hell out. You are not necessary. This has been covered on EVERY SINGLE POST HERE for some several months now; your ignorance and lack of reading comprehension is not an excuse.

    In short, if you don’t like it, then either just read the astronomy post or go take a flying F at a rolling donut, because you’re not needed here.

  64. Alareth

    @Sufurules

    Here, bookmark and use the following link to the blog and you will never see anything other than astronomy posts ever again.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/category/astronomy/

  65. John Paradox

    Feeding the trolls:

    This is not an ‘astronomy blog’, it is an ‘astronomer’s blog’. Those who complain about the ‘off topic’ posts are simply complaining, as many political commentators do, that a person should restrict themselves to one subject, and leave everything else alone. Regardless of their insistence on a monotonic maintenance, people DO have opinions, and often are capable in several areas. (I’m reminded of a Robert A. Heinlein quote as to what a human should be able to do.. listing probably over a dozen items)
    The anti-vax/anti-woo posts are perfectly in line with a scientist opposing misinformation (another site I visit regularly is Media Matters for America, political discussion based on examples of ‘conservative misinformation’).
    After all, blogs were pretty much originally (like Twitter is now) a kind of ‘diary’, where people could comment on any subject they wanted to, from how much they liked a particular restaurant to Important Ideas.

    J/P=?

  66. Floyd

    56: The dowsing rods with the blinkenlights were bought by the Iraqis, so far as I know. It could be that the rods were sold to the Iraqi government, with a little kickback to the Iraqi officer that signed the contract. That’s the way procurement goes in the world…

  67. Bribase

    Flashing lights? Surely this little contraption has the most effective indicator of the prescence of explosives. When a bomb is detected the ground explodes and the user is torn limb from limb.

    I’m so happy to hear about these two issues. Baby steps boys and girls, baby steps.

    B

  68. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    @ 27. Iason Ouabache Says:

    Now, writing “Jesus killed Mohhammed” on a tank, THAT is definitely a clear violation.

    I dunno. There are a lot of terrorists called Mohammad & probably a few (Puerto Rican?) soldiers called Jesus (or “hey-zeus”) so it could just be a statement of fact! ;-)

    (Pictures a soldier called Jesus De Ruiz Sanchez or something like who has killed a top terrorist called Mohammad bin-Jihad or suchlike painting that fact on his tank as a boast toenemy &friends alike.)

    The rifle scope seems a kinda minor & obscure thing to me. Surely there are bigger concerns? Besides as ppl noted on the first thread on this its not like these Jihadist whackjobs or their local supporters don’t already hate us enough. Yeah, it provides just a little more “reason” for them & propaganda but its not like they have a shortage of that anyhow. Not a great idea by trijicon still tho’. :roll:

    @ 56. Dave Jerrard Says:

    …There’s an easy to way to solve this problem. Have the inventor or head of the company actually test the device himself in a live situation; let him show it working in a minefield. If he refuses, then that says he’s not confident in the device, and the military saved their money & their people. If he goes ahead & blows himself up, then the device clearly doesn’t work, the military saves money & lives again, and we get the added bonus of having one less dangerous pseudoscience-pitching nutjob to deal with …

    But what if it actually works?! ;-)

    (Not saying it would .. just what if?)

    He Who Wonders If The Military Even Had A Demonstration Of These Before Buying.

    Me too. Good point.

  69. PhilG

    Flashing lights? He’s obviously taking the piss which means he knows that he said nothing that would count as fraud and will be released. What about the nerds who bought these devices and did nothing to withdraw them when they were obviously bogus? How clean are they?

  70. EvolvedFish

    @64. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    Aside from the ethical considerations of such a trial, McCormick refused the Randi challenge, which is a pretty good indication that it’s fraudulent. If the Iraqi military had of been paying attention, they’d have realised that but scepticism is closely related to atheism and neither are terribly common in the middle east. Also someone probably got paid off.

    They might actually pass a trial though, if it were done badly. Dowsing rods have been repeatedly shown to somewhat work if the person doing the dowsing knows where the target items are hidden. So if McCormick organised the trial, then it would probably pass. Sometimes the dowser can also read the reactions of observers and the more observers that know where the stuff is hidden, the better the chance that one will give it away.

    Dowsing fails double blind trials of course but it passes unblind trials often enough and even single blind trials sometimes.

