(How) Do divining rods work?

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Gibsons

Lifer
Aug 14, 2001
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There really is something behind it. It is like the pendulum test in hypnosis. It is a projection of the subconscious, a way of interacting with it. The subie doesn't know everything but it knows a lot more than you do(it is able to detect subtle clues which your conscious mind could never hope to pick up), and if forced may deliberately give wrong answers.
A machine would not be able to do it because it has no subconscious mind.
Bolded is why it's pseudoscience.
 

slag

Lifer
Dec 14, 2000
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I've always been a skeptic but have also seen it work first hand.

Doesn't work for me, but I've seen it work as recently as this weekend. I can't explain it, but then again, 100 years ago we couldn't explain a lot of the things we can explain now either.

Just because we cannot currently prove why it works or doesn't work doesn't mean that there isn't something behind why it works.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
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I've always been a skeptic but have also seen it work first hand.

Doesn't work for me, but I've seen it work as recently as this weekend. I can't explain it, but then again, 100 years ago we couldn't explain a lot of the things we can explain now either.

Just because we cannot currently prove why it works or doesn't work doesn't mean that there isn't something behind why it works.
No, the fact that it fails in double blind tests means that there isn't something behind why it works.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
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But it does work, just not reliably and not for everyone.
Many double blind tests, of self reported dowsing experts, at tasks they reported would be easy for them to do, have shown that their ability to actually do the task they said they could do was no better then random guesses.

I've linked the experiment in this thread already, but they tested something like 700 self reported dowsers, and only one beat the random odds. While that one is an anomaly, he has not been able to repeat the act. So, we would expect that he was just a statistical outlier.
 

Jeff7

Lifer
Jan 4, 2001
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I've always been a skeptic but have also seen it work first hand.

Doesn't work for me, but I've seen it work as recently as this weekend. I can't explain it, but then again, 100 years ago we couldn't explain a lot of the things we can explain now either.

Just because we cannot currently prove why it works or doesn't work doesn't mean that there isn't something behind why it works.
And I've seen magic acts done in front of me. I don't know how they work.

And indeed, they don't "work." They just really look like they do, but for some key, and most importantly an unseen, piece of information.


Richard Feynman: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool."



- How does it work? **
- Or if not that, what ways can we examine and potentially rule out?

Some say it works with magnetic effects, working on metal rods. But dowsing rods may also be nonmetallic and quite nonmagnetic, with suitable things being plastics or even dry wood.
Water is indeed diamagnetic.

But it's not just used for finding water. It's used for finding wood, stone, other fluids, buried people or animals, or buried caverns or empty structures. So that would also seem to say that it's not related to water, especially if it's wood - it won't take long for wood to equalize its moisture content with that of the soil around it.

And some push it much farther into and beyond pseudoscience, and say it's useful for finding ghosts.



Or, simply this, which I do see was already linked to in this thread. If these methods were truly effective, people would be exploiting them for exceptional wealth. I'd much rather invest in the cost of two sticks of really nice polycarbonate, rather than millions of dollars in sophisticated equipment, to locate the thing I'm after.


** - Ok, so if we can't explain how it works, then let's test it and see if it does work. The double-blind test is a good way of doing this.



But it does work, just not reliably and not for everyone.
If I purchased a machine that was designed to perform some task, and was then told, "This machine does work. Just not reliably, and it won't work for most operators," I'd want a very prompt and complete refund, and would fully contest the statement of "this machine does work."
 
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tcsenter

Lifer
Sep 7, 2001
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Doesn't work for me, but I've seen it work as recently as this weekend. I can't explain it, but then again, 100 years ago we couldn't explain a lot of the things we can explain now either. Just because we cannot currently prove why it works or doesn't work doesn't mean that there isn't something behind why it works.
On the contrary, any device or mechanism that could be harnessed for a useful purpose 100 years ago had been adequately explained or understood years before the device was created (maybe there were some unresolved particularities that would require a few more decades to measure, quantify, or prove-out, but it was largely understood).

If we had a time machine, and we were able to send the first working prototype of any device back in time 25 years before it was built, I cannot think of a single instance where a small team of physicists, engineers, or other relevant scientists could not, upon being able to examine, tear-down, and observe the device, have proposed a largely correct explanation of how it works. Some types of devices wouldn't be without risk (e.g. sending back the first medical X-ray device would probably result in radiation poisoning, but they would have figured it out).

Things don't get built by just blindly cobbling together a few parts whose interaction with each other nobody understands. If this were the way things worked, you should be able to throw a bunch of parts into a bag, shake them up and get an engine, if you do it enough times. These "divining" rods have been around over 100 years. If they worked, someone would have proposed a feasible explanation/hypothesis 75 years ago.
 
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intx13

Member
Apr 3, 2013
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On the contrary, any device or mechanism that could be harnessed for a useful purpose 100 years ago had been adequately explained or understood years before the device was created (maybe there were some unresolved particularities that would require a few more decades to measure, quantify, or prove-out, but it was largely understood).
I'll play devil's advocate. Compasses were used for navigation hundreds of years before science came to any meaningful understanding of magnetics. In fact, compasses were primarily a fortune-telling tool before they were used for navigation! It could be argued that dowsing rods, while intertwined with magic and superstition for over 100 years, are in fact utilizing a scientific phenomenon simply not yet understood.

