Surprise: empty box does not detect explosives
Dowsing is an interesting phenomenon. I have seen a water dowser at work, and it really was impressive. It was a grizzled old man, something of a local legend, who had been dowsing for decades. A neighbor hired him to find a place where they could drill for a new well, because their old well had gone dry. The old man located the spot, they drilled, and presto: water.
If water dowsing works - and it does often seem to be a real thing - it most likely is a combination of luck and an experienced eye that can read the landscape and plant life and take a well-educated guess. Whether this happens on a conscious level or a subconscious level, with the dowser's subconscious manipulating the dowsing rod (which is extremely sensitive to tiny hand movements).
But bomb dowsing detectors being sold to the military for tens of thousands of dollars… that's just criminal. Literally, according to the British military, which recently prosecuted a man for selling them empty plastic boxes which he marketed as bomb detectors. The GT200 was sold as a "remote substance detector," and sold for up to $32,000 per unit.
(Actually, these bomb detectors were not entirely empty. One of them contained a strip of paper, onto which dead ants had been glued. So there you have it. Maybe the ants were supposed to be the magic part?)
Gary Bolton is only the latest of the bomb detector fraudsters. Last May, another British man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having sold over 7,000 fraudulent bomb detectors.
Bolton claimed that his detectors could be set to detect drugs, bombs, ivory, cash, and tobacco, and that they worked through lead linings, and within a range of 766 yards at ground level and 2.5 miles in the air. Magic boxes, indeed.
One British government office found that the bomb detectors had no working parts. The University of Cambridge conducted strict double-blind tests in which the detectors performed worse than random chance, detecting explosives only two out of 24 times.
Despite these magic bomb detectors being patently ridiculous, militaries around the world continue to buy them in droves. It's hard to say if these militaries are extremely gullible, just desperate for solutions, or if they believe that word of these magic detectors will make terrorists so nervous that they will betray their intentions (or serve as a deterrent).