    WRT the gunsights, there are dozens of reasons why it’s pretty offensive but just one is because it is an arrogant inclusion of every soldier in christian practices, regardless of their own status of religious delusion. I’d be pretty pissed, the same way I am when people expect me to join in prayers.

  71. blf

    Elisha Otis (of Otis Elevator fame) demonstrated the efficacy of his safety device by standing in an elevator several stories above the ground, and took an axe to the cable.

    Yes, he did. Otis had invented a safety brake for cable elevators, which up until that time had a notoriously bad image/reputation as being unsafe. However, buildings were getting so tall that hydraulic elevators were becoming impractical. Otis’s dramatic public demonstration that his brake worked was probably the critical event in getting people to accept cable-lifted elevators.

    Another famous safely demonstration, albeit this one was entirely accidental (and also involved a brake), was Westinghouse’s air-brake for trains. Trains of the time were braked by having crew members running from carriage to carriage, and setting the brakes by hand. There was no possibly of an emergency stop (and numerous other problems, such as controlling the speed of descent down a mountain). George Westinghouse invented an air-brake which could be used from the engineer’s/driver’s cab, and set the brakes on all the carriages. An early (experimental?) model was fitted to a train. During one run (which might have been the first ever run with the air-brake, I don’t recall now?), the train driver spotted a horse-drawn wagon stuck across the tracks ahead. With no choice in the matter, he used the air-brake. It worked: The train stopped just short of the trapped wagon.

  72. Sili

    Pity the BBC did not see fit to acknowledge Randi’s, Colquhoun’s and Goldacre’s hammering home of the fact that this is BOGUS – there, I said it.

  73. Mitch

    re: 62. John Paradox Says: Feeding the trolls

    You’re right, his blog and his views. But does he have to depend on Discover so that his views non astronomy opinions can be published? Apparently he has to since he had to move from his original website.

    I’m glad he was “…really thrilled that rational and critical thinking has had two victories today.” But some critical thinker sure was slow on the uptake about the serial numbers/verse thing, to notice then b*tch about it after almost 4 years. It makes me wonder which entity is the “clueless” one that he writes about.

    Anyways I guess everybody using the scopes now should remove the offending scopes and use the old iron sights as a) a matter of principle for having jeebus crud because they are offended by it, and b) so that the terrorists can’t use that as reason #247.2 to hate the west.

  74. Rory

    @Doug Little
    Sorry Doug, I’ve read the constitution, nothing in the constitution which says the government can dictate what you can use for serial numbers and reference numbers on a product. The constitution has nothing which would apply to this case at all. The government isn’t accepting the optic because it has obscure religious references, it isn’t promoting religion it doesn’t even come close to anything you all would think of the church state rhetoric. Please save the anti-religion rant for a situation that is actually applicable.
    @kuhnigget
    Wow, your serious that removing these might mean less bad guys. And here I thought the guy with the bomb dowser was the one from out in left field. Obviously, you really don’t have a grasp on the ideology that we and the west as a whole are up against do you. If these people are willing to bring hellfire and death down on us over cartoons of MO, then I certainly don’t think obscure refererences to bible verses makes that big a deal.

  75. Atheist in a Foxhole

    As a serving military NCO, I have to back up IAN; Phil, you haven’t made it clear (in THIS post, anyway) that the “military” that purchased magic wand bomb detectors was the IRAQI military. Important point, that. As far as I know, the US DOD had nothing to do with this issue.

    NOT that the DOD hasn’t bought a few “out there” items in the past sixty years…I don’t have time to list them all, but I’m pretty sure we stopped requisitioning dowsing kit back in the 1830s…

    Oh, and I was at the range yesterday doing a re-certification shoot and sure enough–almost every rifle on the range had a Trijicon sight! The bible-thumpers amongst us were quite happy about this…I was less than pleased.

    Atheist in a Foxhole

    IAN:
    And by “military” don’t you mean the Iraqi military?

  76. Although I too was thrilled to see McCormick arrested, there are still some serious problems with the UK’s reaction to the problem.

    First, exports of the ADE651 are only prohibited for Iraq and Afghanistan — in other words, only in places where they pose a threat to British troops or their allies. Countries like Lebanon, Bangladesh, and Thailand can still import them from Britain, and are still at risk. The UK needs to put a complete ban on these dowsing rods.

