Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Dowsing for bombs in Iraq

Dowsing doesn’t work. Lots of people think they can find water by the use of sticks or wires, but it always falls apart under experimental conditions. It’s the thing people try most often when going for the JREF Million-Dollar Challenge, and the money is still safe.

But why would you go for a million dollars, when you could net a cool couple of million by selling phony bomb dowsers in Iraq?

The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.

Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.

Would you feel happy knowing that someone had given the area a placebo check for explosives?

The US military doesn’t go for the devices, but the Iraqi authorities are sold.

Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,” said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for Combating Explosives.

Oh, does it? How well does it detect bombs?

The suicide bombers who managed to get two tons of explosives into downtown Baghdad on Oct. 25, killing 155 people and destroying three ministries, had to pass at least one checkpoint where the ADE 651 is typically deployed, judging from surveillance videos released by Baghdad’s provincial governor.

But the True Believers will tell you that the blame lies with the operators, not the device. You have to be

rested, with a steady pulse and body temperature, before using the device.

Water dowsing is a waste of money, but at least it doesn’t kill anyone. This is a dangerous form of insanity.

1 Comment

  1. I don't really have anything intelligent to say in response, but i'm glad for posts like these.

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