Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Earth Science

Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches' 266

merbs (2708203) writes Across drought-stricken California, farmers are desperate for water. Now, many of them are calling dowsers. These "water witches," draped in dubious pseudoscience or self-assembled mythologies—or both—typically use divining rods and some sort of practiced intuition to "find" water. The professional variety do so for a fee. And business is booming. They're just part of a storied tradition of pseudoscientific hucksters exploiting our thirst for water, with everything from cloudbusters to rainmachines to New Age rituals.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

Comments Filter:
  • What's the problem? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blue9steel ( 2758287 ) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @06:12PM (#47779501)
    As long as the contract stipulates payment only after confirmation of findings, who cares if they use geology or dowsing?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2014 @06:17PM (#47779553)

    I know this runs against everything /. but I have seen it work a couple of times. One of my dad's uncles could witch a field tile. I can't explain it and I won't try to but their are a precious few who seem to be able to find running water. Uncle Jule was the only one I've ever seen do it and he didn't tell very many people about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 28, 2014 @06:40PM (#47779763)
    I'd try it if I were you. It's a simple as cutting two short pieces of fence wire, putting 90-degree bends in them and just criss-crossing an area while trying to lossely hold the wires horizontal in your hands. I have no proof of how it works, possibly the flowing water manipulates the magnetic field just enough to react with the iron in the fencing wire, but it enabled me to successfully find a length of drain we needed to dig up to repair when I was a kid. It's eerie.
  • by onepoint ( 301486 ) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @06:56PM (#47779867) Homepage Journal

    While I cannot account for anyone else. I once owned some land, and tried my hand at dowsing. Found 3 spots that felt just right, drilled the first, and found water at 70 feet. I still call it luck. If I ever need to look for water again, I'll try my hand at it again and mark 3 spots.

    While it's not science, I would be interested in how do you set up a test for a peer review of this. Seems to me that if I really think about it. It's just a lot of pot luck.

  • Quite likely (Score:2, Interesting)

    by publiclurker ( 952615 ) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @07:37PM (#47780189)
    My grandparents had a dowser site their well. apparently all of the natural springs on their land wasn't enough of a clue that water was not hard to get.
  • by Pinkfud ( 781828 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:00AM (#47783037) Homepage
    Okay, I'm a geologist. It happens that I live in an intermontane basin filled with alluvium, and I know the water table is about 30 feet down at my location. If I were so inclined, I could take a couple of wires or a willow stick, walk around a bit for show, then "find" a place. I'd tell you to dig 30 feet and you'll find water - and I'd be right. The knowledge this takes is not that hard to acquire, especially if you want to work in a specific region. I suspect many of the "professional" water dowsers are simply doing that and making a buck from credulous buyers. That said, I have seen people do some freaky things with dowsing rods. As a scientist I have to doubt any mystical source, but I admit having had a few WTF moments courtesy of one old fellow I used to know. He would find ore veins - where I knew they actually were, and he couldn't have because I hadn't shared my survey findings. But guess what? Ore veins do affect both the magnetic and gravitational fields. I don't completely discount an ability by some people to detect that - after all, some birds apparently do.
  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:51AM (#47783237)

    Too true. People believe, because they were taught to believe, from an early age by people they trust. The vast majority of Christians (insert religion of your choice here) are Christian by an accident of birth.

    You have a source for that? Anecdotally from my church a large percentage of folks joining came to faith later in life (college, etc). Looking at a poll on this [] indicates that thats about right-- 40% or so tend to switch from what they were raised with, 60% do not. Im really not sure in what world "60%" forms a vast majority, but whatever.

    Its sort of hillarious to hear people talk of ignorance and then bust out anecdotal and unsupported "facts" like this.

    If you want a good laugh ask a Christian why they believe in God and Jesus and the Holy spirit, but not in Zeus or Odin or Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. If you get anything other than circular logic or "because" let me know.

    Do you mock Stephen Hawkings declaration that the universe self-created itself because "there is such a thing as gravity", for being circular reasoning? Why not?

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel