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Re.: Vol. 15, No. 1, "Utility and Limits of Dowsing Rods ..." by J. S. Janks.


Objective scientific research to the dowsing phenomenon is rare and J. Janks has added a valuable contribution. His report tries to describe dowsing as a biophysical mechanism, caused by electrical fields. I like to emphasize that, to the dismay of conventional scientific reasoning, an explanation of this sort is at odds with long-standing experience. The Munich dowsing experiments, which have been carried out over a period of more than 10 years and are referenced by the author, failed to prove any connection between known physical fields and dowser's predictions. Especially water detection in arid areas by particularly skilled dowsers showed the dramatic success of the method and the insurmountable difficulty to employ conventional explanations. During this part of the project, hundreds of drillings have been monitored in co-operation with GTZ (a German federal agency for foreign aid) and several scientific institutions.

The strange situation may be illustrated as follows: A dowser is able to survey a very large area within a short time, while keeping up to the given goal to find, e.g., small, medium or large water resources. He may drive in a car and can scan suitable well locations from quite a distance, too far to allow for any clear-cut physical measurements. Using this kind of technique, one of our test dowsers located a dozen drilling points in the Sinai desert within five working days, covering thousands of square miles. Most important, the dowser needs not to be positioned precisely at a drilling point; it suffices to come near within a km-range. Otherwise, it would never be possible to scan extended areas effectively.

No physical mechanism is known that could account for the dowser's abilities to address to very different targets with highly varying qualities. A target is not limited to water, including sensing of depth, amount and quality, but could be a cavity or other specific subterranean configurations.

The closest concept to explain the extraordinary finding is "remote viewing." The problem to allege a paranormal procedure, though, is the high reproducibility of the dowser's action. While paranormal phenomena are known to be quite rare and hard to reproduce, a dowser can perform on a routine basis. Future efforts will be needed to shed more light on this highly interesting and surprising human ability.

Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter Betz

Physics Department

University of Munich, Germany

Letter to the Editor:

I read your article on the "Utility and Limits of Dowsing Rods to Chart the Subsurface" with interest. I imagined that it would demonstrate why the concept is flawed, and why no statistically significant relationships of the efficacy of dowsing have ever been demonstrated in a controlled setting. Needless to say, there was some disappointment in the conclusions reached and the absence of supporting experimentation.

As I understand the author's hypothesis, "dowsing rods obey the laws of physics and move according to the changes in electrical conductivity." But to what laws of physics are we referring? The rods may be made of any arbitrary material and due to an unidentified force are attracted to gross changes in conductivity while ignoring small changes. I would appreciate some information on the force. Gravity and electromagnetism are attractive forces, but it is not explained how either would apply.

If there is such a force, why don't all of the tree branches tend to point towards objects in the ground? Why don't leaves fall into piles over pipes? Why don't pendulums tend to sway in the direction of buried objects? Why do these experiments only seem to work when they are in the hands of individuals that believe? But most importantly, why do rods point? Though admittedly, I have seen the term point as often as the phrase "align themselves over the object." Again, there seems to be a difference in the understanding of what laws of physics are being obeyed.

The blindfold tests are a worthwhile step in the right direction. But a simple blindfold is not the route to take. First of all, the blindfolded walker is probably going to trip and fall down a lot, and secondly he can't see where his rods are pointing. I assume that for these experiments someone walked with the blindfolded individual noting measurements and cautioning the walker. In the future, wouldn't it be better to conduct a double blind study. That would be a venue capable of producing more that apocryphal results. I would also suggest that if a person is involved then there should at least be a pipe or other fixture in the hand to contain the rods. Further, if the process actually works, why go the trouble of walking all over the place? Keep the rod holder immobile and move the objects.

Another fascinating conclusion is that the rod furthest from the object moves the most. That is inconsistent with any science taught at mainstream institutions, so one must assume again that gravity and electromagnetism have been eliminated as candidate forces. This conclusion further strengthens the need to discuss the physics involved.

I am puzzled by the statement that "there is no consensus as to why the dowsing rods move." I thought that it had long been established by scientists that have tested the ability of dowsers that ideomotor action is at play. Is there any controversy that exists outside the school of believers? This is another reason why it is important to have a double blind study and to eliminate the vagaries of humans in the experiment.

I would love to see the author suggest a protocol for testing the dowsing technique that eliminates human involvement and satisfies the basic requirements of reproducibility and no reliance on anecdotal data.

Sanford M. Sorkin


Temple University

Thank you very much for sending me the comments of Drs. Hans-Dieter Betz and Sanford M. Sorkin. It is very refreshing to see that professional scientists read and discuss the topic.

I'm a hard-wired empiricist--one who makes observations, but bypasses the experts, instead going directly to nature for an explanation of anomalies. V.S. Ramachandran's blockbuster article on this topic in Skeptical Inquirer (1) should be required reading.

Writing the article for CFS was difficult because my observations are empirical. I don't know all the answers; I simply stand by the observations. Condensing 34 years of research into one 3,000-word limit article requires that a writer create a hierarchy of topics. I chose those findings that passed multiple repetitive blind tests, including those by hardened skeptics. Seeing the response of Dr. Sorkin, I am glad I didn't include some of the more fantastic empirical findings (also reproduced). These latter findings will, however, be placed on the Internet for all to see and review.

One serious flaw in my paper is that I did not include the years of work with "Dr. Mike," a cardboard box outfitted with two dowsing rods, who accompanied the experimenters during the trials. Invariably, Dr. Mike never responded as my human volunteers did. From this, it is clear that the human body is part of the mechanism; I just have no idea what it is. Are we antennae? Insulated conductors?

A scientist must be prepared to be ignored and/or criticized if he/she presents information that is outside the normal paradigm. (2) My first experience with this was a paper on The Marfa Lights of West Texas. Dubbed ghosts, UFO's, swamp gas, etc. by the proponents, a simple hyperspectral analysis, combined with videotape, demonstrated beyond doubt what they are (3). The response? Silence.

But I digress. In his comments Dr. Betz said that there was no relationship between dowser predictions and known physical fields. Maybe, but my conclusions are based on his Figure 1, which graphically illustrates my interpretation (4).

Dr. Sorkin stated, "Further, if the process actually works, why go the trouble [sic] of walking all over the place? Keep the rod holder immobile and move the objects." He is correct. Houston Intercontinental Airport opened an additional runway which, when the North wind blows, brings the aircraft near my home. By accident, my experimenters made that exact observation (also to be on the Internet). As Dr. Sorkin correctly predicted, the wires move as the aircraft passed, i.e., E varied while [sigma] remains constant.

The US Government spends multiple billions of dollars on robots that have yet to see the battlefield. Decades old-Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and metal detector technology, years from delivery, receives glowing reports on one hand, and skepticism on the other--within the same month (5, 6). None has addressed the problems that water-saturated soil, trash, and aluminum cans pose for GPR/metal detection technology. One can only speculate as to why US military authorities would want to spend $billions on undeliverable technologies, yet refuse an offer for a free half-hour test. The ease at which Insurgents defeat GPR, metal detectors, ultrasonic waves, and robots is shocking (7).

Apparently, Dr. Sorkin believes it is far better to enter a minefield with only your feet or a knife blade than even consider testing a new, but controversial method first. What does he suggest? Soldiers tell their officers they'll cross that field when the equipment and robots arrive? Poor farmers stop planting crops or collecting firewood until they can afford one of these units? Landmines are being laid 25 times faster than they are being cleared (8), and despite multiple billions spent, the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and landmine remain the most serious threats to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (9).

I stand by my observations and testing protocol.


(1.) Ramachandran, V. S. (2006). "More Harm Has Been Done in Science by Those Who Make a Fetish of Skepticism, Aborting Ideas Before They Are Born, Than by Those Who Gullibly Accept Untested Theories." Skeptical Inquirer, 30 (6), 48-51.

(2.) Kuhn, T. S. (1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 212.3. Janks, J. S. (2002). "The Mysterious Marfa Lights--A Riddle Solved by Remote Sensing." Earth Observation Magazine, 11 (10), 31-32.

(4.) Betz, H. D. (1995). "Unconventional Water Detection: Field Test of the Dowsing Technique in Dry Zones, Parts I & II." Journal of Scientific Exploration, 9 (1, 2).

(5.) "L-3 Receives $40 Million Order From U. S. Army." January 25, 2007.

(6.) Hanke, B. (2007). "Problems and Solutions of Landmine and Improvised Explosive Devices." The Pittsburgh Conference Convention and Expos Program, February 25, 2007, Chicago, IL.

(7.) Filkins, D. and Burns, J. F. (2006). "Mock Iraqi Villages in Mojave Prepare Troops for Battle." The New York Times, May 1, 2006.

(8.) "The Landmine-One of History's Cruelest Inventions." September 15, 2006.

(9.) Hanley, C. J. (2006). "U. S. Spending Billions to Stop Iraq IED's." AP Wire Service, March 13, 2006.

John S. Janks

21307 Four Oaks Dr.

Houston, TX 77073-1408 USA

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Author:Betz, Hans-Dieter; Sorkin, Sanford M.
Publication:Frontier Perspectives
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Date:Sep 22, 2006
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