water witching

From Mike(emailed to me)referring to a classic column, http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_168.html :
“IM a general contractor working in California. Ive done dowsing before to locate water and sewer lines underneath 6” concrete slabs and 6-8 feet of dirt and it works within a couple of inches for me and other workers. I have enough faith in it that im willing to pay big bucks to have my backhoe operator dig were I tell him when the coat hangers cross over and it works! and this has nothing to do with knowing the area. And when we use coat hangers we put them inside 3/4" pvc pipe then grip them so there is no muscle movement in our hands. Cecil your argument has no back up other than what you think, try it your self with coat hangers at home and a garden hose with water in it just for practice. after paying $250.00 to have a leak detection service find me lines the first time I do it myself for now on.

Tell “Mike” that if what he says is true, I know where he can pick up a quick million or so. Of course this claim is going to fail like all the others, but the JREF(James Randi Educational Fund) would be more than willing to check his claim.

Note to Mike and all others: I don’t care about personal testimonials from true believers. Until a dowser passes a simple double-blind study that gives results significantly above average, you ain’t got diddly squat.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Aw. When I saw this article’s title, I immediately thought of JREF (even though I don’t have a thousand to my name to join the list).

Well, at least let me include a link to his site.

Mike has e-mailed me several times. To paraphrase:You can’t prove nuthin’ to a skeptic, all the big firms use it, “your” stupid for not believing, etc., etc., etc.
He knows that he has no proof.

I pass this on only as an observation, certainly not an endorsement of dowsing. Personally, as a scientist, I don’t believe in any ‘forces’ that would allow one to detect water with a stick.

When I was working in the Forest Service in Arizona, my district had to drill a well. The water people drilled where the hyrologist suggested and struck out. They then called out a dowser (which I understand is a very common occurrence in those parts). He picked the right spot, I guess, because the well worked fine at the designated location.

My guess is luck. With a N of 1, it would be foolish to suggest otherwise. But it did happen.

I’ve had “witching” done two times to locate buried utilities. The first was by an independent locate service that failed to bring the proper equipment and resorted a pair of L-shaped metal sticks. The second was by an EPA official who thought there was buried fuel line causing some contamination. Combined success rate: nil.

As for Divemaster’s account, I would suggest that an examination of the drilling logs would be revealing.

A controlled experiment on dowsing (witching) was reported in Skeptical Inquirer, January 1999. The experiment proved dowsers don’t perform better than chance. The link is http://www.csicop.org/si/9901/dowsing.html

First this Mike person e-mails Jill; then he e-mails Slythe. But he doesn’t post here. Hmmmm…