Is there any scientific evidence for dowsing? © Getty Images

Is there any scientific evidence for dowsing?

There is evidence that dowsing can work but this is neither spooky nor supernatural. It comes down to the dowser, not their tools.

Asked by: Keith Barber, Isle of Wight

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There is but it doesn’t reveal supernatural powers. Dowsing uses tools that amplify small movements. For example, the traditional ‘divining rod’ is a forked twig held in tension so that small hand movements make it tip up or down. Another method uses two lengths of wire bent into an L shape. The dowser holds the short ends, leaving the longs ends finely balanced enough to cross or part with the slightest tilt of the hands.

There is some evidence that dowsers can find water or oil when more traditional methods have failed, which seems miraculous. But experiments show that this works only when the dowser has some unconscious knowledge of where the target is. For example, they might be using clues from vegetation, geography or temperature. They might not realise what they’re doing, and so believe in the supernatural power of the rods. Experiments have been done that eliminate these possibilities, by running water through one of 10 pipes laid underground, or moving the position of water pipes. Under such controlled conditions dowsers do not succeed.

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