Debunking Dowsing

Science can turn you into a full-time skeptic (as my friends discover at some of the oddest times), but that’s not a bad thing. I’m sure that Smithsonian’s favorite skeptic, James Randi, has had plenty of cocktail conversations in which people try to convince him that they found the magic cure to all his ills, or some other form of woo. But then, he solicits this sort of thing—the James Randi Educational Foundation offers $1 million “to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.”

As the foundation notes: “To date, no one has passed the preliminary tests.”

In this video from the Amazing Randi, we can get a hint of the kind of person who applies for the $1-million-prize. This time it’s a dowser. Watch the video to learn how dowsing really “works.”

Maybe the guy should have watched the next video before submitting his claim. In it, a group of dowsers in the United Kingdom are subjected to a double-blind test of their dowsing ability. Will anyone pass the test?

(Hat tip to Bad Astronomy)

Get the latest Science stories in your inbox.