The Military Dowsing Rod

The Military Dowsing Rod

Yesterday entirely by accident I ran across a Wikipedia article about what essentially amounts to a military-grade dowsing rod.  (Seriously, what would we ever do without Wikipedia?)  This gadget, the ADE 651, is marketed to countries in the Middle East as bomb and drug detection devices.  And it has done a brisk business, too!  Iraq for example has spent approximately $85 million on them.

The ADE 651 is manufactured by a British company, which was recently shut down by the British government, pending a massive fraud investigation.  Are you surprised?  (I'm only surprised that the government actually took action, considering some of the crackpot things I have seen for sale.)

The ADE 651 follows standard dowsing rod form and behavior.  Wikipedia describes it as being "a swiveling antenna mounted via hinge to a plastic handgrip."  The ADE 651 detects a number of different substances, from truffles to contraband ivory. 

In order to tune your ADE 651 for detection, you insert a card into the handgrip.  Each card is set to the "frequency" of the item in question.  Give it a few moments, then start slowly walking forward with the ADE 651 held perpendicular to your body, so that the antenna is held horizontally.

According to the manufacturer, the ADE 651 works by using "the principle of electrostatic magnetic ion attraction."  Quick sidebar: these words are all classic indicators of crazypants pseudoscientific nonsense. 

For example, the phrase "Works using the principle of" is never followed by something sensible like "gravity" or "condensation."  Each of the four words "electrostatic magnetic ion attraction" is a red flag in and of itself.  You link the four together, and you have a veritable wall of tinfoil hat lunacy.

But I digress.  There are people whose belief in dowsing rods will never be shaken.  Just as there are people who believe in the ability of an Ouija board to literally speak to the dead.  In both cases, it has been shown again and again that all activity arises from its human handlers.  And again and again, they deny the evidence and insist that it works otherwise.

The truth is that dowsing rods do work, but not in the literal sense.  They "work" because they require only the slightest tilt of the hand to create a "hit."  And we are far more perceptive creatures than we give ourselves credit for.

For example, the ADE 651 is geared for police officers and military patrols.  These are people who are trained to the Nth degree in finding and dealing with things like bombs and currency smuggling.  The only thing the ADE 651 is doing in this case is providing a conduit for the trained officer's subconscious to speak aloud, working on those instinctive snap judgments which can be so very accurate. 

In fact, this is how traditional dowsing rods work, as well.  An experienced dowser has had decades of practice and feedback, and has learned to "read" the terrain for signs of underground water.  If only at a subconscious level.

Sadly, the ADE 651 isn't even very good at that task.  Several agencies, from the Israeli military to the FBI have tested it, and found it to be wholly inaccurate.

Photo credit: Flickr/id-iom