    Second, ATSC, Ltd. is not the only company to worry about here. Global Technical, Ltd., also a UK corporation, sells an extremely similar device, called the GT200. As far as I have heard, the UK has taken no action against them, presumably because they haven’t gotten as much press (and also aren’t as involved in Iraq at ATSC was).

    Arresting McCormick is a nice start, but it’s just window dressing.

  77. Rob Jase

    I’ve already developed an improved replacement for the bomb sniffer.

    It has no blinking lights or beeps to give away the user’s location to the enemy.

    It requires no batteries – never runs out of power.

    It has no moving parts to wear out causing costly repairs.

    It is made entirely out of wood so its both biodegradable & healthy for the user (its organic!).

    I call it the Forked Stick(tm).

    Care to bet the bible citations aren’t really removed just relocated to less visible places? That way the heap-big-magic will still be there.

  78. I’d like to see ‘magic wand’ guy charged with aiding the enemy. Even if he was defrauding Iraqis and not coalition forces, he was still providing aid to the people that Iraqi, US, British, Canadian, etc. are engaged in fighting.

  79. Sili

    D’Oh! Randi was reached for comment according the BBC.

    Stupid me.

  80. @ Rory:

    I think your own statement just confirmed my position:

    If these people are willing to bring hellfire and death down on us over cartoons of MO, then I certainly don’t think obscure refererences to bible verses makes that big a deal.

    It is exactly because something as innocent as a cartoon can be used to incite murder that a clear, if difficult to find, reference to a religion other than Islam could be such a useful propaganda tool.

    And yes, Rory, my old ufo-seeking pal, I have quite a good grasp of their ideology. Do you? Other than the soundbites and our own home grown fear-mongering propaganda?

  81. @ Mitch:

    But does he have to depend on Discover so that his views non astronomy opinions can be published? Apparently he has to since he had to move from his original website.

    I believe Discover actively sought out the good doctor and his offending blog to add to their site. Puts a slightly different spin on your argument, wouldn’t you say?

  82. If I were a sniper, I would just love one of those gizmos with flashing lights.

    Oh, wait, I was a sniper. We should leave them for the insurgents.

  83. Doug Little

    Rory,

    I suggest you go look up the lemon test as it applies to the establishment clause in the first amendment. Since the cat is out of the bag now and everyone knows that there are Xian references on the scopes including the government, to continue to purchase said scopes would be a violation.

  84. Air Force Cadet

    Dr. Platt,

    THANK YOU FOR BLOGGING THIS. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

    Regards,
    Air Force Cadet

  85. Calli Arcale

    Brian @ 51:

    2) They are being altruistic in a business sense by offering to change a product post-sale and eat the cost. Does it also have PR ramifications? Yes, but don’t make the logical error of ascribing a single motivation to an action merely as a result of a positive outcome.

    I read earlier that they initially said they were not going to modify the ‘scopes, so this is an about-face, actually. The only explanation in my mind is that they didn’t want to offend the customer. And FYI, they are not offering to rework the ‘scopes post-sale. Rather, they are providing 100 kits so the Army can modify the ‘scopes in the field. (Anything else would have been impractical, really.)

    Rory @ 75:

    Sorry Doug, I’ve read the constitution, nothing in the constitution which says the government can dictate what you can use for serial numbers and reference numbers on a product.

    Of course not; the Constitution is not meant to contain that level of detail and instead lays the basis for our system of government. The relevant documentation you seek would be DoD acquisition rules. These are formulated through a combination of legislation and military bureaucracy. Short version: the DoD most certainly can dictate what a contractor uses for serial numbers and reference numbers. This is actually not weird; it’s a “they’re not obligated to buy” situation. Customers can demand anything they like; whether or not any contractor will furnish it is another matter, so things like this can be governed by delicate negotiations.

    Case in point: I was recently on a project where the version numbering scheme was mandated by the program office. It was very complex. We could use our own numbers to reference it internally and externally, but the item itself could only display the one the customer wanted. (There was an actual reason for this, but explaining it is an excellent insomnia cure.)

    A product like this is probably commercial, so they can tell the DoD to suck an egg. But at the same time, the DoD is not obligated to purchase any more units than they are already under contract to buy (and there may even be circumstances in which they can terminate the contract before all units are delivered, though this would be unusual). The way they chose to handle it is the most prudent from a business standpoint — especially after one non-US customer (the New Zealand government) already decided to order the parts modified or terminate the contract. The glacial pace of government acquisitions means it would be some time before the US military got back to them about that, and this way they avoid the whole problem.

