The ADE 650 in action!
The debates about Sniffex, ADE 650, and Alpha 6 continue on Bruce Schneier's blog.
MrJim tells us he manufactures and sells the ADE 650 in the Middle East and elsewhere. He also says the ADE 650 and other swinging antenna devices from his competitors like the Sniffex all actually do work. MrJim says he knows why these detectors seem to work sometimes, but not when tested, but he cannot tell us the reason. He says double-blind testing is "OK in principle" but will not work when testing these devices. MrJim says he cannot tell us how these rods work, because he would be giving away his business secrets and the Chinese would copy the technology, selling less expensive versions which would hurt his own business. Then he says scientists have been wrong before, so maybe they are wrong this time about dowsing rods. He also speculates the big companies who make vapor trace equipment might be putting pressure on governments to say that dowsing rods do not work to find explosives. In his next message, MrJim responds to a critic from James Randi's message board. MrJim asked why these dowsing rods are still for sale if they are frauds. He offers his own answer, in that," it is because they have been unable to categorically refute them NOT working either!"
Here is my take on MrJim's statements and questions:
- Tell us exactly how you think these products work. The patent application for Sniffex is a joke. It is a collection of scientific words thrown together by someone who does not understand chemistry or physics. How does an antenna with no motor or power source point to the explosive? How does the device know a gun is worn by the user and not someone standing next to him? How does the Sniffex send out signals, if the Navy found there was no signal generator, no source of electricity, and no signals coming out of the device? How does the ADE 650 or 100 or Alpha 6 read a piece of paper with a photocopy on it to know what TNT's molecular structure is?
- Name one other scientifically proven device that works but cannot pass a double blind test! All that a double blind test is, is a test where neither the user nor the observer knows where the explosives are hidden. Are you claiming that the dowsing rod reads the mind of the observer? None of these products claim the person who hid the explosives has to be there during the test. How is the device supposed to work if someone uses the rod at a parking lot, if none of the drivers are near their cars? That would be a double blind test. The operator would not know which car had the explosives in the trunk, and all of the drivers would have left the parking lot. What about screening luggage or mail? If a group of suitcases are lined up at an airport, can you find which one out of 20 contains hidden explosives? Isn't that what you claim your product can do? THOSE ARE DOUBLE BLIND TESTS! If you say your product cannot pass a double blind test, you are saying it does not work!!!
- How do you justify the implication that scientists, engineers, and the military would continue having soldiers die in Iraq and Afghanistan just because a big company does not want you to make money? How many thousands of people have died in Iraq from bombs? Do you really think that the United States Navy people who tested the Sniffex would rather let General Electric make a few extra dollars instead of saving the lives of their brother and sister sailors?
- How do you say scientists have not been able to categorically refute these explosive detecting rods as being able to work? Within the bounds of science, they have! The 1999 report by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) says exactly that!
- The NIJ said: "Although there may be other types of nonoperational devices around, dowsing devices for explosives detection have emerged during the past couple of years....None of these attempts to create devices that can detect specific materials such as explosives (or any materials for that matter) have been proven successful in controlled double-blind scientific tests. In fact, all testing of these inventions has shown these devices to perform no better than random chance."
- The US Navy said: "the SNIFFEX handheld explosives detector performed no better than random chance over the course of testing…" "The SNIFFEX did not detect explosives" "The SNIFFEX failed to show any indication of this much larger quantity of explosives…" "Based upon the observed test results,the SNIFFEX handheld explosives detector is not capable of detecting explosives..."
- Further testing of dowsing...would be a misuse of public funds." — U.S. Geological Survey report, 1917
- "The Inspector General's conclusion: 'Had a peer review been performed prior to testing, the Department [of Energy] could have avoided spending $408,750 on this [dowsing] technology.'"
- You claim that since scientists have been wrong before, they might be wrong this time. That is completely true. Being wrong is a great thing in science, because it often teaches you something. The whole scientific process is based on coming up with a hypothesis and then testing to see if it is right or wrong. Often, more is learned by being wrong than being right. However, this hardly means scientists and engineers are wrong in this case. Dowsing rods have been tested countless times as a method of finding water, gold, and more recently drugs and explosives. So far, they have never been proven to work. Of course, this goes along with the fact you cannot prove a negative. We could test your ADE 650 a million times, and find it was as inaccurate as randomly guessing where an explosive sample was hidden. You could always say that the proof would have come in the million and first test, and that is also true. But if we look at probabilities and statistics, it would be very, very unlikely. You will note the scientists and engineers who essentially "categorically" stated Sniffex or other dowsing rods do not work do not say they absolutely never work, they just say they have never worked more than randomly guessing in any of the previously conducted tests. In other words, they provided absolutely NO benefit in finding explosives. Flipping a coin or throwing darts at a map would be just as effective as using the ADE 650 in a double blind test. The only reason it seems to work is because it is being held by someone who can guess where the sample is hidden.
-Whilst I joked earlier about the dowsing rods for explosives reading the mind of the bomber, I think something similar is the real answer on why these devices seem to work. They read the mind of the user of the device. The ideomotor effect describes how a person's brain can move their hand without the person realizing it. You say it takes training and experience to use the devices. That same training and experience makes the user good at guessing where things are hidden. The user's subconscious mind, intuition, or gut feeling based on that prior experience give the brain an idea where the explosives will be. The brain then causes the users hand to tilt imperceptibly, pointing the rod at the location where the brain thinks the sample is hidden. It is an amazing feat that our brains can trick themselves, but it is a fact that can be scientifically proven. So far, dowsing cannot say the same.
- As for how nobody has gone to jail yet??? I wish I knew. Evidently you really can commit a perfect crime ---making worthless dowsing rods for explosives for a few dollars a piece, claiming they work even though they have never passed a scientific test proving so, and selling them around the world to unsuspecting clients for thousands of Euros.