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No. 47: Sep-Oct 1986

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Magnetic Theory Of Dowsing

The following two paragraphs were taken from a letter to Nature:

"David Marks, in The Skeptical Inquirer, asserts that there are no theories to account for paranormal effects. This is not true for dowsing. Serious dowsing claims, such as those made by Soviet geologists, which are difficult to account for in terms of the reception of normal sensory cues, may be explained by postulating human sensitivity to small magnetic field gradient changes. The theory is supported by a series of tests involving 150 subjects.

"The magnetic theory predicts that dowsers can achieve above-chance re sults only if the features they claim to detect are associated with magnetic gradients of at least one nanotesla per metre. This was not the case in Randi's recent experiments, so his chance results are therefore consistent with the magnetic theory, which merits further investigation."

(Williamson, Tom; "Dowsing Explained," Nature, 320:569, 1985.)

From Science Frontiers #47, SEP-OCT 1986. 1986-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987