Bad Astronomy

Update on the Iraqi magic wand story

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:

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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.


It’s true for reality, too.