Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

Update on the Iraqi magic wand story

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitNovember 19, 2009 3:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Iraqi military employing useless dowsing magic wands to search for explosives at checkpoints, and how this has deadly results. This was based on an article in the New York Times, and the word has now spread far and wide. Skeptic, physician, and journalist Ben Goldacre wrote about it in The Guardian, and Graeme Wood did so as well for The Atlantic. It was huge on tech and skeptic sites too, like Slashdot, MetaFilter, Gizmodo, and Bruce Hood's Supersense blog. It made a brief appearance on TV, too, in this segment on the Rachel Maddow Show:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

And she mentioned friend of the JREF Hal Bidlack by name! I have heard some rumors -- as yet unsubstantiated but encouraging -- that members of the U.S. government have taken an interest in this story, too. What this all shows is that we need to stand up to nonsense and call it out, letting others know when they believe in garbage... especially when it will lead to people getting killed. If enough of us do it, then maybe, just maybe, we can get something done about it. Remember:


It's true for reality, too.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In