Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bomb-dowsing hucksters in hot water

One of the biggest obstacles with selling pseudoscience products is that they don't work. That may go unnoticed for something little like a headache cure, but people pay a lot more attention for something big, like devices labeled as bomb detectors.

Jim McCormick, managing director of British firm ATSC, was arrested for selling $85 million of dowsing equipment marketed as bomb detectors to the Iraqi government. As Steve Cuno writes, reliance on these useless devices has killed hundreds of people.

While the Iraqi government is currently threatening to sue ATSC for the fiasco, it's painful to think the bureaucrats who authorized the purchases aren't sharing the blame. The device looks like a car antenna suspended in a way that will let it drift to the left or right. How loose were the purchasing standards to allow one of these things to be acquired, let along $85 million worth?

I thought dowsing for power lines was bad enough, but this trumps it in both idiocy and danger.

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