A better argument against dowsing rods is simply that they don't work. Sure, everybody and their crazy aunt has seen a dowser find the pipe. Luck, hidden information, subconscious clues, and observer bias mean you can pretty much find some examples of anything working. But every time dowsing has been rigorously put to the test in any meaningful way, it's failed.
 

Mr. Pedantic

Diamond Member
Feb 14, 2010
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Matt1970

Lifer
Mar 19, 2007
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If I purchased a machine that was designed to perform some task, and was then told, "This machine does work. Just not reliably, and it won't work for most operators," I'd want a very prompt and complete refund, and would fully contest the statement of "this machine does work."
http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/04/29/dowsing_for_bombs_maker_of_useless_bomb_detectors_convicted_of_fraud.html

Maybe the US DoD should follow your advice a bit more.[/QUOTE]

There would also be a warning label on that machine "Independent test have proven this machine to be no more accurate than random luck”
 

Mr. Pedantic

Diamond Member
Feb 14, 2010
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There would also be a warning label on that machine "Independent test have proven this machine to be no more accurate than random luck”
How about, "There have been no independent tests on this relabeled children's toy". A bit more accurate.
 

Onceler

Golden Member
Feb 28, 2008
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It's like this: a guy demands for me to hypnotize his wife and I can't get it through his thick head that even though someone is in hypnosis they can and if the consequences are great will lie.
Your subconscious mind will lie if you are a deceitful person. That's why you have to spend a lot of time with your subbie to build it's trust before you can water-witch or expect accurate answers in a pendulum test.
 

Gibsons

Lifer
Aug 14, 2001
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It's like this: a guy demands for me to hypnotize his wife and I can't get it through his thick head that even though someone is in hypnosis they can and if the consequences are great will lie.
Your subconscious mind will lie if you are a deceitful person. That's why you have to spend a lot of time with your subbie to build it's trust before you can water-witch or expect accurate answers in a pendulum test.
Why doesn't it ever pass double blinded trials? None of the participants had the trust of their "subbie?"
 

Onceler

Golden Member
Feb 28, 2008
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added tension. The fact that someone is trying to disprove something alters the results.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
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added tension. The fact that someone is trying to disprove something alters the results.
So in a double blind test in which the subject does not know they are being tested it would work? That is something that could easily be set up.
 

intx13

Member
Apr 3, 2013
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added tension. The fact that someone is trying to disprove something alters the results.
That's not how science works. A watched pot actually does boil. Physical phenomena do not stop working just because somebody cares whether or not it works.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
13,657
3,540
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That's not how science works. A watched pot actually does boil. Physical phenomena do not stop working just because somebody cares whether or not it works.
That is not necessarily true. In psychology it is well known that observing a behavior changes the behavior, but there are all sorts of experimental designs devised to get around that, like my aforementioned experimental setup where the subject does not know they are being examined.
 

intx13

Member
Apr 3, 2013
33
0
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That is not necessarily true. In psychology it is well known that observing a behavior changes the behavior, but there are all sorts of experimental designs devised to get around that, like my aforementioned experimental setup where the subject does not know they are being examined.
Well it's splitting hairs, but in psychology you are typically studying a subject's behavior under various conditions. The subject's observations are some of those conditions, which must be controlled appropriately. Once the experiment is properly controlled, the presence of an outside observer is irrelevant.

While Onceler might have been using the example of psychology to weasel out of the iron-grip of science, it's not an uncommon tactic of frauds to imply that the presence of skeptics ruins the trick. I think Randi once had a guy who claimed to be able to summon UFOs.. but only in front of Black Hebrew Israelites. You and I can set up proper experiments to test claims despite these restrictions (How about a camera? How about Randi in disguise?) but ultimately they'll just keep moving the goalposts.

Anyway, if dowsing only works when the dowser is surrounded by people who believe in dowsing, it hardly seems that useful. I'll stick to technology that works more reliably. Which is to say, any real technology.
 

Gibsons

Lifer
Aug 14, 2001
12,528
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added tension. The fact that someone is trying to disprove something alters the results.
When the "tension" variable is removed, other excuses are usually found to explain the failure. One technique is to start with an 'open test.' The dowser is shown say, one full bucket of water and one empty, they do the voodoo and confirm it's working. Then they're given the blind test.
 

Jeff7

Lifer
Jan 4, 2001
41,599
18
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That is not necessarily true. In psychology it is well known that observing a behavior changes the behavior, but there are all sorts of experimental designs devised to get around that, like my aforementioned experimental setup where the subject does not know they are being examined.
But in setting up the experiment, surely you've introduced some bad juju into the magical ether, which will automatically contaminate the results of the experiment.

"If you test it and it works, that's because it works. If you test it and it doesn't work, that's because someone's subconscious sensed that it was a test, which invalidates the results."
 
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John Connor

Lifer
Nov 30, 2012
22,840
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They work. My grandpa has a ranch and a guy came out to dig for a well and used dowsing rods to find water.

i have done it. they worked. we had a fountain of water coming out of our yard, a previously unknown water main going to a private drive behind our property. the city said there was no line there and it was our problem. we used 2 pieces of coat hanger and found the line, traced it to the street and found the shutoff before the city would even send someone to look at the fountain. Our neighbor was an old farmer and showed me how to do it. I am the one who was holding the rods and i thought he was crazy. i did not think it would work.

i am no super natural nut, but i could not argue with results. I figure it is something to do with the magnetic feild. I make all kinds of interesting measurements that seem crazy using induction tools in oil wells.
 
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