    I do not feel the ‘scopes violate separation of state in any meaningful way, nor that they constitute proselytizing. However, I *do* feel they are offensive. I know there is a lot of diversity in Christianity, but I think it’s fairly common for churches to be like mine and not want anything to do with even pretend weapons, let alone real ones, least of all ones wielded by soldiers who have been ultimately sent by our politicians to go kill people on our behalf — and lately, people who are not directly threatening us. This isn’t the place to put Bible references, IMHO.

  86. Sean H

    @Jason!(about the bomb sniffer)

    I’m pretty sure less people would’ve died because there wouldn’t have been the same sense of false confidence. If the people knew that they didn’t know then they wouldn’t have been as cavalier. That being said, even Everett couldn’t see the alternate realities.

    As for the sights/constitutional argument… Congress and the bodies it governs can’t choose one religion over another. The Military IS governed by congress, it’s commanded by the president but the laws put into place concerning the military and their justice system are made and passed by Congress.

    It happens to be against US Law to have ANY visible religious artifacts one way or another in Iraq/Afghanistan. Even if it wasn’t a violation of law(which it is) it’s likely to drive more people to the Taliban/Iraqi insurgent groups and endangers our young men and women on the ground. That means no Yarmulkes, no crosses, no muslim artifacts, the only garment allowed with any quasi religious significance is the kaffiyeh and that’s only because of its practicality as a guard for dust, an added layer of warmth when sleeping in a ranger’s grave/fighting hole, and its immediate use as tourniquet. A scope with or without scripture is just as lethal in combat.

  87. John Paradox

    80. Sili Says:

    D’Oh! Randi was reached for comment according the BBC.

    YouTube has Randi’s comments on the AADE651 (Quadro Tracker) posted on the JREF account just posted a day or so ago.

    use(cleaned): youtube(dot)com/watch?v=ruTmqfGJhTI&feature=sub

    J/P=?

  88. Doug Little

    Cali,

    Good point about the acquisition rules, I’m sure that some of those rules were directly influenced by the establishment clause, hence my point. I don’t agree with your assessment about it not being a violation though. The Government is knowingly purchasing something that favors one religion over the others, thus government endorsement of that religion. The company did an about face because they were just about to lose a 660 million dollar contract.

  89. Michelle R

    Ouh! Flashing lights! I want one!

    …but then again, I still have that Sailor Moon scepter from back when I was a kid that has flashing lights too… I think I’ll stick with that one.

  90. Brian Too

    @40. kuhnigget,

    I think you are bang on target with this comment. This is why the inscription is a propaganda landmine, and the troops don’t need this.

    All it takes is a few extremist leaders to take this up as ‘proof’ that the evil Westerners/Christians/Outsiders are there to oppress right thinking Muslims and you’ve got a major incident on your hands. To the hard core extremists, of course the presence, or absence, of such a religious reference doesn’t matter at all. They’ve already made up their minds. It’s the fence-sitters and moderates that matter.

    When that incident with the Danish cartoon happened, did most of those offended ever see the cartoon? No.

    When that incident with the Satanic Verses book happened, did the average Muslim ever read the book? Nope.

    To the extremists, the value of these things is that they exist at all, anywhere. It validates their point of view and can be used to persuade others. They care not at all what they actually say, or mean, or what the intent behind them was.

    In the battle for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims, you have already lost if they believe that YOU are the tribal one, you are the bigot, you believe a Christian life is worth more than a Muslim life.

  91. @ Brian Too:

    Cool. I always like being banged on. I mean, bang on.

  92. Reginald Selkirk

    Here’s some excellent journalism:
    GT200 BOMB DETECTOR: Thai army fail to prove via scientific test

    The military yesterday maintained its support for the so-called GT200 bomb detectors by conducting a demonstration in front of reporters instead of putting it through scientific tests as demanded by academics.

    During the demonstration, the GT200 was able to detect a bomb hidden 700 meters away. However, this demonstration could not be considered a scientific test. All bomb detectors must undergo the double-blind test, something that has not been done on the GT200 so far.

  93. Techowiz

    Tonight (11.7.2012) McCormick (ADE651) Charged with 6 counts of fraud and kept in custody….. At Long Last!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »