How do dowsing rods work?

Why do you feel it needs any explanation? Do you need an explanation of just how the person who won the last $400 million Powerball lottery knew to pick just those numbers? I mean, that’s an incredible probability-defying feat, right?

If your dad had done it many, many times, and every single time gotten it right – then we have something that needs explaining. But just once does not need any explanation at all. Pure luck will do just fine.

Since we were not there, it would be just guessing on our part, but there might have been many clues. It might have been pure luck. Your Dad might have been pulling your leg, too – ever think of that?

So they had a choice between guessing that the pipe ran from the well to the barn or from the well to a second building? Gee, I cannot imagine how anyone could possibly beat 50-50 odds unless dowsing worked.

Well, if you’re falling off a cliff, you might as well try to fly…

It’s impossible to debunk an anecdote. The story could be inaccurate, mistold, misunderstood, or simply corrupted by age. What we do know is that when people try to recreate these events while observers are available they can’t, or they are using obvious external clues unrelated to dowsing.

I can tell you a UFO story that you can’t debunk, but that’s not going to convince too many people either.

And I can tell you a story about the Statue of Liberty made to disappear by a magician. As long as I leave out key facts, you can’t dispute that it actually happened, and most people don’t know which facts are key. Magicians do.

No. Both the OP and **KayT’s **first post mention pipes. You know you and I agree heavily on this subject and we have fought the good fight on this for many a year but chill, dude. You are sounding shrill.

KayT as others have said it’s hard to debunk old anecdotes because they get polished over time. However, to summarise, there were probably clues to some extent and your father probably lucked out to some extent. He probably didn’t need that much luck. The location of the well would have been known, the location at which the pipes entered buildings would have been known, and the straight lines between them are obvious - no one’s going to dig a longer ditch than they have to, particularly not 80 years ago. And yes there were probably a few route choices and if your father hit first time he was probably lucky.

Thing is, if dozens of people try to locate pipes using dowsing, the ones that luck out talk about it for generations (see your post) and the ones that don’t say “huh, that didn’t work” and forget about it.

The end result is that the anecdotes that are remembered are the “hits” and not the “misses”. This gives a misleading impression of whether the “hits” are more common than they would be by chance. This misleading effect is very powerful if you happen to be someone who experienced a “hit” but no misses.

My dad used to pull quarters out of my ears. I swear to f’n god!

IF I say I can use this stick to find this thing at a depth of no more than 6 inches, have you build up this test:

Lay 6 or 60 pipes varying distances apart. Some plastic PVC and some galvanized metal water pipe.

Cover & pack the whole course to the same condition.

Blind fold me & only then take me to the test area.

Spin me around until dizzy. Wait until I can walk without falling and aim me down the course. ( have someone give correction info to me if I get too far to one side )

I am preform 100% at getting the metal pipes & no indication of where the plastic pipes are.

Well, maybe I was really lucky or really had sensitive feet that could feel through my shoes.

So you say, “Way cool, lets go get the $1M …”

Off we go, me & my stick. We get there, tell then what I can do. They set up the test with copper pipe & plastic pipe at 1 foot depth and pour 2" of concrete on top.

So I show up blindfolded and you are there to be my witness. I fail. They won’t pay because they will never set the test to comply with what I say I can do. I must do something that they say is proof, not just do what I say I can do.

So I am a fraud or lucky or … ; because I could not pass their test???

I do my test or some variation of it that I think I can do 3-4 more times in various locations.

But I can’t do Rand’s test. This is proof that it is not possible & it is all … ?

If you saw this done or were the person that was my observer, would still say it was impossible?

Is the Rand test a true test of what I can do?

I only claimed one sorta narrow set of conditions that I could do well. Do I have to pass a test that you design that * I never claimed I could do?"*

Now don’t go all walleyed on me here. I am not saying I can do this or saw it done. I am asking that if you saw it, you would still think the ‘witcher’ was a fake & you just could not figure out how he was doing it? Or would believe that he could do what he said he could do?

No, you would not have to come back to the SDMB & post a retraction but would you add to the pile on in threads about this in the future?

I guess what I am asking is that if you saw something like this that no sane peer of yours believed in not any scientific body thought it could be done, would you cave & still claim that what you saw was not real?

I have been with dowsers, paid them even to find deep veins of water on my property. They are the real thing. Spot on.

As far as I understand it, the JREF challenge involves a negotiation stage before the test - in theory, the claimant and JREF agree in advance what the test will comprise - so if your claim is that you can detect metal pipes, that’s what would the test would be.

Now, I know there have been folks who claim it’s still somehow unfair despite this, or claim that this protocol was broken - I’m not sure if they’re telling the truth, or are just sore losers lying to save face.

As soon as you start talking about “veins of water” you are showing that you have been suckered. Apart from certain narrow exceptions, “veins” are a figment of dowsers imagination, and part of the way they sucker you into thinking you need them. Subject to certain exceptions, underground water exists in broad aquifers, not narrow veins.

Did you have try digging a well other than where they said to dig? Probably not. So you have just assumed that you needed the dowser when actually you probably could just have dug anywhere.

Quite simply, as the Missouri DNR puts it:

And if you think that is a comment specifically relevant to Missouri, according to the United States Geological Survey:

You’ve been suckered. Sorry.


Now stop boring me with excuses as to why you *would *be hornswoggled if you ever tried take Randi’s test and take it already.

We hear constantly about theoretical ways in which it would turn out to be completely unfair if one was ever to take it. Take it already.

Personally, until you do, you’re just making up excuses.

Agreed - there is actual video of someone trying the challenge.

It is quite clear that there is a specific protocol and everything is gone through. They say exactly what the conditions are and how well the guy (who thinks his magic bracelets work) must do to win.

It is quite clear from the video that it left Randi with little wiggle room.

As you might guess - they guy bombed - hard - even worse than chance if I recall. It also was quite amusing to see the guy try to wiggle out of what he had already agreed was a fair test. I kind of felt sorry for the guy - as it seemed that he genuinely believed he could do this. He never thought (of course) to try a similar test using a third party to test his own abilities before hand.

As for the dowsing - I’m going to go with your dad pulling your leg as someone else suggested. It is quite obvious dowsing does not work. The fact the a plumber uses shows that you need a new plumber. Plenty of professionals are incompetent. We’ve had presidents who have relied on prayer and psychic readings. At least with a psychic you are getting a second opinion - which might work if you are president trying to decide something - probably not so well for finding water or pipes.

Before asking how they work, OP, you should determine IF they work. I’ll save you the trouble; They DON’T. And there’s never been any reason to think they do.

That’s a bit harsh, there are lots of reasons people have thought, and still think, dowsers can do what they say they can do. It’s just that all those reasons are well known cognitive biases.

I beg to disagree. Yes, i had a well dug about 15 metres away on the advice of someone who claimed he could find water with a pendulum. He was kind of a blowhard. And there was no water, just what they call a “sweat”, gave about 150 litres per day.

Then I called in a “dowser”, an old fellow from a neighbouring village who marked out what hereabouts is called a “vein”. It was about 1 metre wide and ran across my property.

Two years later I hired a well digger who was also a “dowser”. He found/pointed to the exact same vein in the exact same place, dug there, and now we have abundant water. Where I live, Andalucía, ground water may be omnipresent, as my first well shows, however a farmer needs to tap a place with “abundant” water.

Finding water with a pendulum is dowsing.

I don’t get why people believe this works. This is extremely easy to test for and HAS BEEN tested. It is not any more difficult (requires more time and money though) to test for than someone who claims they can predict a roulette spin. Granted you have to either create artificial landscapes or blindfold them or something to prevent them for looking for environmental clues.

In the Wikipedia article on dowsing are a couple studies - one with 30 dowsers who claimed they could do it with 100% accuracy. They couldn’t.

The fact that they find water in anecdotal reports is not in the least impressive when there are already studies on the subject - and when we know how and why it fools people. Everyone is a potential dowser - cut two prices out of a coat hanger and get two straws.

It works for back pain too.

A few years ago, there was a TV show that tested the claims of psychics and dowsers.

The terms and conditions for the tests were agreed to by all the participants prior to the testing. To test the dowsers, they buried ten or so plastic drums in the ground, in a row. The dowsers were told that at least one drum contained water, the rest contained sand. They were told to find the water. The dowsers’ failure rate was 100%. :o

I think the ideomotor effect covers it. I have seen some dowsers who will put a pendulum in someone else’s hand and ask them to do the dowsing. Often that person either knows or strongly suspects the answers they’re looking for.

Regardless of who holds it, the pendulum is moved by physical responses to the thoughts of the dowser (excepting those who are outright frauds). The same is true for dowsing.

I’ll note that

covered this in the post immediately preceding your post last evening.

You claim to be “perfectly willing” to accept an explanation, but you don’t seem to be willing to exert much effort in that pursuit.